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incurred by the trustees may be laid on me for having too easily submitted to the deviations from the constitution, and not opposing them with sufficient zeal and earnestness; though indeed my absence in foreign countries at different times for near thirty years, tended much to weaken my influence: to make what amends are yet in my power, I seize this opportunity, the last I may possibly have, of bearing testimony against those deviations. I seem here to be surrounded by the ghosts of my dear departed friends, beckoning and urging me to use the only tongue now left us in demanding that justice to our grand-children that to our children have been denied. And I hope they will not be sent away discontented.
The origin of Latin and Greek schools among the different nations of Europe is known to have been this, that until between three and four hundred years past there were no books in any other language; all the knowledge then contained in books, viz. the theology, the jurisprudence, the physic, the art-military, the politics, the mathematics and mechanics, the natural and moral philosophy, the logic and rhetoric, the chemistry, the pharmacy, the architecture, and every other branch of science, being in those languages, it was of course necessary to learn them, as the gates through which men must pass to get at that knowledge.
The books then existing were manuscript, and these consequently so dear, that only the few wealthy inclined to learning could afford to purchase them. The common people were not even at the pains of learning to read, because, after taking that pains, they would have nothing to read that they could understand without learning the ancients' languages, nor then, without money to purchase the manuscripts. And so few were the learned readers sixty years after the invention of printing, that it appears by letters still extant between the printers in 1499, that they could not throughout Europe find purchasers for more than 300 copies of any ancient authors. But printing beginning now to make books cheap, the readers increased so much as to make it worth while to write and print books in the vulgar tongues. At first these were chiefly books of devotion and little histories; gradually several branches of science began to appear in the common languages, and at this day the whole body of science, consisting not only of translations from all the valuable ancients, but of all the new modern discoveries, is to be met with in those languages, so that learning the ancient for the purpose of acquiring knowledge is become absolutely unnecessary.
But there is in mankind an unaccountable prejudice in favor of ancient customs and habitudes, which inclines to a continuance of them after the circumstances which formerly made them useful cease to exist. A multitude of instances might be given, but it may suffice to mention one. Hats were once thought an useful part of dress; they kept the head warm and screened it from the violent impression of the sun's rays, and from the rain, snow, hail, &c. Though, by the way, this was not the more ancient opinion or practice; for among all the remains of antiquity, the bustos, statues, basso-relievos, medals, &c. which are infinite, there is no representation of a human figure with a cap or hat on, nor any covering for the head, unless it be the head of a soldier, who has a helmet, but that is evidently not a part of dress for health, but as a protection from the strokes of a weapon.
At what time hats were first introduced we know not, but in the last century they were universally worn throughout Europe. Gradually, however, as the wearing of wigs, and hair nicely dressed prevailed, the putting on of hats was disused by genteel people, lest the curious arrangements of the curls and powdering should be disordered; and umbrellas began to supply their place; yet still our considering the hat as a part of dress continues so far to prevail, that a man of fashion is not thought dressed without having one, or something like one, about him, which he carries under his arm. So that there are a multitude of the politer people in all the courts and capital cities of Europe, who have never, nor their fathers before them, worn a hat otherwise than as a chapeau bras, though the utility of such a mode of wearing it is by no means apparent, and it is attended not only with some expense, but with a degree of constant trouble.
The still prevailing custom of having schools for teaching generally our children in these days the Latin and Greek languages, I consider therefore in no other light than as the chapeau bras of modern literature.
Thus the time spent in that study might, it seems, be much better employed in the education for such a country as ours; and this was indeed the opinion of most of the original trustees.
HINTS FOR CONSIDERATION RESPECTING THE ORPHAN SCHOOL-HOUSE IN PHILADELPHIA.
Charitable institutions, however originally well intended, and well executed at first for many years, are subject to be in a course of time corrupted, mismanaged, their funds misapplied or perverted to private purposes. Would it not be well to guard against these by prudent regulations respecting the choice of managers, and establishing the power of inspecting their conduct in some permanent body, as the monthly or quarterly meeting?
Would it not be more respectable for the institu
tion, if the appearance of making a profit of the labor of orphans were avoided, and the dependance for funds to be wholly on charitable contributions? If this should be concluded, then it may be proper to open an account with each orphan on admission; the orphans to have credit for any subsistence brought in with them, and for the profit made of it and of their labor, and made debtors for their maintenance and education. And at their discharge on coming of age, to be paid the balance, if any, in their favor, or remain debtors for the balance, if against them, which they may be exhorted to pay, if ever able, but not to be compelled. Such as receive a balance may be exhorted to give back a part in charity to the institution that has taken such kind care of them, or at least to remember it favorably if hereafter God should bless them with ability, either in benefaction while living, or a legacy on decease. The orphans when discharged to receive, besides decent clothing and some money, a certificate of their good behavior, if such it has been, as a recommendation; and the managers of the institution should still consider them as their children, so far as to counsel them in their affairs, encourage and promote them in their business, watch over and kindly admonish them when in danger of misconduct. B. F.