Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

and comparing the merits of their several favourites, or the little victims of their folly and selfishness, taught to make distinctions and to declare which of their parents they love best. It is written, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Neither can a family prosper, morally speaking, in which the parents counteract each another. Unanimity and consistency are the acknowledged requisites in the achievement of any task in which more than one person are engaged. How important then must they be in the two most momentous of human undertakings, the government of a state and the education of a family of children.

BENEVOLENCE TO THE INFERIOR ANIMALS.

There are persons, who contend that the exercise of benevolence towards the brute creation, the admission of them within the pale of our sympathy, is a distinct manifestation of false sentiment, of sensibility, divested from its legitimate channel. Accordingly any symptoms of compassion for their sufferings, any attempt to meliorate their condition, are treated by such persons with scorn and derision. This, nevertheless, shall not deter me from including among the essential points of a sound and consistent moral education, BENEVOLENCE TO THE INFERIOR ANIMALS. When such men as Locke and Addison, besides many other of eminence, have not deemed the subject beneath their atten

CONSIDERED IN REFERENCE TO EDUCATION. 211

tion, the cause unworthy of their support; if I were to hesitate it ought only to be through mistrust of my own ability to advocate it.*

That animals, particularly domesticated animals, whose services to us are so valuable, and whose natural rights we have annihilated, have strong claims upon our kindness and our justice, is, I imagine, too obvious to be disputed with any shew of reason. If I refrain from entering fully into the examinations of their wrongs, and the ingratitude they experience at the hands of man, it is not through want either of proof or inclination, but simply because I feel that it will be most in keeping with the plan of this work, to consider the subject chiefly with reference to its influences in the formation of character; viz., how the inculcation of humane sentiments towards the brute creation is likely to operate in creating just and benevolent dispositions towards mankind.

Locke, in his Treatise on Education, under the head of Cruelty, says, “One thing I have frequently observed in children, that when they have got possession of any poor creature they are apt to use it ill; they often torment and treat very roughly young birds, butterflies, and such other poor animals which fall into their hands, and that with a seeming kind of pleasure. This, I think, should be watched in them; and if they incline to any such

* Have we not also on our side the highest of all authorities, that of Holy Writ. “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Prov. xii. 10.)

cruelty, they should be taught the contrary usage. For the custom of tormenting and killing of beasts will by degrees harden their minds even towards men: and they who delight in the sufferings and destruction of inferior creatures, will not be apt to be very compassionate, or benign to those of their own kind. Our practice takes notice of this in the exclusion of butchers from juries of life and death.” Hogarth, another great moralist, though moralizing with the pencil instead of the pen, has given a lesson to the same effect in his “Progress of Cruelty,” shewing how the boy who began by tormenting dogs and cats, when he came to be a man, filled

up the measures of his crimes by murdering the victim of his sensuality.

I am inclined to think that very young children, when they pluck off the legs and wings of insects, are not in the least aware that they occasion pain to the creature, or that insects, which, with their delicate organs, to our perceptions, give such feeble indications of suffering, are endowed with feeling. They dissect them out of curiosity, one of the strongest instincts of human nature, the very same which often impels them to destroy their toys. Piteous cries, or the effusion of blood, would probably cause most children to desist from the work of destruction, through terror; but they should be taught to abstain from such actions from better motives: and here again I must observe, that in teaching them, consistency ought not to be lost sight of

HOW BEST INDUCED.

213

“Let the parent who would keep his child pure from the stain of cruelty to animals, beware how he makes him the executioner of his vengeance on even the most noxious—the crusher of spiders, and the trampler of earwigs. The distinctions of harmless and hurtful are not to be explained to children. Self-preservation needs not the admonition. The child who executes these commands, must either, if he does not reflect at all, be steeled by their repetition against the pleadings of pity, or, if he does reflect, in what light can he consider them, but as dictated by the lust of destroying, cloked, indeed, under the affectation of antipathy!"*

To induce, in children, a love of observing the structure and economy of insects, and of the smaller tribes of animals, will not only be introducing them to the study of natural history, but will, if kept guiltless of the cruel practices into which naturalists sometimes suffer their zeal to betray them, inspire them with benevolent feelings towards all sentient things. They will desire to protect rather than injure what affords them so much pleasure, and excites so much wonder and admiration.

Example, in this, as in all else, will form their opinions, and regulate their conduct. If the sons with whom they live are humane, and shew regard to the lives and comforts of animals, the children will do so also. Not only should all repugnance to animals of every kind be combated, whenever it exists, but children should be indulged

Canning.

If the per

[ocr errors]

in the desire so common among them, to keep dumb favourites, to tend them with care, and to endeavour, by kindness and patience, to bring out their affectionate and intelligent qualities. Much good might, I think, result from inculcating the benevolent, and by no means irrational notion, that all are fellow-beings in this breathing sphere, and that the inferior animals have a just right to enjoy themselves in their humbler condition, although it has not pleased the Almighty to endow them with the higher faculties of man.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »