Read CHAPTER IX : ON REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS. of Practical Education‚ Volume I, free online book, by Maria Edgeworth, on

To avoid, in education, all unnecessary severity, and all dangerous indulgence, we must form just ideas of the nature and use of rewards and punishments.  Let us begin with considering the nature of punishment, since it is best to get the most disagreeable part of our business done the first.

Several benevolent and enlightened authors have endeavoured to explain the use of penal laws, and to correct the ideas which formerly prevailed concerning public justice.  Punishment is no longer considered, except by the ignorant and sanguinary, as vengeance from the injured, or expiation from the guilty.  We now distinctly understand, that the greatest possible happiness of the whole society must be the ultimate object of all just legislation; that the partial evil of punishment is consequently to be tolerated by the wise and humane legislator, only so far as it is proved to be necessary for the general good.  When a crime has been committed, it cannot be undone by all the art, or all the power of man; by vengeance the most sanguinary, or remorse the most painful.  The past is irrevocable; all that remains, is to provide for the future.  It would be absurd, after an offence has already been committed, to increase the sum of misery in the world, by inflicting pain upon the offender, unless that pain were afterwards to be productive of happiness to society, either by preventing the criminal from repeating his offence, or by deterring others from similar enormities.  With this double view of restraining individuals, by the recollection of past sufferings, from future crimes, and of teaching others, by public examples, to expect, and to fear, certain evils as the necessary consequences of certain actions hurtful to society, all wise laws are framed, and all just punishments are inflicted.  It is only by the conviction that certain punishments are essential to the general security and happiness, that a person of humanity can, or ought, to fortify his mind against the natural feelings of compassion.  These feelings are the most painful, and the most difficult to resist, when, as it sometimes unavoidably happens, public justice requires the total sacrifice of the happiness, liberty, or perhaps the life, of a fellow-creature, whose ignorance precluded him from virtue, and whose neglected or depraved education prepared him, by inevitable degrees, for vice and all its miseries.  How exquisitely painful must be the feelings of a humane judge, in pronouncing sentence upon such a devoted being!  But the law permits of no refined metaphysical disquisitions.  It would be vain to plead the necessitarian’s doctrine of an unavoidable connection between the past and the future, in all human actions; the same necessity compels the punishment that compels the crime; nor could, nor ought, the most eloquent advocate, in a court of justice, to obtain a criminal’s acquittal by entering into a minute history of the errours of his education.

It is the business of education to prevent crimes, and to prevent all those habitual propensities which necessarily lead to their commission.  The legislator can consider only the large interests of society; the preceptor’s view is fixed upon the individual interests of his pupil.  Fortunately both must ultimately agree.  To secure for his pupil the greatest possible quantity of happiness, taking in the whole of life, must be the wish of the preceptor:  this includes every thing.  We immediately perceive the connection between that happiness, and obedience to all the laws on which the prosperity of society depends. ­We yet further perceive, that the probability of our pupil’s yielding not only an implicit, but an habitual, rational, voluntary, happy obedience, to such laws, must arise from the connection which he believes, and feels, that there exists between his social duties and his social happiness.  How to induce this important belief, is the question.

It is obvious, that we cannot explain to the comprehension of a child of three or four years old, all the truths of morality; nor can we demonstrate to him the justice of punishments, by showing him that we give present pain to ensure future advantage.  But, though we cannot demonstrate to the child that we are just, we may satisfy ourselves upon this subject, and we may conduct ourselves, during his non-age of understanding, with the scrupulous integrity of a guardian.  Before we can govern by reason, we can, by associating pain or pleasure with certain actions, give habits, and these habits will be either beneficial or hurtful to the pupil:  we must, if they be hurtful habits, conquer them by fresh punishments, and thus we make the helpless child suffer for our negligence and mistakes.  Formerly in Scotland there existed a law, which obliged every farrier who, through ignorance or drunkenness, pricked a horse’s foot in shoeing him, to deposit the price of the horse until he was sound, to furnish the owner with another, and in case the horse could not be cured, the farrier was doomed to indemnify the injured owner.  At the same rate of punishment, what indemnification should be demanded from a careless or ignorant preceptor?

When a young child puts his finger too near the fire, he burns himself; the pain immediately follows the action; they are associated together in the child’s memory; if he repeat the experiment often, and constantly with the same result, the association will be so strongly formed, that the child will ever afterwards expect these two things to happen together:  whenever he puts his finger into fire, he will expect to feel pain; he will learn yet further, as these things regularly follow one another, to think one the cause, and the other the effect.  He may not have words to express these ideas; nor can we explain how the belief that events, which have happened together, will again happen together, is by experience induced in the mind.  This is a fact, which no metaphysicians pretend to dispute; but it has not yet, that we know of, been accounted for by any.  It would be rash to assert, that it will not in future be explained, but at present we are totally in the dark upon the subject.  It is sufficient for our purpose to observe, that this association of facts, or of ideas, affects the actions of all rational beings, and of many animals who are called irrational.  Would you teach a dog or a horse to obey you; do you not associate pleasure, or pain, with the things you wish that they should practise, or avoid?  The impatient and ignorant give infinitely more pain than is necessary to the animals they educate.  If the pain, which we would associate with any action, do not immediately follow it, the child does not understand us; if several events happen nearly at the same time, it is impossible that a child can at first distinguish which are causes, and which are effects.  Suppose, that a mother would teach her little son, that he must not put his dirty shoes upon her clean sofa:  if she frowns upon him, or speaks to him in an angry tone, at the instant that he sets his foot and shoe upon the sofa, he desists; but he has only learned, that putting a foot upon the sofa, and his mother’s frown, follow each other; his mother’s frown, from former associations, gives him perhaps, some pain, or the expectation of some pain, and consequently he avoids repeating the action which immediately preceded the frown.  If, a short time afterwards, the little boy, forgetting the frown, accidentally gets upon the sofa without his shoes, no evil follows; but it is not probable, that he can, by this single experiment, discover that his shoes have made all the difference in the two cases.  Children are frequently so much puzzled by their confused experience of impunity and punishment, that they are quite at a loss how to conduct themselves.  Whenever our punishments are not made intelligible, they are cruel; they give pain, without producing any future advantage.  To make punishment intelligible to children, it must be not only immediately, but repeatedly and uniformly, associated with the actions which we wish them to avoid.

When children begin to reason, punishment affects them in a different manner from what it did whilst they were governed, like irrational animals, merely by the direct associations of pleasure and pain.  They distinguish, in many instances, between coincidence and causation; they discover, that the will of others is the immediate cause, frequently, of the pain they suffer; they learn by experience, that the will is not an unchangeable cause, that it is influenced by circumstances, by passions, by persuasion, by caprice.  It must be, however, by slow degrees, that they acquire any ideas of justice.  They cannot know our views relative to their future happiness; their first ideas of the justice of the punishments we inflict, cannot, therefore, be accurate.  They regulate these first judgments by the simple idea, that our punishments ought to be exactly the same always in the same circumstances; when they understand words, they learn to expect that our words and actions should precisely agree, that we should keep our promises, and fulfil our threats.  They next learn, that as they are punished for voluntary faults, they cannot justly be punished until it has been distinctly explained to them what is wrong or forbidden, and what is right or permitted.  The words right or wrong, and permitted or forbidden, are synonymous at first in the apprehensions of children; and obedience and disobedience are their only ideas of virtue and vice.  Whatever we command to be done, or rather whatever we associate with pleasure, they imagine to be right; whatever we prohibit, provided we have uniformly associated it with pain, they believe to be wrong.  This implicit submission to our authority, and these confined ideas of right and wrong, are convenient, or apparently convenient, to indolent or tyrannical governours; and they sometimes endeavour to prolong the reign of ignorance, with the hope of establishing in the mind an opinion of their own infallibility.  But this is a dangerous, as well as an unjust, system.  By comparison with the conduct and opinions of others, children learn to judge of their parents and preceptors; by reading and by conversation, they acquire more enlarged notions of right and wrong; and their obedience, unless it then arise from the conviction of their understandings, depends but on a very precarious foundation.  The mere association of pleasure and pain, in the form of reward and punishment, with any given action, will not govern them; they will now examine whether there is any moral or physical necessary connection between the action and punishment; nor will they believe the punishment they suffer to be a consequence of the action they have committed, but rather a consequence of their being obliged to submit to the will of those who are stronger or more powerful than they are themselves.  Unjust punishments do not effect their intended purpose, because the pain is not associated with the action which we would prohibit; but, on the contrary, it is associated with the idea of our tyranny; it consequently excites the sentiment of hatred towards us, instead of aversion to the forbidden action.  When once, by reasoning, children acquire even a vague idea that those who educate them are unjust, it is in vain either to punish or reward them; if they submit, or if they rebel, their education is equally spoiled; in the one case they become cowardly, in the other, headstrong.  To avoid these evils, there is but one method; we must early secure reason for our friend, else she will become our unconquerable enemy.  As soon as children are able, in any instance, to understand the meaning and nature of punishment, it should, in that instance, be explained to them.  Just punishment is pain, inflicted with the reasonable hope of preventing greater pain in future.  In a family, where there are several children educated together, or in public schools, punishments may be inflicted with justice for the sake of example, but still the reformation and future good of the sufferer is always a principal object; and of this he should be made sensible.  If our practice upon all occasions correspond with our theory, and if children really perceive, that we do not punish them to gratify our own spleen or passion, we shall not become, even when we give them pain, objects of their hatred.  The pain will not be associated with us, but, as it ought to be, with the fault which was the real cause of it.  As much as possible we should let children feel the natural consequences of their own conduct.  The natural consequence of speaking truth, is the being believed; the natural consequence of falsehood, is the loss of trust and confidence; the natural consequence of all the useful virtues, is esteem; of all the amiable virtues, love; of each of the prudential virtues, some peculiar advantage to their possessor.  But plum-pudding is not the appropriate reward of truth, nor is the loss of it the natural or necessary consequence of falsehood.  Prudence is not to be rewarded with the affection due to humanity, nor is humanity to be recompensed with the esteem claimed by prudence.  Let each good and bad quality have its proper share of praise and blame, and let the consequences of each follow as constantly as possible.  That young people may form a steady judgment of the danger of any vice, they must uniformly perceive, that certain painful consequences result from its practice.  It is in vain that we inflict punishments, unless all the precepts and all the examples which they see, confirm them in the same belief.

In the unfortunate son of Peter the Great, we have a striking instance of the effects of a disagreement between precept and example, which, in a less elevated situation, might have escaped our notice.  It seems as if the different parts and stages of his education had been purposely contrived to counteract each other.  Till he was eleven years old, he was committed to the care of women, and of ignorant bigotted priests, who were continually inveighing against his father for the abolition of certain barbarous customs.  Then came baron Huysen for his governour, a sensible man, who had just begun to make something of his pupil, when prince Menzikof insisted upon having the sole management of the unfortunate Alexey.  Prince Menzikof abandoned him to the company of the lowest wretches, who encouraged him in continual ebriety, and in a taste for every thing mean and profligate.  At length came Euphrosyne, his Finlandish mistress, who, upon his trial for rebellion, deposed to every angry expression which, in his most unguarded moments, the wretched son had uttered against the tyrannical father.  Amidst such scenes of contradictory experience, can we be surprised, that Alexey Petrovitch became feeble, ignorant, and profligate; that he rebelled against the father whom he had early been taught to fear and hate; that he listened to the pernicious counsels of the companions who had, by pretended sympathy and flattery, obtained that place in his confidence which no parental kindness had ever secured?  Those historians who are zealous for the glory of Peter the Great, have eagerly refuted, as a most atrocious calumny, the report of his having had any part in the mysterious death of his son.  But how will they apologize for the Czar’s neglect of that son’s education, from which all the misfortunes of his life arose?

But all this is past for ever; the only advantage we can gain from recalling these circumstances, is a confirmation of this important principle in education; that, when precept and example counteract one another, there is no hope of success.  Nor can the utmost severity effect any useful purpose, whilst the daily experience of the pupil contradicts his preceptor’s lessons.  In fact, severity is seldom necessary in a well conducted education.  The smallest possible degree of pain, which can, in any case, produce the required effect, is indisputably the just measure of the punishment which ought to be inflicted in any given case.  This simple axiom will lead us to a number of truths, which immediately depend upon, or result from it.  We must attend to every circumstance which can diminish the quantity of pain, without lessening the efficacy of punishment.  Now it has been found from experience, that there are several circumstances which operate uniformly to this purpose.  We formerly observed, that the effect of punishment upon the minds of children, before they reason, depends much upon its immediately succeeding the fault, and also upon its being certainly repeated whenever the same fault is committed.  After children acquire the power of reasoning, from a variety of new motives, these laws, with respect to punishment, derive additional force.  A trifling degree of pain will answer the purpose, if it be made inevitable; whilst the fear of an enormous proportion of uncertain punishment, will not be found sufficient to govern the imagination.  The contemplation of a distant punishment, however severe, does not affect the imagination with much terror, because there is still a secret hope of escape in the mind.  Hence it is found from experience, that the most sanguinary penal laws have always been ineffectual to restrain from crimes. Even if detection be inevitable, and consequent punishment equally inevitable, if punishment be not inflicted as soon as the criminal is convicted, it has been found that it has not, either as a preventative, or a public example, the same power upon the human mind.  Not only should the punishment be immediate after conviction, but detection should follow the offence as speedily as possible.  Without entering at large into the intricate arguments concerning identity and consciousness, we may observe, that the consciousness of having committed the offence for which he suffers, ought, at the time of suffering, to be strong in the offender’s mind.  Though proofs of his identity may have been legally established in a court of justice; and though, as far as it relates to public justice, it matters not whether the offence for which he is punished has been committed yesterday or a year ago; yet, as to the effect which the punishment produces on the culprit’s own mind, there must be a material difference.

“I desire you to judge of me, not by what I was, but by what I am,” said a philosopher, when he was reproached for some of his past transgressions.  If the interval between an offence and its punishment be long, it is possible that, during this interval, a complete change may be made in the views and habits of the offender; such a change as shall absolutely preclude all probability of his repeating his offence.  His punishment must then be purely for the sake of example to others.  He suffers pain at the time, perhaps, when he is in the best social dispositions possible; and thus we punish the present good man for the faults of the former offender.  We readily excuse the violence which a man in a passion may have committed, when, upon his return to his sober senses, he expresses contrition and surprise at his own excesses; he assures us, and we believe him, that he is now a perfectly different person.  If we do not feel any material ill consequences from his late anger, we are willing, and even desirous, that the passionate man should not, in his sober state, be punished for his madness; all that we can desire, is to have some security against his falling into any fresh fit of anger.  Could his habits of temper be instantly changed, and could we have a moral certainty that his frenzy would never more do us any injury, would it not be malevolent and unjust to punish him for his old insanity?  If we think and act upon these principles with respect to men, how much more indulgent should we be to children?  Indulgence is perhaps an improper word ­but in other words, how careful should we be never to chain children to their dead faults! Children, during their education, must be in a continual state of progression; they are not the same to-day that they were yesterday; they have little reflection; their consciousness of the present occupies them; and it would be extremely difficult from day to day, or from hour to hour, to identify their minds.  Far from wishing that they should distinctly remember all their past thoughts, and that they should value themselves upon their continuing the same, we must frequently desire that they should forget their former errours, and absolutely change their manner of thinking.  They should feel no interest in adhering to former bad habits or false opinions; therefore, their pride should not be roused to defend these by our making them a part of their standing character.  The character of children is to be formed ­we should never speak of it as positively fixed.  Man has been defined to be a bundle of habits; till the bundle is made up, we may continually increase or diminish it.  Children who are zealous in defence of their own perfections, are of all others most likely to become stationary in their intellectual progress, and disingenuous in their temper.  It would be in vain to repeat to them this sensible and elegant observation ­“To confess that you have been in the wrong, is only saying, in other words, that you are wiser to-day than you were yesterday.”  This remark will rather pique, than comfort, the pride of those who are anxious to prove that they have been equally wise and immaculate in every day of their existence.

It may be said, that children cannot too early be made sensible of the value of reputation, and they must be taught to connect the ideas of their past and present selves, otherwise they cannot perceive, for instance, why confidence should be placed in them in proportion to their past integrity; or why falsehood should lead to distrust.  The force of this argument must be admitted; yet still we must consider the age and strength of mind in children in applying it to practice.  Truth is not instinctive in the mind, and the ideas of integrity, and of the advantages of reputation, must be very cautiously introduced, lest, by giving children too perfect a theory of morality, before they have sufficient strength of mind to adhere to it in practice, we may make them hypocrites, or else give them a fatal distrust of themselves, founded upon too early an experience of their own weakness, and too great sensibility to shame.

Shame, when it once becomes familiar to the mind, loses its effect; it should not, therefore, be used as a common punishment for slight faults.  Nor should we trust very early in education to the delicate secret influence of conscience; but we should take every precaution to prevent the necessity of having recourse to the punishment of disgrace; and we must, if we mean to preserve the power of conscience, take care that it be never disregarded with impunity.  We must avoid opposing it to strong temptation; nor should we ever try the integrity of children, except in situations where we can be perfectly certain of the result of the experiment.  We must neither run the risk of injuring them by unjust suspicions, nor unmerited confidence.  By prudent arrangements, and by unremitted daily attention, we should absolutely prevent the possibility of deceit.  By giving few commands, or prohibitions, we may avoid the danger of either secret or open disobedience.  By diminishing temptations to do wrong, we act more humanely than by multiplying restraints and punishments.

It has been found, that no restraints or punishments have proved adequate to ensure obedience to laws, whenever strong temptations, and many probabilities of evasion, combine in opposition to conscience or fear.  The terrors of the law have been for years ineffectually directed against a race of beings called smugglers:  yet smuggling is still an extensive, lucrative, and not universally discreditable, profession.  Let any person look into the history of the excise laws, and he will be astonished at the accumulation of penal statutes, which the active, but ineffectual, ingenuity of prohibitory legislators has devised in the course of about thirty years.  Open war was declared against all illegal distillers; yet the temptation to illegal distilling continually increased, in proportion to the heavy duties laid upon the fair trader.  It came at length to a trial of skill between revenue officers and distillers, which could cheat, or which could detect, the fastest.  The distiller had the strongest interest in the business, and he usually came off victorious. Coursing officers, and watching officers (once ten watching officers were set upon one distiller) and surveyors and supervisors, multiplied without end:  the land in their fiscal maps was portioned out into divisions and districts, and each gauger had the charge of all the distillers in his division:  the watching officer went first, and the coursing officer went after him, and after him the supervisor; and they had table-books, and gauging-rods, and dockets, and permits; permits for sellers, and permits for buyers, and permits for foreign spirits, printed in red ink, and permits for British spirits, in black ink; and they went about night and day with their hydrometers, to ascertain the strength of spirits; and with their gauging-rods, to measure wash.  But the pertinacious distiller was still flourishing; permits were forged; concealed pipes were fabricated; and the proportion between the wash and spirits was seldom legal.  The commisioners complained, and the legislators went to work again.  Under a penalty of one hundred pounds, distillers were ordered to paint the words distiller, dealer in spirits, over their doors; and it was further enacted, that all the distillers should furnish, at their own expense, any kind of locks, and fastenings, which the revenue officers should require for locking up the doors of their own furnaces, the heads of their own stills, pumps, pipes, &c.  First, suspicions fell upon the public distiller for exportation; then his utensils were locked up; afterwards the private distiller was suspected, and he was locked up:  then they set him and his furnaces at liberty, and went back in a passion to the public distiller.  The legislature condescended to interfere, and with a new lock and key, precisely described in an act of parliament, it was hoped all would be made secure.  Any person being a distiller, who should lock up his furnace or pipes with a key constructed differently from that which the act described, or any person making such illegal key for said distiller, was subject to the forfeiture of one hundred pounds.  The padlock was never fixed upon the mind, and even the lock and key, prescribed by act of parliament, were found inefficacious.  Any common blacksmith, with a picklock in his possession, laughed at the combined skill of the two houses of parliament.

This digression from the rewards and punishments of children, to the distillery laws, may, it is hoped, be pardoned, if the useful moral can be drawn from it, that, where there are great temptations to fraud, and continual opportunities of evasion, no laws, however ingenious, no punishments, however exorbitant, can avail.  The history of coiners, venders, and utterers, of his majesty’s coin, as lately detailed to us by respectable authority, may afford further illustration of this principle.

There is no imminent danger of children’s becoming either coiners or fraudulent distillers; but an ingenious preceptor will not be much puzzled in applying the remarks that have been made, to the subject of education.  For the anticlimax, in descending from the legislation of men to the government of children, no apology is attempted.

The fewer the laws we make for children, the better.  Whatever they may be, they should be distinctly expressed; the letter and spirit should both agree, and the words should bear but one signification, clear to all the parties concerned.  They should never be subject to the ex post facto interpretation of an angry preceptor, or a cunning pupil; no loose general terms should permit tyranny, or encourage quibbling.  There is said to be a Chinese law, which decrees, that whoever does not show proper respect to the sovereign, is to be punished with death.  What is meant by the words proper respect, is not defined.  Two persons made a mistake in some account of an insignificant affair, in one of their court gazettes.  It was declared, that to lie in a court gazette, is to be wanting in proper respect to the court.  Both the careless scribes were put to death.  One of the princes of the blood inadvertently put some mark upon a memorial, which had been signed by the emperor Bogdo Chan.  This was construed to be a want of proper respect to Bogdo Chan the emperor, and a horrible persecution hence arose against the scrawling prince and his whole family.  May no schoolmasters, ushers, or others, ever (even as far as they are able) imitate Bogdo Chan, and may they always define to their subjects, what they mean by proper respect!

There is a sort of mistaken mercy sometimes shown to children, which is, in reality, the greatest cruelty.  People, who are too angry to refrain from threats, are often too indolent, or too compassionate, to put their threats in execution.  Between their words and actions there is hence a manifest contradiction; their pupils learn from experience, either totally to disregard these threats, or else to calculate, from the various degrees of anger which appear in the threatener’s countenance, what real probability there is of his being as good or as bad as his word.  Far from perceiving that punishment, in this case, is pain given with the reasonable hope of making him wiser or happier, the pupil is convinced, that his master punishes him only to gratify the passion of anger, to which he is unfortunately subject.  Even supposing that threateners are exact in fulfilling their threats, and that they are not passionate, but simply wish to avoid giving pain; they endeavour to excite the fears of their pupils as the means of governing them with the least possible pain.  But with fear they excite all the passions and habits which are connected with that mean principle of action, and they extinguish that vigorous spirit, that independent energy of soul, which is essential to all the active and manly virtues.  Young people, who find that their daily pleasures depend not so much upon their own exertions as upon the humour and caprice of others, become absolute courtiers; they practise all the arts of persuasion, and all the crouching hypocrisy which can deprecate wrath, or propitiate favour.  Their notions of right and wrong cannot be enlarged; their recollection of the rewards and punishments of their childhood, is always connected with the ideas of tyranny and slavery; and when they break their own chains, they are impatient to impose similar bonds upon their inferiors.

An argument has been used to prove, that in some cases anger is part of the justice of punishment, because “mere reproof, without sufficient marks of displeasure and emotion, affects a child very little, and is soon forgotten." It cannot be doubted, that the expression of indignation is a just consequence of certain faults, and the general indignation with which these are spoken of before young people, must make a strong and useful impression upon their minds.  They reflect upon the actions of others; they see the effects which these produce upon the human mind; they put themselves in the situation alternately of the person who expresses indignation, and of him who suffers shame; they measure the fault and its consequences, and they resolve to conduct themselves so as to avoid that just indignation of which they dread to be the object.  These are the general conclusions which children draw when they are impartial spectators; but where they are themselves concerned, their feelings and their reasonings are very different.  If they have done any thing which they know to be wrong, they expect, and are sensible that they deserve, displeasure and indignation; but if any precise penalty is annexed to the fault, the person who is to inflict it, appears to them in the character of a judge, who is bound to repress his own feelings, and coolly to execute justice.  If the judge both reproaches and punishes, he doubles the punishment.  Whenever indignation is expressed, no vulgar trivial penalties should accompany it; the pupil should feel that it is indignation against his fault, and not against himself; and that it is not excited in his preceptor’s mind by any petty personal considerations.  A child distinguishes between anger and indignation very exactly; the one commands his respect, the other raises his contempt as soon as his fears subside.  Dr. Priestley seems to think that, “it is not possible to express displeasure with sufficient force, especially to a child, when a man is perfectly cool.”  May we not reply to this, that it is scarcely possible to express displeasure with sufficient propriety, especially to a child, when a man is in a passion?  The propriety is, in this case, of at least as much consequence as the force of the reprimand. ­The effect which the preceptor’s displeasure will produce, must be, in some proportion, to the esteem which his pupil feels for him.  If he cannot command his irascible passions, his pupil cannot continue to esteem him; and there is an end of all that fear of his disapprobation, which was founded upon esteem, and which can never be founded upon a stronger or a better basis.  We should further consider, that the opinions of all the bystanders, especially if they be any of them of the pupil’s own age, have great influence upon his mind.  It is not to be expected that they should all sympathize equally with the angry preceptor; and we know, that whenever the indignation expressed against any fault, appears, in the least, to pass the bound of exact justice, the sympathy of the spectators immediately revolts in favour of the culprit; the fault is forgotten or excused, and all join in spontaneous compassion.  In public schools, this happens so frequently, that the master’s displeasure seldom affects the little community with any sorrow; combined together, they make each other amends for public punishments, by private pity or encouragement.  In families, which are not well regulated, that is to say, in which the interests of all the individuals do not coalesce, the same evils are to be dreaded.  Neither indignation nor shame can affect children in such schools, or such families; the laws and manners, public precept and private opinion, contradict one another.

In a variety of instances in society, we may observe, that the best laws and the best principles are not sufficient to resist the combination of numbers.  Never attempt to affix infamy to a number of people at once, says a philosophic legislator. This advice showed that he perfectly understood the nature of the passion of shame.  Numbers keep one another in countenance; they form a society for themselves; and sometimes by peculiar phrases, and an appropriate language, confound the established opinions of virtue and vice, and enjoy a species of self-complacency independent of public opinion, and often in direct opposition to their former conscience.  Whenever any set of men want to get rid of the shame annexed to particular actions, they begin by changing the names and epithets which have been generally used to express them, and which they know are associated with the feelings of shame:  these feelings are not awakened by the new language, and by degrees they are forgotten, or they are supposed to have been merely prejudices and habits, which former methods of speaking taught people to reverence.  Thus the most disgraceful combinations of men, who live by violating and evading the laws of society, have all a peculiar phraseology amongst themselves, by which jocular ideas are associated with the most disreputable actions.

Those who live by depredation on the river Thames, do not call themselves thieves, but lumpers and mudlarks.  Coiners give regular mercantile names to the different branches of their trade, and to the various kinds of false money which they circulate:  such as flats, or figs, or fig-things.  Unlicensed lottery wheels, are called little goes; and the men who are sent about to public houses to entice poor people into illegal lottery insurances, are called Morocco-men:  a set of villains, hired by these fraudulent lottery keepers, to resist the civil power during the drawing of the lottery, call themselves bludgeon-men; and in the language of robbers, a receiver of stolen goods is said to be staunch, when it is believed that he will go all lengths rather than betray the secrets of a gang of highwaymen.

Since words have such power in their turn over ideas, we must, in education, attend to the language of children as a means of judging of the state of their minds; and whenever we find, that in their conversation with one another, they have any slang, which turns moral ideas into ridicule, we may be certain that this must have arisen from some defect in their education.  The power of shame must then be tried in some new shape, to break this false association of ideas.  Shame, in a new shape, affects the mind with surprising force, in the same manner as danger in a new form alarms the courage of veterans.  An extraordinary instance of this, may be observed in the management of Gloucester jail:  a blue and yellow jacket has been found to have a most powerful effect upon men supposed to be dead to shame.  The keeper of the prison told us, that the most unruly offenders could be kept in awe by the dread of a dress which exposed them to the ridicule of their companions, no new term having been yet invented to counteract the terrors of the yellow jacket.  To prevent the mind from becoming insensible to shame, it must be very sparingly used; and the hope and possibility of recovering esteem, must always be kept alive.  Those who are excluded from hope, are necessarily excluded from virtue; the loss of reputation, we see, is almost always followed by total depravity.  The cruel prejudices which are harboured against particular classes of people, usually tend to make the individuals who are the best disposed amongst these sects, despair of obtaining esteem; and, consequently, careless about deserving it.  There can be nothing inherent in the knavish propensity of Jews; but the prevailing opinion, that avarice, dishonesty and extortion, are the characteristics of a Jew, has probably induced many of the tribe to justify the antipathy which they could not conquer.  Children are frequently confirmed in faults, by the imprudent and cruel custom which some parents have of settling early in life, that such a thing is natural; that such and such dispositions are not to be cured; that cunning, perhaps, is the characteristic of one child, and caprice of another.  This general odium oppresses and dispirits:  such children think it is in vain to struggle against nature, especially as they do not clearly understand what is meant by nature.  They submit to our imputations, without knowing how to refute them.  On the contrary, if we treat them with more good sense and benevolence, if we explain to them the nature of the human mind, and if we lay open to them the history of their own, they will assist us in endeavouring to cure their faults, and they will not be debilitated by indistinct, superstitious fears.  At ten or eleven years old, children are capable of understanding some of the general principles of rational morality, and these they can apply to their own conduct in many instances, which, however trivial they may appear, are not beneath our notice.

June 16, 1796.  S ­ (nine years old) had lost his pencil; his father said to him, “I wish to give you another pencil, but I am afraid I should do you harm if I did; you would not take care of your things if you did not feel some inconvenience when you lose them.”  The boy’s lips moved as if he were saying to himself, “I understand this; it is just.”  His father guessed that these were the thoughts that were passing in his mind, and asked whether he interpreted rightly the motion of the lips.  “Yes,” said S ­, “that was exactly what I was thinking.”  “Then,” said his father, “I will give you a bit of my own pencil this instant:  all I want is to make the necessary impression upon your mind; that is all the use of punishment; you know we do not want to torment you.”

As young people grow up, and perceive the consequences of their own actions, and the advantages of credit and character, they become extremely solicitous to preserve the good opinion of those whom they love and esteem.  They are now capable of taking the future into their view as well as the present; and at this period of their education, the hand of authority should never be hastily used; the voice of reason will never fail to make herself heard, especially if reason speak with the tone of affection.  During the first years of childhood, it did not seem prudent to make any punishment lasting, because young children quickly forget their faults; and having little experience, cannot feel how their past conduct is likely to affect their future happiness:  but as soon as they have more enlarged experience, the nature of their punishments should alter; if we have any reason to esteem or love them less, our contempt and displeasure should not lightly be dissipated.  Those who reflect, are more influenced by the idea of the duration, than of the intensity of any mental pain.  In those calculations which are constantly made before we determine upon action or forbearance, some tempers estimate any evil which is likely to be but of short duration, infinitely below its real importance.  Young men, of sanguine and courageous dispositions, hence frequently act imprudently; the consequences of their temerity will, they think, soon be over, and they feel that they are able to support evil for a short time, however great it may be.  Anger, they know, is a short-lived passion, and they do not scruple running the hazard of exciting anger in the hearts of those they love the best in the world.  The experience of lasting, sober disapprobation, is intolerably irksome to them; any inconvenience which continues for a length of time, wearies them excessively.  After they have endured, as the consequence of any actions, this species of punishment, they will long remember their sufferings, and will carefully avoid incurring, in future, similar penalties.  Sudden and transient pain appears to be most effectual with persons of an opposite temperament.

Young people, of a torpid, indolent temperament, are much under the dominion of habit; if they happen to have contracted any disagreeable or bad habits, they have seldom sufficient energy to break them.  The stimulus of sudden pain is necessary in this case.  The pupil may be perfectly convinced, that such a habit ought to be broken, and may wish to break it most sincerely; but may yet be incapable of the voluntary exertion requisite to obtain success.  It would be dangerous to let the habit, however insignificant, continue victorious, because the child would hence be discouraged from all future attempts to battle with himself.  Either we should not attempt the conquest of the habit, or we should persist till we have vanquished.  The confidence, which this sense of success will give the pupil, will probably, in his own opinion, be thought well worthy the price.  Neither his reason nor his will was in fault; all he wanted, was strength to break the diminutive chains of habit; chains which, it seems, have power to enfeeble their captives exactly in proportion to the length of time they are worn.

Every body has probably found, from their own experience, how difficult it is to alter little habits in manners, pronunciation, &c.  Children are often teased with frequent admonitions about their habits of sitting, standing, walking, talking, eating, speaking, &c.  Parents are early aware of the importance of agreeable, graceful manners; every body who sees children, can judge, or think that they can judge, of their manners; and from anxiety that children should appear to advantage in company, parents solicitously watch all their gestures, and correct all their attitudes according to that image of the “beau ideal,” which happens to be most fashionable.  The most convenient and natural attitudes are not always the most approved.  The constraint which children suffer from their obedience, obliges them at length to rest their tortured muscles, and to throw themselves, for relief, into attitudes the very reverse of those which they have practised with so much pain.  Hence they acquire opposite habits in their manners, and there is a continual struggle between these.  They find it impossible to correct, instantaneously, the awkward tricks which they have acquired, and they learn ineffectually to attempt a conquest over themselves; or else, which is most commonly the catastrophe, they learn to hear the exhortations and rebukes of all around them, without being stimulated to any degree of exertion. The same voices which lose their power on these trifling occasions, lose, at the same time, much of their general influence.  More power is wasted upon trifling defects in the manners of children, than can be imagined by any who have not particularly attended to this subject.  If it be thought indispensably necessary to speak to children eternally about their manners, this irritating and disagreeable office should devolve upon somebody whose influence over the children we are not anxious to preserve undiminished.  A little ingenuity in contriving the dress, writing desks, reading desks, &c. of children, who are any way defective in their shape, might spare much of the anxiety which is felt by their parents, and much of the bodily and mental pain which they alternately endure themselves.  For these patients, would it not be rather more safe to consult the philosophic physician, than the dancing master who is not bound to understand either anatomy or metaphysics?

Every preventative which is discovered for any defect, either in manners, temper, or understanding, diminishes the necessity for punishment.  Punishments are the abrupt, brutal resource of ignorance, frequently, to cure the effects of former negligence.  With children who have been reasonably and affectionately educated, scarcely any punishments are requisite.  This is not an assertion hazarded without experience; the happy experience of several years, and of several children of different ages and tempers, justifies this assertion.  As for corporeal punishments, they may be necessary where boys are to be drilled in a given time into scholars; but the language of blows need seldom be used to reasonable creatures.  The idea that it is disgraceful to be governed by force, should be kept alive in the minds of children; the dread of shame is a more powerful motive than the fear of bodily pain.  To prove the truth of this, we may recollect that few people have ever been known to destroy themselves in order to escape from bodily pain; but numbers, to avoid shame, have put an end to their existence.  It has been a question, whether mankind are most governed by hope or by fear, by rewards or by punishments?  This question, like many others which have occasioned tedious debates, turns chiefly upon words.  Hope and fear are sometimes used to denote mixed, and sometimes unmixed, passions.  Those who speak of them as unmixed passions, cannot have accurately examined their own feelings. The probability of good, produces hope; the probability of evil, excites fear; and as this probability appears less or greater, more remote or nearer to us, the mind fluctuates between the opposite passions.  When the probability increases on either side, so does the corresponding passion.  Since these passions seldom exist in absolute separation from one another, it appears that we cannot philosophically speak of either as an independent motive:  to the question, therefore, “which governs mankind the most, hope or fear?” we cannot give an explicit answer.

When we would determine upon the probability of any good or evil, we are insensibly influenced, not only by the view of the circumstances before us, but also by our previous habits; we judge not only by the general laws of human events, but also by our own individual experience.  If we have been usually successful, we are inclined to hope; have we been accustomed to misfortunes, we are hence disposed to fear.  “Cæsar and his fortune are on board,” exclaimed the confident hero to the mariners.  Hope excites the mind to exertion; fear represses all activity.  As a preventative from vice, you may employ fear; to restrain the excesses of all the furious passions, it is useful and necessary:  but would you rouse the energies of virtue, you must inspire and invigorate the soul with hope.  Courage, generosity, industry, perseverance, all the magic of talents, all the powers of genius, all the virtues that appear spontaneous in great minds, spring from hope.  But how different is the hope of a great and of a little mind; not only are the objects of this hope different, but the passion itself is raised and supported in a different manner.  A feeble person, if he presumes to hope, hopes as superstitiously as he fears; he keeps his attention sedulously fixed upon all the probabilities in his favour; he will not listen to any arguments in opposition to his wishes; he knows he is unreasonable, he persists in continuing so; he does not connect any idea of exertion with hope; his hope usually rests upon the exertions of others, or upon some fortuitous circumstances.  A man of a strong mind, reasons before he hopes; he takes in, at one quick, comprehensive glance, all that is to be seen both for and against him; he is, from experience, disposed to depend much upon his own exertions, if they can turn the balance in his favour; he hopes, he acts, he succeeds.  Poets, in all ages, have celebrated the charms of hope; without her propitious influence, life, they tell us, would be worse than death; without her smiles, nature would smile in vain; without her promises, treacherous though they often prove, reality would have nothing to give worthy of our acceptance.  We are not bound, however, to understand literally, the rhetoric of poets.  Hope is to them a beautiful and useful allegorical personage:  sometimes leaning upon an anchor; sometimes “waving her golden hair;” always young, smiling, enchanting, furnished with a rich assortment of epithets suited to the ode, the sonnet, the madrigal, with a traditionary number of images and allusions; what more can a poet desire?  Men, except when they are poets, do not value hope as the first of terrestrial blessings.  The action and energies which hope produces, are to many more agreeable than the passion itself; that feverish state of suspense, which prevents settled thought or vigorous exertion, far from being agreeable, is highly painful to a well regulated mind; the continued repetition of the same ideas and the same calculations, fatigues the mind, which, in reasoning, has been accustomed to arrive at some certain conclusion, or to advance, at least, a step at every effort.  The exercise of the mind, in changing the views of its object, which is supposed to be a great part of the pleasure of hope, is soon over to an active imagination, which quickly runs through all the possible changes; or is this exercise, even while it lasts, so delightful to a man who has a variety of intellectual occupations, as it frequently appears to him who knows scarcely any other species of mental activity?  The vacillating state of mind, peculiar to hope and fear, is by no means favourable to industry; half our time is generally consumed in speculating upon the reward, instead of earning it, whenever the value of that reward is not precisely ascertainable.  In all occupations, where judgment or accurate observation is essential, if the reward of our labour is brought suddenly to excite our hope, there is an immediate interruption of all effectual labour; the thoughts take a new direction; the mind becomes tremulous, and nothing decisive can be done, till the emotions of hope and fear either subside or are vanquished.

M. l’Abbe Chappe, who was sent by the king of France, at the desire of the French Academy, to Siberia, to observe the transit of Venus, gives us a striking picture of the state of his own mind when the moment of this famous observation approached.  In the description of his own feelings, this traveller may be admitted as good authority.  A few hours before the observation, a black cloud appeared in the sky; the idea of returning to Paris, after such a long and perilous journey, without having seen the transit of Venus; the idea of the disappointment to his king, to his country, to all the philosophers in Europe; threw him into a state of agitation, “which must have been felt to be conceived.”  At length the black cloud vanished; his hopes affected him almost as much as his fears had done; he fixed his telescope, saw the planet; his eye wandered over the immense space a thousand times in a minute; his secretary stood on one side with his pen in his hand; his assistant, with his eye fixed upon the watch, was stationed on the other side.  The moment of the total immersion arrived; the agitated philosopher was seized with an universal shivering, and could scarcely command his thoughts sufficiently to secure the observation.

The uncertainty of reward, and the consequent agitations of hope and fear, operate as unfavourably upon the moral as upon the intellectual character.  The favour of princes is an uncertain reward.  Courtiers are usually despicable and wretched beings; they live upon hope; but their hope is not connected with exertion.  Those who court popularity, are not less despicable or less wretched; their reward is uncertain:  what is more uncertain than the affection of the multitude?  The Proteus character of Wharton, so admirably drawn by Pope, is a striking picture of a man who has laboured through life with the vague hope of obtaining universal applause.

Let us suppose a child to be educated by a variety of persons, all differing in their tastes and tempers, and in their notions of right and wrong; all having the power to reward and punish their common pupil.  What must this pupil become?  A mixture of incongruous characters; superstitious, enthusiastic, indolent, and perhaps profligate:  superstitious, because his own contradictory experience would expose him to fear without reason; enthusiastic, because he would, from the same cause, form absurd expectations; indolent, because the will of others has been the measure of his happiness, and his own exertions have never procured him any certain reward; profligate, because, probably from the confused variety of his moral lessons, he has at last concluded that right and wrong are but unmeaning words.  Let us change the destiny of this child, by changing his education.  Place him under the sole care of a person of an enlarged capacity, and a steady mind; who has formed just notions of right and wrong; and who, in the distribution of reward and punishment, of praise and blame, will be prompt, exact, invariable.  His pupil will neither be credulous, rash, nor profligate; and he certainly will not be indolent; his habitual and his rational belief will, in all circumstances, agree with each other; his hope will be the prelude to exertion, and his fear will restrain him only in situations where action is dangerous.

Even amongst children, we must frequently have observed a prodigious difference in the quantity of hope and fear which is felt by those who have been well or ill educated.  An ill educated child, is in daily, hourly, alternate agonies of hope and fear; the present never occupies or interests him, but his soul is intent upon some future gratification, which never pays him by its full possession.  As soon as he awakens in the morning, he recollects some promised blessing, and, till the happy moment arrives, he is wretched in impatience:  at breakfast he is to be blessed with some toy, that he is to have the moment breakfast is finished; and when he finds the toy does not delight him, he is to be blessed with a sweet pudding at dinner, or with sitting up half an hour later at night than his usual bed-time.  Endeavour to find some occupation that shall amuse him, you will not easily succeed, for he will still anticipate what you are going to say or to do.  “What will come next?” “What shall we do after this?” are, as Mr. Williams, in his able lectures upon education, observes, the questions incessantly asked by spoiled children.  This species of idle, restless curiosity, does not lead to the acquisition of knowledge, it prevents the possibility of instruction; it is not the animation of a healthy mind, it is the debility of an over-stimulated temper.  There is a very sensible letter in Mrs. Macaulay’s book upon education, on the impropriety of filling the imagination of young people with prospects of future enjoyment:  the foolish system of promising great rewards, and fine presents, she clearly shows creates habitual disorders in the minds of children.

The happiness of life depends more upon a succession of small enjoyments, than upon great pleasures; and those who become incapable of tasting the moderately agreeable sensations, cannot fill up the intervals of their existence between their great delights.  The happiness of childhood peculiarly depends upon their enjoyment of little pleasures:  of these they have a continual variety; they have perpetual occupation for their senses, in observing all the objects around them, and all their faculties may be exercised upon suitable subjects.  The pleasure of this exercise is in itself sufficient:  we need not say to a child, “Look at the wings of this beautiful butterfly, and I will give you a piece of plum-cake; observe how the butterfly curls his proboscis, how he dives into the honeyed flowers, and I will take you in a coach to pay a visit with me, my dear.  Remember the pretty story you read this morning, and you shall have a new coat.”  Without the new coat, or the visit, or the plum-cake, the child would have had sufficient amusement in the story and the sight of the butterfly’s proboscis:  the rewards, besides, have no natural connection with the things themselves; and they create, where they are most liked, a taste for factitious pleasures.  Would you encourage benevolence, generosity, or prudence, let each have its appropriate reward of affection, esteem, and confidence; but do not by ill-judged bounties attempt to force these virtues into premature display.  The rewards which are given to benevolence and generosity in children, frequently encourage selfishness, and sometimes teach them cunning.  Lord Kames tells us a story, which is precisely a case in point.  Two boys, the sons of the earl of Elgin, were permitted by their father to associate with the poor boys in the neighbourhood of their father’s house.  One day, the earl’s sons being called to dinner, a lad who was playing with them, said that he would wait until they returned ­“There is no dinner for me at home,” said the poor boy.  “Come with us, then,” said the earl’s sons.  The boy refused, and when they asked him if he had any money to buy a dinner, he answered, “No.”  “Papa,” said the eldest of the young gentlemen when he got home, “what was the price of the silver buckles you gave me?” “Five shillings.”  “Let me have the money, and I’ll give you the buckles.”  It was done accordingly, says Lord Kames.  The earl, inquiring privately, found that the money was given to the lad who had no dinner.  The buckles were returned, and the boy was highly commended for being kind to his companion.  The commendations were just, but the buckles should not have been returned:  the boy should have been suffered steadily to abide by his own bargain; he should have been let to feel the pleasure, and pay the exact price of his own generosity.

If we attempt to teach children that they can be generous, without giving up some of their own pleasures for the sake of other people, we attempt to teach them what is false.  If we once make them amends for any sacrifice they have made, we lead them to expect the same remuneration upon a future occasion; and then, in fact, they act with a direct view to their own interest, and govern themselves by the calculations of prudence, instead of following the dictates of benevolence.  It is true, that if we speak with accuracy, we must admit, that the most benevolent and generous persons act from the hope of receiving pleasure, and their enjoyment is more exquisite than that of the most refined selfishness; in the language of M. de Rochefoucault, we should therefore be forced to acknowledge, that the most benevolent is always the most selfish person.  This seeming paradox is answered, by observing, that the epithet selfish is given to those who prefer pleasures in which other people have no share; we change the meaning of words when we talk of its being selfish to like the pleasures of sympathy or benevolence, because these pleasures cannot be confined solely to the idea of self.  When we say that a person pursues his own interest more by being generous than by being covetous, we take into the account the general sum of his agreeable feelings; we do not balance prudentially his loss or gain upon particular occasions.  The generous man may himself be convinced, that the sum of his happiness is more increased by the feelings of benevolence, than it could be by the gratification of avarice; but, though his understanding may perceive the demonstration of this moral theorem, though it is the remote principle of his whole conduct, it does not occur to his memory in the form of a prudential aphorism, whenever he is going to do a generous action.  It is essential to our ideas of generosity, that no such reasoning should, at that moment, pass in his mind; we know that the feelings of generosity are associated with a number of enthusiastic ideas; we can sympathize with the virtuous insanity of the man who forgets himself whilst he thinks of others; we do not so readily sympathize with the cold strength of mind of the person, who, deliberately preferring the greatest possible share of happiness, is benevolent by rule and measure.

Whether we are just or not, in refusing our sympathy to the man of reason, and in giving our spontaneous approbation to the man of enthusiasm, we shall not here examine.  But the reasonable man, who has been convinced of this propensity in human nature, will take it into his calculations; he will perceive, that he loses, in losing the pleasure of sympathy, part of the sum total of his possible happiness; he will consequently wish, that he could add this item of pleasure to the credit side of his account.  This, however, he cannot accomplish, because, though he can by reason correct his calculations, it is not in the power, even of the most potent reason, suddenly to break habitual associations; much less is it in the power of cool reason to conjure up warm enthusiasm.  Yet in this case, enthusiasm is the thing required.

What the man of reason cannot do for himself after his associations are strongly formed, might have been easily accomplished in his early education.  He might have been taught the same general principles, but with different habits.  By early associating the pleasures of sympathy, and praise, and affection with all generous and benevolent actions, his parents might have joined these ideas so forcibly in his mind, that the one set of ideas should never recur without the other.  Whenever the words benevolence or generosity were pronounced, the feelings of habitual pleasure would recur; and he would, independently of reason, desire from association to be generous.  When enthusiasm is fairly justified by reason, we have nothing to fear from her vehemence.

In rewarding children for the prudential virtues, such as order, cleanliness, economy, temperance, &c. we should endeavour to make the rewards the immediate consequence of the virtues themselves; and at the same time, approbation should be shown in speaking of these useful qualities.  A gradation must, however, always be observed in our praises of different virtues; those that are the most useful to society, as truth, justice and humanity, must stand the highest in the scale; those that are most agreeable, claim the next place.  Those good qualities, which must wait a considerable time for their reward, such as perseverance, prudence, &c. we must not expect early from young people.  Till they have had experience, how can they form any idea about the future?  Till they have been punctually rewarded for their industry, or for their prudence, they do not feel the value of prudence and perseverance.  Time is necessary to all these lessons, and those who leave time out in their calculations, will always be disappointed in whatever plan of education they may pursue.

Many, to whom the subject is familiar, will be fatigued, probably, by the detailed manner in which it has been thought necessary to explain the principles by which we should guide ourselves in the distribution of rewards and punishments to children.  Those who quickly seize, and apply, general ideas, cannot endure, with patience, the tedious minuteness of didactic illustration.  Those who are actually engaged in practical education, will not, on the contrary, be satisfied with general precepts; and, however plausible any theory may appear, they are well aware that its utility must depend upon a variety of small circumstances, to which writers of theories often neglect to advert.  At the hazard of being thought tedious, those must be minute in explanation who desire to be generally useful.  An old French writer, more remarkable for originality of thought, than for the graces of style, was once reproached by a friend with the frequent repetitions which were to be found in his works.  “Name them to me,” said the author.  The critic, with obliging precision, mentioned all the ideas which had most frequently recurred in the book.  “I am satisfied,” replied the honest author; “you remember my ideas; I repeated them so often to prevent you from forgetting them.  Without my repetitions, we should never have succeeded.”