If this Country increases in virtue and intelligence, as it may, there is no end to the wealth which will pour in as the result of our resources of climate, soil, and navigation, and the skill, industry, energy, and enterprise, of our countrymen. This wealth, if used as intelligence and virtue dictate, will furnish the means for a superior education to all classes, and every facility for the refinement of taste, intellect, and feeling.
Moreover, in this Country, labor is ceasing to be the badge of a lower class; so that already it is disreputable for a man to be "a lazy gentleman." And this feeling must increase, till there is such an equalisation of labor, as will afford all the time needful for every class to improve the many advantages offered to them. Already, in Boston, through the munificence of some of her citizens, there are literary and scientific advantages, offered to all classes, rarely enjoyed elsewhere. In Cincinnati, too, the advantages of education, now offered to the poorest classes, without charge, surpass what, some years ago, most wealthy men could purchase, for any price. And it is believed, that a time will come, when the poorest boy in America can secure advantages, which will equal what the heir of the proudest peerage can now command.
The records of the courts of France and Germany, (as detailed by the Duchess of Orleans,) in and succeeding the brilliant reign of Louis the Fourteenth,—a period which was deemed the acme of elegance and refinement,—exhibit a grossness, a vulgarity, and a coarseness, not to be found among the lowest of our respectable poor. And the biography of Beau Nash, who attempted to reform the manners of the gentry, in the times of Queen Anne, exhibits violations of the rules of decency among the aristocracy, which the commonest yeoman of this Land would feel disgraced in perpetrating.
This shows, that our lowest classes, at this period, are more refined, than were the highest in aristocratic lands, a hundred years ago; and another century may show the lowest classes, in wealth, in this Country, attaining as high a polish, as adorns those who now are leaders of good-manners in the courts of kings.
[M] The universal practice of this Nation, in thus giving precedence to woman, has been severely commented on by Miss Martineau and some others, who would transfer all the business of the other sex to women, and then have them treated like men. May this evidence of our superior civilisation and Christianity increase, rather than diminish!
ON THE PRESERVATION OF A GOOD TEMPER IN A HOUSEKEEPER.
There is nothing, which has a more abiding influence on the happiness of a family, than the preservation of equable and cheerful temper and tones in the housekeeper. A woman, who is habitually gentle, sympathizing, forbearing, and cheerful, carries an atmosphere about her, which imparts a soothing and sustaining influence, and renders it easier for all to do right, under her administration, than in any other situation.
The writer has known families, where the mother's presence seemed the sunshine of the circle around her; imparting a cheering and vivifying power, scarcely realized, till it was withdrawn. Every one, without thinking of it, or knowing why it was so, experienced a peaceful and invigorating influence, as soon as he entered the sphere illumined by her smile, and sustained by her cheering kindness and sympathy. On the contrary, many a good housekeeper, (good in every respect but this,) by wearing a countenance of anxiety and dissatisfaction, and by indulging in the frequent use of sharp and reprehensive tones, more than destroys all the comfort which otherwise would result from her system, neatness, and economy.
There is a secret, social sympathy, which every mind, to a greater or less degree, experiences with the feelings of those around, as they are manifested by the countenance and voice. A sorrowful, a discontented, or an angry, countenance, produces a silent, sympathetic influence, imparting a sombre shade to the mind, while tones of anger or complaint still more effectually jar the spirits.
No person can maintain a quiet and cheerful frame of mind, while tones of discontent and displeasure are sounding on the ear. We may gradually accustom ourselves to the evil, till it is partially diminished; but it always is an evil, which greatly interferes with the enjoyment of the family state. There are sometimes cases, where the entrance of the mistress of a family seems to awaken a slight apprehension, in every mind around, as if each felt in danger of a reproof, for something either perpetrated or neglected. A woman, who should go around her house with a small stinging snapper, which she habitually applied to those whom she met, would be encountered with feelings very much like to those which are experienced by the inmates of a family, where the mistress often uses her countenance and voice, to inflict similar penalties for duties neglected.
Yet, there are many allowances to be made for housekeepers, who sometimes imperceptibly and unconsciously fall into such habits. A woman, who attempts to carry out any plans of system, order, and economy, and who has her feelings and habits conformed to certain rules, is constantly liable to have her plans crossed, and her taste violated, by the inexperience or inattention of those about her. And no housekeeper, whatever may be her habits, can escape the frequent recurrence of negligence or mistake, which interferes with her plans. It is probable, that there is no class of persons, in the world, who have such incessant trials of temper, and temptations to be fretful, as American housekeepers. For a housekeeper's business is not, like that of the other sex, limited to a particular department, for which previous preparation is made. It consists of ten thousand little disconnected items, which can never be so systematically arranged, that there is no daily jostling, somewhere. And in the best-regulated families, it is not unfrequently the case, that some act of forgetfulness or carelessness, from some member, will disarrange the business of the whole day, so that every hour will bring renewed occasion for annoyance. And the more strongly a woman realizes the value of time, and the importance of system and order, the more will she be tempted to irritability and complaint.
The following considerations, may aid in preparing a woman to meet such daily crosses, with even a cheerful temper and tones.
In the first place, a woman, who has charge of a large household, should regard her duties as dignified, important, and difficult. The mind is so made, as to be elevated and cheered by a sense of far-reaching influence and usefulness. A woman, who feels that she is a cipher, and that it makes little difference how she performs her duties, has far less to sustain and invigorate her, than one, who truly estimates the importance of her station. A man, who feels that the destinies of a nation are turning on the judgement and skill with which he plans and executes, has a pressure of motive, and an elevation of feeling, which are great safeguards from all that is low, trivial, and degrading.
So, an American mother and housekeeper, who looks at her position in the aspect presented in the previous pages, and who rightly estimates the long train of influences which will pass down to thousands, whose destinies, from generation to generation, will be modified by those decisions of her will, which regulated the temper, principles, and habits, of her family, must be elevated above petty temptations, which would otherwise assail her.
Again, a housekeeper should feel that she really has great difficulties to meet and overcome. A person, who wrongly thinks there is little danger, can never maintain so faithful a guard, as one who rightly estimates the temptations which beset her. Nor can one, who thinks that they are trifling difficulties which she has to encounter, and trivial temptations, to which she must yield, so much enjoy the just reward of conscious virtue and self-control, as one who takes an opposite view of the subject.
A third method, is, for a woman deliberately to calculate on having her best-arranged plans interfered with, very often; and to be in such a state of preparation, that the evil will not come unawares. So complicated are the pursuits, and so diverse the habits of the various members of a family, that it is almost impossible for every one to avoid interfering with the plans and taste of a housekeeper, in some one point or another. It is, therefore, most wise, for a woman to keep the loins of her mind ever girt, to meet such collisions with a cheerful and quiet spirit.
Another important rule, is, to form all plans and arrangements in consistency with the means at command, and the character of those around. A woman, who has a heedless husband, and young children, and incompetent domestics, ought not to make such plans, as one may properly form, who will not, in so many directions, meet embarrassment. She must aim at just so much as she can probably secure, and no more; and thus she will usually escape much temptation, and much of the irritation of disappointment.
The fifth, and a very important, consideration, is, that system, economy, and neatness, are valuable, only so far as they tend to promote the comfort and wellbeing of those affected. Some women seem to act under the impression, that these advantages must be secured, at all events, even if the comfort of the family be the sacrifice. True, it is very important that children grow up in habits of system, neatness, and order; and it is very desirable that the mother give them every incentive, both by precept and example: but it is still more important, that they grow up with amiable tempers, that they learn to meet the crosses of life with patience and cheerfulness; and nothing has a greater influence to secure this, than a mother's example. Whenever, therefore, a woman cannot accomplish her plans of neatness and order, without injury to her own temper, or to the temper of others, she ought to modify and reduce them, until she can.
The sixth method, relates to the government of the tones of voice. In many cases, when a woman's domestic arrangements are suddenly and seriously crossed, it is impossible not to feel some irritation. But it is always possible to refrain from angry tones. A woman can resolve, that, whatever happens, she will not speak, till she can do it in a calm and gentle manner. Perfect silence is a safe resort, when such control cannot be attained, as enables a person to speak calmly; and this determination, persevered in, will eventually be crowned with success.
Many persons seem to imagine, that tones of anger are needful, in order to secure prompt obedience. But observation has convinced the writer that they are never necessary; that in all cases, reproof, administered in calm tones, would be better. A case will be given in illustration.
A young girl had been repeatedly charged to avoid a certain arrangement in cooking. On one day, when company was invited to dine, the direction was forgotten, and the consequence was, an accident, which disarranged every thing, seriously injured the principal dish, and delayed dinner for an hour. The mistress of the family entered the kitchen, just as it occurred, and, at a glance, saw the extent of the mischief. For a moment, her eyes flashed, and her cheeks glowed; but she held her peace. After a minute or so, she gave directions, in a calm voice, as to the best mode of retrieving the evil, and then left, without a word said to the offender.
After the company left, she sent for the girl, alone, and in a calm and kind manner pointed out the aggravations of the case, and described the trouble which had been caused to her husband, her visiters, and herself. She then portrayed the future evils which would result from such habits of neglect and inattention, and the modes of attempting to overcome them; and then offered a reward for the future, if, in a given time, she succeeded in improving in this respect. Not a tone of anger was uttered; and yet the severest scolding of a practised Xantippe could not have secured such contrition, and determination to reform, as was gained by this method.
But similar negligence is often visited by a continuous stream of complaint and reproof, which, in most cases, is met, either by sullen silence, or impertinent retort, while anger prevents any contrition, or any resolution of future amendment.
It is very certain, that some ladies do carry forward a most efficient government, both of children and domestics, without employing tones of anger; and therefore they are not indispensable, nor on any account desirable.
Though some ladies, of intelligence and refinement, do fall unconsciously into such a practice, it is certainly very unlady-like, and in very bad taste, to scold; and the further a woman departs from all approach to it, the more perfectly she sustains her character as a lady.
Another method of securing equanimity, amid the trials of domestic life, is, to cultivate a habit of making allowances for the difficulties, ignorance, or temptations, of those who violate rule or neglect duty. It is vain, and most unreasonable, to expect the consideration and care of a mature mind, in childhood and youth; or that persons, of such limited advantages as most domestics have enjoyed, should practise proper self-control, and possess proper habits and principles.
Every parent, and every employer, needs daily to cultivate the spirit expressed in the Divine prayer, "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." The same allowances and forbearance, which we supplicate from our Heavenly Father, and desire from our fellow-men, in reference to our own deficiencies, we should constantly aim to extend to all, who cross our feelings and interfere with our plans.
The last, and most important, mode of securing a placid and cheerful temper and tones, is, by a right view of the doctrine of a superintending Providence. All persons are too much in the habit of regarding the more important events of life, as exclusively under the control of Perfect Wisdom. But the fall of a sparrow, or the loss of a hair, they do not feel to be equally the result of His directing agency. In consequence of this, Christian persons, who aim at perfect and cheerful submission to heavy afflictions, and who succeed, to the edification of all about them, are sometimes sadly deficient under petty crosses. If a beloved child be laid in the grave, even if its death resulted from the carelessness of a domestic, or of a physician, the eye is turned from the subordinate agent, to the Supreme Guardian of all, and to Him they bow, without murmur or complaint. But if a pudding be burnt, or a room badly swept, or an errand forgotten, then vexation and complaint are allowed, just as if these events were not appointed by Perfect Wisdom, as much as the sorer chastisement.
A woman, therefore, needs to cultivate the habitual feeling, that all the events of her nursery and kitchen, are brought about by the permission of our Heavenly Father, and that fretfulness or complaint, in regard to these, is, in fact, complaining and disputing at the appointments of God, and is really as sinful, as unsubmissive murmurs amid the sorer chastisements of His hand. And a woman, who cultivates this habit of referring all the minor trials of life to the wise and benevolent agency of a Heavenly Parent, and daily seeks His sympathy and aid, to enable her to meet them with a quiet and cheerful spirit, will soon find it the perennial spring of abiding peace and content.
ON HABITS OF SYSTEM AND ORDER.
The discussion of the question of the equality of the sexes, in intellectual capacity, seems frivolous and useless, both because it can never be decided, and because there would be no possible advantage in the decision. But one topic, which is often drawn into this discussion, is of far more consequence; and that is, the relative importance and difficulty of the duties a woman is called to perform.
It is generally assumed, and almost as generally conceded, that woman's business and cares are contracted and trivial; and that the proper discharge of her duties, demands far less expansion of mind and vigor of intellect, than the pursuits of the other sex. This idea has prevailed, because women, as a mass, have never been educated with reference to their most important duties; while that portion of their employments, which is of least value, has been regarded as the chief, if not the sole, concern of a woman. The covering of the body, the conveniences of residences, and the gratification of the appetite, have been too much regarded as the sole objects, on which her intellectual powers are to be exercised.
But, as society gradually shakes off the remnants of barbarism, and the intellectual and moral interests of man rise, in estimation, above the merely sensual, a truer estimate is formed of woman's duties, and of the measure of intellect requisite for the proper discharge of them. Let any man, of sense and discernment, become the member of a large household, in which, a well-educated and pious woman is endeavoring systematically to discharge her multiform duties; let him fully comprehend all her cares, difficulties, and perplexities; and it is probable he would coincide in the opinion, that no statesman, at the head of a nation's affairs, had more frequent calls for wisdom, firmness, tact, discrimination, prudence, and versatility of talent, than such a woman.
She has a husband, to whose peculiar tastes and habits she must accommodate herself; she has children, whose health she must guard, whose physical constitutions she must study and develope, whose temper and habits she must regulate, whose principles she must form, whose pursuits she must direct. She has constantly changing domestics, with all varieties of temper and habits, whom she must govern, instruct, and direct; she is required to regulate the finances of the domestic state, and constantly to adapt expenditures to the means and to the relative claims of each department. She has the direction of the kitchen, where ignorance, forgetfulness, and awkwardness, are to be so regulated, that the various operations shall each start at the right time, and all be in completeness at the same given hour. She has the claims of society to meet, calls to receive and return, and the duties of hospitality to sustain. She has the poor to relieve; benevolent societies to aid; the schools of her children to inquire and decide about; the care of the sick; the nursing of infancy; and the endless miscellany of odd items, constantly recurring in a large family.
Surely, it is a pernicious and mistaken idea, that the duties, which tax a woman's mind, are petty, trivial, or unworthy of the highest grade of intellect and moral worth. Instead of allowing this feeling, every woman should imbibe, from early youth, the impression, that she is training for the discharge of the most important, the most difficult, and the most sacred and interesting duties that can possibly employ the highest intellect. She ought to feel, that her station and responsibilities, in the great drama of life, are second to none, either as viewed by her Maker, or in the estimation of all minds whose judgement is most worthy of respect.
She, who is the mother and housekeeper in a large family, is the sovereign of an empire, demanding more varied cares, and involving more difficult duties, than are really exacted of her, who, while she wears the crown, and professedly regulates the interests of the greatest nation on earth, finds abundant leisure for theatres, balls, horseraces, and every gay pursuit.
There is no one thing, more necessary to a housekeeper, in performing her varied duties, than a habit of system and order; and yet, the peculiarly desultory nature of women's pursuits, and the embarrassments resulting from the state of domestic service in this Country, render it very difficult to form such a habit. But it is sometimes the case, that women, who could and would carry forward a systematic plan of domestic economy, do not attempt it, simply from a want of knowledge of the various modes of introducing it. It is with reference to such, that various modes of securing system and order, which the writer has seen adopted, will be pointed out.
A wise economy is nowhere more conspicuous, than in the right apportionment of time to different pursuits. There are duties of a religious, intellectual, social, and domestic, nature, each having different relative claims on attention. Unless a person has some general plan of apportioning these claims, some will intrench on others, and some, it is probable, will be entirely excluded. Thus, some find religious, social, and domestic, duties, so numerous, that no time is given to intellectual improvement. Others, find either social, or benevolent, or religious, interests, excluded by the extent and variety of other engagements.
It is wise, therefore, for all persons to devise a general plan, which they will at least keep in view, and aim to accomplish, and by which, a proper proportion of time shall be secured, for all the duties of life.
In forming such a plan, every woman must accommodate herself to the peculiarities of her situation. If she has a large family, and a small income, she must devote far more time to the simple duty of providing food and raiment, than would be right were she in affluence, and with a small family. It is impossible, therefore, to draw out any general plan, which all can adopt. But there are some general principles, which ought to be the guiding rules, when a woman arranges her domestic employments. These principles are to be based on Christianity, which teaches us to "seek first the kingdom of God," and to deem food, raiment, and the conveniences of life, as of secondary account. Every woman, then, ought to start with the assumption, that religion is of more consequence than any worldly concern, and that, whatever else may be sacrificed, this, shall be the leading object, in all her arrangements, in respect to time, money, and attention. It is also one of the plainest requisitions of Christianity, that we devote some of our time and efforts, to the comfort and improvement of others. There is no duty, so constantly enforced, both in the Old and New Testament, as the duty of charity, in dispensing to those, who are destitute of the blessings we enjoy. In selecting objects of charity, the same rule applies to others, as to ourselves; their moral and religious interests are of the highest moment, and for them, as well as for ourselves, we are to "seek first the kingdom of God."
Another general principle, is, that our intellectual and social interests are to be preferred, to the mere gratification of taste or appetite. A portion of time, therefore, must be devoted to the cultivation of the intellect and the social affections.
Another, is, that the mere gratification of appetite, is to be placed last in our estimate; so that, when a question arises, as to which shall be sacrificed, some intellectual, moral, or social, advantage, or some gratification of sense, we should invariably sacrifice the last.
Another, is, that, as health is indispensable to the discharge of every duty, nothing, which sacrifices that blessing, is to be allowed, in order to gain any other advantage or enjoyment. There are emergencies, when it is right to risk health and life, to save ourselves and others from greater evils; but these are exceptions, which do not militate against the general rule. Many persons imagine, that, if they violate the laws of health, in performing religious or domestic duties, they are guiltless before God. But such greatly mistake. We as directly violate the law, "thou shalt not kill," when we do what tends to risk or shorten our own life, as if we should intentionally run a dagger into a neighbor. True, we may escape any fatal or permanently injurious effects, and so may a dagger or bullet miss the mark, or do only transient injury. But this, in either case, makes the sin none the less. The life and happiness of all His creatures are dear to our Creator; and He is as much displeased, when we injure our own interests, as when we injure those of others. The idea, therefore, that we are excusable, if we harm no one but ourselves, is false and pernicious. These, then, are the general principles, to guide a woman in systematizing her duties and pursuits.
The Creator of all things, is a Being of perfect system and order; and, to aid us in our duty, in this respect, He has divided our time, by a regularly returning day of rest from worldly business. In following this example, the intervening six days may be subdivided to secure similar benefits. In doing this, a certain portion of time must be given to procure the means of livelihood, and for preparing food, raiment, and dwellings. To these objects, some must devote more, and others less, attention. The remainder of time not necessarily thus employed, might be divided somewhat in this manner: The leisure of two afternoons and evenings, could be devoted to religious and benevolent objects, such as religious meetings, charitable associations, school visiting, and attention to the sick and poor. The leisure of two other days, might be devoted to intellectual improvement, and the pursuits of taste. The leisure of another day, might be devoted to social enjoyments, in making or receiving visits; and that of another, to miscellaneous domestic pursuits, not included in the other particulars.
It is probable, that few persons could carry out such an arrangement, very strictly; but every one can make a systematic apportionment of time, and at least aim at accomplishing it; and they can also compare the time which they actually devote to these different objects, with such a general outline, for the purpose of modifying any mistaken proportions.
Without attempting any such systematic employment of time, and carrying it out, so far as they can control circumstances, most women are rather driven along, by the daily occurrences of life, so that, instead of being the intelligent regulators of their own time, they are the mere sport of circumstances. There is nothing, which so distinctly marks the difference between weak and strong minds, as the fact, whether they control circumstances, or circumstances control them.
It is very much to be feared, that the apportionment of time, actually made by most women, exactly inverts the order, required by reason and Christianity. Thus, the furnishing a needless variety of food, the conveniences of dwellings, and the adornments of dress, often take a larger portion of time, than is given to any other object. Next after this, comes intellectual improvement; and, last of all, benevolence and religion.
It may be urged, that it is indispensable for most persons to give more time to earn a livelihood, and to prepare food, raiment, and dwellings, than to any other object. But it may be asked, how much of the time, devoted to these objects, is employed in preparing varieties of food, not necessary, but rather injurious, and how much is spent for those parts of dress and furniture not indispensable, and merely ornamental? Let a woman subtract from her domestic employments, all the time, given to pursuits which are of no use, except as they gratify a taste for ornament, or minister increased varieties, to tempt the appetite, and she will find, that much, which she calls "domestic duties," and which prevent her attention to intellectual, benevolent, and religious, objects, should be called by a very different name. No woman has a right to give up attention to the higher interests of herself and others, for the ornaments of taste, or the gratification of the palate. To a certain extent, these lower objects are lawful and desirable; but, when they intrude on nobler interests, they become selfish and degrading. Every woman, then, when employing her hands, in ornamenting her person, her children, or her house, ought to calculate, whether she has devoted as much time, to the intellectual and moral wants of herself and others. If she has not, she may know that she is doing wrong, and that her system, for apportioning her time and pursuits, should be altered.
Some persons, endeavor to systematize their pursuits, by apportioning them to particular hours of each day. For example, a certain period before breakfast, is given to devotional duties; after breakfast, certain hours are devoted to exercise and domestic employments; other hours, to sewing, or reading, or visiting; and others, to benevolent duties. But, in most cases, it is more difficult to systematize the hours of each day, than it is to secure some regular division of the week.
In regard to the minutiae of domestic arrangements, the writer has known the following methods to be adopted. Monday, with some of the best housekeepers, is devoted to preparing for the labors of the week. Any extra cooking, the purchasing of articles to be used during the week, the assorting of clothes for the wash, and mending such as would be injured without;—these, and similar items, belong to this day. Tuesday is devoted to washing, and Wednesday to ironing. On Thursday, the ironing is finished off, the clothes are folded and put away, and all articles, which need mending, are put in the mending basket, and attended to. Friday is devoted to sweeping and housecleaning. On Saturday, and especially the last Saturday of every month, every department is put in order; the castors and table furniture are regulated, the pantry and cellar inspected, the trunks, drawers, and closets arranged, and every thing about the house, put in order for Sunday. All the cooking, needed for Sunday, is also prepared. By this regular recurrence of a particular time, for inspecting every thing, nothing is forgotten till ruined by neglect.
Another mode of systematizing, relates to providing proper supplies of conveniences, and proper places in which to keep them. Thus, some ladies keep a large closet, in which are placed the tubs, pails, dippers, soap-dishes, starch, bluing, clothes-line, clothes-pins, and every other article used in washing; and in the same, or another, place, are kept every convenience for ironing. In the sewing department, a trunk, with suitable partitions, is provided, in which are placed, each in its proper place, white thread of all sizes, colored thread, yarns for mending, colored and black sewing-silks and twist, tapes and bobbins of all sizes, white and colored welting-cords, silk braids and cords, needles of all sizes, papers of pins, remnants of linen and colored cambric, a supply of all kinds of buttons used in the family, black and white hooks and eyes, a yard measure, and all the patterns used in cutting and fitting. These are done up in separate parcels, and labelled. In another trunk, are kept all pieces used in mending, arranged in order, so that any article can be found, without loss of time. A trunk, like the first mentioned, will save many steps, and often much time and perplexity; while by purchasing articles thus by the quantity, they come much cheaper, than if bought in little portions as they are wanted. Such a trunk should be kept locked, and a smaller supply, for current use, retained in a workbasket.
A full supply of all conveniences in the kitchen and cellar, and a place appointed for each article, very much facilitates domestic labor. For want of this, much vexation and loss of time is occasioned, while seeking vessels in use, or in cleansing those employed by different persons, for various purposes. It would be far better, for a lady to give up some expensive article, in the parlor, and apply the money, thus saved, for kitchen conveniences, than to have a stinted supply, where the most labor is to be performed. If our Countrywomen would devote more to comfort and convenience, and less to show, it would be a great improvement. Expensive mirrors and pier-tables in the parlor, and an unpainted, gloomy, ill-furnished kitchen, not unfrequently are found under the same roof.
Another important item, in systematic economy, is, the apportioning of regular employment to the various members of a family. If a housekeeper can secure the cooperation of all her family, she will find, that "many hands make light work." There is no greater mistake, than in bringing up children to feel that they must be taken care of, and waited on, by others, without any corresponding obligations on their part. The extent, to which young children can be made useful, in a family, would seem surprising, to those who have never seen a systematic and regular plan for securing their services. The writer has been in a family, where a little girl, of eight or nine years of age, washed and dressed herself and young brother, and made their small beds, before breakfast, set and cleared all the tables, at meals, with a little help from a grown person in moving tables and spreading cloths, while all the dusting of parlors and chambers was also neatly performed by her. A brother, of ten years old, brought in and piled all the wood, used in the kitchen and parlor, brushed the boots and shoes, neatly, went on errands, and took all the care of the poultry. They were children, whose parents could afford to hire servants to do this, but who chose to have their children grow up healthy and industrious, while proper instruction, system, and encouragement, made these services rather a pleasure, than otherwise, to the children.
Some parents pay their children for such services; but this is hazardous, as tending to make them feel that they are not bound to be helpful without pay, and also as tending to produce a hoarding, money-making spirit. But, where children have no hoarding propensities, and need to acquire a sense of the value of property, it may be well to let them earn money, for some extra services, rather as a favor. When this is done, they should be taught to spend it for others, as well as for themselves; and in this way, a generous and liberal spirit will be cultivated.
There are some mothers, who take pains to teach their boys most of the domestic arts, which their sisters learn. The writer has seen boys, mending their own garments, and aiding their mother or sisters in the kitchen, with great skill and adroitness; and at an early age, they usually very much relish joining in such occupations. The sons of such mothers, in their college life, or in roaming about the world, or in nursing a sick wife or infant, find occasion to bless the forethought and kindness, which prepared them for such emergencies. Few things are in worse taste, than for a man needlessly to busy himself in women's work; and yet a man never appears in a more interesting attitude, than when, by skill in such matters, he can save a mother or wife from care and suffering. The more a boy is taught to use his hands, in every variety of domestic employment, the more his faculties, both of mind and body, are developed; for mechanical pursuits exercise the intellect, as well as the hands. The early training of New-England boys, in which they turn their hand to almost every thing, is one great reason of the quick perceptions, versatility of mind, and mechanical skill, for which that portion of our Countrymen is distinguished.
The writer has known one mode of systematizing the aid of the older children in a family, which, in some cases of very large families, it may be well to imitate. In the case referred to, when the oldest daughter was eight or nine years old, an infant sister was given to her, as her special charge. She tended it, made and mended its clothes, taught it to read, and was its nurse and guardian, through all its childhood. Another infant was given to the next daughter, and thus the children were all paired in this interesting relation. In addition to the relief thus afforded to the mother, the elder children were in this way qualified for their future domestic relations, and both older and younger bound to each other by peculiar ties of tenderness and gratitude.
In offering these examples, of various modes of systematizing, one suggestion may be worthy of attention. It is not unfrequently the case, that ladies, who find themselves cumbered with oppressive cares, after reading remarks on the benefits of system, immediately commence the task of arranging their pursuits, with great vigor and hope. They divide the day into regular periods, and give each hour its duty; they systematize their work, and endeavor to bring every thing into a regular routine. But, in a short time, they find themselves baffled, discouraged, and disheartened, and finally relapse into their former desultory ways, in a sort of resigned despair. The difficulty, in such cases, is, that they attempt too much at a time. There is nothing, which so much depends upon habit, as a systematic mode of performing duty; and, where no such habit has been formed, it is impossible for a novice to start, at once, into a universal mode of systematizing, which none but an adept could carry through. The only way for such persons, is, to begin with a little at a time. Let them select some three or four things, and resolutely attempt to conquer at these points. In time, a habit will be formed, of doing a few things at regular periods, and in a systematic way. Then it will be easy to add a few more; and thus, by a gradual process, the object can be secured, which it would be vain to attempt, by a more summary course. Early rising is almost an indispensable condition to success, in such an effort; but, where a woman lacks either the health or the energy to secure a period for devotional duties before breakfast, let her select that hour of the day, in which she will be least liable to interruption, and let her then seek strength and wisdom from the only true Source. At this time, let her take a pen, and make a list of all the things which she considers as duties. Then, let a calculation be made, whether there be time enough, in the day or the week, for all these duties. If there be not, let the least important be stricken from the list, as not being duties, and which must be omitted. In doing this, let a woman remember, that, though "what we shall eat, and what we shall drink, and wherewithal we shall be clothed," are matters requiring due attention, they are very apt to obtain a wrong relative importance, while social, intellectual, and moral, interests, receive too little regard.
In this Country, eating, dressing, and household furniture and ornaments, take far too large a place in the estimate of relative importance; and it is probable, that most women could modify their views and practice, so as to come nearer to the Saviour's requirements. No woman has a right to put a stitch of ornament on any article of dress or furniture, or to provide one superfluity in food, until she is sure she can secure time for all her social, intellectual, benevolent, and religious, duties. If a woman will take the trouble to make such a calculation as this, she will usually find that she has time enough, to perform all her duties easily and well.
It is impossible, for a conscientious woman to secure that peaceful mind, and cheerful enjoyment of life, which all should seek, who is constantly finding her duties jarring with each other, and much remaining undone, which she feels that she ought to do. In consequence of this, there will be a secret uneasiness, which will throw a shade over the whole current of life, never to be removed, till she so efficiently defines and regulates her duties, that she can fulfil them all.
And here the writer would urge upon young ladies, the importance of forming habits of system, while unembarrassed with those multiplied cares, which will make the task so much more difficult and hopeless. Every young lady can systematize her pursuits, to a certain extent. She can have a particular day for mending her wardrobe, and for arranging her trunks, closets, and drawers. She can keep her workbasket, her desk at school, and all her other conveniences, in their proper places, and in regular order. She can have regular periods for reading, walking, visiting, study, and domestic pursuits. And, by following this method, in youth, she will form a taste for regularity, and a habit of system, which will prove a blessing to her, through life.
ON GIVING IN CHARITY.
It is probable, that there is no point of duty, where conscientious persons differ more in opinion, or where they find it more difficult to form discriminating and decided views, than on the matter of charity. That we are bound to give some of our time, money, and efforts, to relieve the destitute, all allow. But, as to how much we are to give, and on whom our charities shall be bestowed, many a reflecting mind has been at a loss. Yet it seems very desirable, that, in reference to a duty so constantly and so strenuously urged by the Supreme Ruler, we should be able so to fix metes and bounds, as to keep a conscience void of offence, and to free the mind from disquieting fears of deficiency.
The writer has found no other topic of investigation so beset with difficulty, and so absolutely without the range of definite rules, which can apply to all, in all circumstances. But on this, as on a previous topic, there seem to be general principles, by the aid of which, any candid mind, sincerely desirous of obeying the commands of Christ, however much self-denial may be involved, can arrive at definite conclusions, as to its own individual obligations, so that, when these are fulfilled, the mind may be at peace.
But, for a mind that is worldly, living mainly to seek its own pleasures, instead of living to please God, no principles can be so fixed, as not to leave a ready escape from all obligation. Such minds, either by indolence (and consequent ignorance) or by sophistry, will convince themselves, that a life of engrossing self-indulgence, with perhaps the gift of a few dollars, and a few hours of time, may suffice, to fulfil the requisitions of the Eternal Judge.
For such minds, no reasonings will avail, till the heart is so changed, that, to learn the will and follow the example of Jesus Christ, become the leading objects of interest and effort. It is to aid those, who profess to possess this temper of mind, that the following suggestions are offered.
The first consideration, which gives definiteness to this subject, is, a correct view of the object for which we are placed in this world. A great many even of professed Christians, seem to be acting on the supposition, that the object of life is to secure as much as possible of all the various enjoyments placed within reach. Not so, teaches reason or revelation. From these, we learn, that, though the happiness of His creatures, is the end for which God created and sustains them, yet, that this happiness depends, not on the various modes of gratification put within our reach, but mainly on character. A man may possess all the resources for enjoyment which this world can afford, and yet feel that "all is vanity and vexation of spirit," and that he is supremely wretched. Another, may be in want of all things, and yet possess that living spring of benevolence, faith, and hope, which will make an Eden of the darkest prison.
In order to be perfectly happy, man must attain that character, which Christ exhibited; and the nearer he approaches it, the more will happiness reign in his breast.
But what was the grand peculiarity of the character of Christ? It was self-denying benevolence. He came not to "seek His own;" He "went about doing good," and this was His "meat and drink;" that is, it was this which sustained the health and life of His mind, as food and drink sustain the health and life of the body. Now, the mind of man is so made, that it can gradually be transformed into the same likeness. A selfish being, who, for a whole life, has been nourishing habits of indolent self-indulgence, can, by taking Christ as his example, by communion with Him, and by daily striving to imitate His character and conduct, form such a temper of mind, that "doing good" will become the chief and highest source of enjoyment. And this heavenly principle will grow stronger and stronger, until self-denial loses the more painful part of its character, and then, living to make happiness, will be so delightful and absorbing a pursuit, that all exertions, regarded as the means to this end, will be like the joyous efforts of men, when they strive for a prize or a crown, with the full hope of success.
In this view of the subject, efforts and self-denial, for the good of others, are to be regarded, not merely as duties enjoined for the benefit of others, but as the moral training indispensable to the formation of that character, on which depends our own happiness. This view, exhibits the full meaning of the Saviour's declaration, "how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" He had before taught, that the kingdom of Heaven consisted, not in such enjoyments as the worldly seek, but, in the temper of self-denying benevolence, like His own; and, as the rich have far greater temptations to indolent self-indulgence, they are far less likely to acquire this temper, than those, who, by limited means, are inured to some degree of self-denial.
But, on this point, one important distinction needs to be made; and that is, between the self-denial, which has no other aim than mere self-mortification, and that, which is exercised to secure greater good to ourselves and others. The first is the foundation of monasticism, penances, and all other forms of asceticism; the latter, only, is that which Christianity requires.
A second consideration, which may give definiteness to this subject, is, that the formation of a perfect character, involves, not the extermination of any principles of our nature, but rather the regulating of them, according to the rules of reason and religion; so that the lower propensities shall always be kept subordinate to nobler principles. Thus, we are not to aim at destroying our appetites, or at needlessly denying them, but rather so to regulate them, that they shall best secure the objects for which they were implanted. We are not to annihilate the love of praise and admiration; but so to control it, that the favor of God shall be regarded more than the estimation of men. We are not to extirpate the principle of curiosity, which leads us to acquire knowledge; but so to direct it, that all our acquisitions shall be useful and not frivolous or injurious. And thus, with all the principles of the mind, God has implanted no desires in our constitution, which are evil and pernicious. On the contrary, all our constitutional propensities, either of mind or body, He designed we should gratify, whenever no evils would thence result, either to ourselves or others. Such passions as envy, ambition, pride, revenge, and hatred, are to be exterminated; for they are either excesses or excrescences: not created by God, but rather the result of our own neglect to form habits of benevolence and self-control.
In deciding the rules of our conduct, therefore, we are ever to bear in mind, that the developement of the nobler principles, and the subjugation of inferior propensities to them, is to be the main object of effort, both for ourselves and for others. And, in conformity with this, in all our plans, we are to place religious and moral interests as first in estimation, our social and intellectual interests, next, and our physical gratifications, as subordinate to all.
A third consideration, is, that, though the means for sustaining life and health are to be regarded as necessaries, without which no other duties can be performed, yet, that a very large portion of the time, spent by most persons, in easy circumstances, for food, raiment, and dwellings, are for mere superfluities, which are right, when they do not involve the sacrifice of higher interests, and wrong, when they do. Life and health can be sustained in the humblest dwellings, with the plainest dress, and the simplest food; and, after taking from our means, what is necessary for life and health, the remainder is to be so divided, that the larger portion shall be given to supply the moral and intellectual wants of ourselves and others, and the smaller share to procure those additional gratifications, of taste and appetite, which are desirable, but not indispensable. Mankind, thus far, have never made this apportionment of their means; yet, just as fast as they have risen from a savage state, mere physical wants have been made, to an increasing extent, subordinate to higher objects.
Another very important consideration, is, that, in urging the duty of charity, and the prior claims of moral and religious objects, no rule of duty should be maintained, which it would not be right and wise for all to follow. And we are to test the wisdom of any general rule, by inquiring what would be the result, if all mankind should practise according to it. In view of this, we are enabled to judge of the correctness of those, who maintain, that, to be consistent, men believing in the eternal destruction of all those of our race who are not brought under the influence of the Christian system, should give up, not merely the elegances, but all the superfluities, of life, and devote the whole of their means, not indispensable to life and health, for the propagation of Christianity. But, if this is the duty of any, it is the duty of all; and we are to inquire what would be the result, if all conscientious persons gave up the use of all superfluities. Suppose, that two millions of the people in the United States, were conscientious persons, and relinquished the use of every thing not absolutely necessary to life and health. It would instantly throw out of employment one half of the whole community. The manufacturers, mechanics, merchants, agriculturists, and all the agencies they employ, would be beggared, and one half of those not reduced to poverty, would be obliged to spend all their extra means, in simply supplying necessaries to the other half. The use of superfluities, therefore, to a certain extent, is as indispensable to promote industry, virtue, and religion, as any direct giving of money or time; and it is owing entirely to a want of reflection, and of comprehensive views, that any men ever make so great a mistake, as is here exhibited.
Instead, then, of urging a rule of duty which is at once irrational and impracticable, there is another course, which commends itself to the understandings of all. For whatever may be the practice, of intelligent men, they universally concede the principle, that our physical gratifications should always be made subordinate to social, intellectual, and moral, advantages. And all that is required, for the advancement of our whole race to the most perfect state of society, is, simply, that men should act in agreement with this principle. And, if only a very small portion, of the most intelligent of our race, should act according to this rule, under the control of Christian benevolence, the immense supplies, furnished, for the general good, would be far beyond what any would imagine, who had never made any calculations on the subject. In this Nation, alone, suppose the one million and more, of professed followers of Christ, should give a larger portion of their means, for the social, intellectual, and moral, wants of mankind, than for the superfluities that minister to taste, convenience, and appetite; it would be enough to furnish all the schools, colleges, Bibles, ministers, and missionaries, that the whole world could demand; or, at least, it would be far more, than properly qualified agents to administer it, could employ.
But, it may be objected, that, though this view is one, which, in the abstract, looks plausible and rational, not one in a thousand, can practically adopt it. How few keep any account, at all, of their current expenses! How impossible it is, to determine, exactly, what are necessaries, and what are superfluities! And in regard to women, how few have the control of an income, so as not to be bound by the wishes of a parent or a husband!
In reference to these difficulties, the first remark is, that we are never under obligations to do, what is entirely out of our power, so that those persons, who have no power to regulate their expenses or their charities, are under no sort of obligation to attempt it. The second remark is, that, when a rule of duty is discovered, we are bound to aim at it, and to fulfil it, just so far as we can. We have no right to throw it aside, because we shall find some difficult cases, when we come to apply it. The third remark is, that no person can tell how much can be done, till a faithful trial has been made. If a woman has never kept any accounts, nor attempted to regulate her expenditures by the right rule, nor used her influence with those that control her plans, to secure this object, she has no right to say how much she can, or cannot, do, till after a fair trial has been made.
In attempting such a trial, the following method can be taken. Let a woman keep an account of all she spends, for herself and her family, for a year, arranging the items under three general heads. Under the first, put all articles for food, raiment, rent, wages, and all conveniences. Under the second, place all sums paid in securing an education, and books, and other intellectual advantages. Under the third head, place all that is spent for benevolence and religion. At the end of the year, the first and largest account will show the mixed items of necessaries and superfluities, which can be arranged, so as to gain some sort of idea how much has been spent for superfluities, and how much for necessaries. Then, by comparing what is spent for superfluities, with what is spent for intellectual and moral advantages, data will be gained, for judging of the past, and regulating the future.
Does a woman say she cannot do this? let her inquire, whether the offer of a thousand dollars, as a reward for attempting it one year, would not make her undertake to do it; and, if so, let her decide, in her own mind, which is most valuable, a clear conscience, and the approbation of God, in this effort to do His will, or one thousand dollars. And let her do it, with this warning of the Saviour before her eyes,—"No man can serve two masters." "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon."
Is it objected, How can we decide between superfluities and necessaries, in this list? it is replied, that we are not required to judge exactly, in all cases. Our duty is, to use the means in our power to assist us in forming a correct judgement; to seek the Divine aid in freeing our minds from indolence and selfishness; and then to judge as well as we can, in our endeavors rightly to apportion and regulate our expenses. Many persons seem to feel that they are bound to do better than they know how. But God is not so hard a Master; and, after we have used all proper means to learn the right way, if we then follow it, according to our ability, we do wrong to feel misgivings, or to blame ourselves, if results come out differently from what seems desirable. The results of our actions, alone, can never prove us deserving of blame. For men are often so placed, that, owing to lack of intellect or means, it is impossible for them to decide correctly. To use all the means of knowledge within our reach, and then to judge, with a candid and conscientious spirit, is all that God requires; and, when we have done this, and the event seems to come out wrong, we should never wish that we had decided otherwise. For it is the same as wishing that we had not followed the dictates of judgement and conscience. As this is a world designed for discipline and trial, untoward events are never to be construed as indications of the obliquity of our past decisions.
But it is probable, that a great portion of the women of this Nation, cannot secure any such systematic mode of regulating their expenses. To such, the writer would propose one inquiry; cannot you calculate how much time and money you spend for what is merely ornamental, and not necessary, for yourself, your children, and your house? Cannot you compare this with the time and money you spend for intellectual and benevolent purposes? and will not this show the need of some change? In making this examination, is not this brief rule, deducible from the principles before laid down, the one which should regulate you? Every person does right, in spending some portion of time and means in securing the conveniences and adornments of taste; but the amount should never exceed what is spent in securing our own moral and intellectual improvement, nor exceed what is spent in benevolent efforts to supply the physical and moral wants of our fellow-men.
In making an examination on this subject, it is sometimes the case, that a woman will count among the necessaries of life, all the various modes of adorning the person or house, practised in the circle in which she moves; and, after enumerating the many duties which demand attention, counting these as a part, she will come to the conclusion, that she has no time, and but little money, to devote to personal improvement, or to benevolent enterprises. This surely is not in agreement with the requirements of the Saviour, who calls on us to seek for others, as well as ourselves, first of all, "the kingdom of God, and His righteousness."
In order to act in accordance with the rule here presented, it is true, that many would be obliged to give up the idea of conforming to the notions and customs of those, with whom they associate, and compelled to adopt the maxim, "be not conformed to this world." In many cases, it would involve an entire change in the style of living. And the writer has the happiness of knowing more cases than one, where persons, who have come to similar views, on this subject, have given up large and expensive establishments, disposed of their carriages, dismissed a portion of their domestics, and modified all their expenditures, that they might keep a pure conscience, and regulate their charities more according to the requirements of Christianity. And there are persons, well known in the religious world, who save themselves all labor of minute calculation, by devoting so large a portion of their time and means to benevolent objects, that they find no difficulty in knowing that they give more for religious, benevolent, and intellectual, purposes, than for superfluities.
In deciding what particular objects shall receive our benefactions, there are also general principles to guide us. The first, is that presented by our Saviour, when, after urging the great law of benevolence, He was asked, "and who is my neighbor?" His reply, in the parable of 'the Good Samaritan,' teaches us, that any human being, whose wants are brought to our knowledge, is our neighbor. The wounded man was not only a stranger, but he belonged to a foreign nation, peculiarly hated; and he had no claim, except that his wants were brought to the knowledge of the wayfaring man. From this, we learn, that the destitute, of all nations, become our neighbors, as soon as their wants are brought to our knowledge.
Another general principle, is this, that those who are most in need, must be relieved, in preference to those who are less destitute. On this principle, it is, that we think the followers of Christ should give more to supply those who are suffering for want of the bread of eternal life, than for those who are deprived of physical enjoyments. And another reason for this preference, is, the fact, that many, who give in charity, have made such imperfect advances in civilization and Christianity, that the intellectual and moral wants of our race make but a feeble impression on the mind. Relate a pitiful tale of a family, reduced to live, for weeks, on potatoes, only, and many a mind would awake to deep sympathy, and stretch forth the hand of charity. But describe cases, where the immortal mind is pining in stupidity and ignorance, or racked with the fever of baleful passions, and how small the number, so elevated in sentiment, and so enlarged in their views, as to appreciate and sympathize in these far greater misfortunes! The intellectual and moral wants of our fellow-men, therefore, should claim the first place in our attention, both because they are most important, and because they are most neglected.
Another consideration, to be borne in mind, is, that, in this Country, there is much less real need of charity, in supplying physical necessities, than is generally supposed, by those who have not learned the more excellent way. This Land is so abundant in supplies, and labor is in such demand, that every healthy person can earn a comfortable support. And if all the poor were instantly made virtuous, it is probable that there would be no physical wants, which could not readily be supplied by the immediate friends of each sufferer. The sick, the aged, and the orphan, would be the only objects of charity. In this view of the case, the primary effort, in relieving the poor, should be, to furnish them the means of earning their own support, and to supply them with those moral influences, which are most effectual in securing virtue and industry.
Another point to be attended to, is, the importance of maintaining a system of associated charities. There is no point, in which the economy of charity has more improved, than in the present mode of combining many small contributions, for sustaining enlarged and systematic plans of charity. If all the half-dollars, which are now contributed to aid in organized systems of charity, were returned to the donors, to be applied by the agency and discretion of each, thousands and thousands of the treasures, now employed to promote the moral and intellectual wants of mankind, would become entirely useless. In a democracy, like ours, where few are very rich, and the majority are in comfortable circumstances, this collecting and dispensing of drops and rills, is the mode, by which, in imitation of Nature, the dews and showers are to distil on parched and desert lands. And every person, while earning a pittance to unite with many more, may be cheered with the consciousness of sustaining a grand system of operations, which must have the most decided influence, in raising all mankind to that perfect state of society, which Christianity is designed to secure.
Another consideration, relates to the indiscriminate bestowal of charity. Persons, who have taken pains to inform themselves, and who devote their whole time to dispensing charities, unite in declaring, that this is one of the most fruitful sources of indolence, vice, and poverty. From several of these, the writer has learned, that, by their own personal investigations, they have ascertained, that there are large establishments of idle and wicked persons, in most of our cities, who associate together, to support themselves by every species of imposition. They hire large houses, and live in constant rioting, on the means thus obtained. Among them, are women who have, or who hire the use of, infant children; others, who are blind, or maimed, or deformed, or who can adroitly feign such infirmities, and, by these means of exciting pity, and by artful tales of wo, they collect alms, both in city and country, to spend in all manner of gross and guilty indulgences. Meantime, many persons, finding themselves often duped by impostors, refuse to give at all; and thus many benefactions are withdrawn, which a wise economy in charity would have secured. For this, and other reasons, it is wise and merciful, to adopt the general rule, never to give alms, till we have had some opportunity of knowing how they will be spent. There are exceptions to this, as to every general rule, which a person of discretion can determine. But the practice, so common among benevolent persons, of giving, at least a trifle, to all who ask, lest, perchance, they may turn away some, who are really sufferers, is one, which causes more sin and misery than it cures.
The writer has never known any system for dispensing charity, so successful, as the one which, in many places, has been adopted in connection with the distribution of tracts. By this method, a town or city is divided into districts; and each district is committed to the care of two ladies, whose duty it is, to call on each family and leave a tract, and make that the occasion for entering into conversation, and learning the situation of all residents in the district. By this method, the ignorant, the vicious, and the poor, are discovered, and their physical, intellectual, and moral, wants, are investigated. In some places, where the writer has resided or visited, each person retained the same district, year after year, so that every poor family in the place was under the watch and care of some intelligent and benevolent lady, who used all her influence to secure a proper education for the children, to furnish them with suitable reading, to encourage habits of industry and economy, and to secure regular attendance on public religious instruction. Thus, the rich and the poor were brought in contact, in a way advantageous to both parties; and, if such a system could be universally adopted, more would be done for the prevention of poverty and vice, than all the wealth of the Nation could avail for their relief. But this plan cannot be successfully carried out, in this manner, unless there is a large proportion of intelligent, benevolent, and self-denying, persons; and the mere distribution of tracts, without the other parts of the plan, is of very little avail.
But there is one species of charity, which needs especial consideration. It is that, which induces us to refrain from judging of the means and the relative charities of other persons. There have been such indistinct notions, and so many different standards of duty, on this subject, that it is rare for two persons to think exactly alike, in regard to the rule of duty. Each person is bound to inquire and judge for himself, as to his own duty or deficiencies; but as both the resources, and the amount of the actual charities, of other men are beyond our ken, it is as indecorous, as it is uncharitable, to sit in judgement on their decisions.
ON ECONOMY OF TIME AND EXPENSES.
On Economy of Time.
The value of time, and our obligation to spend every hour for some useful end, are what few minds properly realize. And those, who have the highest sense of their obligations in this respect, sometimes greatly misjudge in their estimate of what are useful and proper modes of employing time. This arises from limited views of the importance of some pursuits, which they would deem frivolous and useless, but which are, in reality, necessary to preserve the health of body and mind, and those social affections, which it is very important to cherish. Christianity teaches, that, for all the time afforded us, we must give account to God; and that we have no right to waste a single hour. But time, which is spent in rest or amusement, is often as usefully employed, as if it were devoted to labor or devotion. In employing our time, we are to make suitable allowance for sleep, for preparing and taking food, for securing the means of a livelihood, for intellectual improvement, for exercise and amusement, for social enjoyments, and for benevolent and religious duties. And it is the right apportionment of time, to these various duties, which constitutes its true economy.
In making this apportionment, we are bound by the same rules, as relate to the use of property. We are to employ whatever portion is necessary to sustain life and health, as the first duty; and the remainder we are so to apportion, that our highest interests, shall receive the greatest allotment, and our physical gratifications, the least.
The laws of the Supreme Ruler, when He became the civil as well as the religious Head of the Jewish theocracy, furnish an example, which it would be well for all attentively to consider, when forming plans for the apportionment of time and property. To properly estimate this example, it must be borne in mind, that the main object of God, was, to preserve His religion among the Jewish nation; and that they were not required to take any means to propagate it among other nations, as Christians are now required to extend Christianity. So low were they, in the scale of civilization and mental developement, that a system, which confined them to one spot, as an agricultural people, and prevented their growing very rich, or having extensive commerce with other nations, was indispensable to prevent their relapsing into the low idolatries and vices of the nations around them.
The proportion of time and property, which every Jew was required to devote to intellectual, benevolent, and religious purposes, was as follows:
In regard to property, they were required to give one tenth of all their yearly income, to support the Levites, the priests, and the religious service. Next, they were required to give the first fruits of all their corn, wine, oil, and fruits, and the first-born of all their cattle, for the Lord's treasury, to be employed for the priests, the widow, the fatherless, and the stranger. The first-born, also, of their children, were the Lord's, and were to be redeemed by a specified sum, paid into the sacred treasury. Besides this, they were required to bring a freewill offering to God, every time they went up to the three great yearly festivals. In addition to this, regular yearly sacrifices, of cattle and fowls, were required of each family, and occasional sacrifices for certain sins or ceremonial impurities. In reaping their fields, they were required to leave unreaped, for the poor, the corners; not to glean their fields, olive-yards, or vineyards; and, if a sheaf was left, by mistake, they were not to return for it, but leave it for the poor. When a man sent away a servant, he was thus charged: "Furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy wine-press." When a poor man came to borrow money, they were forbidden to deny him, or to take any interest; and if, at the sabbatical, or seventh, year, he could not pay, the debt was to be cancelled. And to this command, is added the significant caution, "Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, the seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him," "because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto." Besides this, the Levites were distributed through the land, with the intention that they should be instructors and priests in every part of the nation. Thus, one twelfth of the people were set apart, having no landed property, to be priests and teachers; and the other tribes were required to support them liberally.
In regard to the time taken from secular pursuits, for the support of religion, an equally liberal amount was demanded. In the first place, one seventh part of their time was taken for the weekly sabbath, when no kind of work was to be done. Then the whole nation were required to meet, at the appointed place, three times a year, which, including their journeys, and stay there, occupied eight weeks, or another seventh part of their time. Then the sabbatical year, when no agricultural labor was to be done, took another seventh of their time from their regular pursuits, as they were an agricultural people. This was the amount of time and property demanded by God, simply to sustain religion and morality within the bounds of that nation. Christianity demands the spread of its blessings to all mankind, and so the restrictions laid on the Jews are withheld, and all our wealth and time, not needful for our own best interest, is to be employed in improving the condition of our fellow-men.
In deciding respecting the rectitude of our pursuits, we are bound to aim at some practical good, as the ultimate object. With every duty of this life, our benevolent Creator has connected some species of enjoyment, to draw us to perform it. Thus, the palate is gratified, by performing the duty of nourishing our bodies; the principle of curiosity is gratified, in pursuing useful knowledge; the desire of approbation is gratified, when we perform benevolent and social duties; and every other duty has an alluring enjoyment connected with it. But the great mistake of mankind has consisted in seeking the pleasures, connected with these duties, as the sole aim, without reference to the main end that should be held in view, and to which the enjoyment should be made subservient. Thus, men seek to gratify the palate, without reference to the question whether the body is properly nourished; and follow after knowledge, without inquiring whether it ministers to good or evil.
But, in gratifying the implanted desires of our nature, we are bound so to restrain ourselves, by reason and conscience, as always to seek the main objects of existence—the highest good of ourselves and others; and never to sacrifice this, for the mere gratification of our sensual desires. We are to gratify appetite, just so far as is consistent with health and usefulness; and the desire for knowledge, just so far as will enable us to do most good by our influence and efforts; and no farther. We are to seek social intercourse, to that extent, which will best promote domestic enjoyment and kindly feelings among neighbors and friends; and we are to pursue exercise and amusement, only so far as will best sustain the vigor of body and mind. For the right apportionment of time, to these and various other duties, we are to give an account to our Creator and final Judge.
Instead of attempting to give any very specific rules on this subject, some modes of economizing time will be suggested. The most powerful of all agencies, in this matter, is, that habit of system and order, in all our pursuits, which has been already pointed out. It is probable, that a regular and systematic employment of time, will enable a person to accomplish thrice the amount of labor, that could otherwise be performed.
Another mode of economizing time, is, by uniting several objects in one employment. Thus, exercise, or charitable efforts, can be united with social enjoyments, as is done in associations for sewing, or visiting the poor. Instruction and amusement can also be combined. Pursuits like music, gardening, drawing, botany, and the like, unite intellectual improvement with amusement, social enjoyment, and exercise.
With housekeepers, and others whose employments are various and desultory, much time can be saved by preparing employments for little intervals of leisure. Thus, some ladies make ready, and keep in the parlor, light work, to take up when detained there; some keep a book at hand, in the nursery, to read while holding or sitting by a sleeping infant. One of the most popular female poets of our Country very often shows her friends, at their calls, that the thread of the knitting, never need interfere with the thread of agreeable discourse.
It would be astonishing, to one who had never tried the experiment, how much can be accomplished, by a little planning and forethought, in thus finding employment for odd intervals of time.
But, besides economizing our own time, we are bound to use our influence and example to promote the discharge of the same duty by others. A woman is under obligations so to arrange the hours and pursuits of her family, as to promote systematic and habitual industry; and if, by late breakfasts, irregular hours for meals, and other hinderances of this kind, she interferes with, or refrains from promoting regular industry in, others, she is accountable to God for all the waste of time consequent on her negligence. The mere example of system and industry, in a housekeeper, has a wonderful influence in promoting the same virtuous habit in others.
On Economy in Expenses.
It is impossible for a woman to practise a wise economy in expenditures, unless she is taught how to do it, either by a course of experiments, or by the instruction of those who have had experience. It is amusing to notice the various, and oftentimes contradictory, notions of economy, among judicious and experienced housekeepers; for there is probably no economist, who would not be deemed lavish or wasteful, in some respects, by another and equally experienced and judicious person, who, in some different points, would herself be as much condemned by the other. These diversities are occasioned by dissimilar early habits, and by the different relative value assigned, by each, to the various modes of enjoyment, for which money is expended.
But, though there may be much disagreement in minor matters, there are certain general principles, which all unite in sanctioning. The first, is, that care be taken to know the amount of income and of current expenses, so that the proper relative proportion be preserved, and the expenditures never exceed the means. Few women can do this, thoroughly, without keeping regular accounts. The habits of this Nation, especially among business-men, are so desultory, and the current expenses of a family, in many points, are so much more under the control of the man than of the woman, that many women, who are disposed to be systematic in this matter, cannot follow their wishes. But there are often cases, when much is left undone in this particular, simply because no effort is made. Yet every woman is bound to do as much as is in her power, to accomplish a systematic mode of expenditure, and the regulation of it by Christian principles.
The following are examples of different methods which have been adopted, for securing a proper adjustment of expenses to the means.
The first, is that of a lady, who kept a large boarding-house, in one of our cities. Every evening, before retiring, she took an account of the expenses of the day; and this usually occupied her not more than fifteen minutes, at a time. On each Saturday, she made an inventory of the stores on hand, and of the daily expenses, and also of what was due to her; and then made an exact estimate of her expenditures and profits. This, after the first two or three weeks, never took more than an hour, at the close of the week. Thus, by a very little time, regularly devoted to this object, she knew, accurately, her income, expenditures, and profits.
Another friend of the writer, lives on a regular salary. The method adopted, in this case, is to calculate to what the salary amounts, each week. Then an account is kept, of what is paid out, each week, for rent, fuel, wages, and food. This amount of each week is deducted from the weekly income. The remainders of each week are added, at the close of a month, as the stock from which is to be taken, the dress, furniture, books, travelling expenses, charities, and all other expenditures.
Another lady, whose husband is a lawyer, divides the year into four quarters, and the income into four equal parts. She then makes her plans, so that the expenses of one quarter shall never infringe on the income of another. So resolute is she, in carrying out this determination, that if, by any mischance, she is in want of articles before the close of a quarter, which she has not the means for providing, she will subject herself to temporary inconvenience, by waiting, rather than violate her rule.
Another lady, whose husband is engaged in a business, which he thinks makes it impossible for him to know what his yearly income will be, took this method:—She kept an account of all her disbursements, for one year. This she submitted to her husband, and obtained his consent, that the same sum should be under her control, the coming year, for similar purposes, with the understanding, that she might modify future apportionments, in any way her judgement and conscience might approve.
A great deal of uneasiness and discomfort is caused, to both husband and wife, in many cases, by an entire want of system and forethought, in arranging expenses. Both keep buying what they think they need, without any calculation as to how matters are coming out, and with a sort of dread of running in debt, all the time harassing them. Such never know the comfort of independence. But, if a man or woman will only calculate what their income is, and then plan so as to know that they are all the time living within it, they secure one of the greatest comforts, which wealth ever bestows, and what many of the rich, who live in a loose and careless way, never enjoy. It is not so much the amount of income, as the regular and correct apportionment of expenses, that makes a family truly comfortable. A man, with ten thousand a year, is often more harassed, for want of money, than the systematic economist, who supports a family on only six hundred a year. And the inspired command, "Owe no man any thing," can never be conscientiously observed, without a systematic adaptation of expenses to means.
As it is very important that young ladies should learn systematic economy, in expenses, it will be a great benefit, for every young girl to begin, at twelve or thirteen years of age, to make her own purchases, and keep her accounts, under the guidance of her mother, or some other friend. And if parents would ascertain the actual expense of a daughter's clothing, for a year, and give the sum to her, in quarterly payments, requiring a regular account, it would be of great benefit in preparing her for future duties. How else are young ladies to learn to make purchases properly, and to be systematic and economical? The art of system and economy can no more come by intuition, than the art of watchmaking or bookkeeping; and how strange it appears, that so many young ladies take charge of a husband's establishment, without having had either instruction or experience in one of the most important duties of their station!
The second general principle of economy, is, that, in apportioning an income, among various objects, the most important should receive the largest supply, and that all retrenchments be made in matters of less importance. In a previous chapter, some general principles have been presented, to guide in this duty. Some additional hints will here be added, on the same topic.
In regard to dress and furniture, much want of judgement and good taste is often seen, in purchasing some expensive article, which is not at all in keeping with the other articles connected with it. Thus, a large sideboard, or elegant mirror, or sofa, which would be suitable only for a large establishment, with other rich furniture, is crowded into too small a room, with coarse and cheap articles around it. So, also, sometimes a parlor, and company-chamber, will be furnished in a style suitable only for the wealthy, while the table will be supplied with shabby linen, and imperfect crockery, and every other part of the house will look, in comparison with these fine rooms, mean and niggardly. It is not at all uncommon, to find very showy and expensive articles in the part of the house visible to strangers, when the children's rooms, kitchen, and other back portions, are on an entirely different scale.
So in regard to dress, a lady will sometimes purchase an elegant and expensive article, which, instead of attracting admiration from the eye of taste, will merely serve as a decoy to the painful contrast of all other parts of the dress. A woman of real good taste and discretion, will strive to maintain a relative consistency between all departments, and not, in one quarter, live on a scale fitted only to the rich, and in another, on one appropriate only to the poor.
Another mistake in economy, is often made, by some of the best-educated and most intelligent of mothers. Such will often be found spending day after day at needlework, when, with a comparatively small sum, this labor could be obtained of those who need the money, which such work would procure for them. Meantime, the daughters of the family, whom the mother is qualified to educate, or so nearly qualified, that she could readily keep ahead of her children, are sent to expensive boarding-schools, where their delicate frames, their pliant minds, and their moral and religious interests, are relinquished to the hands of strangers. And the expense, thus incurred, would serve to pay the hire of every thing the mother can do in sewing, four or five times over. The same want of economy is shown in communities, where, instead of establishing a good female school in their vicinity, the men of wealth send their daughters abroad, at double the expense, to be either educated or spoiled, as the case may be.
Another species of poor economy, is manifested in neglecting to acquire and apply mechanical skill, which, in consequence, has to be hired from others. Thus, all the plain sewing will be done by the mother and daughters, while all that requires skill will be hired. Instead of this, others take pains to have their daughters instructed in mantuamaking, and the simpler parts of millinery, so that the plain work is given to the poor, who need it, and the more expensive and tasteful operations are performed in the family. The writer knows ladies, who not only make their own dresses, but also their caps, bonnets, and artificial flowers.
Some persons make miscalculations in economy, by habitually looking up cheap articles, while others go to the opposite extreme, and always buy the best of every thing. Those ladies, who are considered the best economists, do not adopt either method. In regard to cheap goods, the fading colors, the damages discovered in use, the poorness of material, and the extra sewing demanded to replace articles lost by such causes, usually render them very dear, in the end. On the other hand, though some articles, of the most expensive kind, wear longest and best, yet, as a general rule, articles at medium prices do the best service. This is true of table and bed linens, broadcloths, shirtings, and the like; though, even in these cases, it is often found, that the coarsest and cheapest last the longest.
Buying by wholesale, and keeping a large supply on hand, are economical only in large families, where the mistress is careful; but in other cases, the hazards of accident, and the temptation to a lavish use, will make the loss outrun the profits.
There is one mode of economizing, which, it is hoped, will every year grow more rare; and that is, making penurious savings, by getting the poor to work as cheap as possible. Many amiable and benevolent women have done this, on principle, without reflecting on the want of Christian charity thus displayed. Let every woman, in making bargains with the poor, conceive herself placed in the same circumstances, toiling hour after hour, and day after day, for a small sum, and then deal with others as she would be dealt by in such a situation. Liberal prices, and prompt payment, should be an invariable maxim, in dealing with the poor.
The third general principle of economy, is, that all articles should be so used, and taken care of, as to secure the longest service, with the least waste. Under this head, come many particulars in regard to the use and preservation of articles, which will be found more in detail in succeeding chapters. It may be proper, however, here to refer to one very common impression, as to the relative obligation of the poor and the rich in regard to economy. Many seem to suppose, that those who are wealthy, have a right to be lavish and negligent in the care of expenses. But this surely is a great mistake. Property is a talent, given by God, to spend for the welfare of mankind; and the needless waste of it, is as wrong in the rich, as it is in the poor. The rich are under obligations to apportion their income, to the various objects demanding attention, by the same rule as all others; and if this will allow them to spend more for superfluities than those of smaller means, it never makes it right to misuse or waste any of the bounties of Providence. Whatever is no longer wanted for their own enjoyment, should be carefully saved, to add to the enjoyment of others.
It is not always that men understand the economy of Providence, in that unequal distribution of property, which, even under the most perfect form of government, will always exist. Many, looking at the present state of things, imagine that the rich, if they acted in strict conformity to the law of benevolence, would share all their property with their suffering fellow-men. But such do not take into account, the inspired declaration, that "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth," or, in other words, life is made valuable, not by great possessions, but by such a character as prepares a man to enjoy what he holds. God perceives that human character can be most improved, by that kind of discipline, which exists, when there is something valuable to be gained by industrious efforts. This stimulus to industry could never exist, in a community where all are just alike, as it does in a state of society where every man sees, possessed by others, enjoyments, which he desires, and may secure by effort and industry. So, in a community where all are alike as to property, there would be no chance to gain that noblest of all attainments, a habit of self-denying benevolence, which toils for the good of others, and takes from one's own store, to increase the enjoyments of another.
Instead, then, of the stagnation, both of industry and of benevolence, which would follow the universal and equable distribution of property, one class of men, by superior advantages of birth, or intellect, or patronage, come into possession of a great amount of capital. With these means, they are enabled, by study, reading, and travel, to secure expansion of mind, and just views of the relative advantages of moral, intellectual, and physical enjoyments. At the same time, Christianity imposes obligations, corresponding with the increase of advantages and means. The rich are not at liberty to spend their treasures for themselves, alone. Their wealth is given, by God, to be employed for the best good of mankind; and their intellectual advantages are designed, primarily, to enable them to judge correctly, in employing their means most wisely for the general good.
Now, suppose a man of wealth inherits ten thousand acres of real estate: it is not his duty to divide it among his poor neighbors and tenants. If he took this course, it is probable, that most of them would spend all in thriftless waste and indolence, or in mere physical enjoyments. Instead, then, of thus putting his capital out of his hands, he is bound to retain, and so to employ, it, as to raise his neighbors and tenants to such a state of virtue and intelligence, that they can secure far more, by their own efforts and industry, than he, by dividing his capital, could bestow upon them.
In this view of the subject, it is manifest, that the unequal distribution of property is no evil. The great difficulty is, that so large a portion of those who hold much capital, instead of using their various advantages for the greatest good of those around them, employ the chief of them for mere selfish indulgences; thus inflicting as much mischief on themselves, as results to others from their culpable neglect. A great portion of the rich seem to be acting on the principle, that the more God bestows on them, the less are they under obligation to practise any self-denial, in fulfilling his benevolent plan of raising our race to intelligence and holiness.
There are not a few, who seem to imagine that it is a mark of gentility to be careless of expenses. But this notion, is owing to a want of knowledge of the world. As a general fact, it will be found, that persons of rank and wealth, abroad, are much more likely to be systematic and economical, than persons of inferior standing in these respects. Even the most frivolous, among the rich and great, are often found practising a rigid economy, in certain respects, in order to secure gratifications in another direction. And it will be found so common, among persons of vulgar minds, and little education, and less sense, to make a display of profusion and indifference to expense, as a mark of their claims to gentility, that the really genteel look upon it rather as a mark of low breeding. So that the sort of feeling, which some persons cherish, as if it were a degradation to be careful of small sums, and to be attentive to relative prices, in making purchases, is founded on mistaken notions of gentility and propriety.