Journal of Dr GFW
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I awoke with this exclamation, "Oh! Shades of darkness, why will you not grant to me the pleasure which you apparently bestow on others? Here I may be in error, becuase others have their trouble as well as me. I am not more subject to misfortunes than my fellow man. All men will have more or less of anxieties and ideas not congenial to their wishes, and many are tormented much more than I am. Have I any just ground to thus deplore my situations? I have no remorse of conscience or guilt arising from crime which may torment thousands, and these perpetrated under the shade of darkness and secret haunts of men. From this I am free. There is no remorse attending my reflections, but all arises from a knowledge of my own dependent situation here and a possibility of not finding employment here to meet any demands that may arise. Cease then these reflections. Thousands have in your situation and under even greater disadvantages at last succeeded. Wait until yon orb in his rapid movement brings tday of trouble and these imaginary disasters have actually arrived; and then it will be time enough to suffer. You now must use your best ability to prevent unfavorable occurrences and leave time to accomplish and see your sorrow. Your complaints now are untimed and unjust, and only assist in accomplishing the very end you wish to avoid.
Spending some time in these musings before the common hour of rising arrived, I waited to be summoned to prepare for breakfast. Every naturla scene around me had a most pleasant appearance and seemed to rejoice, to mock my murmurings.
This day I went for the examination of the Females in the Female Academy in Salem, an institution of some considerable reputation in this and adjoining States. In company this morning was the youngest son of Mr. C. Lash with whom I boarded, and as this is the first time I have seen him and he is yet a boy, I will here give my ideas of him. He is possessed of an impetuous disposition, a strong tendency of affectation in his manners, unfeeling and overbearing in his dealings, austere and unattractive in his manner of conversation, proud, haughty, and disdainful. And should he live to become a man will be just where he has no chance to unjust, accurate in his dealings. If closely watched, a tyrant when and where possessed of power, unmoved by the entreaties of distress, and I will venture to say there will be few people to love or respect him and none to place real confidence in his integrity. Such I believe to be I.G. Lash.
The examination was attended by a large concourse of people besides parents and guardians of the northern and southern portions of the United States. Here wealth is the criterion of preferment and standing in society. This to me seems to be a fatal principle in a government like ours, where our lawmakers are chosen by the majority and as far as I can judge, wealth has a much more powerful influence than merit or any other qualifications. There are in this institution about one hundred scholars, one of whom is a Nature of the forest, a Cherokee girl about fifteen. The ladies seem to value their beauty and wealth as the only means of happiness, and pay much more attention to the decoration of matter than mind. This conclusion if from the examination of the scholars and the very limited qualification of some of the teachers, and the mode or manner of the examinations, or the way the interrogation was put. Questions were all asked in the same order, the pupil had for twelve months been accustomed to hear and read. i did not hear one questions asked promiscuously, and no individual except the prinicipal asked one question. Music is taught in this institution and much more attention paid to it than comports with the intellectual benefit resulting from it. Ornamental needlework appears to claim a large share of the time spared from Music. And from what little information I could gain it was evident the reputation of the school originated more from the safety of the scholars' in regard to vice than from the intellectual improvement they receive, fror this last must be of very small amount.
I have deemed it necessary thus much in relation to the Salem Female Academy, and much more could be said against the mode of its action. The gentlemen seem to partake of the same vanity of wealth as the females and this is not to be wondered at, because where the females are fond of any particular circumstance, the males are desirous of possessing it on their account. There are, however, exceptions but I think they are few, for property seems to be the fuling passion and avarice the predominant vice with the virtuous. However, there may be an injustice in the above declaration, although I have endeavored not to be influenced by preconceived notions or to let my own feeelings draw me from a true and faithful description of things as they appeared to my view. Yet it may be seen from a perusal of the preceding pages that my mind was in no very pleasant situation and it may from this cause be concluded my ideas were not competent for such a subject.
I am well aware that every circumstance or subject is shaded by the feelings of the individual at the time of its occurrence or when under the examination, and may as a natural result produce a corresponding effect on the judgment. I will not pretend to deny but this cause may have had too great an effect on my mind, but this I will say, that I did not wish to have been biased against the institution, neither did I go there prejudced against it. There, however, I had the opportunity of seeing the congregated wealth, beauty both male and female, eloquence of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. The sight was beautiful and pleasant, charming and delightful. Indeed women just as they emerge from the child to maturity, just as the flower has spread all its beauties before you in full view, are the most beautifully fascinating, the most lovely and desirable of all God's works. And in the lovely group before me are some of nature's finest mold. A man that can sithere and view all these desirable qualities and not have his feelings moved in transports of joy, even at the sight, must indeed be insensible to every object that can animate. Indeed the beautiful scene absorbed my attention and the placid serenity beaming from so many lovely faces made me forget my own troubles while viewing the happy crowd.
While attentively surveying this beautiful scene, I endeavored to draw a comparison between the ladies of the North and South and in this estimation I must give my reluctant approbation to the former. Here again, a partiality for the North may have an unfavorable influence in doing strict justice to those before me, and a longer intercourse and familiartiy may produce a corresponding change in mind. The mode of dress, ease of manners, and elegance of form of Females in the North are surpassing those now under my observation. All the females I new see (and I believe it is generally the fashion in this country), from the little girl of four years up to the aged matron, wear caps. All the scholars had this beautiful appendage elegantly adjusted on the head, at the same time everyone without a single exception wore a pure white dress, this as an emblem of innocence, had on my mind a delightful effect and produced a pleasant sensation. And as a dress for this season, it is particularly well adapted, as it is light and cool; two circumstances of importance to those who have to endure fatigue in a crowded apartment. And it is only beautiful as it relates to its utility in the present consideration, but it is equally so in relation, neatness, and purity and I am happy to say this last I believe is much attended in this place. It is of consequence that while you are bestowing attention on the purity of the mind and endeavoring to obliterate any erroneous stains that have there made an impression that you have them surrounded by things which from their very appearance carry with them their ideal purity. And it is equally important when we contemplate the future destiny of ladies and imagine them wives and mothers, what is more disgusting than a careless, slovenly Mother. Here, then we lay the foundation, and nothing will have a mroe salutary effect than example.
You are not, however, to conclude that I am opposed to female education. No, far from it. I love it, I admire it, and am one of its strongest advocates; but I would have it conducted with all the neatness here to be observed, and much more to the intellectual improvement of the scholar. I would have them taught to think for themselves, to investigate, to study every subject until they properly understood it. I would have them understand all they attempted sufficiently to put their own language to it and when interrogated, they might dress the reply in their own shape, and not have to recollect the subject and the very words of the author before an answer could be given, and if the expression be not remembered, though the subject is retained, yet they cannot speak. I want the thing, the substance, in the mind and thus teach them to use their own powers to delineate it. This is the education I admire.
Having now satisfied my curiosity and accomplished the object of my visit, and they sun nearly concealed behind the western hills, the multitude in constant motion, moving in every direction, all intent on pleasure. One sought in this, the other in that, the object of his pursuit. And as pleasure was my object and no source seemed calculated to afford more then a return home, I ordered my horse, paid up the bill, and soon was on the way for Bethania. My mind during the ride of nine long and tedious miles was occupied on the occurences of the day. What is the amount of lal this bustle? How many have been there today without any definite object in view and spent their time, money... foolish!!!