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The History of Industrial Development and Toolmaking in US

  The Book of Trade, 1839    

The “Book of Trades” has been adopted as a Class-Book in the High School of Glasgow, and in several other Seminaries. An objection, however, has been raised against it by some, on the ground that the information which it presents is not adapted to interest young people, nor properly to form part of a system of classical tuition.

It may ease the minds of parents to know the opinions, on the propriety of teaching the principles of arts and trades to schoolboys, entertained by one of the greatest scholars our country ever had to boast of—MILTON the poet. I refer to him, because questions respecting the propriety of any action being necessarily settled by the opinions of recognized authorities, the decision of MILTON, whose competency to judge in this matter I presume no one will dispute, may be sufficient to satisfy any person whose mind has not been warped in favour of learning of a different description.

The alleged want of interest in the subject, is an assertion involving a matter of fact which can be determined by an experiment. Boys alone can judge of what can interest boys and to boys therefore I refer both parents and teachers. Let the "BOOK OF TRADES" be placed by the side of SALLUST or CICERO, and the boys be desired to choose between them: the presence or absence of interest will be impartially determined by the resulting choice.

It is a hundred and fifty years since MILTON, in his Tractate on Education, laid down a course of instruction for boys, in which he directs them to be taught - not Latin and Greek exclusively and indiscriminately, although of the utility of these MILTON had a high and just opinion, but also - "the principles of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, geography, with a general compendium of natural philosophy; then to descend in mathematics to the instrumental science of trigonometry, and from thence to fortification, architecture, engineering, or navigation. And in natural philosophy, to proceed leisurely from the history of meteors, minerals, plants, and living creatures, as far as anatomy.

"To set forward all these proceedings in nature and mathematics, what hinders but that they may procure, as oft as shall be needful, the helpful experience of hunters, fowlers, fishermen, shepherds, gardeners, apothecaries; and in the other sciences, architects, engineers, mariners, anatomists; who doubtless would be ready, some for reward, and some to favour such a hopeful seminary. And this will give them such a real tincture of natural knowledge, as they shall never forget, but daily augment with delight."

That technical knowledge which MILTON here recommends, it is the object of the BOOK OF TRADES to furnish. The hunter, the fisherman, the gardener, the architect, the engineer, and the mariner, severally describe the operations and results of the arts which they profess - but in addition to these, among the actors in the following drama, I present the gas maker, the steam-engine maker, the rail-road maker, the cotton-spinner, the calico-printer, and a multitude of other artists, whose professions are no less important than those enumerated by MILTON, but who were not cited by him, the trades which they represent being in his time not called into existence.

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