A child's first right is to be well born, of parents sound in body and mind, who can boast a long line of ancestors on both sides; an aristocracy, based on the cardinal virtues of purity, chastity, sobriety, and honesty.
If the thought, the money, the religious enthusiasm, now expended for the regeneration of the race, were wisely directed to the generation of our descendants, to the conditions and environments of parents and children, the whole face of society might be changed before we celebrate the next Centennial of our national life.
All religious, educational, benevolent, and industrial societies combined, working harmoniously together, can not do as much in a life-time of effort, toward the elevation of mankind, as can parents in the nine months of prenatal life. Locke took the ground that the mind of every child born into the world is like a piece of blank paper, that you may write thereon whatever you will; but science proves that such idealists as Descartes were nearer right when they declared that each soul comes freighted with its own ideas, its individual proclivities; that the pre-natal influences do more in the formation of character than all the education that come after.
Let the young man, indulging in all manner of excesses, remember that in considering the effect of dissipation, wine, and tobacco, on himself and his own happiness or misery, he does not begin to measure the evil of his life. As the High Priest at the family altar, his deeds of darkness will entail untold suffering on generation after generation. Let the young woman with wasp-like waist, who lives on candies, salads, hot bread, pastry, and pickles, whose listless brain and idle hands seek no profitable occupation, whose life is given to folly, remember that to her ignorance and folly may yet be traced the downfall of a nation.
One of the most difficult lessons to impress on any mind is the power and extent of individual influence; and parents above all others, resist the belief that their children are exactly what they make them; no more, no less; like producing like. If there is a class of educators who need special preparation for their high and holy calling, it is those who assume the responsibility of parents. Shall we give less thought to the creation of an immortal being than the artist devotes to his statue or landscape? We wander through the art galleries in the old world, and linger before the works of the great masters, transfixed with the grace and beauty, the glory and grandeur, of the ideals that surround us; and, with equal preparation, greater than these are possible in living, breathing humanity. The same thought and devotion in real life would soon give us a generation of saints, scholars, scientists, and
35 (541) statesmen, of glorified humanity; such as the world has not yet seen. To this hour, we have left the greatest event of life to chance, and the result is the blind, the deaf and dumb, the idiot, the lunatic, the epileptic, the criminal, the drunkard, the glutton - thousands of human beings, in our young republic, that never should have been born; a tax on society, a disgrace to their parents, and a curse to themselves.
Well, born - a child's next right is to intelligent care. If we buy a rare plant, we ask the florist innumerable questions as to its proper training; but the advent of an immortal being seems to suggest no new thought, no anxious investigation into the science of human life. Here we trust every thing to an ignorant nurse, or a neighbor who knows perchance less than we do ourselves.
Ignorance bandages the new-born child, as tight as a drum, from armpits to hips, compressing every vital organ. There is a tradition that all infants are subject to colic for the first three months of their existence; at the end of which time the bandage is removed, and the colic ceases. Reason suggests that the bandage may be the cause of the colic, and queries as to the origin of the custom, and its use. She is told, with all seriousness, " that the bones of a new-born child are like cartilage, that, unless they are pinned up snugly, they are in danger of falling to pieces." Reason replies: "If Infinite Wisdom has made kittens and puppies so that their component parts remain together, it is marvelous that He should have left the human being wholly at the mercy of a bandage;" and proposes, with her first-born, to dispense with swaddling bandages, leaving only a slight compress on the navel, for a few days, until perfectly healed.
Ignorance, believing that every child comes into the world in a diseased and starving condition, begins at once the preparation of a variety of nostrums, chemical and culinary, which she persistently administers to the struggling victim. Reason, knowing that after the fatigue of a long and perilous march, what the young soldier most needs is absolute rest in some warm and cozy tent, shelters him under her wing, and fights off all intruders, sure that when he needs his rations the world will hear from him. His first bath should be preceded by a generous application of pure, sweet olive-oil, from head to foot, in every little corner and crevice of his outer man; and then he should be immersed in warm soap-suds, so nearly the temperature of the body as to cause no shock. Great care should be taken that neither oil nor soap touch the eyes. The room should be very warm, all drafts excluded; and on emerging from the tub, a hot soft-flannel blanket should be closely wrapped around him, in which he may rest awhile before dressing. The softest garments, simply made, and so cut as to fasten round the throat and rest on the shoulders, should constitute his wardrobe; eschew all bands, pins, ligatures, ruffles, embroidery, caps, socks, etc.
Let the child's first efforts at foraging for an existence be at his mother's breast; there he will find the medicine he needs, and just what she needs, too, to dispose of.
The child's mouth and the mother's nipples should be carefully washed before nursing; thus, much suffering, for both mother and child, will be prevented.