To Sarah Savage Thatcher

    New York City        26 July 1789

    My dear—

    Dont be discouraged at Philips’ being hard to learn his Letters; tis next to impossible that he should be either more averse to his book, or hard to learn to read than his pappa—You say he is a very good b[o]y to go of errands; this is a better presage than his readiness in reading—To go where he is directed, & return without stoping to play with boys, or suffering himself to be diverted from his business by them, is an excellent quality in a little child—And to this circumstance, as it respects Philips, I hope you give constant & particular attention—In order that things might conspire to aid this disposition I would desire Mother Hooper,1 and others where you think you shall send Philips, that whenever he comes there to see he does his message and returns without delay—Let the impression be always vivid in his mind that when he is sent to do any thing he must never stop to talk, or play by the way. All dispositions, propensities, and inclinations are created from our situations & external circumstances—And the minds of most Children are equally open, and exposed to the formation of good or bad ones according to the circumstances that present themselves to the tender mind—

    As to learning a Child to read—this is an habit, and acquired by slow degrees; so that it may be we cannot begin too early to present to the mind of Children such things as it is fiting they should have clear ideas & impressions of—but in doing this it becomes of the last importance that they should not be wearied—For if they are called too often to their book; if they are thretned with the rod; if they are actually whiped, or scolded at for appearing reluctant, when they are put to read; or if a series of other painfull impressions are made upon their minds at the time of reading, Children will contract an habitual avertion to their Book, and it is a shame whether this is wore off till they are capable of reasoning themselves into the necessity of education—which very few are capable of before they are fifteen years old—

    A great deal of gentleness & moderation must be mingled with perseverance in bringing up children—And as I have often said—Let them hear and see nothing but what they may do; & then that early disposition, to imitate what they see in others, which is innate, to will prompt them to follow the example—And I am persuaded, that nineteen actions out of twenty will be right—

    I must again repeat the pleasurable sensations I enjoy at reading your account of the readiness & cheerfullness which Philips discovers in going of errands; and generally in obeying your orders—

    I am glad to hear that friends Mr. & Mrs. [Matthew] Cobb, are returned—They will be new company for you—

    I have been alarmed about our friend Silas [Lee] ever since he wrote me last spring—& I fear his feeble Constitution will not be able to support him many years, if it does months—

    Yours of the 15th and 18th inst. came to hand last evening—In one of them you mention a Mrs. Burton as a visitant, who has lately moved to Biddeford—This is too short an history of the Lady—When we write to others we are apt to imagine the person we are writing to is acquainted as fully with the circumstances of the great facts in our Letter as we are ourselves—In consequence of this mistake, we are scarcely ever so particular & minute as we ought to be, to make our Letters fully answer the end for which they were intended.

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    ALS, TFP