Adieu for this time, and God bless you!
DEAR BOY: This and the two next years make so important a period of your life, that I cannot help repeating to you my exhortations, my commands, and (what I hope will be still more prevailing with you than either) my earnest entreaties, to employ them well. Every moment that you now lose, is so much character and advantage lost; as, on the other hand, every moment that you now employ usefully, is so much time wisely laid out, at most prodigious interest. These two years must lay the foundations of all the knowledge that you will ever have; you may build upon them afterward as much as you please, but it will be too late to lay any new ones. Let me beg of you, therefore, to grudge no labor nor pains to acquire, in time, that stock of knowledge, without which you never can rise, but must make a very insignificant figure in the world. Consider your own situation; you have not the advantage of rank or fortune to bear you up; I shall, very probably, be out of the world before you can properly be said to be in it. What then will you have to rely on but your own merit? That alone must raise you, and that alone will raise you, if you have but enough of it. I have often heard and read of oppressed and unrewarded merit, but I have oftener (I might say always) seen great merit make its way, and meet with its reward, to a certain degree at least, in spite of all difficulties. By merit, I mean the moral virtues, knowledge, and manners; as to the moral virtues, I say nothing to you; they speak best for themselves, nor can I suspect that they want any recommendation with you; I will therefore only assure you, that without them you will be most unhappy.
As to knowledge, I have often told you, and I am persuaded you are thoroughly convinced, how absolutely necessary it is to you, whatever your destination may be. But as knowledge has a most extensive meaning, and as the life of man is not long enough to acquire, nor his mind capable of entertaining and digesting, all parts of knowledge, I will point out those to which you should particularly apply, and which, by application, you may make yourself perfect master of. Classical knowledge, that is, Greek and Latin, is absolutely necessary for everybody; because everybody has agreed to think and to call it so. And the word ILLITERATE, in its common acceptation, means a man who is ignorant of those two languages. You are by this time, I hope, pretty near master of both, so that a small part of the day dedicated to them, for two years more, will make you perfect in that study. Rhetoric, logic, a little geometry, and a general notion of astronomy, must, in their turns, have their hours too; not that I desire you should be deep in any one of these; but it is fit you should know something of them all. The knowledge more particularly useful and necessary for you, considering your destination, consists of modern languages, modern history, chronology, and geography, the laws of nations, and the 'jus publicum Imperii'. You must absolutely speak all the modern Languages, as purely and correctly as the natives of the respective countries: for whoever does not speak a language perfectly and easily, will never appear to advantage in conversation, nor treat with others in it upon equal terms. As for French, you have it very well already; and must necessarily, from the universal usage of that language, know it better and better every day: so that I am in no pain about that: German, I suppose, you know pretty well by this time, and will be quite master of it before you leave Leipsig: at least, I am sure you may. Italian and Spanish will come in their turns, and, indeed, they are both so easy, to one who knows Latin and French, that neither of them will cost you much time or trouble. Modern history, by which I mean particularly the history of the last three centuries, should be the object of your greatest and constant attention, especially those parts of it which relate more immediately to the great powers of Europe. This study you will carefully connect with chronology and geography; that is, you will remark and retain the dates of every important event; and always read with the map by you, in which you will constantly look for every place mentioned: this is the only way of retaining geography; for, though it is soon learned by the lump, yet, when only so learned, it is still sooner forgot.
Manners, though the last, and it may be the least ingredient of real merit, are, however, very far from being useless in its composition; they adorn, and give an additional force and luster to both virtue and knowledge. They prepare and smooth the way for the progress of both; and are, I fear, with the bulk of mankind, more engaging than either. Remember, then, the infinite advantage of manners; cultivate and improve your own to the utmost good sense will suggest the great rules to you, good company will do the rest. Thus you see how much you have to do; and how little time to do it in: for when you are thrown out into the world, as in a couple of years you must be, the unavoidable dissipation of company, and the necessary avocations of some kind of business or other, will leave you no time to undertake new branches of knowledge: you may, indeed, by a prudent allotment of your time, reserve some to complete and finish the building; but you will never find enough to lay new foundations. I have such an opinion of your understanding, that I am convinced you are sensible of these truths; and that, however hard and laborious your present uninterrupted application may seem to you, you will rather increase than lessen it. For God's sake, my dear boy, do not squander away one moment of your time, for every moment may be now most usefully employed. Your future fortune, character, and figure in the world, entirely depend upon your use or abuse of the two next years. If you do but employ them well, what may you not reasonably expect to be, in time? And if you do not, what may I not reasonably fear you will be? You are the only one I ever knew, of this country, whose education was, from the beginning, calculated for the department of foreign affairs; in consequence of which, if you will invariably pursue, and diligently qualify yourself for that object, you may make yourself absolutely necessary to the government, and, after having received orders as a minister abroad, send orders, in your turn, as Secretary of State at home. Most of our ministers abroad have taken up that department occasionally, without having ever thought of foreign affairs before; many of them, without speaking any one foreign language; and all of them without manners which are absolutely necessary toward being well received, and making a figure at foreign courts. They do the business accordingly, that is, very ill: they never get into the secrets of these courts, for want of insinuation and address: they do not guess at their views, for want of knowing their interests: and, at last, finding themselves very unfit for, soon grow weary of their commissions, and are impatient to return home, where they are but too justly laid aside and neglected. Every moment's conversation may, if you please, be of use to you; in this view, every public event, which is the common topic of conversation, gives you an opportunity of getting some information. For example, the preliminaries of peace, lately concluded at Aix-la-Chapelle, will be the common subject of most conversations; in which you will take care to ask the proper questions: as, what is the meaning of the Assiento contract for negroes, between England and Spain; what the annual ship; when stipulated; upon what account suspended, etc. You will likewise inform yourself about Guastalla, now given to Don Philip, together with Parma and Placentia; who they belonged to before; what claim or pretensions Don Philip had to them; what they are worth; in short, everything concerning them. The cessions made by the Queen of Hungary to the King of Sardinia, are, by these preliminaries, confirmed and secured to him: you will inquire, therefore, what they are, and what they are worth. This is the kind of knowledge which you should be most thoroughly master of, and in which conversation will help you almost as much as books: but both are best. There are histories of every considerable treaty, from that of Westphalia to that of Utrecht, inclusively; all which I would advise you to read. Pore Bougeant's, of the treaty of Westphalia, is an excellent one; those of Nimeguen, Ryswick, and Utrecht, are not so well written; but are, however, very useful. 'L'Histoire des Traites de Paix', in two volumes, folio, which I recommended to you some time ago, is a book that you should often consult, when you hear mention made of any treaty concluded in the seventeenth century.
Upon the whole, if you have a mind to be considerable, and to shine hereafter, you must labor hard now. No quickness of parts, no vivacity, will do long, or go far, without a solid fund of knowledge; and that fund of knowledge will amply repay all the pains that you can take in acquiring it. Reflect seriously, within yourself, upon all this, and ask yourself whether I can have any view, but your interest, in all that I recommend to you. It is the result of my experience, and flows from that tenderness and affection with which, while you deserve them, I shall be, Yours.
Make my compliments to Mr. Harte, and tell him that I have received his letter of the 24th, N. S.
DEAR BOY: I have received, with great satisfaction, your letter of the 28th N. S., from Dresden: it finishes your short but clear account of the Reformation which is one of those interesting periods of modern history, that can not be too much studied nor too minutely known by you. There are many great events in history, which, when once they are over, leave things in the situation in which they found them. As, for instance, the late war; which, excepting the establishment in Italy for Don Philip, leave things pretty much in state quo; a mutual restitution of all acquisitions being stipulated by the preliminaries of the peace. Such events undoubtedly deserve your notice, but yet not so minutely as those, which are not only important in themselves, but equally (or it may be more) important by their consequences too: of this latter sort were the progress of the Christian religion in Europe; the Invasion of the Goths; the division of the Roman empire into Western and Eastern; the establishment and rapid progress of Mahometanism; and, lastly, the Reformation; all which events produced the greatest changes in the affairs of Europe, and to one or other of which, the present situation of all the parts of it is to be traced up.
Next to these, are those events which more immediately effect particular states and kingdoms, and which are reckoned entirely local, though their influence may, and indeed very often does, indirectly, extend itself further, such as civil wars and revolutions, from which a total change in the form of government frequently flows. The civil wars in England, in the reign of King Charles I., produced an entire change of the government here, from a limited monarchy to a commonwealth, at first, and afterward to absolute power, usurped by Cromwell, under the pretense of protection, and the title of Protector.