The Youth’s Temperance Lecturer didn’t last long, but it made an impression on editors of other periodicals, who reprinted various pieces. “Obedience” is one of several pieces reprinted by Youth’s Companion. The piece emphasizes to children that there is a reason to obey the adults around them; instead of presenting readers with a child who is punished for disobedience, “Obedience” calmly and cheerfully explains the practical reasons to obey. It also gives 21st-century readers a practical education in 19th-century uses of the word “learn,” which appears 19 times, used in multiple ways, in four paragraphs.
“Obedience” (reprinted from Youth’s Temperance Lecturer; from The Youth’s Companion, 3 July 1833; p. 27)

There is nothing, my dear little readers, that children are more apt to forget than their duty of obedience to parents and teachers. And yet there is nothing which it is more important for them to remember. Every thing in the education and welfare of children depends upon their habits of strict obedience. If they do not learn to obey well, they cannot learn to do any thing else well. For somebody must learn them, if they are learned at all. And if they will not obey those who try to learn them, how can they learn?

If a little girl undertakes to learn to sew, she cannot learn, unless she will do as she is bid. If a little boy would learn any trade, if he goes as an apprentice, to learn how to make shoes, or to make any thing else, he cannot learn, unless he will do as he is bid. And scholars in schools, cannot learn their lessons, and understand them, unless they will do as they are bid. If I should try to show you how to write, I could not make you learn how to write, unless you would hold your pen, and shape your letters as I bid you.

So you see the reason why little children should do as they are bid. It is because they cannot learn to do any thing right, unless they are careful to obey. And you see why it is that disobedient children, always grow up to be ignorant, idle, and wicked men and women. They cannot learn to be good, or to do good, they cannot learn to know, to think, or to act as they should do, because they are not obedient to those who should teach them. The disobedient girl does not learn to do the work of a woman. The disobedient boy does not learn to do the work of a man. So that when they become men and women, they do not know how to take care of themselves, and are miserable and wretched creatures.

Let all little children, then, learn to obey. And the only way to be obedient at all, is to be obedient always, and to obey as soon as you are spoken to. And whenever you are told anything that you are to do, or not to do, remember it. Take great pains to remember the commands of your parents and teachers, and never think it will be a good excuse for your disobedience, for you to say you ahve forgotten what was told you.

Copyright 1999-2020, Pat Pflieger
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