“Well, suppose then it was not his own hat, and he was throwing stones at it without the owner’s consent, would it be plain in that case whether he was doing right or wrong?”
“Yes, sir; wrong,” was the universal reply.
“Suppose it was his own hat, would he have been right? Has a boy a right to do what he pleases with his own hat?”
“Yes, sir,” “Yes, sir;” “No, sir,” “No, sir,” answered the boys, confusedly.
“I do not know whose hat it was. If the boy who did it is willing to rise and tell me, it will help us to decide this question.”
The boy, knowing that a severe punishment was not in such a case to be anticipated, and, in fact, apparently pleased with the idea of exonerating himself from the blame of willfully injuring the property of another, rose and said,
“I suppose it was I, sir, who did it, and it was my own hat.”
“Well,” said the master, “I am glad that you are willing to tell frankly how it was; but let us look at this case. There are two senses in which a hat may be said to belong to any person. It may belong to him because he bought it and paid for it, or it may belong to him because it fits him and he wears it. In other words, a person may have a hat as his property, or he may have it only as a part of his dress. Now you see that, according to the first of these senses, all the hats in this school belong to your fathers. There is not, in fact, a single boy in this school who has a hat of his own.”
The boys laughed.
“Is not this the fact?”
It certainly is so, though I suppose James did not consider it. Your fathers bought your hats. They worked for them and paid for them. You are only the wearers, and consequently every generous boy, and, in fact, every honest boy, will be careful of the property which is intrusted to him, but which, strictly speaking, is not his own.
2. MISTAKES.—A wide difference must always be made between mistakes arising from carelessness, and those resulting from circumstances beyond control, such as want of sufficient data, and the like. The former are always censurable; the latter never; for they may be the result of correct reasoning from insufficient data, and it is the reasoning only for which the child is responsible.
“What do you suppose a prophet is?” said a teacher to a class of little boys. The word occurred in their reading lesson.
The scholars all hesitated; at last one ventured to reply:
“If a man should sell a yoke of oxen, and get more for them than they are worth, he would be a prophet.”
“Yes,” said the instructor, “that is right; that is one kind of profit, but this is another and a little different,” and he proceeded to explain the word, and the difference of the spelling.