John Howard

From the death of his wife in 1765 to the end of the year 1769, Mr. Howard appears to have remained in England, and at Cardington as before, with the exception of a month or six weeks in the year 1767, which he devoted to a tour through Holland. His principal occupation during these four years was the education of his infant son. From the circumstance that this boy, when he arrived at the years of manhood, conducted himself in a profligate manner, and at last became insane, much attention has been drawn to Mr. Howard's mode of educating him in his infancy; some insisting that his conduct as a parent was harsh and injudicious, others going so far as to asert that this man - whom the world reveres as a philanthropist, and whose benevolent soul yearned for the whole human race was in his domestic relations a narrow and unfeeling tyrant. This last assertion - although, abstractly considered, there is nothing impossible or absurd in it, inasmuch as we may conceive such a thing as real philanthropy on a large scale conjoined with inattention to one's immediate duties as a husband or father - appears to have absolutely no foundation whatever in Howard's case; and to have originated either in malice, or in that vulgar love of effect which delights in finding striking incongruities in the characters of great men. Nor does the other assertion - that Howard's mode of educating his infant son was harsh and injudicious - appear more worthy of credit. The truth seems to be, that Howard was a kind and benevolent man, of naturally strict and methodical habits, who entertained, upon principle, high ideas of the authority of the head of a family. A friend of his relates that he has often heard him tell in company, as a piece of pleasantry, that before his marriage with his second wife he made an agreement with her, that in order to prevent all those little altercations about family matters which he had observed to be the principal causes of domestic discomfort, he should always decide. Mrs. Howard, he said, had cheerfully agreed to this arrangement; and it was attended with the best effects. The same principle of the supremacy of the head of a family - a principle much less powerful in society now than it was a generation or two ago - guided him in his behavior to his son. 'Regarding children,' says Dr. Aikin, 'as creatures possessed of strong passions and desires, without reason and experience to control them, he thought that nature seemed, as it were, to mark them out as the subjects of absolute authority, and that the first and fundamental principle to be inculcated upon them was implicit and unlimited obedience.' The plan of education here described may to some appear austere and injudicious, while others will cordially approve of it, as that recommended by experience and common sense; but at all events, the charges of harshness and cruelty which some have endeavored to found upon it are mere calumnies, refuted by all who knew Mr. Howard, and were witnesses to his affection for his son.

Sensible of the loss which the boy had sustained by the death of his mother, Mr. Howard placed him, in his fifth year, under the care of a lady in whom he had confidence, who kept a boarding-school at Cheshunt in Hertfordshire. This and other arrangements having been made, he went abroad on a fourth continental tour towards the end of 1769. Proceeding through the south of France, and spending a few weeks in Geneva, he visited most of the remarkable places in Italy, some of them for the second time; and returned home through Germany in the latter part of 1770, having been absent in all about twelve months.