By Myra Glenn
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Additional resources for Campaigns against corporal punishment: prisoners, sailors, women, and children in antebellum America
W. was mortified and angry at this and said that the excuse only covered my not returning, while the chief offense was my going home without leave, which he could not excuse, and calling me out, took his ferule and ordered me to put out my left hand. ) Upon this hand he inflicted six blows with all his strength, and then six upon the right hand. I was in such a frenzy of indignation at his injustice and his insulting insinuations that I could not have uttered a word for my life. I was too small and slender to resist, and could show Page 20 my spirit only by fortitude.
Some reformers, especially those who had taught in their youth, inflicted harsh corporal punishment themselves. As a young schoolmaster in early nineteenth-century Nantucket, educational reformer Cyrus Peirce, for example, relied on the rod and birch to discipline his students. Peirce, however, gradually substituted moral suasion for corporal punishment in his classroom and subsequently emerged as a particularly outspoken critic of school chastisement. Although various concerns fostered this change, one contributing factor was Peirce's fear that corporal punishment aroused sadistic impulses in himself.
Veteran educator and prolific author of children's textbooks Lyman Cobb illustrated this point in his 1847 diatribe against school and parental punishment. Cobb described how a boy who had been unable to remember his lessons in a punitive classroom quickly became the leading scholar of his class under the guidance of a kind teacher. 17 Naval reformers also viewed moral suasion as the key to productivity and efficiency. Walter Colton, for example, noted that sailors governed by "virtue . . [and] .