(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.
“We must protect the children.” The abusers of that phrase are legion among the political class. The UN decries “child,” social workers break up families at will, progressive politicians brag about protecting children in the workplace.
“Who are the leaders in this troop?” I asked the assembled scouts who had removed their covers after I had pointed out that they were indoors, in formation and not under arms. And those who identified the scoutmaster and myself had not been paying attention during the time they had been in the troop. They elected their leaders and we adults have a function of supporting and training the leadership (as well as assuring that the coffee in the pot does not go to waste).
“But we’re just kids.”
“Cub scouts are children, Webelos scouts are in transition and Boy Scouts are what they called boys in the 19th Century.” The lecture poured out. In the Pony Express, the business plan was to hire orphans between 12 and 15. David Glasgow Farragut entered the Navy at 12. Guilbert du Motier aka the Marquis de Lafayette was commissioned a lieutenant at age 16. Audie Murphy was the most highly decorated American soldier in WWII—he was just shy of his eighteenth birthday when he was taken out of battle not to return. At Chapultapec 200 cadets with ages down to 13 engaged with the US Army.
Thomas Edison was publishing his own newspaper at age 13 and Ben Franklin ended his first attempt at a column at age 16 when his brother was jailed and he took the transfer of the printing company to him as a release from indenture—heading off for Philadelphia. In 1861 Col PGT Beauregard remembered los heroes ninos when he had his cadets from The Citadel man the artillery to force withdrawal from Fort Sumter.
My own great-grandfather, John William Ken(d)rick, entered the Navy at age 12 as an apprentice. It was not uncommon in the early 19th Century. During the Second Boer war, Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell noted that the Boers used 11 to 16 year-old boys as scouts.
Under the old common law, those age 14-20 could contract and be emancipated from their parents. They were old enough to form criminal intent.
Modern child labor laws were created like retirement laws to remove individuals from the workforce. Compulsory education laws served the same purpose—the current graduation requirements from high school are similar to the rigor of eighth grade in the 1890s. In other words it is easier to foster dependency than to free up industry to create jobs.