Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

vive the father, and remain unmarried, or of guardians, if both parents be dead, necessary to the marriage of a person under twenty-one years of age. By the Roman law, the consent et avi et patris was required so long as they lived. In France, the consent of parents is necessary to the marriage of fons, until they attain to thirty years of age; of daughters, until twenty-five. In Holland, for son's, till twenty-five ; for daughters, till twenty. And this distinction between the sexes appears to be well founded, for a woman is usually as properly qualified for the domestic and interior duties of a wife or mother at eighteen, as a man is for the business of the world, and the miore arduous care of providing for a family, at twenty-one.

The constitution also of the human species indicates the fame distinction.*

* Cum vis prolem procreandi diutius hæreat in mare quam in fæmina, populi numerus nequaquam minuetur, fi seriùs venerem colere inceperint viri.

СНАР.

[ocr errors][merged small]

THAT virtue, which confines its bene

1 ficence within the walls of a man's own house, we have been accustomed to consider as little better than a more refined selfishness; and yet it will be confessed, that the subject and matter of this class of duties are inferior to none, in utility and importance: and where, it may be asked, is virtue the most valuable, but where it does the most good? What duty is the most obligatory, but that, on which the most depends ? And where have we happiness and misery so much in our power, or liable to be so affected by our conduct, as in our own families ? It will also be acknowledged, that the good order and happiness of the world are better upheld, whilst each man applies himself to his own concerns and the care of his own family, to which he is present, than if every man, from an excess of miftaken generosity, should leave his own business,

to

to undertake his neighbour's, which he must always manage with less knowledge, conveniency, and success. If, therefore, the low estimation of these virtues be well founded, it must be owing, not to their inferior importance, but to some defect or impurity in the motive. And indeed it cannot be denied, but that it is in the power of asociation, so to unite our children's interest with our own, as that we shall often pursue both from the same motive, place both in the same object, and with as little sense of duty in one pursuit as in the other. Where this is the case, the judgment above stated is not far from the truth. And so often as we find a solicitous care of a man's own family, in a total absence or extreme penury of every other virtue, or interfering with other duties, or directing its operation folely to the temporal happiness of the children, placing that happiness in amusement and indulgence whilst they are young, or in advancement of fortune when they grow up, there is reason to believe that this is the case. In this way the common opinion concerning these duties may be accounted for and defended. If we look to the subject of them, we perceive them to be indispensable: if we regard the motive, we find them often not very meritorious. Where

fore, fore, although a man seldom rises high in our esteem, who has nothing to recommend him beside the care of his own family, yet we always condemn the neglect of this duty with the utmost severity ; both by reason of the manifeft and immediate mischief which we fee arising from this neglect, and because it argues a want not only of parental affection, but of those moral principles, which ought to come in aid of that affe&ion, where it is wanting. And if, on the other hand, our praise and esteem of these duties be not proportioned to the good they produce, or to the indignation with which we resent the absence of them, it is for this reason, that virtue is the most valuable, not where it produces the most good, but where it is the most wanted; which is not the case here ; because its place is often supplied by instincts, or involuntary associations. Nevertheless, the offices of a parent may be discharged from a consciousness of their obligation, as well as other duties; and a sense of this obligation is sometimes necessary to assist the stimulus of parental affection; especially in stations of life, in which the wants of a family cannot be fupplied without the con

tinual hard labour of the father, nor without · his refraining from many indulgencies and recreations, which unmarried men of like condition are able to purchase. Where the parental affection is sufficiently strong, or has fewer difficulties to surmount, a principle of duty may still be wanted to direct and regulate its exertions; for otherwise, it is apt to spend and waste itself in a womanish fondness for the person of the child ; an improvident attention to his prefent eafe and gratification ; a pernicious facility and compliance with his humours; an excessive and superfluous care to provide the externals of happiness, with little or no attention to the internal sources of virtue and satisfaction. Universally, wherever a parent's conduct is prompted or directed by a sense of duty, there is so much

creaticns, duties;

virtue.

· Having premised thus much concerning the place which parental duties hold in the fcale of human virtues, we proceed to state and explain the duties themselves.

· When moralifts tell us, that parents are bound to do all they can for their children, they tell us more than is true'; for, at that rate, every expence which might have been spared, and every profit omitted, which might have been made, would be criminal. The duty of parents has its limits, like other

« AnteriorContinuar »