Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

aversion to a particular profession may be involuntary and unconquerable; then it will follow, that parents, where this is the case, ought not to urge their authority, and that the child is not bound to obey it. The point is, to discover how far, in any particular instance, this is the case. Whether the fondness of lovers ever continues with such intensity, and so long, that the success of their desires constitutes, or the disappointment affects, any considerable portion of their happiness, compared with that of their whole life, it is difficult to determine: but there can be no difficulty in pronouncing, that not one half of those attachments, which young people conceive with so much haste and passion, are of this sort. I believe it also to be true, that there are few aversions to a profession, which resolution, perseverance, activity in going about the duty of it, and, above all, despair of changing, will not subdue ; yet there are some such. Wherefore, a child who respects his parent's judgment, and is, as he ought to be, tender of their happiness, owes, at least, so much deference to their will, as to try fairly and faithfully, in one case, whether time and absence will not cool an affection which they disapprove; and in the other, whether a longer continuance in the profession which they have chosen for him may not reconcile him to it. The whole depends upon the experiment being made on the child's part with sincerity, and not merely with a design of compassing his purpose at last, by means of a simulated and temporary compliance. It is the nature of love and hatred, and of all violent affections, to delude the mind with a persuasion that we shall always continue to feel them as we feel them at present; we cannot conceive that they will either change or cease. Experience of similar or greater changes in ourselves, or a habit of giving credit to what our parents, or tutors, or books, teach us, may control this persuasion, otherwise it renders youth very untractable: for they see clearly and truly, that it is impossible they should be happy under the circumstances proposed to them, in their present state of mind. After a sincere but ineffectual endeavour, by the child, to accommodate his inclination to his parent's pleasure, he ought not to suffer in his parent's affection, or in his fortunes. The parent, when he has reasonable proof of this, should acquiesce: at all events, the child is then at liberty to provide for his own happiness. Parents have no right to urge their children upon marriages to which they are averse; nor ought, in any shape, to resent the children's disobedience to such commands. This is a different case from opposing a match of inclination, because the child's misery is a much more probable consequence; it being easier to live without a person that we love, than with one whom we hate. Add to this, that compulsion in marriage necessarily leads to prevarication; as the reluctant party promises an affection, which neither exists, nor. is expected to take place; and parental, like all human authority, ceases at the point where obedience becomes criminal. In the abovementioned, and in all contests between parents and children, it is the parent's duty to represent to the child the consequences of his conduct; and it will be found his best policy to represent them with fidelity. It is usual for parents to exaggerate these descriptions beyond probability, and by exaggeration to lose all credit with their children; thus, in a great measure, defeating their own end. Parents are forbidden to interfere, where a trust is reposed personally in the son; and where, conse. quently, the son was expected, and by virtue of that expectation is obliged, to pursue his own judgment, and not that of any other: as is the case with judicial magistrates in the execution of their office; with members of the legislature in their votes; with electors, where preference is to be given to certain prescribed qualifications. The son may assist his own judgment by the advice of his father, or of any one whom he chooses to consult; but his own judgment, whether it proceed upon knowledge or authority, ought finally to determine his conduct. The duty of children to their parents was thought worthy to be made the subject of one of the Ten Commandments; and, as such, is recognized by Christ, together with the rest of the moral precepts of the Decalogue, in various places of the Gospel. The same Divine Teacher's sentiments concerning the relief of indigent parents appear sufficiently from that manly and deserved indignation with which he reprehended the wretched casuistry of the Jewish expositors, who, under the name of a tradition, had contrived a method of evading this duty, by converting, or pretending to convert, to the treasury of the temple, so much of their property as their distressed parent might be entitled by their law to demand. . Agreeably to this law of Nature and Christianity, children are, by the law of England, bound to support, as well their immediate parents, as their grandfather and grandmother, or remoter ancestors, who stand in need of support. Obedience to parents is enjoined by St. Paul to the Ephesians, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right;” and to the Colossians, “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing unto the Lord”,” By the Jewish law, disobedience to parents was in some extreme cases capital. Deut. xxi. 18.

* Upon which two phrases, “this is right,” and, “for this is well

pleasing unto the Lord,” being used by St. Paul in a sense perfectly

arallel, we may observe, that moral rectitude and conformity to the ivine will were, in his apprehension, the same.

215

BOOK IV.
DUTIES TO OURSELVES.

THIS division of the subject is retained merely for the sake of method, by which the writer and the reader are equally assisted. To the subject itself, it imports nothing; for, the obligation of all duties being fundamentally the same, it matters little under what class or title any of them are considered. In strictness, there are few duties or crimes which terminate in a man's self; and so far as others are affected by their operation, they have been treated of in some article of the preceding book. We have reserved, however, to this head the rights of self-defence; also the consideration of drunkenness and suicide, as offences against that care of our faculties, and preservation of our persons, which we account duties, and call duties to ourselves.

CHAP. I.

THE RIG 11TS OF SELF-DEFENCE.

It has been asserted, that in a state of nature we might lawfully defend the most insignificant right, provided it were a perfect determinate right, by any extremities which the obstinacy of the aggressor rendered necessary. Of this I doubt; because I doubt whether the general rule be worth sustaining at such an expense; and because, apart from the general consequence of yielding to the attempt, it cannot be contended to be for the augmentation of human happiness that one man should lose his life, or a limb, rather than another a pennyworth of his property. Nevertheless, perfect rights can only be distinguished by their value; and it is impossible to ascertain the value at which the liberty of using extreme violence begins. The person attacked must balance, as well as he can, between the general consequence of yielding and the particular effect of resistance. However, this right, if it exist in a state of nature, is suspended by the establishment of civil society; because thereby other remedies are provided against attacks upon our property, and because it is necessary to the peace and safety of the community, that the prevention, punishment, and redress of injuries be adjusted by public laws. Moreover, as the individual is assisted in the recovery of his right, or of a compensation for his right by the public strength, it is no less equitable than expedient, that he should submit to public arbitration the kind, as well as the measure, of the satisfaction which he is to obtain. There is one case in which all extremities are justifiable; namely, when our life is assaulted, and it becomes necessary for our preservation to kill the assailant. This is evident in a state of nature; unless it can be shown, that we are bound to prefer the aggressor's life to our own, that is to say, to love our enemy better than ourselves, which can never be a debt of justice, nor any where appears to be a duty of charity. Nor is the case altered by our living in civil society; because, by the supposition, the laws of society cannot interpose to protect us, nor, by the nature of the case, compel restitution. This liberty is restrained to cases in which no other probable means of preserving our life remain, as flight, calling for assistance, disarming the adversary, &c. The rule holds, whether the danger proceed from a voluntary attack, as by an enemy, robber, or assassin; or from an involuntary one, as by a madman, or person sinking in the water, and dragging us after him; or where two persons are reduced to a situation in which one or both of them must perish; as in a shipwreck, where two seize upon a plank, which will support only one; although, to say the truth, these extreme cases, which happen seldom, and hardly, when they

« AnteriorContinuar »