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always resembles that we cultivate...
There seems to be an indolent propensity in man to make prescription always take place of reason, and to place every duty on an arbitrary foundation. The rights of kings are deduced in a direct line from the King of kings, and that of parents from our first parent.
Why do we thus go back for principles that should
always rest on the same base, and have the same weight today that they
had a thousand years ago - and not a jot more? If parents discharge
their duty they have a strong hold and sacred claim on the gratitude of
their children, but few parents are willing to receive the respectful affection
of their offspring on such terms.
The simple definition of the reciprocal duty which naturally subsists between parent and child may be given in a few words. The parent who pays proper attention to helpless infancy has a right to require the same attention when the feebleness of age comes upon him. But to subjugate a rational being to the mere will of another, after he is of age to answer to society for his own conduct, is a most cruel and undue stretch of power, and perhaps as injurious to morality as those religious systems which do not allow right and wrong to have any existence, but in the Divine will.
I never knew a parent who had
paid more than common attention to his children disregarded. 
On the contrary, the early habit of relying almost implicitly on the opinion
of a respected parent is not easily shook, even when matured reason convinces
the child that his father is not the wisest man in the world.
I distinguish between the natural and accidental duty due to parents.
The parent who sedulously endeavours to form the
heart, and enlarge the understanding of his child, has given that dignity
to the discharge of a duty, common to the whole animal world, that only
reason can give. This is the parental affection of humanity, and leaves
instinctive natural affection far behind.
With respect to marriage, though after one-and-twenty a parent seems to have no right to withhold his consent on any account, yet twenty years of solicitude call for a return, and the son ought at least to promise not to marry for two or three years, should the object of his choice not entirely meet with the approbation of his first friend.
But respect for parents is, generally speaking, a much more debasing principle; it is only a selfish respect for property. The father who is blindly obeyed is obeyed from sheer weakness, or from motives that degrade the human character.
A great proportion of the misery that wanders in hideous forms around the world is allowed to rise from the negligence of parents; and still these are the people who are most tenacious of what they term a natural right, though it be subversive of the birthright of man, the right of acting according to the direction of his own reason.
I have already very frequently had occasion to observe that vicious or indolent people are always eager to profit by enforcing arbitrary privileges, and generally in the same proportion as they neglect the discharge of the duties which alone render the privileges reasonable. This is at the bottom a dictate of common sense, or the instinct of self-defence, peculiar to ignorant weakness, resembling that instinct which makes a fish muddy the water it swims in to elude its enemy, instead of boldly facing it in the clear stream.
From the clear stream of argument indeed the supporters
of prescription of every denomination fly; and taking refuge in the darkness,
which, in the language of sublime poetry, has been supposed to surround
the throne of omnipotence, they dare to demand that implicit respect which
is only due to His unsearchable ways.
The indolent parent of high rank may, it is true, extort a show of respect from his child, and females on the Continent are particularly subject to the views of their families, who never think of consulting their inclination, or providing for the comfort of the poor victims of their pride. The consequence is notorious: these dutiful daughters become adulteresses, and neglect the education of their children, from whom they, in their turn, exact the same kind of obedience.
Females, it is true, in all countries are too much under the dominion of their parents; and few parents think of addressing their children in the following manner, though it is in this reasonable way that Heaven seems to command the whole human race: - It is your interest to obey me till you can judge for yourself; and the Almighty Father of all has implanted an affection in me to serve as a guard to you whilst your reason is unfolding; but when your mind arrives at maturity, you must only obey me, or rather respect my opinions, so far as they coincide with the light that is breaking in on your own mind.
A slavish bondage to parents cramps every faculty
of the mind; and Mr. Locke very judiciously observes, that "if
the mind be curbed and humbled too much in children; if their spirits be
abased and broken much by too strict an hand over them, they lose all their
vigour and industry."
I may be told that a number of women are not slaves
in the marriage state.
But it is not the parents who have given the surest
proof of their affection for their children, or, to speak more properly.
who, by fulfilling their duty, have allowed a natural parental affection
to take root in their hearts, the child of exercised sympathy and reason,
and not the overweening offspring of selfish pride, who most vehemently
insist on their children submitting to their will merely because it is
Children cannot be taught too early to submit to reason - the true definition of that necessity which Rousseau insisted on, without defining it; for to submit to reason is to submit to the nature of things, and to that God who formed them so, to promote our real interest.
Why should the minds of children be warped as they
just begin to expand, only to favour the indolence of parents who insist
on a privilege without being willing to pay the price fixed by Nature?
It is easier, I grant, to command than reason;
but it does not follow from hence that children cannot comprehend the reason
why they are made to do certain things habitually: for from a steady adherence
to a few simple principles of conduct flows that salutary power which a
judicious parent gradually gains over a child's mind. And this power becomes
strong indeed, if tempered by an even display of affection brought home
to the child's heart.
It is the irregular exercise
of parental authority that first injures the mind, and to these irregularities
girls are more subject than boys.
After observing sallies of this kind, I have been
led into a melancholy train of reflection respecting females, concluding
that when their first affection must lead them astray, or make their duties
clash till they rest on mere whims and customs, little can be expected
from them as they advance in life. How, indeed, can an instructor remedy
this evil - for to teach them virtue on any solid principle is to teach
them to despise their parents.
The affections of children, and weak people, are always selfish; they love their relatives, because they are beloved by them, not on account of their virtues. Yet, till esteem and love are blended together in the first affection, and reason made the foundation of the first duty, morality will stumble at the threshold. But, till society is very differently constituted, parents, I fear, will still insist on being obeyed, because they will be obeyed, and constantly endeavour to settle that power on a Divine right which will not bear the investigation of reason.
 Dr. Johnson makes the same observation. RETURN TO TEXT
 I myself heard a little girl once say to a servant, "My mamma has been scolding me finely this morning, because her hair was not dressed to please her." Though this remark was pert, it was just. And what respect could a girl acquire for such a parent without doing violence to reason? RETURN TO TEXT
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