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ANNOTATION. Marriages in England during the Usurpation were solemnized
before a Justice of the Peace ; but for what purpose this novelty was introduced, except to degrade the Clergy, does not appear.' As it does not appear that the parties were prohibited from superadding any religious ceremony they might chuse, Paley's censure of the law seems unreasonable.
As long as this full liberty of conscience is left, such a law appears the wisest-indeed the only wise one-on the subject. For, marriage may be considered in two points of view : (ist) as a civil contract, referring to the legal rights and duties of the parties concerned, and their offspring ; which comes properly within the province of the civil government: and (2ndly) as a religious engagement ; which is a matter between each person's own conscience and his God. And in this, it is best for the secular government not to interfere, especially when there are so many different religious persuasions. If the parties, of whatever religious denomination, were required (with due precautions against fraud) to make a regular contract before a Magistrate, and have this duly registered by him, they being of course left at liberty to go through any religious ceremony (before or after) that their conscience might dictate,-and if this contract were made universally, the sole evidence of a legal and valid marriage, no one's conscience could be hurt, and we should escape at once and for ever, all the anomalies, and grievances, and abuses, of our patchwork legislation on the subject.
OF THE DUTY OF PARENTS,
THAT virtue, which confines its beneficence within the walls of.
I 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 upholden 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 mistaken generosity, should leave his own business, 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, that it is in the power of association 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 mau's own family, in a total absence or extreme penury of every other virtue, or interfering with other duties, or directing its operation solely 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. Wherefore, 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 manifest and immediate mischief which we see 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 affection 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 ah. sence 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 supplied without the continual hard labour of the father, and without his refraining from many indulgences 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 present ease 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 virtue.
Having premised thus much concerning the place which parental duties hold in the scale of human virtues, we proceed to state and explain the duties themselves.
When moralists 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 expense 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 duties; and admits, if not of perfect precision, at least of rules definite enough for application.
These rules may be explained under the several heads of maintenance, education, and a reasonable provision for the child's happiness in respect of outward condition. .
The wants of children make it necessary that some person maintain them; and as no one has a right to burthen others by his act, it follows, that the parents are bound to undertake this
charge themselves. Beside this plain inference, the affection of parents to their children, if it be instinctive, and the provision which nature has prepared in the person of the mother for the sustentation of the infant, concerning the existence and design of which there can be no doubt, are manifest indications of the divine will.
Hence we learn the guilt of those who run away from their families, or (what is much the same), in consequence of idleness or drunkenness, throw them upon a parish; or who leave them destitute at their death, when, by diligence and frugality, they might have laid up a provision for their support: also of those who refuse or neglect the care of their bastard offspring, abandoning them to a condition in which they must either perish, or become burthensome to others; for the duty of maintenance, like the reason upon which it is founded, extends to bastards, as well as to legitimate children.
The christian Scriptures, although they concern themselves little with maxims of prudence or economy, and much less authorize worldly-mindedness or avarice, have yet declared in explicit terms their judgment of the obligation of this duty : 'If any provide not for his own, especially for those of his own household, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (1 Tim. v. 8); he hath disgraced the christian profession, and fallen short in a duty which even infidels acknowledge.
Education, in the most extensive sense of the word, may comprehend every preparation that is made in our youth for the sequel of our lives; and in this sense I use it. Some such preparation is necessary for children of all conditions, because without it they must be miserable, and probably will be vicious, when they grow up, either from the want of the means of subsistence, or from want of rational and inoffensive occupation. In civilized life, everything is effected by art and skill. Whence a person who is provided with neither (and neither can be acquired without exercise and instruction) will be useless; and he that is useless, will generally be at the same time mischievous to the community. So that to send an uneducated child into the world, is injurious to the rest of mankind; it is little better than to turn out a mad dog or a wild beast into the streets.
In the inferior classes of the community, this principle condemns the neglect of parents, who do not inure their children betimes to labour and restraint, by providing them with apprenticeships, services, or other regular employment, but who suffer them to waste their youth in idleness and vagrancy, or to betake themselves to some lazy, trifling, and precarious calling : for the consequence of having thus tasted the sweets of natural liberty, at an age when their passion and relish for it are at the highest, is, that they become incapable, for the remainder of their lives, of continued industry, or of persevering attention to anything ; spend their time in a miserable struggle between the importunity of want, and the irksomeness of regular application; and are prepared to embrace every expedient, which presents a hope of supplying their necessities without confining them to the plough, the loom, the shop, or the counting-house.
In the middle orders of society, those parents are more reprehensible, who neither qualify their children for a profession, nor enable them to live without one ;' and those in the highest, who, from indolence, indulgence, or avarice, omit to procure their children those liberal attainments which are necessary to make them useful in the stations to which they are destined. A man of fortune, who permits his son to consume the season of education in hunting, shooting, or in frequenting horse-races, assemblies, or other unedifying, if not vicious, diversions, defrauds the community of a benefactor, and bequeaths them a nuisance.
Some, though not the same, preparation for the sequel of their lives, is necessary for youth of every description; and therefore for bastards, as well as for children of better expectations. Consequently, they who leave the education of their bastards to chance, contenting themselves with making provision for their subsistence, desert half their duty.
III. A reasonable provision for the happiness of a child, in respect of outward condition, requires three things : a situation suited to his habits and reasonable expectations ; a competent provision for the exigencies of that situation ; and a probable security for his virtue.
The first two articles will vary with the condition of the
1 Amongst the Athenians, if the parent did not put his child into a way of getting a livelihood, the child was not bound to make provision for the parent when old and necessitous.