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New circumstances arise, which direct men's attention to them. A crisis comes, and they can no longer remain in abeyance. At once they must be exposed and decided. The delay was not lost: the exigence was not precipitate. This is the common history of all important conclusions gained by the public mind. They drag along with scarcely any perceptible progress, through events which seem to have no affinity with them, and through ages which seem to have no care for them,until they are established as under a flash of light, and with a directness of intuition. We are slow in mooting what has hitherto been assumed, and love not to disturb what has almost universally been granted.
Though the science of legislation was cultivated from the earliest ages, how little are its precise functions cleared and established ! Few minds are settled, still fewer coincide. That which the interests of social man might have been expected to establish at once, still wavers in indetermination. Some would constitute it as a Ceremonial, to impose and to awe. Others would render it an Agency, to absorb all the business of life into itself. It is principally viewed by one party as a rule over mind and conscience: mainly is it regarded by a second, as a contrivance to release man from his wants, and from his exertions to supply them. The former hails the Monarch as the Vicegerent of heaven, as the Roman Emperors were the Pontifices Maximi: the latter vociferates, as did the mob of Paris, while they bore Louis the 16th from Versailles to his capital, Boulanger, Boulanger! gracing his office with a procession of loaves.
The time has arrived when we must needs ask, To whom is the education of the people committed? This question has been adjudicated, in the estimate of many, beyond any righteous reversal : others think that, until now, the evidence was never completely sifted, nor the understandings of men prepared to pronounce upon it. That there is difficulty in it, might be suspected, from the confident tone in which the contending parties speak: neither will allow the possibility of each other's conclusion. But difficulty of this kind has often been overcome, and the clear accents of truth have presently been heard overpowering the controversy.
There is one constitution of responsibility which is original. It must plead precedence to every other. It is a law the most fixed and certain. He who decreed that the species should spring constantly from itself, has ordained the parental authority as primary and invariable. To honour father and mother is the first commandment of the second table, first with promise, first in morality, first in influence. It cannot be abrogated nor superseded nor transferred. It is the root of all duties, and the pledge of all virtues. This is the true school. The parent's knee is the proper place of moral training. How beautiful is the sentence which Cicero indites concerning the early tuition of the Gracchi! “Legimus epistolas Corneliæ, matris Gracchorum: apparet filios non tam in gremio educatos, quam
in sermone matris.”* It is, confessedly, a mysterious law, that the offspring should be so greatly affected for the most critical, and not the shortest, season, by the parent. That parent may be unprincipled. His influence may only be pernicious. But in reasoning on original constitutions of nature like this, we must often satisfy ourselves with general principles. Can any other arrangement be conceived, the rule of increase being given, which could provide for the helplessness of infant life and mind? Is any other to be imagined so naturally beautiful and fitting? “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth," was the ordinance of Paradise and the blessedness of innocence. Sin has perverted our nature, but none of its original determinations and conditions are destroyed. That which could only have been designed for good, is now often perverted for evil. The iniquities of parents are visited upon the children. The sceptic observes, with ourselves, the same fact: it is a fact which must as greatly hamper his moral system as our own. The influence of the parent is, then, inevitable: if we can deduce the mind of the law-giver from the law, it is the Divine Decree. We may infer, from the benevolence of all those decrees, that, however there is incidental evil, (and need we wonder, when the transmission is of that
* “We ponder the letters of Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi : it would seem that those boys were brought up, not so much on the lap as on the sweet-voiced counsels of their mother." —Brutus, sive de Claris Oratoribus, 57.
which is necessary ?) any transference of the care of offspring would be an evil essentially aggravated.
The possible mischief of this natural constitution has been considered by the philosopher and the statesman from ancient times. Many of these boldly urged the prior rights of the state. They maintained that the children were its issue and property. They insisted on its custody and regulation of them. The parents were set aside. Patriotism was supposed to absorb instinctive affections. Father gave up his son, and even mother her daughter. The sages and jurisconsults of antiquity not only seem absolute in these opinions; they have been followed by some modern writers of no mean repute. A few specimens of those older, and then of these more recent, thinkers, may be adduced.
The prototype of these opinions is seen in the Institutions of Sparta. In the biography of Lycurgus, by Plutarch, we find sentiments of this kind formally declared as those on which he acted. “He resolved the whole matter of legislation into the bringing up of youth.”* “He regarded the education of youth as the first and most excellent duty of the law-giver.”+ “He considered children not so much the property of their parents as of the state.” I “Parents were not at
* «Τον γαρ ολον και πασης νομοθεσιας εργον εις την παιδειαν ανηψε.” * " Της δε παιδειας ην μεγισον ηγειτο του νομοθετου και καλλισον
# “ Ουκ ιδιους ηγείτο των πατέρων τους παιδας αλλα κοινους της Fodsws.”
liberty to train up their children according to their own ideas.”* Agreeably with these rules, he placed marriage and gestation under the public care. The infants were committed to public nurses; and after seven years of age, all were fed at public tables. The concubinage which was enjoined forbade propriety in offspring. The intercourse was so vilely promiscuous, that the boast was that there could be no adulterer. Lesche was a scene of unutterable grossness. The education of the youth was worthy of that brutal source. They were trained to suppress all the better emotions. Detection was taught to be the only crime. Valour was repaid by vice. Natural affection was scorned. And this national system of juvenile association is left on record with all its distinctive features, to prove that every system must be utterly wrong which makes light of the parental instinct and the natural law.
Plato, in his Republic, inculcates the same principle. He, like Lycurgus, speaks of marriage in its mere view of issue, and with no more delicacy than would become the breeding of the inferior animals as a source of gain. He allows the most unbridled sexual intercourse, if it be likely to produce hardy and handsome children. After a disgusting passage he proceeds: -“That their children be also common, so that the father shall not know his own son, nor the son recognise his own father. This is harder to be believed than the other as to possibility and usefulness. I do not
* Ουδε εξειν εκασω τρεφειν ουδε παιδευειν ως εβoυλετο τον υιον.»