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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

Filial unfaithfulness is a sin


The

mere fact of a daughter's services being needed at home is no reason why they shall be claimed after she has become of age, either through years, or maturity of character, when such service is distasteful to her, and other service is tasteful and possible. If, for instance, a girl has a strong desire to be a milliner, or a mantua-maker, or an artist, she should not be prevented because her mother wants her at home to help take care of the children and do the work. I suppose to many this will seem unnatural and undutiful. It is neither the one nor the other. There are remarkable notions afloat concerning nature and duty. If one may judge from popular ethics, the duty seems to lie chiefly on one side. Lions, we are told, would appear to the world in a very different light if lions wrote history; so filial and parental relations, discussed as they always are by the parental part of the community, have a different bearing from what they would if looked at from the children's point of view. In our eagerness to enforce the claims which parents have on children, we seem sometimes ready to forget the equally stringent claims which children have on parents. Much is said about the gratitude which parental care imposes upon the child; very little about the responsibility which his involuntary birth imposed upon himself.

Here is a daughter, an immortal being, accountable to God. Surely, when she has become a woman, she has a right to direct her life in the

manner best adapted to bring out its abilities. No human being has a right to appropriate another human being's life,--even if they be mother and daughter. You say that she owes life itself to her parents. True, but in such a way that it confers an additional obligation on them to give her every opportunity to make the most of life, and not in such a way as to justify them in monopolizing it, nor in such a way as to render her accountable to them alone for its use. The person who gives life is under much stronger bonds than the person who receives life. Life is a momentous thing. It may be an eternal curse. It is almost certain to involve deep sorrow. Sin, disease, pain, are almost sure to follow in its wake. It is a Pandora's box whose best treasure is only a compensation. The happiest thing we know of it is, that it will one day come to an end: Psyche will rend off her disguises, and soar in her proper form. The uncertainty of the future is our solace against the certainty of the present. Surely, then, of all people in the world, those who impose this fearful burden are the very last who should add even a feather's weight to it, and the very first and foremost who should at any sacrifice of less important matters lighten it as far as possible. Filial unfaithfulness is a sin, but parental unfaithfulness is a chief of sins. The first violates relations which it finds. The second violates those which it makes. Almost invariably the second is the direct cause of the first. There may be extraordinary malformations: a child may be born with some organic incapacity for love, or gratitude, or virtue, as children are born blind or deaf. But, as a rule, parental love and wisdom result in filial love and duty growing stronger and stronger every day, and removing the possibility of sacrifice by making all service a pleasure. Because, where I knew the circumstances, I never saw an instance of filial misbehavior that could not be traced directly to parental mismanagement or neglect, I believe it is so where I do not know the circumstances. I am persuaded that Solomon had the spirit of truth when he declared, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." A son administers arsenic to his parents, and the world starts back in horror. I would not diminish its horror; but before you lavish all your execration on the son, find out whether the parents have not been administering poison, or suffered poison to be administered, to his mind and heart from his earliest infancy. Be shocked at that. I never saw or heard of a son born of virtuous parents, and wisely trained in the ways of virtue, who turned about and poisoned his parents after he had grown up. The eider-duck plucks the down from her own breast to warm the nest for her young, and I do not suppose an ungrateful or rebellious eider-duckling was ever heard of; but if the eider-duck plucks the down from the breasts of her young to line the nest for herself--what then?


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