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No. 189 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

Or like the Crow and her Egg, in the Greek Proverb,

[Greek (transliterated): Kakou korakos kakhon oon. [3]]

I must here take Notice of a Letter which I have received from an unknown Correspondent, upon the Subject of my Paper, upon which the foregoing Letter is likewise founded. The Writer of it seems very much concerned lest that Paper should seem to give Encouragement to the Disobedience of Children towards their Parents; but if the Writer of it will take the Pains to read it over again attentively, I dare say his Apprehensions will vanish. Pardon and Reconciliation are all the Penitent Daughter requests, and all that I contend for in her Behalf; and in this Case I may use the Saying of an eminent Wit, who, upon some great Men pressing him to forgive his Daughter who had married against his Consent, told them he could refuse nothing to their Instances, but that he would have them remember there was Difference between Giving and Forgiving.

I must confess, in all Controversies between Parents and their Children, I am naturally prejudiced in favour of the former. The Obligations on that Side can never be acquitted, and I think it is one of the greatest Reflections upon Human Nature that Parental Instinct should be a stronger Motive to Love than Filial Gratitude; that the receiving of Favours should be a less Inducement to Good-will, Tenderness and Commiseration, than the conferring of them; and that the taking care of any Person should endear the Child or Dependant more to the Parent or Benefactor, than the Parent or Benefactor to the Child or Dependant; yet so it happens, that for one cruel Parent we meet with a thousand undutiful Children. This is indeed wonderfully contrived (as I have formerly observed) for the Support of every living Species; but at the same time that it shews the Wisdom of the Creator, it discovers the Imperfection and Degeneracy of the Creature.

The Obedience of Children to their Parents is the Basis of all Government, and set forth as the Measure of that Obedience which we owe to those whom Providence hath placed over us.

It is Father Le Conte, [4] if I am not mistaken, who tells us how Want of Duty in this Particular is punished among the Chinese, insomuch that if a Son should be known to kill, or so much as to strike his Father, not only the Criminal but his whole Family would be rooted out, nay the Inhabitants of the Place where he lived would be put to the Sword, nay the Place itself would be razed to the Ground, and its Foundations sown with Salt; For, say they, there must have been an utter Depravation of Manners in that Clan or Society of People who could have bred up among them so horrible an Offender. To this I shall add a Passage out of the first Book of Herodotus. That Historian in his Account of the Persian Customs and Religion tells us, It is their Opinion that no Man ever killed his Father, or that it is possible such a Crime should be in Nature; but that if any thing like it should ever happen, they conclude that the reputed Son must have been Illegitimate, Supposititious, or begotten in Adultery. Their Opinion in this Particular shews sufficiently what a Notion they must have had of Undutifulness in general.


[Footnote 1: Sir Sampson Legend in Congreve’s play, which ends with the heroine’s ‘punishing an inhuman father and rewarding a faithful lover.’]

[Footnote 2: Ecl. 8.]

[Footnote 3: Of bad Crow bad Egg.]

[Footnote 4: ‘Present State of China,’ Part 2. Letter to the Cardinal d’Estrees.]