The Order How Individuals are Recommended by Nature to our care

September 28, 2015


4 The Stoics said that every man is first and principally recommended to his own care. Every man=

  • is fitter and abler to take care of himself than of any other person, and
  • feels his own pleasures and pains more sensibly than those of others.

His own sensations are his original sensations. These are the substance.

The sensations of others are the reflected or sympathetic images of those sensations. These are the shadow.

5 After himself, the natural objects of his warmest feelings are=

  • his own family, and
  • those who usually live in the same house with him.

They are naturally and usually the persons on whose happiness or misery his conduct has the greatest influence. He is more habituated to sympathize with them. He knows better how everything is likely to affect them. His sympathy with them is more precise and determinate, than it can be with most other people. In short, it approaches nearer to what he feels for himself.


2-6 This sympathy and the affections founded on it are by nature also more strongly directed towards his children than towards his parents. His tenderness for his children is generally more active than his reverence and gratitude towards his parents. In the natural state of things, the child’s existence depends on the parent’s care. The parent’s existence does not naturally depend on the child’s care. In the eye of nature, it would seem, a child is a more important object than an old man. It excites a much more lively and more universal sympathy.

Everything may be expected, or at least hoped, from the child. Ordinarily, very little can be expected or hoped from the old man. The weakness of childhood interests the affections of the most brutal and hard-hearted. It is only to the virtuous and humane, that the infirmities of old age are not the objects of contempt and aversion. In ordinary cases, an old man dies without being much regretted by any body. Scarce a child can die without rending asunder the heart of somebody.

7 The earliest friendships are those among brothers and sisters. These friendships are naturally contracted when the heart is most susceptible of that feeling. Their good agreement is necessary for its tranquillity and happiness. They are capable of giving more pleasure or pain to one another than to most other people. Their situation renders their mutual sympathy of the utmost importance to their common happiness.

By the wisdom of nature, the same situation obliges them to accommodate one another. It renders that sympathy more habitual. This makes it more lively, distinct, and determinate.

8 The children of brothers and sisters are naturally connected by the friendship which, after separating into different families, continues to take place between their parents.

However, as they seldom live in the same family, they are of much less than brothers and sisters. Though of more importance to one another, than to the greater part of other people. Their mutual sympathy becomes proportionably weaker because it is less necessary as it is less habitual

9 The children of cousins are still less connected.

They are of still less importance to one another. The affection gradually reduces as the relation grows more remote.

10 In reality, affection is just habitual sympathy. The actual feelings of that habitual sympathy are=

  • our concern in the happiness or misery of those who are the objects of our affections, and
  • our desire to promote their happiness and prevent their misery.

Relations are usually placed in situations which naturally create this habitual sympathy. It is expected that a suitable degree of affection should take place among them. We generally find that it actually does take place. We therefore naturally expect that it should. On that account, we are more shocked when we find that it does not.

The general rule is established that=

  • persons related to one another should always be affected towards one another in a certain way
  • there is always the highest impropriety and sometimes even a sort of impiety, in their being affected in a different way

A parent without parental tenderness, a child devoid of all filial reverence, appear monsters. They are the objects of hatred and horror.

No to Boarding Schools

11 Though in a particular instance, the circumstances which usually produce those natural affections may not have taken place, by some accident. Yet respect for the general rule will frequently=

  • supply their place, and
  • produce something which are not the same but may bear a very considerable resemblance to those affections.

A father tends to be less attached to a child who=

  • has been separated from him in its infancy by some accident, and
  • does not return to him until it is grown up to manhood.

The father is apt to feel less paternal tenderness for the child. The child has less filial reverence for the father. When brothers and sisters have been educated in distant countries, they feel a similar reduction of affection.

But even during the separation, the father and the child, the brothers or the sisters, are not indifferent to one another. They still consider affections to be due to each other. They hope of enjoying the natural friendship that would have existed if they were near. Until they meet, the absent son, the absent brother, are frequently the favourite son, the favourite brother. The most romantic hopes are entertained of the happiness to be enjoyed in the friendship and conversation of such persons.

When they meet, they imagine that they have that habitual sympathy of family members. However, I am afraid that time and experience too frequently undeceive them. After a more familiar acquaintance, they frequently discover habits, humours, and inclinations in one another, different from what they expected. They discover that they lack habitual sympathy and family-affection because they lived far apart. Their familiar conversation soon become less pleasing and therefore less frequent. They may continue to live with one another=

  • in the mutual exchange of all essential good offices
  • with every other external appearance of decent regard

But they can seldom completely enjoy that=

  • cordial satisfaction
  • delicious sympathy
  • confidential openness and ease, which naturally take place in the conversation of those who have lived long and familiarly with one another.

This kind of general rule only works with the dutiful and the virtuous.

12 This rule is entirely disregarded with the dissipated, profligate, and the vain. This kind of an early and long separation always estranges them completely. With such persons, the respect for the general rule can at best produce only a cold and affected civility (a very slender semblance of real regard). Even this is commonly ended by the=

  • slightest offence, and
  • smallest opposition of interest.

13 The domestic morals in the higher ranks of life, and consequently the domestic happiness of France and England have been hurt most essentially by the education of=

  • boys at distant great schools,
  • young men at distant colleges, and
  • young ladies in distant nunneries and boarding-schools.

Do you wish to educate your children to be=

  • dutiful to their parents, and
  • kind and affectionate to their brothers and sisters?

Put them under the necessity of being=

  • dutiful children, and
  • kind and affectionate brothers and sisters.

Educate them in your own house. From their parent’s house they can go out to attend public schools everyday. But let their dwelling be always at home.

  • Respect for you must always impose a very useful restraint on their conduct.
  • Respect for them may frequently impose no useless restraint on your own.

Surely no acquirement which can possibly be derived from a public education, can compensate what is almost certainly lost by it.

  • Domestic education is the institution of nature.
  • Public education is the contrivance of man.

It is unnecessary to say, which is likely to be the wisest.

14 In some tragedies and romances, we meet with many beautiful and interesting scenes founded on ’the force of blood'.

This force is the wonderful affection which near relations are supposed to conceive for one another, even before they know that they have any such connection. However, I am afraid that this force of blood exists only in tragedies and romances. Even in tragedies and romances, it is never supposed to take place between any relations, but those who are naturally bred up in the same house, between=

  • parents and children
  • brothers and sisters

It would be too ridiculous to imagine any such mysterious affection between=

  • cousins,
  • aunts or uncles, and
  • nephews or nieces.

15 The branches of the same family commonly choose to live in the neighbourhood in=

  • pastoral countries and
  • all countries where the law cannot secure its people.

Their association is necessary for their common defence. Their concord strengthens their necessary association. Their discord always weakens and might destroy it. They have more intercourse with one another, than with the members of any other tribe. The remotest members of the same tribe claim some connection with one another. Where all other circumstances are equal, they expect to be treated with more distinguished attention than is due to those who have no such pretensions. A few years ago in the Highlands of Scotland, the Chieftain used to consider the poorest man of his clan as his cousin and relation. The same extensive regard to kindred took place among the Tartars, Arabs, Turkmen, and all other nations who are in the same state as the Scots Highlanders were around the start of the 18th century.

16 In commercial countries, the law is enough to protect the meanest man. The descendants of a family have no such motive to stay together. They naturally disperse as interest or inclination may direct. They soon cease to be of importance to one another. In a few generations, they lose=

  • all care about one another,
  • all remembrance of their common origin, and
  • the connection which took place among their ancestors.

This makes the regard for remote relations becomes less as time passes. The commercial state of England has been longer and more completely established than that of Scotland. Remote relations are, accordingly, more considered in Scotland than in England. The difference between the two countries is growing less and less everyday.

In every country, great lords are proud to remember their connection with one another, however remote. The remembrance of such illustrious relations flatters their family pride. This remembrance is kept up from the most frivolous and childish of all vanities, and not from affection. If a humbler but nearer relative remind those great men of his relation to their family, they tell him that they are=

  • bad genealogists
  • miserably ill-informed on their own family history.

I am afraid that it is not in that order that we are to expect any extraordinary extension of ’natural affection'.

17 I consider natural affection as more the effect of the moral than of the supposed physical connection between parent and child. A jealous husband often hates that unhappy child which he supposes to be the offspring of his wife’s infidelity, despite=

  • the moral connection, and
  • the child’s education in his own house.

It is the lasting monument of=

  • a most disagreeable adventure,
  • his own dishonour, and
  • his family’s disgrace.


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