OR, MEDITATION ON THE REVOLUTIONS OF EMPIRES
Home | Prev
ON DOMESTIC VIRTUES.
What do you mean be domestic virtues?
I mean the practice of actions useful to a family, supposed to
live in the same house.*
- Domestic is derived from the Latin word domus, a house.
What are those virtues?
They are economy, paternal love, filial love, conjugal love,
fraternal love, and the accomplishment of the duties of master and
What is economy?
It is, according to the most extensive meaning of the word, the
proper administration of every thing that concerns the existence of
the family or house; and as subsistence holds the first rank, the
word economy in confined to the employment of money for the wants
Why is economy a virtue?
Because a man who makes no useless expenses acquires a
superabundancy, which is true wealth, and by means of which he
procures for himself and his family everything that is really
convenient and useful; without mentioning his securing thereby
resources against accidental and unforeseen losses, so that he and
his family enjoy an agreeable and undisturbed competency, which is
the basis of human felicity.
Dissipation and prodigality, therefore, are vices?
Yes, for by them man, in the end, is deprived of the
necessaries of life; he falls into poverty and wretchedness; and
his very friends, fearing to be obliged to restore to him what he
has spent with or for them, avoid him as a debtor does his
creditor, and he remains abandoned by the whole world.
What is paternal love?
It is the assiduous care taken by parents to make their
children contract the habit of every action useful to themselves
and to society.
Why is paternal tenderness a virtue in parents?
Because parents, who rear their children in those habits,
procure for themselves, during the course of their lives,
enjoyments and helps that give a sensible satisfaction at every
instant, and which assure to them, when advanced in years, supports
and consolations against the wants and calamities of all kinds with
which old age is beset.
Is paternal love a common virtue?
No; notwithstanding the ostentation made of it by parents, it
is a rare virtue. They do not love their children, they caress and
spoil them. In them they love only the agents of their will, the
instruments of their power, the trophies of their vanity, the
pastime of their idleness. It is not so much the welfare of their
children that they propose to themselves, as their submission and
obedience; and if among children so many are seen ungrateful for
benefits received, it is because there are among parents as many
despotic and ignorant benefactors.
Why do you say that conjugal love is a virtue?
Because the concord and union resulting from the love of the
married, establish in the heart of the family a multitude of habits
useful to its prosperity and preservation. The united pair are
attached to, and seldom quit their home; they superintend each
particular direction of it; they attend to the education of their
children; they maintain the respect and fidelity of domestics; they
prevent all disorder and dissipation; and from the whole of their
good conduct, they live in ease and consideration; while married
persons who do not love one another, fill their house with quarrels
and troubles, create dissension between their children and the
servants, leaving both indiscriminately to all kinds of vicious
habits; every one in turn spoils, robs, and plunders the house; the
revenues are absorbed without profit; debts accumulate; the married
pair avoid each other, or contend in lawsuits; and the whole family
falls into disorder, ruin, disgrace and want.
Is adultery an offence in the law of nature?
Yes; for it is attended with a number of habits injurious to
the married and to their families. The wife or husband, whose
affections are estranged, neglect their house, avoid it, and
deprive it, as much as they can, of its revenues or income, to
expend them with the object of their affections; hence arise
quarrels, scandal, lawsuits, the neglect of their children and
servants, and at last the plundering and ruin of the whole family;
without reckoning that the adulterous woman commits a most grievous
theft, in giving to her husband heirs of foreign blood, who deprive
his real children of their legitimate portion.
What is filial love?
It is, on the side of children, the practice of those actions
useful to themselves and to their parents.
How does the law of nature prescribe filial love?
By three principal motives:
By sentiment; for the affectionate care of parents inspires,
from the most tender age, mild habits of attachment.
By justice; for children owe to their parents a return and
indemnity for the cares, and even for the expenses, they have
By personal interest; for, if they use them ill, they give to
their own children examples of revolt and ingratitude, which
authorize them, at a future day, to behave to themselves in a
Are we to understand by filial love a passive and blind
No; but a reasonable submission, founded on the knowledge of
the mutual rights and duties of parents and children; rights and
duties, without the observance of which their mutual conduct is
nothing but disorder.
Why is fraternal love a virtue?
Because the concord and union, which result from the love of
brothers, establish the strength, security, and conservation of the
family: brothers united defend themselves against all oppression,
they aid one another in their wants, they help one another in their
misfortunes, and thus secure their common existence; while brothers
disunited, abandoned each to his own personal strength, fall into
all the inconveniences attendant on an insulated state and
individual weakness. This is what a certain Scythian king
ingeniously expressed when, on his death-bed, calling his children
to him, he ordered them to break a bundle of arrows. The young
men, though strong, being unable to effect it, he took them in his
turn, and untieing them, broke each of the arrows separately with
his fingers. "Behold," said he, "the effects of union; united
together, you will be invincible; taken separately, you will be
broken like reeds."
What are the reciprocal duties of masters and of servants?
They consist in the practice of the actions which are
respectively and justly useful to them; and here begin the
relations of society; for the rule and measure of those respective
actions is the equilibrium or equality between the service and the
recompense, between what the one returns and the other gives; which
is the fundamental basis of all society.
Thus all the domestic and individual virtues refer, more or less
mediately, but always with certitude, to the physical object of the
amelioration and preservation of man, and are thereby precepts
resulting from the fundamental law of nature in his formation.