Anno Urbis - The Roman Empire Online


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  1. What do you mean be domestic virtues?

  1. 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.

  1. What are those virtues?

  1. They are economy, paternal love, filial love, conjugal love, fraternal love, and the accomplishment of the duties of master and servant.

  1. What is economy?

  1. 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 of life.

  1. Why is economy a virtue?

  1. 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.

  1. Dissipation and prodigality, therefore, are vices?

  1. 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.

  1. What is paternal love?

  1. It is the assiduous care taken by parents to make their children contract the habit of every action useful to themselves and to society.

  1. Why is paternal tenderness a virtue in parents?

  1. 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.

  1. Is paternal love a common virtue?

  1. 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.

  1. Why do you say that conjugal love is a virtue?

  1. 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.

  1. Is adultery an offence in the law of nature?

  1. 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.

  1. What is filial love?

  1. It is, on the side of children, the practice of those actions useful to themselves and to their parents.

  1. How does the law of nature prescribe filial love?

  1. By three principal motives:

  1. By sentiment; for the affectionate care of parents inspires, from the most tender age, mild habits of attachment.

  2. By justice; for children owe to their parents a return and indemnity for the cares, and even for the expenses, they have caused them.

  3. 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 similar manner.

  1. Are we to understand by filial love a passive and blind submission?

  1. 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.

  1. Why is fraternal love a virtue?

  1. 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."

  1. What are the reciprocal duties of masters and of servants?

  1. 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.

Chapter XI.

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