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Contact Admin. The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 13, No. The charge is just; and the young are right. It is wonderful, considering how children used to be treated, that the human race ever succeeded in getting established on earth. Humanity should have died out, there was so little that was humane in its bringing up. Because they had contrived to bring a helpless creature into a world that every one wishes he had never known at least twenty-four times a day, a father and mother of the very old school indeed assumed that they had the right to make that creature a slave, and to hold it in everlasting chains.
They had much to say about the duty of children, and very little about the love of parents. Son and slave were almost the same word with the Romans; and your genuine old Roman made little ado about cutting off the head of one of his boys, perhaps for doing something of a praiseworthy nature.
The Romans kept up the paternal rule for many ages, and theoretically it long survived the Republic. It had existed in the Kingdom, and it was not unknown to the Empire. We have an anecdote that shows how strong was the supremacy of paterfamilias at the beginning of the eighth century, when Young Rome had already made more than one audacious display of contempt for the Conscript Fathers.
A few years earlier, according to Sallust, a Roman, one Fulvius, had caused his son to be put to death, because he had sought to join Catiline. The old gentleman heard what his son was about, and when Young Hopeful was arrested and brought before him, he availed himself of his fatherly privilege, and had him strangled, or disposed of after some other of those charming fashions which were so common in the model republic of antiquity.
Law was one thing, opinion another. If he liked to play Lucius Junius, well and good; but they had no taste for the part. They felt much as we used to feel in Fugitive-Slave-Law times: Modern fathers have had no such powers as were held by those of Rome, and if an Englishman of Red-Rose views had killed his son for setting off to join Edward IV.