Parent, a term of relation applied to those persons from whom we derive our temporal existence.
The moral duties of parents towards their offspring, being a subject not immediately connected with our plan, we shall not enter into any ethical inquiry, but confine our attention to their legal duties; that is, such as they owe to their legitimate children, respect-ing their maintenance, education, and protection.
1. With regard to their maintenance, it is a principle both of law and nature, that every man is bound to provide for his offspring. The father and mother, and also the grandsire and grandmother of feeble and poor descendants, are obliged by the 43 Eliz. c. 2, to support them at their own expence (provided they be able), in such manner as shall be directed by the quarter-sessions ; and, if a man abscond, and desert his children, the 5 Geo. I. c. 8, directs the churchwardens and overseers of his parish to seize his property, and dispose of it for their relief. Thus, it has been wisely established by these statutes, that if a mother or grand-mother, who formerly was able to maintain the child, marry a second time, the step - father becomes chargeable with its maintenance; for, being their debt when single, it extends in .common with ail others to charge the second hus-band ; but, as the death of the wife dissolves the relation, such duty then ceases to bind him.-No person, however, is compellable to support his issue, excepting the latter be incapacitated from labour by infancy, disease, or accident ; in which cases, the former is obliged to provide them with necessaries, on penalty of paying 20s. per month to the parish, in case of refusal.
Farther, the law of England does not prevent a man from disinheriting his children by will; but, in conformity to the custom of London, the offspring of freemen are entitled to one - third part of their father's effects, which must be equally divided among them, and of which they cannot be deprived. Hence, too, heirs and children are peculiarly protected by courts of justice ; lest they should be disinherited by any ambiguous or uncertain expressions ; because it is necessary to prove, beyond the possibility of doubt, the testator's intention to deprive them of their right of inheritance.
2. The most important duty of parents, is that of educating their children, in a manner becoming their rank in life. And, though it must be confessed, that the law of England is deficient in this respect, yet it has also provided for the welfare of the rising generation ; as, by the statutes for the apprenticing of poor children, these are to be taken from their parents, and placed by the churchwardens of the parish in such situations, as may render them; most useful to the commonwealth.
3. The last duty of parents to-, wards their offspring, is protection, which may be considered princi-pally as a natural obligation ; no municipal laws enjoining its observance. But, though a child be thus placed in the power of its pa-rent, the latter cannot abuse such, authority. He may exercise proper seventy to keep his children in due obedience : thus, he may lawfully, and in a reasonable manner, chastise them; because such cor-rection is sometimes necessary, and conducive to their improvement. This authority of the parent, however, extends only to the end of the child's minority, during which period the former is entitled to the benefit of the labour and assistance thus obtained, while the latter resides with, and is maintained by him : a parent may likewise allow or forbid the marriage of his children, till they attain the age of twenty-one years. Now, the legal power of the progenitor ceases; because, the adults are enfranchised, by arriving at years of discretion, when the empire of the father, or of the guardian, is supposed to yield to that of reason.