9.27.2010

A letter from Patrick Henry to his daughter

     Upon the occasion of her marriage, Patrick Henry penned the following words of advice to his daughter, Annie.  Credit for this information goes to Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin over at Visionary Daughters..

Patrick Henry to his Daughter, Annie

"My Dear Daughter,

You have just entered into the state which is replete with happiness or misery. The issue depends upon that prudent, amiable, uniform conduct which wisdom and virtue so strongly recommend on the one hand, or on that imprudence which a want of reflection or passion may prompt on the other.  You are allied to a man of honor, of talents, and of an open, generous disposition. You have, therefore, in your power all the essential ingredients of that system of conduct which you ought invariably to pursue if you will now see clearly the path from which you will resolve never to deviate. Our conduct is often the result of whim or caprice-often such as will give us many a pang, unless we see beforehand what is always the most praiseworthy, and the most essential to happiness. The first maxim which you should impress upon your mind is never to control your husband, by opposition, by displeasure, or any other work of anger. A man of sense, of prudence, of warm feelings, cannot, and will not, bear an opposition of any kind which is attended with an angry look or expression. The current of his affection is suddenly stopped; his attachment is weakened, he begins to feel mortification the most pungent; he is belittled in his own eyes; and be assured that the wife who once excites those sentiments in the breast of a husband will never regain the high ground which she might and ought to have retained. When he marries her, if he be a good man, he expects from her smiles, not frowns; he expects to find her one who is not to control him-not to take from him the freedom of acting as his own judgment shall direct, but one who will place such confidence in him as to believe that his prudence is his best guide. Little things that in reality are mere trifles in themselves often produce bickering and even quarrels. Never permit them to be a subject of dispute; yield them with pleasure, with a smile of affection. Be assured, one difference outweighs them all a thousand, or ten thousand times. A difference with your husband ought to be considered as the greatest calamity-as one that is to be studiously guarded against; it is a demon which must never be permitted to enter a habitation where all should be peace, unimpaired confidence, and heartfelt affection. Besides what can a woman gain by her opposition or her indifference? Nothing! But she loses everything; she loses her husband’s respect for her virtues, she loses his love, and with that, all prospect of future happiness. She creates her own misery, and then utters idle and silly complaints, but utters them all in vain. The love of a husband can be retained only by the high opinion which he entertains his wife’s goodness of heart, of her amiable disposition, of the sweetness of her temper, of her prudence, of her devotion to him. Let nothing upon any occasion ever lessen that opinion. On the contrary, it should augment every day; he should have much more reason to admire her for those excellent qualities which will cast lustre over a virtuous woman whose personal attractions are no more. Cultivate your mind by the perusal of books which instruct while they amuse. Do not devote much of your time to novels, history, geography…poetry, moral essays, biography, travels, sermons, and other well written religious productions will not fail to enlarge your understanding, to render you a more agreeable companion, and to exalt your virtue. Mutual politeness between the most intimate friends is essential to that harmony which should never be broken or interrupted. How important, then, it is between man and wife!… I will add that matrimonial happiness does not to be found in wealth, but in minds properly tempered and united to our respective situations. Competency is necessary. All beyond that is ideal. In the management of your domestic concerns let prudence and wise economy prevail. Let neatness, order and judgment be seen in all your different departments. Unite liberality with a just frugality; always reserve something for the hand of charity; and never let your door be closed to the voice of suffering humanity."




h. rae

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