INFLUENCE OF WOMAN.
BY HON. DANIEL WEBSTER.
It is by the promulgation of sound morals in the community, and more especially by the training and instruction of the young, that woman performs her part towards the preservation of a free government. It is generally admitted that public liberty, the perpetuity of a free constitution, rests on the virtue and intelligence of the community which enjoys it. How is that virtue to be inspired, and how is that intelligence to be communicated? Bonaparte once asked Madame de Stael in what manner he could most promote the happiness of France? Her reply is full of political wisdom. She said, "Instruct the mothers of the French people." Mothers are, indeed, the affectionate and effective teachers of the human race. The mother begins her process of training with the infant in her arms. It is she who directs, so to speak, its first mental and spiritual pulsations. She conducts it along the impressible years of childhood and youth, and hopes to deliver it to the rough contests and tumultuous scenes of life, armed by those good principles which her child has received from maternal care and love.
If we draw within the circle of our contemplation the mothers of a civilized nation, what do we see? We behold so many artificers working, not on frail and perishable matter, but on the immortal mind, moulding and fashioning beings who are to exist forever. We applaud the artist whose skill and genius present the mimic man upon the canvas; we admire and celebrate the sculptor who works out that same image in enduring marble; but how insignificant are these achievements, though the highest and the fairest in all the departments of art, in comparison with the great vocation of human mothers? They work, not upon the canvas that shall fail, or the marble that shall crumble into dust, but upon mind, upon spirit, which is to last forever, and which is to bear, for good or evil, throughout its duration, the impress of a mother's plastic hand.
Our security for the duration of the free institutions which bless our country, depends upon the habits of virtue and the prevalence of knowledge and of education. Knowledge does not comprise all which is contained in the larger term of education. The feelings are to be disciplined; the passions are to be restrained; true and worthy motives are to be inspired; a profound religious feeling is to be instilled; and pure morality inculcated under all circumstances. All this is comprised in education. Mothers who are faithful to this great duty will tell their children that, neither in political nor in any other concerns of life, can man ever withdraw himself from the perpetual obligations of conscience and of duty; that, in every act, whether public or private, he incurs a just responsibility; and that in no condition is he warranted in trifling with important rights and obligations. They will impress upon their children the truth, that the exercise of the elective franchise is a social duty of as solemn a nature as man can be called to perform; that a man may not innocently trifle with his vote; that every free elector is a trustee, as well for others as himself; and that every man, every measure he supports, has an important bearing on the interests of others as well as his own. It is in the inculcation of high and pure morals, such as these, that, in a free republic, woman performs her sacred duty, and fulfills her destiny.
Godey's Lady's Book