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to act a part more honourable and more decided than can be acted by one who is the mere inftrument of the will of another. The only guard which can effectually defend us from fin and error must be clear and precife ideas of that which is falutary and good, and of that which is pernicious and wicked.
You are a reasonable and an accountable
being; but you are yet too young, and too uninformed, to direct with fafety your own conduct. Providence has wifely and mercifully committed this feafon of your life to the care and guidance of others; and with abounding mercy to you, these are parents, forcibly impreffed with a due fenfe of the authority thus delegated to them.
In this difpenfation of goodness, I doubt not but that my Eliza will find strong inducements for gratitude; for most affuredly no blessing in this world can be put in competition with that of being protected and inftructed by good parents. You muft, however, seriously reflect that neither their zeal nor their abilities can exempt you
from the neceffity of exercising your own reafon, nor excuse those errors which the neglect of fo doing may and will produce.
There is no period of life, beyond the fhort ftage of infancy, in which we are not called upon to employ the faculties of our own minds, and the powers of our own understandings; and nature has wifely proportioned our field of action to their dawning ftrength. We foon perceive the diftinguishing and effential differences between a good action and a bad one, between truth and falfehood, gratitude and ingratitude; and as our minds mature, and our sphere of life enlarges, we become more and more able to inveftigate the motives of moral action and our own conduct.
I believe that, young as you are, you are prepared for the inferences which I mean to draw from what I have already advanced, and on which I ret ufeful to you: for I
my hopes of being think all authority
which does not reft on the folid bafis of reafon, ufurpation; and in confequence of
this opinion I have, with the most diligent attention, made you the arbiter of my conduct refpecting you in every inftance in which I conceived you capable of judging. I have constantly and clearly laid before you my reasons for privations, and my motives for indulgence; convinced that you would contemplate kindness as much in the former as in the latter, and that you would perceive your advantage and happiness closely linked with both. By this mode of treatment I think you have acquired a facility of judging, and many marks and indications that belong to a difcriminating mind, and a quick perception of truth and utility.
But youth, my Eliza, is liable to inconfideration, and reafon and confcience are fometimes filenced by the various and alluring objects which fancy and defire place in their way. If their vigilance be fufpended, if their authority be fuffered to sleep, at this period of your life, the confequences are doubly mischievous; for you will not only have to fear the evils which are infe
parably attached to acting without their restraint, but even their power of governing you will be loft; for the reafon and confcience which are not diligently exercifed will foon become torpid and useless.
The reft of this letter is intended as a wholesome exercife for the best part of your mind; and I cheerfully expect from it a decifion which fhall fatisfy me that you will not like a coward fly from the appeal.
During your coufins' late vifit we admitted a card-table into our arrangements for the evening's recreation. As our guests, it became in fome measure incumbent upon us to confult their tafte, rather than our own, in the choice of our amusement. You very cheerfully fubmitted, and only pleaded your entire ignorance of every fort of game. I proposed a party at commerce, as being eafy for you to learn, and convenient for our number. The first evening was devoted to teaching you the game; and I believe you will recollect your wild spirits, which overfet the table and candles in preparing
the room for a game of blindman's buff, which was unanimously agreed upon at the close of your first lesson, and in which you wanted no inftruction or guide beyond your agility.
No fooner was the tea-equipage removed on the following evening, than our young guests clamorously demanded the cards. Your filence was difregarded, and the circle was formed round the table. You languidly diftributed the fifh, faying that you thought the night remarkably cold, and wished for a country dance. George Stanley, without noticing your wishes, asked me what I chose to make the pool-basket. I replied, fmiling, that I would for that night be the bank, and dropped into the basket half-a-guinea. Infenfibly you became attentive, and caught the eagerness of your companions; faw the defeat of your next neighbour's hand with triumph; and admitted, or refufed, the fuggefted plans of your adviser George Stanley as your own prudence fuggefted; and finally shared the