Letter II. October 3, 1818
My dear Greaves,
Our great object is the development of the infant mind, - and our great means, the agency of mothers.
A most important question then presents itself at the very outset of our inquiries. Has the mother the qualifications requisite for the duties and exercises we would impose on her? I feel myself bound to enter into this question, and to give it, if possible, an answer fully decisive, requesting your attention to the subject, as I feel persuaded, that if my views coincide with your own, you will agree with the reasoning founded on my statement.
Yes! I would say, the mother is qualified, and qualified by her Creator himself, to become the principal agent in the development of her child. The most ardent desire for its good is already implanted in her heart; and what power can be more influential, more stimulating, than (maternal love?) -the most gentle, and, at the same time, the most intrepid power in the whole system of nature. Yes: the mother is qualified, for Providence has also gifted her with the faculties required for her task. And here I feel it necessary to explain what is the task I refer to as peculiarly hers. It is not anything beyond her reach I would demand, - it is not a certain degree or description of knowledge, usually implied in what is vulgarly called a (finished) education, though, if she happen to possess such knowledge, the day will come for opening her treasury, and giving to her children what she may choose: but at the period we speak of, all the knowledge acquired in the most accomplished education, would not facilitate her task; for what I would demand of her is only - A thinking love. Love, of course, I presume to be the first requisite, and that which will always present itself, - only modified, perhaps, under various forms. All I would request of a mother, would be, to let her love act as strongly as it may, but to season it, in the exercise, with thought.
And I should indeed entreat a mother, by the very love which she bears to her children, to bestow a moment of calm reflection on the nature of her duties. I do not mean to lead her into an artificial discussion; maternal love might be lost in the maze of philosophical investigation. But there is that in her feelings, which, in a shorter way, by a more direct process, may lead her to truth. To this I would appeal. Let it not be concealed from her, that her duties are both easy and difficult; but I hope there is no mother that has not found the highest reward in overcoming impediments in such a cause: and the whole of her duties will gradually open before her, if she will but dwell upon that simple, yet awful and elevating idea, "My children are born for eternity, and confided expressly to me, that I may educate them for being children of God."
"Mother!" I would say to her, "responsible mother! look around thee! what diversity of pursuits, what variety of calling! some agitated in the turmoil of a restless life; others courting repose in the bosom of retirement. Of all the different actors that surround thee, whose vocation appears most sacred, most solemn, most holy? 'Doubtless his, thou art ready to exclaim, whose life is dedicated to the spiritual elevation of human nature! How happy must he be, whose calling it is to lead others to happiness, and happiness everlasting.' Well! happy mother! his calling is thine. Shrink not at the idea, - tremble not at the comparison. Think not I arrogate for thee a station beyond thy deserts, - fear not lest temptations to vanity lie hid in my suggestion, - but raise thy heart in gratitude to Him who has entrusted thee with so high a province, - try to render thyself worthy of the confidence reposed in thee. Talk not of deficiencies in thy knowledge, love shall supply them; - of limitation in thy means, - Providence shall enlarge them; - of weakness in thy energies, - the Spirit of Power himself shall strengthen them: - look to that Spirit for all that thou dost want, and especially for those two grand, preeminent requisites, (courage and humility.") (PSW p. 48-50)