On the Excessive Indulgence of American Parents

We just came across this complaint about parenting practices:

“When Mr. Tomlinson opened [the New Bern Academy], he was apprized of the excessive Indulgence of American Parents, and the great difficulty of keeping up a proper discipline; more especially as his school consisted of numbers of both Sexes.”

Sound familiar? Apparently it’s an age-old problem. This quote is from a letter written by James Reed in 1772. Reed was a missionary for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, a British missionary group, and was serving in Craven County, North Carolina, home of the Newbern (then spelled as one word) Academy. Reed goes on:

“But when the children grew excessive headstrong, stubborn and unruly, & likely to endanger the welfare of his School, he used to correct and turn them out of School, & make some little difficulties about their Readmission. Unfortunately for Mr. Tomlinson, this piece of policy gave very great umbrage to two of the trustees, who ever since their children were corrected and turned out of School, have been his most implacable enemies.”

One of the staff members working on the digital edition of the Colonial Records of North Carolina found the letter. The digital version isn’t ready just yet, so for now you’ll have to go to the books to read the whole letter: you can find it in the published Colonial Records of North Carolina, vol. 9, pp. 238-244.

0 thoughts on “On the Excessive Indulgence of American Parents”

  1. My how things change in seven years! In volume VII, pp. 35-36 of the “Colonial and State Records of North Carolina” you can find a 1765 petition from the inhabitants of Newbern in which they sing the praises of Thomas Thomlinson, who arrived from England around the beginning of 1764. In asking the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel for a supplement to Thomlinson’s salary, the concerned citizens state “that the said T. Thomlinson should continue amongst them as a Schoolmaster whom to their general satisfaction they have experienced to be well qualified by Precept and Example to instruct their children.”

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