parent who has ever helped their child move into a dorm room on a hot summer day
at the beginning of their freshman year in college will understand the letter
former Gov. E.M. Pease sent to one of his daughters in 1866.
the letter on Jan. 3 that year, not quite eight months after the Civil War ended.
Her college education perhaps delayed because of the war, his daughter apparently
had just left home for school. Addressed to “My Dearest Daughter,” the letter
contained 13 rules –and that’s what he called them – for her to abide by while
While Pease did not use his daughter’s name, he probably was
writing his oldest daughter, Carrie Augusta. She was born in 1851 and given that
secondary school did not last as long then as it does now, she would have been
college age in 1866.
“I wish you to read over these rules occasionally,
and try to observe them,” he wrote.
Despite the passage of nearly a century-and-a-half,
the rules still make pretty good sense, especially from the perspective of parents
with kids in college. The rules also reflect on the character of the man who promulgated
them, one of the better-regarded 19th century Texas chief executives. He served
from 1853 to 1857 and from 1867 to 1869 during Reconstruction.
first rule was for his daughter to “be particular to observe all the rules of
the Institution.” (The letter does not mention what school his daughter was attending,
but his second daughter Julie went to Vasser.) Rule number two was to go to church
every Sunday “when your health permits.”
The third rule reminded her to
“be always kind and pleasant to your teacher and follow their directions. It will
make them kind and attentive to you.”
The former governor’s fourth rule
had to do with learning skills. “If there is anything in your studies that you
do not fully understand,” he wrote, “always ask your teachers to explain it. This
will show them that you are interested in what you are doing and make them [be]
more patient with you.”
Rule five also centered on scholastic behavior:
“Never practice any deception towards your Teachers or any person, but explain
frankly if you have violated any rule or done anything wrong,” Pease wrote.
next subset of rules focused on self-management and personal conduct.
“When you have any thing to do,” Pease wrote, “do it at once, and you will always
have plenty of leisure. It is only people who put off doing things when they ought
to be done, that have no leisure.”
Rules seven and eight had to do with
character. The seventh urged his daughter to avoid having any disputes with her
fellow students or anyone else, for that matter. “When you find that conversation
is tending that way, drop it and introduce some new subject,” he advised. The
other rule directed his daughter, in the event she did an injustsice to anyone
“in speech, action or thought” to “take the first opportunity to correct it.”
The next group of rules set forth by the former governor involved organization:
“Always put every thing in its proper place, when you have done using it.” This,
he pointed out, “will save you much trouble in looking for things when you want
them, and will soon become a habit with you.”
In his 10th rule, Pease
directed his daughter to always keep herself, her clothing and her shoes clean.
In line with that, his 11th rule urged his daughter to mend her clothing as soon
as it needed mending.
The governor’s next-to-the-last rule, another practical
injunction, was for his daughter to “Make a little book of a sheet or two of paper,
and write down every article of clothing that you send to the wash, and when they
come back compare them with your list and if any thing is missing, hunt it up
Pease’s final rule is perhaps the most timeless: “Write to your
Mama and Papa at least once each week.” To make that easier, he suggested that
his daughter pick a certain day for mailing her letter and “never let that day
pass without doing it [even if] it contains no more than ten lines.”
he urged his daughter to “write…freely about all your troubles and vexations,
and they [he and his wife] will sympathize with and advise you.”
Pease asked his daughter to remember that her parents “are the truest friends
you can have.” He ended the letter with, “Your dear Papa.”
Cox - November 13, 2012 column
Related Topics: Fathers
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