Edmund Burke, writing of the French Revolution, declared, "Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without." Since his day the control over will and appetite has shifted increasingly from the individual to the legal and economic system of the state. One aspect of that change may be traced in the lives of Rev. Abiel Holmes, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, his son, and Mr. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., his grandson.
Rev. Abiel Holmes, pastor of the First Congregational Church of Cambridge, Mass, was 45 years old when his son Oliver Wendell was born in 1809. Mrs. Holmes' family, the Wendells, was more distinguished than that of Rev. Holmes. Her father was a judge, and her ancestors included the first published American poet and a governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.