Children are the true and undeniable property of the parents. No other property right is as well established as this one; and although it deviates from the common property right with respect to its content – because persons in the process of becoming are the object of this property right, not mere things – and is substantially restricted in its exercise by virtue of the nature of its object: nevertheless, this alters nothing in the relationship to all other persons; that is to say, with respect to them it is a strictly exclusive and inviolable relationship. Whoever doubts this right should consider that even spouses are the property, one of the other; that is, they belong exclusively one to the other, and that the connection of the child to the parents is obviously even more intimate and truer than that between husband and wife. The children belong to the parents, just like the parts of their own lives belong to them. Moreover, who would deny the mother the ownership of her child, which she carries beneath her heart, or, after having carried it there, is now nursing it at her breast? Admittedly less obvious, though equally evident to the legal mind and equally understandable by natural feeling, is the mother’s continuing ownership – even after weaning – of the child she has born and suckled, whose further – if nothing else, physical – care still demands unceasing attention, effort, and sleepless nights. The same is demanded of the father, merely as the progenitor and then as the natural co-owner and co-possessor of all the goods belonging to the wife, and the ongoing participant in all the worries and exertions to preserve and rear the child, and finally also as the head of the family, and as the person especially burdened with the continually growing and increasingly important matters pertaining to the child’s upbringing, education, and care.
Finally, this property right of the parents to their children, defined by its content and limited by the quality of its subject as a becoming person, and constrained not only within these boundaries, but guided in its exercise by natural feeling and the moral law toward the continual well-being of the child, is linked with real legal obligations or duties by virtue of the relationship of the parents to each other, as spouses, and of the two together to the society around them. [ . . . ]