The Life-Shaping Power of Order

Order is the sanity of the mind, the health of the body, the peace of the city, and the security of the state…

An Excerpt from You Can Be a Great American! 39 Steps to True and Lasting Greatness (a Growing Up Great Guide for American Boys and for the Parents and Teachers Who Love Them), by W. F. Markwick and W. A. Smith

Entry #26 in the Raising Great Americans Project! Click Here to learn More!







Accuracy is the twin brother of honesty.

— C. Simmons

Without method, little can be done to any good purpose.

— Macaulay

A place for everything, and everything in its place.

— Old Proverb

Order is the law of all intelligible existence.

— Blackie

Order is the sanity of the mind, the health of the body,
the peace of the city, and the security of the state.

— Southey


The two words “order” and “method” are so closely akin to each other that it is quite difficult to separate them, even in the mind. “Order is heaven’s first law,” it is said; also, “Method consists in the right choice of means to an end.” Here a distinction is made; but the two words taken together, cover the line of thought we now wish to follow.

Children nowadays do not learn to read as they once did. They go to kindergartens; but order is the rule even in such play-schools, and it is the one great reason why they succeed. All schools and colleges depend upon order for successful work. He who every morning plans the transactions of the day,” says Victor Hugo, “and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life. The orderly arrangement of his time is like a ray of light which darts itself through all his occupations. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidents, all things lie huddled together in one chaos, which admits of neither distribution nor review.”

There is no talent like method; and no accomplishment that man can possess, like perseverance. These two powers will usually overcome every obstacle; and there is no position which a young man may not hope to secure, when, guided by these principles, he sets out upon the great highway of life. In after years, the manners and habits of the man are not so readily adapted to any prescribed course to which they have been unaccustomed. But in youth habits of system, method, and industry, are as easily formed as others; and the benefits and enjoyments which result from them, are more than the wealth and honors which they always secure.

“Never study on speculation,” says Waters; “all such study is vain. Form a plan, have an object; then work for it, learn all you can about it, and you will be sure to succeed. What I mean by studying on speculation, is that aimless learning of things because they may be useful at some time; which is like the conduct of the woman who bought at auction a brass door-plate with the name Thompson on it, thinking it might some day be of service.”

Orderly boys and girls are fair scholars, firm friends, and good planners; they make few mistakes, and succeed pretty well in all they do. Order does not make a genius; but a genius without order is exasperating when he is a man, and is only pardoned for his want of order when he is a boy because he is expected to do better each day. Begin with orderly habits; next day try order in thought; and then will follow naturally order in principles.

“You would be the greatest man of your age, Grattan,” said Curran, “if you would buy a few yards of red tape and tie up your bills and papers.” Curran realized that methodical people are accurate as a rule, and successful.

The celebrated Nathaniel Emmons, whose learning made him famous through all New England, claimed that he could not work at all, unless order reigned about him. For more than fifty years the same chairs stood in the same places in his study; his hat hung on the same hook; the shovel stood on the north side of the open fireplace, and the tongs on the south side; and all his books and papers were so arranged that he claimed to be able to find any information he needed in three or four minutes.

The demand for perfection in the make-up of Wendell Phillips was wonderful. Every word must express the exact shade of his thought; every phrase must be of due length and cadence; every sentence must be perfectly balanced before it left his lips. Exact precision characterized his style. He was easily the first legal orator America has produced. The rhythmical fullness and poise of his periods are remarkable.

A. T. Stewart was extremely systematic and precise in all his transactions. Method ruled in every department of his store, and for every delinquency a penalty was rigidly enforced. His eye was upon his business in all its various branches; he mastered every detail and worked hard.

It has also been repeatedly asserted that Noah Webster never could have prepared his dictionary in thirty-six years, unless the most exacting method had come to the rescue. He himself claimed that his orderly methods saved him ten or twenty years, and a vast amount of anxiety and trouble.

Good habits are the first steps in order for children,–punctuality, neatness, a place for everything. Yet, do not let habits master you, so that you never can do anything except in a fixed manner at a fixed time, and cannot give up your way of doing for the sake of something greater.

It is true, however, that there is a wonderful force in mere regularity. A writer by the name of Bergh tells of a man beginning business, who opened and shut his store at the same hour every day for weeks, without selling two cents’ worth of goods, yet whose application attracted attention and paved the way to fortune.

Sir Walter Scott has also said that “When a regiment is under march, the rear is often thrown into confusion because the front does not move steadily and without interruption. It is the same thing with business. If that which is first in hand be not instantly, steadily, and regularly dispatched, other things accumulate behind, till affairs begin to press all at once, and no human brain can stand the confusion.”

The great enemy of order is laziness. It is too much trouble to do a thing when it ought to be done, instead of doing it when you want to do it. Young people should learn to think, talk, read in an orderly manner.

The country, the state, the town, the home, depend upon order. Supposing each person did what he wished, without regard to the welfare of others,–that meals, parties, lessons, came at any time; that caucuses and elections happened when any one desired them; that prisons and hospitals took people or not, just as superintendents felt; that everybody was a self-constituted policeman, yet no one wanted to be looked after himself;–what a hard time all people would have!

A very important point still remains to be noticed. It is this: Our principles ought to be strong enough to govern our habits. Habits may make us disagreeable and fussy; principles make us broad, far-seeing, sympathetic, and independent. Success in life depends upon having the principle of order. Always do the important thing first; for that is what order means. Some boys and girls are orderly about their rooms, but disorderly in their ways of doing things,–always in a hurry, and always puzzled what to do next. Orderly people make plans, allow a margin of time for carrying them out, so that they shall not overlap one duty with another; and then, if there is any time left, they fill it with some extra employment or enjoyment, which they have kept in the background all ready for use.




If John Wesley had not been such an orderly boy, he never could have been the founder of Methodism. He was born at Epworth, England, in 1703, and had nineteen brothers and sisters, though only ten of them lived long enough to be educated.

His brother Charles was his intimate companion. When students at Oxford, they and two other friends formed a small society, which was called the “Holy Club” by those who laughed at it. They had sets of questions, labeled in order for their examination. From the exact regularity of their lives and their methods of study, they came to be called Methodists, in allusion to some ancient physicians who were so termed. The name was so quaint that it became immediately popular. They visited the poor and sick, and had regular lists of inquiries and rules for general use.

All the orderly habits of his youth guided him even when he became a man; and the amount of work he accomplished is almost beyond belief. In the last three years of his life, although sick nearly all the time, he preached as many times as ever until a week before his death, in 1791. Always anxious never to lose a moment, and to be methodical in all his habits, he read as he traveled on horseback for forty years. He delivered forty thousand sermons, and wrote many books and essays, and gave away in charity one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, which was a great sum in those days.

The secret of John Wesley’s success began in his love of order, and culminated in the wonderful, orderly discipline of the immense Methodist denomination. At his death there were nearly eighty thousand members, whose leaders, great and little, had definite duties to perform. Yet, in his love for order, he never lost sight of individual poor and sick people, but remembered to serve each one.

This Article is an Excerpt from You Can Be a Great American! 39 Steps to True and Lasting Greatness (a Growing Up Great Guide for American Boys and for the Parents and Teachers Who Love Them), by W. F. Markwick and W. A. Smith, which is available from Better Days Books in quality hardbound, sturdy trade paperback and convenient .PDF e-book editions starting at just $4.95.

Industry, Ambition, Self Control, Self-Respect, Courtesy, Faithfulness, Courage, Duty, Honesty, Enthusiasm, Humility, Patriotism… In every era of our Nation’s history, the true alchemy by which ordinary boys have been transformed into Great American Men has always and only occurred where these indispensible moral principles have been successfully applied. In an age like our own, where such manly ideals are openly mocked and derided by our popular culture, it’s time to turn to the past to recapture a clear vision of what it takes to be a Great American, and the true moral and ethical ladder that leads reliably to its attainment.

You Can Be a Great American: 39 Steps to True and Lasting Greatness was first published in 1900, under the title The True Citizen, How to Become One, and contains 39 essential lessons in manhood tailored to each age and transition in a boy’s life, from infancy to adulthood. It is the clearest roadmap to American Greatness ever compiled for the youth of our Nation, and remains as life-changing today as it was when first published, over 100 years ago.

Whether you are an adult raising boys in a Traditional family setting, the single parent of a son, or a boy abandoned to no or poor parenting, left to grab your own bootstraps and lift yourself up to a life of achievement, success and All-American Greatness (or an adult who knows a boy in such sad straits), You Can Be a Great American!: 39 Steps to True and Lasting Greatness is the only guidebook you’ll ever need.

Also available through in quality trade paperback and Kindle e-book download editions.


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