We must never forget, as we think or speak of patriotism, that such private virtues as honesty and industry, are its best helps. Whatever tends to make men wiser and better is a service to the nation. The country will one day be in the hands of those who are now boys and girls; and to you, we say, serve it, guard it, and do all that you can to promote its good….
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 #31 in the Raising Great Americans Project! Click Here to learn More!
The noblest motive is the public good.
The one best omen is to fight for fatherland.
Patriotism is a principle fraught with high impulses and noble thoughts.
The revolutionist has seldom any other
object but to sacrifice his country to himself.
It is impossible that a man who is false to
his friends should be true to his country.
Patriotism is defined by Noah Webster as “the passion which aims to serve one’s country.” As it is natural to love our home, it is natural to love our country also. As the poorest homes are sometimes most tenderly loved, so the poorest and barest country is sometimes held in most affection. There is, perhaps, not a country in the world the inhabitants of which have not, at some time or other, been willing to suffer and die for it.
But as we think of our land, we quickly perceive that no body of young people ever had a more valuable inheritance than that which we have received; and we are under the greatest obligations to protect and preserve this land, and transmit it, full of the grandest achievements and most glorious recollections, to posterity.
This affection is natural, because the town and the nation in which one has lived, is, like the home, bound up with all the experiences of one’s life. The games of childhood, the affection of parents, the love of friends, all the joys, the sorrows, the activities of life, are bound up in the thought of one’s native land.
It is not merely natural to be patriotic, but it is also reasonable and right. Nearly all that makes life pleasant and desirable, comes to us through the town or the nation to which we belong. Think how many thousands in our country have toiled for us! They have made roads, and they have built churches and schoolhouses. They have established malls and post offices. They have cultivated farms to provide for our needs, and have built ships that cross the ocean to bring to us the good things which we could not produce at home. They have provided protection against wrongdoers; so that if we sleep in peace, and work and study and play in safety, we are indebted for all this to the town and nation.
When the bells are ringing, and the cannons are firing, on the Fourth of July, we must not think merely of the noise and fun. We must remember those who on that day agreed that they would risk their lives and everything that was dear to them, that their country might be free. We must also think of those who in times of peril have given themselves for their nation’s good; of those who found the land a wilderness, and suffered pain and privation while they made the beginning of a nation. We must think of those who, ever since that time, when ever the liberty or the unity of the nation has been in peril, have sprung to its defense.
At the end of the war of the revolution, Washington was at the head of a mighty army, and was the object of the enthusiastic love of the whole people. He might easily have made himself a king or an emperor. It was a marvel to the civilized world when he quietly laid down all his power. He suffered himself to be twice chosen president; and then he became simply a private citizen. This seems to us now the most natural thing in the world; but really it was something very rare, and gave him a fame such as few heroes of the world enjoy.
There have been heroes in peace as well as in war, men who have conquered the wilderness, who have upheld justice, and have helped on whatever was good and noble. And there are also many persons among us who are unworthy to live in our country, because they are not willing to suffer the least inconvenience on its account.
Then there are many men who are even so unpatriotic as to sell their votes. Think of all the cost of money and of noble lives at which our liberty has been won. Think how, in many parts of the world, men are looking with longing at the liberty which we enjoy; yet there are those to whom this hard-won freedom means so little that they do not strive to further the country’s interests in any way.
We must never forget, as we think or speak of patriotism, that such private virtues as honesty and industry, are its best helps. Whatever tends to make men wiser and better is a service to the nation. The country will one day be in the hands of those who are now boys and girls; and to you, we say, serve it, guard it, and do all that you can to promote its good.
There is a fine field for the exercise of patriotism in trying to improve the condition of affairs in the towns and cities in which we live. We find ourselves in the midst of a conflict between the criminal classes on the one hand, and the people on the other,–a conflict as stern as was ever endured upon the battlefield, amid the glitter of cold steel and the rattle of musketry.
The man or woman of the school committee, working conscientiously that the boys and girls shall have the best education to fit them for future life, is a patriot. The teacher who patiently works on with that great end in view, is the same. If greed or bigotry claims from town, city, or country, that which will debase her people, every boy and girl, every man and woman, should instantly frown it down. This is true patriotism, and the influence of every person is needed for the right.
Every good man in politics wields a power for good. Every good man not in politics is to blame for political corruption, because by neglecting his plain duty he adds to the strength of the enemy. Let it be known that, with you, principle amounts to something; that character counts; that questionable party service cannot count upon your suffrage.
But little has been written of the child-life of John Adams, the second president of the United States; a man of unflinching honesty, and a patriot of the noblest order.
The Adamses were an honest, faithful people. They were not rich, neither were they poor; but being thrifty and economical, they lived with comfort. Stern integrity was the predominant quality of the farmer’s home into which John Adams was born in 1735. It must be remembered, throughout his life it was the sturdy qualities of his ancestors that made him the statesman and patriot whom we know.
The boy did not show much fondness for books. He preferred life out of doors among the birds and the squirrels, roaming the woods,–living just the life a wide-awake boy on a farm would lead nowadays.
His father gave him the opportunity of a liberal education, and he entered Harvard College when he was sixteen years old. It is curious to note that the students were all enrolled according to social position, and John Adams was the fourteenth in his class. In college he was noted for integrity and energy as well as for ability,–those qualities which the sturdy line of farmers had handed down to their children.
The year he graduated, then twenty years of age, he became teacher of the grammar school in Worcester, Massachusetts. There he earned the money to aid him in studying his profession, and the training was excellent for the young man. He decided that he would be a lawyer, and he wrote: “But I set out with firm resolutions, never to commit any meanness or injustice in the practice of law.”
There were stirring times in the colonies when John Adams was thirty years old. The British government imposed taxes and searched for goods which had evaded their officers. The matter was brought before the Superior Court. James Otis argued the cause of the merchants; and John Adams listened intently to all this great man said. He afterwards wrote:
“Otis was a flame of fire…. American independence was then and there born. Every man appeared to be ready to get away and to take up arms.”
Then the Stamp Act was issued. John Adams’s whole soul was fired with indignation at the injustice. He drew up a set of resolutions, remonstrating against it. These were adopted, not only by the citizens of Braintree, but by those of more than forty other towns in Massachusetts; and the landing of the Stamp Act paper was prevented. Courts were closed, and the excitement was intense. John Adams boldly said that the Stamp Act was an assumption of arbitrary power, violating both the English constitution and the charter of the province.
In connection with what is known as “The Boston Tea Party,” came the closing of Boston’s ports, because the tea had been thrown overboard, and the city would not submit to the tax. A Congress was convened in Philadelphia, and John Adams was one of the five delegates sent from Boston. He knew the grave responsibility of the time. With intense feeling he exclaimed: “God grant us wisdom and fortitude! Should this country submit, what infamy and ruin! Death in any form is less terrible!”
Jefferson and Adams were appointed to draw up the Declaration of Independence. Mr. Adams insisted that Jefferson should prepare it, and he with forty-four others signed it. Mr. Jefferson wrote: “The great pillar of support to the Declaration of Independence, and its ablest advocate and champion on the floor of the House, was John Adams. He was our Colossus.”
In various ways, John Adams served his country with unswerving loyalty. When Washington was chosen president, Adams was chosen vice-president for both terms, and was then elected president. To the very last he was always ready to give his word–strong, convincing, powerful as of old–in the defense of the right, even if he had to stand entirely alone. And the story of his manly independence will always add to the dignity of the early history of our nation.
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.