A sturdy but quiet independence; a genuine love of righteousness and truth; a life of uprightness and integrity, of honesty and fair dealing; an absence of cringing and paltering, and of that miserable and contemptible fawning upon the rich, and that silly and despicable worship of those in place and power, which is too frequently to be observed;–all these things, and others, must receive care and attention before the ideal stage of manhood can be reached…
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
Final Entry (#39) in the Raising Great Americans Project! Click Here to learn More!
THE IDEAL CITIZEN
Voters are the uncrowned kings who rule the nation.
A second-rate man can never make a first-rate citizen.
–J. S. White
Every good man in politics wields a power for good.
–M. C. Peters
If you want a clean city, vote to place the government in clean hands.
–Dr. Mc Glynn
The ideal citizen is the man who believes that all men are brothers,
and that the nation is merely an extension of his family.
We may now proceed to bring our studies to a close. All that has been said, from the beginning, has been gradually but surely focusing itself upon a single point; for the development of all these several faculties and powers leads directly to the forming of a well-rounded and fully-developed manhood.
A fully-developed manhood is the highest possible human achievement, and includes within itself all that can be desired; and for this higher manhood we now make our final and most urgent plea.
The real man is discovered in the sum total of his ideas; for it is in these that his life takes shape and character, it is in these that his true self comes into view. The real power of the true man lies in his being able to turn his thoughts inward upon himself; to so gauge and measure his own powers as to put them to the best uses; and to stand aloof from those positions and practices for which he finds himself to be unfitted.
The simple application of this rule to the practical affairs of today would diminish the number of our machine politicians by about four fifths. We are loaded down, almost to the breaking point, with politicians who do not understand politics, and who advocate measures which are not for the public good, because the public good is not the end for which they strive. But the fault is in the men themselves, rather than in our political system. They must first be made manly, before they can be made truly useful. They must first learn to govern themselves, before they can successfully carry forward the work of governing the nation. They must be taught that bluster is not argument, and that to go through the motions of political service does not in the least aid in the promotion of the public welfare. A single service rendered from the heart is often of more value than a whole life of noisy and showy pretense; but again we say that such service is almost always the result of a thoughtful and considerate manliness.
All this applies with equal force to the private citizen. A sturdy but quiet independence; a genuine love of righteousness and truth; a life of uprightness and integrity, of honesty and fair dealing; an absence of cringing and paltering, and of that miserable and contemptible fawning upon the rich, and that silly and despicable worship of those in place and power, which is too frequently to be observed;–all these things, and others, must receive care and attention before the ideal stage of manhood can be reached.
The manly man is a thinking being. By this we do not mean to say that he imagines that he is running the universe, and that no one but himself is acquainted with the secrets of its mechanism; but that he has a right to weigh all questions in the scales of his own reason, and to draw his own conclusions from the facts presented to his mind. If he be truly a man, he will hold to that which he feels to be true against all opposition, but will, with equal readiness, yield in all points where he discovers himself to be in the wrong. Instead of going through life in political leading-strings, bending to the will of one man, and gulping down the opinions of another, he will stand upon his own feet, put his own vertebral column to its legitimate use of sustaining his body, and his own mind to its legitimate use of directing the issues of his life.
The ideal citizen will also be a gentleman. By this term, we do not mean the milk-and-water, kid-gloved creature, who so often attempts to pass muster in this connection. All that we have asked for in the man, we insist on in the gentleman. Sturdy independence, vigorous thought, mental and moral uprightness, and a backbone as strong as a bar of steel,–but all tempered with a gentleness of disposition and a courtesy of manner which brings every natural faculty and power beneath its sway, and yet leaves principle and righteousness entirely undisturbed.
The real gentleman is, above all else, courteous and considerate. He is master of himself, and that at all points,–in his carriage, his temper, his aims, and his desires. Calm, quiet, and temperate, he will not allow himself to be hasty in judgment or exorbitant in ambition; nor will he suffer himself to be overbearing or grasping, arrogant or oppressive.
The ideal citizen will also be, in the better sense of the word, a politician. Be careful to note here that we say, a politician in the better sense. We would have you distinguish, with the utmost clearness, between a politician and a partisan. The true politician, looking ever to the highest interests of the state, is a public benefactor; while it very frequently happens that the mere political partisan is a public nuisance, if not a public disgrace.
The man who sinks his country’s interests in his own, and the man who sacrifices his personal advantages for the sake of his country’s good, stand at the very opposite poles of human society. The man who swears by party watchwords, and moves amid the burning animosities of party strife, is centering his life in interests which may vanish like an evening cloud. Not in the loud clamors of partisan struggle, are we to find the secret highways which lead to national prosperity and progress, but in that quiet, thoughtful, careful study of the interests and events in which the national life is taking shape and color, and in the application to these of the great principles of righteousness and common sense.
This is about equal to saying that the ideal citizen will be a patriot. We have so mixed in our minds the two distinct ideas of patriotism and heroism, that we have need to pause for a moment, that we may disentangle ourselves from the meshes of this net of misconception, before we venture to proceed.
If we call for an illustration of patriotism, you point us to some Horatius or Leonidas of the olden times; or to some William Tell, or Ulysses Grant, of these more modern days. We do not say that these men were not patriots, and patriots of a high order too. But their circumstances were exceptional, and under these exceptional circumstances their patriotism made them heroes. But if you will enter into a careful study of the matter, you will find that it is the heroism, quite as much as the patriotism of their lives, which takes so strong a hold upon your hearts.
We therefore desire to place by the side of our beloved Grant, the man who, in the midst of a bitter struggle for bread, can barely manage by the closest possible economy to keep his family from want and shame, but who still sacrifices an hour’s wages that he may go to the polls and vote the expression of his will, and thus support the measures which he honestly believes to be for the public good; and we desire to say that, on the ground of a true patriotism, we consider that the one is fully the equal of the other, and that there is a sense in which the man of smaller opportunities is the greater hero of the two.
There may be a thousand definitions of heroism, but the patriot is simply “a man who places his country’s interests before his own.” He is a patriot who fills well his station in life whether public or private, who loves peace and promotes order, who labors to uphold the good and to put down the bad. He is a patriot who uses all his advantages of friendship, acquaintance, business connection, social position and the like, in such a manner as to make these helps and not hindrances to his country’s progress. He is a patriot who seeks to aid in all movements that look to the instruction, elevation, and permanent betterment of his fellow-citizens, and to put down all such movements or institutions as tend to demoralize and degrade them. Such is the patriotism we plead for; and such patriotism and ideal citizenship are, in our minds, just one and the same thing.
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.