From: The True Citizen How To Become One
(Category: The Youth
The best hearts are always the bravest.--Sterne
In noble souls, valor does not wait for years.--Corneille
Courage is always greatest when blended with meekness.--Earl Stanhope
A brave man hazards life, but not his conscience.--Schiller
A great deal of talent is lost in the world for want of a little
The definition of courage given by Webster is, "that quality of mind
which enables men to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness or
without fear or depression of spirits." We would rather say that courage
does not consist in feeling no fear, but in conquering fear. Our meaning
will perhaps be best made clear by the following illustrations:
Two French officers at Waterloo were advancing to charge a greatly
superior force. One, observing that the other showed signs of fear, said
"Sir, I believe you are frightened." "Yes, I am," was the reply; "and if
you were half as much frightened, you would run away."
"That's a brave man," said Wellington, when he saw a soldier turn pale
as he marched against a battery; "he knows his danger, and faces it."
Genuine courage is based on something more than animal strength; and
this holds true always. Cowardly hearts are often encased in giant
frames. Slender women often display astounding bravery.
The courageous man is a real helper in the work of the world's
advancement. His influence is magnetic. He creates an epidemic of
nobleness. Men follow him, even to the death.
"Our enemies are before us," exclaimed the Spartans at Thermopylae. "And
we are before them," was the cool reply of Leonidas. "Deliver your
arms," came the message from Xerxes. "Come and take them," was the
answer Leonidas sent back. A Persian soldier said: "You will not be able
to see the sun for flying javelins and arrows." "Then we will fight in
the shade," replied a Lacedaemonian. What wonder that a handful of such
men checked the march of the greatest host that ever trod the earth.
Don't be like Uriah Heep, begging everybody's pardon for taking the
liberty of being in the world. There is nothing attractive in timidity,
nothing lovable in fear. Both are deformities, and are repulsive. Manly
courage is dignified and graceful.
The spirit of courage will transform the whole temper of your life. "The
wise and active conquer difficulties by daring to attempt them. The lazy
and the foolish shiver and sicken at the sight of trial and hazard, and
create the very impossibility they fear."
Abraham Lincoln's boyhood was one long struggle with poverty, with
little education, and no influential friends. When at last he had begun
the practice of law, it required no little daring to cast his fortune
with the weaker side in politics, and thus imperil what small
reputation he had gained. Only the most sublime moral courage could
have sustained him as President to hold his ground against hostile
criticism and a long train of disaster, to issue the Emancipation
Proclamation, to support Grant and Stanton against the clamor of the
politicians and the press, and, through it all, to do what he believed
to be right.
Did you ever read the fable of the magician and the mouse? It is worth
reading in this connection:
A mouse that dwelt near the abode of a great magician, was kept in such
constant fear of a cat, that the magician, taking pity on it, turned it
into a cat itself. Immediately it began to suffer from its fear of a
dog, so the magician turned it into a dog. Then it began to suffer from
fear of a tiger. The magician therefore turned it into a tiger. Then it
began to suffer from fear of hunters, and the magician said in disgust:
"Be a mouse again. As you have only the heart of a mouse, it is
impossible to help you by giving you the body of a nobler animal." The
moral of the story you can gather for yourselves.
We have already said that many women have displayed courage of a very
high order. Here is a case in point:
Charles V. of Spain passed through Thuringia in 1547, on his return to
Swabia after the battle of Muehlburg. He wrote to Catherine, Countess
Dowager of Schwartzburg, promising that her subjects should not be
molested in their persons or property if they would supply the Spanish
soldiers with provisions at a reasonable price. On approaching her
residence, General Alva and Prince Henry of Brunswick, with his sons,
invited themselves, by a messenger sent forward, to breakfast with the
Countess, who had no choice but to ratify so delicate a request from the
commander of an army. Just as the guests were seated at a generous
repast, the Countess was called from the hall and told that the
Spaniards were using violence and driving away the cattle of the
Quietly arming all her retinue, she bolted and barred all the gates and
doors of the castle, and returned to the banquet to complain of the
breach of faith. General Alva told her that such was the custom of war,
adding that such trifling disorders were not to be heeded. "That we
shall presently see," said Catherine; "my poor subjects must have their
own again, or, as God lives, prince's blood for oxen's blood!" The
doors were opened, and armed men took the place of the waiters behind
the chairs of the guests. Henry changed color; then, as the best way out
of a bad scrape, laughed loudly, and ended by praising the splendid
acting of his hostess, and promising that Alva should order the cattle
restored at once. Not until a courier returned, saying that the order
had been obeyed, and all damages settled satisfactorily, did the armed
waiters leave. The Countess then thanked her guests for the honor they
had done her castle, and they retired with protestations of their
There is a form of moral courage which bears most directly upon
ourselves. It is seen in the career of William H. Seward, who was given
a thousand dollars by his father to go to college with, and told that
this was all he was to have. The son returned home at the end of his
freshman year with extravagant habits and no money. His father refused
to give him more, and told him he could not stay at home. When the youth
found the props all taken out from under him, and that he must now sink
or swim, he left home moneyless, returned to college, graduated at the
head of his class, studied law, was elected governor of New York, and
became Lincoln's great Secretary of State during the Civil War.
Genuine courage is neither rash, vain, nor selfish. It sometimes leadsus
to appear cowardly; and cowardice sometimes puts on the guise of
boldness. We need to know the individual and the circumstances to judge
correctly as to whether courage is of the true order. We should all
discourage the tendency to exalt brute force and mere muscle to high
admiration; and enforce the power of mind, ideas, and lofty ambition.
The noblest phase of courage and heroism is in the submission of this
might to the laws of right and helpfulness.
RICHARD PEARSON HOBSON.
There is no better modern illustration of courage than that thrilling
exploit of Lieutenant Hobson in taking the Merrimac into the harbor of
While the Spanish fleet, under Admiral Cervera, lay blockaded in
Santiago Bay, the idea was conceived of making the blockade doubly safe
by sinking the coal-ship Merrimac across the narrow channel. To carry
out this plan cool-headed, heroic men were needed, who would be willing
to take their lives in their hands, for the good of their country's
cause. To accomplish the object, the vessel must be taken into a harbor
full of mines, under the fire of three shore batteries, supported by a
powerful Spanish fleet and two regiments of soldiers. The honor of
carrying out this bold scheme was given to young Hobson, by whom the
plan had been mainly outlined.
He was a young man from Alabama, twenty-seven years of age, a graduate
of the Naval Academy in the class of 1889, being the youngest member,
and standing at the head of his class. He had already shown himself to
be a gentleman, a student, and an adept in practical affairs. Now he was
to prove that he was a hero.
Here came to him, in the ordinary course of duty, the opportunity for
which he had prepared himself; and the courage with which he carried it
out made for him a name which will always be remembered in the annals
of naval warfare.
Out of the hundreds who volunteered to assist him in this perilous
undertaking, six men were selected. At an early hour in the morning the
gallant crew set out. Every vessel in the American fleet was on the
alert: every man's nerves were at the highest tension over the success
of the project and the fate of Hobson and his comrades. Thousands of
anxious eyes peered through the darkness as they watched the old collier
disappear into the harbor.
Suddenly the scene changed. Sheets of fire flashed from Morro Castle and
the other batteries along the shore. It seemed impossible for human life
to exist in that deadly and concentrated fire. In the downpour of shot
and shell the Merrimac's rudder was blown away and her stern anchor cut
loose. The electric batteries were damaged to such an extent that only
part of the torpedoes could be exploded. The result was that instead of
sinking where intended, the vessel drifted with the tide past the narrow
neck. The Merrimac sank but did not completely block up the channel.
The enemy's fire was so incessant and sweeping that it was impossible
for the crew to reach the life-raft which they had in tow; so Hobson and
his men lay flat on deck and waited for the ship to sink. It was a
terrible waiting while every great gun and Mauser rifle was pouring its
deadly fire upon the ship. At last the end came. The ship sank beneath
the waves, and, through the whirlpool of rushing water, the men rose to
the surface and climbed upon their raft. Clinging to this, with their
faces only out of water they waited for daylight, and then gave
themselves up as prisoners to the Spaniards.
In the afternoon, Admiral Cervera sent an officer, under a flag of
truce, to Admiral Sampson, telling him of their safety, and adding:
"Daring like theirs makes the bitterest enemies proud that their
fellow-men can be so brave."
[Footnote: See Review of Reviews, Vol. XVIII., and Draper's "The Rescue
of Cuba" and other war stories recently published.]