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DUTY.






From: The True Citizen How To Become One
(Category: The Man)

MEMORY GEMS.

The path of duty is the way to glory.--Tennyson

A sense of duty pursues us ever and everywhere.--Webster

The consciousness of duty performed "gives us music at midnight."
--George Herbert

I slept and dreamed that life was Beauty.
I woke and found that life was Duty.--E. S. Hooper

Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us dare
to do our duty as we understand it.--A. Lincoln


Samuel Smiles, who has written a most excellent book upon this subject,
says, "Duty is the end and aim of the highest life; and it alone is
true." It is certain that of all the watchwords of life, duty is the
highest and best. He who sincerely adopts it lives a true life; he is
really the successful man. It pertains to all parts and relations of
life. There is no moment, place, or condition where its claims are not
imperative.

Obedience to the commands of duty, and the ruling desire to be useful,
are cardinal elements of success. It is at the trumpet call which duty
sounds, that all the nobler attributes of manhood spring into life; and
duty is something that must be done without regard to discomfort,
sacrifice, or death. It must be done in secret, as well as in public;
and according to the measure of our faithfulness in this respect, will
be the real measure of our manhood.

History and biography are fairly crowded with examples of the faithful
performance of duty, and the glorious results which have followed; such
as Nelson at Trafalgar, Luther at the Diet of Worms, General Grant in
the Civil War; and scores of other instances of note. But equally
valuable are the cases of ordinary life. The engineer on the locomotive;
the pilot at the helm of the storm-tossed vessel; the mother in her
daily routine of work; the merchant upholding laws of trade in honor;
the schoolboy plodding through studies in a manly thoroughness; the
reformer of slums letting her little candle of service shine in the
dark;--all these and similar instances are full of guidance and
inspiration.

There are two aspects of duty; namely, cheerful duty and drudging duty.
One says, "I want to do something;" the other says, "I must." Our New
England forefathers were followers of duty, but they found very little
joy in it, as we understand that word. We should endeavor to improve
upon their methods, but we shall find it difficult to improve upon
their faithfulness.

The life of Sir Walter Scott affords an interesting illustration of
strict obedience to the line of duty. His whole life seems to have been
governed by that sense of obligation which caused him, when a young man,
to enter a profession which he heartily disliked, out of affection for
his father; and, later in life, to set himself to paying off the debt
incurred by the publishing house of which he was a silent partner. His
sense of duty was expressed in his declaration that, "If he lived and
retained his health, no man should lose a penny by him."

Just what is meant by faithfulness to duty may be clearly seen in the
following incident. During the famous _dark day_ of 1780, in
Connecticut, candles were lighted in many houses, and domestic fowls
went to their roosts. The people thought the day of judgment had come.
The legislature was then in session in Hartford. The house of
representatives adjourned. In the council, which corresponds to the
modern senate, an adjournment was also proposed. Colonel Davenport
objected, saying, "The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is
not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjourning; if it is, I choose
to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore, that candles may be
brought."

Upon the world's great battlefields, this matter of faithfulness to duty
has always been deemed of the first importance. Previous to the battle
of Lutzen, in which eighty thousand Austrians were defeated by an army
of thirty-six thousand Prussians, commanded by Frederick the Great, this
monarch ordered all his officers to attend him, and thus addressed them:
"To-morrow I intend giving the enemy battle; and, as it will decide who
are to be the future masters of Silesia, I expect every one of you, in
the strictest manner, to do his duty. If any one of you is a coward, let
him step forward before he makes others as cowardly as himself,--let him
step forward, I say, and he shall immediately receive his discharge
without ceremony or reproach. I see there is none among you who does not
possess true heroism, and will not display it in defense of his king, of
his country, and of himself. I shall be in the front and in the rear;
shall fly from wing to wing; no company will escape my notice; and
whoever I then find doing his duty, upon him will I heap honor and
favor."

Another great military commander was the Duke of Wellington. He once
said to a friend: "There is little or nothing in this life worth living
for; but we can all of us go straight forward and do our duty." Whether
serving at home in his family, or serving his country on the field, his
sense of duty was the one high and noble purpose that inspired him. He
did not ask, Will this course win fame? Will this battle add to my
earthly glory? But always, What is my duty? He did what duty commanded,
and followed where it led. It was his firm adherence to what he thought
was right, that brought down upon him the violence of a mob in the
streets of London, assaulting his person and attacking his house, even
while his wife lay dead therein. But the memory of few men is now more
greatly honored; and his example is worthy of careful study and close
imitation.

The foregoing facts show, far better than argument, both the nature and
place of duty in the work of life. We see it in practical operation,
always timely, honorable, and attractive. It cannot be discounted or
even smirched. It stands out in bold relief, supported by a clear
conscience and strong will. It demands recognition, and it always
secures it.

More than sixteen hundred years after an eruption of Vesuvius had buried
Pompeii in ashes, explorers laid bare the ruins of the ill-fated city.
There the unfortunate inhabitants were found just where they were
overtaken by death. Some were discovered in lofty attics and some
in deep cellars, whither they had fled before the approaching
desolation. Others were found in the streets, through which they were
fleeing in wild despair when the tide of volcanic gases and the storm of
falling ashes overwhelmed them. But the Roman sentinel was standing
at his post, his skeleton-hand still grasping the hilt of his sword, his
attitude that of a faithful officer. He was placed there on duty, and
death met him at his post.

No man has a right to say he can do nothing for the benefit of mankind.
We forget that men are less benefited by ambitious projects, than by the
sober fulfillment of each man's proper duties. By doing the proper duty,
in the proper time and place, a man may make the entire world his
debtor, and may accomplish far more of good than in any other way.


LORD NELSON.

Horatio Nelson was born at Norfolk, England, September 29, 1758. He
reached his manhood at a time when the nations of Europe were engaged in
deadly strife. A love of adventure and a daring spirit, which developed
during his earliest years, inclined him to follow the sea. From his
first entrance into this calling, genius and opportunity worked together
to make him the leading factor in Great Britain's prominence as a naval
power.

For several centuries, previous to the time of Nelson, Great Britain had
been rapidly advancing her commerce. In the protection of this commerce
many a naval hero won renown; but the tide of influence and of power
found in Nelson its perfect fulfillment. He was a man of extraordinary
genius. He saw clearly; acted vigorously. He felt that it was his
business and his duty to watch over England's interests upon the sea;
and both men and women felt perfectly safe while Nelson had command.
The pure flame of patriotism burned brightly in his heroic soul. He
believed, with Lord Sandon, that nothing could be nobler than a
first-rate English sailor; and he acted in strict accord with this
belief. He attained one victory after another, until the battle of the
Nile, one of his most brilliant successes, made the navy of England a
terror even to its bravest enemies. The superiority of the English fleet
was mainly due to his genius; and the dread his name inspired was one of
the principal causes, that, a few years later, kept Napoleon from
carrying out his threatened invasion of England.

His high sense of duty, and what he expected of those under his command,
is well illustrated by his signal to the English fleet, when they were
about to engage the French in the great naval battle at Trafalgar. When
all were ready for the attack, Nelson said, "I will now amuse the fleet
with a signal." Turning to the signal officer he exclaimed, "Send this
message,--'England expects every man to do his duty.'" When the signal
was comprehended by the men, cheer after cheer rang out upon the air,
and under its inspiration they won a glorious and a decisive victory.

This message was characteristic of Nelson. Upon his entering into this
engagement, which proved to be his last, he is said to have remarked, "I
thank God for this great opportunity of doing my duty." While in the
thick of the engagement, Nelson was struck down by a cannon ball, and
lived but a few hours afterward; but long enough to hear the English
shouts of triumph. He had left to the world a type of single-minded
self-devotion, that can never perish.

[Footnote: See "Life of Nelson," by Southey (1828); "Letters and
Dispatches of Lord Nelson," by N. H. Nicols (1860); "Lady Hamilton and
Lord Nelson," by J. C. Jeaffreson; and Mahan's "Life of Nelson,"
recently published.]





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Previous: SENTIMENT.



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