From: The True Citizen How To Become One
(Category: The Man
Keep out of the crowd, if you have to get above it.--M. C Peters
The freedom of the mind is the highest form of independence.--G. B. Fisk
A country cannot subsist without liberty, nor liberty without virtue.
The spirit of independence is not merely a jealousy of our own
particular rights, but a respect for the rights of others.
The love of independence is not only instinctive in man, but its
possession is essential to his moral development.--George Eliot
A great many persons carry in their minds a very mistaken idea as to
what constitutes a truly noble life. To live is not merely to exist; it
is to live unbiased and uninfluenced by low and belittling human
influences. It is to give breadth and expansion to the soul; first
through a clear discrimination between right and wrong; and then in
living up to the right. Full manhood, the full realization and fruition
of all that is best and greatest in man, depends upon freedom of thought
and independence of action.
Some countries have given especial attention to the cultivation of this
trait. For example: It has been pointed out that "among the bestproducts
of Scotland has been her love of independence. A ruggedness
of spirit has marked her children. Strength stamps her heroes. The
gentle Burns was as strong as Knox,--not in character, but in the
assertion of 'A man's a man for a' that;' and a great many of Scotland's
noblest sons have been brought into public notice through the
manifestation of their strong personality."
Vast numbers of men and women ruin their lives by failing to assert
themselves. They sink into the grave with scarcely a trace to indicate
that they ever lived. They live and they die. Cradle and grave are
brought close together; there is nothing between them. There have been
hundreds who could have rivaled the patriotism of a Washington, or the
humanity of a Howard, or the eloquence of a Demosthenes, and who have
left behind them no one memorial of their existence, because of lack of
lofty courage, sublime moral heroism, and the assertion of their
The world's greatest things have been accomplished by individuals. Vast
social reformations have originated in individual souls. Truths that
now sway the world were first proclaimed by individual lips. Great
thoughts that are now the axioms of humanity sprang from the center of
individual hearts. Do not suffer others to shape your lives for you; but
do all you can to shape them for yourselves.
Sydney Smith insisted upon this quality of manhood and womanhood as
indispensable. He said: "There is one circumstance I would preach up
morning, noon, and night, to young persons for the management of their
understanding: Whatever you are by nature, keep to it; never desert your
own line of talent. Be what Nature intended you for, and you will
succeed; be anything else, and you will be ten thousand times worse
It is a good thing for a boy to wait upon himself as much as possible.
The more he has to depend upon his own exertions, the more manly a
fellow will he become. Self-dependence will call out his energies, and
bring into exercise his talents. It is not in the hothouse, but on the
rugged Alpine cliffs, where the storms beat most violently, that the
toughest plants grow. So it is with man. The wisest charity is to help a
boy to help himself. Let him never hear any language but this: You have
your own way to make, and it depends on your own exertion whether you
succeed or fail.
Sherman once wrote to General Grant, "You are now Washington's
legitimate successor, and occupy a position of almost dangerous
elevation; but if you continue, as heretofore, _to be yourself_,--
simple, honest, and unpretending,--you will enjoy through life the
respect and love of friends, and the homage of millions of human
Of course we must guard against the error of carrying our sense of
independence too far. Wordsworth hit the truth when he said: "These two
things, contradictory as they may seem, must go together,--manly
dependence and manly independence,--manly reliance and manly
Still, after all is said, we do need more healthy independence. Looking
out upon society, we see how slavish men and women are to fashion and
frivolity. Society life is largely a surface life, spoiled by fear of
gossip. Young people need to take clearer views of this matter, and to
stand by their own convictions at any cost. The question to be settled
by most of us is, Shall I steer or drift? Our advice is, by all means
have a lofty purpose before you, and then remain loyal to it.
Some boys think independence consists in doing whatever they please.
They think it is smart to be "tough." A story told by Admiral Farragut
about his early boyhood, aptly illustrates this phase of young America's
independence. He says: "When I was a boy, ten years of age, I was with
my father on board of a man-of-war. I had some qualities that I thought
made a man of me. I could swear like an old salt; could drink as stiff
a glass of grog as if I had doubled Cape Horn; and could smoke like a
locomotive. I was great at cards; and fond of gaming in any shape. At
the close of dinner one day my father turned everybody out of the cabin,
locked the door, and said to me: 'David, what do you mean to be?' 'I
mean to follow the sea.' 'Follow the sea! yes, to be a poor, miserable,
drunken sailor before the mast; be kicked and cuffed about the world;
and die in some fever hospital in a foreign clime.' 'No,' said I, 'I'll
tread the quarter-deck, and command as you do.' 'No, David; no boy ever
trod the quarter-deck with such principles as you have. You'll have to
change your whole course of life if you ever become a man.'
"My father left me and went on deck. I was stunned by the rebuke, and
overwhelmed with mortification. 'A poor, miserable, drunken sailor
before the mast!' That's my fate, is it! I'll change my life, and change
it at once! I will never utter another oath; I will never drink another
drop of intoxicating liquor; I will never gamble! I have kept these
three vows to this very hour. That was the turning point in my destiny."
A great many men begin to lose their individuality of conviction the
moment they begin life's business. Many a young man has sacrificed his
individuality on the altar that a profligate companion has built for
him. Many a young man who knew right, has allowed some empty-headed
street-corner loafer to lower his own high moral tone lest he should
seem singular in the little world of society surrounding him. And many a
lad whose life promised well at the beginning, has gone to the bad, or
lost his chance in life, because he never learned to say "No!"
In the Revolutionary War, after the surrender of General Lincoln, at
Charleston, the whole of South Carolina was overrun by the British army.
Among those captured by the redcoats was a small boy, thirteen years of
age. He was carried as a prisoner of war to Camden. While there, a
British officer, in a very imperious tone, ordered the boy to clean his
boots, which were covered with mud.
"Here, boy! You young rebel, what are you doing there? Take these boots
and clean them; and be quick about it, too!"
The boy looked up at him and said: "Sir, I won't do it. I am a prisoner
of war, and expect proper treatment from you, sir." This boy was Andrew
Jackson, who afterward became president of the United States. Boys with
such a spirit make noble men.
Exaggerated individuality makes a man impracticable. But the danger of
our times is to copy after others, and thus destroy our force and
effectiveness. Live, then, like an individual. Take life like a man--as
though the world had waited for your coming. Don't take your cue from
the weak, the prejudiced, the trimmers, the cowards;--but rather from
the illustrious ones of earth. Dare to take the side that seems wrong
to others, if it seems right to you; and you will attain to an order of
life the most noble and complete.
For the last one hundred years, one of the first historical facts taught
the youth of American birth, is that Thomas Jefferson wrote our famous
Declaration of Independence. His bold, free, independent nature,
admirably fitted him for the writing of this remarkable document. To
him was given the task of embodying, in written language, the sentiments
and the principles for which, at that moment, a liberty-loving people
were battling with their lives. He succeeded, because he wrote the
Declaration while his heart burned with that same patriotic fire which
Patrick Henry so eloquently expressed when he said: "I care not what
others may do, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."
In all nations men have sacrificed everything they held dear for
religious and political freedom. Their names are justly written in the
book of fame; but in the front rank of them all, we place the brave
signers of the Declaration of Independence, with Jefferson in the lead.
The acceptance and the signing of this document by the members of the
Continental Congress was a dramatic scene, seldom, if ever, surpassed in
the annals of history. As John Hancock placed his great familiar
signature upon it, he jestingly remarked, that John Bull could read that
without spectacles; and then, becoming more serious, he began to impress
upon his comrades the necessity of all hanging together in this matter.
"Yes, indeed," interrupted Franklin, "we must all hang together, or
assuredly we shall all hang separately."
The Declaration of Independence placed the American colonies squarely
upon the issue of political freedom. Its composition was a master-stroke
which will continue as a lasting memorial to the head and heart of its
[Footnote: See "Thomas Jefferson," by J. T. Morse, Jr. (in American
Statesmen Series), and "Domestic Life of Thomas Jefferson," by Sarah N.
Randolph, his great-granddaughter.]
Next: THE IDEAL MAN.