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


Love your country and obey its laws.--Noah Porter

The sum of individual character makes national character.--E. C. Mann

The true defense of a nation lies in the moral qualities of its
people.--Edwin C. Mason

Everything learned should be flavored with a genuine love of
country.--E. Edwards

Noble ideas of citizenship and its duties strengthen the will of all
patriots.--Merrill E. Gates

We are accustomed to say that our American government is "a government
of the people, by the people, for the people." It is largely in this,
its broad, comprehensive, and democratic character, that we so often
venture to hold it up to view as a model which might be copied by the
surrounding nations to their very great advantage. And certainly no
thinking person will deny that we have much to be justly proud of in
this respect; for our nation has neither parallel nor equal upon the
face of the green earth.

But in a land like this, where the government is formed by its citizens,
it can only be maintained by its citizens. Offices thus created must be
filled, and the ship of state must be manned, and manned with a careful,
honest, and patriotic crew, or it will be in danger of total wreck. In
our times of peril we have been quick to see and to acknowledge this;
and, more than once or twice, the nation has been saved by the prompt
and patriotic action of the people. But it is not so easy a matter to
keep our patriotism up to its noblest and its best when there is an
absence of unusual or exciting causes to call it into play. We must
therefore glance briefly at both these aspects of the case.

It is a requirement of long standing that, in case of war, every
able-bodied citizen must go forth as a soldier, if the government shall
so demand. He must, if really needful, help to save the state, even at
the risk, or at the positive loss, of his own life. Such calls have been
made by our government; and the manner in which our people have
responded has been the glory of our nation and the wonder of the world.

The citizen must share the risks of his country, as well as its
benefits. He must be willing to give protection to the rights and
interests of his fellows, or he cannot rightly expect protection for his
own. In this we are all so far agreed as to render anything like an
argument entirely unnecessary; and we do not hesitate to brand all
who fail us, under such circumstances, as unpatriotic and unworthy of
the sympathy and esteem to which faithful citizenship entitles men.

Now look at the other aspect of the case. The public service is not only
for times of war and tumult, but also for times of prosperity and peace;
and the claims of the nation are no more to be slighted or shirked in
the latter case than in the former. The ship of state must be manned, we
say, and the public offices necessary to prosperity and progress must be
filled. Many of these suffer unless filled by able and patriotic men;
and the interests, for the preservation and forwarding of which these
offices have been created, cannot be properly served.

The crying need of to-day is for men of public spirit; for men who will
seek the highest welfare of their fellow-citizens in general; men of
broad and generous views; men who look out upon life with an absence of
that littleness and near-sightedness which cannot distinguish between
public good and private interest.

Those men who will take no position in the service of their country,
unless it is accompanied with a monetary compensation, are after all,
very closely akin to the men who waited until bounties were offered
before they would take service in connection with the Civil War; while,
on the other hand, the men who are truly public-spirited, take pleasure
in serving the public and are liberal beyond the requirement of the law.

It has been well said that "A public office is a sacred trust." Whoever
engages in any duties of a public nature, is under the most solemn
obligation to do those duties honestly and well. There are some public
officials who, because they aid in the making of the laws, appear to
think themselves higher than the law, and therefore at liberty to obey
or to neglect its requirements, according as their personal inclinations
shall direct. But this is not so; and it should be made clear to all
such persons that they are in error.

The legislator is but a citizen, after all; and, as a citizen, he stands
in precisely the same relation to the law as does his brother of the
rank and file. Of all men, he should be obedient, and should labor to
surround the law with every possible safeguard; for it is among the most
precious and sacred of our earthly possessions. It is the charter of all
true freedom. It is a power before whose awful majesty every man must
bow, irrespective of outward position or personal influence. It must be
reverenced, honored, and obeyed by all.

Now the facts show that there is a strange ignorance, or else a strange
lack of conscience, in this matter, and that this is so wide-spread as
to be almost universal. It seems to be a common opinion that there is no
particular harm in cheating the government. If a politician secures a
high government position, or a business man is fortunate enough to
secure a large government contract, it seems to be expected that he will
secure from these sources larger profits than would be possible anywhere
else. In other words, it seems to be expected that the government will
pay more for any service than can be obtained from an individual or from
a private corporation, and that men will charge prices, and use
deception and fraud when they work for the country, which if practiced
upon private parties, would send them to prison and brand them with
lifelong disgrace.

Respecting that purification and elevation of the ballot-box, for which
so many of our thoughtful citizens are now pleading with more than
usual earnestness, our own thought is that it can best be accomplished
by the establishment and strict enforcement of an educational
qualification for voters, and by a residence in the United States of at
least ten years, before the voting privilege shall be bestowed. No man
should be allowed to vote until he can read and write. No man should be
allowed to put his hand upon the management of our public affairs until
he can read and understand our Constitution in the language in which it
is written.

One of the most ominous signs of the times is, that good men stand aloof
from politics. They do this either because they do not fully appreciate
the importance of their influence, or from the false conviction that
their votes will do no good, or, in many other instances, because they
consider their private business to be of more importance than the
matters of the state. But, in point of fact, the uplifting of the moral
tone of our country is a service of the most importance; and, even if we
consider ourselves alone, it is still true that we cannot afford to pass
it lightly by.

As citizens of the United States we stand possessed of a most wondrous
heritage; and what the civil authorities require of us, within their
own proper sphere, should be considered in the light of a binding duty.
As Professor Dole has pointed out, "We have seen magnificent cities
rising on the borders of the streams, and pleasant villages dotting the
hills; a flourishing commerce whitens the ripples of the lakes; the
laugh of happy children comes up to us from the cornfields; and as the
glow of the evening sun tinges the distant plains, a radiant and
kindling vision floats upon its beams, of myriads of men escaped from
the tyrannies of the Old World and gathered here in worshiping circles
to pour out their grateful hearts to God for a redeemed and teeming

Surely all that is worth preserving. Surely we will not allow so rich a
heritage to run waste. Surely we will support a nation whose past is
bright with glorious achievements, and whose future glows with the light
of a promise so radiantly beautiful. We need only remind you, therefore,
that the truest and most useful citizens of our country are those who
invigorate and elevate their nation by doing their duty truthfully and
manfully; who live honest, sober, and upright lives, making the best of
the opportunities for improvement that our land affords; who cherish the
memory and example of the fathers of our country, and strive to make and
keep it just what they intended it to be.


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