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

r /> 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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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.]