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 ri
hts, but a respect for the rights of others.

--S. Baring-Gould

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

than nothing."

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.]