The noblest motive is the public good.--Virgil
The one best omen is to fight for fatherland.--Homer
Patriotism is a principle fraught with high impulses and noble
The revolutionist has seldom any other object but to sacrifice his
country to himself.--Alison
It is impossible that a man who is false t
his friends should be true
to his country.--Bishop Berkeley
Patriotism is defined by Noah Webster as "the passion which aims to
serve one's country." As it is natural to love our home, it is natural
to love our country also. As the poorest homes are sometimes most
tenderly loved, so the poorest and barest country is sometimes held in
most affection. There is, perhaps, not a country in the world the
inhabitants of which have not, at some time or other, been willing to
suffer and die for it.
But as we think of our land, we quickly perceive that no body of young
people ever had a more valuable inheritance than that which we have
received; and we are under the greatest obligations to protect and
preserve this land, and transmit it, full of the grandest achievements
and most glorious recollections, to posterity.
This affection is natural, because the town and the nation in which one
has lived, is, like the home, bound up with all the experiences of
one's life. The games of childhood, the affection of parents, the love
of friends, all the joys, the sorrows, the activities of life, are bound
up in the thought of one's native land.
It is not merely natural to be patriotic, but it is also reasonable and
right. Nearly all that makes life pleasant and desirable, comes to us
through the town or the nation to which we belong. Think how many
thousands in our country have toiled for us! They have made roads, and
they have built churches and schoolhouses. They have established malls
and post offices. They have cultivated farms to provide for our needs,
and have built ships that cross the ocean to bring to us the good things
which we could not produce at home. They have provided protection
against wrongdoers; so that if we sleep in peace, and work and study and
play in safety, we are indebted for all this to the town and nation.
When the bells are ringing, and the cannons are firing, on the Fourth of
July, we must not think merely of the noise and fun. We must remember
those who on that day agreed that they would risk their lives and
everything that was dear to them, that their country might be free. We
must also think of those who in times of peril have given themselves for
their nation's good; of those who found the land a wilderness, and
suffered pain and privation while they made the beginning of a nation.
We must think of those who, ever since that time, when ever the liberty
or the unity of the nation has been in peril, have sprung to its
At the end of the war of the revolution, Washington was at the head of
a mighty army, and was the object of the enthusiastic love of the whole
people. He might easily have made himself a king or an emperor. It was
a marvel to the civilized world when he quietly laid down all his power.
He suffered himself to be twice chosen president; and then he became
simply a private citizen. This seems to us now the most natural thing in
the world; but really it was something very rare, and gave him a fame
such as few heroes of the world enjoy.
There have been heroes in peace as well as in war, men who have
conquered the wilderness, who have upheld justice, and have helped on
whatever was good and noble. And there are also many persons among us
who are unworthy to live in our country, because they are not willing to
suffer the least inconvenience on its account.
Then there are many men who are even so unpatriotic as to sell their
votes. Think of all the cost of money and of noble lives at which our
liberty has been won. Think how, in many parts of the world, men are
looking with longing at the liberty which we enjoy; yet there are those
to whom this hard-won freedom means so little that they do not strive to
further the country's interests in any way.
We must never forget, as we think or speak of patriotism, that such
private virtues as honesty and industry, are its best helps. Whatever
tends to make men wiser and better is a service to the nation. The
country will one day be in the hands of those who are now boys and
girls; and to you, we say, serve it, guard it, and do all that you can
to promote its good.
There is a fine field for the exercise of patriotism in trying to
improve the condition of affairs in the towns and cities in which we
live. We find ourselves in the midst of a conflict between the criminal
classes on the one hand, and the people on the other,--a conflict as
stern as was ever endured upon the battlefield, amid the glitter of
cold steel and the rattle of musketry.
The man or woman of the school committee, working conscientiously that
the boys and girls shall have the best education to fit them for future
life, is a patriot. The teacher who patiently works on with that great
end in view, is the same. If greed or bigotry claims from town, city,
or country, that which will debase her people, every boy and girl,
every man and woman, should instantly frown it down. This is true
patriotism, and the influence of every person is needed for the right.
Every good man in politics wields a power for good. Every good man not
in politics is to blame for political corruption, because by neglecting
his plain duty he adds to the strength of the enemy. Let it be known
that, with you, principle amounts to something; that character counts;
that questionable party service cannot count upon your suffrage.
But little has been written of the child-life of John Adams, the second
president of the United States; a man of unflinching honesty, and a
patriot of the noblest order.
The Adamses were an honest, faithful people. They were not rich, neither
were they poor; but being thrifty and economical, they lived with
comfort. Stern integrity was the predominant quality of the farmer's
home into which John Adams was born in 1735. It must be remembered,
throughout his life it was the sturdy qualities of his ancestors that
made him the statesman and patriot whom we know.
The boy did not show much fondness for books. He preferred life out of
doors among the birds and the squirrels, roaming the woods,--living just
the life a wide-awake boy on a farm would lead nowadays.
His father gave him the opportunity of a liberal education, and he
entered Harvard College when he was sixteen years old. It is curious to
note that the students were all enrolled according to social position,
and John Adams was the fourteenth in his class. In college he was noted
for integrity and energy as well as for ability,--those qualities which
the sturdy line of farmers had handed down to their children.
The year he graduated, then twenty years of age, he became teacher of
the grammar school in Worcester, Massachusetts. There he earned the
money to aid him in studying his profession, and the training was
excellent for the young man. He decided that he would be a lawyer, and
he wrote: "But I set out with firm resolutions, never to commit any
meanness or injustice in the practice of law."
There were stirring times in the colonies when John Adams was thirty
years old. The British government imposed taxes and searched for goods
which had evaded their officers. The matter was brought before the
Superior Court. James Otis argued the cause of the merchants; and John
Adams listened intently to all this great man said. He afterwards wrote:
"Otis was a flame of fire.... American independence was then and there
born. Every man appeared to be ready to get away and to take up arms."
Then the Stamp Act was issued. John Adams's whole soul was fired with
indignation at the injustice. He drew up a set of resolutions,
remonstrating against it. These were adopted, not only by the citizens
of Braintree, but by those of more than forty other towns in
Massachusetts; and the landing of the Stamp Act paper was prevented.
Courts were closed, and the excitement was intense. John Adams boldly
said that the Stamp Act was an assumption of arbitrary power, violating
both the English constitution and the charter of the province.
In connection with what is known as "The Boston Tea Party," came the
closing of Boston's ports, because the tea had been thrown overboard,
and the city would not submit to the tax. A Congress was convened in
Philadelphia, and John Adams was one of the five delegates sent from
Boston. He knew the grave responsibility of the time. With intense
feeling he exclaimed: "God grant us wisdom and fortitude! Should this
country submit, what infamy and ruin! Death in any form is less
Jefferson and Adams were appointed to draw up the Declaration of
Independence. Mr. Adams insisted that Jefferson should prepare it, and
he with forty-four others signed it. Mr. Jefferson wrote: "The great
pillar of support to the Declaration of Independence, and its ablest
advocate and champion on the floor of the House, was John Adams. He was
In various ways, John Adams served his country with unswerving loyalty.
When Washington was chosen president, Adams was chosen vice-president
for both terms, and was then elected president. To the very last he was
always ready to give his word--strong, convincing, powerful as of
old--in the defense of the right, even if he had to stand entirely
alone. And the story of his manly independence will always add to the
dignity of the early history of our nation.
[Footnote: See "Life and Works of John Adams," by C. F. Adams (10
vols.); "Life of John Adams," by J. T. Morse; and article in Appleton's
Cyclopedia of American Biography, Vol. I., pp. 15-23.]