Teaching the Child Patriotism - Part 8

Part 8

"Almighty G.o.d, we make our earnest prayer that thou wilt keep the United States in thy holy protection; that thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large. And, finally, that thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."

This prayer may well be taught to every one of our boys and girls, and be used by them in their daily devotions.

The Sunday School should be a nesting-place for patriotism as well as for religion. It is occasionally felt by some among us, some even who are truly religious, that the Sunday School accomplishes little good.

Powerful evidence to the contrary, in spite of its negative form, was afforded by Judge Fawcett of Brooklyn, when he testified that of the twenty-seven hundred men and women brought before his court during the last five years, not one had ever seen the inside of a Sunday School.

The Sunday School has never been developed to its right capacity. It can be made a tremendous engine for the manufacture of religious men and women, and enthusiastic patriots.

For that is what we greatly need in this country,--enthusiastic patriots. Dr. Jowett dwells especially upon the value of enthusiasm.

"No virtue is safe," he says, "until it becomes enthusiastic. It is safe only when it becomes the home of fire. In the high realms of the spirit, it is only the pa.s.sionate that is secure. The seraphim, those pure spirits who are in the immediate service of the Lord, are the 'burning ones,' and it is their n.o.ble privilege to carry fire from off the altar and touch with purifying flame the lips of the unclean."

Nothing will more certainly enkindle this life-giving flame than the study of the lives of great heroes,--first, those of sacred writ, the patriarchs, prophets and apostles, of whom the world was not worthy; then the n.o.ble army of the martyrs and the brave men of the great Middle Age; then John Wesley, John Fox, Roger Williams, Whitefield, John Knox, John Huss, John Calvin,--how ignorant our children are of the thrilling heroisms of the past!

Agnes Repplier, in one of her brilliant essays, ill.u.s.trates this disgraceful fact with this anecdote:

"American children go to school six, eight or ten years, and emerge with a misunderstanding of their own country and a comprehensive ignorance of all others. They say, 'I don't know any history,' as casually as they might say, 'I don't know any chemistry.' A smiling young freshman told me recently that she had been conditioned because she knew nothing about the Reformation.

"'You mean--' I began questioningly.

"'I mean just what I say,' she interrupted. 'I didn't know what it was or where it was, or who had anything to do with it.'

"I said I didn't wonder she had come to grief. The Reformation was something of an episode. When I was a schoolgirl, I was never done studying about the Reformation. . . . We cannot leave John Wesley any more than we can leave Marlborough or Pitt out of the canvas. . . .

History is philosophy teaching by example, and we are wise to admit the old historians into our counsel."

Walter Savage Landor devoted one of his most eloquent paragraphs to this subject: "Show me how great projects were executed, great advantages gained and great calamities averted. Show me the generals and the statesmen who stood foremost that I may honor them. Tell me their names that I may repeat them to my children. Show me whence laws were introduced, upon what foundation laid, by what custody guarded, in what inner keep preserved. Place History on her rightful throne."

It is true that most of the great forward steps of civilization have been made by war. Our brave soldiers of 1776, of 1812, of 1847, of 1861, and of 1898, are rightly our most revered heroes. Our children should know the stories of their lives.

But the heroes of duty should be even more emphatically impressed upon their minds. It is true that warriors are soldiers of conscience no less than others, but our children will, we hope, need chiefly the heroism of civil life, which, being less showy, requires more of resolution. Here is a tale of a soldier who kept his courage in another place than the battlefield:

Colonel Higginson was once asked what was the bravest deed that he ever saw done in the Civil War. He replied that the bravest deed he ever witnessed was not done in battle. It was at a banquet, where several officers had related salacious stories, and the turn came of a young lieutenant. He rose and said, "I cannot tell a story, but I will give you a toast, to be drunk in water,--Our Mothers."

There was a hush of guilty silence, and soon the party broke up.

May our sons never be placed in similar circ.u.mstances, but if they are, may they show a similar bravery!

It may be remembered that a story almost identical with this was told of General Grant.

The lives of Livingston, of Stanley, of Paton, of Elizabeth Fry, of Florence Nightingale, of Julia Ward Howe, of Alice Freeman Palmer, of Anna H. Shaw,--of Wilberforce, of Judson, and of men like the late Joseph H. Choate should be made familiar to our young people and a desire awakened to emulate their example.

Unfortunately the "path of duty" is not often at present "the way of glory,"--but it is a part of religion that the glory of an approving conscience and of the final smile of G.o.d should rank far above fleeting earthly fame. The Boy Scouts, in their excellent creed, embody this idea, and so do the Camp-Fire Girls. Both set up the right ideals, which is the main object of true education.

"The Country Contributor" to the _Ladies' Home Journal_, feels that our nation is suffering from a falling-away in this respect, and that our ideals and our strength to follow them are going to be improved by the great war.

"We shall have heroes to mourn for," she says, "not moral degenerates, not financial failures, not self-satisfied good citizens, dying of slow spiritual decay. Maybe our men will wake up. Perhaps new-born men may flash upon our vision as Custer did at the Grand Review.

"During that three-days' march of the Grand Review, somebody flung a wreath of flowers from a window, and it dropped upon the beautiful head of General Custer, with his leonine mane of yellow hair falling on his shoulders. His horse was frightened and ran; so Custer rode, a wild, beautiful figure of young Victory, down the length of Pennsylvania Avenue. Or like Phil Kearney at Seven Pines, with his one arm still left and the reins in his teeth."

Alfred Noyes, in the _Bookman_, has pointed out to a scoffing man who has belittled our heroes and our history, and says, "There are no ghosts in America," the fact that we have abundant romance and heroism within our annals, and names some of the men and events which stand for them, adding:

"Must all those dead lie still?

Must not the night disgorge The ghosts of Bunker Hill, The ghosts of Valley Forge, Or England's mightier son The ghost of Washington?

"No ghost where Lincoln fell?

No ghosts for seeing eyes?

I know an old cracked bell Shall make ten million rise, When his immortal ghost Calls to the slumbering host."

But the chief element in the child's ideal should be democracy. His idea of "cla.s.ses" and of "ma.s.ses" should be that a democracy has none.

"Imagine!" cried a gaily dressed young woman one day, "that shop-girl is actually trying to be a lady!"--yet that shop-girl was gentle and refined and far more of a lady than the silly rich girl who so vulgarly criticized her.

"I wish we had more clearly defined cla.s.ses here in America," remarked an apparently loyal American woman (she was wearing conspicuously an American flag brooch). "It is a much more comfortable way."

She represents a considerable section among us, who would like a return to t.i.tles and cla.s.s decorations in our social system. You have doubtless observed that such people always expect themselves to be included in the gentry-and-n.o.bility cla.s.s. Our forefathers, with a vision and a valor far in advance of their time, fought and died on purpose to abolish such distinctions, and may they never return! Some undiscerning ones insist that we are as truly "cla.s.sified" as is any European monarchy; but they do not seem to realize that with us caste and cla.s.s change with almost every generation. The great name and estate are not handed down by primogeniture from father to son.

"The only 'lower orders,'" said Horace Mann, "are those who do nothing for the good of mankind. The word 'cla.s.ses' is not a good American word.

In a republic there should be but two cla.s.ses,--the educated and the uneducated; and the one should gradually merge into the other until all are educated."

He summed up the whole matter thus: "The law of caste includes within itself every iniquity, because it lives by the practical denial of human brotherhood."

Teach your children this lesson thoroughly.

Pasteur defined democracy as "that form of government which permits every individual citizen to develop himself to do his best for the common good." We must come to recognize that "common good" means not only the good of our own nation but that of the world. May not Pasteur's definition be used as a basis for the great democratic principle to which we look forward as the security for the peace of the world?

The Athenian's patriotism was for Athens. The Spartan's was for Sparta, the Roman's was far more for the city of Rome than for the empire. Ours should be, first, for our own land, but then for the world. It would be a traitor and a craven who would in a shipwreck save another man's wife before his own, if he could help it. So patriotism, like charity, begins at home. But equally true is what Lowell wrote:

"He's true to G.o.d who's true to man; wherever wrong is done, To the humblest and the weakest, 'neath the all-beholding sun, That wrong is done to us; and they are slaves most base, Whose love of right is for themselves, and not for all their race."

De Tocqueville, years ago, reproached his own nation with being willing to fight only for its own liberty, while to the Anglo-Saxon the liberty of his neighbor was also dear. Since then, France has developed. To her, also, is the liberty of her neighbor dear. May it ever be so to us!

Perhaps the whole content of this little volume is gathered up in Edwin Markham's splendid lines:

"What do we need to keep the nation whole,-- To guard the pillars of the state? We need The fine audacities of honest deed; The homely old integrities of soul; The swift temerities that take the part Of outcast right--the wisdom of the heart; Brave hopes that Mammon never can detain, Nor sully with his gainless clutch for gain.

"We need the Cromwell fire to make us feel The common burden and the public trust To be a thing as sacred and august As the white vigil where the angels kneel.

We need the faith to go a path untrod, The power to be alone and vote with G.o.d."