LOYALTY is fidelity to a principle, home, institution, or country. We shall speak of it in the latter sense: loyalty to the old flag. As such, it is patriotism in practice. The patriotic citizen only is loyal to his country. The absence of this sentiment, in times of national peril, exposes one to indecision and cowardice, if not treason. Hence its great value and beauty. It is indispensable to good citizenship; indeed, there is no true manhood and womanhood without it. It is involved in the American idea of republican institutions. Loyalty makes them live.
Just now this subject is demanding attention throughout our land. The flag is flung to the breeze over schoolhouses, that American youth may not forget their allegiance to the government it represents. It is a beautiful spectacle to stir youthful hearts with loyalty to their native land, the stars and stripes floating over the temple of knowledge, wherein they are trained for usefulness and honor. It is a glad omen for them to hail it with speech, songs, and cheers.
Garibaldi, the great, grand, strong, pure, affectionate old hero, whose heart was set upon seeing his darling Italy free, independent, and happy, is an example of true loyalty. He was willing to endure hardships, persecution, starvation, and exile, to make his native land free. In his greatest troubles, his lofty spirit declared, “In times of trouble, I have never been disheartened, and have always found persons disposed to assist me.” An exile in South America for fourteen years, and again in the United States three, his loyalty to his country’s flag never wavered, and he continued to nurse the patriot’s hope in his soul that Italy would yet be free; nor was his hope in vain. The war between Austria and Sardinia called him to the field again; and what glorious achievements await the irrepressible man! The bloody tyrant of Naples driven from his throne! Sicily delivered from oppression! Nine millions of subjects added to the dominions of a constitutional king, Victor Emanuel. All Italy one nation excepting alone the dominions of the pope and the province of Venetia. This was Garibaldi’s work! ” It was the magic of his name, the fire of his patriotism, and his genius for command, that wrought these marvels.”
Refusing all rewards for his services, and declining all public honors, he said to his countrymen:–
“I am a Christian, and I speak to Christians. I love and venerate the religion of Christ, because Christ came into the world to deliver humanity from slavery, for which God has not created it…Yours is the duty to educate the people. Educate them to be Christians; educate them to be Italian. Education gives liberty; education gives to the people the means and the power to secure and defend their own independence. On a strong and wholesome education of the people depends the liberty and greatness of Italy.”
In like manner the loyalty of the great Magyar chief, M. Louis Kossuth, to his beloved Hungary, won the admiration of the world. Elected governor by a liberty-loving people, yet driven into exile, the Christian was ready to starve and die for his country.
When he was an exile in Turkey, and the government of the Sublime Forte promised him protection on condition that he would embrace Mohammedanism, his magnanimous spirit rose above the fear of imprisonment and torture, chains and death, and he replied: ” Between death and shame, the choice can neither be dubious nor difficult. Governor of Hungary, and elected to the high place by the confidence of fifteen million of my countrymen, I know well what I owe to my country even in exile. Even as a private individual I have an honorable part to pursue. Though once the governor of a generous people, I leave no inheritance to my people· They shall, at least, bear an unsullied name. God’s will be done! I am prepared to die!”
This true loyalty is charged with the spirit of martyrdom.
Illustrations of loyalty to American independence illumine the pages of history.
In the darkest hour of the Revolution, when it seemed as if the cause of the struggling colonies must be abandoned, Washington declared that, rather than surrender to the king, he “would retreat over every river and mountain in America.” And, again, after his famous crossing of the Delaware, when he stood face to face with the Hessians, rising in his stirrups, and waving his sword above his head, he addressed his troops:–“There, boys!” pointing to the foe; “there are the enemies of your country. All I ask of you is to remember what you are about to fight for! March!” That was true loyalty.
When the brave General Wayne fell at the battle of Stony Point, at the head of his column, he promptly rose upon one knee, and cried out to his men: “March on! Carry me into the fort. If I die, I will die at the head of the column.” It was not long after Captain James Lawrence was appointed commander of the “Chesapeake,” that he fell mortally wounded in a fight with the British frigate “Shannon.” With the seal of death upon his brow, he encouraged his faithful soldiers to fight on by his dying appeal, “Don’t give up the ship!” Such is loyalty to the country and cause we love. “How sweet to die for one’s country,” exclaimed an ancient patriot, as his life went out in battle. It is a sentiment that dignifies manhood, without which a cluster of other virtues cannot exist.
-from Gaining Favor with God and Man by William M. Thayer