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Patriotism
Harper's Weekly, March 2, 1861
 
"Patriotism," says the Dictionary, "is love of country." "Patriotism," said Dr. Johnson, the Tory, "is the last refuge of a scoundrel." "A man devoid of patriotism," say a leading philosopher, "is capable of the greatest crimes." Sings Walter Scott:

"Lives there a man with soul so dead,

Who never to himself hath said,

This is my own, my native land?"

This subject of patriotism is in a fair way of being more thoroughly ventilated than it ever was before. Every body appears to admit that patriotism is a virtue, and that a man should love his country. But the question arises at every corner—What is our country? Smith, in South Carolina, says that the United States is his country, and that he loves the Stars and Stripes; for which expression of opinion he is instantly exiled from the State under pain of prosecution for treason. On the other hand, Jones, born in Georgia, but in the service of the United States, declares that the secession of Georgia requires him to resign his commission, and to proceed forthwith to Milledgeville to prepare for war against the United States; for which proceeding he is denounced at the North as devoid of patriotism, and by man as an absolute traitor. Jones protests that he is the purest kind of patriot, and that he will lay down his life for Georgia. The question seems to be—How much country must a man love to be a genuine patriot?

Smith says—You must love your whole country as represented by and included under the national flag. Jones says—No, it suffices to love your own State. Upon this Robinson starts up and says that, in his opinion, it is sufficient to love your own county. Brown is of opinion that he fulfills his duty by loving his town. And Thomson fiercely claims the title of patriot because he loves his native farm.

It is pretty clear that Thomson, at all events, is wrong. His patriotism is mere selfishness, and has no merit at all of a public nature. It is also clear that Smith is right—though it may be pretended by Jones and the others that he demands too much—when he claims the title of patriot for loving his whole country. The question is—Can a line be drawn between them? If a man is no patriot for merely loving his farm, is he a patriot for loving his town and neglecting the rest of his county? Is he a patriot if he loves his county, and despises the rest of his State? Can he claim the title of patriot if he loves his State only, and confesses no obligation to the rest of the Confederacy? These are questions which will engage some attention in the course of the pending revolution.

About thirteen years ago the people of Italy were unanimous in favor of national independence, and the overthrow of the Austrian power. Every Italian wanted the same thing. In those days Charles Albert, King of Piedmont, the only Italian Potentate who had both an Italian soul and an Italian army, said to the people of the peninsula: "Join me, and we shall free Italy." There were people throughout Italy who were for responding heartily, Yes. But when it came to the fighting-point, the Venetians said they were Venetians, the Tuscans said they were Tuscans, the Parmese said they were Parmese, the Romans said they were Romans, the Neapolitans said they were Neapolitans, the Sicilians said they were Sicilians: and lo! there were no Italians in all Italy. So Charles Albert’s appeal failed, Austria triumphed, and for thirteen years more Italy groveled in chains. It would seem that the event—which is in every one’s memory—sheds some light on the law of patriotism.

Harper's Weekly, March 2, 1861

 

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