Harper's Weekly 03/02/1861


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,” says 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 a
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 pre-
pare for war against the United States; for
which proceeding he is denounced at the North
as devoid of patriotism, and by many as an ab-
solute 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 coun-
try 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 neglect-
ing 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 independ-
ence, 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 Vene-
tians said they were Venetians, the Tuscans
said they were Tuscans, the Parmese said they
were Parmese, the Romans said they were Ro-
mans, the Neapolitans said they were Neapol-
itans, the Sicilians said they were Sicilians:
and lo! there were no Italians in all Italy.
So Charles Albert's appeal failed, Austria tri-
umphed, and for thirteen years more Italy grov-
eled in chains. It would seem that the event—
which is in every one's memory—sheds some
light on the law of patriotism.

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