Chapter IX Love's Lords In Waiting: Loyalty

Philosophy on Citizenship PDF


Loyalty of Youth.––Loyalty is the hall-mark of character; but that is a misguiding simile, for it is good to know that Loyalty is not a mark stamped upon us, but a Lord of the Bosom born within us. At different periods of history, or at different periods of life, people give the rule of their lives to one or another of these Powers of Heart. The age of Chivalry was the age of Loyalty; and youth ought to be especially the age of Chivalry and of Loyalty in each life. But perhaps this is not a loyal age. Our tendency is to believe that to think for ourselves and to serve ourselves in the way of advancement or pleasure is our chief business in life. We think that the world was made for us, and not we for the world, and that we are called upon to rule and not to serve. But such thoughts come to us only in our worst moods. Loyalty, whose note is service, asserts itself. We know that we are not our own, and that according to the Loyalty within us do we fulfil ourselves.

Our Loyalties prepared for us.––We are ready enough to give whimsical Loyalty to some poet or actor, soldier or priest, at whose feet we would gladly lay our service; but in this, as in the rest of our lives, we are not free to choose. Our Loyalties are all prepared for us, or come to us with our duties, and our choice is between being loyal and disloyal. In this regard, it is a happy thing for the nation which has a sovereign, a visible object-lesson in Loyalty, to be loyally loved and served for the sake of his office,

Loyalty to our King.––One of the best lessons history has to teach us is in the examples it holds of splendid loyalty and service, including unbounded honour and reverence to the person of the sovereign, and devotion of life and substance, children and followers, to his cause. Sir Henry Lee, in Woodstock, is an exquisite example of this fine Loyalty. As we read, we grudge that it should be spent on so little worthy a monarch; but in the end, let us remember, the knight gained more than the king, by this Loyalty, for it is better to "be" than to "receive." Our late beloved Queen commanded all our Loyalty, because she herself knew and lived for the Loyalty and service she owed to her people; and in that way she raised us to a higher level of living.

Loyalty due to our Own.––After our King, our country claims our Loyalty. Let us not make a mistake. Benevolence is due to the whole world, Loyalty is due to our own; and however greatly we may value or become attached to alien kings or alien countries, the debt of Loyalty is due, not to them, but to our own. Invidious comparisons, depreciating the land of our birth in favour of some land of our choice, whose laws and rulers, ways and weather, we may prefer, is of the nature of disloyalty.

Public Opinion responsible for Anarchy.––We older people are saddened, shocked, and greatly humbled by the fall of one ruler after another at the hands of the persons who call themselves anarchists. We are humbled and ashamed because we know that this manner of crime, which has no exact parallel in the history of the past, arises, in truth, from a failure in the spirit of Loyalty in what is called public opinion. Therefore, the repeated crimes which shock us are brought home to us all, for we all help to form public opinion. There are always in every country men and women in whom the general wrong thinking about our duties to one another come, as it were, to a head and break out in crime; but it is from public opinion that these people get their original notions. We are told to speak no evil of the ruler of our people, and, if we allow ourselves to speak evil, others will take up our evil speech and turn it into criminal act. If we fret against rule others will rise against rulers, and kings everywhere will live in terror of the assault of the regicide. The way we are bound to one another and affect one another all over the world is a very solemn thought; but that we can help the whole world by keeping hold of our own Loyalty should be a cause of joy.

Loyalty to Country.––I am not sure but that people lose in moral fibre when they become voluntary exiles from their own country. Every tie that we are born to is necessary to our completion. Loyalty to country, Patriotism, is a noble passion. Revolutions come about when the character of a sovereign is such that right-thinking people can no longer be loyal to king and country; when unjust laws, undue taxes, the oppression of the poor, make men's hearts sore for their fatherland. Loyalty to country demands honour, service, and personal devotion. The honour due to our country requires some intelligent knowledge of her history, laws, and institutions; of her great men and her people; of her weaknesses and her strength; and is not to be confounded with the ignorant and impertinent attitude of the Englishman or the Chinese who believes that to be born an Englishman or a Chinese puts him on a higher level than the people of all other countries; that his own country and his own government are right in all circumstances, and other countries and other governments always wrong. But, on the other hand, still more to be guarded against, is the caitiff spirit of him who holds his own country and his own government always in the wrong and always the worse, and exalts other nations unduly for the sake of depreciating his own.

The Service of Loyalty.––Our service to our country in these days may not mean more than that we should take a living interest in the questions that occupy the government and the social problems that occupy thinkers; and that, if we are not called upon to serve the country in general, in Parliament, for example, we should give time, labour, and means to advance whatever local administration we are connected with. Perhaps this kind of Loyalty has never been more nobly displayed than it is at the present time. Nor do we fail when our country claims our personal devotion. Recent events seem to show that every Briton, of the lesser and the greater Britain, is ready for the honour of laying down his life for his country.

Loyalty to a Chief––Perhaps the Loyalty in which we fall short, as compared with the Middle Ages, is that Loyalty which every man and woman owes to a chief. Again, Scott gives us the perfect expression in Torquil of the Oak––the Highland foster-father, who sacrificed himself and his nine stalwart sons to shield the honour of the young chief whom he knew to be a confessed coward. The whole incident, told, as it is, with reserve and sympathy, offers one of the strongest situations in literature. But Loyalty in this kind lives amongst us still. Few subalterns in either service would allow themselves to discuss without reserve the action or character of their chief; and as for the men, they still accept it that––"Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why; theirs but to do and die"; and, given that they do die because "someone has blundered," one supreme moment of unquestioning Loyalty to king, country, and commander is, probably, worth fifty years at the dead level of daily living; that is, supposing that the purpose of this life is our education for a fuller. It is told of certain elegant young diplomats, who serve their several chiefs as private secretaries, that one, more superb than the rest, grumbled because his chief summoned him by ringing a bell; but another, who had learned the secret of 'dignified obedience and proud submission,' asserted that, if his chief asked him to clean his shoes, he would do it of course. Instances of splendid Loyalty to the heads of family, party, cause, house, school, or what not, abound on every hand.

Loyalty to Personal Ties.––Loyalty to personal ties, relationships, friendships, dependents, is a due recognised by most people. We all know that these ties, whether they come by nature, as relationships, or by choice, as friendships and the lesser friendly relations,––servants, for example––must be loyally entertained. We know that the character and conduct of our friend is sacred from adverse criticism even in our private thoughts; that what we think and have to say of censure must be said to him and him only; that our time, our society, our sympathy and our service are at his disposal, so far as we can determine. Not only so, but we know that he should have the best of us, our deepest thoughts, our highest aspirations, so far as we are able to give these forth. This last is freely acknowledged in friendships of election; but in the natural friendships of relationship, which surround most of us, we are sometimes chary of our best, and give only our commonplace, surface thoughts; and to our dependents, those on a lower educational level than ourselves, we are apt to talk down, as we suppose, to that level. We are wrong here; our best is due in varying degrees to maintain all those relationships, natural, elected, or casual, which make up the sweetness and interest of our lives.

A Constant Mind.––Steadfastness is, of course, of the essence of all Loyalties. A man of sixty, who said he had always had his boots from the same bootmaker since he first wore boots, gives us a hint of the sort of Loyalty we owe all round. We miss a great deal of the grace of life by running hither and thither to serve ourselves of the best, so we think, in friends, acquaintances, religions, tradesmen, servants, preachers, prophets. Perhaps there is always more of the best to be had in sticking to that we have got than in looking out continually for a new shop for every sort of ware. The strength, grace, and dignity of a constant mind is the ingathering of Loyalty.

It is objected that some relations are impossible and insupportable; that a servant is lazy, a tradesman dishonest, a friend unworthy, a relative aggravating.

Some relations are not of our seeking and are for life; and that which must be continued, should be continued with Loyalty; but it is best, perhaps, to give up a chief or a dependent, for example, to whom we cannot any longer be loyal. But let the breach be with simplicity and dignity. Let us not indulge in previous gossiping and grumbling; and we should recognise that Loyalty forbids small personal resentment of offences to our amour propre. Many lives are shipwrecked upon this rock. In wronging our friends by a failure in Loyalty, we injure ourselves far more.

Thoroughness.––The same principles of Loyalty apply to Loyalty to our work and to any cause we have taken up. Thoroughness and unstinted effort belong to this manner of Loyalty; and, therefore, we have at times to figure as unamiable persons because we are unable to throw ourselves into every new cause that is brought before us. We can but do what we are able for; and Loyalty to that which we are doing will often forbid efforts in new directions.

Loyalty to our Principles.––A personal loyalty of a high order is that which we owe to our principles. At first, it is those principles upon which we are brought up to which our faithfulness is due; but, by and by, as character develops, convictions grow upon us which come to be bound up with our being. These, not catchwords caught up here and there from the newspapers or from common talk, are our principles––possessions that we have worked out with labour of thought and, perhaps, pain of feeling. He is true to himself who is true to these; and no other. Loyalty is to be expected of him who is not true to himself. Perhaps highest amongst these principles is our religion––not our faith in God; that is another matter––but that form of religion which to us is the expression of such faith. A safe rule is, that Loyalty forbids our dallying with other forms and other ideas, lest we should cease to hold religious convictions of any sort, and become open to change and eager for the excitement of novelty.

The habit of unworthy and petty criticism of the clergy or the services to which we are accustomed is apt to end in this unstable habit; Loyalty forbids this manner of petty gossip, as it also forbids the habit of running hither and thither in search of novelties.

Tempers alien to Loyalty.––The Dæmons which labour for the destruction of Loyalty are, perhaps, Self-interest, Self-conceit, and Self-importance. Self-interest would lead us to better ourselves at the expense of any bond. Self-conceit keeps us in a ferment of small resentments which puts allegiance out of court; and Self-importance is unable to give the first place to another in things small or great, in affairs of country, parish, or home. These enemies be about us, but Loyalty is within us, strong and steadfast, and asking only to be recognised that he may put the alien to flight.