Patriots and Tyrants - Marion Lansing

Patriots and Tyrants

"Freedom," says the German poet, "is surely a very precious jewel. Happy is he who has it and can keep it in peace. To him it matters not whether he has much besides. It is enough to him that he is free."

So men have felt in every land and in every age. It has seemed to them a light thing to give up home and friends and family, and all which made life dear, if haply they might preserve for themselves and for their children this priceless jewel of freedom. Because love of freedom can never be selfish, there grows up with it a greater thing, which the Germans call "Fatherland-love," and which we, in our shorter word borrowed from Roman speech, name "Patriotism." Patriotism is broader than love of freedom, for the patriot desires not only that he shall be free, but that his brothers and his neighbors and all who speak his tongue and dwell in his land,—yea, and the land itself,—shall be as free as he.

In the olden days freedom was again and again in danger. Men and nations were governed too often by the law that "Might makes Right." This is the exact opposite of the law of freedom, which says that every man has certain rights just because he is a human being. The patriots did not know at first exactly what these rights were, but they found out that if certain things were taken away, life was unbearable to them. So they worked out, each in his own nation, what the universal rights of men were, and these are our laws of liberty.

Sometimes a king thought that he could do anything he pleased. These rulers were called tyrants. They were not always wicked men; often they meant to do the people good, but they went about it in the wrong way by taking away their freedom. Sometimes a nation did the same thing. Rome thought that civilization would come more quickly if every other people became Roman. Perhaps it might have come a century sooner, but it would have been a sorry thing if the barbarian peoples had exchanged their precious jewel of freedom for a mere outer shell of civilization, from which the heart was gone.

So every nation of Europe has a roll of honor of "Men of Freedom"; and because these patriots helped to win for us our liberties, their stories belong to us, especially as we are a nation made up from all peoples of the Old World.