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1864 January 16: Being a Soldier is One of the Duties of Citizenship.

January 19, 2014

An editorial from The Prescott Journal of January 16th, 1864.

The Duty Of Citizenship.

The young men of this country are taking their first lessons in the duties of citizenship.  For the first time they are called upon to bear its burdens, and the result will be, and already is, a more general and clear conception of what the citizen owes to the State.

Heretofore, the General government, while conferring upon the citizen high honors, and protecting him in his most important and sacred rights, has exacted but little in return.  Now, the Government calls for the debt its citizens owe to it.  It calls for men and money.  It enunciates and enforces its claim upon the persons and property of those whom it has protected.  Every right-thinking man sees the justice of this.  The government takes nothing in a spirit of despotism.  In its hour of need it simply claims its own, and every patriot willingly concedes it.

We remember a case which well illustrates this point.

When the first war meeting was held at River Falls in the Spring of 1861, Mr. Wm. H. Winchester was one of the first to volunteer.  We well recollect the reason he gave for so doing.  Said he ;  “I have a family— a pleasant home.— Some of you may think I am foolish to become a soldier.  But for years, I have read of the aggressions of the South, and my blood has boiled.  Now, rebellion has broke out.  The Government wants help.  That Government has protected me from boyhood.  All I am, all I have, I owe to it, and if I do not help it now, I may never have another chance.”

That speech went straight to the hearts of the listeners, for they saw that he appreciated the duty of citizenship, and was willing to discharge it.

It is needful that such a conception of the duties of citizenship become universal, and then the burdens imposed by the war will be cheerfully borne.

The work of sustaining the Government is a work in which all should engage— to which all should contribute in one way or another.  In the words of the venerable Dr. Breckenridge [sic],¹ of Ky., “the business of every citizen of the Republic, the pre eminent [sic] business of them all ;  each in his lot, is, above all else, to break the military power of the rebellious state, and restore the supremacy of the Constitution, the Laws, and the Government, over every foot of land and every soul of man.  Whoever, calling himself loyal, will not do this, except upon some impossible or scandalous conditions ;  who ever will not do it, except for some object forbidden by reason and humanity, deserves the execration of mankind, and the vengeance of God.”

1.  Robert Jefferson Breckinridge (1800-1871) was a politician, a Presbyterian minister, and a member of the Breckinridge family of Kentucky. Although John C. Breckinridge was his nephew, he supported Abraham Lincoln for president in the 1860 election and was an ardent supporter of the preservation of the Union.

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