But a representative is not liable to knowingly misrepresent his constituents unless he has pecuniary interests adverse to theirs. This is the temptation to be resisted—this is the sin to be avoided. The official who uses his position to secure a pecuniary advantage over the public is an embezzler of power—and an embezzler of power is as guilty of moral turpitude as the embezzler of money. There is no better motto for the public official than that given by Solomon: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.” There is no better rule for the public official to follow than this—to do nothing that he would not be willing to have printed in the newspaper next day.
One who exercises authority conferred upon him by the suffrages of his fellows ought to be fortified in his integrity by the consciousness of the fact that a betrayal of his trust is hurtful to the party which honours him and unjust to the people whom he serves, as well as injurious to himself. Nothing that he can gain, not even the whole world, can compensate him for the loss that he suffers in the surrender of a high ideal of public duty.
In conclusion, let me say that the nation, as well as the individual, and the party, must be measured by its purpose, its ideals and its service. “Let him who would be chiefest among you, be the servant of all,” was intended for nations as well as for citizens. Our nation is the greatest in the world and the greatest of all time, because it is rendering a larger service than any other nation is rendering or has rendered. It is giving the world ideals in education, in social life, in government, and in religion. It is the teacher of nations; it is the world’s torch-bearer. Here the people are more free than elsewhere to “try all things and hold fast that which is good”; “to know the truth” and to find freedom in that knowledge. No material considerations should blind us to our nation’s mission, or turn us aside from the accomplishment of the great work which has been reserved for us. Our fields bring forth abundantly and the products of our farms furnish food for many in the Old World. Our mills and looms supply an increasing export, but these are not our greatest asset. Our most fertile soil is to be found in the minds and the hearts of our people; our most important manufacturing plants are not our factories, with their smoking chimneys, but our schools, our colleges and our churches, which take in a priceless raw material and turn out the most valuable finished product that the world has known.
We enjoy by inheritance, or by choice, the blessings of American citizenship; let us not be unmindful of the obligations which these blessings impose. Let us not become so occupied in the struggle for wealth or in the contest for honours as to repudiate the debt that we owe to those who have gone before us and to those who bear with us the responsibilities that rest upon the present generation. Society has claims upon us; our country makes demands upon our time, our thought and our purpose. We cannot shirk these duties without disgrace to ourselves and injury to those who come after us. If one is tempted to complain of the burdens borne by American citizens, let him compare them with the much larger burdens imposed by despots upon their subjects.