Patriotism

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 200

Devotion to one’s native land—a sentiment best conveyed in Horace’s famous words: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (“it is sweet and becoming to die for the fatherland”). While pride in one’s homeland is an ancient and powerful emotion, it has taken many forms. The Crusades, for instance, arose from loyalty to Christianity, not from any nationalistic concept of patriotism. In fact, fully developed modern patriotism—that associated with the “parent” nation-state and its children-citizens—did not develop until the time of the French Revolution (1789-1792).This was most important in a military sense; leaders who had believed that the mass arming of citizens was no effective way to wage war—indeed, that their loyalty could not be trusted—now found a new impetus for universal service. The resulting mass armies were fundamental to Napoleon’s success. If patriotism has often made war possible, so war has given rise to patriotism. The American Civil War (1861-1865) is one of those most illustrative examples: Before that great convulsion, “the United States” was referred to in the plural. In the war’s aftermath, the United States was generally spoken of as a single and truly united nation.

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