VIRTUE is an attribute and disposition of the mind, from which flows effort to overcome or govern the appetites and passions. It is, in its primitive meaning, Manliness. For the word Vir, in the Latin, means a man, not merely one fraction of humanity, which was expressed in the word homo, a human creature, but a true, real, genuine MAN. The man is VIRtuous, who is not without desires, appetites, instincts, and passions; but who is master of, and controls them. For virtue to exist, there must be a struggle and a warfare. The tame, spiritless, passionless, negative being is not virtuous. Virtue, therefore, is not to be confounded with honesty, benevolence, or even charity, or, calling this by its better name, Loving-kindness. For honesty belongs often to the merely apathetic and un-tempted; benevolence to negativeness, weakness and imbecility; and kindliness to those who are in many other respects vicious. Virtue is strong, vigorous, active, impassioned, more sublime in proportion to the energy of the passion it overcomes. To deprive ourselves of that which we value, or need, in order to make the unfortunate happy; to incur personal danger or discomfort in order to defend the weak against the powerful, the unpopular against the popular, the losing cause against the winning; to toil for others or the country without the hope of fee or reward, is virtue; and to sacrifice one’s self for the country or Humanity, is to obtain the highest eminence of virtue; an eminence which the poorest citizen or private soldier may reach. Nor is there any pleasure so great and true as that which attends and follows a victory over our own instincts, appetites, or passions. To be virtuous is to be happy; and if it were not, happiness is not the chief end of man’s existence. To be happy and contented is a privilege bestowed on the animals. To be satisfied with one’s self, even in misery, is the privilege of a nature in which the human and divine are intermingled.
Grand Commander Albert Pike, 1872