The Scout Law
The Scout Law is the moral guide to ethical conduct for all Scouts. It is a pledge all Scouts make to live by when they first join Scouting, at most meetings and gatherings, and in their personal lives every day. It was first published by Robert Baden-Powell in his 1908 book, “Scouting for Boys.” The original law in the Boy Scouts Association (UK) and Boy Scouts of America (BSA) had 9 points. It was edited by B-P in 1911 to add a 10th (which is still the official version of the WOSM or World Organisation of the Scout Movement), but now only has 7 points in the UK. The BSA in the US added 3 points (making 12 total) in 1911 which it continues to the present day. The Baden Powell Scouts/Service Association worldwide generally follows the 1911 UK version. Here are some of it’s iterations:
Boy Scouts Association (UK, short form, 1908, updated 1911): A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, and Clean.
Boy Scouts Association (UK, long form, 1908, updated 1911, current WOSM version):
A SCOUT’S HONOUR IS TO BE TRUSTED. If a scout says “On my honour it is so,” that means it is so, just as if he had taken a most solemn oath. Similarly, if a scout officer says to a scout, “I trust you on your honour to do this,” the Scout is bound to carry out the order to the very best of his ability, and to let nothing interfere with his doing so. If a scout were to break his honour by telling a lie, or by not carrying out an order exactly when trusted on his honour to do so, he would cease to be a scout, and must hand over his scout badge and never be allowed to wear it again.
A SCOUT IS LOYAL to the King, and to his officers, and to his country, and to his employers. He must stick to them through thick and thin against anyone who is their enemy, or who even talks badly of them.
A SCOUT’S DUTY IS TO BE USEFUL AND TO HELP OTHERS. And he is to do his duty before anything else, even though he gives up his own pleasure, or comfort, or safety to do it. When in difficulty to know which of two things to do, he must ask himself, “Which is my duty?” that is, “Which is best for other people?”—and do that one. He must Be Prepared at any time to save life, or to help injured persons. And he must do a good turn to somebody every day.
A SCOUT IS A FRIEND TO ALL, AND A BROTHER TO EVERY OTHER SCOUT, NO MATTER TO WHAT SOCIAL CLASS THE OTHER BELONGS. If a scout meets another scout, even though a stranger to him, he must speak to him, and help him in any way that he can, either to carry out the duty he is then doing, or by giving him food, or, as far as possible, anything that he may be in want of. A scout must never be a SNOB. A snob is one who looks down upon another because he is poorer, or who is poor and resents another because he is rich. A scout accepts the other man as he finds him, and makes the best of him — “Kim,” the boy scout, was called by the Indians “Little friend of all the world,” and that is the name which every scout should earn for himself.
A SCOUT IS COURTEOUS: That is, he is polite to all—but especially to women and children and old people and invalids, cripples, etc. And he must not take any reward for being helpful or courteous.
A SCOUT IS A FRIEND TO ANIMALS. He should save them as far as possible from pain, and should not kill any animal unnecessarily, even if it is only a fly—for it is one of God’s creatures.
A SCOUT OBEYS ORDERS of his patrol-leader, or scout master without question. Even if he gets an order he does not like, he must do as soldiers and sailors do, he must carry it out all the same because it is his duty; and after he has done it he can come and state any reasons against it: but he must carry out the order at once. That is discipline.
A SCOUT SMILES AND WHISTLES under all circumstances. When he gets an order he should obey it cheerily and readily, not in a slow, hang-dog sort of way. Scouts never grouse at hardships, nor whine at each other, nor swear when put out. When you just miss a train, or some one treads on your favourite corn—not that a scout ought to have such things as corns— or under any annoying circumstances, you should force yourself to smile at once, and then whistle a tune, and you will be all right. A scout goes about with a smile on and whistling. It cheers him and cheers other people, especially in time of danger, for he keeps it up then all the same. The punishment for swearing or bad language is for each offence a mug of cold water to be poured down the offender’s sleeve by the other scouts.
A SCOUT IS THRIFTY, that is, he saves every penny he can, and puts it in the bank, so that he may have money to keep himself when out of work, and thus not make himself a burden to others; or that he may have money to give away to others when they need it.
A SCOUT IS CLEAN IN THOUGHT, WORD AND DEED. Decent Scouts look down upon silly youths who talk dirt, and they do not let themselves give way to temptation, either to talk it or to do anything dirty. A Scout is pure, and clean-minded, and manly. (Added in 1911)
Boy Scouts of America (short form, 1910, updated 1911): A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean & Reverent.
Boy Scouts of America (long form, 1910, updated 1911):
A Scout is:
TRUSTWORTHY. A Scout tells the truth. He keeps his promises. Honesty is part of his code of conduct. People can depend on him.
LOYAL. A Scout is true to his family, Scout leaders, friends, school, and nation.
HELPFUL. A Scout is concerned about other people. He does things willingly for others without pay or reward.
FRIENDLY. A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He seeks to understand others. He respects those with ideas and customs other than his own.
COURTEOUS. A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows good manners make it easier for people to get along together.
KIND. A Scout understands there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. He does not hurt or kill harmless things without reason.
OBEDIENT. A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobey them.
CHEERFUL. A Scout looks for the bright side of things. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy.
THRIFTY. A Scout works to pay his way and to help others. He saves for unforeseen needs. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property.
BRAVE. A Scout can face danger even if he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at or threaten him.
CLEAN. A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He goes around with those who believe in living by these same ideals. He helps keep his home and community clean.
REVERENT. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.
A more modern version is the current version by Scouts Australia:
Be friendly Care for others and the environment
Do What is Right
Be trustworthy, honest and fair Use resources wisely
Believe in Myself
Learn from my experiences Face challenges with courage
Another excellent modern take is the current UK Scouts Association version (long form, short form omits non-bold text):
A Scout is to be trusted: Always keep your promises; if you agree to do something, then make sure that you do it.
A Scout is loyal: As a Scout, you are dedicated to Scouting, your family, friends and your work.
A Scout is friendly and considerate: As a Scout you must always think about how what you do may affect others (including people that you do not know). This includes things such as not making noise which could upset your neighbours and always disposing of your litter carefully.
A Scout belongs to the world-wide family of Scouts: The Scout movement is like a large family, and as such you will find that you can share in Scout activities throughout the world.
A Scout has courage in all difficulties: When things get tough you will do your best to overcome any difficulties.
A Scout makes good use of time and is careful of possessions and property: Plan what you are going to do and when. For example, when you get home from school, plan your evening, do your home-work first! Always look after the items you own and the things you use, and everyone else’s for that matter. When you are at school, look after the books and equipment you are given to use.
A Scout has self-respect and respect for others: Look after yourself, don’t rely on someone else to tell you when to do things. For example, your parents will not always be with you to tell you to get washed in the morning, or dress smartly. You may not always agree with other people, but you should always be willing to listen to what they have to say, and you should respect their views and opinions even when they do not match your own point of view.
The Rover Scout should choose a version of a WFIS or WOSM/WAGGGS Scout Law that resonates with them and live by it every day in thought, speech, and action.
Finally, here is the Interpretation of the Scout Law for Rover Scouts, by the Founder:
The term "Rover Scout" stands for a true man and a good citizen. The Law for Rover Scouts is the same as for Scouts, in wording and principle, but has to be viewed from a new standpoint-that is, from that of an adult. In both cases the principle underlying the Scout Law knocks out Self and shoves in Good will and Helpfulness to others. Don't take this as instruction in Piety, but as direction to Manliness.
A Scout's Honour is to be trusted
As a Rover Scout, no temptation, however great or however secret, will persuade you to do a dishonest or a shady action, however small. You won't go back on a promise once made.
"A Rover Scout's word is as good as his bond."
"The Truth, and nothing but the Truth for the Rover Scout."
A Scout is loyal to the Queen, his Country, his Scout Officers, his parents, his employers, and to those under him.
As a good citizen you are one of a team "playing the game" honestly for the good of the whole. You can be relied upon by the Queen, as head of the Commonwealth, by the Scout Movement, by your friends and fellow-workers, by your employers, or employees, to do your best for them-even though they may not always quite come up to what you would like of them. Moreover, you are loyal also to yourself; you won't lower your self-respect by playing the game meanly; nor will you let another man down-nor a woman, neither.
A Scout's Duty is to be useful and to help others
As a Rover Scout your highest aim is Service. You may be relied upon at all times to be ready to sacrifice time, trouble, or, if need be, life itself for others. - "Sacrifice is the salt of Service."
A Scout is a friend to all, and a Brother [or Sister] to every other Scout, no matter to what country, class or creed the other may belong.
As a Rover Scout, you recognize other fellows as being, with yourself, sons of the same Father, and you disregard whatever may be their difference of opinion, or caste, creed, or country. You suppress your prejudices and find out their good points; any fool can criticise their bad ones. If you exercise this love for people of other countries you help to bring about international peace and good will, that is God's Kingdom on earth. "All the world's a Brotherhood."
A Scout is courteous
Like a knight of old, as a Rover Scout you are, of course, polite and considerate to the weak. But more than this, you are polite also even to those in opposition to you.
"Whoso is in the right need not loses his temper;
Whoso is in; the wrong cannot afford to."
A Scout is a friend to animals
You will. Recognise your comradeship with God's other creatures placed, like yourself, in this world for a time, to enjoy their existence. To ill-treat an animal is therefore a dis-service to the Creator.
"A Rover Scout has to be big-hearted."
A Scout obeys orders of his Parents, Patrol Leader or Scoutmaster without question.
As a Rover Scout you discipline yourself and put yourself readily and willingly at the service of constituted authority for the main good. The best disciplined community is the happiest community, but the discipline must come from within, and not merely be imposed from without. Hence the greater value of the example you give to others in this direction.
A Scout smiles and whistles under all difficulties
As a Rover Scout you will be looked to as the man to keep your head, and to stick it out in a crisis with cheery pluck and optimism.
"If you can keep your head when all about you, are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
…You'll be a man, my son."
A Scout is thrifty
As a Rover Scout you will look ahead and will not fritter away time or money on present pleasures, but rather make use of present Opportunities with a view to ulterior success. You do this with the idea of not being a burden, but a help to others.
A Scout is clean in Thought, Word and Deed
As a Rover Scout you are expected to be not only clean-minded, but clean-willed; able to control any sex tendencies and intemperances; to give an example to others of being pure and above-board in all that you think, say and do.
There is to the Scout Code the eleventh Law, an unwritten one, namely, "A Scout is not a fool.'' But this, I should hope, would be unnecessary, as a code for Rover Scouts. Still, as a Rover Scout, you have to remember that in crossing the threshold from childhood into being an adult you are no longer learning to carry out the Scout Law, but are actually using it for guidance of your conduct in life. More than this, you are now in the responsible position of giving an example to others, which may lead them to good or evil, according to whether or not you model your conduct on the Law, and how far you carry out that Promise which you have made, on your honour, as a Rover Scout, to give out good will and help to all.
Chief Rover Scout, Ken Pataky
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