[Frontispiece: Orison Swett Marden]
Pushing to the Front
ORISON SWETT MARDEN
"The world makes way for the determined man."
The Success Company's
PETERSBURG, N.Y. —— TOLEDO —— DANVILLE
OKLAHOMA CITY —— SAN JOSE
By ORISON SWETT MARDEN.
This revised and greatly enlarged edition of "Pushing to the Front" is the outgrowth of an almost world-wide demand for an extension of the idea which made the original small volume such an ambition-arousing, energizing, inspiring force.
It is doubtful whether any other book, outside of the Bible, has been the turning-point in more lives.
It has sent thousands of youths, with renewed determination, back to school or college, back to all sorts of vocations which they had abandoned in moments of discouragement. It has kept scores of business men from failure after they had given up all hope.
It has helped multitudes of poor boys and girls to pay their way through college who had never thought a liberal education possible.
The author has received thousands of letters from people in nearly all parts of the world telling how the book has aroused their ambition, changed their ideals and aims, and has spurred them to the successful undertaking of what they before had thought impossible.
The book has been translated into many foreign languages. In Japan and several other countries it is used extensively in the public schools. Distinguished educators in many parts of the world have recommended its use in schools as a civilization-builder.
Crowned heads, presidents of republics, distinguished members of the British and other parliaments, members of the United States Supreme Court, noted authors, scholars, and eminent people in many parts of the world, have eulogized this book and have thanked the author for giving it to the world.
This volume is full of the most fascinating romances of achievement under difficulties, of obscure beginnings and triumphant endings, of stirring stories of struggles and triumphs. It gives inspiring stories of men and women who have brought great things to pass. It gives numerous examples of the triumph of mediocrity, showing how those of ordinary ability have succeeded by the use of ordinary means. It shows how invalids and cripples even have triumphed by perseverance and will over seemingly insuperable difficulties.
The book tells how men and women have seized common occasions and made them great; it tells of those of average ability who have succeeded by the use of ordinary means, by dint of indomitable will and inflexible purpose. It tells how poverty and hardship have rocked the cradle of the giants of the race. The book points out that most people do not utilize a large part of their effort because their mental attitude does not correspond with their endeavor, so that although working for one thing, they are really expecting something else; and it is what we expect that we tend to get.
No man can become prosperous while he really expects or half expects to remain poor, for holding the poverty thought, keeping in touch with poverty-producing conditions, discourages prosperity.
Before a man can lift himself he must lift his thoughts. When we shall have learned to master our thought habits, to keep our minds open to the great divine inflow of life force, we shall have learned the truths of human endowment, human possibility.
The book points out the fact that what is called success may be failure; that when men love money so much that they sacrifice their friendships, their families, their home life, sacrifice position, honor, health, everything for the dollar, their life is a failure, although they may have accumulated money. It shows how men have become rich at the price of their ideals, their character, at the cost of everything noblest, best, and truest in life. It preaches the larger doctrine of equality; the equality of will and purpose which paves a clear path even to the Presidential chair for a Lincoln or a Garfield, for any one who will pay the price of study and struggle. Men who feel themselves badly handicapped, crippled by their lack of early education, will find in these pages great encouragement to broaden their horizon, and will get a practical, helpful, sensible education in their odd moments and half-holidays.
Dr. Marden, in "Pushing to the Front," shows that the average of the leaders are not above the average of ability. They are ordinary people, but of extraordinary persistence and perseverance. It is a storehouse of noble incentive, a treasury of precious sayings. There is inspiration and encouragement and helpfulness on every page. It teaches the doctrine that no limits can be placed on one's career if he has once learned the alphabet and has push; that there are no barriers that can say to aspiring talent, "Thus far, and no farther." Encouragement is its keynote; it aims to arouse to honorable exertion those who are drifting without aim, to awaken dormant ambitions in those who have grown discouraged in the struggle for success.
I. THE MAN AND THE OPPORTUNITY II. WANTED—A MAN III. BOYS WITH NO CHANCE IV. THE COUNTRY BOY V. OPPORTUNITIES WHERE YOU ARE VI. POSSIBILITIES IN SPARE MOMENTS VII. HOW POOR BOYS AND GIRLS GO TO COLLEGE VIII. YOUR OPPORTUNITY CONFRONTS YOU—WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH IT? IX. ROUND BOYS IN SQUARE HOLES X. WHAT CAREER? XI. CHOOSING A VOCATION XII. CONCENTRATED ENERGY XIII. THE TRIUMPHS OF ENTHUSIASM XIV. "ON TIME," OR, THE TRIUMPH OF PROMPTNESS XV. WHAT A GOOD APPEARANCE WILL DO XVI. PERSONALITY AS A SUCCESS ASSET XVII. If YOU CAN TALK WELL XVIII. A FORTUNE IN GOOD MANNERS XIX. SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS AND TIMIDITY FOES TO SUCCESS XX. TACT OR COMMON SENSE XXI. ENAMORED OF ACCURACY XXII. DO IT TO A FINISH XXIII. THE REWARD OF PERSISTENCE XXIV. NERVE—GRIP, PLUCK XXV. CLEAR GRIT XXVI. SUCCESS UNDER DIFFICULTIES XXVII. USES OF OBSTACLES XXVIII. DECISION XXIX. OBSERVATION AS A SUCCESS FACTOR XXX. SELF-HELP XXXI. THE SELF-IMPROVEMENT HABIT XXXII. RAISING OF VALUES XXXIII. PUBLIC SPEAKING XXXIV. THE TRIUMPHS OF THE COMMON VIRTUES XXXV. GETTING AROUSED XXXVI. THE MAN WITH AN IDEA XXXVII. DARE XXXVIII. THE WILL AND THE WAY XXXIX. ONE UNWAVERING AIM XL. WORK AND WAIT XLI. THE MIGHT OF LITTLE THINGS XLII. THE SALARY YOU DO NOT FIND IN YOUR PAY ENVELOPE XLIII. EXPECT GREAT THINGS OF YOURSELF XLIV. THE NEXT TIME YOU THINK YOU ARE A FAILURE XLV. STAND FOR SOMETHING XLVI. NATURE'S LITTLE BILL XLVII. HABIT—THE SERVANT,—THE MASTER XLVIII. THE CIGARETTE XLIX. THE POWER OF PURITY L. THE HABIT OF HAPPINESS LI. PUT BEAUTY INTO YOUR LIFE LII. EDUCATION BY ABSORPTION LIII. THE POWER OF SUGGESTION LIV. THE CURSE OF WORRY LV. TAKE A PLEASANT THOUGHT TO BED WITH YOU LVI. THE CONQUEST OF POVERTY LVII. A NEW WAY OF BRINGING UP CHILDREN LVIII. THE HOME AS A SCHOOL OF GOOD MANNERS LIX. MOTHER LX. WHY SO MANY MARRIED WOMEN DETERIORATE LXI. THRIFT LXII. A COLLEGE EDUCATION AT HOME LXIII. DISCRIMINATION IN READING LXIV. READING A SPUR TO AMBITION LXV. WHY SOME SUCCEED AND OTHERS FAIL LXVI. RICH WITHOUT MONEY
Orison Swett Marden . . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece
House in which Abraham Lincoln was born
Ulysses S. Grant
William Ewart Gladstone
Thomas Alva Edison
Henry Ward Beecher
Lincoln studying by the firelight
Joseph Jefferson [Transcriber's note: Jefferson was a prominent actor during the latter half of the 1800's.]
Julia Ward Howe
PUSHING TO THE FRONT
THE MAN AND THE OPPORTUNITY
No man is born into this world whose work is not born with him.—LOWELL.
Things don't turn up in this world until somebody turns them up.—GARFIELD.
Vigilance in watching opportunity; tact and daring in seizing upon opportunity; force and persistence in crowding opportunity to its utmost of possible achievement—these are the martial virtues which must command success.—AUSTIN PHELPS.
"I will find a way or make one."
There never was a day that did not bring its own opportunity for doing good that never could have been done before, and never can be again.—W. H. BURLEIGH.
"Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; What you can do, or dream you can, begin it."
"If we succeed, what will the world say?" asked Captain Berry in delight, when Nelson had explained his carefully formed plan before the battle of the Nile.
"There is no if in the case," replied Nelson. "That we shall succeed is certain. Who may live to tell the tale is a very different question." Then, as his captains rose from the council to go to their respective ships, he added: "Before this time to-morrow I shall have gained a peerage or Westminster Abbey." His quick eye and daring spirit saw an opportunity of glorious victory where others saw only probable defeat.
"Is it POSSIBLE to cross the path?" asked Napoleon of the engineers who had been sent to explore the dreaded pass of St. Bernard. "Perhaps," was the hesitating reply, "it is within the limits of possibility."
"FORWARD THEN," said the Little Corporal, without heeding their account of apparently insurmountable difficulties. England and Austria laughed in scorn at the idea of transporting across the Alps, where "no wheel had ever rolled, or by any possibility could roll," an army of sixty thousand men, with ponderous artillery, tons of cannon balls and baggage, and all the bulky munitions of war. But the besieged Massena was starving in Genoa, and the victorious Austrians thundered at the gates of Nice, and Napoleon was not the man to fail his former comrades in their hour of peril.
When this "impossible" deed was accomplished, some saw that it might have been done long before. Others excused themselves from encountering such gigantic obstacles by calling them insuperable. Many a commander had possessed the necessary supplies, tools, and rugged soldiers, but lacked the grit and resolution of Bonaparte, who did not shrink from mere difficulties, however great, but out of his very need made and mastered his opportunity.
Grant at New Orleans had just been seriously injured by a fall from his horse, when he received orders to take command at Chattanooga, so sorely beset by the Confederates that its surrender seemed only a question of a few days; for the hills around were all aglow by night with the camp-fires of the enemy, and supplies had been cut off. Though in great pain, he immediately gave directions for his removal to the new scene of action.
On transports up the Mississippi, the Ohio, and one of its tributaries; on a litter borne by horses for many miles through the wilderness; and into the city at last on the shoulders of four men, he was taken to Chattanooga. Things assumed a different aspect immediately. A master had arrived who was equal to the situation. The army felt the grip of his power. Before he could mount his horse he ordered an advance, and although the enemy contested the ground inch by inch, the surrounding hills were soon held by Union soldiers.
Were these things the result of chance, or were they compelled by the indominable determination of the injured General?
Did things adjust themselves when Horatius with two companions held ninety thousand Tuscans at bay until the bridge across the Tiber had been destroyed?—when Leonidas at Thermopylae checked the mighty march of Xerxes?—when Themistocles, off the coast of Greece, shattered the Persian's Armada?—when Caesar, finding his army hard pressed, seized spear and buckler, fought while he reorganized his men, and snatched victory from defeat?—when Winkelried gathered to his heart a sheaf of Austrian spears, thus opening a path through which his comrades pressed to freedom?—when for years Napoleon did not lose a single battle in which he was personally engaged?—when Wellington fought in many climes without ever being conquered?—when Ney, on a hundred fields, changed apparent disaster into brilliant triumph?—when Perry left the disabled Lawrence, rowed to the Niagara, and silenced the British guns?—when Sheridan arrived from Winchester just as the Union retreat was becoming a rout, and turned the tide by riding along the line?—when Sherman, though sorely pressed, signaled his men to hold the fort, and they, knowing that their leader was coming, held it?
History furnishes thousands of examples of men who have seized occasions to accomplish results deemed impossible by those less resolute. Prompt decision and whole-souled action sweep the world before them.
True, there has been but one Napoleon; but, on the other hand, the Alps that oppose the progress of the average American youth are not as high or dangerous as the summits crossed by the great Corsican.
Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great.
On the morning of September 6, 1838, a young woman in the Longstone Lighthouse, between England and Scotland, was awakened by shrieks of agony rising above the roar of wind and wave. A storm of unwonted fury was raging, and her parents could not hear the cries; but a telescope showed nine human beings clinging to the windlass of a wrecked vessel whose bow was hanging on the rocks half a mile away. "We can do nothing," said William Darling, the light-keeper. "Ah, yes, we must go to the rescue," exclaimed his daughter, pleading tearfully with both father and mother, until the former replied: "Very well, Grace, I will let you persuade me, though it is against my better judgment." Like a feather in a whirlwind the little boat was tossed on the tumultuous sea, but, borne on the blast that swept the cruel surge, the shrieks of those shipwrecked sailors seemed to change her weak sinews into cords of steel. Strength hitherto unsuspected came from somewhere, and the heroic girl pulled one oar in even time with her father. At length the nine were safely on board. "God bless you; but ye're a bonny English lass," said one poor fellow, as he looked wonderingly upon this marvelous girl, who that day had done a deed which added more to England's glory than the exploits of many of her monarchs.
"If you will let me try, I think I can make something that will do," said a boy who had been employed as a scullion at the mansion of Signer Faliero, as the story is told by George Cary Eggleston. A large company had been invited to a banquet, and just before the hour the confectioner, who had been making a large ornament for the table, sent word that he had spoiled the piece. "You!" exclaimed the head servant, in astonishment; "and who are you?" "I am Antonio Canova, the grandson of Pisano, the stone-cutter," replied the pale-faced little fellow.
"And pray, what can you do?" asked the major-domo. "I can make you something that will do for the middle of the table, if you'll let me try." The servant was at his wits' end, so he told Antonio to go ahead and see what he could do. Calling for some butter, the scullion quickly molded a large crouching lion, which the admiring major-domo placed upon the table.
Dinner was announced, and many of the most noted merchants, princes, and noblemen of Venice were ushered into the dining-room. Among them were skilled critics of art work. When their eyes fell upon the butter lion, they forgot the purpose for which they had come in their wonder at such a work of genius. They looked at the lion long and carefully, and asked Signer Faliero what great sculptor had been persuaded to waste his skill upon such a temporary material. Faliero could not tell; so he asked the head servant, who brought Antonio before the company.
When the distinguished guests learned that the lion had been made in a short time by a scullion, the dinner was turned into a feast in his honor. The rich host declared that he would pay the boy's expenses under the best masters, and he kept his word. Antonio was not spoiled by his good fortune, but remained at heart the same simple, earnest, faithful boy who had tried so hard to become a good stone-cutter in the shop of Pisano. Some may not have heard how the boy Antonio took advantage of this first great opportunity; but all know of Canova, one of the greatest sculptors of all time.
Weak men wait for opportunities, strong men make them.
"The best men," says E. H. Chapin, "are not those who have waited for chances but who have taken them; besieged the chance; conquered the chance; and made chance the servitor."
There may not be one chance in a million that you will ever receive unusual aid; but opportunities are often presented which you can improve to good advantage, if you will only act.
The lack of opportunity is ever the excuse of a weak, vacillating mind. Opportunities! Every life is full of them. Every lesson in school or college is an opportunity. Every examination is a chance in life. Every patient is an opportunity. Every newspaper article is an opportunity. Every client is an opportunity. Every sermon is an opportunity. Every business transaction is an opportunity,—an opportunity to be polite,—an opportunity to be manly,—an opportunity to be honest,—an opportunity to make friends. Every proof of confidence in you is a great opportunity. Every responsibility thrust upon your strength and your honor is priceless. Existence is the privilege of effort, and when that privilege is met like a man, opportunities to succeed along the line of your aptitude will come faster than you can use them. If a slave like Fred Douglass, who did not even own his body, can elevate himself into an orator, editor, statesman, what ought the poorest white boy to do, who is rich in opportunities compared with Douglass?
It is the idle man, not the great worker, who is always complaining that he has no time or opportunity. Some young men will make more out of the odds and ends of opportunities which many carelessly throw away than other will get out of a whole life-time. Like bees, they extract honey from every flower. Every person they meet, every circumstance of the day, adds something to their store of useful knowledge or personal power.
"There is nobody whom Fortune does not visit once in his life," says a cardinal; "but when she finds he is not ready to receive her, she goes in at the door and out at the window."
Cornelius Vanderbilt saw his opportunity in the steamboat, and determined to identify himself with steam navigation. To the surprise of all his friends, he abandoned his prosperous business and took command of one of the first steamboats launched, at a salary of one thousand dollars a year. Livingston and Fulton had acquired the sole right to navigate New York waters by steam, but Vanderbilt thought the law unconstitutional, and defied it until it was repealed. He soon became a steamboat owner. When the government was paying a large subsidy for carrying the European mails, he offered to carry them free and give better service. His offer was accepted, and in this way he soon built up an enormous freight and passenger traffic.
Foreseeing the great future of railroads in a country like ours, he plunged into railroad enterprises with all his might, laying the foundation for the vast Vanderbilt system of to-day.
Young Philip Armour joined the long caravan of Forty-Niners, and crossed the "Great American Desert" with all his possessions in a prairie schooner drawn by mules. Hard work and steady gains carefully saved in the mines enabled him to start, six years later, in the grain and warehouse business in Milwaukee. In nine years he made five hundred thousand dollars. But he saw his great opportunity in Grant's order, "On to Richmond." One morning in 1864 he knocked at the door of Plankinton, partner in his venture as a pork packer. "I am going to take the next train to New York," said he, "to sell pork 'short.' Grant and Sherman have the rebellion by the throat, and pork will go down to twelve dollars a barrel." This was his opportunity. He went to New York and offered pork in large quantities at forty dollars per barrel. It was eagerly taken. The shrewd Wall Street speculators laughed at the young Westerner, and told him pork would go to sixty dollars, for the war was not nearly over. Mr. Armour, however, kept on selling, Grant continued to advance. Richmond fell, pork fell with it to twelve dollars a barrel, and Mr. Armour cleared two millions of dollars.
John D. Rockefeller saw his opportunity in petroleum. He could see a large population in this country with very poor lights. Petroleum was plentiful, but the refining process was so crude that the product was inferior, and not wholly safe. Here was Rockefeller's chance. Taking into partnership Samuel Andrews, the porter in a machine shop where both men had worked, he started a single barrel "still" in 1870, using an improved process discovered by his partner. They made a superior grade of oil and prospered rapidly. They admitted a third partner, Mr. Flagler, but Andrews soon became dissatisfied. "What will you take for your interest?" asked Rockefeller. Andrews wrote carelessly on a piece of paper, "One million dollars." Within twenty-four hours Mr. Rockefeller handed him the amount, saying, "Cheaper at one million than ten." In twenty years the business of the little refinery, scarcely worth one thousand dollars for building and apparatus, had grown into the Standard Oil Trust, capitalized at ninety millions of dollars, with stock quoted at 170, giving a market value of one hundred and fifty millions.
These are illustrations of seizing opportunity for the purpose of making money. But fortunately there is a new generation of electricians, of engineers, of scholars, of artists, of authors, and of poets, who find opportunities, thick as thistles, for doing something nobler than merely amassing riches. Wealth is not an end to strive for, but an opportunity; not the climax of a man's career, but an incident.
Mrs. Elizabeth Fry, a Quaker lady, saw her opportunity in the prisons of England. From three hundred to four hundred half-naked women, as late as 1813, would often be huddled in a single ward of Newgate, London, awaiting trial. They had neither beds nor bedding, but women, old and young, and little girls, slept in filth and rags on the floor. No one seemed to care for them, and the Government merely furnished food to keep them alive. Mrs. Fry visited Newgate, calmed the howling mob, and told them she wished to establish a school for the young women and the girls, and asked them to select a schoolmistress from their own number. They were amazed, but chose a young woman who had been committed for stealing a watch. In three months these "wild beasts," as they were sometimes called, became harmless and kind. The reform spread until the Government legalized the system, and good women throughout Great Britain became interested in the work of educating and clothing these outcasts. Fourscore years have passed, and her plan has been adopted throughout the civilized world.
A boy in England had been run over by a car, and the bright blood spurted from a severed artery. No one seemed to know what to do until another boy, Astley Cooper, took his handkerchief and stopped the bleeding by pressure above the wound. The praise which he received for thus saving the boy's life encouraging him to become a surgeon, the foremost of his day.
"The time comes to the young surgeon," says Arnold, "when, after long waiting, and patient study and experiment, he is suddenly confronted with his first critical operation. The great surgeon is away. Time is pressing. Life and death hang in the balance. Is he equal to the emergency? Can he fill the great surgeon's place, and do his work? If he can, he is the one of all others who is wanted. His opportunity confronts him. He and it are face to face. Shall he confess his ignorance and inability, or step into fame and fortune? It is for him to say."
Are you prepared for a great opportunity?
"Hawthorne dined one day with Longfellow," said James T. Fields, "and brought a friend, with him from Salem. After dinner the friend said, 'I have been trying to persuade Hawthorne to write a story based upon a legend of Acadia, and still current there,—the legend of a girl who, in the dispersion of the Acadians, was separated from her lover, and passed her life in waiting and seeking for him, and only found him dying in a hospital when both were old.' Longfellow wondered that the legend did not strike the fancy of Hawthorne, and he said to him, 'If you have really made up your mind not to use it for a story, will you let me have it for a poem?' To this Hawthorne consented, and promised, moreover, not to treat the subject in prose till Longfellow had seen what he could do with it in verse. Longfellow seized his opportunity and gave to the world 'Evangeline, or the Exile of the Acadians.'"
Open eyes will discover opportunities everywhere; open ears will never fail to detect the cries of those who are perishing for assistance; open hearts will never want for worthy objects upon which to bestow their gifts; open hands will never lack for noble work to do.
Everybody had noticed the overflow when a solid is immersed in a vessel filled with water, although no one had made use of his knowledge that the body displaces its exact bulk of liquid; but when Archimedes observed the fact, he perceived therein an easy method of finding the cubical contents of objects, however irregular in shape.
Everybody knew how steadily a suspended weight, when moved, sways back and forth until friction and the resistance of the air bring it to rest, yet no one considered this information of the slightest practical importance; but the boy Galileo, as he watched a lamp left swinging by accident in the cathedral at Pisa, saw in the regularity of those oscillations the useful principle of the pendulum. Even the iron doors of a prison were not enough to shut him out from research. He experimented with the straw of his cell, and learned valuable lessons about the relative strength of tubes and rods of equal diameters.
For ages astronomers had been familiar with the rings of Saturn, and regarded them merely as curious exceptions to the supposed law of planetary formation; but Laplace saw that, instead of being exceptions, they are the sole remaining visible evidences of certain stages in the invariable process of star manufacture, and from their mute testimony he added a valuable chapter to the scientific history of Creation.
There was not a sailor in Europe who had not wondered what might lie beyond the Western Ocean, but it remained for Columbus to steer boldly out into an unknown sea and discover a new world.
Innumerable apples had fallen from trees, often hitting heedless men on the head as if to set them thinking, but Newton was the first to realize that they fall to the earth by the same law which holds the planets in their courses and prevents the momentum of all the atoms in the universe from hurling them wildly back to chaos.
Lightning had dazzled the eyes, and thunder had jarred the ears of men since the days of Adam, in the vain attempt to call their attention to the all-pervading and tremendous energy of electricity; but the discharges of Heaven's artillery were seen and heard only by the eye and ear of terror until Franklin, by a simple experiment, proved that lightning is but one manifestation of a resistless yet controllable force, abundant as air and water.
Like many others, these men are considered great, simply because they improved opportunities common to the whole human race. Read the story of any successful man and mark its moral, told thousands of years ago by Solomon: "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings." This proverb is well illustrated by the career of the industrious Franklin, for he stood before five kings and dined with two.
He who improves an opportunity sows a seed which will yield fruit in opportunity for himself and others. Every one who has labored honestly in the past has aided to place knowledge and comfort within the reach of a constantly increasing number.
Avenues greater in number, wider in extent, easier of access than ever before existed, stand open to the sober, frugal, energetic and able mechanic, to the educated youth, to the office boy and to the clerk—avenues through which they can reap greater successes than ever before within the reach of these classes in the history of the world. A little while ago there were only three or four professions—now there are fifty. And of trades, where there was one, there are a hundred now.
"What is its name?" asked a visitor in a studio, when shown, among many gods, one whose face was concealed by hair, and which had wings on its feet. "Opportunity," replied the sculptor. "Why is its face hidden?" "Because men seldom know him when he comes to them." "Why has he wings on his feet?" "Because he is soon gone, and once gone, cannot be overtaken."
"Opportunity has hair in front," says a Latin author; "behind she is bald; if you seize her by the forelock, you may hold her, but, if suffered to escape, not Jupiter himself can catch her again."
But what is the best opportunity to him who cannot or will not use it?
"It was my lot," said a shipmaster, "to fall in with the ill-fated steamer Central America. The night was closing in, the sea rolling high; but I hailed the crippled steamer and asked if they needed help. 'I am in a sinking condition,' cried Captain Herndon. 'Had you not better send your passengers on board directly?' I asked. 'Will you not lay by me until morning?' replied Captain Herndon. 'I will try,' I answered 'but had you not better send your passengers on board now?' 'Lay by me till morning,' again shouted Captain Herndon.
"I tried to lay by him, but at night, such was the heavy roll of the sea, I could not keep my position, and I never saw the steamer again. In an hour and a half after he said, 'Lay by me till morning,' his vessel, with its living freight, went down. The captain and crew and most of the passengers found a grave in the deep."
Captain Herndon appreciated the value of the opportunity he had neglected when it was beyond his reach, but of what avail was the bitterness of his self-reproach when his last moments came? How many lives were sacrificed to his unintelligent hopefulness and indecision! Like him the feeble, the sluggish, and the purposeless too often see no meaning in the happiest occasions, until too late they learn the old lesson that the mill can never grind with the water which has passed.
Such people are always a little too late or a little too early in everything they attempt. "They have three hands apiece," said John B. Gough; "a right hand, a left hand, and a little behindhand." As boys, they were late for school, and unpunctual in their home duties. That is the way the habit is acquired; and now, when responsibility claims them, they think that if they had only gone yesterday they would have obtained the situation, or they can probably get one to-morrow. They remember plenty of chances to make money, or know how to make it some other time than now; they see how to improve themselves or help others in the future, but perceive no opportunity in the present. They cannot seize their opportunity.
Joe Stoker, rear brakeman on the —— accommodation train, was exceedingly popular with all the railroad men. The passengers liked him, too, for he was eager to please and always ready to answer questions. But he did not realize the full responsibility of his position. He "took the world easy," and occasionally tippled; and if any one remonstrated, he would give one of his brightest smiles, and reply, in such a good-natured way that the friend would think he had over-estimated the danger: "Thank you. I'm all right. Don't you worry."
One evening there was a heavy snowstorm, and his train was delayed. Joe complained of extra duties because of the storm, and slyly sipped occasional draughts from a flat bottle. Soon he became quite jolly; but the conductor and engineer of the train were both vigilant and anxious.
Between two stations the train came to a quick halt. The engine had blown out its cylinder head, and an express was due in a few minutes upon the same track. The conductor hurried to the rear car, and ordered Joe back with a red light. The brakeman laughed and said:
"There's no hurry. Wait till I get my overcoat."
The conductor answered gravely, "Don't stop a minute, Joe. The express is due."
"All right," said Joe, smilingly. The conductor then hurried forward to the engine.
But the brakeman did not go at once. He stopped to put on his overcoat. Then he took another sip from the flat bottle to keep the cold out. Then he slowly grasped the lantern and, whistling, moved leisurely down the track.
He had not gone ten paces before he heard the puffing of the express. Then he ran for the curve, but it was too late. In a horrible minute the engine of the express had telescoped the standing train, and the shrieks of the mangled passengers mingled with the hissing escape of steam.
Later on, when they asked for Joe, he had disappeared; but the next day he was found in a barn, delirious, swinging an empty lantern in front of an imaginary train, and crying, "Oh, that I had!"
He was taken home, and afterwards to an asylum, and there is no sadder sound in that sad place than the unceasing moan, "Oh, that I had! Oh, that I had!" of the unfortunate brakeman, whose criminal indulgence brought disaster to many lives.
"Oh, that I had!" or "Oh, that I had not!" is the silent cry of many a man who would give life itself for the opportunity to go back and retrieve some long-past error.
"There are moments," says Dean Alford, "which are worth more than years. We cannot help it. There is no proportion between spaces of time in importance nor in value. A stray, unthought-of five minutes may contain the event of a life. And this all-important moment—who can tell when it will be upon us?"
"What we call a turning-point," says Arnold, "is simply an occasion which sums up and brings to a result previous training. Accidental circumstances are nothing except to men who have been trained to take advantage of them."
The trouble with us is that we are ever looking for a princely chance of acquiring riches, or fame, or worth. We are dazzled by what Emerson calls the "shallow Americanism" of the day. We are expecting mastery without apprenticeship, knowledge without study, and riches by credit.
Young men and women, why stand ye here all the day idle? Was the land all occupied before you were born? Has the earth ceased to yield its increase? Are the seats all taken? the positions all filled? the chances all gone? Are the resources of your country fully developed? Are the secrets of nature all mastered? Is there no way in which you can utilize these passing moments to improve yourself or benefit others? Is the competition of modern existence so fierce that you must be content simply to gain an honest living? Have you received the gift of life in this progressive age, wherein all the experience of the past is garnered for your inspiration, merely that you may increase by one the sum total of purely animal existence?
Born in an age and country in which knowledge and opportunity abound as never before, how can you sit with folded hands, asking God's aid in work for which He has already given you the necessary faculties and strength? Even when the Chosen People supposed their progress checked by the Red Sea, and their leader paused for Divine help, the Lord said, "Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward."
With the world full of work that needs to be done; with human nature so constituted that often a pleasant word or a trifling assistance may stem the tide of disaster for some fellow man, or clear his path to success; with our own faculties so arranged that in honest, earnest, persistent endeavor we find our highest good; and with countless noble examples to encourage us to dare and to do, each moment brings us to the threshold of some new opportunity.
Don't wait for your opportunity. Make it,—make it as the shepherd-boy Ferguson made his when he calculated the distances of the stars with a handful of glass beads on a string. Make it as George Stephenson made his when he mastered the rules of mathematics with a bit of chalk on the grimy sides of the coal wagons in the mines. Make it, as Napoleon made his in a hundred "impossible" situations. Make it, as all leaders of men, in war and in peace, have made their chances of success. Golden opportunities are nothing to laziness, but industry makes the commonest chances golden.
"There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries; And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures."
"'Tis never offered twice; seize, then, the hour When fortune smiles, and duty points the way; Nor shrink aside to 'scape the specter fear, Nor pause, though pleasure beckon from her bower; But bravely bear thee onward to the goal."
"Wanted; men: Not systems fit and wise, Not faiths with rigid eyes, Not wealth in mountain piles, Not power with gracious smiles, Not even the potent pen; Wanted; men."
All the world cries, Where is the man who will save us? We want a man! Don't look so far for this man. You have him at hand. This man,—it is you, it is I, it is each one of us! . . . How to constitute one's self a man? Nothing harder, if one knows not how to will it; nothing easier, if one wills it.—ALEXANDRE DUMAS.
Diogenes sought with a lantern at noontide in ancient Athens for a perfectly honest man, and sought in vain. In the market place he once cried aloud, "Hear me, O men"; and, when a crowd collected around him, he said scornfully: "I called for men, not pygmies."
Over the door of every profession, every occupation, every calling, the world has a standing advertisement: "Wanted—A Man."
Wanted, a man who will not lose his individuality in a crowd, a man who has the courage of his convictions, who is not afraid to say "No," though all the world say "Yes."
Wanted, a man who, though he is dominated by a mighty purpose, will not permit one great faculty to dwarf, cripple, warp, or mutilate his manhood; who will not allow the over-development of one faculty to stunt or paralyze his other faculties.
Wanted, a man who is larger than his calling, who considers it a low estimate of his occupation to value it merely as a means of getting a living. Wanted, a man who sees self-development, education and culture, discipline and drill, character and manhood, in his occupation.
A thousand pulpits vacant in a single religious denomination, a thousand preachers standing idle in the market place, while a thousand church committees scour the land for men to fill those same vacant pulpits, and scour in vain, is a sufficient indication, in one direction at least, of the largeness of the opportunities of the age, and also of the crying need of good men.
Wanted, a man of courage who is not a coward in any part of his nature.
Wanted, a man who is well balanced, who is not cursed with some little defect of weakness which cripples his usefulness and neutralizes his powers.
Wanted, a man who is symmetrical, and not one-sided in his development, who has not sent all the energies of his being into one narrow specialty and allowed all the other branches of his life to wither and die. Wanted, a man who is broad, who does not take half views of things; a man who mixes common sense with his theories, who does not let a college education spoil him for practical, every-day life; a man who prefers substance to show, and one who regards his good name as a priceless treasure.
Wanted, a man "who, no stunted ascetic, is full of life and fire, but whose passions are trained to heed a strong will, the servant of a tender conscience; who has learned to love all beauty, whether of nature or of art, to hate all vileness, and to respect others as himself."
The world wants a man who is educated all over; whose nerves are brought to their acutest sensibility; whose brain is cultured, keen, incisive, broad; whose hands are deft; whose eyes are alert, sensitive, microscopic; whose heart is tender, magnanimous, true.
The whole world is looking for such a man. Although there are millions out of employment, yet it is almost impossible to find just the right man in almost any department of life, and yet everywhere we see the advertisement: "Wanted—A Man."
Rousseau, in his celebrated essay on education, says; "According to the order of nature, men being equal, their common vocation is the profession of humanity; and whoever is well educated to discharge the duty of a man can not be badly prepared to fill any of those offices that have a relation to him. It matters little to me whether my pupil be designed for the army, the pulpit, or the bar. Nature has destined us to the offices of human life antecedent to our destination concerning society. To live is the profession I would teach him. When I have done with him, it is true he will be neither a soldier, a lawyer, nor a divine. Let him first be a man; Fortune may remove him from one rank to another as she pleases, he will be always found in his place."
A little, short doctor of divinity in a large Baptist convention stood on a step and said he thanked God he was a Baptist. The audience could not hear and called "Louder." "Get up higher," some one said. "I can't," he replied. "To be a Baptist is as high as one can get." But there is something higher than being a Baptist, and that is being a man.
As Emerson says, Talleyrand's question is ever the main one; not, is he rich? is he committed? is he well-meaning? has he this or that faculty? is he of the movement? is he of the establishment? but is he anybody? does he stand for something? He must be good of his kind. That is all that Talleyrand, all that the common sense of mankind asks.
When Garfield as a boy was asked what he meant to be he answered: "First of all, I must make myself a man; if I do not succeed in that, I can succeed in nothing."
Montaigne says our work is not to train a soul by itself alone, nor a body by itself alone, but to train a man.
One great need for the world to-day is for men and women who are good animals. To endure the strain of our concentrated civilization, the coming man and woman must have good bodies and an excess of animal spirits.
What more glorious than a magnificent manhood, animated with the bounding spirits of overflowing health?
It is a sad sight to see thousands of students graduated every year from our grand institutions whose object is to make stalwart, independent, self-supporting men, turned out into the world saplings instead of stalwart oaks, "memory-glands" instead of brainy men, helpless instead of self-supporting, sickly instead of robust, weak instead of strong, leaning instead of erect. "So many promising youths, and never a finished man!"
The character sympathizes with and unconsciously takes on the nature of the body. A peevish, snarling, ailing man can not develop the vigor and strength of character which is possible to a healthy, robust, cheerful man. There is an inherent love in the human mind for wholeness, a demand that man shall come up to the highest standard; and there is an inherent protest or contempt for preventable deficiency. Nature, too, demands that man be ever at the top of his condition.
As we stand upon the seashore while the tide is coming in, one wave reaches up the beach far higher than any previous one, then recedes, and for some time none that follows comes up to its mark, but after a while the whole sea is there and beyond it. So now and then there comes a man head and shoulders above his fellow men, showing that Nature has not lost her ideal, and after a while even the average man will overtop the highest wave of manhood yet given to the world.
Apelles hunted over Greece for many years, studying the fairest points of beautiful women, getting here an eye, there a forehead and there a nose, here a grace and there a turn of beauty, for his famous portrait of a perfect woman which enchanted the world. So the coming man will be a composite, many in one. He will absorb into himself not the weakness, not the follies, but the strength and the virtues of other types of men. He will be a man raised to the highest power. He will be a self-centered, equipoised, and ever master of himself. His sensibility will not be deadened or blunted by violation of Nature's laws. His whole character will be impressionable, and will respond to the most delicate touches of Nature.
The first requisite of all education and discipline should be man-timber. Tough timber must come from well grown, sturdy trees. Such wood can be turned into a mast, can be fashioned into a piano or an exquisite carving. But it must become timber first. Time and patience develop the sapling into the tree. So through discipline, education, experience, the sapling child is developed into hardy mental, moral, physical man-timber.
If the youth should start out with the fixed determination that every statement he makes shall be the exact truth; that every promise he makes shall be redeemed to the letter; that every appointment shall be kept with the strictest faithfulness and with full regard for other men's time; if he should hold his reputation as a priceless treasure, feel that the eyes of the world are upon him that he must not deviate a hair's breadth from the truth and right; if he should take such a stand at the outset, he would, like George Peabody, come to have almost unlimited credit and the confidence of everybody who knows him.
What are palaces and equipages; what though a man could cover a continent with his title-deeds, or an ocean with his commerce; compared with conscious rectitude, with a face that never turns pale at the accuser's voice, with a bosom that never throbs with fear of exposure, with a heart that might be turned inside out and disclose no stain of dishonor? To have done no man a wrong; to have put your signature to no paper to which the purest angel in heaven might not have been an attesting witness; to walk and live, unseduced, within arm's length of what is not your own, with nothing between your desire and its gratification but the invisible law of rectitude;—this is to be a man.
Man is the only great thing in the universe. All the ages have been trying to produce a perfect model. Only one complete man has yet evolved. The best of us are but prophesies of what is to come.
What constitutes a state? Not high-raised battlement or labored mound, Thick wall or moated gate; Not cities proud with spires and turrets crowned; Not bays and broad-armed ports, Where, laughing at the storm, rich navies ride; Not starred and spangled courts, Where low-browed baseness wafts perfume to pride. No: men, high-minded men, With powers as far above dull brutes endued In forest, brake, or den, As beasts excel cold rocks and brambles rude,— Men who their duties know, But know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain, Prevent the long-aimed blow, And crush the tyrant while they rend the chain. WILLIAM JONES.
God give us men. A time like this demands Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands: Men whom the lust of office does not kill; Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy; Men who possess opinions and a will; Men who have honor—men who will not lie; Men who can stand before a demagogue And scorn his treacherous flatteries without winking; Tall men sun-crowned, who live above the fog In public duty, and in private thinking. ANON.
BOYS WITH NO CHANCE
In the blackest soils grow the fairest flowers, and the loftiest and strongest trees spring heavenward among the rocks.—J. G. HOLLAND.
Poverty is very terrible, and sometimes kills the very soul within us, but it is the north wind that lashes men into Vikings; it is the soft, luscious south wind which lulls them to lotus dreams.—OUIDA.
Poverty is the sixth sense.—GERMAN PROVERB.
It is not every calamity that is a curse, and early adversity is often a blessing. Surmounted difficulties not only teach, but hearten us in our future struggles.—SHARPE.
There can be no doubt that the captains of industry to-day, using that term in its broadest sense, are men who began life as poor boys.—SETH LOW.
'Tis a common proof, That lowliness is young ambition's ladder! SHAKESPEARE.
"I am a child of the court," said a pretty little girl at a children's party in Denmark; "my father is Groom of the Chambers, which is a very high office. And those whose names end with 'sen,'" she added, "can never be anything at all. We must put our arms akimbo, and make the elbows quite pointed, so as to keep these 'sen' people at a great distance."
"But my papa can buy a hundred dollars' worth of bonbons, and give them away to children," angrily exclaimed the daughter of the rich merchant Petersen. "Can your papa do that?"
"Yes," chimed in the daughter of an editor, "my papa can put your papa and everybody's papa into the newspaper. All sorts of people are afraid of him, my papa says, for he can do as he likes with the paper."
"Oh, if I could be one of them!" thought a little boy peeping through the crack of the door, by permission of the cook for whom he had been turning the spit. But no, his parents had not even a penny to spare, and his name ended in "sen."
Years afterwards when the children of the party had become men and women, some of them went to see a splendid house, filled with all kinds of beautiful and valuable objects. There they met the owner, once the very boy who thought it so great a privilege to peep at them through a crack in the door as they played. He had become the great sculptor Thorwaldsen.
This sketch is adapted from a story by a poor Danish cobbler's son, another whose name did not keep him from becoming famous,—Hans Christian Andersen.
"There is no fear of my starving, father," said the deaf boy, Kitto, begging to be taken from the poorhouse and allowed to struggle for an education; "we are in the midst of plenty, and I know how to prevent hunger. The Hottentots subsist a long time on nothing but a little gum; they also, when hungry, tie a ligature around their bodies. Cannot I do so, too? The hedges furnish blackberries and nuts, and the fields, turnips; a hayrick will make an excellent bed."
The poor deaf boy with a drunken father, who was thought capable of nothing better than making shoes as a pauper, became one of the greatest Biblical scholars in the world. His first book was written in the workhouse.
Creon was a Greek slave, as a writer tells the story in Kate Field's "Washington," but he was also a slave of the Genius of Art. Beauty was his god, and he worshiped it with rapt adoration. It was after the repulse of the great Persian invader, and a law was in force that under penalty of death no one should espouse art except freemen. When the law was enacted he was engaged upon a group for which he hoped some day to receive the commendation of Phidias, the greatest sculptor living, and even the praise of Pericles.
What was to be done? Into the marble block before him Creon had put his head, his heart, his soul, his life. On his knees, from day to day, he had prayed for fresh inspiration, new skill. He believed, gratefully and proudly, that Apollo, answering his prayers, had directed his hand and had breathed into the figures the life that seemed to animate them; but now,—now, all the gods seemed to have deserted him.
Cleone, his devoted sister, felt the blow as deeply as her brother. "O Aphrodite!" she prayed, "immortal Aphrodite, high enthroned child of Zeus, my queen, my goddess, my patron, at whose shrine I have daily laid my offerings, to be now my friend, the friend of my brother!"
Then to her brother she said: "O Creon, go to the cellar beneath our house. It is dark, but I will furnish light and food. Continue your work; the gods will befriend us."
To the cellar Creon went, and guarded and attended by his sister, day and night, he proceeded with his glorious but dangerous task.
About this time all Greece was invited to Athens to behold an exhibit of works of art. The display took place in the Agora. Pericles presided. At his side was Aspasia. Phidias, Socrates, Sophocles, and other renowned men stood near him.
The works of the great masters were there. But one group, far more beautiful than the rest,—a group that Apollo himself must have chiseled,—challenged universal attention, exciting at the same time no little envy among rival artists.
"Who is the sculptor of this group?" None could tell. Heralds repeated the question, but there was no answer. "A mystery, then! Can it be the work of a slave?" Amid great commotion a beautiful maiden with disarranged dress, disheveled hair, a determined expression in her eyes, and with closed lips, was dragged into the Agora. "This woman," cried the officers, "this woman knows the sculptor; we are sure of it; but she will not tell his name."
Cleone was questioned, but was silent. She was informed of the penalty of her conduct, but her lips remained closed. "Then," said Pericles, "the law is imperative, and I am the minister of the law. Take the maid to the dungeon."
As he spoke a youth with flowing hair, emaciated, but with black eyes that beamed with the flashing light of genius, rushed forward, and flinging himself before him exclaimed: "O Pericles, forgive and save the maid! She is my sister. I am the culprit. The group is the work of my hands, the hands of a slave."
The indignant crowd interrupted him and cried, "To the dungeon, to the dungeon with the slave." "As I live, no!" said Pericles, rising. "Behold that group! Apollo decides by it that there is something higher in Greece than an unjust law. The highest purpose of law should be the development of the beautiful. If Athens lives in the memory and affections of men, it is her devotion to art that will immortalize her. Not to the dungeon, but to my side bring the youth."
And there, in the presence of the assembled multitude, Aspasia placed the crown of olives, which she held in her hands, on the brow of Creon; and at the same time, amid universal plaudits, she tenderly kissed Creon's affectionate and devoted sister.
The Athenians erected a statue to Aesop, who was born a slave, that men might know that the way to honor is open to all. In Greece, wealth and immortality were the sure reward of the man who could distinguish himself in art, literature, or war. No other country ever did so much to encourage and inspire struggling merit.
"I was born in poverty," said Vice-President Henry Wilson. "Want sat by my cradle. I know what it is to ask a mother for bread when she has none to give. I left my home at ten years of age, and served an apprenticeship of eleven years, receiving a month's schooling each year, and, at the end of eleven years of hard work, a yoke of oxen and six sheep, which brought me eighty-four dollars. I never spent the sum of one dollar for pleasure, counting every penny from the time I was born till I was twenty-one years of age. I know what it is to travel weary miles and ask my fellow men to give me leave to toil. . . . In the first month after I was twenty-one years of age, I went into the woods, drove a team, and cut mill-logs. I rose in the morning before daylight and worked hard till after dark, and received the magnificent sum of six dollars for the month's work! Each of these dollars looked as large to me as the moon looks to-night."
Mr. Wilson determined never to lose an opportunity for self-culture or self-advancement. Few men knew so well the value of spare moments. He seized them as though they were gold and would not let one pass until he had wrung from it every possibility. He managed to read a thousand good books before he was twenty-one—what a lesson for boys on a farm! When he left the farm he started on foot for Natick, Mass., over one hundred miles distant, to learn the cobbler's trade. He went through Boston that he might see Bunker Hill monument and other historical landmarks. The whole trip cost him but one dollar and six cents. In a year he was the head of a debating club at Natick. Before eight years had passed, he made his great speech against slavery, in the Massachusetts Legislature. Twelve years later he stood shoulder to shoulder with the polished Sumner in Congress. With him, every occasion was a great occasion. He ground every circumstance of his life into material for success.
"Don't go about the town any longer in that outlandish rig. Let me give you an order on the store. Dress up a little, Horace." Horace Greeley looked down on his clothes as if he had never before noticed how seedy they were, and replied: "You see Mr. Sterrett, my father is on a new place, and I want to help him all I can." He had spent but six dollars for personal expenses in seven months, and was to receive one hundred and thirty-five from Judge J. M. Sterret of the Erie "Gazette" for substitute work. He retained but fifteen dollars and gave the rest to his father, with whom he had moved from Vermont to Western Pennsylvania, and for whom he had camped out many a night to guard the sheep from wolves. He was nearly twenty-one; and, although tall and gawky, with tow-colored hair, a pale face and whining voice, he resolved to seek his fortune in New York City. Slinging his bundle of clothes on a stick over his shoulder, he walked sixty miles through the woods to Buffalo, rode on a canal boat to Albany, descended the Hudson in a barge, and reached New York, just as the sun was rising, August 18, 1831.
He found board over a saloon at two dollars and a half a week. His journey of six hundred miles had cost him but five dollars. For days Horace wandered up and down the streets, going into scores of buildings and asking if they wanted "a hand"; but "no" was the invariable reply. His quaint appearance led many to think he was an escaped apprentice. One Sunday at his boarding-place he heard that printers were wanted at "West's Printing-office." He was at the door at five o'clock Monday morning, and asked the foreman for a job at seven. The latter had no idea that a country greenhorn could set type for the Polyglot Testament on which help was needed, but said: "Fix up a case for him and we'll see if he can do anything." When the proprietor came in, he objected to the new-comer and told the foreman to let him go when his first day's work was done. That night Horace showed a proof of the largest and most correct day's work that had then been done.
In ten years he was a partner in a small printing-office. He founded the "New Yorker," the best weekly paper in the United States, but it was not profitable. When Harrison was nominated for President in 1840, Greeley started "The Log-Cabin," which reached the then fabulous circulation of ninety thousand. But on this paper at a penny per copy he made no money. His next venture was "The New York Tribune," price one cent. To start it he borrowed a thousand dollars and printed five thousand copies of the first number. It was difficult to give them all away. He began with six hundred subscribers, and increased the list to eleven thousand in six weeks. The demand for the "Tribune" grew faster than new machinery could be obtained to print it. It was a paper whose editor, whatever his mistakes, always tried to be right.
James Gordon Bennett had made a failure of his "New York Courier" in 1825, of the "Globe" in 1832, and of the "Pennsylvanian" a little later, and was only known as a clever writer for the press, who had saved a few hundred dollars by hard labor and strict economy for fourteen years. In 1835 he asked Horace Greeley to join him in starting a new daily paper, the "New York Herald." Greeley declined, but recommended two young printers, who formed partnership with Bennett, and the "Herald" was started on May 6, 1835, with a cash capital to pay expenses for ten days. Bennet hired a small cellar in Wall Street, furnished it with a chair and a desk composed of a plank supported by two barrels; and there, doing all the work except the printing, began the work of making a really great daily newspaper, a thing then unknown in America, as all its predecessors were party organs. Steadily the young man struggled towards his ideal, giving the news, fresh and crisp, from an ever-widening area, until his paper was famous for giving the current history of the world as fully and quickly as any competitor, and often much more thoroughly and far more promptly. Neither labor nor expense was spared in obtaining prompt and reliable information on every topic of general interest. It was an up-hill job, but its completion was finally marked by the opening at the corner of Broadway and Ann Street of the most complete newspaper establishment then known.
One of the first things to attract the attention on entering George W. Childs' private office in Philadelphia was this motto, which was the key-note of the success of a boy who started with "no chance": "Nihil sine labore." It was his early ambition to own the "Philadelphia Ledger" and the great building in which it was published; but how could a poor boy working for $2.00 a week ever hope to own such a great paper? However, he had great determination and indomitable energy; and as soon as he had saved a few hundred dollars as a clerk in a bookstore, he began business as a publisher. He made "great hits" in some of the works he published, such as "Kane's Arctic Expedition." He had a keen sense of what would please the public, and there seemed no end to his industry.
In spite of the fact that the "Ledger" was losing money every day, his friends could not dissuade him from buying it, and in 1864 the dreams of his boyhood found fulfilment. He doubled the subscription price, lowered the advertising rates, to the astonishment of everybody, and the paper entered upon a career of remarkable prosperity, the profits sometimes amounting to over four hundred thousand dollars a year. He always refused to lower the wages of his employees even when every other establishment in Philadelphia was doing so.
At a banquet in Lyons, nearly a century and a half ago, a discussion arose in regard to the meaning of a painting representing some scene in the mythology or history of Greece. Seeing that the discussion was growing warm, the host turned to one of the waiters and asked him to explain the picture. Greatly to the surprise of the company, the servant gave a clear concise account of the whole subject, so plain and convincing that it at once settled the dispute.
"In what school have you studied, Monsieur?" asked one of the guests, addressing the waiter with great respect. "I have studied in many schools, Monseigneur," replied the young servant: "but the school in which I studied longest and learned most is the school of adversity." Well had he profited by poverty's lessons; for, although then but a poor waiter, all Europe soon rang with the fame of the writings of the greatest genius of his age and country, Jean Jacques Rousseau.
The smooth sand beach of Lake Erie constituted the foolscap on which, for want of other material, P. R. Spencer, a barefoot boy with no chance, perfected the essential principles of the Spencerian system of penmanship, the most beautiful exposition of graphic art.
For eight years William Cobbett had followed the plow, when he ran away to London, copied law papers for eight or nine months, and then enlisted in an infantry regiment. During his first year of soldier life he subscribed to a circulating library at Chatham, read every book in it, and began to study.
"I learned grammar when I was a private soldier on the pay of sixpence a day. The edge of my berth, or that of the guard-bed, was my seat to study in; my knapsack was my bookcase; a bit of board lying on my lap was my writing-table, and the task did not demand anything like a year of my life. I had no money to purchase candles or oil; in winter it was rarely that I could get any evening light but that of the fire, and only my turn, even, of that. To buy a pen or a sheet of paper I was compelled to forego some portion of my food, though in a state of half starvation. I had no moment of time that I could call my own, and I had to read and write amidst the talking, laughing, singing, whistling, and bawling of at least half a score of the most thoughtless of men, and that, too, in the hours of their freedom from all control. Think not lightly of the farthing I had to give, now and then, for pen, ink, or paper. That farthing was, alas! a great sum to me. I was as tall as I am now, and I had great health and great exercise. The whole of the money not expended for us at market was twopence a week for each man. I remember, and well I may! that upon one occasion I had, after all absolutely necessary expenses, made shift to have a half-penny in reserve, which I had destined for the purpose of a red herring in the morning, but so hungry as to be hardly able to endure life, when I pulled off my clothes at night, I found that I had lost my half-penny. I buried my head in the miserable sheet and rug, and cried like a child."
But Cobbett made even his poverty and hard circumstances serve his all-absorbing passion for knowledge and success. "If I," said he, "under such circumstances could encounter and overcome this task, is there, can there be in the whole world, a youth to find any excuse for its non-performance?"
Humphrey Davy had but a slender chance to acquire great scientific knowledge, yet he had true mettle in him, and he made even old pans, kettles, and bottles contribute to his success, as he experimented and studied in the attic of the apothecary-store where he worked.
"Many a farmer's son," says Thurlow Weed, "has found the best opportunities for mental improvement in his intervals of leisure while tending 'sap-bush.' Such, at any rate, was my own experience. At night you had only to feed the kettles and keep up the fires, the sap having been gathered and the wood cut before dark. During the day we would always lay in a good stock of 'fat-pine,' by the light of which, blazing bright before the sugar-house, I passed many a delightful night in reading. I remember in this way to have a history of the French Revolution, and to have obtained a better and more enduring knowledge of its events and horrors and of the actors in that great national tragedy than I have received from all subsequent reading. I remember, also, how happy I was in being able to borrow the books of a Mr. Keyes, after a two-mile tramp through the snow, shoeless, my feet swaddled in remnants of rag carpet."
"May I have a holiday to-morrow, father?" asked Theodore Parker one August afternoon. The poor Lexington millwright looked in surprise at his youngest son, for it was a busy time, but he saw from the boy's earnest face that he had no ordinary object in view, and granted the request. Theodore rose very early the next morning, walked through the dust ten miles to Harvard College, and presented himself for a candidate for admission. He had been unable to attend school regularly since he was eight years old, but he had managed to go three months each winter, and had reviewed his lessons again and again as he followed the plow or worked at other tasks. All his odd moments had been hoarded, too, for reading useful books, which he borrowed. One book he could not borrow, but he felt that he must have it; so on summer mornings he rose long before the sun and picked bushel after bushel of berries, which he sent to Boston, and so got the money to buy that coveted Latin dictionary.
"Well done, my boy!" said the millwright, when his son came home late at night and told of his successful examination; "but, Theodore, I cannot afford to keep you there!" "True, father," said Theodore, "I am not going to stay there; I shall study at home, at odd times, and thus prepare myself for a final examination, which will give me a diploma." He did this; and, by teaching school as he grew older, got money to study for two years at Harvard, where he was graduated with honor. Years after, when, as the trusted friend and adviser of Seward, Chase, Sumner, Garrison, Horace Mann, and Wendell Phillips, his influence for good was felt in the hearts of all his countrymen, it was a pleasure for him to recall his early struggles and triumphs among the rocks and bushes of Lexington.
"The proudest moment of my life," said Elihu Burritt, "was when I had first gained the full meaning of the first fifteen lines of Homer's Iliad." Elihu Burritt's father died when he was sixteen, and Elihu was apprenticed to a blacksmith in his native village of New Britain, Conn. He had to work at the forge for ten or twelve hours a day; but while blowing the bellows, he would solve mentally difficult problems in arithmetic. In a diary kept at Worcester, whither he went some ten years later to enjoy its library privileges, are such entries as these,—"Monday, June 18, headache, 40 pages Cuvier's 'Theory of the Earth,' 64 pages French, 11 hours' forging. Tuesday, June 19, 60 lines Hebrew, 30 Danish, 10 lines Bohemian, 9 lines Polish, 15 names of stars, 10 hours' forging. Wednesday, June 20, 25 lines Hebrew, 8 lines Syriac, 11 hours' forging." He mastered 18 languages and 32 dialects. He became eminent as the "Learned Blacksmith," and for his noble work in the service of humanity. Edward Everett said of the manner in which this boy with no chance acquired great learning: "It is enough to make one who has good opportunities for education hang his head in shame."
The barefoot Christine Nilsson in remote Sweden had little chance, but she won the admiration of the world for her wondrous power of song, combined with rare womanly grace.
"Let me say in regard to your adverse worldly circumstances," says Dr. Talmage to young men, "that you are on a level now with those who are finally to succeed. Mark my words, and think of it thirty years from now. You will find that those who are then the millionaires of this country, who are the orators of the country, who are the poets of the country, who are the strong merchants of the country, who are the great philanthropists of the country,—mightiest in the church and state,—are now on a level with you, not an inch above you, and in straightened circumstances.
"No outfit, no capital to start with? Young man, go down to the library and get some books, and read of what wonderful mechanism God gave you in your hand, in your foot, in your eye, in your ear, and then ask some doctor to take you into the dissecting-room and illustrate to you what you have read about, and never again commit the blasphemy of saying you have no capital to start with. Equipped? Why, the poorest young man is equipped as only the God of the whole universe could afford to equip him."
A newsboy is not a very promising candidate for success or honors in any line of life. A young man can't set out in life with much less chance than when he starts his "daily" for a living. Yet the man who more than any other is responsible for the industrial regeneration of this continent started in life as a newsboy on the Grand Trunk Railway. Thomas Alva Edison was then about fifteen years of age. He had already begun to dabble in chemistry, and had fitted up a small itinerant laboratory. One day, as he was performing some occult experiment, the train rounded a curve, and the bottle of sulphuric acid broke. There followed a series of unearthly odors and unnatural complications. The conductor, who had suffered long and patiently, promptly ejected the youthful devotee, and in the process of the scientist's expulsion added a resounding box upon the ear.
Edison passed through one dramatic situation after another—always mastering it—until he attained at an early age the scientific throne of the world. When recently asked the secret of his success, he said he had always been a total abstainer and singularly moderate in everything but work.
Daniel Manning who was President Cleveland's first campaign manager and afterwards Secretary of the Treasury, started out as a newsboy with apparently the world against him. So did Thurlow Weed; so did David B. Hill. New York seems to have been prolific in enterprising newsboys.
What nonsense for two uneducated and unknown youths who met in a cheap boarding-house in Boston to array themselves against an institution whose roots were embedded in the very constitution of our country, and which was upheld by scholars, statesmen, churches, wealth, and aristocracy, without distinction of creed or politics! What chance had they against the prejudices and sentiment of a nation? But these young men were fired by a lofty purpose, and they were thoroughly in earnest. One of them, Benjamin Lundy, had already started in Ohio a paper called "The Genius of Universal Liberty," and had carried the entire edition home on his back from the printing-office, twenty miles, every month. He had walked four hundred miles on his way to Tennessee to increase his subscription list. He was no ordinary young man.
With William Lloyd Garrison, he started to prosecute his work more earnestly in Baltimore. The sight of the slave-pens along the principal streets; of vessel-loads of unfortunates torn from home and family and sent to Southern ports; the heartrending scenes at the auction blocks, made an impression on Garrison never to be forgotten; and the young man whose mother was too poor to send him to school, although she early taught him to hate oppression, resolved to devote his life to secure the freedom of these poor wretches.
In the first issue of his paper, Garrison urged an immediate emancipation, and called down upon his head the wrath of the entire community. He was arrested and sent to jail. John G. Whittier, a noble friend in the North, was so touched at the news that, being too poor to furnish the money himself, he wrote to Henry Clay, begging him to release Garrison by paying the fine. After forty-nine days of imprisonment he was set free. Wendell Phillips said of him, "He was imprisoned for his opinion when he was twenty-four. He had confronted a nation in the bloom of his youth."
In Boston, with no money, friends, or influence, in a little upstairs room, Garrison started the "Liberator." Read the declaration of this poor young man with "no chance," in the very first issue: "I will be as harsh as truth, as uncompromising as justice. I am in earnest. I will not equivocate, I will not excuse; I will not retreat a single inch, and I will be heard." What audacity for a young man, with the world against him!
Hon. Robert Y. Hayne, of South Carolina, wrote to Otis, mayor of Boston, that some one had sent him a copy of the "Liberator," and asked him to ascertain the name of the publisher. Otis replied that he had found a poor young man printing "this insignificant sheet in an obscure hole, his only auxiliary a negro boy, his supporters a few persons of all colors and little influence."
But this poor young man, eating, sleeping, and printing in this "obscure hole," had set the world to thinking, and must be suppressed. The Vigilance Association of South Carolina offered a reward of fifteen hundred dollars for the arrest and prosecution of any one detected circulating the "Liberator." The Governors of one or two States set a price on the editor's head. The legislature of Georgia offered a reward of five thousand dollars for his arrest and conviction.
Garrison and his coadjutors were denounced everywhere. A clergyman named Lovejoy was killed by a mob in Illinois for espousing the cause, while defending his printing-press, and in the old "Cradle of American Liberty" the wealth, power, and culture of Massachusetts arrayed itself against the "Abolitionists" so outrageously, that a mere spectator, a young lawyer of great promise, asked to be lifted upon the high platform, and replied in such a speech as was never before heard in Faneuil Hall. "When I heard the gentleman lay down the principles which place the murderers of Lovejoy at Alton side by side with Otis and Hancock, with Quincy and Adams," said Wendell Phillips, pointing to their portraits on the walls. "I thought those pictured lips would have broken into voice to rebuke the recreant American, the slanderer of the dead. For the sentiments that he has uttered, on soil consecrated by the prayers of the Puritans and the blood of patriots. the earth should have yawned and swallowed him up."
The whole nation was wrought to fever heat.
Between the Northern pioneers and Southern chivalry the struggle was long and fierce, even in far California. The drama culminated in the shock of civil war. When the war was ended, and, after thirty-five years of untiring, heroic conflict, Garrison was invited as the nation's guest, by President Lincoln, to see the stars and stripes unfurled once more above Fort Sumter, an emancipated slave delivered the address of welcome, and his two daughters, no longer chattels in appreciation presented Garrison with a beautiful wreath of flowers.
About this time Richard Cobden, another powerful friend of the oppressed, died in London.
His father had died leaving nine children almost penniless. The boy earned his living by watching a neighbor's sheep, but had no chance to attend school until he was ten years old. He was sent to a boarding-school, where he was abused, half starved, and allowed to write home only once in three months. At fifteen he entered his uncle's store in London as a clerk. He learned French by rising early and studying while his companions slept. He was soon sent out in a gig as a commercial traveler.
He called upon John Bright to enlist his aid in fighting the terrible "Corn-Laws" which were taking bread from the poor and giving it to the rich. He found Mr. Bright in great grief, for his wife was lying dead in the house.
"There are thousands of homes in England at this moment," said Richard Cobden, "where wives, mothers, and children are dying of hunger. Now, when the first paroxysm of grief is passed, I would advise you to come with me, and we will never rest until the Corn-Laws are repealed." Cobden could no longer see the poor man's bread stopped at the Custom-House and taxed for the benefit of the landlord and farmer, and he threw his whole soul into this great reform. "This is not a party question," said he, "for men of all parties are united upon it. It is a pantry question,—a question between the working millions and the aristocracy." They formed the "Anti-Corn-Law League," which, aided by the Irish famine,—for it was hunger that at last ate through those stone walls of protection,—secured the repeal of the law in 1846. Mr. Bright said: "There is not in Great Britain a poor man's home that has not a bigger, better, and cheaper loaf through Richard Cobden's labors."
John Bright himself was the son of a poor working man, and in those days the doors of the higher schools were closed to such as he; but the great Quaker heart of this resolute youth was touched with pity for the millions of England's and Ireland's poor, starving under the Corn-Laws. During the frightful famine, which cut off two millions of Ireland's population in a year, John Bright was more powerful than all the nobility of England. The whole aristocracy trembled before his invincible logic, his mighty eloquence, and his commanding character. Except possibly Cobden, no other man did so much to give the laborer a shorter day, a cheaper loaf, an added shilling.
Over a stable in London lived a poor boy named Michael Faraday, who carried newspapers about the streets to loan to customers for a penny apiece. He was apprenticed for seven years to a bookbinder and bookseller. When binding the Encyclopaedia Britannica, his eyes caught the article on electricity, and he could not rest until he had read it. He procured a glass vial, an old pan, and a few simple articles, and began to experiment. A customer became interested in the boy, and took him to hear Sir Humphry Davy lecture on chemistry. He summoned courage to write the great scientist and sent the notes he had taken of his lecture. One night, not long after, just as Michael was about to retire, Sir Humphry Davy's carriage stopped at his humble lodging, and a servant handed him a written invitation to call upon the great lecturer the next morning. Michael could scarcely trust his eyes as he read the note. In the morning he called as requested, and was engaged to clean instruments and take them to and from the lecture-room. He watched eagerly every movement of Davy, as with a glass mask over his face, he developed his safety-lamp and experimented with dangerous explosives. Michael studied and experimented, too, and it was not long before this poor boy with no chance was invited to lecture before the great philosophical society.
He was appointed professor at the Royal Academy of Woolwich, and became the wonder of the age in science. Tyndall said of him, "He is the greatest experimental philosopher the world has ever seen." When Sir Humphry Davy was asked what was his greatest discovery, he replied "Michael Faraday."
"What has been done can be done again," said the boy with no chance, Disraeli, who become Lord Beaconsfield, England's great Prime Minister. "I am not a slave, I am not a captive, and by energy I can overcome greater obstacles." Jewish blood flowed in his veins and everything seemed against him, but he remembered the example of Joseph, who became Prime Minister of Egypt four thousand years before, and that of Daniel, who was Prime Minister to the greatest despot of the world five centuries before the birth of Christ. He pushed his way up through the lower classes, up through the middle classes, up through the upper classes, until he stood a master, self-poised upon the topmost round of political and social power. Rebuffed, scorned, ridiculed, hissed down in the House of Commons, he simply said, "The time will come when you will hear me." The time did come, and the boy with no chance but a determined will swayed the scepter of England for a quarter of a century.
Henry Clay, the "mill-boy of the slashes," was one of seven children of a widow too poor to send him to any but a common country school, where he was drilled only in the "three R's." But he used every spare moment to study without a teacher, and in after years he was a king among self-made men. The boy who had learned to speak in a barn, with only a cow and a horse for an audience, became one of the greatest of American orators and statesmen.
See Kepler struggling with poverty and hardship, his books burned in public by order of the state, his library locked up by the Jesuits, and himself exiled by public clamor. For seventeen years he works calmly upon the demonstration of the great principles that planets revolve in ellipses, with the sun at one focus; that a line connecting the center of the earth with the center of the sun passes over equal spaces in equal times, and that the squares of the times of revolution of the planets above the sun are proportioned to the cubes by their mean distances from the sun. This boy with no chance became one of the world's greatest astronomers.
"When I found that I was black," said Alexandre Dumas, "I resolved to live as if I were white, and so force men to look below my skin."
How slender seemed the chance of James Sharples, the celebrated blacksmith artist of England! He was very poor, but he often rose at three o'clock to copy books he could not buy. He would walk eighteen miles to Manchester and back after a hard day's work to buy a shilling's worth of artist's materials. He would ask for the heaviest work in the blacksmith shop, because it took a longer time to heat at the forge, and he could thus have many spare minutes to study the precious book, which he propped up against the chimney. He was a great miser of spare moments and used every one as though he might never see another. He devoted his leisure hours for five years to that wonderful production, "The Forge," copies of which are to be seen in many a home.
What chance had Galileo to win renown in physics or astronomy, when his parents compelled him to go to a medical school? Yet while Venice slept, he stood in the tower of St. Mark's Cathedral and discovered the satellites of Jupiter and the phases of Venus, through a telescope made with his own hands. When compelled on bended knee to publicly renounce his heretical doctrine that the earth moves around the sun, all the terrors of the Inquisition could not keep this feeble man of threescore years and ten from muttering to himself, "Yet it does move." When thrown into prison, so great was his eagerness for scientific research that he proved by a straws in his cell that a hollow tube is relatively much stronger than a solid rod of the same size. Even when totally blind, he kept constantly at work.