Project Gutenberg's The Young Man and the World, by Albert J. Beveridge This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: The Young Man and the World Author: Albert J. Beveridge Release Date: November 20, 2005 [EBook #17110] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE YOUNG MAN AND THE WORLD *** Produced by Suzanne Lybarger, Jeannie Howse and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net
The chapters of this volume were, originally, papers published in The Saturday Evening Post of Philadelphia. The first paper on "The Young Man and the World," which gives the title to the book, was written, at the request of the editor of that magazine, as an addition to a series of articles upon the Philippines and statesmen of contemporaneous eminence.
This paper called for another, and each in its turn called for the one that followed it. And so the series grew from day to day, largely out of the suggestions of its readers—a sort of collaboration. A considerable correspondence resulted, and requests were made that the articles be collected in permanent form. This is the genesis of this book. I hope it will do some good.
While addressed more directly to young men, these papers were yet written for men on both sides the hill and on the crest thereof. I would draw maturity and youth closer together. I would have the sympathy between them ever fresh and vital. I would have them understand one another and thus profit each by the strength of the other.
The manner in which these papers were written created certain repetitions. After careful consideration I have concluded to let them remain. They are upon subjects of vital concern. Where it is necessary to remember, it is better to be wearied than to forget. And these papers were meant to be helpful. They are merely plain talks as of friends conferring together.
Albert J. Beveridge.
Indianapolis, May 1, 1905.
|I.—||The Young Man and the World||1|
|II.—||The Old Home||54|
|1. The Young Man who Goes.|
|2. The Young Man who Cannot Go.|
|IV.—||The New Home||152|
|V.—||The Young Lawyer and His Beginnings||186|
|VII.—||The Young Man and the Pulpit||246|
|VIII.—||Great Things yet to be Done||278|
|X.—||The Young Man and the Nation||334|
|XI.—||The World and the Young Man||366|
|XII.—||The Young Man's Second Wind; or, Facing the World at Fifty||387|
Be honest with the world and the world will be honest with you. This is the fundamental truth of all real prosperity and happiness. For the purposes of every man's daily affairs, all other maxims are to this central verity as the branches of a tree to its rooted trunk.
The world will be honest with you whether you are honest with it or not. You cannot trick it—remember that. If you try it, the world will punish you when it discovers your fraud. But be honest with the world from nobler motives than prudence.
Prudence will not make you be honest—it will only make you act honest. And you must be honest.
I do not mean that lowest form of honesty which bids you keep your hands clean of another's goods or money; I do not mean that you shall not be a "grafter," to use the foul and sinister word which certain base practices have recently compelled us to coin. Of course you will be honest in a money sense.
But that is only the beginning; you must go farther in your dealings with the world. You must be intellectually honest. Do not pretend to be what you are not—no affectations, no simulations, no falsehoods either of speech or thought, of conduct or attitude. Let truth abide in the very heart of you.
"I take no stock in that man; he poses his face, he attitudinizes his features. The man who tries to impress me by his countenance is constitutionally false," said the editor of a powerful publication, in commenting on a certain personage then somewhat in the public eye.
You see how important honesty is even in facial expression. I emphasize this veracity of character because it is elemental. You may have all the gifts and graces but if you have not this essential you are bankrupt. Be honest to the bone. Be clean of blood as well as of tongue.
Never try to create a deeper impression than Nature creates for you, and that means never attempt to create any impression at all. For example, never try to look wise. Many a front of gravity and weight conceals an intellectual desolation. In Moscow you will find the exact external counterpart of Tolstoi. It is said that it is difficult to distinguish the philosopher from his double. Yet this duplicate in appearance of the greatest of living writers is a cab driver without even the brightness of the jehu.
Be what you are, therefore, and no more; yes, and no less—which is equally important. In a word, start right. Be honest with yourself, too. If you have started wrong, go back and start over again. But don't change more than once. Some men never finish because they are always beginning. Be careful how you choose and then stick to your second choice. A poor claim steadily worked may be better than a good one half developed. The man who makes too many starts seldom makes anything else.
But don't pretend that you have a thousand dollars in bank when you hold in your hands the statement of your overdraft. Face your account with Nature like a man. For Nature is a generous, though remorseless, financier, delivering you your just due and exacting the uttermost of your debt. Also Nature renders you a daily accounting.
And, at the very beginning, Nature writes upon the tablet of your inner consciousness an inventory of your strengths and of your weaknesses, and lists there those tasks which you are best fitted to perform—those tasks which Nature meant you to perform. For Nature put you here to do something; you were not born to be an ornament.
First, then, learn your limitations. Take time enough to think out just what you cannot do. This process of elimination will soon reduce life's possibilities for you to a few things. Of these things select the one which is nearest you, and, having selected it, put all other loves from you.
It is a business maxim in my profession that "law is a jealous mistress." It is very true, but it is not more true than it is that every other calling in life is a jealous mistress. To every man his task is the hardest, his situation the most difficult.
By finding out one's limitations is not meant, of course, what society will permit you to do, or what men will permit you to do, but what Nature will permit you to do. You have no other master than Nature. Nature's limitations only are the bounds of your success. So far as your success is concerned, no man, no set of men, no society, not even all the world of humanity, is your master; but Nature is. "We cannot," says Emerson, "bandy words with Nature, or deal with her as we deal with persons."
"Poeta nascitur, non fit," is just as applicable to lawyers and mechanics and engineers as to poets. More failures have been caused by the old idea that a man may make himself what he will, than by any single half-truth that has crept into our common speech and belief. A man may make himself what he will within the limitations Nature has set about him.
declares the Persian sage. But all that Hafiz means by that is that a Paderewski shall not attempt blacksmithing, or a Rothschild try cartooning or sculpture or watchmaking, or any man undertake that for which Nature has not fitted him.
Do we not see instances every day of men made unhappy for life, and their powers lost to the world by trying to do that for which they have no aptitude? Parents obeying the attractive theory that any boy can make himself what he pleases decide upon some ambitious career for him without considering his natural abilities and efficiencies. Usually some calling of clamorous conspicuity is selected.
Twenty years ago the law was the favorite avenue upon which fond parents would thus set the feet of their offspring; the law, they thought, would enable him better to "make his mark"—that is, to parade up and down before the public eye and fill the public ear with declamation. Even yet that profession has clientless members, miserable in their hearts over their self-consciousness that they are not lawyers and never can be lawyers, who would have been useful, prosperous, and happy if they could have been permitted to be architects or merchants or farmers or doctors or soldiers or sculptors or editors or what not.
One of the cleverest of our present-day writers of fiction started out to be a lawyer. But he could not keep his pen from paper nor restrain that mysterious instrument from tracing sketches of character and drawing pictures of human situations. Very well! He had the courage to obey the call of his preferences; and to-day, instead of being an unskillful attorney, he is noted and notable in the present-hour world of letters.
Anthony Hope in England is another illustration precisely in point. On the other hand, Erskine, who was intended by his parents for the army, was destined by Nature for the bar. This master-advocate of all the history of English jurisprudence felt it in his blood that he must practise law; and so his sword rusted while he studied Blackstone. Finally, he deserted the field for the forum, there to become the most illustrious barrister the United Kingdom has produced.
I therefore emphasize the importance of finding out what you can do best rather than what either you or your parents wish you could do best. For it seems to me that this is getting very close to the truth of life. The thoughtless commonplace that "every boy may be President" has worked mischief, sown unhappiness, and robbed humanity of useful workers.
Every boy cannot be President, and, what is more, every boy ought not to be. Let Edison remain in his laboratory and enrich mankind with his wizard wisdom. England would have lost her great explorer if Drake had tried to write plays; while Shakespeare would doubtless have been sea-sick on the decks of the Golden Hind. Let Verdi compose, and charm the universal heart with his witcheries of sound; let Cavour keep to his statesmanship, that a dismembered people may again be made one. Every man to his calling. "Let the shoemaker stick to his last," said Appelles.
Ito might have led the Japanese armies to defeat—Oyama led them to victory. But Ito created modern Japan, wrote its constitution and introduced those methods which made Oyama's successes possible. Each man succeeded because he chose to do what Nature fitted him to do.
Of course you may be fitted for more than one thing. Cæsar could have equaled if not surpassed Cicero in mere oratory had he not preferred to find, in war and government, a fame more enduring. But, if you try all things for which you may be equipped by Nature, you will so scatter your energies through the delta of your aptitudes that your very wealth and variety of gifts neutralizes them all. No. Pick out one of the things you can do well and let the others go. A tree is pruned on the same principle. Stick to one thing. Beware of your versatilities.
Your life's work chosen give wing to your imagination. Behold yourself preeminent in your field of effort. Dream of yourself as the best civil engineer of your time, or the soundest banker or ablest merchant. If you are a farmer fancy yourself the master of all the secrets science is daily discovering in this most engaging of occupations; picture yourself as the man who has accomplished most in the realm of agriculture.
Set for yourself the ideal of perfection in your calling—being sure that it is Nature's calling. Then let your dreams become beliefs; let your imaginings develop into faith. Complete the process by resolving to make that belief come true. Then go ahead and make it come true. Keep your resolution bright. Never let it rust. Burnish it with work—untiring, unhasting, unyielding work.
Work—that is the magic word. In these four letters all possibilities are wrapped up. "Seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you." Or let us paraphrase the sacred page and say—Work and you will win. Work to your ideal. If you never reach it—and who can achieve perfection?—you surely will approach it.
Do not be impatient of your progress. If, to your own measurement, you seem to be moving slowly, remember that, to the observation of your fellow men, you are making substantial and satisfactory advance and, to the eye of your rivals, you are proceeding with unreasonable speed.
Don't pay any attention to how fast you are getting on but go ahead and get on. Keep working. And work with all your might. How wise the Bible is: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." And keep on doing it—persist—persist—persist. Again the Bible: "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings." Do not fear hard knocks. They are no sign that you will not finally win the battle. Indeed, ability to endure in silence is one of the best evidences that you will finally prevail.
Yes, put yourself into your work—and put all of yourself into your work. Having done that, be content with your effort—do not fret. If all you do yields the fruit you hope for, do not fret while that fruit is ripening. On the other hand, if your labor comes to nothing, still do not fret. A like fate has fallen upon uncounted millions before you and will come to unnumbered myriads after you. If you have done your best you have done better than the man who has done more than you but who has not done his best.
And so, whatever the outcome, start out with this rule and keep it to the end. For nothing wastes your powers so much as apprehension. The hardest work, if done with common sense, is after all a tonic. But fear lest that work will not yield you as much as you wish is a sort of irritating cocaine of character, numbing and deadening all of your powers and at the same time lashing your mind and nerves with the knotted thongs of unhappiness. Besides, fretting is so trivial, so little, so commonplace. Fail if you must, but do not be contemptible.
He who worries not only poisons the very fountains of his own strength but arouses in the world's attitude toward him a sort of sneering pity. So the very first thing that I have to suggest to you is that you should be a man in all your doings and throughout your whole career.
That is it—be a man; a great, strong, willing, kindly man—calm in the glory of a fearless heart, serene in your trust and belief in God, the Father of the world, and so sure of the justice of His providence that you go about your daily business free from those silly cares which corrode and ruin manhood itself.
Be a man—that is the first and the last rule of the greatest success in life. For the greatest success in life does not mean dollars heaped in bank-vaults nor volumes written, nor railroads built, nor laws devised, nor armies led. No, the greatest success is none of these. The supreme success is character.
Pay no attention to mere spiteful criticism, but seek, as for gold and precious stones, the chastening advice of friends. Do not be offended if your friends say an unpleasant thing of you. And here we are at the Bible again: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful."
These recurrences to what those wise old Hebrews said make one feel that one is committing a superfluity when one attempts to say anything along the line of practical advice, since anything that any man can say is nothing more than a very weak dilution of the concentrated thought of the most acute minds of the greatest business people, the most successful material people—yes, and the most idealistic people—who ever lived, the ancient, the mysterious, the persistent Jews.
This is saying much for the Hebrew blood and genius; but have not these Jews given us our moral laws, our spiritual ideals, our sacred faith? Not only the bankers of the world are they, but the formulators of the rules of conduct between man and man, and of that adoring attitude which the enlightened mind should always maintain toward the All-Father. The Jews are the universal people.
If you like ethnology, study the Jews. Study the Germans, too. What peoples they both are—utterly unlike, yet full of the inspiration of thoughts and deeds and persistence. Persistence—there is a word of might it will pay you to ponder over.
Persistence—"stick-to-it-ive-ness." It is a quality better than genius. The Germans have that quality preeminently, and other wholesome and masterful characteristics as well. They are domestic yet warlike, industrial yet artistic, experts in commerce yet disciples of science. Study the Germans!
Though you must not fear criticism, do not disregard it. You may find a suggestion in it, and thus your enemy will become your counselor. But applause! Fly from the desire for it as from pestilence. It will weaken you infinitely. And to a strong man achievement is the only applause of value—the making of his point.
Many years ago I heard this story of Bismarck. If it is not true, it ought to be. And if it is not true specifically, it is true abstractly. He had just returned from one of his notable diplomatic victories at the beginning of his career; great crowds had assembled for a speech.
Bismarck heard it all, but smoked and drank his beer and gave no sign. His secretary rushed in with excitement, and said:
"You must go out and acknowledge the applause of the people, and make a speech."
"And why," said Bismarck; "why do they want me to speak; why are they applauding me?"
"Because of your great success in these negotiations," said the secretary.
"Humph!" said Bismarck, "suppose I had failed?" and turned back to his smoking and his beer.
Bismarck, you see, was too great for applause.
I have quoted the Bible so frequently that it suggests remarks upon one of the great influences of life—the influence of books. Like every other power, this should be exercised with judgment. Let us indulge no immoderate expectations of the results of mere reading. Reading is, at best, only second-hand information and inspiration. It is not the number of books a man has read that makes him available in the world of business.
What the world wants is power; how to get that is the question.
Books are one source of power; but, necessarily, books are artificial. That is why we cannot dispense with teachers in our schools, professors in our colleges, preachers in our pulpits, orators on the political platform. There is no real way of teaching but by word of mouth. There is no real instruction but experience.
You see that the German universities have come back to the lecture method exclusively—or did they ever depart from it? And they know what they are about, those profound old German scholars. They have created scientific scholarship. They have made what we once thought history absurd, and have rewritten the story of the world.
But all this is obiter dicta. The point is that they know the value of books as a source of power and learning, and they know their limitations, too. So does the public. Public speaking will never decline. It is Nature's method of instruction. You will listen with profit to a speech which you cannot drive your mind to read.
It would seem, therefore, that the largest wisdom dictates conservatism in mere reading. Read, of course, and deeply, widely, thoroughly. But let Discrimination select your books. Choose these intellectual companions as carefully as you pick your personal comrades. Read only "tonic books," as Goethe calls them. Yes, read, and abundantly—but don't stop there. Don't imagine that books, of themselves, will make you wise. Reading, alone, will not render you effective.
Mingle with the people—I mean the common people. Talk with them. Do not talk to them but talk with them, and get them to talk with you. Who that has had the experience would exchange the wit and wisdom of the "hands" at the "threshings," during the half hour of rest after eating, for the studied smartness of the salon or even the conversation of the learned? But think not to get this by going out to them and saying, "Talk up now." The farm-hand, the railroad laborer, the working man of every kind, does not wear his heart on his sleeve.
Mark the idioms in Shakespeare. He spoke the words and uttered the thoughts of hostlers as well as of kings. Observe the common language in the Bible. It is curious to note the number of the pithy expressions daily appearing among us which are repetitions of what the people were saying in the time of Isaiah.
All who love Robert Burns have their affection for him rooted in the human quality of him; and Burns's oneness with the rest of us is revealed by the earthiness of his words. They smell of home. They have the fragrance of trees and soil. We know that they were not coined by Burns the genius, but repeated from the mouths of plain men and women by Burns the reporter. It is so with all literature that lives.
Mingle with the people, therefore; be one of them. Who are you that you should not be one of them? Who is any one that he should not be one of the people? Their common thought is necessarily higher and better than the thought of any man. This is mathematical.
And the people, too, are young, eternally young. They are the source of all power, not politically speaking now, but ethnically, even commercially, speaking. The successful manager of any business will tell you that he takes as careful an inventory of public opinion as he does of the material items of his merchandise. A capable merchant told me that he makes it a point to mingle with the crowds.
"Not," said he, "to hear what they have to say, for you catch only a scrap or a sentence here and there; but to go up against them. Somehow or other you get their drift that way. Anyhow I am conscious that this helps me to understand what the people need and want. There is such a thing as commercial instinct; and contact with the people keeps this fresh and true."
We have come to that state of enlightenment where the people want to know not only that they are getting the best goods or best service, but that the business which supplies either is run all right. Who can doubt that in the universal mind there is a question as to the moral element in American business?
This is nothing but the composite conscience of the American people demanding that American business shall not only be conducted ably, but also that it shall be conducted honestly. It is a force which you must take into account. It will be a glorious asset for you if you will pay enough attention to it to understand it.
But you must mingle with the people yourself in order to comprehend this source of power. Do not sit alone in your room and read about the people; that is no way to learn about them.
Remember that no workable constitution was ever written exclusively by scholars. Recall the ordinance for the government of Carolina devised by the philosopher Locke. It failed; yet it reads well. Time and again theorists with highest purpose and broadest book wisdom have formulated laws for the good of mankind which would not work.
Most statutes that live and operate have had their origins among men of the soil as well as men of the study. The point I am making is that learning and accomplishments will do no good if you do not connect them with the people.
Is not this why so many reformers retire disappointed—men and women of finest excellencies of purpose and practical and fruitful thought—they have insisted in projecting their reforms from office or parlor upon the masses without knowing those masses? It is as impossible for the wisest man to be a statesman by confining himself to his study and his weighty volumes and his careful abstract thinking, as it is to be a chemist by reading about chemistry.
The laboratory, the test-tube, the actual contact with the real materials and forces in nature, are essential to the scientist of matter. This is much more true of the art of government. No man ever lived so wise that association with the millions would not enrich his wisdom mightily. And thus, page after page, we might go on pointing out the value of contact with the people, whom, after all, it ought to be your highest purpose to serve in some way.
For in all your doings never forget that, build you ever so cunningly, young man, you have builded in vain if the work of your hands has not helped humanity. Every occupation, trade, business, employment has its reason in service of the people.
Grocery man, harness-maker, carpenter; doctor, lawyer, or railway man; farmer, miner, or journalist; actor on the stage, teacher in the school-room, preacher in the pulpit—all your effort is for the service of the people, the ministering to their needs, the enlightenment of their minds, the uplifting of their souls. And I insist, therefore, that you shall know with the knowledge of kinship this humanity with whom you are to work and for whom you are to work.
Spend some time with Nature, too. The people and Nature—they alone contain the elemental forces. They alone are unartificial, unexhausted. You will be surprised at the strength you will get from a day in the woods. I do not mean physical strength alone, but mental vigor and spiritual insight.
The old fable of Antæus is so true that it is almost literally true. Every time he touched the earth when thrown, that common mother of us all gave him new strength; and, rising, he came to the combat as fresh as when he began.
Learn to know the trees; make friends with them. I know that this counsel will appear far-fetched if you have never cultivated the companionship of the woods. But try it, and keep on trying it, and you will find that there is such a thing as making friends with the trees. They will come to have a sort of personality for you.
No doubt this is all in your mind. No matter, it is good for you. It makes you more natural; that means that you are more simple, kindly, and truthful. What is more soothing and restorative than to stand quite still in field or forest and listen to the thousand mingled sounds that make up that wondrous melody which Nature is always playing on the numberless strings of her golden harp. Learn the peace which that music brings to you.
In short, cultivate Nature, get close to Nature. Try to get Nature to give you what she has for you as earnestly as you try to get what you want in business; and your days and nights will be glorified with a beauty and strength the existence of which you would have denied before you experienced their blessings.
But, of course, you must work for the benefits you get from Nature, just as you must work for everything worth having. You cannot quit your office and say, "Now I shall take a ten-minutes' walk in the park and commune with Nature." Nature is not to be courted in any such way. She does not fling her favors at your feet—not until you have won her utterly. Then all of the wealth and power which Nature has for those who love her are yours in a profuse and exhaustless opulence.
There is nothing so important for a young man, especially a young American, as to resolve not to wear himself out nervously and physically. Take stated vacations, therefore. I should advise every young man who expects to run a long race to resolve, after he has established himself, that he will take one, and, if possible, two months' period of absolute vacation every year. Let him make this a part of his business, just as he makes sleeping a part of his business every day.
What matter if another lawyer gets the case that would have come to you, or another real-estate dealer secures the corner lot on which you have had your eye, or another operator makes the profitable deal which would have given you fame and fortune?
You have obtained and preserved that which they most probably have lost. You have made an investment in Youth. You have purchased power. You have taken stock in length of years. You have equipped yourself with new nerves, a rested heart, a refreshed brain, a hearty stomach, and a sane mind in a sound body.
And you have done more than all this: You have restored your perspective. You have corrected your vision, so that you see things in their just proportion. One reason why men waste energy so prodigally is that their intense pursuit of their business makes them lose all sense of the proportion of things. That which is of little consequence appears, to the distorted vision, of immense importance; and as much energy is wasted in trifles as should be expended on great affairs. This process keeps up until really first-class men are reduced to very small men.
Let a man go each year to the everlasting mountains; to the solitude of the ancient forests; to the eternal ocean with its manifestation of power and repose. Let him sit by its solemn shore listening to it sing that song which for a million years before our civilization was thought of it had been singing, and which for a million years after our civilization has become merely a line in history it will continue to sing, and he will realize how unimportant are the things which only a few weeks before seemed to him of such vast moment. Perhaps the words of the old Khayyam will come to him:
Then you will come back to your work and see things in their proper dimensions. You will expend your energy on things that require it, and you will smile at the things that do not deserve your attention, and pass them by. You will substitute duty for ambition, and you will go your way with sanity for perhaps ten months. Then you will need again the elemental lesson of the forest, the mountain, or the sea.
I do not mean that you shall take a vacation until you have deserved it. What right have you to rest before you have labored—before you have earned a thread that clothes you or a mouthful that nourishes you. There are men whose whole lives are a vacation. These words are not for them. From my viewpoint, such men might as well be dead. The men upon whom I am urging the wisdom of taking periods for recuperation are those who have been pulling with the team and keeping their traces taut. And I assume that you who read are one of these worth-while men. Very well! I want you to last a long time.
On this subject, many is the talk I have had with friends who are business men. "Well," my business friend has said, "I just cannot get away this summer. Next summer I will go away, but I cannot go away this summer. You see, I have a 'deal' which I am about to close; it demands my personal attention. It would be treason to my business to leave this summer."
Yes, quite true, no doubt. But so has Nature a "deal" on with this same business man; and it will be treason to Nature if he does not go away and let Nature's ministers attend him. If he has got to be false to his business or to Nature, he had better be false to the former. It is a fine thing to be true to one's business. But be sure that you are really true to your business; and that means that, first of all, you shall look to your health. Your business demands that. Good health is good "business."
I knew a business man who was so true to his business that he was unfaithful to himself. The machinery of his superb mind had been running at highest speed for ten months. It needed a rest—oil on the heated bearings, a reburnishing of the soiled steel, a rest from the high tension. He would have given just such care to an automobile, or an engine, or any inanimate mechanism. He would have given much greater care to his horse.
But did he give it to himself? No. He had a "deal" on of large proportions; that "deal" must be consummated before attending to the mind and body that put it through. So the lever was pulled back another notch; the machine was driven to its highest burst of speed and power, and the "deal" was a success.
Mark now what followed. The next day this splendid man did not feel very well—a headache. And on the following day there was an eternal end to all his "deals." I do not call that good business. Therefore, my friend, the sea, the mountains, the forests; therefore Nature, with her medicine for body and mind and soul.
"Turn yourself out to pasture," said a wise old country doctor to an exhausted city man. Certainly, that's the thing to do—"turn yourself out to pasture."
Singular advice for young men, you will say, this counseling of restraint, calmness, and the husbanding of his powers. Yes; but I would prevent you from exhausting yourself. No nervous prostration at forty; no arrested development at fifty; no mental vacuity at fifty-five. Too many Americans cease to count after middle life. They have wasted their ammunition and are sent to the rear—there is no longer use for them on the firing-line. Youth is so strong that it wastes power like a millionaire of vitality. But you will need all this dissipated energy later on—every ounce of it.
And so, while I would have you labor to the last limit of your strength while you are about your work, I would also have you regain the strength thus consumed. I would have you let Nature fill up your empty batteries. Hence the suggestion of vacations, a level mind, and books of serenity.
While you do work, pour your full strength into every blow; but having done your best do not spoil it by lying awake over it. No half-heartedness in your task, however. If you try to save yourself while you are about your business—if you "try to do things easy"—you will neither work well nor rest well nor do anything else well.
I know there are those who cannot, for long, quit work—those who "have their noses to the grindstone," to borrow one of those picture-sentences of the people. In the far off end to which evolution tends, civilization will doubtless reach the point where every human being may have his solid month of play, repose, and recuperation—though this cannot be, of course, while nation competes with nation. A universal industrial agreement alone can compass that happy end. And do we not here perceive, afar off, one of the vast and glorious tasks for the statesmen of the future?
Meanwhile, if every man may not have an entire season of holiday, he may have every day his hour of fun and rest. For every man that, at least, is possible. And, too, he whom necessity drives hardest owns—absolutely owns—for himself one day in seven. Not so bad after all, is it? Not the ideal condition, but still quite tolerable. Fifty-two days in three hundred and sixty-five, nearly two months in the year, already given every man by the usage of our Christian civilization for the purpose of "rest from all his work"; and with divine example encouraging and instructing him in its use.
A man can get along on these two months distributed at the intervals of one in every seven days. He can get along, that is, if he really rests—really gives himself up to the sane joy of normal repose. The humblest toiler, even in our greatest cities, can find physical renewal and soul's upliftment in forest, at river's side, or on the shore of lake or ocean—thanks to rapid transit and cheap fares.
So let us not get to pitying ourselves—we are pretty well circumstanced for the alternation of work and play, even in our state of partial development. It is for us to use the opportunity already afforded us; and, speaking by and large, ought we not to deserve more by using, without waste or worse than waste, what we already have? Is there not sound philosophy in the legend which Mr. Lewis tells us was inscribed on the headboard of Jack King, deceased: "Life ain't in holding a good hand, but in playing a poor hand well"?
My suggestion of one or two months' outing in addition to our fifty-two Sundays and several holidays is to those who have poured out in brain-work and nervous strain more than the system can possibly replenish except by a period devoted exclusively to the manufacture of force to replace that which has been unnaturally expended. There are men who toil night and day. Mostly they are young men establishing their business or getting their "start."
I know many young men who work twelve and even fourteen hours every day, and keep it up the year round. One of the greatest merchants of my acquaintance worked from five o'clock in the morning until twelve and one o'clock at night, and then slept in his little store. He was just building up his business. We all know men who literally will not stop work while awake, and when their task is near them. Such men must go away from their business and let Nature work on them awhile.
Have your doctor look you over every six months, no matter how well you feel—or oftener, if he thinks best. Have your regular physician. Pick out a good one, and, especially, a man congenial to yourself. Make him your friend as well as medical adviser. The true doctor is a marvelous person.
How astonishing the accurate knowledge of the accomplished physician! How miracle-like the dainty and beneficent skill of the modern surgeon. The peculiar ability of a great diagnostician amounts to divination. And he, whom Nature has fitted for this noble profession, is endowed with a sympathy for you and an intuitive understanding of you very much akin to the peculiar sixth sense of woman—that strange power by which she "knows and understands."
Consult your doctor, therefore. Be careful of medicines he does not prescribe. The most innocent drug is a veiled force, a compound of hidden powers—the system a delicate intricacy whose condition may be different every day. The neurosis of our American life is seducing too many of our best and busiest men to the use of chemicals, mixtures, nostrums, pick-me-ups, etc., which make nerves and brain utter brave falsehoods of a strength that is not theirs.
Your doctor won't let you do this—he will stay your unconsciously suicidal hand. If your machinery is out of order, he will tell you so, and do what is necessary to repair it. He will comfort and reassure you, too, and administer to the mind a medicine as potent as powder or liquid. But you will get no false sympathy from him. If you have nothing the matter with you, yet think you have, your doctor will take you by the collar of your coat, stand you on your feet, and bid you be a man. So don't dose yourself. Be a faithful guardian of the treasures Nature gave you.
Returning now to reading: You are not to neglect books. They must be read. If you are a professional man they must be more than read; they must be studied, absorbed, made a part of your intellectual being. I am not despising the accumulated learning of the past. Matthew Arnold, in his "Literature and Dogma," quite makes this point. What I am speaking of is miscellaneous reading.
After a while one wearies of the endless repetition, the "damnable iteration" contained in the great mass of books. You will finally come to care greatly for the Bible, Shakespeare, and Burns. Compared with these most others are "twice-told tales" indeed. Of course one must read the great scientific productions. They are an addition to positive knowledge, and are a thing quite apart from ordinary literature.
My recommendation of the Bible is not alone because of its spiritual or religious influences; I am advising it from the material and even the business view-point. By far the keenest wisdom in literature is in the Bible, and is put in terms so apt and condensed, too, that their very brevity proves its inspiration—is an inspiration to you.
Carry the Bible with you, if for nothing else than as a matter of literary relaxation. The tellers of the Bible stories tell the stories and stop. "He builded him a city"—"he smote the Philistines"—"he took her to his mother's tent." You are not wearied to death by the details. Go into any audience addressed by a public speaker, and you will perceive that his hearers' interest depends on whether he is getting to the point. "Well, why doesn't he get to the point," is the common expression in public assemblages. The Bible "gets to the point."
And it has something for everybody. If you are a politician, or even a statesman, no matter how astute you are, you can read with profit several times a year the career of David, one of the cleverest politicians and greatest statesmen who ever lived. If you are a business man, the proverbs of Solomon will tone you up like mountain-air.
A young woman should read Ruth. A man of practical life, a great man, but purely a man of the world, once said to me: "If I could enact one statute for all the young women of America, it would be that each of them should read the book of Ruth once a month." But the limits and purpose of this paper do not permit a dissertation on the Bible.
Shakespeare, of course, you cannot get along without. I shall say no more about him here; for if anything at all is said about Shakespeare (or the Bible), it ought to take up an entire paper at least. "Don't read anybody's commentaries on Shakespeare—don't read mine; read Shakespeare," was the final advice of Richard Grant White, one of the ripest of the world's commentators on this universal poet.
From the Bible and Shakespeare roads lead down among books but little lower in elevation and outlook. Of these the essays of Emerson furnish a noble example; and the poems of the Concord philosopher are the wisdom of the ancients stated in terms of Americanism. I would have every young man spend half an hour over each page of our American Thinker's essays on Character, Manners, Power, and Self-reliance.
Indeed, wherever you turn, among the pages of our Sage, you find no desert place, but always a very forest of thought, tumultuous and vibrant with fancy and suggestion, sweet and wholesome with living truth and all helpfulness. You can form no better habit than to read a page or two of Emerson every night.
Take Emerson as an example; read books of that sort—books that are kin to the Bible and Shakespeare. There is no excuse for your poisoning your time with idle books or low books or transient books—moth volumes that flutter an instant in the light and in an instant die. For the great books are entertaining. If you want excitement, Plutarch's Lives furnish you thrilling-narrative fiction cannot surpass—and undying inspiration besides.
The great novels, too, have in them all the blood and battle-ax the stoutest nerve can crave, all the incidents of love, self-sacrifice, and gentle invention the tenderest heart can need. Yes, certainly: Read books that come to stay—the kind of books you would like to be as a man.
The Rubaiyat would deserve mention but for the danger of misunderstanding its message. Rightly read Omar Khayyam's lesson is serenity and poise and that power and happiness which come from these. The disciple of the tent-maker is not apt to lose his bearings. He no longer regards to-day as eternity, no longer looks at the world and the universe from himself as a center. Reject the Persian poet's apotheosis of wine, absorb his philosophy of calmness, and you will do your duty regardless of consequences. And that is the chief thing, is it not?
Do your duty, have the courage of your thought, and walk off with the old fatalist's verse soothing your soul and brain, and let the disturbed ones clamor. The clamor will cease in time and turn to applause. And whether it does or not is a matter of absolutely no importance if you have done right.
There is nothing which will more conserve the nervous forces of any serious-minded young man, nothing which will give him so much of that composure of mind and necessary concentration of powers, as the resolution to do his best and let it go at that, whether the world applaud, or laugh, or rage. Be true to your deed, whatever it may have been, and if the deed was true, the end must necessarily be satisfactory.
Burns, of course, we must read. We must have him to keep the milk of human kindness flowing in our veins—to keep sweet and sincere and loving. The good that you get from Burns cannot be analyzed. You cannot say, "I have read Burns, and find in him of wisdom so many grains, of humor so many grains, of beauty of expression so many grains," and so forth and so on to the end.
It is the general effect of Burns that is so valuable, so indispensable. Read a little bit of Burns every day, and you will find it very hard to be unkind; you are conscious that you are more human. A mellow and delightful sympathy for your fellow man—aye, and for all living things—warms your heart. And this human quality is more valuable than all the riches of all the lords of wealth.
At all cost keep your capacity for human sympathy.
The sharp, hard processes of our strictly business civilization tend to regulate even our sympathies into a system. It is as if we should say each day, "I have time to-day for five minutes of human sympathy," and promptly push the button of our stop-watch when the second-hand shows that the time has expired. Burns is the best corrective of this that I know—the best, that is, outside of the Bible itself.
Indeed the more one thinks about it the clearer it is that we might throw away all other books but the Bible, and still have all our mental and moral needs ministered to by those who through all time have thought and felt most highly; for the Bible is the record of the loftiest of all human expression, not to mention its divine origin.
Put your Bible, your Shakespeare, your Burns in your bundle when you go for a journey, and you are intellectually and spiritually equipped.
Let a man have the courage of his thought—I repeat it. Courage is where we fail, not intellect. We hear much about intellect, about "brains," as the rather coarse expression is. It is not that which is needed; it is courage.
Enter into conversation the next time you are at the club, or in a hotel, or restaurant, or wherever you meet men in intellectual hospitality, on almost any subject you may choose, you will be amazed at the information, the original thought, the keen analysis, even the constructive ideas of most of the men there.
One of the most fertile minds I have ever known is nothing but an unsuccessful lawyer in a country town; yet his intellect is as tropical, and as accurate, too, as was Napoleon's, or Gould's.
How is it that all these people do not achieve the successes to which their mere thinking entitles them? I say, to which their mere thinking entitles them, because—I say it again—if you will put them beside the great masters of affairs you will find that they have as many ideas as have these captains of business. My young friend, it is simply because they have not courage and constancy. Long ago I catalogued the qualities that make up character, in relative importance, as follows:
First: Sincerity; fidelity, the ability to be true—true to friends, true to ideas, true to ideals, true to your task, true to the truth Who shall deny that the martyrs Nero burned did not experience joys in the consuming flame more delicate and sweet than ever thrilled epicure or lover?
Second (and well-nigh first): Courage—the godlike quality that dreads not; the unanalyzable thing in man that makes him execute his conception—no matter how insane or absurd it may appear to others—if it appears rational to him, and then stride ahead to his next great deed, regardless of the gossips.
Third: Reserve—the power to hold one's forces in check, as a general disposes his army in an engagement on which the fate of an empire or of the world may depend. This power of reserve involves silence. Talk all you please, but keep your large conceptions to yourself till the hour to strike arrives, and then strike with all your might.
In politics they call some men "rubber shoes"; such men continue long, but they never achieve highly. Do not try to cultivate this quality if Nature has been so kind as not to endow you with it. It is not a masterful quality. Have the courage not only of your convictions—that is not so hard—but have the courage of your conceptions. But do not simulate courage if you have it not. False courage is worse than cowardice—it is falsehood and cowardice combined.
Reserve also includes the power to wait; and that is almost as crucial a test of greatness as courage itself. Many a battle has been lost by over-eagerness. There was the greatness of Fate itself in the order of the American officer of the Revolution who said, "Wait, men, until you see the whites of their eyes."
Time is a young man's greatest ally. That is why youth holds the whip-hand of the world. That is why youth can afford to dare. It is also why age does not dare to dare. With youth, to-morrow is merely an accession of power; but with age—ah, well, with age, as Omar says,
Fourth: The fourth quality in character, the lowest one in the list, is Intellect. Not that it is not so valuable as the others, but it is so abundant, and, without the others, so useless. What is it we hear the strong-handed Philistines say in the market-place? "Brains are cheap"; that is what we hear them say. And they say truly. Many years ago I became acquainted with a millionaire who had acquired his wealth by building things, raising cattle, erecting factories—not by shuffling the cards of trade.
His grammar is defective, but his elemental vitality will do you as much good as a walk in the fresh air after the poisoned and steaming atmosphere of a crowded room. "How have I succeeded?" said he, in answer to a question one day. "Oh, by just having the nerve to decide upon a plan, and then by hiring these brainy fellows to do my work. I can get the services of the ablest lawyer in this city for a crumb of the loaf I realize from his thought and industry. The secret of success? Why, sir, it is will, that is all—will, nerve, 'sand.'"
Let me enlarge on the first great quality of character. Sincerity, truthfulness—write these on the tablets of your heart; get them into your blood. This is something that you can cultivate. One of the keen lawyers of my town whom we elected as judge of our court, and who is full of the fresh and living wisdom of the people, said this one day:
"A man can cultivate honesty—there is no doubt about that; but a man who is born honest has a great advantage."
So if you have any taint of the blood which you discover inclines you toward guile, insincerity, and untruthfulness fortify yourself by the reflection that insincerity is a losing game. Put it on the low ground of self-interest, and be truthful, be "square."
The old saying that "honesty is the best policy" has lost its original force by much repetition. And it does not go far enough, either. I am speaking of more than mere mercantile honesty; I am speaking of political sincerity, of intellectual sincerity. Never attempt to fool anybody. We live at such a rate of speed, our perceptions have become so abnormally sensitive and acute, that it is next to impossible to deceive any one; and he who attempts it is usually the only one deceived.
If, then, a man can mount upon this humble stepping-stone of low personal interest to sincerity for the sake of his own advantage, he will, after a while, be able to climb higher, to the exalted plane of truthfulness for the sake of truth; and then he will behold the beatitudes of righteous living, and experience the joys which putting oneself in harmony with the order of the universe and the on-going of events never fails to bring. As a great scientist puts it, "Establish your polarity, young man, and sleep soundly at night."
And courage: A successful manufacturer said to me one day, in explaining his own success: "I never let my idea get cold. That, I think, is why I have succeeded. When a great business deal came to my mind, I did not waste my energy inquiring about whether I could do it. I did not waste time and strength regretting that I was not stronger. I did not destroy my force by doubting my own conception. I went at it. I did it. I spent all my energy on execution after I had once conceived it. Did I not make mistakes following such a plan? Why, of course I made mistakes; and God protect me from the man who never made a mistake!
"But acting by that method alone," said he, "is the way I achieved all my triumphs. I do not pursue that course now, because I am getting old, and I am in very poor health. Age and ill health make me doubt; so I have not made any large business success for several years. I should say that the reason why so many men who are really capable intellectually fail, is because they are infidels to their own thought, traitors to their own conception.
"If I could concentrate all the advice of my life into one thing," declared this strong wise man, in concluding his comments on failure and success, "it would be for those young men who expect to do something constructive to have faith in their idea, and act upon it before it gets cold. There is a tremendous force in the enthusiasm of your freshly formed plan. You have contributed largely to the defeat of your scheme when you have permitted yourself to doubt it."
It was only the other day that the newspapers were full of an extraordinary achievement of one of the American magicians of business; and the papers said that the remarkable thing about it was that the plan flashed upon him in a single evening, as he was leaving for a long vacation. He acted upon it instantly, and devoted his fortune, reputation, almost life, to its consummation. He succeeded. If he had taken six months to have thought over it, his conception would have been abandoned.
While this man's plan came on him in an evening, a study of his life shows that, unconsciously to himself, it had been growing for a long series of years. It flowered out all at once, like the night-blooming cereus. Cæsar decided to cross the Rubicon on the instant? Yes, but we cannot doubt that this imperial resolution had been formed the day when in the Forum, as Macaulay describes it, Cæsar said that the future Dictator of Rome might be Pompey, or Crassus, or still somebody else whom nobody was thinking of (that somebody else being himself, of course).
And, indeed, Cæsar would at that time have been the last that any Roman would have selected as the master of the world. He was young. He was small. He seemed almost frail. He was an unspeakable egotist. He was fastidious in his dress. I have read that he even used perfumes. And how could the common eye discern, through all of these externals of frippery, the lion heart, the eagle vision, and the mind of conquest and empire?
There is a very great danger in the examples just cited. These men were geniuses, and they are not to be imitated except as their methods may be applicable to the common man. This paper is for common men—for people like ourselves. There are geniuses; but their high-wrought lives, tornado activity, and methods of lightning are not for us. All the world's real leaders, whether in the fields of thought or action, whether in the council-chamber of the statesman, on the battle-field of the warrior, in the study of the writer, or in the laboratory of the scientist—all have been men of genius. No mediocre man ever was a great leader in the historic sense.
With our habit of looking at to-day as though it were eternity, we consider men "leaders," and use the adjectives "great," "splendid," etc., as applied to them, when historically these men will hardly be discernible.
But all the figures large enough to fill history's perspective always have been and always will be geniuses—men in whom the energy, the thought, the imagination, the power of hundreds of men are concentrated. Let us not deceive ourselves, and reap misery and disappointment by thinking that we can, by any effort, equal them. Alexander, Cæsar, Richelieu, Napoleon, Bismarck, Washington, Darwin, Goethe, Shakespeare, Lincoln, Pasteur, Edison, Plato, Rhodes, Ito, Diaz, Peter the Great—we cannot explain these phenomena of human intellect and character except by the word genius.
All our toil and patience and everything cannot seat us in the high places of these princes of Nature. "Who, by taking thought, can add a cubit to his stature?" (The Bible again, you see; we cannot get away from the Bible.)
But these men never knew that they were geniuses. They would have known it undoubtedly if they had stopped to think about it. But they were too busy with their task. A genius never thinks about his powers, any more than an eagle is concerned about the method of his royal flight from the mountain crag. But for us, of the common mass of men, only those methods of genius are applicable which are within our reach. Mostly for us are the slow and toilsome—the sure, if gradual—processes of patient labor and infinite pains.
So do not let the thought that you are a genius abide with you for a moment—the main traveled roads for us ordinary mortals! The beaten paths are not so far wrong, after all; and at their end is certain, even perhaps distinguished, if not startling and historic, success.
And, besides, epoch-makers are not needed until an epoch needs to be made.
Do not worry about greatness, therefore. If greatness is for you, God's call will surely come to you. If it does not—well, the archeologists uncovered Nippur the other day, with its palaces and courts and abodes of those who were great and mighty more than 2,500 years before Abraham.
So consider Nippur, and be patient and humble. I instanced Rhodes in naming some of the world's monarchs of mind and will. Very well! Yesterday all Christendom was ringing with his imperial work. He was developing a continent; establishing the reign of law, industry, and peace where savagery and the wilderness had held sway for a million years.
But it was yesterday that he did this. He is dead now. Already you have half forgotten him. You see we are living a century in a minute.
Besides, if Clotho has not spun greatness into your destiny, be sure that it does not matter. The reward of Cecil Rhodes was in the thing he did, and not in the memory which men have of it. The man who digs a well has precisely the same reward. The point is that you must do the deed for the deed's sake. Do not do it because the crowd will clap their hands. When present applause or ultimate fame become your chief purpose in life, what are you, after all? You are a play-actor—that is what you are. Put it from you. Be a man.
Yes, consider Nippur, and be a man. One lesson these ancient ruins teach—the nothingness of fame, and that the only things in life worth while are love and duty. I cannot think of any blessing so great to an ardent young American as to learn at the very threshold of his career of activities that duty and affection are the only things really whose value lasts and increases—the only things that pay increasing dividends.
In a conversation in which the same view of reading given in this paper was set forth, a very bright and earnest woman questioned the propriety of such advice. "For," said she, "the result of that advice is to quiet rather than excite the activities and ambitions; it is to retard rather than hasten intellectual acquisition; it is to check rather than advance a young man's career."
But, granting that this be true, the very objection is itself one of the highest merits of the advice thus criticized. For the only grave danger before capable young Americans, and, indeed, before our Nation, is that of hastening too much, of sweeping on too rapidly, of straining every nerve too tensely, of living our lives with an ardor all too fierce and hot. Don't hurry—the world will last several millions of years longer.
What most of the young men of this country need is restraint, not stimulant; what this Nation needs is reserve. The only serious fear I entertain for our future is that the great rapidity of our common lives will make us neurotic. I prefer a young man to be a little less scintillant, than that his brilliancy should be at the expense of exhausted nerves and enfeebled vitality.
This paper is supposed to be advice which will be practically helpful to young men in their struggle with the world. Very well, then! From the low view-point of self-interest, I would advise every young man to cultivate unselfishness. Do at least one thing every day which helps somebody else, and from which you cannot possibly harvest any profit and advantage. Do one thing every day that cannot in any way bring you tangible reward, directly or indirectly, now or ever.
I know of no discipline of character equal to this. After a while a subtle change will come over your nature. You will grow into an understanding of the practical value of the Master's words: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." There comes to you an acquisition of power. Your influence, by a process which escapes any human analysis, reaches out over your associates, and, in proportion to the magnitude of your character, over humanity.
A man cannot select a surer road to character ruin than to have a selfish motive back of every action. To do all of your deeds, or most of them, with the thought of the advantage they will bring you, will result in paralysis of soul as surely as certain drugs introduced into the nerves for a long period of time will result in physical paralysis. I do not think that there can be a more valuable suggestion made to a young man facing the world and desiring to increase his powers than to practise unselfishness.
What is it we say of certain men: "Oh, he is for himself." It is a Cain-like label. Never let it be pinned on your coat. In politics, note how the power of some leader dissolves when his followers find out that it is all for him and none for them. And in business we are all on our guard against the man who wants the whole thing, and will take it if he is not watched. Even when selfishness succeeds, it never satisfies. It is like the drunkard's thirst.
No, no, young man, put selfishness from you. It is not even the method of business profit. After all, we are living for happiness, are we not? Very well. Try to make some one else happy, and experience a felicity more delicate and exalted than you ever imagined in your fondest dreams of joy. By all means practise unselfishness. "Get the habit," as our Americanism has it. Live for somebody or something besides yourself. Really none of us amount to enough to live for ourselves alone. Oh, no! that game is not worth the candle, believe me.
Finally and especially, reverence age. Be deferential to maturity. This is the one thing in which we Americans are yet deficient. The man who has lived a single decade longer than you, deserves your consideration and respect. Be in no haste to displace your seniors. Time will do that all too quickly. The finest characteristic of the Oriental is his profound regard for all age. Follow the Asiatic in this one thing only. Heed venerable counsels; defer to maturity's wisdoms. There is something majestic about advancing years. Be to all men and women older than yourself what you would like other young men to be to your father and mother.
Be a man; that's the sum of it all—be a man. Be all that we Americans mean by those three words.
Do we not pay so much attention to mere material success that we exclude from mind and heart other things more precious? I am anxious that every young American should win in all the conflicts of life—win in college, win in business, etc.; but I am even more anxious that through all of his triumphs he should grow ever broader, sweeter, and more kindly. After all, we are human beings. We do not want to become mere machines of success, do we?
That is carrying our mechanical age a little too far. We want to keep that within us which makes our victory worth having after we have won it. What matters your mountains of wealth, or your network of political power, or those secrets which in your laboratory you have wrung from Nature—what matters all and everything that the world calls "success," if the human quality has been dried up in you?
Those are fine things that St. Paul says about a man not amounting to anything, no matter how talented and powerful he may be, if he have not charity: "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing"; and you will recall the remainder of his admirable comments on this subject.
Everybody points out to you what you can get out of college, and how to get it; what you can get out of a "career," and how to get that. But lest all of your getting turns to bitter emptiness in the end, you must pay attention to that elemental manhood exalted by those beautiful moralities that you get at but one place and at but one period in this world. That period is the early time of your young manhood before you enter college; and that place is the old home where influences angelic have been at work upon your character.
It could not be otherwise. Home—the home that you leave or the home you make—is the spot where most of your life is to be spent. Home was the place of your birth; and if the angel of death is kind to you, home will be the place of your farewell. It is to the home that you bring life's wages, whether those wages are opulence, glory, or merely daily bread.
It is the home which interprets the whole universe for you. And it is the home which not only furnishes a reason for your existence, but in itself constitutes the motive for all manly effort. Quite naturally, therefore, the home is concerned with character more than it is with grosser things.
The instruction which the American mother gives her son is a training in honor rather than in success. Her passion for righteousness creeps into the commonplaces of her daily speech. "Be a good boy" is what she says to the little fellow each day as he starts to school. "Be a good boy" is what she says to the youth when he leaves for college. "Be a good boy" is still her sacred charge when, standing at the gate, she gives him her blessing as he goes out into the world.
And, finally, "Be a good boy" is what her lips murmur when in after years, rich perchance in achievement, honor, power, or wealth, the man of the world returns to the old home to again get her benediction, and have his weary soul refreshed by the beauty of her almost holy presence.
For you never cease to be a boy to her; and her supreme wish and most passionate prayer for you is not that you shall be a strong man, or a rich man, or an able man—she wants you to be all these, of course, and everything else that is fine—but chiefly she cares that you should be a good man.
And so it is that home is the temple of ideals, the sanctuary of the true, the beautiful, and the good. Or put it in scientific phrase, and say: Home is the laboratory of character. The home is the place where you get what the common people so pithily call your "bringing up." It is there where your conception of all human relationships is formed. It is there where it is largely determined whether you will make your life worth the living.
Your future sits at the old fireside. The fate of the Nation abides beneath the roof-tree. And so it is that neither college, nor market-place, nor forum, nor editor's sanctum, nor traffic of the high seas, nor anything that you may do, nor any environment that may hereafter surround you, is so important to you as the old home and your early years. Yes, and not to you only, but to the Nation also.
Nothing means so much to the Republic as the influence of the American home upon the young manhood of the Nation.
We are about to enter upon the serious problem of the regulation of railway rates, which is a beginning in some sort of the national control of transportation. It is a problem whose weight and possibilities challenge and all but confound every thoughtful and serious mind. Every step in its solution must be taken with both wisdom and justice.
Our relations with the Orient daily increase, and the fixedness of our position in the Far East hourly becomes more definite. The public man wears a scarf about his eyes who does not see that our historic statesmanship during this century will deal with our growing mastery of the Pacific, and the weaving backward and forward across that ocean of our ever-multiplying relations with the East.
This paper might be entirely taken up with a statement of tangled situations and deep problems which will require the combined intelligence of the whole American people to solve.
Yet, for the purpose of this life, what are they all, compared with the character of individual Americans, and therefore with the influence of the American home upon American men in the making; for men in the making is what the youth of our land are. Gladstone stated a truth, wide and vital as English institutions, when he said that the relation of the Church to the youth of Great Britain is a matter of more concern than all the problems of the Empire put together.
All this is commonplace, you say. I say so too. Yet it is the commonplaces, and those things alone, by which we live and move and have our being. For example, sunlight is commonplace, and so is air. Who was it that spoke about the damnable iteration of the seasons?
A storm is not commonplace, but how long could any of us live—how long would any of us choose to live—were each day and night a succession of thunder, lightning, and downpour? Good citizenship is commonplace, whereas a murder mystery excites us thrillingly. Yet none of us on that account would choose the society of criminals.
It is to the elemental commonplaces that I am now going to direct your attention. The world is kept alive by its monotonies. The trouble is that the indispensable things are so inevitable and persistent that we take them for granted, and yield them neither gratitude nor even attention.
Take the beauty of daylight as our illustration once more. We had it yesterday, have it to-day, have had it ever since we were born, and will have it until we die. Note, too, the eternal stability of the heavens, which change not at all; and the endless pour of ocean's currents, warming certain coasts and leaving others chill. It is the same with the life intellectual and the life spiritual.
"What is the grandest thing in the universe?" asks Hugo. "A storm at sea," he answers, and continues, "And what is grander than a storm at sea?" "The unclouded heavens on a starry and moonless night." "And what is grander than these midnight skies?" "The soul of man!" A spectacular climax such as Hugo loved; and still, with all its dramatic effect, the picturesque statement of a vast and mighty truth!
Very well. The home is the place where character is to be formed, and therefore its influences on "the soul of man" are like those of the sun on the body of man. Let us get to those commonplaces, therefore, at which the cynic lifts his lip, but which are worth a good deal more to you, young man, than all your achievings will be.
As to the moralities, then, yield yourself utterly to the mother. She has an instinctive perception of righteousness as affecting your character that no other intelligence under heaven has, and that she does not have for any one else, not even for herself. She has her own way, too, of getting this nourishment of the verities into your character. It is done not so much by preaching to you, or lecturing you, as it is by her very presence.
She carries about with her an atmosphere of sweetness and light. The mother gives to her boy a kind of unspoken counsel. It is a very subtle thing, like electricity in the material world, and equally as powerful as that mysterious fluid. You get its effects by putting yourself eagerly and lovingly under its soothing yet ennobling and tonic influence. It is a matter hard to describe, but more real than any other human force I know of.
So the first thing for you to do is to resolve to be "mother's own boy," as the sneering tongue of shallowness puts it, just as long as you possibly can. It will be the greatest luck you will ever have, if you are able to be "mother's own boy" as long as she lives. Don't be afraid that that will make you effeminate and soft; don't think for a moment that it will paralyze the force and power of your growing manhood.
I have seen one of this kind of fellows hold in awe a mob of cowboys and plainsmen when passions were aroused and blows had already been struck. I have seen such a man put down, single-handed, by word of his fearless authority, fights among a score of woodmen who had known nothing but the rank vigor of their unruled male lives.
The man whose will and character has been tempered by this holy fire takes on something of the suppleness, hardness, and firmness of steel, of which a delicate blade will cut the grosser iron of which that blade itself was a part before it was subjected to the refining process that made it steel.
Some time ago I was privileged to read the letters that one of our naval heroes had, when a young man, despatched home to his mother during our civil war. He participated in two or three of our most desperate fights. All of these letters showed him to have been—and, what is better, to have remained—a "mother's own boy" as long as she lived.
He never sailed far enough away to weaken that potent and sacred power. It reached around the world. The years did not diminish it. When her hair of brown had turned to white, he found that the influence which to his boyhood and youth had been so delightful became to his manhood uplifting and glorious.
And yet no buccaneer that rioted afloat with Morgan had courage more ferocious. Yes, and, on the other hand, no Bayard "without fear and without reproach"; no Sydney who, when dying, handed his canteen to a wounded comrade that he might moisten his lips, while Sydney's own were crackling with fever, was ever more tender or considerate.
What was it the expiring Nelson said when his decks ran blood, and crimson victory placed upon his whitening brow laurels of triumph, whose leaves were mingled with cypress? "Kiss me, Hardy," was what he said. Strange words, were they not, for a scene of carnage? Yes, but words which touched the hearts of the English people.
They showed that upon the mind of England's greatest captain of the sea the tender influence of the old mother, and the old home in distant England, survived all the variableness of his character, all the supreme efforts of his career, and that a gentleness and an almost womanly yearning for affection were the qualities that ruled the soul of the most desperate ocean fighter the world had seen since Drake. They showed that the heart of the sternest warrior may be beautiful with the humanities. How does the old song go?—"The bravest are the tenderest"—that is it.
So fear not that mother's influence will weaken you. It will do nothing of the kind. It will strengthen you. It will make you want to fight only for something worth fighting for. But when you fight for that, it will make you fight to the death. And what is the use of fighting at all unless it be to the death. A brawl is not conflict, bravado is not bravery.
I know there is another side to this question. It has been recently stated by a resourceful Oriental. He said that the influence of women on the Occidental man is effeminizing our civilization. He declared that the mother gives the boy his first training, teaches him to talk, etc., which is natural and therefore right and proper.
But then, said our Asiatic critic, we give our boys to women school-teachers, who educate them until they are ready for college, and then, as soon as they are ready for college, they begin to "call on the young women," and generally frequent the society of the softer sex until the time arrives for them to marry.
So that, according to this Oriental, we are under the direct influence of woman from the cradle to the grave; and he points out that gradually (imperceptibly, perhaps, to our own eyes) an effeminizing process occurs in mind and character. As a result of this, he maintains, our men increasingly fear hardships and seek to avoid them; and life and even personal appearance are given a value which is absurd, considering the inevitableness of death in any event, the perfectly unthinkable number of myriads of human beings who exist, have existed, and will exist hereafter.
This philosopher of the East, therefore, claims that we will in the end be no match at all for the Orientals, and that the yellow race, which has been merely resting while we Caucasians have been having our brief innings, is now to the bat again. And there was a lot more to the same effect.
This is of course the Asiatic way of looking at things. There may be something in what he says about the continuity of female influence softening our Western civilization. Certainly the present war shows that the Japanese women, who were only yesterday altogether Oriental in habits and ideals, have produced a race of strong men, so far as physical daring and hardihood is concerned. The influence of women on these men ceased with childhood—even then it was a Spartan influence.
More than this, the Japanese generals and statesmen, nearly all of whom are above sixty, were the product of Japanese civilization before modern ideas had even been sown in the Island Empire. Oyama and Kuroki, Ito and Katsura, and all the rest, are the offspring of purely Asiatic conditions, uninfluenced in the slightest degree by Western thought or custom; and yet the state of society which brought forth these men is unfamiliar to American and European peoples.
But even if what this Oriental assailant of our customs terms the overcharge of femininity in Occidental society does mellow us, it does not follow that it weakens us. Anyhow it does not affect what I say about the influence of the mother upon the purposes and "principles" of young men. And, in any event, our Western civilization constitutes those human conditions in which you, young man, must spend your life, and you must be in harmony with it if you are going to accomplish anything.
Don't try to be an Oriental in the midst of Occidental surroundings. The yellow theory and the white theory of life must fight for the mastery, and the one which is nearest the truth will prevail. Meanwhile, stick to your own race and the ideals of it. I do not mean that you should ignore any true thing you may learn from the East. Welcome knowledge from every source. Light is light, no matter whence it comes.
And this brings back to us the little mother and the old home. If she wishes it, be her companion. In any event, make her your confidant. For a young man there is no source of safety and wisdom so abundant, pure, and unfailing as the making his mother his confessor. Tell her everything. I mean just that, tell her literally everything.
Do not fear her reproof. Chemistry has no miracle a fraction as wonderful as the patience and forgiveness of a mother for the exasperations of her son. There is not a thing which you ought to do, the telling of which to your mother will prevent your doing. And her counsel to you will be golden upon those purely personal matters which you could tell no one else, and which no one else could understand or sympathize with.
Remember that she has the wisdom of instinct—a wisdom peculiarly worldly and practical in its applicability to real things and real situations. The advice of a wife in business affairs has this same peculiarly valuable quality, quite beyond the strength of her or his intellect or the reach of her abstract understanding.
It is the instinct to preserve the home nest which makes the business advice of the wife to the husband so priceless; and it is this same instinct exercising itself in another form—seeking to preserve the offspring—which gives such shrewdness and depth to the counsel of mother to son.
This making your mother your confessor will not only keep you out of trouble, and give you light and direction along lines where you otherwise will be as blind as a young puppy, but it is good for you in a far more important way—a far profounder way. I have always been impressed with the wonderful understanding of human nature and the needs of it which the institution of the confessional in the Catholic Church reveals. "No man liveth to himself alone."
For the ordinary human being there is no such thing as a secret.
The ordinary man who is compelled to keep everything to himself gets morbid and suspicious. He broods over what he thinks he must not utter to others. Not daring to talk with friends, he converses with himself. Thus his sympathies narrow, and his vision grows not only feeble but false. He gets the proportion of things sadly confused. It is not only a relief, but a real benefit to most men and women to be able to unburden their souls to some other human being whom they know to be faithful.
And if this be the intellectual need, strong as nature itself, of grown-up men and women, it is plain that the young man, whose character is forming, requires the same thing a great deal more. Very well. Your mother is the confessor, young man, whom Nature has given you for this beautiful and saving purpose. Do not eat your heart out, therefore, but frankly tell her your hopes, desires, offenses, plans.
Confide in her your good deeds and your bad. And she, who would give her life for you, and count it the happiest thing she ever did if it would only help you, will give you the very gold of wisdom, refined and superrefined by the fires of that love which burn nowhere else in the universe save in a mother's heart.
Of course I am talking now of the ordinary American mother, who is a mother in all that the term implies. We all know that there are women who have children without understanding at all—yes, or even caring at all—what motherhood means; without understanding or caring what their duties to their children mean.
As is always the case with the abnormal, these unfortunate types are found at the social extremes; in the so-called "depths" and the so-called "heights." There are women too vicious to make good mothers and women too vain to make good mothers. But these are not numerous.
The mother this paper is dealing with is that angel in human form that the ordinary American man knew in the old home when he was a boy; and whether she be intellectual or not, educated or not, such mothers have shaped the characters that have made the American people the noblest force for good in all the world.
In her work, her prayers, her daily life, you will find the sources of all that is self-sacrificing, prudent, patriotic, brave, and uplifting in American character. It is the influence of the American mother that has made the American Republic what it is; and it is in her heart that our national ideals dwell.
"That is all right," said a practical-minded man, with a dash of American humor in him, in the course of a conversation along this line; "that is all right, and I think so, too," said he; "but where does 'the old man' come in? What about the father?" And the question is as sane as it is pat. Don't you neglect the father. He feeds you. He clothes you. He is schooling you. It is to his brain and hand, and the wisdom and skill of them, that you are indebted for the college education you are going to get.
And by these tokens your father is a man, and a whole lot of a man at that.
You will realize how much of a man he is if you will think what you would be up against if you had to support yourself, and then another person more expensive than yourself, and in addition several other persons more expensive than yourself—not only support them, but supply their whims and humor their caprices; for it must be said of us Americans that we really do not need more than half what we think we positively must have.
Think, I say, young man, of having to do all that, and having to keep on doing it to-day and to-morrow, this month and next month, and all year and every year as long as you live. If, in your mind, you feel yourself equal to that, tell me, do you not feel in your mind that you have in you the makings of a man indeed—a tremendous man?
Very well. That is what your father not only imagines, but does. So he is decidedly entitled to your respect. You owe him gratitude, too, of a very definite, tangible kind—the sort of gratitude you can weigh in scales and count up in cash-book.
Now we come to the point of definite benefit for you in all of this; for, mind you, this paper is for your own selfish interests. Even when I am advising the beatitudes of life, I am doing it from the view-point of your practical well-being.
Think, then, of the incalculable advantage of having at your beck and call a friend who has proved that he knows the highways and byways of the world by having successfully found his way around among them.
Think of the value of having such a guide for your daily counselor. Think of how the worth of such a man's directions to you is multiplied infinitely by the fact that he cares more for your success than for any other one thing in the world. When you have thought over all these things, you will begin to have some faint understanding not only of what you owe your father, but of his practical helpfulness to you.
A father is an opportunity—a young man's first opportunity in life, and the greatest opportunity he will ever have. That father has made lots of mistakes, no doubt; but you will never make the mistakes he made if you will listen to him. He has made many successes, perhaps; but his successes are only the acorns to the oaks of your deeds, if you will but take his words as seed for your future enterprises.
And let me tell you this: Nothing makes a better impression upon the world that is watching you—watching you very cunningly, young man—as to be on good terms with your father. I have known more than one young man to be discredited in business because it was generally understood that he "could not get along with the old man."
You see, the world thinks that it is the boy's fault when there is friction between father and son—and ordinarily the world is right. Sometimes, of course, the world itself "cannot get along with father"; in such cases it does not blame the son for not getting along with him either. But that is not your situation, you who read this paper.
"How does —— get along with his father?" was asked of a certain young man of great distinction in letters. "Oh, they are great friends!" was the answer. "Friends through duty or comradery?" persisted the querist. "Comradery, affection, affinity. They are the greatest chums in the world," was the answer.
I wish I could give you the name of that man. It is known in every civilized country. No wonder he became the great power into which he has developed. His whole life is a blessing and a benediction to all with whom he comes in contact—parents, wife, children, countrymen, the world. No wonder his brain is canny with resourceful wisdom; no wonder that good red human blood pours at full tide through artery and vein.
The man I have in mind, and whom I am describing, is a great man, and his father before him was a great man too. His success has been monumental. Yet his is no candy manhood. His is no smooth conduct. He is "neither sugar nor salt, nor somebody's honey," to get down (or up) to the picturesque phrase of the common household.
He is the sort of man who would confound sharp practises of the crafty; or "call the bluff" of financial gamester; or walk unconcerned where physical danger calls for nerve of steel and lion's heart; or fling at affected fop rapier sentences that cut deep through the very quick of his pretenses.
I cite this example merely to show you that you lose nothing of independence or daring, or any of those qualities which young men so prize (and properly prize), by being on terms of intellectual and heart partnership with your father.
Don't tell us that he won't let you be on such terms with him. Show yourself willing and worth while, and your father would rather spend his extra hours with you than at the theater. But you have got to show yourself worth while. No whining willingness, no soft and pretended desire, no affected making up to "the governor," will answer at all.
You have got to "make good" with the American father, young man.
He has "been through the mill," until the softness is pretty well ground out and little remains but the granite-like muscle of manhood. He is a pretty stern proposition; and if there is anything he won't stand it is pretense, make-believe. But show yourself worthy of him and willing for his comradeship, and you have begun life with the best, readiest, bravest partner you will ever have.
From all of this you have yourself deduced the fact that you do not "know more than the old folks." If you have not, go ahead and deduce it right now; for you do not know more than they do. They have lived so much longer than you have that the accretion of daily experience has given them a variety of information beside which your book knowledge is a sort of wooden learning, lifeless and artificial.
The very fact that they have had you for a child and brought you along safely thus far is proof enough of this. You have no right to challenge the knowledge or judgment of either of your parents until you demonstrate that you can do as well or better than they. And that will be some years yet, will it not? No, decidedly, don't "get too smart for father."
Even if you really do know more than they, don't let either of the old folks see that you think so. That attitude on your part is almost indecent. Be grateful also. How singular that where young men have everything to be thankful for, they are so seldom grateful.
When parents surround them with every comfort, and make what are luxuries to the millions necessities to their children; when the youth is furnished clothes made by the tailor, and money to spend as he will, and special schools and the most expensive university; when he is given vacations at seashore, in mountains, on lake, or abroad, instead of at good hard work, as the sons of the people must spend their vacations; when a year or two of travel follows his day of easy graduation; when all is his that thought, and love, and gold can give, do we not frequently find the young man unappreciative of, and ungrateful for, these blessings?
Such a man usually takes it for granted that he ought to have all these things, and a good deal more; that they are his as a matter of course, and no thanks due to those who gave them; that they are not much, after all, compared with what some other fellow with a richer father, and a mother still more doting, has and spends. "Give a boy too much money to spend and he won't do anything else." There are some exceptions to this, notable and splendid exceptions, but they are so few that they prove the rule.
On the other hand, it is generally true that young fellows who, in comparison with the class just described, have nothing to be thankful for; who must earn their own bread and "help support the family"; who "work their way through college," and during vacations put in a good year's labor to get the money for the next college year; who, the day after graduation, thin as a wolf and as hardy, must start right in then and there to earn that very day's meals and that very night's resting-place—such men, as a usual thing, develop the glorious qualities of gratitude, consideration, and deference.
There is "no place like home" to such men, "be it ever so humble." They look upon life as a wonderful and splendid thing, for which they are indebted to father and mother. Their manhood's morning is very beautiful to them; but its light is not one-hundredth part as beautiful as the radiance which beams upon them from the eyes of one dear woman whom they call mother—a woman wrinkled and worn and wan, perhaps, but to such sons exquisitely lovely, with something in her beauty not quite of this earth.
I don't quite understand the psychology of this phenomenon, and never knew any one who did understand it; but every one of the scores of observers with whom I have talked upon this subject have noted the same fact—the too frequent ingratitude and lack of appreciation of young fellows who have everything to be grateful for, and the fine appreciation of life shown by young men who, in comparison, have nothing to be grateful for.
Perhaps it is a lack of thought, a want of analysis. If that is so in your case, young man, get to thinking. Instead of comparing yourself with some other man who has more things than you, compare yourself with one who has fewer things than you; or, better still, with one who hasn't anything at all. Then you will have a measure for the debt you owe to the two beings who have given and are giving you all you have or will have for a great many years to come.
And this other thing, too: When you begin to be grateful for these things, by going through some such intellectual process as I have indicated, you will get so much more pleasure out of them than you did before that you will hardly be able to realize that you are the same man.
Indeed, you will not be the same man—you will be another man, a bigger-hearted, saner-minded, gentler, and manlier man. You will begin to be the kind of a man you would like to be if you sat down by yourself and went to work to make yourself over again. And what a wonder you would be if you could make yourself over! Yes, no doubt!
This final word: The day must come when you must leave the old home. When that hour arrives, do not try to tarry. Go right out into the world. Do not go mournfully. Give the little mother a smile of courage, a word of cheer, that will be her guaranty that her boy is going to be a "grand success," and then—make good!
You will hardly get away from the old home gate when you will stumble over an obstacle and fall down. Don't turn back to the old home to be comforted and helped. Get up, brush the dust off, forget your bruises, and go ahead. Go ahead, and look where you are going.
A man who cannot get up when he is knocked down is of no use in the world.
Let the messages that you send back to the old home be joyful—full of faith. No matter how hard a time you are having, don't let "the folks at home" know it. Besides, you are not having such a hard time, after all. Hundreds of thousands of other men who have become splendidly successful had a great deal harder time than you are having or ever dreamed of having. Resolve to live up to what the home which reared you expects of you, and work like mad on that resolve, and you will find that you are becoming all that "the folks at home" expected of you, and a great deal more.
Go back to the old home as often as you can; but be sure that you go back with words of cheer and a story of things done. "The folks at home"—especially the mother—will want to hear all about it. There may be wars whose high-leaping flames illumine all the heavens; there may be political campaigns on hand where issues of fate are thrilling the nerves of the millions; there may be strange tidings from the council-board of the nations; there may be catastrophes and glories, scourges and blessings, famine or opulence; but any and all of these are of no interest to the mother, compared with what you will have to tell her of your own puny little deeds.
They are not puny deeds to her; they are quite the most considerable performances given in all the universe of men. For you did them, you know, and that is enough. To his mother every man is a hero.
So let your tale to her be boldly told and lovingly. And be sure that it is a narrative of purity, things honorable and of good report. Return to the habit of your youth, and at her knees establish again the old confessional. And then, with your secrets handed over to her and safely locked in her heart, with her hand of blessing on your head, and her smile of confidence, pride, and approval glorifying her face, resolve to again go out into the world where your place is, and be worthy of this new baptism of manhood you have again received in the sanctuary of the old home.
These are all simple things, commonplace things, things easy to do. They have nothing extraordinary about them. And yet, if you will do them, the world will back you as a winner against men who are a great deal smarter than you are, but who with all their smartness are not smart enough to do these plain and kindly things.
Collis P. Huntington was a notable practical success. He was wise with the hard wisdom of the world, and he had the genius of the great captain for choosing men. No business general ever selected his lieutenants with more accurate judgment. His opinion on men and affairs was always worth while. And he thought young men who meant to do anything except in the learned professions wasted time by going to college.
So when, searching for my final answer to the question this moment being asked by so many young Americans, "Shall I go to college," I answer in the affirmative, I do so admitting that a negative answer has been given by men whose opinions are entitled to the greatest possible respect.
I admit, too, that nearly every city—yes, almost every town—contains conspicuous illustrations of men who learned how to "get there" by attending the school of hard knocks. Certainly some of the most distinguished business careers in New York have been made by young men who never saw a college.
You find the same thing in every town. I have a man in mind whose performances in business have been as solid as they are astonishing. Twenty years ago he was a street-car conductor; to-day he controls large properties in which he is himself a heavy owner; and a dozen graduates of the high-class universities of Europe and America beg the crums that fall from the table of his affairs.
In his Phi Beta Kappa Address Wendell Phillips cleverly argues that the reformers of the world, and most of those whose memories are the beloved and cherished treasures of the race, were men whose vitality had not been reduced by college training, and whose kinship with the people and oneness with the soil had not been divorced by the artificial refinement of a college life. But Phillips was bitter—even fanatical—on this subject; and was, in himself, a living denial of his own doctrine.
Remember, then, you who for any reason have not had those years of mental discipline called "a college education," that this does not excuse you from doing great work in the world. Do not whine, and declare that you could have done so much better if you had "only had a chance to go to college." You can be a success if you will, college or no college. At least three of those famous masters of business which Chicago, the commercial capital of the continent, has given to the world, and whose legitimate operations in tangible merchandizing are so vast that they are almost weird, had no college education, and very little education of any kind.
I think, indeed, that very few of America's kings of trade ever attended college. There are the masters of railroad management, too. Few of them have been college men, although the college man is now appearing among them—witness President Cassatt, of the Pennsylvania System, a real Napoleon of railroading, who, I hear, is a graduate of the German universities and of American polytechnic schools.
Burns did not go to college. Neither did Shakespeare.
Some of our greatest lawyers "read law" in the unrefined but honest and strengthening environment of the old-time law office. Lincoln was not a college man; neither was Washington. So do not excuse yourself to your family and the world upon the ground that you never had a college education. That is not the reason why you fail.
You can succeed—I repeat it—college or no college; all you have to do in the latter case is to put on a little more steam. And remember that some of the world's sages of the practical have closed their life's wisdom with the deliberate opinion that a college education is a waste of time, and an over-refinement of body and of mind.
You see, I am trying to take into account every possible view of this weighty question; for I know how desperate a matter it is to hundreds of thousands of my young countrymen. I know how earnestly they are searching for an answer; how hard it will be for hosts of them to obey an affirmative answer; how intense is the desire of the great majority of young Americans to decide this question wisely. For most of them have no time to lose, little money to spend and none to waste, no energy to spare, and yet are inspired with high resolve to make the best and most of life. And I know how devoutly they pray that, in deciding, they may choose the better part.
Still, with all this in mind, my advice is this: Go to college. Go to the best possible college for you. Patiently hold on through the sternest discipline you can stand, until the course is completed. It will not be fatal to your success if you do not go; but you will be better prepared to meet the world if you do go. I do not mean that your mind will be stored with much more knowledge that will be useful to you if you go through college than if you do not go through college.
Probably the man who keeps at work at the business he is going to follow through life, during the years when other men are studying in college, acquires more information that will be "useful" to him in his practical career. But the college man who has not thrown away his college life comes from the training of his alma mater with a mind as highly disciplined as are the wrist and eye of the skilled swordsman.
Nobody contends that a college adds an ounce of brain power. But if college opportunities are not wasted, such mind as the student does have is developed up to the highest possible point of efficiency. The college man who has not scorned his work will understand any given situation a great deal quicker than his brother who, with equal ability, has not had the training of the university.
A man who has been instructed in boxing is more than a match for a stronger and braver man unskilled in what is called the "manly art." That is your college and non-college man over again with muscle substituted for brain.
Five years ago I saw the soldiers of Japan going through the most careful training. They were taught how to march, how to charge, how to do everything. I shall never forget the bayonet exercises which an officer and myself chanced upon. They were conducted with all the ferocity of a real fight; no point was neglected.
With all their fatalism and the utter fearlessness thereof, the Japanese could not have bested the Russians if to their courage and devotion they had not added years of painstaking drill, which an American soldier would have considered an unnecessary hardship. Very well. A college education is precisely that kind of a preparation for the warfare of life.
But mind you, these Japanese soldiers and their officers were in earnest. They meant to show the world that, small as they are in stature and recent as their adoption of modern methods has been, they nevertheless would try to be the highest type of soldier that ever marched to a battle-field. If you go to college, young man, you have got to be in earnest, too. You have got to say to yourself, "I am going to make more out of what is in me than any man with like ability ever did before." You cannot dawdle—remember that.
Imagine every day, and every hour of every day, that you are in the real world and in the real conflicts thereof, instead of in college with its practise conflicts, and handle yourself precisely as you would if your whole career depended upon each task set for you. If you mean to go to college for the principal purpose of idling around, wearing a small cap and good clothes, and being the adoration of your mother and your sisters on your vacation, you had a good deal better be at work at some gainful occupation. College is not helping you if that is what you are doing. It is hurting you.
Go to college, therefore, say I; but go to college for business. Those drill years are the most important ones of your life.
Be in earnest, therefore. I know I have said that before; yes, and I am going to say it again. For if you are not going to be in earnest, quit—get out. Resolve to get absolutely everything there is to be had out of your college experience, and then get it. Get it, I say, for that is what you will have to do. Nobody is going to give it to you.
The spirit with which you enter college is just as important as going to college at all. It is more important. For if a man has the spirit that will get for him all that a college education has to give, it will also make him triumph in a contest with the world, even if he does not get his college education. It will only be a little harder for him, that is all.
But if a man has not that mingled will and wish for a college education flaming through his young veins that makes him capable of any sacrifice to get through college, I do not see what good a college education will do him—no, nor any other kind of an education. The quicker such a man is compelled to make his own living without help from any source, the better for him.
So if you mean business, but have not decided whether it is better for you to go to college or not to go to college, settle the question to-day by deciding to go to college. Then pick your college. That is as important a matter as choosing your occupation in life. One college is not as good as another for you. A score of colleges may be equally excellent in the ability of their faculties, in the perfection of their equipment.
But each has its own atmosphere and traditions; each has its personality, if you may apply such a word to an institution. And you want to select the place where your mental roots will strike in the earth most readily, and take from the intellectual soil surrounding you the greatest possible amount of mental force and vigor.
Take plenty of time to find out which, out of a score of colleges, is the best one for you. Study their "catalogues"; talk to men who have been to these various institutions; read every reputable article you can find about them. Keep this up long enough, and you will become conscious of an unreasoned knowledge that such and such an institution is not the place for you to go. Finally, write to the president or other proper officer of the colleges you are thinking of attending.
You will get some sort of an answer from each of them; but if it is only three lines, that answer will breathe something of the spirit of the institution. Of course the great universities will answer you very formally, or perhaps not at all. Their attitude is the impersonal one. They say to the world, and to the youth thereof: "Here we are. We are perfectly prepared. We have on hand a complete stock of education. Take it, or leave it. It is not of the slightest concern to us."
I have no quarrel with that attitude. These institutions are going on the assumption that you already have character and purpose; that you already know what you are about. They are ready for you if you are ready for them. And if you are not ready for them, if you are only a rich person or a mere stroller along the highways of life, what is that to them? Why should it be anything to them? Why should it be anything to anybody? The world is busy, young man; you have got to make yourself worth while if it pays any attention to you.
Making sure always that the college of your choice is well equipped, select the one where you will feel the most at home. Other things being equal, go where there are the most men in whose blood burns the fire which is racing through your veins. Go to the college in whose atmosphere you will find most of the ozone of earnestness. It may well be that you will find this thing in one of the smaller colleges, of which there are so many and such excellent ones scattered all over the Nation.
Certainly these little colleges have this advantage: their students are usually very poor boys, who have to struggle and deny themselves to go to college at all—young men whose determination to do their part in the world is so great that hunger is a small price to pay for that preparation which they think a college education gives them; men whose resolve to "make something of themselves," as the common saying goes, is so irresistible that they simply cannot endure to stay away from college.
Such men have hard muscles, made strong and tense by youthful toil; great lungs, expanded by plow in field or ax in forest; nerves of steel, tempered by days of labor in open air and nights of dreamless slumber, which these hypnotics of Nature always induce. These men have strong, firm mouths; clear, honest eyes, that look you straight and fair; and a mental and moral constitution which fit these physical manifestations of it.
And these are just the kind of men among whom you ought to spend your college life, if you are one of the same kind—and perhaps much more if you are not.
Fellows like these believe in the honor of men, the virtue of women, the sacredness of home, and that the American people have a mission in the world marked out for them by the Ruler of the Universe—though this is not a fair distinction since all Americans believe in these high, sweet things of life and destiny. It is a faith common to all Americans and monopolized by no class.
But you know what kind of a man you are, and therefore you will find out, if you search with care, what college is the best for you. I insist upon the importance of this selection. It is a real, practical problem. You will never have a more important task set you in class-room, or even throughout your entire life, than to select the college which is going to do you the most good. So go about it with all the care that you would plan a campaign if you were a general in the field, or conduct an experiment if you were a scientist in the laboratory.
This one word of definite helpfulness on this subject: Do not choose any particular college because you want to be known as a Yale man, a Harvard man, a Princeton man, or any other kind of man. Remember that the world cares less than the snap of its fingers what particular college man you are.
What the world cares about it that you should be a man—a real man.
It won't help you a bit in the business of your life to have it known that you graduated from any particular college or university. If you are in politics, it won't give you a vote; if a manufacturer, it will not add a brick to your plant; if a merchant, it will not sell a dollar's worth of your goods.
Nobody cares what college you went to. Nobody cares whether you went to college at all.
But everybody cares whether you are a real force among men; and everybody cares more and more as it becomes clearer and clearer that you are not only a force, but a trained, disciplined force. That is why you ought to go to college—to be a trained, disciplined force. But how and where you got your power—the world of men and women is far too interested in itself to be interested in that.
When you do finally go to college, take care of yourself like a man. I am told that there are men in college who have valets to attend them, their rooms, and their clothes. Think of that! Don't do anything like that, even if you are a hundred times a millionaire. Of course you won't—you who read this—because not one out of ten thousand young Americans can afford to have a valet in college—thank heaven!
Don't do any of the many things which belong to that life of self-indulgence of which the keeping of a valet in college is a flaring illustration. Don't let kind friends litter up your room with a lot of cushions, and such stuff. The world for which you are preparing is no "cushiony" place, let me tell you; and if you let luxury relax your nerves and soften your brain tissues and make your muscles mushy, a similar mental and moral condition will develop. And then, when you go out into real life, you will find some sturdy young barbarian, with a Spartan training and a merciless heart, elbowing you clear off the earth.
For, mark you, these strong, fearless, masterful young giants, who are every day maturing among the common people of America, ask no quarter and give none; and it is such fellows you must go up against. And when you do go up against them there will be no appealing to father and mother to help you. Father and mother cannot help you. Nobody can help you but yourself. You will find that the cushion business, and the mandolin business, and all that sort of thing, do not go in real life.
Consider West Point and Annapolis. My understanding is that the men whom the Nation is training there for the skilled defense of the Republic, and who therefore must be developed into the very highest types of effective manhood, are taught to clean and polish their own shoes, make their own beds, care for their own guns, and do everything else for themselves. Do you think that is a good training for our generals and admirals? Of course you do.
Well, then, do you imagine that you are going to have an easier time in your business or profession than the officers in our army and navy? Don't you believe it for a minute. You are not going to have an easier time than they. You are going to have a great deal harder time. And by "hard time" I do not mean an unhappy time. Unhappy time! What greater joy can there be for a man than the sheer felicity of doing real work in the world?
While I am on this subject I might as well say another thing: Do not think that you have got to smoke in order to be or look like a college man. A pipe in the mouth of a youth does not make him look like a college man, or any other kind of man. It merely makes him look absurd, that is all. And if there is ever a time on earth when you do not need the stimulus of tobacco, it is while you are in college.
Tobacco is a wonderful vegetable. It is, I believe, the only substance in the world which is at the same time a stimulant and a narcotic, a heart excitant and a nerve sedative. Very well. You are too young yet to need a heart stimulant, too young to need anything to quiet your nerves.
If at your tender age your nerves are so inflamed that they must be soothed, and if at the very sunrise of your life your heart is so feeble that it must be forced with any stimulant, you had better quit college. College is no place for you if you are such a decadent; yes, and you will find the world a good deal harder place than college.
Cut out tobacco, therefore. For a young fellow in college it is a ridiculous affectation—nothing more. Why? Because you do not need tobacco; that is why. At least you do not need it yet. The time may come when you will find tobacco helpful, but it will not be until you have been a long while out of college. As to whether tobacco is good for a man at any stage of life the doctors disagree, and "where doctors disagree, who shall decide?"
Ruskin says that no really immortal work has been done in the world since tobacco was introduced; but we know that this is not true. I would not be understood as having a prejudice for or against the weed. Whether a full-grown man shall use it or not is something for himself to decide. Personally I liked it so well that I made up my mind a long time ago to give it up altogether.
But there is absolutely no excuse for a man young enough to still be in college to use it at all. And it does not look right. For a boy to use tobacco has something contemptible about it. I will not argue whether this is justified or not. That is the way most people feel about it. Whether their feeling is a prejudice or not, there is no use of your needlessly offending their prejudice. And this is to be taken into account. For you want to succeed, do you not? Very well. You cannot mount a ladder of air; you must rise on the solid stepping-stones of the people's deserved regard.
And, of course, you will not disgrace yourself by drinking. There is absolutely nothing in it. If you have your fling at it you will learn how surely Intoxication's apples of gold turn to the bitterest ashes in the eating. But when you do find how fruitless of everything but regrets dissipation is, be honest with yourself and quit it. Be honest with the mother who is at home praying for you, and quit it. But this is weak advice. Be honest with that mother who is at home praying for you, and never begin it. That's the thing—never begin it!
In a word, be a man; and you will be very little of a man, very little indeed, if you have got to resort to tobacco and liquor to add to your blood and conduct that touch of devilishness which you may think is a necessary part of manliness. Indeed, between fifteen and thirty years of age your veins will be quite full enough of the untamed and desperate. I do not object in the least to this wild mustang period in a man's life.
Is a fellow to have no fun? you will say. Of course, have all the fun you want; the more the better. But if you need stimulants and tobacco to key you up to the capacity for fun, you are a solemn person indeed—"solemn as cholera morbus" to appropriate an American newspaper's description of one of our public men. What I mean is that you shall do nothing that will destroy your effectiveness. Play, sports, fun, do not do that; they increase your effectiveness. Go in for athletics all you please; but do not forget that that is not why you are going to college.
Nobody cares how mad are the pranks you play. Take the curb and snaffle off of the humors of your blood whenever you please; that is all right. I never took much stock in the outcry against hazing. We cannot change our sex, or the nature and habits of it. A young man is a male animal after all, and those who object to his rioting like a young bull are in a perpetual quarrel with Nature.
One thing I must warn you against, and warn you supremely: the critical habit of mind which somehow or other a college education does seem to produce. This is especially true of the great universities of our East. Nobody admires those splendid institutions more than I do—the Nation is proud of them, and ought to be. The world of learning admires them, and with reason. Neither the English, Scotch, nor German universities surpass them.
But has not every one of us many times heard their graduates declare that a mischief had been done them while in those universities by the cultivation of a sneering attitude toward everybody—especially toward every other young man—whom they see doing anything actual, positive, or constructive. One of the best of these men—a man with a superb mind highly trained—said to me on this very subject:
"I confess that I came out of college with my initiative atrophied. I was afraid to do anything. I was afraid I would make a mistake if I did anything; afraid I was not well enough equipped to do the things that suggested themselves; afraid that if I did try to do anything everybody would criticize what I did; afraid that my old college mates would laugh at me.
"And I confess in humility that I myself acquired the habit of intellectual suspicion toward everybody who does try to do any real thing. I find myself unconsciously sneering at young men who are accomplishing things. Yes, and that is not the worst of it; I find myself sneering at myself." That is pathos—a soul doubting, denying itself. Pathos! yes, it is tragedy!
Confirm this confession by dropping into a club where such men gather and hearing the talk about the ones who are doing things in the world. You will find that until the men who are doing things have actually done them, done them well, and forced hostility itself to accept what they have done as good, honest pieces of work, the talk in these clubs will be that of harsh criticism, sneering contempt, and prophecy of failure. Guard against that habit night and day. You would better become an opium-eater than to permit this paralysis of mind and soul.
Believe in things. Believe in other young men. When you see other young men trying to do things in business, politics, art, the professions, believe in the honesty of their purpose and their ability to do well what they have started out to do. Assume that they will succeed until they prove that they cannot. Do not discourage them. Do not sneer at them. That will only weaken yourself. Believe in other young men, and you will soon find yourself believing in yourself.
That is the most important thing of all: Belief in yourself. Have faith in yourself though the whole universe jeers. "Trust thyself; every heart vibrates to that iron string," is the sentence from Emerson we used to write endlessly in our copy-books when we went to school. And what a glorious motto for Americans it is!
Remember that the high places, now filled by men whom the years are aging, must by and by be filled by men now young. Be in no haste then—the years are your allies. Time will dispose of your rivals. Just believe in yourself, and work and wait and dare—and keep on working, waiting, daring. Never let up; and never doubt your ultimate success. Think of Columbus, Drake, Magellan—the story of every master-mariner has in it food for your necessary egotism.
Do not underestimate your strength. There are things you would like to do; very well, sail in and do them. Do not be afraid of making a mistake. Do not be afraid that you will fail. Suppose you do fail. Millions have failed before you. I am repeating this thought and I wish it would bear repetition on every page.
But never admit to yourself that you have failed. Try it again. You will win next time, sure! "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." How much sense there is in these common maxims of the common people, proverbs not written by any one man, but axioms that spring out of the combined intelligence of the millions, meditating through the centuries. The sayings of the people are always simple and wise.
What a fine thing it was that Grant said at Shiloh. The first day closed in disaster. The enemy had all but driven the Union Army into the river. Not a great distance from the banks of the stream they will point out to you the tree under which Grant stood, cigar clinched between his teeth, directing the disposition of his forces. Some one reported to him a fresh disaster.
With the calmness of the certainty that nobody could defeat him, so the story runs, Grant replied, "Never mind; I will lick them to-morrow." Very like Cæsar, was it not? "I came, I saw, I conquered." Or that other audacity of the great Roman, when the ship was actually sinking: "Fear not," said he; "fear not, you carry Cæsar and his fortunes."
In the same battle it is credibly reported that Grant rode to an important position held by a large number of his troops under one of his most trusted generals. "What have you been doing?" asked Grant. "Fighting," answered the commander in charge of that position, equally laconic. For a while Grant surveyed the field, and, turning, was about to ride away. "But what shall I do now, General?" asked his subordinate. "Keep on fighting," answered Grant.
Do not get into the habit of feeling that you are not sufficiently well equipped. This comes of a very honest intellectual process—the understanding, as we get more knowledge, of how very little we really know; as we get more skill, of how very unskilled we really are; the feeling that, high as our training is, there is some one else more highly trained. Of course there is; but if that is any excuse why you should do nothing—because there is some person who can do it better—you will never do anything; and then what will happen when all of the other fellows who "could do it better" die?
You will by that time be too old to do anything at all. So sail in yourself, and pat on the back every other young fellow that sails in. If you learn the law, for example, understand that the way to acquire the art of practising law is to practise it, and not merely watch somebody else practise it. Suppose every young man with a scientific mind had declined to make any experiment because there were abler scientists than he: how many Pasteurs and Finsens and Marconis and Edisons and Bells would the world have had? And I might go on for an hour with similar illustrations.
So go ahead and try to do things you would like to do—things Nature has fitted you to do. Believe that you can do these things. For you can, you know. You will be amazed at your own powers. If you do not believe in yourself, how do you expect the world to believe in you? The world has no time to pet and coddle you, remember that. So get the habit of faith in yourself and your fellow men. Cultivate a noble intellectual generosity. It is a fine tonic for mind and soul—a fine tonic even for the body.
The doctors say that envy, malice, jealousy, produce a distinctly depressing effect upon the nervous system. And some go so far as to say that if intense enough these states of mind actually poison the secretions. Don't, therefore, let these hyena passions abide with you. Be generous. Have faith. Make mistakes or achieve success; fail or win; but do things. Share the common lot. Be hearty. Be whole-souled. Be a man. Never doubt for a moment that
This paper has been devoted to your mental and moral attitude toward your college and your college life, rather than to what particular things you will study there; for the way you look at your college and the life you lead there—the spirit with which you enter upon these golden years—is the main thing. The studies themselves are the methods by which you apply that spirit and purpose.
But most young men with whom I have talked want to know what "courses" to take, what "studies" to specialize upon. No general counsel can be given which will be very valuable to you upon this point. But I will venture this: Do not choose entirely by yourself what things you will study in college, or what "courses" you will "elect."
You are so apt to pick the things that are easiest for you, and not the things that are best for you. Even the strongest-willed men quite unconsciously select those things that will mean the least work. You do not think you are selecting certain courses or studies for this reason, and perhaps you are not; but then, again, perhaps you are, and you cannot yourself determine that.
Therefore I suggest that you advise with four or five of the ablest and most successful men you know. Let two of these be educators, and the others professional or business men. Try to get them to interest themselves enough in you to take the time to think the whole subject over very carefully as applied to your particular case, and to take further time to talk it over thoroughly with you. Then take the consensus of their opinion, unless your own view is decided, clear, and emphatic.
When you have such an opinion of your own, such a command coming from the sources of your own mentality, obey that, in choosing your studies and course, rather than the counsel of any other man or number of men. Yes, obey that voice in making such a choice, and in making every choice throughout your whole life; for it is the voice of your real self—that inward counselor which never fails those who are fortunate enough to have it.
Of course, what you study ought to be influenced by what you intend to do in life. For example, the career of civil engineer requires a special kind of preparation. So do the various occupations and professions. But no matter what particular thing you intend to do through life, it is the belief of most men who have given this subject any thought that a young man ought to take a complete general college course, and supplement this by special preparation for the particular work to which he intends to devote his life.
But there is one thing to which the attention of young Americans should be directed as influencing their college life. Our country is no longer isolated. We can no longer be called a provincial people. We are decidedly a very intimate part of the world. Our relations with other peoples grow closer and closer, and they will keep on growing closer as the years pass by. A thousand Americans travel over sea to-day where one went abroad fifty years ago. Our foreign commerce is now greater in a single year than it used to be in an entire decade—yes, and quite recently, too, so swift our increase.
Other countries are several times nearer to us than they were even in the last generation. It took Emerson almost a month to cross the Atlantic. Now you go over in a week. You can send a cablegram to any country in the world and have it delivered, translated into the language of the person to whom it is sent, a great deal quicker than the dawn can travel. Invention has made snail-like the speed of light.
What does all this mean? It means that in our relations we have become cosmopolitan. Therefore we Americans ought to know other languages than our own. Charles Sumner said that if he had to go through college again he would study nothing but modern languages and history. Of course I do not presume to advise you who are reading this paper to do that, although it is precisely what I should do if I were going through college again. But I do advise you to do this: Acquire at least two languages in addition to your own—French and German.
Indeed, you ought to have three languages besides your own—French, German, and Spanish. For, consider! Here is Mexico, our next-door neighbor—its people speak Spanish; Cuba, a kind of national ward of ours—its people speak Spanish. The people of our possessions in the Pacific speak Spanish; of Porto Rico, Spanish; of the Central and South American "Republics"—with all of whom we are destined, in spite of ourselves, to have relations of ever-increasing intimacy—all speak Spanish.
And French? You can travel all over Europe intelligently if you speak French. And German—the language that is going to make a good race with English itself as the commercial language of the world is German. For example, you can go all through commercial Russia without a guide if you speak German. You can get along in any port of the Orient if you speak German. So you can if you speak English, it is true. And think of how many millions of excellent people in our own country are still German-speaking (although our German citizens are so splendidly patriotic that they acquire English just as soon as they possibly can).
But the point is, that your usefulness in every direction will be increased by a knowledge of the languages. The other things that you study in college you will largely forget, anyhow; and, besides, you study them principally for the mental discipline in them. But if you get a language, and get it correctly, thoroughly, you can find enough use for it to keep brushed up on it. And of course you can read it all the time, whether you have a chance to talk it or not.
It is impossible to use words sufficiently emphatic in urging the study of history. You cannot get too much history in college and out of it. Sir William Hamilton was right—history is the study of studies. The man who occupies the chair of history in any college ought to be not only an able man, he ought to be a great man. If ever you find such a professor, make yourself agreeable to him, absorb him, possess yourself of him.
This final word: Mingle with your fellow students. Talk with people, with real people; those who are living real lives, doing real things under normal and natural conditions. Do all this in order that you may keep human; for you must not get the habit of keeping to your room and believing that all wisdom is confined to books. It is not. All wisdom is not confined to any one place. Some of it is in books, and some of it is in trees and the earth and the stars.
But so far as you are concerned most of it is in human touch with your fellows; for it is men with whom you must work. It is men who are to employ you. It is men whom in your turn you are to employ. It is the world of men which in the end you are to serve. And it is that you may serve it well that you are going to college at all, is it not?
Be one of these men, therefore; and be sure that while you are being one of them, you are one indeed. Be a man in college and out, and clear down to the end. Be a man—that is the sum of all counsel.
But what of the young man who stands without the college gates? What of him upon whom Fate has locked the doors of this arsenal of power and life's equipment? "Why does not some one give counsel and encouragement to the boy who, for any one of a thousand reasons, cannot take four years or four months from his life of continuous toil in order to go to college?" asked a young man full of the vitality of purpose, but to whom even the education of our high schools was an absolute impossibility.
After all, for most of our eighty millions, the college is practically beyond their reach. Even among those young men who have the nerve, ability, and ambition to "work their way through college," there are tens of thousands who cannot do even that, no matter if they were willing for four years to toil at sawbuck, live on gruel, and dress in overalls and hickory shirt.
I have in mind now a spirited young American of this class whose father died when his son was still a boy, and on whose shoulders, therefore, fell the duty of "supporting mother" and helping the girls, even before his young manhood had begun. For that young man, college or university might just as well be Jupiter, or Saturn, or Arcturus.
Very well. What of this young man? What of the myriads of young Americans like him? What hope does our complex industrial civilization, which every day grows more intense, hold out to these children of hard circumstances, whose muscles daily strain at the windlasses of necessary duty?
I repeat the question, and multiply the forms in which I put it. It is so pressingly important. It concerns the most abundant and valuable material with which free institutions work—the neglected man, he whom fortune overlooks. It is a strange weakness of human nature that makes everybody interested in the man at the top, and nobody interested in the man at the bottom. Yet it is the man at the bottom upon whom our Republican institutions are established. It is the man at the bottom whom Science tells us will, by the irresistible processes of nature, produce the highest types after a while.
The young Bonaparte proved himself a very wizard of human nature when he exclaimed: "Every soldier of France carries a marshal's baton in his knapsack." And did not the Master, with a wisdom wholly divine, choose as the seed-bearers of our faith throughout the world the neglected men? Only one of the apostles was what we would term to-day a "college man"—St. Luke, the physician. What said the Teacher, "The stone which was rejected to the builder, has become the chief of the corner."
Yes—the neglected man is the important man. We do not think so day by day, we idle observers of our Vanity Fair, we curbstone watchers of the street parade. We think it is the conspicuous man who counts. Our attention is mostly for him who wears the epaulettes of prominence and favorable condition. Therefore most articles, papers, and volumes on young men consider only that lucky favorite-of-fortune-for-the-hour, the college man.
But this paper is addressed to the neglected man. I would have speech with those young men with stout heart, true intention, and good ability, who labor outside those college walls to which they look with longing, but may not enter.
"Every soldier of France carries a marshal's baton in his knapsack." Ah, yes! Very well. But what was a soldier of France in Napoleon's time to a young American to-day? If Joubert, from an ignorant private who could not write his name, became one of the greatest generals of the world's greatest commander, what may you not become! Joubert did it by deserving. Use the same method, you. There is no magic but merit.
First, then, do not let the conditions that keep you out of college discourage you. If such a little thing as that depresses you, it is proof that you are not the character who would have succeeded if you had a lifetime of college education. If you are discouraged because you cannot go to college, what will happen to you when life hereafter presents to you much harder situations? Remember that every strong man who prevails in the merciless contest with events, faces conditions which to weaker men seem inaccessible—are inaccessible.
But it is the scaling of these heights, or the tunneling through them, or the blasting of them out of their way and out of existence, which makes these strong men strong. It is the overcoming of these obstacles day after day and year after year, as long as life lasts, which gives these mighty ones much of their power.
What is it you so admire in men whom you think fortunate—what is it but their mastery of adversity after adversity? What is that which you call success but victory over untoward events? Do not, then, let your resolution be softened by the hard luck that keeps you out of college. If that bends you, you are not a Damascus blade of tempered steel; you are a sword of lead, heavy, dull, and yielding.
Next to Collis P. Huntington, the railroad man of the last generation, whose ability rose to genius, was President Scott of the Pennsylvania System. He thought, with Mr. Huntington, that a college training was unnecessary; and his own life demonstrated that the very ultimate of achieving, the very crest of effort and reward may be reached by men who know neither Greek nor Latin, nor Science as taught in schools, nor mental philosophy as set down in books.
Colonel Scott was a messenger-boy—just such a messenger-boy as you may see any day running errands, carrying parcels, doing the humble duties of one who serves and waits. From a messenger-boy with bundle in his hand, to the general of an industrial army of thousands of men, and the directing mind planning the expenditure of scores of millions of dollars belonging to great capitalists—such was the career of Thomas Scott.
Very well, why should you not do as well? "Because my competitors have college education and I have not," do you answer? But, man, Colonel Scott had no college education. "Because the other fellows have friends and influence and I have none," do you protest? But neither President Scott nor most monumental successes had friends or influence to start with. Don't excuse yourself, then. Come! Buck up! Be a man!
"I am greatly troubled," said to me the general superintendent of one of the most extensive railroad systems in the world as we rode from Des Moines, Iowa, to Chicago. "I am greatly troubled," said he, "to find an assistant superintendent. There are now under me seven young engineers, every man a graduate of a college; four of them with uncommon ability, and all of them relatives of men heavily interested in this network of railroads. But not one of them will do. Three nights ago all of them happened to meet in Chicago. While there all of them went out to have what they called 'a good time' together—drinking, etc.
"That, in itself, is enough to blacklist every man for the position of my assistant and my successor. This road will not entrust its operating management to a man who wilfully makes himself less than his best every day and every night. Besides this, each of them has some defect. One is brilliant, but not steady; another is steady, but not resourceful—not inventive—and so forth and so on. We are looking all over the United States for the young man who has the ability, character, health, and habits which my assistant must have."
This general superintendent, under whose orders more than ten thousand men daily performed their complex and delicately adjusted functions, is fifty-five years of age. Now listen to this, you who cannot go to college: This man started thirty-eight years ago as a freight-handler in Chicago at one dollar per day for this same railroad company, which was then a comparatively small and obscure line. Ah! but you say, "That was thirty-eight years ago." Yes, and that is the trouble with you, is it not? You want to start in as superintendent of a great system or the head of a mighty business, do you not? Very well—get that out of your head. It cannot—it ought not—to be done.
If you are willing to work as hard as this man worked, as hard as President Scott of the Pennsylvania System worked; if you are willing to stay right by your job, year in, year out, through the weary decades, instead of changing every thirty minutes; if you are willing to wait as long as they; if you are willing to plant the seed of success in the soil of good hard work, and then water it with good hard work, and attend its growth with good hard work, and wait its flowering and fruitage with patience, its flowering and fruitage will come. Doubt it not.
For, mark you, this man at the time he told me that his System was looking all over the United States for a young man capable of being his assistant, had seven high-grade college men on his hands at that very moment. He would have been more than delighted to have taken any one of them.
Also, he would have taken a man who had not seen a college just as quickly if he could have found such a one who knew enough about operating a railroad, and had the qualities of leadership, the gift of organizing ability. It did not matter to this superintendent whether the assistant he sought had been to college or not, whether he was rich or poor.
He cared no more about that than he cared whether the man for whom this place was seeking was a blond or a brunette. The only question that he was asking was, "Where is the man who is equal to the job?"
And that, my young friend, is the question which all industry is asking in every field of human effort; that is the question your Fate is putting to you who are anxious to do big work, "Are you equal to the job?" If you are not, then be honest enough to step out of the contest. Be honest enough not to envy the other young men who are equal to the job.
Yes, be honest enough to applaud the man who is equal to the job and who goes bravely to his task. Don't find fault with him. Don't swear that "There is no chance for a young man any more." That's not true, you know. And remember always that if you do all you are fitted for, you do as well as your abler brother, and better than he if you do your best and he does not.
A young man whom fortune had kept from college, but who is too stout-hearted to let that discourage him, said to me the other day: "I don't think that a college education confers, or the absence of it prevents, success. But I do think that where there are two men of equal health, ability, and character, that one will be chosen who has been to college, and to this extent the college man has a better chance." This is true for the ordinary man—the man who is willing to put forth no more than the ordinary effort.
But you who read—you are willing to put forth extraordinary effort, are you not? You are willing to show these favored sons of cap and gown that you will run as fast and as far as they, with all their training, will you not? You are willing—yes, and determined, to use every extra hour which your college brother, thinking he has the advantage of you, will probably waste.
Very well. If you do, biography (that most inspiring of all literature) demonstrates that your reward will be as rich as the college man's reward. Yes, richer, for the gold which your refinery purges from the dross of your disadvantages will be doubly refined by the fires of your intenser effort.
In 1847 two men were born who have blessed mankind with productive work which, rich as are now its benefits to the race, will create a new wealth of human helpfulness with each succeeding year as long as time endures. Both these men have lived, almost to a day, the same number of years; both of them are still alive; both of them have labored in neighboring sections of the same field. They are alike, too, in character, almost duplicates in ability. Here, then, is material for a perfect comparison.
Mark, now, the parallel. One of them was a college man, the son of a noted educator and himself a professor in the University of Boston. He used the gifts which God gave him for that purpose, and as long as the transmission of human speech continues among men, the name of Alexander Graham Bell will be rightly honored by all the world.
The other of these men could no more have gone to college than he could have crossed the Atlantic on a sheet of paper. You who read this never had to work half so hard as this man worked when he was a boy. Your patience will never be so taxed and tested as his patience was and is. But who can say that your efforts and your persistence will not be as richly rewarded according to your ability as his ceaselessness has been repaid, if you will try as hard as he has tried, and use every ounce of yourself as effectively as he has used himself?
At twelve years of age he was a newsboy on the Grand Trunk Railway. That didn't satisfy him. The mystery of the telegraph (and what is more mysterious?) constantly called him. The click of the instrument was a voice from an unknown world speaking to him words far different from those recorded in the messages that instrument was transmitting.
And so Thomas A. Edison, without a dollar or a friend, set himself to work to master the telegraph and to explore the mysteries behind it. Result: the duplex telegraph and the developments from that; the phonograph, the incandescent electric light, and those numerous inventions which, one after another, have confounded the bigotry and ignorance of the world.
Edison and Bell, Bell and Edison, one a college man and the other a laborer without the gates, unlike in preparation but similar in character, devotion, and ability, and equal winners of honor and reward at the hands of a just if doubting world.
Of course I might go on all day with illustrations like this. History is brilliant with the names of those who have wrought gloriously without a college training. These men, too, have succeeded in every possible line of work. They are among the living, too, as well as among those whose earthly careers have ended.
The men who never went to college have not only built great railroads, but also have written immortal words; not only have they been great editors, but also they have created vast industries, and piled mountain high their golden fortunes; not only have they made epoch-making discoveries in science, but they have set down in words of music a poetry whose truth and sweetness makes nobler human character and finer the life's work of all who read those sentences of light.
Among the fathers who established this Government, the greatest never went to college. Hamilton was not a college man. Washington, to this day the first of Americans, never even attended school after he was sixteen years old. Of the great founders of modern journalism—the four extraordinary men whom their profession to this day refers to as the great journalists—only one was a college graduate—Raymond, who established the New York Times. Charles A. Dana, who made the New York Sun the most quoted newspaper of his generation, was not a college graduate. William Cullen Bryant, who gave to the New York Evening Post a peculiar distinction and preeminence, went to college only one year.
Samuel Bowles, who founded the Springfield Republican and made its influence felt for righteousness throughout the Nation, attended a private institution for a while. James Gordon Bennett, the editor whose resourceful mind sent Stanley to the heart of African jungles to find Livingstone, was never a college student.
Horace Greeley, that amazing mind and character, who created the New York Tribune, and who, through it, for many years exercised more power over public opinion than any other single influence in the Republic, never went to college; and Greeley's famous saying, "Of all horned cattle, deliver me from the college graduate," remained for a quarter of a century a standing maxim in the editorial rooms of all the big newspapers of the country.
Stevenson, who invented the steam-engine, was not a college man. He was the son of a fireman in one of the English collieries. As a boy, he was himself a laborer in the mines. Undoubtedly the greatest engineer America has yet produced was Captain Eades, whose fame was world wide; yet this Indiana boy, who constructed the jetties of the Mississippi, built the ship railroad across the Isthmus of Panama and other like wonders, never had a day's instruction in any higher institution of learning than the common schools of Dearborn County. Ericsson, who invented the Monitor, and whose creative genius revolutionized naval warfare, was a Swedish immigrant. Robert Fulton, who invented the steamboat, never went to college.
And take literature: John Bunyan was not only uneducated, but actually ignorant. If Milton went to college, I repeat that Shakespeare had no other alma mater than the university of human nature, and that Robert Burns was not a college man. Our own Washington Irving never saw the inside of any higher institution of learning. I have already noted that the author of "Thanatopsis" went to college for only a single year.
Among the writers, Lew Wallace, soldier, diplomat, and author, was self-educated. John Stuart Mill, who is distinguished as a philosopher, is innocent of a college training. James Whitcomb Riley, our American Burns, is not a "college man." Hugh Miller, the Scotchman, whose fame as a geologist is known to all the world of science, did not go to college.
Take statesmanship. Henry Clay wrested his education from books, experience, and downright hard thinking; and we Americans still like to tell of the immortal Lincoln poring over the pages of his few and hard-won volumes before the glare of the wood-fire on the hearth, or the uncertain light of the tallow dip. Benjamin Franklin got his education in a print-shop.
In American productive industry, the most conspicuous name, undoubtedly, is that of Andrew Carnegie; yet this great ironmaster, and master of gold as well, who has written as vigorously as he has wrought, was a Scotch immigrant. George Peabody, the philanthropist, never was inside a college as a student. He was a clerk when he was eleven years old.
At least three of the most astonishing though legitimate business successes which have been made in the last decade in New York were made by men not yet forty-five years old, none of whom had any other education than our common schools. I am not sure, but I will hazard the guess that a majority of the great business men of Chicago never saw a college.
These illustrations occur to the mind as I write, and without special selection. Doubtless, the entire space of this paper might be occupied by nothing more than the names of men who have blessed the race and become historic successes in every possible department of human industry, none of whom ever saw the inside of either college or university.
But all of these do not prove that you ought not to go to college if you can. Certainly you ought to go to college if it is possible. But the lives of these men do prove that no matter how hard the conditions that you think surround you, success is yours in spite of them, if you are willing to pay the price of success—if you are willing to work and wait; if you are willing to be patient, to keep sweet, to maintain fresh and strong your faith in God, your fellow men, and in yourself.
The life of any one of the men whom I have mentioned is not only an inspiration but an instruction to you who, like these men, cannot go to college. Consider, for example, how Samuel B. Raymond established the New York Times. He wrote his own editorials; he did his own reporting; he set his own type; he distributed his own papers. That was the beginning.
One of the most successful merchants that I know opened a little store in the midst of large and pretentious mercantile establishments. He bought his own goods; he was his own clerk; he swept and dusted his own storeroom, and polished his own show-cases. He was up at five in the morning, and he worked to twelve and one at night, and then slept on the counter. That was less than thirty years ago. To-day he is at the head of the largest department store in one of the considerable cities of this country, and he owns his store.
This is an illustration so common that every country town, as well as London, Paris, and New York, can show examples like it. And, mark you, most of these men were weighted down with responsibilities as great as yours can possibly be, and hindered by obstacles as numerous and difficult as those which you have confronting you.
Yet they succeeded brilliantly. The world rewarded them as richly as any graduate of any university who went to his life's work from the very head of his class. For you know this, don't you, that the world hands down success to any man who pays the price. Very well, the price is not a college education. The price is effectiveness, and the college is valuable only as it helps you to be effective.
Here is a true picture of our earthly work and its rewards: Behind a counter stands the salesman, Fortune, with just but merciless scales. On the shelves this Merchant of Destiny has both failure and success, in measure large and small. Every man steps up to this counter and purchases what he receives and receives what he purchases. And when he buys success he pays for it in the crimson coin of his life's blood.
This is a sinister illustration, I know, but it is the truth, and the truth is what you are after, is it not? You can do about what you will within the compass of your abilities; but you accomplish all your achievings with heart-beats. This is a rule which has no exceptions, and applies with equal force to the man who goes to college and to him who cannot go. What is that that some poet says about the successful man:
So do not let the fact that you cannot go to college excuse yourself to yourself for being a failure. Do not say, "I have no chance because I am not a college man," and blame the world for its injustice. What Cassius exclaimed to Brutus is exactly applicable to you:
So do not whine as to your hard fate; do not go to pitying yourself. No whimper should come from a masculine throat.
A man who does either of these things thereby proves that he ought not to succeed—and he will not succeed. Indeed, how do you know that these fires of misfortune through which you are passing are not heat designed by Fate to temper the steel of your real character. Certainly that ought to be true if you have the stuff in you. And if you have not the stuff in you, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Cambridge, Oxford, and all the universities of Germany cannot lift you an inch above your normal level. "You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear" is our pithy and brutally truthful folk-saying.
"What do you raise on these shaly hills?" I asked one time of that ideal American statesman, Senator Orville H. Platt, of Connecticut. "Manhood," answered this great New Englander, and then he went on to point out the seemingly contradictory facts that a poor soil universally produces stern and upright character, solid and productive ability, and dauntless courage.
The very effort required to live in these ungenerous surroundings, the absolute necessity to make every blow tell, to preserve every fragment of value; the perpetual exercise of the inventive faculty, thus making the intellect more productive by the continuous and creative use of it—all these develop those powers of mind and heart which through all history have distinguished the inhabitants of such countries as Switzerland and New England. "And so," said Connecticut's great senator, "these rocky hills produce manhood."
Apply this to your own circumstance, you who cannot go to college because you must "support the family," or have inherited a debt which your honor compels you to pay, or any one of those unhappy conditions which fortune has laid on your young shoulders.
Most men with wealth, friends, and influence accept them as a matter of course. Not many young men who are happily situated at the beginning, employ the opportunities which are at their hand. They don't understand their value. Having "influence" to help them, they usually rely on this artificial aid—seldom upon themselves. Having friends, they depend upon these allies rather than upon the ordered, drilled, disciplined troops of their own powers and capabilities. Having money, they do not see as vividly the necessity of toiling to make more.
"What's the use of my working; father did enough of that for our family," wittily said one of these young men. Having the training of the best universities very much as they have their food and clothing, these men are too apt to be blind to the greater skill this equipment gives them, and thus to neglect the using of it.
And so, young man—you who cannot go to college, you who are without friends and "influence"—your brother born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and trained by tutors, finished by professors, and clothed with all the "advantages," has not such a great start of you after all. For you are without friends to begin with. You have not inherited comrades and kindred hearts. You have inherited aloneness and solitude.
Very well, you must depend on yourself, then. If you have the right kind of stuff in you, you will make every ohm of your force do something for you. You will see to it that there is no wasted energy. You will economize every instant of your time, for you will understand, in the wise language of the common people, that "time is money"; and that is something, mind you, which the heir of wealth with whom you are competing does not understand at all. You know what an advantage your competitor, who is a college man, has of you; and this knowledge of yours, coupled with your college competitor's possible lack of it, turns his advantage over you into your advantage over him.
It is like a man who has a dozen shots for his rifle against another who has a hundred. The first will make every shot bring down his game, because he knows he must make every shot tell; he cannot waste a cartridge. But he of abundant ammunition fires without certain aim, and so wastes his treasure of shells until for the actual purposes of fruitful marksmanship he has not as many cartridges left as the man who started with fewer. Also his aim is not so accurate.
Or use an illustration taken from the earth. I well remember when a boy upon the fat alluvium of the Illinois prairie, how recklessly the farmers then exhausted the resources of their fields. So opulent was the black soil that little care was taken save to sow the seed and crudely cultivate it; and the simple prudences, such as rotation of crops, differential fertilizing, and the like, would have been laughed at by the farmer, heedless in the richness of his acres.
But the German farmer on his sandy soil could take no such risks. Every vestige of fertility that skill, science, and economy could win from the reluctant German field was secured. The German farmer had to woo his land like a lover. And so the unyielding fields of Germany returned richer harvests thirty years ago than a like area of the prodigally vital silt of the Mississippi Valley.
So what you have got to do, young man who cannot go to college, is to develop yourself with the most vigorous care. Take your reading, for example. Choose your books with an eye single to their helpfulness. Let all your reading be for the strengthening of your understanding, the increase of your knowledge.
Your more fortunate competitor who has gone to college will, perhaps, not be doing this. He will probably be "resting his mind" with an ephemeral novel or the discursive hop-skip-and-jump reading of current periodicals. Thus he will day by day be weakening his strength, diminishing his resources. At the very same time you, by the other method, will hourly be adding to your powers, daily accumulating useful material.
And when you read, make what you read yours. Think about it. Absorb it. Make it a part of your mental being. Far more important than this, make every thought you read in books, every fact which the author furnishes you, the seed for new thoughts of your own. Remember that no fact in the universe stands by itself, but that every fact is related to every other fact. Trace out the connection of truth with truth, and you will soon confront that most amazing and important of all truths, the correlation of all force, all thought, all matter.
And thus, too will your mind acquire a trained and systematic strength which is the chief purpose of all the training which college and university give. For, mind you, the principal purpose of going to college is not to acquire knowledge. That is only secondary. The chief reason for a college education is the making of a trained mind and the building of a sound character.
These suggestions as to reading apply to everything else: to men, business, society, life. Because you must compete with the college men, you cannot be careless with books—in the selection of books, or in the use of them. For the same reason, you cannot be indifferent with men and your relationship with them. If other men are loose and inaccurate in reading the character of their fellows, most certainly you cannot be.
If the men who have battalions of friends to start with become negligent of their associations, welcoming all fish that come to their net, and frogs, too, you dare not take the risk of a dissolute companionship, or any other companionship that will weaken the daily discipline of yourself, or lower you in the esteem of the people.
Thus you become a careful student of human nature. And never forget that he who has mastered this, the most abstruse of sciences, has a better equipment for practical success than all the abstract learning from the days of Socrates till now could give him.
Conscious from day to day of your limited resources, and understanding by the severe tuition of your daily life that the world now demands effectiveness, you will nurture your physical and nervous powers where the rich young man with a college training is apt to waste his. He may smoke, but you dare not. You cannot afford it, for one thing.
For another thing, it is a long race that you are running before you reach the point from which your fellow runner starts; so you have got to save your wind. You need all your nerve. You have got to keep "clean to the bone," as Jack London expresses it.
You have got to take thought of the morrow. You have got to do all those things which your employer, and all observers of you, will, consciously or unconsciously, approve; and refrain from doing anything that your employer, or his wife, or the world, or anybody who is watching you, will disapprove of, even subconsciously.
Thus your profound understanding that effectiveness is what counts will cut out every questionable habit, every association of idleness and sloth. No social club for you; that institution is for the man of dollars and of Greek. No evenings with gay parties for you; you must use those precious hours for reading, planning, sleep.
You cannot dally with brilliant indirectness; you must make every man and woman understand that you are goldenly sincere, forcefully earnest, earnestly honest, high of intention, sound of purpose, direct of method. Out of all these you will finally wring everything which the college is designed to give: skilled intellect, mind equipped with systematized knowledge, simple, earnest, upright character.
And to crown it all, you will discover in this hard discipline of your faculties and of your soul a happiness whose steady felicity is unknown to the lounger of the club or the frequenter of the ballroom. For remember this—you who in your heart cherish a secret envy of those other young men whom you believe, by reason of family, wealth, or any favorable circumstance, are getting more of the joy of living than you get—remember this, that this world knows only one higher degree of happiness than that which comes from discipline, only one pleasure nobler than the pleasure of achieving.
Let me close with two illustrations within my own personal observation. In one of the most charming inland cities of the United States, or of the world, for that matter, I met some fifteen years ago a young man of German parentage. His father was poor. The son simply had to help support the family by his daily work. He never got nearer college than in his dreams.
He knew something of printing, and was employed by a vigorous new house at an humble salary. By processes such as I have analyzed above, he made himself the best man in technical work in the firm's employ. The next step was to demonstrate his ability as a manager and financier as well as a skilled workman. There was a nut to crack, was it not? But see, now, how simply he broke the shell of that problem.
With some other sound young men of like quality, he established a building and loan association, one of those banks of the people which flourished in those days. He had no capital behind him. His acquaintance was small. Never mind, he made acquaintances among people of his own class. So did his fellow directors. Those common people from which this young man sprang furnished from their earnings the necessary money.
The little institution was conducted with all our American dash, with all his German caution. Of course it prospered. How could it help prospering? While other building and loan associations undertook alluring but hazardous experiments, this little concern rejected them with all the calm and haughty disfavor of the most conservative old bank.
After a while people began to take notice of this small institution. Its depositors were satisfied, its customers pleased. One day the attorney of this association, also a young man, called his fellow directors together, and resigned, upon the ground that he thought the movement of gold abroad and other financial phenomena indicated a panic within the next two or three years.
Did this dismay the young German-American? Not much. "This is just what I am looking for," said he. "I have been able to manage this institution in prosperous times; now if I can only have a chance to close it up so that no man loses a dollar, when big banks around me are falling, I will accomplish all I have started to accomplish."
Sure enough, the panic of 1893 arrived, and the young man's opportunity came. Bank after bank went down; old institutions whose venerable names had been their sufficient guarantee collapsed in a day. Most building and loan associations, taking advantage of certain provisions of the law, and of their charters, refused to pay their depositors on demand. The men and women who had put their money in found that they could not "withdraw" for some time, and then only at a loss.
But not so with the model experiment of my young friend, by which he proposed to demonstrate his ability to organize, manage, and support a difficult business, and to properly handle complex financial questions. He closed his institution up amid the appreciation and praise of everybody who knew about it.
In the mean time he had worked a little harder than ever for the firm that employed him. He took part in politics, too. His acquaintance grew slowly but steadily, and then with ever-increasing rapidity, as each new-made friend enthusiastically described him to others.
It soon got on the tongues of the people that even in his politics this young man didn't drink, smoke, nor swear. More marvelous than all, it was said that he was even religious. And the saying was true. During all these years when he had no time for anything else, he also had no time to stay away from Sunday-school and church. He had certain convictions and spoke them out.
He had no time for "society"; not a moment for parties; not an hour for the clubs. But he did have time for one girl, and for her he did not have time enough. All this was not so very long ago. To-day this young man is a member of the firm for which he began as a common workman, and which has since grown to be one of the largest concerns of its kind in the entire country. Successful banks have made him a director. On all hands his judgment is sought and taken by old and able men in business, politics, and finance.
And to crown all these achievings, he has builded him a home where all the righteous joys abound, and over which presides the "girl he went to see" in the hard days of his beginnings, when he had no time for "society" except that which he found in her presence. As he was then, so he is now—"clean to the bone," strong, upright, faithful, joyous in the unsullied happiness of the manly living of a manly life.
Very well, I tell you over again that this man did not go to college because he could not go to college; that he had no opportunities, no friends, few acquaintances. But he did have right principles, good health, and an understanding that every drop of his blood must be wrought into a deed, every minute of his time compounded into power. And this young man is not yet forty years of age.
I will venture to say that his example can be repeated in every town in the United States, in every city of the Republic. Certainly I personally know of a score of such successes in my own home city. I personally know of many such examples in other States. You ask for the inspiration of example, young man who cannot go to college. Look around you—they are on every hand.
Can you not find them in your own town? Or, if you live on a farm, do you not see them in your own county? I personally know of country boys who started out as farm hands at sixteen dollars per month and board, who to-day own the farms on which they were employed, and yet who are not now much past middle life. They have done it by the simple rules that are as old as human industry.
Come, then, don't mope. Sleep eight hours. Then three hours for your meals, and a chance for your stomach to begin digesting them after you have eaten them. That makes eleven hours, and leaves you thirteen hours remaining. Take one of these for getting to and from your business. Then work the other twelve. Every highly successful man whom I know worked even longer during the years of his beginnings.
What, no recreation? say you. Certainly I say recreation, and I say pleasure, too. But remember that you have got to overcome the college man's advantage over you—and that can only be done by hard work. But what of that? For a young man like you, full of that boundless vigor of youth, what higher pleasure can there be than the doing of your work better than anybody else does the same kind of work?
And what finer happiness can there be than the certainty that such a life as that will make realities of your dreams? For sure it is that this is the road by which you can walk to unfailing success, even over the bodies of your rivals who, with greater "advantages" than yours, neglect them and fall upon the steep ascent up which, with harder muscles, steadier nerves, and stouter heart, you climb with ease, gaining strength with every step you take instead of losing power as you advance, as did your flabbier fibered competitor.
Now for the other illustration: Three years ago a certain young man came to me from New York, the son of a friend who occupied a Government position. He was studying law. He was "quivering" with ambition. But his lungs were getting weak. Would it be possible to get him a place on some ranch for six or eight months? Yes, it was possible. An acquaintance was glad to take him.
At the end of his time he returned, still "quivering" with ambition. He was going to make a lawyer, that's what he was going to make—the very best lawyer that ever mastered Blackstone. He already had a clerkship promised in one of the great legal establishments in the metropolis. This clerkship paid him enough to live on, and gave him the chance to do the very work which is necessary to the making of a lawyer.
Splendid thus far. But observe the next step. In about twelve months this young man came to me again. Would I help to get a certain man who held a Government position paying him $150 a month promoted? This last man's record was admirable; he deserved promotion on his own account. But why the interest of the would-be lawyer, who was "quivering" with ambition?
It developed that if the other fellow was promoted, this embryo Erskine could, with the aid of influential political friends, be appointed in his place. But why did he want this position? Well, answered the young man, it would enable him to take his law course at one of the law schools of the Capitol and get his degree, and all that sort of thing. Also, it would enable him to live at home with mother, would it not? Yes, that was a consideration, he admitted.
But did he think that that was as good a training for his profession, and would give him the chance of a business acquaintance while he was getting that training, as well as the clerkship in the New York office would? Perhaps not, but, after all, he didn't get very much salary in the New York law office. Why, how much did he get? Only twenty dollars a week.
But was not that enough to live on at a modest boarding-house, and get a room with bed, table, one chair, and a washstand, and buy him the necessary clothing? Oh, yes! of course he could scratch along on it, but it was hardly what a young man of his standing and family ought to have.
Oh! it didn't enable him to get out into society, was that it? Well, yes, he must admit there was something in that. Washington had social advantages, to be sure, and $150 a month would enable him to have some of that life which a young man was entitled to and at the very same time be getting his legal education. Well! That young man did not get what he wanted.
That young man had the wrong notion of life. Of course, no man would do anything for him. Until he changed his point of view utterly, success was absolutely impossible for him. What that young man needed was the experience of going back to New York and having to apply for position after position until his shoe soles wore out, and he felt the pangs of hunger. He needed iron in his blood, that is what he needed. All the colleges in the world would not enable that man to do anything worth doing until he mastered the sound principles of living and of working.
Right before him in New York was an illustration of this. One of the most notable successes at the bar which that city or this country has witnessed in the last fifteen years has been made by a young man who had neither college education, money, nor friends. He was, I am told, a stenographer in one of New York's great legal establishments. But that young man had done precisely what I have been pounding at over and over again in this paper. Very well. To-day he is one among half a dozen of the most notable lawyers in the greatest city of the greatest nation in the world.
It is all in the using of what you have. Let me repeat again what I have said in a previous paper—the inscription which Doc Peets inscribed on the headboard of Jack King, whose previousness furnished "Wolfville" with its first funeral:
And this is nothing more than our frontier statement of the parable of the talents. After all, it is not what we have, but what we make out of what we have that counts in this world of work. And, what's more, that is the only thing that ought to count.
Your father made the old home. Prove yourself worthy of him by making the new home. He built the roof-tree which sheltered you. Build you a roof-tree that may in its turn shelter others. What abnormal egotism the attitude of him who says, "This planet, and all the uncounted centuries of the past, were made for me and nobody else, and I will live accordingly. I will go it alone."
"I wish John had not married so young," said a woman of wealth, fashion, and brilliant talents in speaking of her son. "Why, how old was he?" asked her friend. "Twenty-five," said she; "he ought to have waited ten years longer." "I think not," was the response of the world-wise man with whom she was conversing. "If he got a good wife he was in great luck that he did not wait longer." "No," persisted the mother, "he ought to have taken more time 'to look around.' These early marriages interfere with a young man's career."
This fragment of a real conversation, which is typical of numberless others like it, reveals the false and shallow philosophy which, if it becomes our code of national living, will make the lives of our young people abnormal and our twentieth century civilization artificial and neurotic. Even now too many people are thinking about a "career." Mothers are talking about "careers" for their sons. Young men are dreaming of their "careers."
It is assumed that a young man can "carve out his career" if his attention is not distracted and his powers are not diminished by a wife and children whom he must feed, clothe, and consider. The icy selfishness of this hypothesis of life ought to be enough to reject it without argument. Who is any man, that he should have a "career"? and what does a "career" amount to, anyway? What is it for? Fame? Surely not, because
says Shakespeare. And Shakespeare ought to know; he is not quite three centuries dead, and even now the world is sadly confused as to whether he wrote Shakespeare. "Career!" Let your "career" grow out of the right living of your life—not the living of your life grow out of your "career." "Don't get the cart before the horse."
Is it to accomplish some good thing for humanity that you want this "career," which is to keep you single until you are too old to be interesting? Very well. Just what is it that you expect to do with these self-centered and single years during which you intend so to help the race? If you cannot tell, you are "down and out" on that score.
And, besides, you will find that the enormous majority of men who by their service have uplifted or enriched humanity have been men enough to lead the natural life. They have been men who have founded homes. And how can you better benefit mankind than by founding a home among your fellow men, a pure, normal, sweet, and beautiful home?
That would be getting down to business. That would be doing something definite, something "you can put your finger on." It would be "getting down to earth," as the saying is. You would be "benefiting humanity" sure enough and in real earnest by taking care of some actual human being among this great indefinite mass called mankind. The making of a home is the beginning of human usefulness.
The Boers were a splendid type of the human animal. It took all the power of the greatest empire on earth to crush a handful of them; and even then Great Britain was able to subdue them only at astonishing loss of men and money, and irreparable impairment of prestige. They were glorious fighting men, these Boers. The blood that flowed in their veins was unadulterated Dutch—the only unconquered blood in history; for you will remember that even Cæsar could not overcome them, and, with the genius of the statesman-soldier that he was, he made terms with them.
But these Boers were a good deal more than mere fighting animals; they were perhaps the most religious people on earth. If they were mighty creatures physically, they were also exalted beings spiritually. They knew how to pray as well as to fight. They made their living, too, and asked no favors. Also they builded them a state. It was a fine thing in the English to acknowledge the high qualities of these African Dutchmen, after the war with them was over.
It is said that there was not an unmarried man above twenty-one years of age among them. Very generally the same thing was true of "The Fathers" who founded this republic. Indeed, all great constructive periods and peoples have lived in harmony with the laws of Nature. It has been the races of marrying men that have made the heroic epochs in human history. The point is that the man who is not enough of a man to make a home, need not be counted. He is a "negligible quantity," as the scientists put it.
So if your arm is not strong enough to protect a wife, and your shoulders are not broad enough to carry aloft your children in a sort of grand gladness, you are really not worth while. For it will take a man with veins and arteries swollen with masculine blood pumped by a great, big, strong heart, working as easily and joyfully as a Corliss engine; with thews of steel wire and step as light as a tiger's and masterful as an old-time warrior's; with brain so fertile and vision so clear that he fears not the future, and knows that what to weaker ones seem dangers are in reality nothing but shadows—it will take this kind of a man to make any "career" that is going to be made.
Very well. Such a man will be searching for his mate and finding her, planning a home and building it before he is twenty-five; and the man who does not, is either too weak or too selfish to do it. In either case you need not fear him. "He will never set the world afire."
I am assuming that you are man enough to be a man—not a mere machine of selfishness on the one hand, or an anemic imitation of masculinity on the other hand. I am assuming that you think—and, what is more important, feel—that Nature knows what she is about; that "God is not mocked"; and that therefore you propose to live in harmony with universal law.
Therefore, I am assuming that you have established, or will establish, the new home in place of the old home. I am assuming that you will do this before there is a gray hair in your head or a wrinkle under your eye. These new homes which young Americans are building will be the sources of all the power and righteousness of this Republic to-morrow, just as the lack of them will be the source of such weakness as our future develops.
Within these new homes which young Americans are to build, the altar must be raised again on which the sacred fire of American ideals must be kept burning, just as it was kept burning in the old homes which these young Americans have left. And precisely to the extent that these new homes are not erected will American ideals pale, and finally perish.
It is a question, you see, which travels quite to the horizon of our vision and beyond it, and which searches the very heart of our national purity and power. No wonder that Bismarck considered the perpetuation of the German home, with its elemental and joyous productivity, as the source of all imperial puissance on the one hand, and the purpose and end of all statesmanship on the other hand.
It would be far better for America if our public men were more interested in these simple, vital, elemental matters than in "great problems of statesmanship," many of which, on analysis, are found to be imaginary and supposititious. Yes, and it would be better for the country if our literary men would describe the healthful life of the Nation's plain people, than tell unsavory stories of artificial careers and abnormal affections, and all that sort of thing.
They would sell more books, too. I never yet heard that anybody got tired of "The Cotter's Saturday Night." I think it quite likely that the Book of Ruth will outlast all the short stories that will be written during the present decade. Yes, decidedly, our public men, and our writers, too, ought to "get down to earth." There is where the people live. The people walk upon the brown soil and the green grass. They dwell beneath the apple-blossoms. How fine a thing it is that our American President is preaching the doctrine of the American home so forcefully that he impresses the Nation and the world with these basic truths of living and of life.
It is a good deal more important that the institution of the American home shall not decay, than that the Panama Canal be built or our foreign trade increase. So, in considering the young man and the new home, we are dealing with an immediate and permanent and an absolutely vital question, not only from the view-point of the young man himself, but from that of the Nation as well.
Of course nobody means that young men should hurl themselves into matrimony. The fact that it is advisable for you to learn to swim does not mean that you should jump into the first stream you come to, with your clothes and shoes on. Undoubtedly you ought first to get "settled"; that is, you ought to prepare for what you are going to do in life and begin the doing of it. Don't take this step while you are in college. If you mean to be a lawyer, you ought to get your legal education and open your office; if a business man, you should "get started"; if an artizan, you should acquire your trade, etc. But it is inadvisable to wait longer.
It is not necessary for you to "build up a practise" in the profession, or make a lot of money in business, or secure unusual wages as a skilled laborer. Begin at the beginning, and live your lives together, win your successes together, share your hardships together, and let your fortune, good or ill, be of your joint making. It will help you, too, in a business way.
Everybody else is, or was, situated nearly as you are, and there is a sort of fellow-feeling in the hearts of other men and women who once had to "hoe the same row" you are hoeing; and it is among these men and women you must win your success. It is largely through their favor and confidence that you will get on at all. If you are making a new home you are in harmony with the world about you, and the very earth itself exhales a vital and sustaining sympathy.
It is not at all necessary that you should be able to provide as good a house and the furnishings thereof as that from which your wife comes. Nobody expects you to be as successful in the very beginning of your life as her father was at the close of his. Least of all does she herself expect it. And even if this were possible, it is not from such continuous luxury that the best character is made. The absolute necessity to economize compels the ordinary young American couple to learn the value of things—the value of a dollar and the value of life.
They learn to "know how it comes," again to employ one of the wise sayings of the common people. And the numberless experiences of their first few years of comparative hardship are the very things necessary to bring out in them sweetness, self-sacrifice, and uplifting hardihood of character. In these sharp experiences, too, there is greatest happiness. How many hundreds of times have you heard men and women say of their early married years, "Those were the happiest days of my life."
As a matter of good business on the one hand, and of sheer felicity on the other hand, make the ideals of this new home of yours as high as you possibly can. Don't make them so high that neither you nor any other human being can live up to them, of course; but if you can put them a notch beyond those even of the exalted standard of the old home, by all means do it. Do it, that is, if you can live up to them.
It is remarkable what individual power grows out of clean living. It is profitable also. The mere business value of a reputation for a high quality of home life will be one of the best assets that you can accumulate. "They are attending strictly to business and will make their mark," said a wise old banker to a group of friends in discussing a fine type of young business man, and the equally fine type of the young American woman who was his wife.
I do not know whether that young man was borrowing money for his business from that particular bank or not, but I do know that he could borrow it if he wanted it. And one reason why his credit was established with the money-wise old financier was the ideal home life which he and his wife were leading.
For, mark you, they were not "living beyond their means." That was the first thing. That is one of the best rules you can follow. Who has not known of the premature withering of young business men and lawyers (yes, and sometimes men not so young, alas!) who have suddenly blossomed out with houses and clothes and horses, and a lot of other things which their business or practise ought not reasonably to stand.
On the other hand, do not begin your life as a miser. Do not let the new home proclaim by its barrenness that it is the abode of a poor young man asking sympathy and aid of his friends. "Yes, rent a piano, by all means. Do not economize on your wife and your home," advised an old Methodist preacher noted for his horse-sense. And he was right.
After all, what is the purpose and end of all your labor? If it is not that very home, I do not know what it is. Put on a little more steam, therefore, and earn enough extra to buy a picture. And get a good one while you are at it. It will not break you up to buy a really good etching. A fine "print" is infinitely better than a poor painting. Anything is better than a poor painting. If she has good taste, your wife will make the walls of that new home most attractive with an astonishingly small amount of money.
It is the new home you and she are making, remember that. Very well; you cannot make it in a flat. "Apartments" cannot by any magic be converted into a home. For the purposes of a home, better a separate dwelling with dry-goods box for table and camp-stools for chairs than tapestried walls, mosaic floors, and all luxuriousness in those modern structures where human beings hive.
These buildings have their indispensable uses, but home-making is not one of them. "Apartments" are not cheaper for you and easier for her than a house to yourselves—no, not if you got the finest apartments for nothing, not even if you were paid to live in gilded rooms. For the making of a home is priceless. And that cannot be done in flats or hotels or other walled and roofed herding places. Every man would like to have a picture of "the house he was born in"; but who would choose a hotel for a birthplace? Boniface himself would not "admire" (to use one of our Westernisms) to have you select his hostelry for that purpose.
Of course you will spend all of your extra time at home. That is what home is for. Live in your home; do not merely eat and sleep there. It is not a boarding-house, remember that. Books are there, and music and a human sympathy and a marvelous care for you, under whose influence alone the soul of a young man grows into real grandeur, power, and beauty. And be sure that you let each day have its play-hour.
"I would not care to live," said one of the very ablest and most eminent members of the American Catholic priesthood—"I would not care to live," said he, "if I could not have my play-hour, music, and flowers. They are God's gifts and my necessity. Every young man who has a home commits a crime if he does not each day bring one hour of joy into his household."
The man who said that is not only brilliant and wise, but one of the most exalted souls it has ever been my fortune to know. And his words have good sense in them, have they not? Make that good sense yours, then. Make a play-hour each day for yourself and wife and children. I say children, for I assume, of course, that when you are making a new home you are making a home indeed.
Very well. The absence of children is either unfortunate or immoral. A purposely childless marriage is no marriage at all; it is merely an arrangement. Robert Louis Stevenson calls it "a friendship recognized by the police." A house undisturbed and unglorified by the wailings and laughter of little ones is not a home—it is a habitation.
There is in children a certain immortality for you. Most of us believe in life after death; and that belief is a priceless possession of every human being who has it. But even the man who has not this faith beholds his own immortality in his children. "Why of course I am immortal," said a scientist who believed that death ends all. "Of course I am immortal," said he, "there goes my reincarnation"; and he pointed to his little son, glorious with the promise of an exhaustless vitality.
There is no doubt at all that association with infancy and youth puts back the clock of time for each of us. Besides all this, it is the natural life, and that is the only thing worth while. The "simple life" is all right, and the "strenuous life" excellent. The "artistic life" is charming, no doubt, and all the other kinds of "lives" have their places, I suppose. I am interested in all of them. But I am much more interested in the natural life. That alone is truthful. And, after all, only the truthful is important.
Get into the habit of happiness. It is positively amazing how you can turn every little incident into a sunbeam. And, mark you, it is quite as easy to take the other course. But what a coward a man is who releases in his home all the pent-up irritability and disappointment of the day.
There is no sense in it, either. It does not make you less black of spirit to fill your home with gloom. You ought not to do it, even from the view-point of good health. If you eat your meal in a sour silence which almost curdles the cream and scares your wife half to death, you do not and cannot digest your food. If you have had a hard day, say to yourself, "Well, that was a hard day. Now for some rest and some fun."
Get into the habit of being happy, I tell you. You can do it. Practise saying to yourself, when you waken in the morning, "Everything is all right," and keep on saying it. You will be surprised to find how nearly "all right" the mere saying of it at the beginning of the day will really make everything, after all. This is true of business as well as of the new home. Prophets of gloom are never popular, and ought not to be.
Then, too, a quiet cheeriness of heart makes you treat your fellow man better; and this is important in your dealings with other human male animals. They will make it unpleasant for you if you don't. But it is far more important in your new home than it is out in the world of men. That is what the new home is for—to exercise and multiply the beauties of character and conduct.
Returning again to the view-point of business wisdom, you cannot treat your wife too well, as a mere matter of policy—though you will never treat her well, nor anybody else, from that low motive. I am merely calling the attention of your commercial mind to the fact that there are actually dollars and cents in a reputation for chivalrous bearing in your new home.
You know yourself how you feel toward a man of whom everybody says, "He is good to his wife." Everybody wants to help that kind of a fellow. If he is a strong man, his community glories in his strength and increases it by their admiration and support. If he is not a strong man, everybody wishes that he were, and tries in a thousand ways, which a general kindly disposition toward him suggests, to supply his deficiencies.
And this is no jug-handled rule either. The same thing is true of the wife. When her acquaintances declare of any woman, "She is lovely in her home," they have placed upon her brow the crown of their ultimate tribute and regard. It depends upon both, of course, whether these domestic beatitudes will exist in the new home.
Undoubtedly, however, it depends upon the young man more than the young woman. He is a man—and that is everything. And being a man, he should have a large and kindly forbearance, a sort of soothing strength and calming serenity. And to all this the rule of smile and cheeriness is helpful, if not essential.
When I was a boy in the logging-camps, I read in some stray newspaper an article about the influence which the pleasant countenance exercises over groups of men. The idea was that men work willingly under the control of a strong man who is strong enough to carry in his daily look the suggestion of a smile. It worked splendidly. It has never been satisfactorily explained why it is next to impossible for a man "to be down on his luck" if he will only keep the corners of his mouth turned up. Perhaps it is the mental effort of forcing this mechanism of a smile which brings a really happy state of mind.
Whatever the cause, it is literally true that you cannot look blackly on the world and your own fortunes if the lines of your face are ascending instead of drooping. This muscular state of your countenance is connected in some strange way with that mysterious thing called the mind; for you will find, if you try it, that a sort of serenity of soul comes to you, and a strong confidence that "everything will come out right in the end." When we Americans are older we shall pay more attention to these things.
The Japanese neglect none of these deep psychological truths in warfare. It is said that they are taught to smile in action, and especially when they charge. Doubtless this report is true. It has at bottom the same reason that music in battle has. What could be more terrifying than the approach of an enemy determined on your death, and who looks upon your execution as so pleasant and easy a thing that he smiles about it or who regards his own possible extinction as no unhappy consummation?
Also it is interesting to note how a pleasant expression begets its like. I have observed this even in Manchuria, and other parts of China—a smile unfailingly won a return smile from children who were watching you from the fields, whereas a frown would instantly becloud the little face with a kindred expression of disfavor. I am spending a good deal of time upon this item of good cheer in the new home, because I think that as long as happiness surrounds the American fireside all is well with the Republic.
There is no investment which yields such dividends as the society you will find in your home. The company, the talk, the silent sympathy of that sagacious and congenial person who is your wife yield a return in spirit, wisdom, moral tone, and pure pleasure to be found in like measure nowhere else on earth.
It is said that Charles James Fox, the most resourceful debater the British Parliament has ever seen, was so fond of his home and his wife that he would actually absent himself from Parliament for the sheer pleasure of her presence and conversation. Lord Beaconsfield, who, we are told, married for the mere purpose of ambition, afterward fell deeply in love with his wife and spent every moment he could in her society. She proved, too, to be his shrewdest counselor.
Bismarck's boundless love for his princess increased with the years; yet she was chiefly, and perhaps only, a German "hausfrau"—an ideal housewife. The German people particularly loved the wife of Bismarck because of these exclusively domestic traits. Perhaps that was why he adored her more and more as the years went by. Gladstone, who was a very surly and irritable person, declared that his wife had made his life "cushiony."
Of course it is taken for granted in this paper that the young American wife is this kind of a woman—wise and gentle and good-natured—above all things good-natured. For says the Bible, "It is better to dwell in the wilderness than with a contentious and an angry woman." But read what is written in the Book of the right kind of a woman—one "in whose tongue is the law of kindness," as the Scriptures' exquisite phraseology has it.
I don't like the tone of the common comment of the American medical profession about the neurotic condition of our American women. Our physicians are saying that there is not one American woman in a hundred who is nervously normal. The profession declares that they are excitable, irritable, peevish, and that this unfortunate state is produced by the unnatural and absurd tension they are under all the time.
Their so-called "social duties"; the minute and nerve-destroying precision of their housekeeping; their unnecessary overloading of themselves with tasks futile and fictitious; the determination to "appear" a little better than their neighbors, and, above all, to have their children (their one or two children) particularly spick and span; the long catalogue of folly into which our high-geared, modern civilization has led our women, and through no fault of theirs—"all these," said an eminent neurologist, in talking of this absorbing topic, "are impairing the agreeableness and curtailing the usefulness of our women, and will in the end destroy our women themselves."
I hope it is not true. If it is true, we had better find the cause of it and apply the remedy, or we are a lost people; for that nation is doomed whose women have ceased to be vital, good-tempered, and home-loving.
May not the too heavy early education of young girls have something to do with this later desperation of their nerves? Is not the blood taken from vital centers where Nature meant it to go for the upbuilding of womanhood and forced into the brain at a period when Nature meant that brain to be the very paradise of joyous dreams and happy imaginings? While we may thus gain a staccato smartness, a jerky and inconsequent brilliancy, do we not lose something of the natural woman and the delicious heartiness, spontaneous wit and instinctive wisdom of her? I venture no opinion here—I merely suggest the query. Why don't the doctors begin a crusade about this? It is their business.
The keen, practical sense of women in purely business affairs has been noted in other papers, and the causes of it. The young man who neglects this helpfulness simply throws away wisdom. Not to counsel with your wife on business matters that affect your mutual fortune is sheer stupidity. Also, it is morally wrong. From the very nature of her she is more interested than you in strengthening the walls of your new home, in making your joint experiment in the living of life a beautiful success. Her words are the counsel of instinct, and therefore of Nature. And Nature is wise.
Of course there are some things you cannot tell her. If you are a lawyer, or a doctor, you are dishonorable if you tell your wife or any other human being any secret of client or patient. Not that she is not to be trusted—for she is. She will carry to her grave any secret that affects you. But the disclosures of client or patient are not your secrets. If they were, she would be entitled to know them—ought to know them. But no woman of sense will permit you to tell her any professional confidences. Don't expect her to be helpful to you in your profession or occupation except by counsel.
Of course there is the great and inestimable help that comes from the mere fact that she is your wife. After all, that is the very greatest help any woman can be to any man. The care of home, the upbringing of children, the strengthening of a husband's character here and there, the detection of those thousand little vices of manner and speech and thought which develop in every man—in short, the living of a natural woman's life—is the only method of real helpfulness of a woman to a man. And it is a priceless helpfulness.
Particularly is this true of political life and career. A man who must be lifted to distinction by his wife's apron-strings, does not deserve distinction. In the end, he does not get it—the apron-strings usually break, and they ought to break. It may be stated as a general truth that a man is never helped by the active participation of the wife in his political affairs.
There are notable exceptions, just as there are to every rule. But as a generalization this statement is accurate. Men resent that kind of thing in politics. They want a man who aspires to anything to be worthy of that thing on his own account. They want their leader to be a leader; and no leader is "managed" in politics by his wife. They are right about it, too. But whether they are right or wrong, that is the way they feel.
So the only help which a woman can be to a man in politics is just to be a wife in all that that term implies. And what greater help than that could there be? She who impresses the American millions with the fact that she is the ideal wife and mother has made the strongest, subtlest appeal to the nation. But she cannot do this by "mixing up in politics," by trying to plan and manage her husband's campaigns, and so forth. For the people's instinct is unerring. We Americans are a home-making and a home-loving people; and as a people we adore the American wife and mother—the maker and keeper of the American home.
So you attend to your politics or your business and let your wife attend to hers; and she will be happy and glad to make your home the exclusive scene of her activities if you will only be man enough to do a man's full part in the world and leave no room for a woman of spirit to see that you are not doing a man's full part, and, therefore, to try to help you out.
I sometimes think that the propaganda that woman is the equal of man, and that it is all right for her to take on man's work in business and the professions, is due not so much to an abnormal development in her character as it is to a decadence in our manhood. At least I have always observed that the wife of a really masterful man finds her greatest happiness in being merely his wife, and never attempts to take any of his tasks upon her. And why should she assume his labor? Her natural work in the world is as much harder than his as it is nobler and finer.
Speaking of politics, I have always thought men, young and old, ought to consult their wives and families about how they cast their ballot. What right has any man to vote as he individually thinks best? He is the head of the family, it is true, but he is only one of the family, after all. This Republic is not made up of individuals; it is made up of families. Its unit is not the boarding-house, but the home.
The Senate of the United States is the greatest forum of free debate on earth; but the counsel of the American fireside is far more powerful. Wife and children have a vital interest in every ballot deposited by father and husband—an interest as definite and tangible as his own. Every voter, therefore, ought to discuss with wife and children, with parents, brothers, and sisters, all public questions, and vote according to the composite family conviction.
No greater method of public safety can be imagined than for the American family to "size up" the American public man, and then have the voters of that family sustain or reject him at the polls, according to the verdict of the household. If such were the rule, only those men who are of the people when they are first placed in public office, and who keep close to the people ever after, would be elected to anything.
Such a method, too, would insure a steadier current of national policy, subject to fewer variations. There would not be so many fads to deflect sound and sane statesmanship. So by all means, young man, begin your career as a citizen by making your wife a partner in every vote you cast.
Nobody denies that men and women should have equality of privilege and equality of rights; but equality of duties and similarity of work is absurd. The contrary idea was beautifully satirized in the now famous toast:
"Here's to our women: God bless them! Once our superiors, now our equals."
The truth is that it is impossible to compare men and women. They are not the same beings. They have different characteristics, different methods, different capacities, and different view-points of life. Each supplements the other. Doubtless the woman has the choicer lot. Surely this is true abstractly speaking. Suppose we should all stand disembodied souls, or rather unembodied souls, on the edge of the forming universe; and suppose that, to these abstract intelligences, the Creator should say:
"I am forming the universe. I am creating a wonderful place called Earth. I am going to clothe you each in human form, marvelously and beautifully made, the highest work of my hands. Some of you shall be men. To these men I will give the task of labor in the fields, of warfare with wild beasts. It shall be your duty to subdue wildernesses, and to construct and defend a dwelling-place for this other one whom I am going to make a woman. Therefore I shall give you men large bones to deal strong blows, and a heavy skull to withstand the like. I shall give you courage and physical power and audacity and daring.
"The woman's mission shall be different. It shall be for her to create and preserve human happiness. She shall do this in the dwelling-place which the man constructs for her, and which will be called home. There shall she bind up his wounds and give him rest and comfort. I will give into her keeping also the making of the race, and thus the control of the destiny of the world. And so this woman shall be given delicate bones and a deft touch and voice of music and eye of peace and heart of tenderness and mind of beautiful wisdom."
Does this comparison not make it clear that woman has by far a more exalted mission than man? But the mission of both man and woman is sufficiently grand and noble if each performs it, and within its limitations is content.
Have plenty of friends. Cultivate them. You cultivate your business. You cultivate vegetables. But friends are more precious than either business or vegetables. Cultivate friends, therefore. Call on them and let them call on you. And do it in the good old-fashioned, hearty, American way.
But be sure you make your friends for the sake of the relation itself. Do not misuse that sacred relation for your personal advantage. Do not make friends for the purposes of success. Make friends for the purposes of friendship. Be true to them, therefore. Don't neglect them when they can no longer serve you. And serve you them. And let your service to your friends be a glad service, a service which is its own reward.
He who seeks another's friendship because he needs it in his politics or business, will throw that friendship away like a worn-out glove when his ends have been accomplished. Make friends and nourish friendship because friends and friendships are life itself. Remember that you do not live in order to achieve success; you achieve success in order to live.
It is the twentieth century you are living in—don't forget that. Keep up, therefore; keep abreast of things. Keep in the current of the world's thought and feeling. Newspapers are literally indispensable to you; and you should take two of them—the morning paper and the evening paper. Get up fifteen minutes earlier in the morning, so that you may have time to look over the morning paper carefully.
Do not read it idly. Read it with discrimination. And do not read it without discussing it with your little family. The war in Manchuria, the character of a public man, the policy of an administration, the state of the Nation's business—all these are mental food which you need as much as you need your breakfast. One thoroughly up-to-date magazine also is helpful. Build you a library also. You do not want the new home to be a mere physical habitation. You want it to be a home for the mind as well as the body, do you not?
I heard of a young lawyer who put aside a little of every fee as a sinking-fund for a library. He and his wife bought books with that—not books for the office, but books for their home. He succeeded—"won out"—"won out" with his cases, which was his profession's business, and "won out" with his happiness and hers, which was his life's business.
The theater is the highest form of combined education, amusement, and repose which human intelligence has yet invented. It was so in Greece, and it is so now. The theater occasionally is good for you. But let the play you go to see be high-grade. Inferior performances on the stage will destroy your taste as surely as will the continued propinquity of poor pictures. The same is true of music.
Music has a mysterious quality which exalts. It has been noted that soldiers gladly go to their death under its influence, who otherwise would fight unwillingly. It is a great producer of thought also. Some men can write well only under its inspiration. Educate yourself up in it, therefore. Do not be content with the simple melodies and old songs. They will never lose their charm, and ought not; but they are not the best which music has for you.
What I am now insisting upon is a constant and careful nourishment of the mind and soul within you, so that the new home may each day be more and more the dwelling-place of beauty and the abode of real happiness. You cannot think of the old home without thinking of your mother; and you cannot think of your mother without thinking of the Bible.
A young man and a young woman who are making a new home make an irreparable mistake if they leave out the religious influence. Both ought to belong to church, and to the same church. This is a matter of prudence as well as of righteousness; for get it into your consciousness that you must be in harmony with the people of whom you two are one. Your new home must be in accord with the millions of other homes which make up this Nation; and the American people at bottom are a religious people.
Also, you will find that nothing will please your wife so much as to resolve upon regular church attendance, and then to reduce that resolve to a habit. It is good for you, too; you feel as though you had taken a moral bath after you get home from service every Sunday.
Of course, being an American and a gentleman, you will have the American gentleman's conception of all womanhood, and his adoring reverence for the one woman who has blessed him with her life's companionship. You will cherish her, therefore, in that way which none but the American gentleman quite understands. You will be gentle with her, and watchful of her health and happiness.
You will be ever brave and kind, wise and strong, deserving that respect which she is so anxious to accord you; earning that devotion which by the very nature of her being she must bestow on you; winning that admiration which it is the crowning pride of her life to yield to you; and, finally, receiving that care which only her hands can give, and a life-long joy which, increasing with the years, is fullest and most perfect when both your heads are white and your mutual steps no longer wander from the threshold of that "new home" which you built in the beginning of your lives, and which is now the "old home" to your children, who beneath its roof "rise up and call you blessed."
It used to be a part of the creed of a certain denomination that a man should not be admitted to the ministry who had not received his "call." It was necessary that he should hear the Voice speaking with his tongue, and saying, "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel."
This is true of the profession of law. So, at the beginning of your beginnings, do not begin at all unless you see a certainty of misery if you do not. Unless you are convinced that you would rather work, toil, nay, slave for years to secure recognition in the law, than to be honored and enriched in some other occupation, do not enter this profession of supreme ardor.
And above all things, do not enter it if you expect to practise law principally for the purpose of making money. It is not a money-making profession. The same effort, acumen, and enthusiasm expended in almost any other occupation will bring you financial returns tremendously out of proportion to your most successful compensation in the law, measured by mere money. The money-making conception of our profession is not only erroneous, but ruinous; for you must remember, to begin with, that you are practising the science of justice.
If possible, get a thorough college education before you touch a law book. If you can get a college education, do not "read law" while you are at college. If you go to college, do not take what is known as the "scientific" course, or "physical" course. Take the classical course. Next to geometry and logarithms and the Bible, the best discipline preparatory to making you a lawyer is the translation of Latin. Latin is the most logical language the world has ever seen, or is likely ever to see.
After you get your college course, then go to a thoroughly first-class law school. After this, spend two or three years in active work in the office of some successful lawyer who has lots of practise, and who will load off on your shoulders as much work as possible.
If you cannot go to a law school, your training in the law office will do you nearly as well. You can get along without your law school, but you can never get along without your training in the law office. The way to learn to swim is to swim.
But if you cannot get a college education, do not get discouraged. It is possible that you are an Abraham Lincoln, or a John Marshall, or some person like that; and if you are you will succeed anyhow. Even if you are not so highly gifted you can win in the law without a college education if you are naturally a lawyer and will work hard enough. If you have to choose between a law school and a college education, take the latter. But the training afforded by a clerkship in an active lawyer's office is more helpful than either.
If you can be so fortunate as to get the firm or attorney with whom you are studying to let you draft pleadings, take depositions, examine witnesses, make arguments to court and jury, get out transcripts for appeal, write briefs, petitions, motions, and all the rest of that careful and painstaking work which makes the daily life of the lawyer, you will equip yourself for actual practise better than in any other way I know of.
The firm will gladly let you do this work if you show yourself competent. But this does not mean that you are merely to sit around the office and say "bright things." There is nothing in "bright things"—there is everything in good judgment and downright hard work.
In active practise never forget that you are a sworn officer of justice quite as much as is the judge on the bench. It is impossible for you to put your ideals of your profession too high or to attach yourself to them too firmly. I am no admirer of the acidulous character of John Adams (not that he was not both great and good, however, for he was—but he was too sour), yet he announced a great thing, and lived up to it, when he declared that he was practising law for the purposes of justice first and a living afterward. (But, then, John Adams announced many great things; and what he announced he lived up to. He was supremely honest.)
"Never take a case," said Horace Mann, "unless you believe your client is right and his cause is just." On the contrary, Lord Brougham declared that "the conscientious lawyer must be at the service of the criminal as well as of the state." And this great lawyer proceeds to argue with characteristic ability that it is as much the duty of the lawyer to work for the cause he knows to be wrong as for the cause he knows to be right.
Briefly, the reason is that it is the very essence of justice that every man shall have his day in court; that the attorney is but the trained and educated mouthpiece of his client; and that to refuse the cause of a client in which the attorney does not believe is to relegate all the controversies to the judge in the first instance, which, of course, would render the administration of practical justice impossible.
This is the prevailing practise of our profession, and it is a serious thing to question its correctness. Its ethics are as wide as they are ingenious, and when one beholds them through the medium of the great Englishman's wonderful argument they seem radiant with aggressive truth. Nevertheless, I am almost of opinion that Horace Mann was right. It is certain that in his beginnings the young lawyer ought to lean to that view.
If you consider it your duty to take any side of any case that offers, right or wrong, it is no far cry to considering it your duty to make the cause you have espoused a good one before the court. And when that conception has shot its cancerous roots and filaments through your brain and conscience, the suggestion to your unscrupulous client of facts that do not exist, and all the alluring infamies of sharp practise, are possible.
It is said that burglary exercises such a fascination that, once the delirium of its danger is tasted, a man can never put that fatal wine away. An old and distinguished lawyer once told me that one of the most brilliant young lawyers he ever knew said to him, at the conclusion of a legal duel in which he had resorted to the sharpest practise and won, "That was the most delicious experience of my life."
Yes, and it was the most fatal. He became, and is, an attorney of uncommon resource, ability, and success, with many cases and heavy fees; nevertheless his life is a failure, for his profession and even his clients know him for a dealer in tricks. Senator McDonald, an ideal lawyer in the ethics, learning, and practise of his profession, told me that one of the justices of the Supreme Court once said to him of a certain great corporation lawyer of acknowledged power and almost unrivaled learning:
"Mr. —— would be the greatest lawyer in the world if he were not a scoundrel. As it is, I brace myself to resist him every time he appears before me." One of the ablest Circuit Court judges of the Federal bench said almost precisely the same thing to me of the same man.
So you perceive it does not pay to be understood to be capable, or even great, in the wrong. In time it means ruin; and therefore I think, on the whole, that it would be wise for you never to take a cause which, after you have a full statement from your client, you believe to be wrong.
Many of the most excellent men of our profession will dissent from this view. Their argument is usually that of Lord Brougham, summarized above. Also they will declare that a lawyer may be quite wrong in his first impression that his client has not the right of an impending controversy. They will cite you instances where they have entered into the conduct of a case with much doubt in their hearts as to the rightfulness of their client's position; but that this doubt became an affirmative certainty before they were half through with it—they knew their client was right.
The answer to this is that any man can work himself into an enthusiastic belief in almost anything if he goes upon the theory that the thing is true, and gives all his energy and ability to proving its truthfulness to others and to himself. This is peculiarly the case with the most sincere and genuine men. I repeat, therefore, that upon a point so vital, and about which there are such sharp differences of opinion by equally good and wise men, it is better for you to incline to the stricter view of legal ethics.
So if you believe your client to be in the wrong, frankly tell him so; show him why; induce him to compromise and to settle, if he ought. If he will not because he is obstinate, he will probably lose his case anyhow, and of course blame his lawyer for the loss. So that if you do not have that case you have lost nothing. On the other hand, you have gained. The client will say: "If I had followed his advice I should not have had the expense and humiliation of defeat."
In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the honest client will respect you for your position. If the client persists in his course because he is a scoundrel, then, doubly, you cannot afford to take his unjust case. After a few years of such practise you will have acquired a moral influence with court, jury, and people which will be, even from a money point of view, the most valuable item in your equipment. Public confidence is the young man's best asset. And you will be surprised to find how little you will lose, in the way of fees, by this course.
Of course there is a large class of cases in which the correct application of the law is very doubtful, with lines of decisions on both sides; as, for example, in cases of the distribution of funds of an insolvent corporation, constitutional questions, and the relative equities of conflicting interests. These are fair examples of controversies where a lawyer may rightfully and righteously accept a retainer upon any of half-a-dozen sides. But in the ordinary course of practise perhaps it is better to stick to Horace Mann rather than to Lord Brougham, and reject employment in a case you believe to be wrong.
While the law is not a money-making profession, either in theory or practise, the young lawyer should begin by charging every cent his services are worth. It is not only degrading, but reveals a base attitude of mind and character, to charge a little fee in the beginning as a bait for a bigger one in future cases. Maintain the dignity of your effort.
I am assuming that Nature began the work of making you a lawyer before you were born; that you have been preparing yourself, with the enthusiasm of the artist and the passion of professional devotion, for the work of your great calling, by years and years of discipline and study such as no other calling requires; that, with your natural qualification and your general equipment, you are bringing to your client's particular case an industry that knows no limit in his immediate service.
This being true, tell him frankly that you propose to give him the best that is in you (and that best is your very life—no less—for you write "victory" at the end of every one of your cases with your heart's blood; or "defeat," if you do not win), and that for this best which is in you you will charge the highest professional fee justified by your services and the magnitude and difficulty of his case.
At the same time, never turn a poor client away from your office door because that client comes with no gold in his hand. When a lawyer is too busy to give counsel without fee and without charge to a poor man or woman, that lawyer has too much business. I know—we all know—of very eminent lawyers constantly engaged in causes involving large interests, who nevertheless find leisure, many times each year, to serve by advice and counsel, and sometimes even by the active conduct of cases, numbers of the children of poverty, and to serve them without a penny of compensation.
Be very careful of the class of business you accept at first. I knew a young lawyer who had just opened his office, and within a month, by one of those accidents that occur to every attorney, he was offered a case on a contingent fee in which the probability of considerable reward amounted almost to a certainty.
He needed the money—was nearly penniless. He was newly married, had no clients and few acquaintances; but it was not the quality of practise to which he wished to devote his career. He courteously declined the case as though he had been a millionaire, and directed his would-be client to an attorney who would care for it properly.
Out of that case the latter attorney, by a compromise, in two weeks made fifteen hundred dollars. Nevertheless, the young man was right, and acted with a far-seeing wisdom as rare as the courage which accompanied it. Of course, I assume that you are going into the profession for the purpose of becoming a lawyer, and not a mere conductor of legal strifes. If you are, you must deny yourself.
Self-denial is the price of strength, as any college athlete will tell you. Self-denial is the road to wealth, as any banker will tell you. Self-denial is the method of all excellencies, as all human experience will tell you. But this is moralizing.
I do not mean that you should decline small cases. By no means. Take a five-dollar case, and work with the same sincerity that you would on a fifty-thousand-dollar case. "Despise not the day of small things." In selecting your business, I refer to the quality, and not the magnitude, of cases. Again, again, and still again, this counsel: Care for your small case with the same painstaking labor you bestow upon a large one.
Never lose sight of the fact that your greatest reward is not your fee, but the doing of a perfect piece of work. The same fervor and ideality should govern your labors in a lawsuit that inspire and control the great artist and inventor. A distinguished sculptor said to me one evening:
"I wish the matter of compensation could be wiped out of my consideration. I must give it attention for obvious reasons, but it is the matter of least moment to me, and has absolutely no influence upon my work."
It is no wonder that that man achieved an immortal renown at thirty-seven. Doctor Barker, the recent occupant of the Chair of Anatomy in the University of Chicago, recently elected to an even more notable position in the Johns Hopkins University, who has won for himself a permanent place in the high seats of his profession by his work on neurology, was in a company one evening. Said one of his admirers:
"Why don't you go into practise? You could easily make a great fortune before you are forty."
Listen to the answer: "Money does not interest me."
We all remember Agassiz's famous reply to a proposition to deliver one lecture for a large fee: "I must decline, gentlemen; I have no time to make money." That was why he was Agassiz.
Quite as lofty ideals should inspire the work of those who make their vows to the greatest of all sciences, the science of justice, and the greatest of all arts, the art of adjusting the rights of men. No lawyer can become great who does not resolve, at the beginning of each case, to make his conduct of it a perfect piece of work, regardless of compensation.
John M. Butler, the partner of Senator McDonald, and one of the best lawyers the Central Western states ever produced, was so careful of pleadings and briefs that he would not endure a blurred or broken letter, and bad punctuation was a source of real irritation to him. Many times have I, as his clerk, required his printer to take out an indistinct letter. It was Mr. Butler's ideal to achieve perfection as nearly as possible.
The most perfect legal argument I ever heard occupied less than an hour. Not a word was wasted. Not a single digression weakened the force of the reasoning. Not a decision was read from. It was assumed that the learned judges before whom the cause was being heard knew something of the law and the decisions themselves.
You see the same thing in its highest form in Marshall's decisions. I once advised a class of law students to commit to memory half a dozen of Marshall's greatest opinions. After years of reflection I think I shall stand by that advice.
In making an argument before a court or jury, remember that the most important thing is the statement of your case. A case properly stated is a case nearly won. Beware of digression. It calls attention from your main idea. It is a fault, too, which is well-nigh universal. I advise every young lawyer, as a practise in accurate thought, to demonstrate a theorem of geometry every morning.
There is no such remorseless logic as that of logarithms. It will produce a habit of definiteness, directness, and concentration invaluable to you. The young gallants of a century ago used to practise fencing for an hour each morning. Why should not you do the same thing in intellectual fencing—you, the devotee of the noblest swordsmanship known to man, the swordsmanship of the law?
Do not waste too much time quoting precedents to a court; it produces weariness rather than conviction on the part of the judge, who himself is a daily maker of decisions and knows their value. He knows the stifling mass of precedents, and sighs under them. It is rare that more than two cases should be cited in oral argument on any given point. Those cases ought to be the most controlling you can find—not necessarily the latest. They should be cases decided upon reason rather than upon authority. Your true judge likes to syllogize.
Do not, however, go into a court without having thoroughly reviewed and mastered all the precedents bearing on every phase of your proposition. It requires desperate labor to do this and will shorten your life; but such is the hard fate of the profession you choose, and such is the condition of our absurd system of multiplying reports.
Do not be what is known as a "case lawyer"—an attorney who does not know the law as a science, but merely looks up precedents and texts concerning a particular case. You may prevail in your "lawsuit," but you will not be a lawyer. Stick close to the elemental Blackstone. You can never get along without Blackstone. Do not read a condensed edition of that great commentator; it is like reading expurgated Shakespeare.
I understand that one of the Justices of the Supreme Court still reads Blackstone once each year. This may be a fable, but I hope it is not. You cannot do a better thing. Thirty minutes each day will give you Blackstone from cover to cover in less than a year, with many holidays. Few modern "text-books" are of permanent value. Pomeroy's "Equity Jurisprudence" is an exception.
But, of course, I cannot give here a list of those books which should be your daily food; any really educated lawyer will mention them to you. The great mass of text-books are nothing more than digests. But don't miss the introduction to Stephens' "Pleading," and also the introduction to Stephens' "Digest of the Law of Evidence." Both are classics and give you the reason and the spirit of our law in fascinating form.
Let your reading in the law be mainly upon the general principles of the common law. The study of the civil law will also be helpful—although English jurisprudence developed of and by itself with only moderate help from the Romans. Reading statutes is unprofitable. You should never answer a question or proceed in a case on the presumption that you remember the statute. The rule of Sir Edwin Coke ought to be your rule.
"I should," said Coke, "feel that I ought to be put out of my profession if I could not answer a question in the common law without referring to the books. I should feel that I ought to be put out of my profession if I would answer a question in the statute law without referring to the statute."
Do not confine yourself to law-books. A man who does so is like the farmer who persists in planting the same soil with the same crop; exhaustion, barrenness, and unprofitableness are the results in each case. Read generously, widely. It is impossible for a man to be a great lawyer, so far as the learning of his profession is concerned, who has not saturated himself with the Bible. He may be a great practitioner, but not a great lawyer. It illuminates all our law—is the source of much of it. There is no more curious and fascinating study than a comparison of the ordinances of the Hebrews with what we think our modern statutes.
Read deeply in science. Read widely the great novelists. They are scientists of human nature, and you are dealing with human nature in your profession. Read profoundly in history. A comprehensive knowledge of history is absolutely indispensable to an understanding of our Constitution. The Federalist, the constitutional debates, and all the discussions that preceded and accompanied the adoption of our organic law are bewilderingly full of historical references. If you were to study every decision on constitutional questions made by every court in this country, you could not understand the Constitution.
You must go back to the roots of it. Trace out the growth of our institutions in Holland. Work out the modifications by these upon institutions adopted from England. Follow the indigenous development of both of these from the old Crown Charters, and finally up to the Constitution itself.
Then take Bancroft's "History of the United States"; then that great monument of intellectual achievement in the realm of historical criticism, Von Holtz's "Constitutional History of the United States." Books like Douglass Campbell's remarkable production, Fisher's convincing yet novel essay, and other like serious and original works, too numerous to properly mention here, are helpful.
Nothing is more disgusting to an informed court than to hear a surface argument on constitutional law by an advocate who thinks he has mastered that tremendous subject by studying all the decisions upon any given point.
You will say this is a heavy task I am assigning you. It is, indeed. But have you not chosen the profession of the law? And, if so, do you dare to be less than a lawyer? How dare you not shoulder your glorious burden with patience, fortitude, and determination? Do not be as if you were to enlist as a soldier, and end as a camp-follower.
I am told that the leader of the American bar has a standing order with his booksellers to send him every new book of approved merit in all the departments of literature. The result is that when he comes before the court his mind is fresh and sparkling with clear ideas and varied knowledge poured into his brain from every mountain-peak of inspiration in all the world of human thought. He brings to the service of his client not only a study of his case and an understanding of the grand science of the law, but the vivifying, vitalizing power of all the great minds in all the realms of intellect.
If you say you have no time for all this, the answer is: If that is true, you have no time to be a great lawyer. You have the time, if you will use it. A little less lingering at the club, an economy of hours here and there—this will give you time, and to spare. Of course if you would rather "loaf" than be great, if you hunger rather after the flesh-pots than the lawyer's wreaths, this advice is not for you.
Do not use intoxicants. Even beware of coffee; it is one of the most powerful nerve and brain stimulants. The coffee habit is as easily formed, and as remorseless, as the alcohol habit. After a while, if excessively used, it produces its sure result; your faculties have been sharpened by this intellectual emery-wheel until the edges begin to crumble. Your mind becomes dull; you pass your hand wearily over your eyes; you don't know what is the matter with you and say so. Overwork, over-stimulation, and the worry these produce are what is the matter with you.
There are lawyers in every town who day by day and year by year find that they have to work harder to understand a case or master a precedent than they did the year before. Whereas formerly they could get the point of a precedent by reading it over once, they must now read it over four or five times. You usually find them the victims of ceaseless toil without rest, of that destroying fretfulness which brain-fag brings, and of some flogger of exhausted nerves, such as coffee in excess.
Do not work late at night. It is a fictitious clearness of mind that comes to the midnight toiler. This also grows into a habit. Conform to Nature. Go to bed early. Get up early, and do your fine and original work in the morning. It will be hard for you to form the habit, but after you have done it you will be amazed at the comparatively immense nervous power you possess in the morning hours.
In trying a case before a jury, never be trivial. Do not bandy gibes, no matter how witty you may know yourself to be in repartee. The jury, and even the court, may laugh, but they are not impressed, and you have not helped your case; and you are there to win your case. As in your argument, so in your examination of witnesses, keep to the point.
In arguing a case, no matter what its nature, before a court or jury, never rage or rave. Get to the point. Speak with great earnestness, but not with violence or volume of sound. Remember that even the most terrible emotions of the human heart in their most intense expression are comparatively quiet. Be earnest. Be sincere. Be the master of your case, and the result must be satisfactory.
It sometimes becomes necessary for an attorney to assert his rights and privileges to the judge himself. Do not shrink from it. It is your duty to your client, your profession, and the cause of justice. Never cringe to a court. Never cringe to any one. He will despise you for it, and properly so. Remember the dignity of your profession. Erskine, in his first case, rebuked a prejudiced and perhaps an unjust judge with such vigor that England rang with it.
Cultivate lucidity of style. You will do that at some risk at first. When a young lawyer is extremely clear, he is apt to be regarded as not deep. Abstruseness in expression is very frequently regarded as an indication of profundity. Nevertheless, persist in a clear and simple style. Make the statement of your case and the argument in support of your propositions so lucid and plain that the judge or jury will say: "Why, of course, that is so. What is the use of the young man stating that?"
The study of Abraham Lincoln's speeches will be very helpful. Two or three of Roscoe Conkling's arguments after he left the Senate are models of perspicuity. Mr. Potter's argument in the legal tender cases is a model—it is Euclid stated in terms of the law. Webster's arguments you will study, of course. Blackstone is one of the clearest writers who ever illustrated the great science to which you and I are devoted. Perhaps as great a logician as ever lived was the Apostle Paul; read him as a master of logical utterance.
Never be ponderous; never be florid. At the same time, never be dry. Be clear; be pointed; be luminous. I remember having heard both sides of a case argued before an eminent Federal Judge. One of the lawyers made a long, turgid, "profound"—and musty—argument; proceeding like a draft-horse from mile-post to mile-post, until the alert mind of the judge was almost frantic with impatience.
The lawyer on the other side is one of the most eminent members of our profession. He is as lithe as a panther, physically and mentally, sharp as a serpent's tooth, as lucid as the atmosphere on a cloudless day, and yet as suggestive as a hickory-wood fire in the old home fireplace on a wintry night. He paced the floor in impatience while Mr. Turgidity blew the clouds of dust from precedent after precedent.
When it came his time to reply, he did so with a clearness and wealth of expression, an appropriateness of illustration, and a simplicity of reasoning that made one feel that the other man had committed an impertinence in presenting his side at all. Of course he won his case.
Respect yourself. A man may lose his money, his reputation—may even lose everything; and yet he has not lost everything if he retains his self-respect. Be a gentleman at the outset of your career and forever. Do not move among men like a beggar for favors. Do not wear poor clothes. Apparel yourself like a gentleman.
No client worth having respects you for advertising your poverty. Do not fear that your community will not know that you are poor. They know it, and sympathize with you. But every one of our race likes to see a man "game." Therefore, dress well. Bear yourself like a man who has prosperous potentialities if not prosperous assets.
Keep your office in as perfect condition as yourself. Remember that it is your workshop. Put all your extra money into books. There is no adornment of an office equal to a library, just as there is no adornment of a mechanic's shop equal to his tools. You know what you think of a doctor when you find his office equipped with the latest appliances.
Do not permit your office to be a loafing place, even for your fellow lawyers. You cannot afford to cultivate professional courtesy at the expense of the discipline of your office. It is nothing to your client that your friends find your society so charming that they seek the felicity of your conversation even in your office. Or, rather, it is something to your client—he wants his case won and he thinks that will take all your time. And so it will.
Be very careful of the places you frequent. Remember that Pericles was never seen except upon the street leading to the Senate House. Don't imitate anybody—be yourself. Still, if you must have the stimulus of imitation, pick out a man like Pericles for your model.
Depend upon yourself; do not call into council another attorney. This is a point on which most lawyers will disagree with me. Nevertheless, if you are not competent to handle your case, you have done wrong to open an independent office. If you call in another attorney, every probability is that you will suggest all the solutions yourself and in reality win the case; but your old and distinguished associate will get all the credit. But you need all the credit for work which you really do.
See well to your evidence before you go into the trial of a cause. Be very cautious on cross-examination. It is the most powerful but most delicate and dangerous instrument known to the surgery of the law. Do not bluster, "bull-doze," or browbeat a witness; there is nothing in it. You only make the jury sympathize with the person abused. Remember that an American loves nothing so much as fair play. When on a jury, he is apt to regard you and the witness as adversaries, you the stronger and with immense advantage.
Ask few questions on cross-examination. Employ the Socratic method always. Ask only those questions the logical conclusion of which is irresistible, and stop there. Don't press the conclusion on the witness. It is your province to show that in your argument.
A timid witness, whom you know to be telling the truth, may often be confused by cross-examination and made to make a false statement; but this you have no right, as an honorable attorney, to make him do. A just judge ought to stop you if you try it. To confuse a witness whom you know to be telling the truth is not skill; it is a trick, and a very miserable trick, whose performance requires neither real ability nor learning.
Think what a tremendous intellectual effort the properly conducted lawsuit is. You must know your case; you must know your evidence; you must know each witness as a person and each item of his testimony; you must know the law applicable to your general proposition, and the general law upon its various ramifications; you must study the witnesses of the other side; and, almost more important than any of these, you must study that wonderful combination of intellect, prejudice, and passion called the jury.
When the time comes for you to address that jury you must thoroughly understand each man. This is not that you may influence him, or "play upon" him, or resort to any of the devices of the baser sort. It is that you may know how best to get the truth of your case to him. How to get your theory, your cause, before each juror should be your only concern.
Never try to be "eloquent." Never be funny. Wit may cause laughter, it never produces conviction. A joke may divert, it never persuades. It is unnecessary even to arouse a jury's sympathies. Forget everything except making the juror understand your case. The result will be that he will understand your case, and if he understands it, and it is a case you ought to win, his understanding of it means that you will win it.
Take at least one excellent legal periodical. There are four or five "law" magazines published in America, some of them very good indeed. Do not pay any attention to the digests of cases with which some of these periodicals burden their pages, except to see if there is a recent decision on some case you are trying. You cannot remember them, and the effort to do so will only confuse. But you will usually find in each number one serious and profitable article, and possibly more, on matters of real interest to the profession. Read such articles very carefully.
The methods of scientific scholarship are now invading the law, and many of these legal essays are superb pieces of work. Now and then you will find a monograph of monumental worth. Such is the remarkable introduction to Stephens' admirable work on "Pleading," to which I have already called your attention.
That author's demonstration of the value of forms, and his comparison of the Roman civil law with the English common law, is the most carefully thought out and learned piece of legal writing I can think of at this moment. It is as great as it is brief.
Take part in politics. I know that it is an ordinary saying that a lawyer should leave politics alone. It is not true. What right have you, a member of the great profession which, more than all other forces combined, has established and defended liberty, to withdraw yourself from active participation in the sacred function of self-government? You have no such right.
Of course you should not make politics your profession. That is fatal to your success in the profession of the law. It is one profession or the other, one love or the other. But take part in your party's primaries. Make yourself so wise and useful that you will be an indispensable party counselor. By all means be a "factor" in your party.
As you value life itself, do not permit yourself ever to be made a lobbyist under the guise of general employment by a corporation or any other interest concerned in legislation. It is no doubt proper for a lawyer to make a legal argument before a legislative committee in behalf of clients. Nevertheless, I advise you not to do it. It is the first step toward the disreputable form of lobbying. There is, of course, perfectly proper and even necessary lobbying. But then you are a lawyer, are you not?
We all know instances of brilliant lawyers and powerful men who have thus sold their birthrights for messes of pottage. No matter how much you need money, never accept a retainer or fee of any kind from any corporation, person, or "interest" which really does not want your active service, but in that manner is purchasing your silence.
Accept no employment except real, genuine employment for actual, tangible, and honest work. Money obtained from any other kind of employment is a loss to you in every way, even financially.
Think daily of the nobility and dignity of your profession. Remember the great men that have adorned it and established the pillars of its glory. They were gentlemen, men of learning, of breeding, of honor as delicate as a woman's blush. Be you such, or leave the profession.
Keep in mind the lords of the bar. Resolve each morning when you awake that, to the utmost of your efforts, you will strive to be one of them—in learning full and thorough, in courtesy delicate, in courage fearless, in character spotless, in all things and at all seasons the true knight of Justice.
Finally, preserve your health, preserve your health, preserve your health. Work, work, work. Cling to the loftiest ideals of your profession which your mind can conceive. Do these; keep up your nerve; never despair; and success is certain, distinction probable, and greatness possible, according to your natural abilities.
"And the common people heard him gladly," for "he taught them as one having authority." These sentences reveal the very heart of effective speaking. Considered from the human view-point alone, the Son of Mary was the prince of speakers. He alone has delivered a perfect address—the Sermon on the Mount.
The two other speeches that approach it are Paul's appeal to the Athenians on Mars Hill, and the speech of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg. These have no tricks, no devices, no tinsel gilt. They do not attempt to "split the ears of the groundlings," and yet they are addressed to the commonest of the world's common people.
Imagination, reason, and that peculiar human quality in speech which defies analysis as much as the perfume of the rose, but which touches the heart and reaches the mind, are blended in each of these utterances in perfect proportion.
But, above all, each of these model speeches which the world has thus far produced teaches. They instruct. And, in doing this, they assert. The men who spoke them did not weaken them by suggesting a doubt of what they said. This is common to all great speeches.
Not one immortal utterance can be produced which contains such expressions as, "I may be wrong," or, "In my humble opinion," or, "In my judgment." The great speakers, in their highest moments, have always been so charged with aggressive conviction that they have announced their conclusions as ultimate truths. They have spoken as persons "having authority," and therefore "the common people have heard them gladly."
All of this means that the two indispensable requisites of speaking are, first, to have something to say, and, second, to say it as though you mean it. Of course one cannot have something really to say—a lesson to teach, a message to deliver—every fifteen minutes. Very well, then; until one does have something to say, let one hold one's peace.
Carlyle's idea is correct. He thought that no man has the right to speak until what he has to say is so ripe with meaning, and the season for his saying it is so compelling, that what he says will result in a deed—a thing accomplished now or afterwhile. In the prophetic old Scotchman's iron philosophy there was no room for anything but deeds.
If such instruction is needed; if a great movement requires the forming and constructive word to interpret it and give it direction; if a movement in a wrong direction needs halting and turning to its proper course; if a cause needs pleading; if a law needs interpretation; if anything really needs to be said—the occasion for the orator, in the large sense of that word, has arrived. Therefore when he speaks "the common people will hear him gladly"; they will hear him because he teaches, and does it "as one having authority."
Whenever a speaker fails to make his audience forget voice, gesture, and even the speaker himself; whenever he fails to make the listeners conscious only of the living truth he utters, he has failed in his speech itself, which then has no other reason for having been delivered than a play or any other form of entertainment.
Very few of the great orators have had loud voices, or, if they did have them, they did not employ them. I am told that Wendell Phillips always spoke in a conversational tone, and yet he was able to make an audience of many thousands hear distinctly; and Phillips was one of the greatest speakers America has produced.
It is probable that no man ever lived who had a more sensuous effect upon his hearers than Ingersoll. In a literal and a physical sense he charmed them. I never heard him talk in a loud voice. There was no "bell-like" quality. It was not an "organ-like" voice.
The greatest feat of modern speech, in its immediate effect, was Henry Ward Beecher's speech to the Liverpool mob. A gentleman who heard that speech told me that, notwithstanding the pandemonium that reigned around him, Beecher did not shout, nor speak at the top of his voice, a single time during that terrible four hours.
It is true that Æschines spoke of Demosthenes' delivery of his "Oration on the Crown" as having the ferocity of a wild beast. I do not see how that can be, however, because Demosthenes selected Isæus as his teacher for the reason that Isæus was "business-like" in method.
This, however, is common to the voices of nearly all great speakers; they have a peculiar power of penetration that carries them much farther than the shout and halloo of the loudest-voiced person. They have, too, a singularly touching and tender quality, which, in a sensuous way, captivates and holds the hearers. James Whitcomb Riley has this quality in his voice when reciting. Edwin Booth had it. All great actors have it. Every true orator has it. It touches you strangely, thrills you, affects you much as music does.
It is a remarkable thing that there is neither wit nor humor in any of the immortal speeches that have fallen from the lips of man. To find a joke in Webster would be an offense. The only things which Ingersoll wrote that will live are his oration at his brother's grave and his famous "The Past Rises before Me like a Dream." But in neither of these productions of this genius of jesters is there a single trace of wit.
There is not a funny sally in all Burke's speeches. Lincoln's Gettysburg address, his first and second inaugurals, his speech beginning the Douglas campaign, and his Cooper Union address in New York, are perhaps the only utterances of his that will endure.
Yet this greatest of story-tellers since Æsop did not deface one of these great deliverances with story or any form of humor.
The reason for this is found in the whole tendency of human thought and feeling—in the whole melancholy history of the race—where tears and grief, the hard seriousness of life and the terrible and speedy certainty of our common fate of suffering and of death, make somber the master-cord of existence. And the great orator must reflect the deeper soul of his hearers.
So all the immortal things are serious, even sad.
It is so with speech—I mean the speech that affects the convictions and understanding of men. I am excluding now that form of speech which belongs to the same class, though not of so high an order, as the theatrical exhibition.
Excepting only Lincoln, the Middle West has produced no greater man than Oliver P. Morton; and few men in our history have had greater power upon an audience both in the immediate and permanent effect of his speeches than did Indiana's great Senator. It is related of him that while a very young man he made a speech so rich in humor and scintillant of wit that it attracted the attention of the whole commonwealth.
Morton, however, was not pleased or flattered. He was alarmed. He feared that what he knew to be his weighty abilities would be held lightly by his fellow citizens. From that time on this Cromwell of the forum never "told a story" or attempted to amuse his hearers in any way.
Of course, if your mental armory is naturally heavily stocked with the various forms of fun, you are not to be blamed for employing the weapons with which Nature has equipped you and which Nature has peculiarly fitted you to use—although Morton deliberately let them rust. But, generally speaking, it is a distinct descent from the high plane of your address to excite the laughter of your audience. When you do so, you confess that you are not able to hold the attention of your hearers by the sustained and unbroken strength of your argument. You admit that you are either so dull in your thought or indifferent in your convictions that you know you are wearying your auditors and must rest them by some mental diversion.
Where there is an earnestness of thought (and earnestness is only another name for seriousness) there will always be the same quality in manner—an impressiveness in bearing and delivery. This is inconsistent with merriment of delivery, which robs speech of a certain weight and intrinsic worth. It is also inconsistent with the voice of storm and the hurricane manner.
And men in deadly earnest do not talk loudly. It has been my fortune to see men angry and aroused to the point of killing; they were intense, but quiet. I have also seen that bravado and drunken boisterousness which thought it imitated, and meant to imitate, genuine rage; it was always strident and violent, never dangerous, never sincere. The same thing is true in speech.
There have only been two or three roarers in effective oratory—Mirabeau, by all accounts (though anything can be forgiven a man who can make such speeches as the great Frenchman made), and Demosthenes, if Æschines is to be believed, which I think he is not to be in this particular. He was only excusing his own defeat, and he had to attribute it to delivery. (I think any unprejudiced mind will agree that Æschines made the better argument.) All the other great speakers have, even in their most intense passages, and in situations where life and death were involved, been comparatively quiet so far as mere volume of sound is concerned.
I remember, as if it were yesterday, the first great speaker I ever heard. It was Robert G. Ingersoll, delivering a lecture in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1884. He had an audience which would have inspired eloquence in almost any breast. He came on the stage alone, and was very carefully, even elegantly attired, to the smallest item of his grooming.
His address was in manuscript, and imperfectly committed to memory. He laid it down on a little table at the back of the stage (returning to it occasionally to refresh his memory), and then, in a very natural and matter-of-fact way, walked to the footlights, and, looking the audience frankly in the eyes, began without an instant's hesitation, and in a voice precisely as if he were talking to a friend.
But he was as dramatic at his climaxes as Edwin Booth ever was in Hamlet. His face paled, or seemed to pale; his hands clinched with a desperate energy, and the whole attitude of the man was that of one in awful wrath. Yet his voice was not raised above the common current of the evening's address—if anything, it was lower. While the mature mind cannot endure Ingersoll's rhetoric, it must be acknowledged that his manner of delivery (except when his levity made him coarse) was nearly equal to that of Wendell Phillips. Still, in his intense passages Ingersoll was almost fiercely earnest. And Plutarch tells us that Cicero's friends feared he would kill himself by bursting a blood-vessel, with such intense energy did he speak.
Both of these men had that instinctive taste of the great speaker which Shakespeare has described better than any one else in literature, when he makes Hamlet tell the players not to "mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much—your hand thus: but use all gently: for in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say) the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance, that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious, periwig pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings; who, for the most part, are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows and noise: I could have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant; it out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid it."
When I was a very young boy I saw a fist-fight which impressed me as powerfully as any lesson I ever learned at school. An overtall and powerful man, about forty years old, had become angry at a medium-sized but very compact man of about the same age. As his passion increased his violence grew, until finally he was shouting his denunciations. The little man stood quietly alert.
Finally, with a great volume of sound, the big man rushed upon the little one with arms swinging in the air, and I looked with interest and curiosity to see the smaller man either run or be demolished. He did neither. His fists were raised quickly but intensely before him, and when the big man was almost upon him, it seemed to me that his right hand did not shoot out farther than ten or twelve inches; but it did shoot out, and the result was as if the big man had been shot, sure enough.
He fell like a slaughtered ox, but rose and came on again, only again to be knocked down. This continued for three or four times, for the giant was "game"; but finally he was "thrashed to a standstill," as the expression has it.
It was a great lesson in life and a great lesson in speaking, which is only a phase of life. The victor came to the point. He did not dissipate his energies. It is so in the manner of speaking. The greatest contrast to the perfect method of Ingersoll which I ever beheld in a man of equal eminence was in the delivery of a lecture by Joseph Cook.
He came on the stage with ostentatious impressiveness. He sat some time before he was introduced, seeming vast and overpowering—a very Matterhorn of consequence. After introduction he stood with one hand thrust in the breast of his tightly buttoned frock coat, and looked tremendously all over the audience for perhaps an entire minute. Everybody was awed; he looked so great. We all said to ourselves, "What a mighty man this is!"
And when that effect had been produced upon us, the first and great point of effectiveness had been destroyed: the speaker had made us think about himself, his manner, his appearance, his personality. All the evening we had to wade through that slough, trying to follow his thought. And this reminds me of a saying of one of the most astute politicians and most capable public men of recent development:
"The surest sign that a man is not great is that he strives to look great."
I think that the best speech I ever heard for obedience to the rules of art was an address of about ten minutes by a young Salvation Army officer on the streets of Chicago. I listened with amazement. He was perhaps twenty-three years of age, with delicate, clear-cut features, sensitive mouth, and marvelously intelligent eyes. I was just passing the group as he stepped into the circle that always surrounds these noisy but sincere enthusiasts.
He took off his cap, and in a low, perfectly natural, and very sweet voice, speaking exactly as though he were having a conversation with his most confidential friend, he began: "You will admit, my friends, that human happiness is the problem of human life." And from this striking sentence he went on to another equally moving, showing, of course, that happiness could not be secured by traveling any of the usual roads, but only the straight and narrow path which the Master has marked out.
It was as simple as it was sincere. And it was as conversational as it was quiet. Before he had finished, his audience had gathered into itself every pedestrian who passed during his discourse—business man, professional man, working man, or what not.
The fight above described suggests the key to the matter as well as the manner of speaking. The American audience properly demands, above everything else, that the speaker get to the point. Our lives are so rapid; the telephone, telegraph, and all the instantaneous agencies of our neurotically swift civilization have made us so quick in seeing through propositions; a hundred years of universal education have produced a mentality so electric in its rapidity, that effective oratory has been revolutionized within a decade.
Burke would not be tolerated now. It is doubtful, even, if Webster would. The public has already tired of the lilt of Ingersoll's redundant rhetoric, pleasing as was its music. The effective speech to-day is a statement of conclusions.
The listeners, with a celerity inconceivable, sum up the argument on either side of the proposition you announce, and accept or reject it by a process of unconscious mental cerebration.
The most successful speech of to-day would be one of Emerson's essays rearranged in logical order—if such a thing were possible. Therefore, in matter, the statement is the form of address now most effective. Recall the opinion of Senator McDonald—the greatest natural lawyer I ever knew—that the best argument in a case always is the statement of the case.
In form, the sentences should be short; in language, the words should be as largely as possible Anglo-Saxon. These are the words of the people you address, therefore they are most influential with them. Also, therefore, your best method of getting Anglo-Saxon is to mingle with and talk with the common people. The next best method is to read the Bible, the King James translation of which is undoubtedly the purest fountain of English that flows in all the world of our literature.
What nonsense the repeated statement that public speaking has had its day, that the newspaper has taken its place, and all the rest of that kind of talk. Public speaking will never decline until men cease to have ears to hear. How hard it is to read a speech; how delightful to listen!
Speaking is Nature's choicest method of instruction.
It begins with mother to child; it continues with teacher to pupil; it continues still in lecturer or professor to his student (for the universities are all going back to the old oral method of instruction); and it still continues in all the forms of effective human communication.
The newspapers are a marvelous influence, but they are not everything, and they do not supply everything. For example, it is commonly supposed that they, absolutely and exclusively, mold and control public opinion. But they do not. When all has been said, the most powerful public opinion, after all, is that from-mouth-to-mouth public opinion—that living, moving opinion—which spreads from neighbor to neighbor, and has fused into it the vitality of the personality of nearly every man—yes, and woman; don't forget that—in the whole community.
And the philosophy which underlies this is what makes public speaking immortal. The Master understood this very well, and that is why He chose to speak by word of mouth rather than by writing epistles. The Saviour never wrote a single epistle—no, not even a single word. He spoke His message.
Think of a gospel announced to the world in cold type! Absurd, is it not? It may be repeated in that form, but its initial power must come from the spoken word and vital personality of its author. But Christ's addresses were not "extemporaneous." All His life He had been preparing His few sermons—lessons.
The great speakers to whom I have listened have confirmed certain conclusions upon the subject of speaking at which I arrived while in college. It seemed to me that the college method of speaking was wrong because it was irrational—that the studied gestures, the "cultivated" voice, the staccato impressiveness, were all artificial devices to attract the attention of an audience to these things, instead of to the thought of the address.
Analysis of the problem convinced me that an audience is only a larger person—a great collective individuality—and therefore that whatever, in manner and matter, will please, persuade, and convince a person, will have the same effect upon an audience. Hence one readily deduces that a simple, quiet, but direct, earnest address; a straightforward, unartificial honest manner, without tricks of oratory, is the most effective method of lodging truth in the minds of one's hearers.
Any affectation, any mannerism, detracts from the thought because it calls the attention of the listener to the mannerism or affectation, when his whole attention should be monopolized by the thought. Read Herbert Spencer on the "Philosophy of Style," and apply his reasoning to the delivery of an address, and you have the rationale of the art of speaking, as well as of speech, put with that wonderful thinker's unerringness.
The method commonly employed in preparing speeches is incorrect. That method is, to read all the books one can get on the subject, take all the opinions that can be procured, make exhaustive notes, and then write the speech.
Such a speech is nothing but a compilation. It is merely an arrangement of second-hand thoughts and observations and of other people's ideas. It never has the power of living and original thinking.
The true way is to take the elements of the problem in hand, and, without consulting a book or an opinion, reason out from these very elements of the problem itself your solution of it, and then prepare your speech.
After this, read, read, read—read comprehensively, omnivorously, in order to see whether your solution was not exploded a hundred years ago—aye, a thousand—and, if it was not, to fortify and make accurate your own thought. Read Matthew Arnold on "Literature and Dogma," and you will discover why it is necessary for you to read exhaustively on any subject about which you would think or write or speak.
But, as you value your independence of mind—yes, even your vigor of mind—do not read other men's opinions upon the subject before you have clearly thought out your own conclusions from the premises of the elemental facts.
As to style, seek only to be clear. Nothing else is important. Never try to be elegant or striking.
Consider the method of the Saviour in His addresses to the people. Next to Him, those perfect specimens of the art of putting things are the speeches and epistles of St. Paul. I know of nothing in literature so clear, convincing, and logical.
The words of the Master astonish one with their absolute unity with all the rules of effective address.
Especially His method of driving home a truth by repeating it, and that, too, in exactly the same words, is noticeable and very effective. He did not fear that He would be tiresome; He was concerned only in being clear. Take the following examples—Matthew vii:
24. Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
26. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
Or study this—Matthew v:
29. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
30. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Or this—Matthew xxv:
34. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36. Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
39. Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40. And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43. I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45. Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
Observe the exact repetition of entire sentences. Consider Antony's funeral oration over the dead body of Cæsar, and note the same mastery of the art of repetition.
But, like all powerful weapons, it is dangerous to one who is not a natural speaker. It might easily be fatal, for remember that we are advised to "use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do, for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."
Do not be epigrammatic. Never "coin a phrase." Never make a sentence for the purpose of having the newspaper quote it next day. Usually such sentences are not quoted. Even if they are, these artificial arrangements of words never live. The reason is that they are artificial—they do not have the vitality of sincerity. Let your striking expressions come naturally as the climax and flowering of your thought. Then they will live. They will live because they will be truthful—natural. Nothing but the sincere endures.
In political speaking, seldom be harsh, seldom denounce, seldom "pour hot shot into the enemy" as our newspaper head-liners put it. Men in other parties are not your enemies or the country's—they are fellow Americans to whom you are trying to show the truth as you see it. I like to believe that all Americans are patriots, inspired by sincere concern for the common good and the welfare of the Republic.
There is nothing in denunciation—nothing in abuse—nothing but bad taste. "There is no particular argument in slander," exclaimed Ingersoll in one of our fervid campaigns. The man who "pours hot shot into the enemy" is using an obsolete method. Don't you use it, young man. You be reasonable, considerate, earnest only to show your hearer that you are in the right. This rule is unvarying except, of course, when great crises occur, when treason is afoot, the Nation's honor in danger, and the like. But such seasons of peril are rare.
In all speaking be moderate in statement. Over statement is very dangerous; under statement subtly powerful. Moderation! I know but two words so potent—honor and industry. Honor, industry, moderation! What can prevail against this trinity! And in young men moderation is peculiarly beautiful.
I doubt if any man can be a great speaker who does not have in him the religious element. I do not mean that he shall be good (one may be good and not religious, or religious and not be good, as any professor of mental and moral philosophy will tell you), but that he shall have in him that mysticism, that elemental and instinctive conviction of the higher power and its providence, which makes him in sympathy with the great mass of humanity. I think Ingersoll had this element in him, notwithstanding his attacks upon religion.
Emerson has pointed out that the great speaker—yes, and the great man—is he who best interprets the common feeling and tendency of the masses.
Very well; the profoundest feeling among the masses, the most influential element in their character, is the religious element. It is as instinctive and elemental as the law of self-preservation. It informs the whole intellect and personality of the people.
Therefore he who would greatly influence the people by uttering their unformed thought must have this great invisible and unanalyzable bond of sympathy with them. I will let your preacher work this out more elaborately for you.
One word more; and to this word listen and hearken and bind it on the tablets of your understanding.
Insincerity cuts the heart out of all oratory.
You may marshal your arguments and concoct your pretty devices of words, and work yourself into a great heat in the speaking of them; but if you do not believe what you say you are only a play-actor after all—a poor mummer reciting your own lines.
You had far better be a professional actor; that will, at least, insure you excellent lines to declaim. The dramatic profession is devoted to the interpretation of art in one of its highest forms. A true actor is a true artist—painter and sculptor no more so.
If Polus stands on a lower pedestal than Praxiteles in mankind's esteem it is because his genius was not so brilliant and not because the art of acting is less noble than that of sculpture. Talma was more eminent than David. Bernhardt is as noted and notable as Millet, Irving as distinguished as Millais; while in our own country not more than two men in painting and sculpture deserve places beside Booth and Forrest as high priests of Art.
That your audience applauds you is nothing. The same audience would applaud Paderewski or a great prestidigitator. You see, your audience may applaud you because you have put your thought cleverly, or juggled your words attractively, or thrown over them that magnetic spell which all great personalities have. It may clap its hands because you have entertained it.
But what has all this to do with the truth? And why are you speaking at all, unless it is that you, knowing the truth, are trying to show the truth to others? So do not seek to arouse applause for its own sake. If it comes naturally, spontaneously, it is a pleasant tribute to your cause. But if you win it by your art, it is merely a tribute to your powers. And you are not speaking for yourself—you are speaking for your cause.
The wife of one of the most effective of American speakers is reported to have said to him: "I wish you would deliver a speech which no one can possibly applaud." Of course what she meant was that she would like to see him devote himself to getting the truth before the people without resorting to any of the tricks of oratory.
No matter how much a wizard of words Nature may have made him; no matter that he has the dark art of making the worse appear the better reason; no matter that his golden voice is like music, and his very appearance pleasantly thrills you with the strange and subtle magnetism of the man: if he have not sincerity, all these are nothing.
And he cannot affect sincerity and fool the people very long. He may fool them in one speech or in one campaign if he be a political speaker, but ultimately the people will sense his moral quality and he will be discredited.
This very thing happened to a celebrated American speaker who may be said to have been endowed with genius. There was no resisting the man while he was speaking. But he never was honestly in earnest. He never really cared for his cause. There was never a moment when he could not have spoken as effectively for the other side.
Finally this got through the consciousness of the people, and his power over their convictions speedily dissolved.
Many years ago a business friend of mine heard this man speak on a notable occasion. His address was on a subject in which the people were deeply interested, and was a masterpiece of mingled argument and pathos; and his audience belonged to him. It had no mind but his, no will but his.
Afterward my friend said to me: "That man will not last; he is not honest. At one climax so pure, so exalted, so tender, that I found tears in my own eyes, I saw him wink at some intimate friends who were sitting in a stage-box at his right. I was between them. They were watching him as they would have watched a friend who was an actor. He, on his part, was showing them what he could do. That wink said: 'See how I did that. Now observe me closely! I will throw still another ball of emotion into the air and juggle with it, too.'"
And sure enough, he did not last. His tropical mind lasted, his chameleon imagination lasted, his compelling personality, his grace, charm, witchery of words—all these lasted; but all these were nothing without that honesty which would make him die rather than speak for a cause in which he did not believe, or be silent when a cause in which he believed was at issue and in peril.
The people went to hear him even after they had ceased to believe in him. They applauded, laughed, or were silent as he pleased. But they were being entertained—nothing more. His art was still perfect, but his power over the minds and souls of men which made men believe and do was gone forever.
Believe what you say, therefore. Say what you believe. Say it simply, earnestly, as though you were pleading for all that is dearest to you on earth. For, after all, that is what you are speaking for—truth. And if the truth for which you are speaking is not dear to you, go about your other business and remain silent.
Let your brother who has "the call" utter that message which your faith is not strong enough to voice; for he, having "the call," will "speak as one having authority," and therefore "the common people will hear him gladly."
To effect anything; to achieve a result; to make your words deeds, as the old Scotch thinker declared they should be or else not be uttered, you must teach. And in your teaching you must teach "as one having authority."
To the Master we must go, after all, even for our methods of utterance, and at His feet learn that oratory is the utterance of the truth by one who knows it to be the truth. And so will your words be words of fire, and your speech have weight among your fellow men.
All who do their best, and in doing their best do a good piece of work, deserve equal credit whether the work be little or big. The architect who builds a house has wrought for humanity as truly as the statesman who builds a government. One man can make bricks well and another lead armies to victory; yet each one has fulfilled his destiny if his achievement was what he was fitted for and if he has done his best.
From one point of view all occupations that help one's fellow men are important. Who shall say that the hod-carrier has not done as much for humanity as orator or poet. The cook is as necessary as the philosopher. Compare the blacksmith and the sculptor. The point is, that all useful labor is equally noble. It all has its place. Each of the workers of the world is required in the human cosmos.
It may not be that the worker himself sees that he is essential. It may not be that he understands the outcome of his striving. For that matter we are each and all toiling as blindly as the coral insect, and yet our labor is as much a part of a symmetrical structure as is the life and perishing of that polyp.
We are all pouring out our energies day by day without understanding what effect our spent lives will have in the general result of human effort. And some of us get heart-sick, no doubt, and weary; and discouragement whispers, "What's the use," and many another wily phrase of Satan.
Very well; let every man, however humble or conspicuous his place among men, understand that his work does count and will become a part of an harmonious whole. "All things work together for good."
No matter that we do not know what we are here for. We may not understand how our lives are to be woven into the great design of the world's work any more than a single thread of some wonderful and beautiful rug understands the pattern of which it is a part.
No matter, I say. The Master-Weaver understands what we are here for and what we are doing, and that is enough. He has uses for every sound thread and doubtless one is as important as another. Vaunt not yourself O thread of purple, over your fellow-thread of white!
Asserting then that the man who quarries stone has served humanity as well as he who writes a book, if quarrying stone is what he can do best; asserting the equal value of all things done well and the equal dignity of all sincere and honest work of hand and brain, I shall not be misunderstood when I say that the present day has developed three careers of usefulness which, while not more important, are more continuously prominent than any others.
These are statesmanship, journalism, and the pulpit.
The Pulpit deals with faith. It has to do with religion. Religion makes moral ideals vital. Moral ideals make individual life sweet and satisfying, national life strong and pure. "Righteousness exalteth a nation." The young man and the pulpit are therefore preeminent in conspicuity.
The American people at heart are a religious people. They are practical and fearless, too. If you will listen to the chance conversations of the ordinary American you will find that the laymen of the Nation have some very decided views upon the Pulpit, the man who fills it, and the work he ought to do.
In the breast of the millions there is not only a great need but a great yearning for certain things of the soul which it is for the Pulpit to supply. This paper is an attempt to talk as one of these millions to the young man who is about to mount to this sacred station.
"I have just come from church," said a friend one day, "and I am tired and disappointed. I went to hear a sermon and I listened to a lecture.
"I went to worship and I was merely entertained.
"The preacher was a brilliant man and his address was an intellectual treat; but I did not go to church to hear a professional lecturer. When I want merely to be entertained I will go to the theater.
"But I do not like to hear a preacher principally try to be either orator or artist. I am pleased if he is both; but before everything else I want him to bear me the Master's message. I want the minister to preach Christ and Him crucified."
The man who said this was a journalist of ripe years, highly educated, widely experienced, acquainted with men and life. He was world-weary with that weariness which comes of the journalist's incessant contact with every phase of human activity, good and bad, great and small.
For no man touches life at so many points and is both so rich in and worn by human experiences as the newspaper man in daily service. And I have found that this expression of the wise old man of the press whom I have quoted fairly reflects a general feeling among men of all other classes.
First, then, young man aspiring to the Pulpit, the world expects you to be above all other things a minister of the Gospel. It does not expect you to be, primarily, a brilliant man, or a learned man, or witty, or eloquent, or any other thing that would put your name on the tongues of men. The world will be glad if you are all of these, of course; but it wants you to be a preacher of the Word before anything else. It expects that all your talents will be consecrated to your sacred calling.
It expects you to speak to the heart, as well as to the understanding, of men and women, of the high things of faith, of the deep things of life and death. The great world of worn and weary humanity wants from the Pulpit that word of helpfulness and power and peace which is spoken only by him who has utterly forgotten all things except his holy mission. Therefore merge all of your striking qualities into the divine purpose of which you are the agent. Lose consciousness of yourself in the burning consciousness of your cause.
Very well; but if you do that you must be very sure of your own belief. Any man who assumes to teach the Christian faith, who in his own secret heart questions that faith himself, commits a sacrilege every time he enters the pulpit.
Can it be that the lack of living interest in certain church services is caused by a sort of subconscious knowledge of the people, that the minister himself is speaking from the head rather than from the heart; that what he says comes from his intellect and not as the "spirit gives him utterance"; and, to put it bluntly, that he himself "no more than half believes what he says."
"The man spoke as if he were bored with endless repetition of sermons," said a close observer of a weary parson.
Certain it is that even in political speaking the man who believes what he says has power over his audience out of all comparison with a far more eloquent man whom his hearers know to be speaking perfunctorily.
No matter how much the latter kind of speaker polishes his periods, no matter how fruitful in thought his address, no matter how perfect the art of his delivery, he fails in the ultimate effect wrought by a much inferior speaker whose words are charged with conviction.
He is like the chemist's grain of wheat, perfect in all its constituent elements except the mysterious spark of life, without which the wheat grain will not grow.
If then you do not believe what you say and believe it with all your soul, believe it in your heart of hearts, do not try to get other men to believe it. You will not be honest if you do. The world expects you to be sure of yourself. How do you expect to make other people sure of themselves if you are not sure of yourself?
"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
"Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
"Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
The world is hungry for faith. Do not doubt this for a moment. More men and women to-day would rather believe in the few fundamentals of the Christian religion than have any other gift that lavish fortune could bestow upon them.
But these millions want to believe; they do not want to argue or be argued at.
They want to believe so utterly that their faith amounts to knowledge. Doubtings are disquieting; pros and cons are monotonous. We want certainty, we laymen.
For years I have made it a point to get the opinion of the ablest and most widely experienced men and women I met on the subject of immortality. In all cases I found that the subject in which they were more deeply interested than in all other subjects put together.
"I would rather be sure that when a man dies he will live again with his conscious identity, than to have all the wealth of the United States, or to occupy any position of honor or power the world could possibly give," said a man whose name is known to the railroad world as one of the ablest transportation men in the United States.
"Do you know when I am by myself I think about a lot of strange things. Is the soul immortal and what is the soul anyhow?" It is a politician who is talking now, and a ward politician at that, a man whom few would suspect of thinking upon these subjects at all.
So you see, young man, you who are being measured for the Cloth, that all manner and conditions of men are thinking about the great problems of which you are the expounder, and longing for the answer to those problems which it is your business to give them. That is the condition of the mind of the millions.
Very well! What is the condition of the mind of the young minister? A few years ago a certain man, with good opportunities for the investigation and a probability of sincere answers, asked every young preacher whom he met during a summer vacation these questions:
"First, Yes or no, do you believe in God, the Father; God a person, God a definite and tangible intelligence—not a congeries of laws floating like a fog through the universe; but God a person in whose image you were made? Don't argue; don't explain; but is your mind in a condition where you can answer yes or no?"
Not a man answered "Yes." Each man wanted to explain that the Deity might be a definite intelligence or might not; that the "latest thought" was much confused upon the matter, and so forth and so on.
"Second, Yes or no, do you believe that Christ was the son of the living God, sent by Him to save the world? I am not asking whether you believe that He was inspired in the sense that the great moral teachers are inspired—nobody has any difficulty about that. But do you believe that Christ was God's very Son, with a divinely appointed and definite mission, dying on the cross and raised from the dead—yes or no?"
Again not a single answer with an unequivocal, earnest "Yes." But again explanations were offered and in at least half the instances the sum of most of the answers was that Christ was the most perfect man that the world had seen and humanity's greatest moral teacher.
"Third, Do you believe that when you die you will live again as a conscious intelligence, knowing who you are and who other people are?"
Again, not one answer was unconditionally affirmative. "Of course they were not sure as a matter of knowledge." "Of course that could not be known positively." "On the whole, they were inclined to think so, but there were very stubborn, objections," and so forth and so on.
The men to whom these questions were put were particularly high-grade ministers. One of them had already won a distinguished reputation in New York and the New England states for his eloquence and piety. Every one of them had had unusual successes with fashionable congregations.
But every one of them had noted an absence of real influence upon the hearts of their hearers and all thought that this same condition is spreading throughout the modern pulpit.
Yet not one of them suspected that the profound cause of what they called "the decay of faith" was, not in the world of men and women, but in themselves. How could such priests of ice warm the souls of men? How could such apostles of interrogation convert a world?
These were not examples, however; they were exceptions. Most preachers believe that they actually know the truths they teach. By and large, the twentieth century Christian ministry is sound and sure. The missionary fire still burns in consecrated breasts.
And that is a lucky thing for the Christian world. We Westerners—we of America and Europe—would go all to pieces otherwise. You see we Occidentals have not eons of fatalistic paganism to fall back on as have the sons of the East. They endure without our religion. But we—what would happen to us if Christianity did not unite, purify, and exalt us.
From the view-point of the layman then, yes and even far more from your own view-point, be sure of your faith, preparer for the pulpit. Faith is only another word for power.
We see it in the small things of life. Note the influence on his fellow citizens of a man who asserts something positively and heartily believes what he asserts, even though that thing be untrue and unwise.
We see it in the great things of history. Witness the inferior mentality but the burning ardor of a Peter the Hermit, moving all Europe to the most extraordinary war the world has seen. Consider Napoleon crossing the Alps—an achievement all men said was impossible. Impossible! That word is found only in the dictionary of superstition.
But your faith, young man, you who are about to go into the Pulpit, does not deal with little things. It is not interested even in the large affairs of statesmanship, as such. Yet it embraces all matters. It involves concerns more important than all history.
Limitless eternity is its field. Everlasting life is its subject. The Ancient of Days is its awful familiar. It has to do with the righteous conduct of individual men and women here on earth and of their eternal felicity in the world to come. The Ineffable One whose crucifixion has made the cross a symbol of all good and the emblem of our highest hope is its divine and inspiring author.
How noble the attitude of that intellect which is uplifted by a belief so glorious. No wonder that he who possesses this faith works miracles in human character more astounding than the dazzling wonders which science wrings from reluctant matter. No, not he who possesses this faith, but him whom this faith POSSESSES. The faith is the reality—you are but the instrument through which that faith works out the winning of the world. Look to your faith then, you who seek to save the souls of men.
For now as ever mankind awaits the magic voice of him whose faith in God the Father, in Christ His son and in the life eternal is strong as knowledge itself. Think of John Wesley, think of Ignatius Loyola, think of the inspired young man who this very year has lifted all Wales to spiritual heights as elevated as those to which Savonarola led beautiful and dissolute Florence, and the fire of whose revival promises to spread over the United Kingdom, purifying all it touches.
What said they of the Master? "For He spake as one having authority and the common people heard Him gladly." It was true of Him, too. And it has been true of each of those princes of faith who, during two thousand years, have followed the directions of their thorn-crowned Lord.
He declared to his disciples: "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."
If you have not an undoubting belief, you may carve out your sentences as curiously as you will; deliver them with the voice of music, and yet be nothing but an entertainer. Speaking as one of the "men of the street," as one of the millions, I think that the best thing for you to attend to is this question of faith.
I have no respect for a lawyer who does not know certain fundamental definitions by heart; and I have less respect for the preacher who cannot repeat the eleventh chapter of Hebrews offhand.
Get your faith into your blood; the brain is the place for your reasonings and argumentations.
You say that you are a soldier of heaven, battling with the world—meaning that you represent righteousness as opposed to evil. That is your attitude—your conception of your mission. Very well, the secret of your strength has never been so well stated as in the words of the Apostle, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
Four of the most extraordinary doers of God's work in the world were Luther, Loyola, Wesley, and Savonarola. Each of this company of practical and militant Christianity has life instruction for you. But in the art of preaching, as such, Savonarola has more than either of the others, although Wesley is nearly his equal, and, as an organizer, vastly his superior. He perfectly illustrates the miraculous power of conviction in mere oratory.
I would advise every young man who intends to enter the pulpit to read carefully the best life of this wonderful preacher, reformer, and statesman. And supplement your study of him and his methods by reading George Eliot's historical novel, "Romola."
The great Dominican was a Lombard, of harsh accent and strange face, come to live in the most cultured city in the world. Florence was then in the full flowering of literature and art; and in her overripe perfections the poison was distilling of greed and cruelty and lubricity and all loathsomeness.
Over this capital of learning, genius, and sin ruled "The Magnificent" Medici, sitting with easy power on his splendid throne and wielding his scepter with the accurate skill of a perfect craft and the strong decision of a fearless heart.
But you know the story. It was not an inviting field for a preacher who burned to utter the Word and at the same time hoped to enjoy the smiles and favors of the great. It was not an encouraging prospect for any one who wanted to restore the reign of righteousness, even though he were willing to pay the price of martyrdom.
But Savonarola accomplished all this and more; for he crowned the renaissance of letters and art with the renaissance of Christian morals and religion whose pure and beautiful influence reaches even unto our day.
And he did it by faith more than by all other things put together—a faith so rapt that, to our less passionate natures, it seems to have been the very insanity of fanaticism. But it did the work; and that is the thing after all.
His sermons do not seem to be more remarkable when you read them than those of many another pulpiteer, although they are full of thought. We are told, however, that his voice had in it a terrible earnestness, and his manner was so impassioned that he sometimes seemed to forget himself.
But all agree that the magic with which he wrought his wonders from the pulpit was the feeling that everybody had that Fra Girolamo believed what he said, knew what he said, meant what he said.
The immediate effect was astonishing—(the after effect still thrills the world). Mrs. Oliphant quotes Burlamacchi's description of Savonarola's influence over the people thus: "The people got up in the middle of the night to get places for the sermon. They came to the door of the cathedral waiting outside until it should be opened, making no account of the inconvenience, neither of the cold nor the wind nor the standing in winter with their feet on the marble."
I emphasize the point that this effect was not exclusively oratorical, nor merely magnetic. Chiefly it was what the world has always seen and always will see when it beholds a strong man in deadly earnest for a righteous cause.
We know that this is so because "The Magnificent" induced the most cultivated pulpiteer in all Italy to preach sermons in Florence so as to divert attention from Savonarola; and this master of the pulpit, whom Lorenzo won to his purpose, was better liked and more greatly admired by the people of Florence than any other orator.
His name was Fra Mariano, and it was admitted that he was a far better speaker than Savonarola. Yet he failed utterly, unaccountably. He had better elocution, a richer voice, more "magnetism," more attractive qualities every way than Savonarola, and as much learning; but he did not have as much faith.
I am dwelling upon this because I am quite sure that the people are more interested in acquiring faith than they are in all your oratoricals; and because, too, I am quite sure that it is the only certain method of your effectiveness.
Faith is infectious. James Whitcomb Riley, whose sweetness of character and upliftedness of soul equal his genius, gave me the best recipe for faith in God, Christ, and Immortality I have ever heard:
"Just believe," said he; "don't argue about it; don't question it; simply say, 'I believe.' Next day you will find yourself believing a little less feebly, and finally your faith will be absolute, certain, and established."
And why not—you of the schools who split hairs and dispute and come to nothing in the end, and whose knowledge, after all, as Savonarola so well said, comes to nothing—why not? For if you cannot prove God and Christ and Immortality, it is very sure you cannot disprove them; and it is safe—yes, and splendid—to believe in these three marvelous realities; or conceptions, if you like that word better.
The doctrine of noblesse oblige was one of the most beautiful of human conventions. It was based upon the proposition that a man being noble and the son of a nobleman could not do a mean thing—it was not good form.
But if a man gets it into his consciousness that he is the child, not of a nobleman, not of an earthly ruler, not of a great statesman, warrior, scientist, or financier, but of the living God who presides over the universe, how large, how generous, how exalted, and how fine his attitude toward life and all his conduct needs must be.
Savonarola was not alone in the vast crowds he drew by the simple method he followed. He was not original in that method either. Do we not read that when "Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them, the people ... gave heed unto those things which Philip spake."
Of course they gave heed, just as they did to Savonarola. Recall the expression of the old journalist at the beginning of this paper. He would never have been bored by Philip or by the Lombard priest.
Paul got the attention even of the blasé Athenians, who would not listen to anybody or anything very long, "because he preached unto them of Jesus and the resurrection."
And you will remember the Master's experience at Capernaum: "And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he PREACHED THE WORD unto them."
That reads a good deal like the description of Savonarola's congregations, or of Wesley's, or of the young revivalist in Wales. No difficulty about their audiences—or congregations, if you insist on being technical.
Of course, everybody understands that preaching and faith and all that is not everything that the young minister must do for his fellow man. "Faith without works is dead." Everybody who has read the Bible understands that.
But this paper is on "The Young Man and the Pulpit"—an attempt to give him an idea of how the people he is going to preach to look at this matter, how they regard him, and, above all else, what the people to whom his life work is devoted really need and really want above everything else in this world.
Don't preach woe, punishment, and all mournfulness to the people all the time. Where you find sin, go ahead and denounce it mercilessly; but do it crisply, cuttingly, not dully and innocuously. Speak to kill. Do not forget that the Master told the people of His day that they "were a generation of vipers."
But that was not the burden of His appeal. He knew that there were other things in the world and human nature besides sin. Mostly He spoke of "things lovely and of good report." Remember that His coming was announced as a bringing of "good tidings of great joy."
The Sermon on the Mount is the perfection of thought, feeling, and expression. Make it your example. You will recall that it begins: "Blessed are the poor in spirit." It is full of "blessed" and blessings, of consolations and encouragements and loving promises of beautiful certainties. "Ye are the light of the world," He said. The Sermon on the Mount radiates sense and kindness and prayer.
The One understood that most glorious truth of all truths—that there is some good in each of us, and that if that good only could be recognized and encouraged it would overcome the bad in us. You will remember the saying: "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."
So don't be an orator of melancholy. There is enough sadness in the world without your adding to it by either visage, conduct, or sermon. Besides, it is not what you are directed to do. The people would be very glad if you could say with Isaiah that
"The Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; ... he hath sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord ... to comfort all that mourn ... to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."
That is the kind of talk that will cheer the people, and it is the kind of talk that will do the people good. There is nothing "blue" about that. And it is what the Book bids you tell the people. The people want it, too, and need it—they need "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."
Ah! yes, indeed, that is worth while. Your pews will never be empty if such be the fruit of your lips and the ripeness of your spirit. The people want to hear about something better than they know or have known.
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings."
Nobody likes a scold. Of course, when it is necessary to scold, go ahead and scold. But don't make scolding a practise. Your congregation will not stand being abused; they will not stand it unless they actually need it, and then they will stand it. Unconsciously they will know that the stripes you lay upon them are medicine after all, and for their healing.
But ordinarily everybody has such a hard time that they would like to hear about "a good time coming." Ordinarily everybody is so tired that they would like to hear something like this: "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."
The religion which you preach owes its vitality to the glorious hopefulness of it. The people want to know that if they do well here joy awaits them hereafter, and here, too, if possible. They want to hear about the "Father's house" that has "many mansions," and about Him who has "gone to prepare a place" for them.
They demand happiness in some form, if only in talk. If they do not get it in the assurances of religion, who can blame them if they say: "Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we die." For sure enough they do die to-morrow, so far as their world goes.
If you do not believe that religion means happiness, quit the pulpit and raise potatoes. Potatoes feed the body at least. But unfaithful words or speech of needless despair feed nothing at all. It is "east wind." Put beauty, hope, joy, into your preaching, therefore. Make your listeners thrill with gladness that they are Christians. Even the men of the world have wisdom enough to make things profane as attractive as possible.
Note, for example, that most successful books are hopeful books that tell of the beautiful things of human life and character. Especially is this true of novels, the most widely read of all books of transient modern literature. The hero always wins—virtue always triumphs. There are remarkable exceptions no doubt—but they are exceptions. Now and then there are remarkable novels which scourge with the whips of the Furies, as indeed most of Savonarola's sermons flagellated.
With all your faith and the fervor of it, be full of thought. Merely to believe burningly is not enough. Nobody will listen to you declaim the confession and then declaim it over and over again and nothing more. Even pious monotony palls. Bread is the staff of life; and yet too much bread eaten at one time will kill. Food, taken in excess, becomes poison.
I have emphasized the necessity for faith because it will always be the very soul of your influence over your audience. It is the power behind your ideas. Faith is the dynamics of truth. But do not forget that you have got to have ideas. You have got to have truth.
In every word you utter you must be a teacher.
After all, teaching is the only oratory. Luke says of the Master that "he taught the people." In reporting the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew says that "he opened his mouth and taught them." Time and again I have heard hard-headed business men and sturdy farmers say of a particularly instructive sermon: "I like to hear that preacher; I always learn something from him."
And let your discourse be full of "sweet reasonableness." Peter tells you "to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is within you," although Peter himself seldom gave a reason for anything.
You cannot do this without study. "After you have shot off a gun you have got to load it before you can shoot it off again," said a wise old preacher who retained the hold of his youth upon his congregations. Never cease to renew yourself from every possible source of thought and knowledge.
Books, society, solitude, the woods, the crowded streets—all things in this varied universe have in them replenishings for your mind. Don't become burnt powder. Keep young. That is your problem and life's. For mind and soul that is no hard problem, after all.
Don't repeat your sermons if you can help it. That is hard advice, I know; but to repeat your sermons is a phase of arrested development and a method of bringing it about. It is unfortunate for you that things are so ordered that you must preach a new sermon every Sunday.
The Saviour did not do it, nor did any of his personal followers. They taught when "the spirit moved them." I think none of the great preachers ever spoke with machine-like periodicity—certainly Savonarola did not. He preached only when occasion demanded it.
But that is neither here nor there. Preaching every Sunday is our custom and therefore preach every Sunday you must. I repeat that it is hard on you, and we sympathize with you; but, as a practical matter, it is all the more reason why you should ceaselessly fertilize your intellect. Your audience will pity you, but they are not going to listen to any twice-told tales, pity or no pity.
The practise of having short sermons helps you out. I beseech you, as you wish to hold your hearers, observe this practise. Please remember that this is America and everybody is in a hurry. They ought not to be, but they are. Make thirty minutes the limit of your time. Twenty minutes is long enough.
It was a very good sermon Paul preached on Mars Hill before the most critical and cultured audience in the world. And still, allowing for all deliberation of delivery and for portions of his speech which are not reported, it could not have taken him longer than fifteen minutes.
Even the Master, when expounding the whole of the Christian religion in the Sermon on the Mount, could not have occupied more than half or three-quarters of an hour; yet he was covering a multitude of subjects, whereas Paul covered but one. Indeed, the Saviour also made it a practise to speak upon only one subject at a time.
The same is true of all great orators except, of course, political stump speakers, who necessarily must cover all the "issues." The political speaker is sorry enough that this is true—but there is no help for it; "the questions of the day" must all be answered. But you, Mr. Preacher, need not be so encyclopedic; and you ought to be illuminating and uplifting on one subject in half an hour—and no longer. That light is brightest which is condensed.
The Christian religion is a livable creed, is it not? It is a day-by-day religion; a here-and-now religion. True, it comprehends eternity, and its perfect flower is immortal life and peace. But that is for the hereafter. This side of the grave, Christianity is a code of conduct. So, peculiarly human subjects for your sermons are endless—subjects of present interest.
Think of the intimate and personal subjects of Christ's teachings. He spoke of prayer and the fulfilment of the law, of master and servant and of practical charity, of marriage, divorce, and the relation of children to parents; of manners, serenity, and battlings; of working and food and prophecy; of trade and usury, of sin and righteousness, of repentance and salvation. Yet by means of all this he made noble the daily living of our earthly lives and gloriously triumphant the ending of them.
Speak helpfully therefore. Remember that the great problem with each of us is how to live day by day; and that is no easy task, say what you will. This human talking with human beings is not only consistent with the preaching of your religion—it is the preaching of your religion. Christ came to save sinners, but how? By faith? Yes. By repentance? Yes. By these and by many other things; but by conduct also.
I do not think the ordinary layman cares to hear you preach about some new thing. The common man prefers to hear the old truths retold. Indeed, there can be nothing new in morals. "Our task," said a clear-headed minister, "is to state the old truths in terms of the present day." That is admirably put. In science progress means change; in morals progress means stability. No man can be said to have uttered the final word in science; but the Master uttered the final word in morals.
Many people greatly debate whether the minister of the Gospel should "mix up in politics." There is a protest against ministers using their pulpits to express views on our civic and National life.
I have no sympathy with such views. Of course the preaching of his holy religion is the minister's high calling; of course the spiritual life practically applied should receive his exclusive attention. But does not that include righteousness in the affairs of our popular government? Does it not involve uprightness in public life?
It seems to me that the Master took a considerable part in public affairs. Did he not even scourge the money-changers from the Temple? And John Knox, Wesley, and other great teachers of the Word profoundly influenced the political life and movements of their time. Savonarola, to whom I have so often referred, was a skilled politician, though of so high a grade that he may be justly called a statesman.
Upon this subject the views of the ordinary laymen of the country are these: Whenever a civic evil is to be eliminated it is not only appropriate, but it is the office of the minister to help eliminate it. Whenever the cause of light is struggling with the powers of darkness the place of the Christian minister is in the ranks.
But as a general proposition he can do most good by merely preaching individual righteousness day after day without definitely interfering with things political. For there is always the danger that if he takes part in many political agitations he will become so monotonous that all his power for good will be dissipated.
But after all is said and done the millions want from the modern pulpit the fruitful teaching of the Christian religion. They want the fundamentals. They want decision and certainty. Their minds are to be convinced, yes, but even more their hearts.
This is the task that awaits you, young man, who, from that spiritual tribune called the Pulpit, are soon to speak to us who sit beneath you that Word which is for "the healing of the nations." How exalted beyond understanding is this high place to which you are going. What a hearing you will have if only you will utter words of power and light. Believe me, the world with eagerness awaits your message. But be sure it is a message in very truth—no, not a message but THE message.
Some four years ago a young man of uncommon ability, but lacking the imagination of hope, said to me that it seemed to him as if everything great had already been done.
"Great battles," said he, "have been fought; there will be no more wars of magnitude. The great principles of the law have all been announced and applied to every conceivable form of human rights and controversy. For example, in our own country there will be no more new and great constitutional arguments. Everything, from now on, will be only an application of what has already been said and decided.
"In invention, there may be some improvements on old and present devices, but there will be no more Edisons, no more Marconis. In medicine, we are about at the top of the mountain. In literature, the creative and fundamental things have all been done. There will be no more Shakespeares, no Miltons, no Dantes, no Goethes. Even Hugo is dead. From now on books will be mere second-hand talk.
"In statesmanship, nothing is left except that common housekeeping which we call administering government. In diplomacy, the same old lies will continue to be told, and so on."
This young man's profoundly melancholy view of life is that which I have found crushing the élan out of many young men; and particularly college students. In their hearts they feel that progress is finished, so far as individual effort by them is concerned. They feel that for them there is nothing but to eat, sleep, laugh, grieve and go to their graves. They feel that for them there is no such thing as leaving behind them a monument of their own constructive effort. Talk to most young men in college or school, and you will find this feeling, like a pathetic minor chord, running through their highest and most daring boasts.
Is not our college training responsible for some of this melancholy negativeness of life? However it happens, the truth is that too few young men come out of our great universities with the greater part of the boldness of youth left in them. Somehow or other those fine, and, if you will, absurd enthusiasms which nobody but young men and geniuses are blessed with, have been educated out of the graduate. How many seniors in our historic American universities would not have sneered John Bunyan out of existence, or have told the young and unripe Bonaparte how presumptuous he was to think of fighting the trained generals of Europe?
"Yes," says a certain type of young man, "all the great things have been done. Nothing is left for me but the commonplaces." This is not true.
The great things have not all been done; scarcely have they been commenced. "There is more before us than there is behind us," said my old forest "guide," wise with the wisdom of the woods and their thoughtful silences. And the purpose of this paper is to point out the infinite number of practical possibilities immediately at hand; to awaken each young man who reads these words to some one of the million voices which from all the fields of human endeavor is calling him; and so, by showing him things to do, make him a doer of things, if he will.
Let us take the law—that entrancing subject which exercises such an empire over the minds of most young men. Our own constitutional law is only a part of that universal body of jurisprudence with which all real lawyers must deal. Very well; we have only begun the discussion and settlement of our great constitutional questions. Marshall and Hamilton, it is true, when they formulated the doctrine of implied powers, seemed to unlock the door of all constitutional difficulties, leaving nothing for future lawyers and jurists to do but to find their way through the channels and passages thus opened.
But it was only one great field to which they laid down the bars. Others equally large—yes, larger—lie beyond it. It is generally admitted now by all thorough students of the Constitution that there is such a thing as constitutional progress—constitutional development. The Constitution does and will grow as the American people grow.
Half a dozen questions are now in the public mind that measure, in importance, up to the level of Marshall's elementary decisions. Beyond these is still the application of institutional law to the interpretation of the Constitution. There is no book so much needed in the present, or that will be so much needed in the future, as a great work on our institutional law—such a work as the world sees once in a century.
Consider this one phase of jurisprudence for only a moment, young man, just to see what a world of thought it opens to the mind. Institutional law is older, deeper, and even more vital than constitutional law. Our Constitution is one of the concrete manifestations of our institutions; our statutes are another; the decisions of our courts are another; our habits, methods, and customs as a people and a race are still another.
Our institutional law is like the atmosphere—impalpable, imperceptible, but all-pervading, and the source of life itself. Most leading decisions of our courts of last resort, involving great constitutional questions, refer to the spirit of our institutions as interpreting our Constitution. It is our institutional law which, flowing like our blood through the written Constitution, gives that instrument vitality and power of development.
Institutional law existed before the Constitution. Our institutions had their beginnings well-nigh with the beginning of time. They have developed through the ages. Magna Charta only marked a period in their growth; the assertion of the rights of the Commons marked another; our Revolution marked another; the adoption of our Constitution marked another still.
I have no respect for constitutional learning which deals alone with the written words of the Constitution, or even with the intention of its framers, and ignores the sources and spirit of that great instrument. The Constitution did not give us free institutions; free institutions gave us our Constitution. All our progress toward liberty and popular government, made since the adoption of the Constitution, has been the spirit of our institutions working out its sure results, through the Constitution when possible, modifying it when necessary.
Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence a denunciation of slavery, and called it an "execrable commerce." It was stricken out at the request of Georgia and South Carolina, and years afterward slavery was recognized in our Constitution.
But slavery was opposed to the spirit of our institutions, and while legalized by our Constitution and defended by armies as brave as ever marched to battle, constitutional slavery went down before institutional liberty; and Appomattox was the capitulation of the word of death in our Constitution to the spirit of life in our institutions. Every amendment of our Constitution marks the progress of our institutions.
The Constitution contemplated and provided for the election of Presidents by electors, who should select the best man to preside over the Republic, irrespective of the people's choice. That was the intention of the fathers. But in that they did not correctly interpret the spirit and tendency of our institutions, which is toward getting the Government as close to the people as possible.
And so, in spite of the Constitution, in spite of the intention of the fathers, in spite of the fact that this plan was pursued for several elections, the spirit of our institutions prevailed over our Constitution, and no presidential elector now dare cast his ballot against the candidate for whom the people instruct him to vote.
Even outside of the doctrine of implied powers by which our written Constitution has been made to meet many of the emergencies of our history, there are important things in our National life that have all the force of organic law which are unprovided for by the Constitution. For example, the Constitution does not say that a congressman must live in the district which he represents. So far as constitutional law is concerned, he might live anywhere. But no matter—our institutional law settles that. The theory of local self-government requires the representative of a locality to live in that locality.
Wherever our Constitution has been weak and insufficient in its apparent expressed powers, the spirit of our institutions has given it life. Read Marshall's opinions; read most of our great constitutional decisions; read the whole history of American constitutional progress, if you would know the beneficent influence of our institutions on our Constitution.
Thus we see that our institutions are the preservers of our Constitution. The doctrine of implied powers, which has saved the country and the Constitution too, has been made possible only by reading our Constitution by the light of our institutions, as Hamilton and Marshall did.
And so our security is not in the written word of the Constitution alone; it is there, of course, but it is in our institutions also which are the spirit of the Constitution, which illumine and emphasize the meaning of that noble instrument. England has no written constitution; certain other countries have had and have now ideal written constitutions.
And yet England has steady and continuous liberty and law, while those others, even with written constitutions, frequently have had bureaucracy and military absolutism. They had the forms of liberty and popular government in these written constitutions, but they did not have free institutions, which alone make formal constitutions living and vital things.
England, without a written constitution, is almost as free a government as ours. Law reigns supreme. The poorest gatherer of rags has equal rights before the bar of justice with belted earl or millionaire, and those equal rights are impartially enforced. Neither wealth nor title are favored more than poverty or humble rank in the courts of England; and even royalty appears as witness, the same as his meanest subject.
The Government itself is subject to the will of the people; and no ministry remains in power in face of an adverse majority, or forces into law an act of which the people disapprove. The English Parliament goes to the people as often as the Government, in any of its proposed measures, fails of a majority. The suffrage is constantly enlarging, and the rights of labor are almost as carefully guarded by the laws of England as by ours.
England's treatment of Ireland has been harsh, severe, unjust; and yet even there the spirit of a larger liberty in the interest of the Irish tenant, approaching state socialism, compels the landlord to sell his land whether he wants to or not, at a price fixed by others than himself, and enables the tenant to buy the land by the payment of his rent. Tolerance, justice, and individual liberty are daily developing throughout the British Empire, instead of diminishing.
And yet England has no written constitution. But she has institutions, free institutions, institutions similar to those we have here in America. It is the free institutions of England that preserve and increase the liberty of Englishmen, and diminish and destroy the authority of the monarch, who is now only the personification of the nation, the emblem of the Empire.
It is England's free institutions that, in Egypt, in Hongkong, in Ceylon, in the Malay states, in India, have given the people of those dark places some of the fruits of liberty to eat for the first time in all the strange history of the oppressed and wasted Orient. And it is our free institutions, as well as our Constitution, that in America make kings impossible, and have, for a hundred years, wrought for a larger liberty and a more popular government.
And it is the spirit of our institutions, as well as our Constitution, that will prevent the abuse of power by American authority in Porto Rico, Hawaii, the Philippines, or any other spot blessed by the protection of our flag. It is our free institutions, working now by one method and now by another, after the fashion of our practical race, that are establishing order, equal laws, free speech, unpurchasable justice, and "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" throughout our ocean possessions.
It is our institutional law, therefore, of which men should inquire who would know the meaning and the life of our constitutional law. We have heard from lawyer and orator of "the Constitution," "the letter of the Constitution," etc.; we have listened for "our institutions," and in vain. And yet, is it not written that "the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life"?
Is it not written that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God"? I respect not the expounders of constitutional law who have not learned the history of our institutions, of which the Constitution is the richest fruit, until that history is a part of their being.
I respect not that constitutional charlatanism that fastens its eye on the printed page alone, disdains our institutions as interpreting it, and refuses to consider the sources of that Constitution—the development of our present form of government for a century and a half from the old crown charters; the English struggle for the rights of man, regulated by equal laws which preceded that; the spirit of Dutch independence, Dutch federation, and Dutch institutions working upon that, and still back to the counsels of our Teuton fathers in the German forests in the dim light of a far distant time.
If a people adopt a written instrument, you must understand that people and their institutions before you understand the writing. You cannot separate a people and their history from a written constitution which is only a part of that history. The same words by one people may have a different meaning used by another people. Any writing can only be an index to the institutions of a people.
A people's institutions are the soul of the written and unwritten law. You must understand the French people, their history, and their institutions, before you can understand their written constitution. You must understand the American people, our history, and our institutions, before you can understand our Constitution.
I have thus enlarged upon our institutional law to give young men a hint of its possibilities. Before this century closes, the greatest law book in all the literature of jurisprudence will be produced upon the subject of our institutional law. The materials are as plentiful as the history of our race, the demand as insistent as our daily life.
Great law books all written! Nonsense. As yet we have had only the turgid descriptions of the toilsome and halting progress of justice through the ages—that is all we have had, compared with the noble volume that will be written, giving mankind the high, clear, and simple thinking of a greater Blackstone and a wiser Kent. It may be that this generation will produce this immortal judicial author; it may be that you, young man, are he. At least one thing is sure—the work is there waiting for the workman.
But if you do not feel equipped for this monumental effort, there are other phases of the law more imminent, if not so comprehensive, in each of which there is opportunity and demand for original work.
For example, it is clear to all that the laws of marriage and divorce must be made rational and uniform throughout the Nation; that the laws respecting corporations are inappropriate, inadequate, and unjust, both to corporations and to the public—that they do not measure up to the present complex conditions; that the laws respecting commercial paper need to be systematized.
It is absurd, too, that a farmer living on one side of an imaginary state line which separates his farm and the state in which it is located from that of his neighbor living on the other side of the imaginary line in another state, should have to deal with his neighbor as if he were a foreigner in a foreign land and under foreign laws.
Again, the multiplication of decisions on all subjects has reached a point where practise by precedent, to be exhaustive and thorough, has become practically impossible; and so the problem that confronted the Roman emperors, and terminated in the Pandects of Justinian, is now demanding immediate solution at the hands of American legislators, lawyers, and jurists.
So, you see, my ambitious young friend, that by no means all has been done in the law, and that what has been done is so bulky, unorganized, and confused, that even to reduce, rationalize, and systematize it is the greatest task of all. The trouble will therefore be with yourself, and not with conditions, if you remain an underling in this great profession.
Take literature—take imaginative literature. More can be said on its possibilities than on those of the law—and I enlarged upon the unexplored fields of the law merely to outline the immensity of the great things yet to be done in the law's domain. Is it not plain that the great novel of modern society is yet to be written? The contest between human nature and the complex machinery of our industrial system, and the mastery of human nature over the latter, present a theme such as Homer, or Vergil, or Dante never had.
The world awaits this genius! If you are not he, but talented in that direction, there are a thousand phases of American life that are of permanent historic value, which are rapidly passing away forever, and need to be perpetuated by literature and art.
In poetry, the master singer of modern days has not yet appeared. There have been faint signs of him, a suggestion of him, an indistinct prophecy of him, in nearly all of the world's singers for a hundred years. Some day he will come. It may be soon, and then he will sound that note which shall again thrill the hearts and again turn heavenward the eyes of men all round the world.
The point I am making is that the great things in poetry have not all been done. On the contrary, it is the same old cry the world has heard since Homer. Until Shakespeare wrote, it appeared, to those who had no vision, that the immortal things in literature had all been done. But these immortal things and things not immortal, things permanent and things temporary, were only food and material for Shakespeare.
Literature, then, has only been furnishing the materials—the timber—for the structure that is yet to be built. But the timber is noble in dimension, and they must be giants who use it. If you are a giant, your task awaits you.
"It is nonsense to talk of any great war in which this country will ever be engaged," said a wise and experienced public man to me one day, in discussing our future. "There is no place in the world for distinguished service by an American soldier. He can wear his uniform; he can study his tactics; he can be a warrior of the ball-room; but, after all, he is only a kind of policeman."
This conversation occurred some years ago. The fallacy of this conservative (shall we not say short-sighted, for sometimes they are mistaken for one another) man's conclusion has been revealed by recent events. And these events are only an index of similar possibilities. Not that we want war; not that it is desirable; not that it should not be avoided, if possible; but that the movement of the pawns by Events on the great chess-board of the world and history may force us to war, no matter how unwillingly.
It may be that in the ultimate outcome, to use a double superlative, "a parliament of man and federation of the world" will be established which shall divide and distribute commerce as railroads are now said to agree on division of business and equality of rates.
But before such a noble condition arises there will surely be vast and destructive conflicts, unless the temper, nature, and attitude of men and nations change; and, if they do occur, no one but a fanatic of reaction imagines for one instant that we shall be able to keep out of them.
So that not all the battles have been fought, not all the strategy thought out. And if you are a soldier and mean business, you need not despair of the possibility of winning one of the highest of honors given man to win—the honor of fighting for your country and of dying for your flag.
The Russo-Japanese War has demonstrated that military science is as much more complex and difficult to-day than during our Civil War, as it was then more complicated than in the time of battle-ax and lance. The recent conflict in Asia shows that it is as important to get wounded men cured and back on the firing line as it is to punish the other side. A nation that would now enter into armed conflict without a general staff or some similar body of men would be hurling its soldiers, however brave, to certain death.
And yet Von Moltke, Germany's greatest captain, originated the modern general staff; and the United States, with all of our American progressiveness, had no general staff at all until Secretary Root prevailed upon Congress to provide one. These general staffs plan, during the long years of peace, every possible conflict. They map out with absolute accuracy every imaginable field of operations in the country of every possible enemy; they equip the general in the field with information on all subjects, perfect to the smallest detail.
Japan's general staff has been preparing day and night for the present war for every month of every year of an entire decade. Oyama's victories were ripening in the brain of this modern Attila for ten long years. Von Moltke had thought out the conquest of France years before fate blew the trumpet that set the tremendous enginery of his plans in motion. Yes, but these men kept thinking, thinking.
Nobody heard them saying that all great wars had been fought. Perhaps they did not know whether all wars had been fought or not; but they knew this: That if any future wars were to be fought, those wars would be bigger than any conflict that had gone before, and that their armies would have to be handled with greater precision, and their tactics would have to be more daring than even those of Napoleon, or Hannibal, or Cæsar.
Very well, the Franco-Prussian War did come. The Russo-Japanese War did come. And when the time for these dread duels between peoples arrived, those men were in the saddle. Battles whose red desperation have made the world's historic combats look small, have within a year taught all men that the art of war requires as much original thinking as it did when the Corsican overwhelmed the muddled military minds of Europe, weakened and palsied by the belief that nothing more was to be learned in warfare.
Manchuria's awful lesson teaches you, young man, that the profession of arms, dreadful as it is honorable, holds out to you all the possibilities by which every great captain of history made his name immortal.
"I think the statesmanship of Joseph Chamberlain is the most comprehensive and instructive since that of Bismarck," said a passenger on an ocean steamer to an Englishman of considerable distinction in the world of letters.
"I fail to see the statesmanship," said the latter; "will you kindly point it out?"
"Why," said the admirer of Chamberlain, "the British Empire needed unifying; it needed to be bound together by ties of sentiment, by all those means which consolidate a nation. Its connections were too loose. Chamberlain has, by the Boer War, begun its unification. Canadians have fallen on the same field with England's soldiers.
"Australians have poured out their blood as a common sacrifice for England's flag. The empire has been knit together by a common heroism, a common sacrifice, a common glory, and a common cause. It should not be hard to induce all portions of the empire to unite on a great scheme of parliamentary representation. I call that great statesmanship."
"Yes, indeed it is," said the English litterateur, "but Joseph Chamberlain never had such a thought."
The point of the conversation is that, whether Mr. Chamberlain had this thought or not, the materials for the thought existed. The conditions for this really constructive statesmanship were there. They awaited the hand of the master. Conditions of equal magnitude exist in half-a-dozen places in the world. Russian development of Siberia and seizure of Manchuria are one.
It had for several years appeared to me that Manchuria was the point about which the international politics of the world would swirl for the next quarter of a century. So certain did this seem, that I hastened to this great future battle-field in the year 1901; and while the diplomats of all the nations, including our own, scoffed at the possibilities of war between Russia and Japan, the certainty of that mighty contest could be read in the very stars that shone above Manchuria, in the very Japanese barracks, on every Japanese drill-ground.
Settlement of this tremendous dispute will call for larger statesmanship than the world has seen for half a century. The movements of all the powers at the present crisis, and, indeed, their entire Oriental policy, are of the most solemn concern to the Republic not only for the immediate moment, but even more for the future.
This is especially true of Japan; for, with cheap labor, rare aptitude for manufacture, and propinquity of position, the Island Empire now becomes the most formidable competitor for the trade of China.
And China is the only—or at least the richest—unexploited market where American factories and farms can, in the future, dispose of their accumulating surplus. England almost monopolized China's coast markets until, recently, Germany began rapidly to overhaul her. But Japan will, in the near future, distance both. American interests in the Far East are vital even now; and they are only in their beginning. We cannot longer be indifferent to any statesmanship that involves the commercial development of Asia. Solution of the great problems which the Russo-Japanese war has stated, and the resultant steps thereafter taken, are of keenest interest, and may be of most serious import, to the American people.
It is very possible, as I pointed out in "The Russian Advance," that Japan will attempt the reorganization of China. Indeed, that development is quite probable. That is certainly Japan's plan and ideal. Any one of a half dozen courses may be adopted. And, I repeat it, any one of them may present the gravest of situations to American statesmanship. As I write it is quite sure that Russia is beaten on the field. Think now, young man, of the immensity of the statesmanship required right now, which five years ago everybody would have declared impossible and absurd.
Especially will Japanese dominance of the Orient, military and commercial, upon which Japan is determined, bring us Americans face to face with a new set of conditions, requiring the highest order of careful thought, the clearest, firmest announcement of national policy. Do not fear, young man, lest all of this be over before the time has come for you to play your part on the stage of human affairs. The new problems which the whole Orient will propose to the entire world, and particularly to America, will last for a century at least.
Indeed, it is probable that our relations with the East will become and remain one of the leading subjects of American statesmanship as long as the Republic endures. For that matter, you may go further, and say that the great human question of modern times is the meeting face to face of Oriental and Occidental ideals, of the white and yellow theory of life and morals, and the gradual destruction of one by the other, or their mutual modification and adjustment.
But we are getting into deep waters now. That is the point I am making. They show that, dive you ever so deep, young man, present-day statesmanship has depths which not even the plummet of imagination has yet been able to sound. And can we doubt that to-morrow's national and world problems will be deeper still?
There are three or four great international questions for this Republic to solve on this Western hemisphere, the working out of any one of which means immortality for the statesman who does it.
Of course, the great industrial and sociological questions are the profoundest of all. The world has been at work on these since men arranged themselves into organized society. But the incredibly swift evolution of modern business itself seems to be hastening the time when some satisfactory solution of these master problems must at least be begun.
So that, if you really have the material of a statesman in you—the stuff that thinks out the answer to great questions—there is a field before you compared with which the opportunities of Hamilton and Washington and Jefferson almost seem small, leviathan as those opportunities were and masterfully as those great men improved them.
The editor of one of our big modern newspapers gave it to me as his opinion that the art of producing a newspaper is as much in its infancy as is the science of electricity. "The yellow journal," said he, "is an evolution, just as trusts in their deeper significance are an evolution. We have had the didactic editor; he did his work and has passed away. We are now having the editor who deals with facts—'cold facts,' as Dickens would say—but, in his turn, he is only a part of the general evolution. There is not an editor in this country, no matter what his own views may be as to his own paper, who does not know, and in his heart admit, that the ideal paper is yet to be produced."
Excellent and even wonderful as the public press of to-day is, the above is the opinion held by the great mass of men; and it is the correct opinion. I mean what I say when I use the words "excellent and wonderful" as applied to newspapers. To me the newspaper is a daily astonishment. What we are all in search of is fresh and vital thought and suggestion; and no one can acquire the art of newspaper reading without getting, each day, one or many new points of view on the world and its great human currents.
Each one of our metropolitan papers is at enormous outlay to get strong, capable men—young men with new minds and old men with wise minds. It is simply out of the question for these men, working together, to bring forth a product that does not have in it some remarkable thing—some new point of view, some fact which your most careful research has not disclosed to you.
I remember an instance in my own experience. There was a subject to which I had given some years of off-and-on study. I felt that at least the facts had been accumulated. All that remained was to deduce the truth from these facts. But an editorial on this subject in a notable daily paper brought out a salient fact which none of the books had mentioned, and yet which, when one's attention was called to it, was so apparent that it really ought to have suggested itself. Yet all the speeches of the specialists on this subject, and all of the volumes, had failed to note it.
Some vigorous young mind on that paper had discovered it in studying the elementary factors of the problem itself. But this is digression. I am simply calling your attention to the fact that there are opportunities for you to be greater in the world of journalism than Greeley, or Raymond, or Bennett, or Bowles, or Dana, or any of the extraordinary men that have illumined the whole science of journalism by their intellect, accomplishments, and character.
Electricity is a mysterious force which excites not only all the speculation but all the mysticism in man. I contemplate its manifestations—equally deadly and vital—with feelings of wonder and awe. I always search for an electrician and listen to his stories of the mysterious power with which he deals. One of the greatest of them said to me last year:
"No, we really know nothing about it, after all. We have managed to do a great many things with it. We have learned some of its properties, but it holds fast its inner secrets. The great universe of electrical discovery has hardly been entered." But electricity is not the only modern mystery.
Take photography, that wizard-like science. The man who, fifty years ago, would have predicted the moving picture which has already become commonplace to us, would have been rejected as a madman. Tele-photography is almost as remarkable as the moving picture. Color-photography will yet be reduced to perfection. The chemists are constantly astounding us with suggestions so remarkable that they are weird.
Luther Burbank creating new species of plant life, Max Standfuss doing the like with insects, make the Arabian Nights commonplace and dull. Think of the Roentgen rays! Think of the achievement of the wonderful young Italian! Marconi's invention seems uncanny, so impossible does it appear even when you watch his magic instrument at work.
In the laboratories of Europe and America investigations are this very moment being made into Nature's securest secrets. The mystery of to-day will be to-morrow's accepted and commonplace truth. One seizes one's head and closes one's eyes in bewilderment at the possibilities of science in every direction.
All the great inventions, all the great discoveries, made! How like the egotism of the infinitesimal mind of the human race that thought this!
If all the great inventions and discoveries have been made, man has already mastered all of the laws of God's universe, and applied them practically to all conditions and substances in existence. How absurd!
The field of invention and scientific discovery is like that strange and awful manifestation known as the "Milky Way." We see it with our naked eye—numberless stars and a pale, growing blur around and behind them, and we childishly call it the "Milky Way."
That miracle called the telescope is invented; we look again, and there are more and new stars—but, still farther on in the infinite depths, the blur of light. Higher and higher goes the power of telescope after telescope, but all that they reveal is a bewildering infinitude of more new stars—and beyond that again the "Milky Way."
This is an old and commonplace illustration, I know very well; but it exactly represents the possibilities of new and vast inventions, of strange and priceless discoveries, wherever you turn your eye.
The only question is whether you have the eye. The conditions are there to be discovered—begging for discovery. If you have vision and do not produce a great invention, the fault is not in the universe about you. Of course, if you haven't vision, do not attempt it. Darius Green and his flying machine are ridiculous always.
What I have said of invention, war, statesmanship, literature, journalism, and the law, may be applied to every conceivable field of human thought. I merely wish to impress upon the great mass of young Americans that not only have all the great things not been done, but that the greatest of great things are yet to come.
If you have greatness in you, do not be discouraged. "It is up to you."
Do not be discouraged, either, at failure and rebuke and defeat. If you are going to attempt great things, remember you are starting on a trunk-line. Very well; all continental trunk-lines have tunnels here and there. But these tunnels are black with only temporary gloom.
It is only the short roads that do not run through the mountains. Tunnels—flashes of darkness—are certain to those who travel far. Think of this—you who have troubles, difficulties, discouragements.
But if on finding your limitations, as suggested in the first chapter of this book, you discover neither inclination nor talent for these great ventures in thought or action, do not, as you value happiness, and even life, attempt great things; for your failure has been written before you were born.
Do the thing which is in proportion to yourself; and if that thing is not great, still you have served yourself, your family, your country, and the world, just as much as he who has done a larger thing, and you deserve just as much credit for doing it.
None of us controlled the color of our eyes or the texture of our brain. If we could have done so, perhaps we should have been different from what we are. And we cannot change the nature and relations of things now; for "which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature"?
But be your deeds little or big, one thing you can do and be: You can be a man and do a man's work, heart gentle, and fearless feet on the earth, but eyes on the stars. And to be a MAN, in our American meaning of that word, is glory enough for this earthly life. Be a man, be you street-sweeper or the Republic's President, and know that emperor on throne of gold can be no more, and is lucky if he is as much.
At one of the great official receptions at the White House one night some years ago, a group of two or three gentlemen were observing the swirling throng, with its ambitions, its jealousies, its brief flashes of happiness, its numberless and infinitesimal intrigues, its atmosphere of jaded, blasé, and defeated expectations.
One of the group was perhaps the greatest master of that mere political craft and that management of men for the ordinary uses of politics, as we employ the word, that the country has yet produced. He was a sage of human nature. It was this quality, combined with many other qualities, and the existence of certain conditions, that made him the power that he was. From a practical point of view, what he said about men was always worth while.
"No, I don't consider him effective," said this great politician when asked his opinion of a certain very prominent man in public life, who had just entered, and who was chatting and occasionally laughing with some boisterousness. "Really, he talks too much. Not that he betrays his confidences; not even that he annoys, for what he says is always bright; but—he talks too much; that is all."
"It's a pity," said one of the group, who was a famous Washington newspaper correspondent, "that that man has never married."
He was talking of another very strong professional and political man who had reached more than forty years of age and was still a bachelor. "He needs the finer sense and restraining influence of woman in his life."
The remark of the first speaker instantly recalled an observation made several years ago by another very astute—even great—politician in the minor and narrow sense of that word. He was at that time a candidate for the nomination for President, and, according to all the tricks of the game of politics, should have won it; but he failed, as, it seems, with two exceptions, all mere politicians have failed in securing that most exalted office in the world.
This political candidate actually knew the leading men in each state, and in each part of each state—so careful and thorough had been his purely personal preparation. "How is Mr. ——, of ——, in your state? I hope he is well. He is a keen and persistent man," was his inquiry of and comment on a certain man. And he asked questions concerning three or four. Among them he said: "And Mr. ——, of your state; how is his health? He is very brilliant, yes, even able, but—he drinks too much."
Three generalizations may justly be deducted from the above discursive talk. They are practically the ones with which for many years I have been impressed—namely, that that man will be of very little present use, and of no permanent and ultimate value to the world or to himself, who drinks too much, who talks too much, or who thinks he can get along without the ennobling influence of women.
Let us take them one at a time. A young man could hardly do a more fatal thing than to fall into the habit of taking stimulants. This is no temperance lecture. It is merely a summary of suggestions, by observing which the young man may avoid a few of the rocks in his necessarily rugged pathway to success. I emphasized this in two preceding chapters and shall reiterate it again and again; for I am trying to say a helpful word to you; and all your talents will be folly and all your toil the labor of Sisyphus if you companion with the bottle.
The belief sometimes entertained, that it is necessary to drink in order to impress your sociability upon companions who also drink, is utterly erroneous. One day a dinner was given by one of the great lawyers of this country in honor of another lawyer of distinction, and among those present was a young man of promise who at that time was considerably in the public eye.
The dinner began with a cocktail, and the young man was the only one of the brilliant company who did not drink it. He was not ostentatious in his refusal, but merely lifted the glass to his lips and then set it down with the others. Nor did he take any wine throughout the dinner. The incident was noticed by only a few, and those few chanced to meet at a club the next day. The young man was the topic of their conversation.
"Well," said the great lawyer, "a young man who has enough self-restraint to deny himself as that young man did, and who at the same time is so scintillating in speech, so genuine and original in thought, and so charming in manner, has in him simply tremendous possibilities. I have not been so impressed in a long time as I was by his refraining from drinking."
This incident is related simply to show that a young man loses nothing in the esteem of those who themselves drink by declining to join them.
I repeat, this is no temperance lecture. I know perfectly well that some of the strongest men in business and politics and literary life in this country take wine occasionally at the dinner-table and elsewhere. Nor are they to be condemned for it. But this paper is meant to contain vital suggestions to young men with life's possibilities and difficulties before them.
It is so entirely uncertain whether you have the will in you to keep your hands very firmly on the reins of the wild horses of habit. It is so utterly unknown to you whether you may not have inherited from an ancestor, even very remote, an inflammable blood which, once touched by stimulant, is ever after on fire.
You risk too much, and you risk it needlessly. My earnest advice is not to try it. I will leave to the doctors the description of its effect on nerve and brain, and to common observation the universal testimony to the peculiar blurring of judgment which stimulant of any kind usually produces. Besides, it is a very bad thing for a young man to get a reputation for.
I have concluded, after very careful observation, that there is a mighty change being wrought in this habit, and that a great majority of the young men who are now the masters of affairs are abstainers. In short, drinking will soon be out of style, and very bad form.
Consider these illustrations: I know a young man who is just forty years of age and who is practically the head of one of the greatest business institutions in the world. He has worked his way to that position by ability, character, and untiring industry, from the very humblest position in his company's service. He is a total abstainer.
I know another, also just forty, who is president of one of the largest banks in America. When I first knew him, very many years ago, he occupied the position of cashier in a comparatively obscure financial house. Merit alone has placed him where he is now. He had no friends when he began, no "influence," hardly an acquaintance. But he had himself, clear brained and steady pulsed—and that was enough. He, too, does not touch stimulants of any kind.
Or, to get out of that class of occupations—one of the most successful political "bosses" in this country, a man who makes politics his profession, and who, just past forty, is in control of the political machine of one of our great cities, rose to that position, by ability alone, from the occupation of a street-car driver. He also is a total abstainer.
Not only do any of these three young men not drink—also they neither smoke nor swear. And they are types of twentieth century success. The "stein-on-the-table-and-a-good-song-ringing-clear" kind of man is out of date.
You see, so nerve-consuming are all the activities of modern life that only the very highest types of effectiveness succeed. Brain of ice, hand of steel, heart of fire, clear vision, and cold, steady grasp of the lever and masterful, and yet a passionate relentlessness—these are necessary. Stimulants destroy effectiveness; that is the trouble with them. And you need every ounce of your power. Do not let the people who talk "moderation" to you persuade you otherwise. We find many such in what is called "society," where the taking of wine moderately is universal.
I repeat that you cannot tell what your powers of resistance are. Unfortunately, many of the world's noblest characters have had nerves so finely wrought and brain so vivid that a single drop of stimulant started a perfect conflagration within them. One of the ablest men this country has ever known, when questioned by a friend as to what had been the greatest pleasure of his life, said: "The greatest 'pleasure' of my life is the delirium of intoxication"; and then he went on to say how sure he was that if the fires of desire had never been lighted in his blood he would have done better work.
All of us can recall such examples in our own experience. Don't risk it, therefore, young man. Why take the chance? for even if you discover no taste for it, you will find that there is nothing in it, after all. Why this hazard of your powers, just to find out whether you can resist? It is a one-sided gamble, is it not? Even fools refuse to play when they know that the dice may be loaded.
Don't think that you have got to be a great public man, or a big politician, or a celebrated scientist, or distinguished in any line, before these practical truths apply to you. You must build your whole life upon them from the very beginning. For example, I know a man who for several years has been exercising ever-increasing power in his State. He selects his lieutenants with greatest possible care, consulting with trained advisers about the qualifications of each man to whom any political work is to be trusted.
Very well. The first question asked always is, "Does he drink?" If he does, that fact strikes a black line through his name. He is no longer considered, no matter how capable and energetic he may be otherwise. For, ordinarily, another man just as effective can be found who does not have this defect.
This entire chapter could be taken up with these instances; and the increasing number of them, the remarks I have quoted of that master of worldly wisdom at the White House reception, the observation of the great politician about the strong man of his party in another state, fairly justify, I think, a suggestion to young men that as a practical, worldly, and business matter they had better use no stimulants, either alcoholic or others, for others are just as bad, or worse, than the former. Indeed, alcohol and other various forms of wines and other like stimulants have had a disproportionate amount of abuse heaped upon them. Let the young man look out for all kinds of stimulants.
Weariness, exhaustion even, is no excuse. If you are tired, take a rest. If your natural energy is not equal to your task, take a lesser task. There is nothing more melancholy than the spectacle of men, young or old, attempting things out of proportion to themselves. It is hard to gage what is beyond one's natural powers, it is true. But if you feel the need of stimulants to keep you up to the level of your work, that is at least one unfailing test of your limitations. I must repeat, for the third time, that all of this advice—no, let us say suggestion—is made only as a matter of practical help to young men trying to get on in the world.
It is the mere business side of the question at which we are looking now, for it is business itself that is working this change. People do not want a lawyer whose brain is not clear, a doctor, dealing with life and death, whose perceptions are not steady and natural. People refuse to ride on trains hauled by engineers who may be drinking, and so on. It is all a matter of cold-blooded business.
The conditions and requirements of modern society are coming to demand greater and greater sobriety from those in responsible places, no matter whether at the head of a party or a railway train. The spiritual phase, the medical view, the moral, social, and economic sides of the question I would not, under any circumstances, assume to deal with. On all these there are various views, none of which would I undertake to weigh or judge.
And excessive talking! Don't indulge in that either. Politicians are not the only ones who think interminable talk an indication of weakness. I knew a liveryman who was also a great horse-trader. Said he: "I shy clear across the road when a tonguey man tries to deal with me."
Of course, reserve in speech, particularly in conversation, is so ancient and favorite a subject of the giver of advice that it is now commonplace. Literature is full of it. Shakespeare nearly reaches the crest of it in the advice Polonius gave to his son. But here, as always, the very climax is the Bible.
"Let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."
This is not advice to taciturnity. It is not a suggestion that you should be stolid and wooden in manner and speech. The reason of it is to prevent you from making mistakes or betraying yourself by foolish and unnecessary utterance. My suggestion to young men that they practise reserve in speech is merely a practical and almost a commercial matter. Do not be "a man full of talk," as Zophar cuttingly puts it.
There is a loss of authority that comes from incessant talking. There is a surrender of dignity, which is one of the most influential things in man's attitude toward and in connection with his fellows. Silence, or rather reserve, gives a kind of emphasis to what you do. To a great many, also, there is an index of your character in the quantity of your speech. It is so refreshing to meet a man from whom you draw the feeling that he is as deep and as full as the seven seas.
This will never be drawn from any man whose talk is continuous, no matter if he is an encyclopedia of information and a battery of brilliancy. A man may be as comprehensive and profound as the oceans; the point is, that other men will not easily be made to believe it. His continued sparkle suggests a champagne bottle with its limitations, rather than the illimitable deep. A good deal of this is unjust, and comes from the universal egotism of mankind. Most men like to feel themselves both brilliant and copious; and they want you to listen to them. Very well—you do it; you listen to them.
There is a suggestion of wisdom in reserve of speech which may be altogether out of proportion to the facts. Are we not all continually quoting with approval Sir Walter Raleigh's line:
Many a silent man is as shallow as he is silent—but he may be as deep also; and because he gives no sign as to whether he is deep or shallow, and because his silence offends no one and is not in the way of those who want to talk, he is given credit for profundity.
We all know the story of the worn-out, world-tired club-man who said he was looking for a man who was really wise, really experienced, and really deep. At last he felt that he had found him in another club-man—very handsome, especially full of forehead and broad between the eyes, perfectly groomed, and silent to the point of stillness. The Searcher for a Wise Man tried to engage him in conversation on a hundred different subjects. His attempts met with failure; which made a still deeper impression.
But at a certain dinner one night, where both of these men were guests, the club-man arranged to have the silent one sit next to him. Every attempt was still a failure. Nothing more than "Yes" or "No" could be gotten from the deep one. But when shrimps were brought on, the supposedly great man colored with pleasure, and said: "Hey, shrimps! Them's the dandies!" The illusion dissolved.
I do not know whose story this is, but it illustrates my point so well that I appropriate it. In other words, your permanent attitude, your continuous impression on the world, is one of your assets, just as your ability is, just as your character is; and discretion in speech is a matter of great moment as affecting this impression. I use the term continuous attitude and impression, because it is a small matter what your temporary and transient impression is. If it becomes necessary, talk to any extent required, no matter what the immediate impression may be. But it is the stream and continuity of your life of which I am now speaking.
The three distinguished successes cited a moment ago in financial and political life do not drink, smoke, or swear. Mark that latter fact—they do not swear. I repeat again that this is no Sunday-school lecture, but the plainest kind of a talk on practical methods of success. The money you will lay aside in bank, or the property you will accumulate, is one kind of an asset; but the respect of men, the confidence of a community, is an asset also, and a more valuable one. Very well. An oath never yet created respect for any man who used it.
Even men who are habitually profane always feel a contemptuous yet pitying regret when they hear a foul word fall from a mouth they expected to be clean. You want people you live among to believe in you. They are not going to believe in you spontaneously. You are on trial every day of your first few years among them. As you go in and out among them they acquire a confidence in you which finally grows into an unquestioning faith. Beware how you start, in the minds of men whose good-will you must have, a question as to whether their good opinion of you is justified or not. Profanity will create such a question.
I remember having heard the most promising young lawyer in a certain town swear in the presence of a conservative old banker who had begun to "take the young man up" and was giving him some business. The gray-bearded man of money made no comment, but I noted a slight lifting of the eyebrows. That young man had unconsciously started a question of himself in the mind of the man whose business friendship he was seeking. How did that question run?
"What's this? An oath! I'm surprised. How does this young fellow happen to swear? Perhaps I do not know as much of him as I ought to. I must look into his antecedents more closely. What kind of training has he had? What other bad habits has he had, and has he now? Yes, certainly I must look into this young man a little more before I trust him further."
That is how the question ran in the old man's mind. And nobody can tell whether he ever did completely trust the young fellow again or not. A subconscious inquiry was doubtless always present whenever that young man's work was mentioned. No matter whether the old banker's caution was justified; no matter whether this sensitiveness to the language which the young man used is reasonable or not—the young man needs all the respect and confidence he can possibly get. It is a good thing for him to have the admiration of those among whom he dwells, but their respect and confidence he must have. He cannot get along without that. Let him be clean of speech, therefore.
This growing prejudice against profanity is not unreasonable. Oaths indicate a poverty of language—of ideas. The thief, the burglar, the low-class criminal everywhere, expresses all his emotions by oaths. Are they angry? They swear. Surprised? They swear. Delighted? They swear. Every conception of the mind, every impulse of the blood, is expressed in the narrow and base vocabulary of profanity. So that the first thing an oath indicates is that he who uses it has limited intellectual resources, otherwise he would not employ so commonplace a method of expressing himself.
Then, too, we quite unconsciously connect the swearing man with the class which habitually employs profanity as the staple of its talk; and so he who uses an oath in our presence automatically sinks to a little lower level in our esteem. We cannot help it. We do not reason out the why and wherefore of it, but we know it is so.
Do not justify yourself by talking about Washington raging at Monmouth, or Paul Jones boarding the Serapis, or Erskine climaxing his greatest effort for justice with an appeal to the Father of the universe. These men all swore, and swore mightily on those occasions, but their oaths were oaths indeed.
Liberty or tyranny, life or death, justice or infamy, hung in the balance, and their oaths were prayers as earnest as ever ascended to the Throne. But that is no example for you, young man. If you will agree never to use an oath until you have the provocation of treason, and your country thereby endangered, as Washington had at Monmouth, there are a million chances to one that the Sacred Name will never pass your lips in vain.
I knew a man in the logging-camps twenty-eight years ago. He there acquired that lurid speech which was the language by which oxen, horses, and men themselves were in those times driven in those rude camps of rugged industry. My friend did not remain a logger. He became a lawyer and achieved some distinction and success, but he could not shake off the habit of swearing. He would find himself "ripping out an oath," as the saying is, on the most surprising occasions—and they were brilliant oaths, splendid, flashing, coruscating oaths. His talk was a very tropic jungle of profanity.
So great were his abilities, so unceasing and intense his energies, and so upright his life, that he succeeded in spite of this defect. But this strong, fine man told me that this low habit of speech delayed his progress constantly. A few years ago, in a great crisis in his life, he was suddenly able to break the spell, and I think he is now prouder of his clean words and that mastery of himself which their use indicates than he is of any single success he has achieved or of any single honor he has won.
But the newspaper correspondent said the truest thing of all when he suggested that the really capable and apparently successful lawyer and politician, observed in the passing throng, had made a mistake in not having had the influence of woman in his life. There is positively nothing of such value to young men—yes, and to old men, too—as the chastening and powerful influence for good which women bring into their lives.
This is the universal opinion, too. All literature voices it. Wilhelm Meister and The Old Cattleman alike declare it. "There is no doubt about it," exclaims the sage of Wolfville, "woman is a refinin', an ennoblin' influence. * * * She subdooes the reckless, subjoogates the rebellious, sobers the friv'lous, burns the ground from onder the indolent moccasins of that male she's roped up in holy wedlock's bonds an' pints the way to a higher and happier life. And that's whatever!" And The Old Cattleman even includes the raucous "Missis Rucker—as troo a lady as ever baked a biscuit."
I should be the last man in the world to suggest that a young man should keep himself "tied to his mother's apron-strings," as is the saying of the people; and this is not what I mean when I again earnestly suggest that he keep as close to his mother's opinions, teachings, and influence as the circumstances of life will permit.
The same thing, as already pointed out, may be said with reference to a man's wife—even more strongly, if possible. But the conversation and opinion of any good woman are, as a practical matter and a measure of worldly wisdom, simply beyond price. She is wise with that sublimated reason called "woman's instinct."
There is, too, a human quality kept alive and growing in your character by woman's association and influence that, as a matter of business power in meeting the world and its problems, is far and away beyond the value of the craft of the trickiest gamester of affairs, business, or politics who ever lived.
It is a saying of the farmer folks among whom I was raised that such and such a person "has principle," meaning that the person so described is upright, trustworthy, judicious; that such a person's attitude toward God and man and the world is correct.
Women "have principle" in the sense in which that term is used by the country people. They will keep you true to the order of things—to the constitution of the universe. They will do this not so much by preaching at you, as by the influence of their very personality.
The man who has gotten out of touch with womankind is not to be feared. He is to be pitied rather than feared, for he is out of harmony with the world—he is disarmed. No matter how large his mind and great his courage, he is neutralized for all natural, properly proportioned, and therefore enduring, effort.
I know a physician who, still young, has reached the head of his profession in this country. Sundays and the evenings with his wife and children are not enough for him; he takes Wednesday also. Precisely this same thing is done by the young captain of finance and affairs whom I described first in this paper as being a total abstainer. This is not done for the rest it gives these men; or, if it is done for that, it is not the greatest benefit they get out of it.
They come back to their work with clearer and stronger conceptions of human character and of truth in the abstract and the concrete, with which all men, no matter what their profession or business may be, must deal. They have a new tenderness, a larger tolerance, a broader vision of life and humanity, and therefore of their business, which is merely a phase of life and affairs.
This particular suggestion would appear to me to be unnecessary were it not for the fact that I see the increasing number of men who think that their business or profession or career is the important thing, and that in these the influence of woman is not essential. They are frightfully wrong who think so. I am trying to give practical suggestions to young men. Therefore I emphasize the practical value of the influence of women.
Remember that most great men have been discovered by women, and that nearly all of them have had her for their inspiration.
The value of woman's society on character and intellect is above that of the conversation of the most learned and experienced men. It is the elemental and natural in her that give a perspective of life and its larger purposes that man alone cannot possibly secure.
The sum of practical wisdom for young men is to keep close to the elemental principles. I think Marcus Aurelius says, in his philosophy, "Let your principles be few and elemental." And here again the Bible puts it even better than this glorious old Stoic, directing us "to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."
Above all things, do not lose your confidence in your fellow men. You are not a very great man if you are not great enough to stand betrayal. You would better have your confidence broken a dozen times a day than to fall into the attitude of universal suspicion.
Keep your sweet faith in our common humanity, do not excite your nerves and intellect by intoxicants, keep close to the saving and elevating influence of women, and then—go ahead and work as hard as you please, be as keen as you choose, fight as savagely as you like, and there is no power that can stay your conquest of the world; for the very nature of things themselves and the whole order of the universe are your allies and your servants. But do not get the impression that you are to be maudlinly "good." Oh, no! that is as fatal almost as wickedness.
You are an American—remember that; and be proud of it, too. It is the noblest circumstance in your life. Think what it means: The greatest people on earth—to be one of that people; the most powerful Nation—to be a member of that Nation; the best and freest institutions among men—to live under those institutions; the richest land under any flag—to know that land for your country and your home; the most fortunate period in human history—to live in such a day. This is a dim and narrow outline of what it means to be an American. Glory in that fact, therefore. Your very being cannot be too highly charged with Americanism. And do not be afraid to assert it.
The world forgives the egotist of patriotism. "We Germans fear God, and nothing else!" thundered Bismarck on closing his greatest speech before the Reichstag. It was the very frenzy of pride of race and country. Yet even his enemies applauded. If it was narrow, it was grandly patriotic. It was more: it appealed to the elemental in their breasts.
Love of one's own is a universal and deathless passion, common not only to human beings but also shared by all animate creation. Be an American, therefore, to the uttermost limit of consciousness and feeling. Thank God each day that your lot has fallen beneath the Stars and Stripes. It is a sacred flag. There is only one holier emblem known to man.
You have American conditions about you every day, and so their value and advantage become commonplace and unnoted. To any young man afflicted with the disease of thinking life hard and burdens heavy in this Republic, I know of no remedy equal to a trip abroad. You will find things to admire in France; you will applaud things in Germany; you will see much in other lands that suggests modifications of American methods.
But after you have traveled all over the earth; after you have seen Teutonic system made ten times more perfect in Japan and Slav patience outdone in China—in short, after you circle the globe and sojourn among its peoples, you will come home a living, breathing, thinking Fourth of July.
Of course I do not mean that we are perfect—we are still crude; or that we have not made mistakes—we have rioted in error; or that other nations cannot teach us something—we can learn greatly from them, and we will. But this is the point as it affects you, young man: Among all the uncounted millions of human beings on this earth, none has the opportunities to make the most of life that the young American has.
No government now existing or described by history gives you such liberty of effort, or scatters before and around you such chances. No soil now occupied by any separate nation is so bountiful or resourceful. No other people have our American unwearied spirit of youth. The composite brain of no other nation yeasts in thought and ideas like the combined intellect of the American millions.
For, look you, our institutions invite every man to do his best. There is positively no position which a man of sufficient mind, energy, and character cannot obtain, no reward he cannot win. Everybody, therefore, is literally "putting in his best licks" in America. In other countries there is in comparison a general atmosphere of "what's the use?"—a comparative slumberousness of activity and effort.
Then, again, the American people are made up of the world's boldest spirits and the descendants of such. The Puritans, who gave force, direction, and elevation to our national thought and purpose, were the stoutest hearts, the most productive minds of their time. Their characteristics have not disappeared from their children.
The same is true, generally, but of course in an infinitely lesser degree, of most of our immigrants. Usually it is the nervy and imaginative men who go to a new country. Our own pioneers were endowed with daring and vision. They had the courage and initiative to leave the scarcely warmed beds of their new-made homes and push farther on into the wilderness.
The blue-eyed, light-haired Swede who, among all in his little Scandinavian village, decides to come to America, the Irishman who does the like, are, for the most part, the hopeful, venturesome, self-reliant members of their communities across the sea. The German who turns his face from the Fatherland, seeking a new home half across the world, brings us some of the most vigorous blood in the Kaiser's Empire. Such men believe in better things—have the will to try to get those better things.
Thus, the American Republic is an absorbent of the optimism of the world. We attract to ourselves the children of faith and hope among the common people of other nations. And these are the types we are after. They are the most vital, the least exhausted. I should not want "the flower" of other nations to immigrate to our shores. Nature is through with them, and they must be renewed from below. Do not object to human raw material for our citizenship. One or two generations will produce the finished product.
What says Emerson:
The purpose of our institutions is to manufacture manhood.
Make it impossible for the criminal and diseased, the vicious and the decadent, to come to us; bar out those who seek our country merely because they cannot subsist in their own, and you will find that the remainder of our immigrants are valuable additions to our populations. Don't despise these common people who come to us from other lands.
Don't despise the common people anywhere on earth. The Master did not go to the "first citizens" for His followers. He selected the humblest. He chose fishermen. A promoter of a financial enterprise does not do this. But the Saviour was not a promoter; He was teacher, reformer, Redeemer.
Then, too, consider our imperial location on the globe. If all the minds of all the statesmen who ever lived were combined into one vast intellect of world-wisdom, and if this great composite brain should take an eternity to plan, it could not devise a land better located for power and world-dominance than the American Republic.
On the east is Europe, with an ocean between. This ocean is a highway for commerce and a fluid fortress for defense, an open gateway of trade and a bulwark of peace.
On the west is the Orient, with its multitude of millions. Between Asia and ourselves is again an ocean. And again this ocean is an invitation to effort and a condition of safety.
The Republic is thus enthroned between the two great oceans of the world. Its seat of power commands both Europe and Cathay.
On the north is slowly building a great people, developing a dominion as imperial as our own. The same speech and blood of kinship make certain the ultimate union with our vital brothers across our northern frontier.
To the south is a group of governments over whom the sheer operation of natural forces is already establishing a sort of American oversight and suzerainty.
Mark, now, our harbors. Behold how cunningly the Master Strategist has placed along our coasts great ports from which communication with the ends of earth naturally radiates.
Consider, too, the sweep of the ocean's currents in relation to this country. Observe the direction and effect of the Gulf Stream, and of the great current of the Pacific seas upon our coasts. Follow on your map the direction of our rivers, and see how nicely Nature has designed the tracery of the Republic's waterways.
In short, ponder over the incomparable position of this America of yours—this home and country of yours—on the surface of the globe. When you think of it, not only will your mind be uplifted in pride, but you will sink to your knees in prayerful gratitude that the Father has given you such a land, with such opportunities, for your earthly habitation.
Attempt now to estimate our resources. Your mathematics are not equal to it. The available productivity of the Mississippi Valley exceeds the supply of all the fertile regions of fable or history. The country watered by the Columbia or the Oregon surpasses in wealth-producing power the valleys of the Nile or the Euphrates in ancient times.
Our deposits of coal and iron already under development are equalled nowhere on earth except perhaps by the unopened mines of China; and greater fields of ore and fuel than those which we are now working are known positively to exist within our dominions. The mere indexing of America's material possibilities well-nigh stuns credulity.
But all these are definite and physical things, things you can measure or weigh. More valuable than all of these combined are our American institutions and our exalted National ideals.
You can meditate all day on the reasons for pride in your Americanism, and each reason you think of will suggest others. The examples I have given are only hints. Be proud of your Americanism, therefore—earnestly, aggressively, fervently proud of your Americanism. I like to see patriotism have a religious ardor. It will put you in harmony with the people you are living among, which, I repeat, is the first condition of success.
Also it puts a vigor, manliness, mental productivity into you. Make it a practise, when going to your business or your work each morning, to reflect how blessed a thing it is to be an American, and why it is a blessed thing. Then observe how your backbone stiffens as you think, how your step becomes light and firm, how the very soul of you floods with a kind of sunlight of confidence.
There was a time when each one of that masterful race that lived upon the Tiber's banks in the days of the Eternal City's greatest glory believed that "to be a Roman was greater than to be a king." And the ideals of civic duty were more nearly realized in that golden hour of human history than they had ever been before—or than they have ever been since until now.
Very well, young man. If to be a Roman then was greater than to be a king, what is it to be an American now?
Think of it! To be an American at the beginning of the twentieth century!
Ponder over these eleven words for ten minutes every day. After a while you will begin to appreciate your country, its institutions, and the possibilities which both produce.
Realizing, then, that you are an American, and that, after all, this is a richer possession than royal birth, make up your mind that you will be worthy of it, and then go ahead and be worthy of it.
Be a part of our institutions. And understand clearly what our institutions are. They are not a set of written laws. American institutions are citizens in action. American institutions are the American people in the tangible and physical process of governing themselves.
A book ought to be written describing how our government actually works. I do not mean the formal machinery of administration and law-making at Washington or at our state capitals. These multitudes of officers and groups of departments, these governors and presidents, these legislatures and congresses, are not the government; they are the instruments of government.
The people are the government. What said Lincoln in his greatest utterance? "A government of the people, for the people, and by the people," are the great American's words. And Lincoln knew.
The real thing is found at the American fireside. This is the forum of both primary and final discussion. These firesides are the hives whence the voters swarm to the polls. The family is the American political unit. Men and measures, candidates and policies, are there discussed, and their fate and that of the Republic determined. This is the first phase of our government, the first manifestation of our institutions.
Then comes the machinery through which these millions of homes "run the government." I cannot in the limited space of this paper describe this system of the people; the best I can do is to take a type, an example. In every county of every state of the Nation each party has its committee. This committee consists of a man from each precinct in each township of the county. These precinct committeemen are chosen by a process of natural selection. They are men who have an aptitude for marshaling their fellow men.
In the country districts of the Republic they are usually men of good character, good ability, good health, alert, sleepless, strong-willed. They are men who have enough mental vitality to believe in something. When they cease to be effective they are dropped, and new men substituted by a sort of common consent. There are nearly two hundred thousand precinct committeemen in the United States.
These men are a part of American institutions in action. They work all the time. They talk politics and think politics in the midst of their business or their labor. Their casual conversation with or about every family within their jurisdiction keeps them constantly and freshly informed of the tendency of public opinion.
They know how each one of their neighbors feels on the subject of protection, or the Philippines, or civil service, or the currency. They know the views of every voter and every voter's wife on public men. They understand whether the people think this man honest and that man a mere pretender. The consensus of judgment of these precinct committeemen indicates with fair accuracy who is the "strongest man" for his party to nominate, and what policies will get the most votes among the people.
This is their preliminary work. When platforms have been formulated and candidates have been chosen, these men develop from the partizan passive to the partizan militant. They know those who, in their own party, are "weakening," and by the same token those who are "weakening" in the other party.
They know just what argument will reach each man, just what speaker the people of their respective sections want to hear upon public questions. They keep everybody supplied with the right kind of literature from their party's view-point.
They either take the poll of their precinct or see that it is taken; and that means the putting down in a book the name of each voter, his past political allegiance, his present political inclinations, the probable ballot he will cast, etc.
Not many of these men do this work for money or office. There are too many of them to hope for reward. Primarily they do it because they are naturally Americans, because they have the gift of government, because they like to help "run the show." They are useful elements of our political life, and they are modest. They seldom ask anything for themselves.
They do require, however, that their opinions shall be taken into account as to appointments to office made from their county, and of course they make their opinions felt in all nominating conventions. Without these men our "American institutions" would look beautiful on paper but they would work haltingly. They would move sluggishly. They might even rust, and fall to pieces from decay.
This much space has been given to the political precinct committeeman because, as I have said, he is a type. He is the man who sees that the "citizen" does not forget his citizenship. This great body of men, fresh from the people, of the people, living among the people, are perpetually renewed from the ranks of the people.
All this occurs, as has been said, by a process of natural selection. The same process selects from this great company of "workers" county, district, and state committeemen—county, district, and state chairmen. And the process continues until it culminates in our great National committees, headed by masterful captains of popular government, under whose generalship the enormous work of National and state campaigns is conducted.
Very well. If you appreciate your Americanism, young man, show it by being a part of American institutions. Be one of these precinct committeemen, or a county committeeman, or a state committeeman, or a worker of some kind. If you do not, a bad man will; and that will mean bad politics and bad government.
You see, this whole question of good government is right up to you. You are the remedy for bad government, young man—you and not somebody else, not some theory. So be a committeeman or some sort of a "worker" in real politics. Help run our institutions yourself, or, rather, be a part of our institutions yourself.
If you have neither the time nor aptitude for such active work, at least be a citizen. That does not mean merely that you shall go to the polls to vote. It does not even mean that you shall go to the primaries only. It means a great deal more than that.
At the very least be a member of an active political club which is working for your party's success. There are such clubs in most wards of our cities.
They are the power-houses of our political system. Party sentiment finds its first public expression there—often it has its beginnings there in the free conversations which characterize such American political societies. You will find the "leaders" gathering there, too; and in the talks among these men those plans gradually take form by which nominations are made and even platforms are formulated.
These "leaders" are men who, in the practical work of politics, develop ability, activity, and effectiveness. There is a great deal of sneering at the lesser political leaders in American politics. They are called "politicians," and the word is used as a term of reproach, and sometimes deservedly. But ordinarily these "leaders," especially in the country districts of the Republic, are men who keep the machinery of free institutions running.
The influence of no boss or political general can retain a young man in leadership. Favoritism may give you the place of "local leader"; but nothing but natural qualities can keep you in it. The more we have of honest, high-grade "local leaders," the better.
Whether you, young man, become one or not, you ought at least to be a part of the organization, and work with the other young men who are leaders. But be sure to make one condition to your fealty—require them to be honest.
"I have no time for politics," said a business man; "it takes all my time and strength to attend to my business."
That means that he has no time for free institutions. It means that this "blood-bought privilege" which we call "the priceless American ballot" is not worth as much to him as the turning of a dollar, or even as the loss of a single moment's personal comfort.
"Come down to the club to-night; we are going to talk over the coming campaign," said one man to another in an American city of moderate size and ideal conditions.
"Excuse me," was the answer; "we have a theater party on hand to-night."
Yes; but while the elegant gentleman of society enjoys the witty conversation of charming women, and while the business man is attending to his personal affairs and nothing else, the other fellows are determining nominations, and under the direction of able and creative political captains shaping the policies of parties, and in the end the fate of the Nation.
Of course that is all right if that is your conception of American citizenship. But if this is going to be "a government of the people and by the people," you, as one of the people, have got to take part in it. That means you have got to take part in it all the time.
Occasional spasms of violent civic virtue amount to little in their permanent results. They only scare bad men for a day or two. Their very ardor soon burns them out. The citizen has got to do more than that—he has got to take an every-day-and-every-week interest in our civic life. If he does not, our brave and beautiful experiment in self-government will surely fail and we shall be ruled not even by a trained and skilful tyrant, but by a series of coarse and corrupt oligarchies.
In ancient Israel a certain proportion of the year's produce was given to the Temple. In like manner, if popular government means anything to you, you have got to give up a certain portion of your time and money to being a part of this popular government.
Just this is the most important matter in our whole National life. Recently there died the greatest master of practical politics America has produced. Firmly he had kept his steel hand upon his state for thirty years. A dozen times were mighty efforts made to break his over-lordship. Each time his resourcefulness, audacity, and genius confounded his enemies. But finally that undefeated conqueror, Death, took this old veteran captive.
He left an able successor in his seat of power, but a man without that prestige of invulnerability which a lifetime of political combat and victory had given the deceased leader. "Here," said every one, "is an opportunity to overthrow the machine." Within a few months an election occurred—not a National election, but one in which the "machine" might have been crippled.
But, mirabile dictu, the "good people," the "reformers," the "society" and "business" classes, did not come out to vote. They not only formed no plans to set up a new order of things, they did not even go to the polls. Yet these were the descendants of the men who founded the Nation and who set free institutions in practical operation.
This shows how American institutions, like everything else, have in themselves the seeds of death if they are not properly exercised. When the great body of our citizens become afflicted with civic paralysis, it is the easiest thing in the world for the strong and resourceful "boss," by careful selection of his precinct committeemen and other local workers all over his state, to seize power—legislative, executive, and even judicial. It has been done more than once in certain places in this country.
Where it is successful, the Republic no longer endures. The people no longer rule; an oligarchy rules in the name of the people. And where this is true, the people deserve their fate. And so, young man, if you do not expect this fate to overtake the entire country, you have got to get right into "the mix of things."
You, I say, not some other man, but you, you, you. You—you yourself—YOU are the one who is responsible. Quit your aloofness. Get out of any clubs and desert all associations which sneer at active work in ward and precinct. Do not get political locomotor ataxia.
It was a fine thing that was said by a political leader to a singularly brilliant young man from college who, with letters of unlimited indorsement from the presidents of our three greatest universities, asked for a humble place in the diplomatic service. He wanted to make that service his career.
"I like your style," said the man whose favor the young fellow was soliciting. "Your ability is excellent, your recommendations perfect, your character above reproach, your family a guarantee of your moral and mental worth. But you have done nothing yet among real men.
"Go back to your home; get out of the exclusive atmosphere of your perfumed surroundings; join the hardest working political club of your party in your city; report to the local leader for active work; mingle with those who toil and sweat.
"Do this until you 'get a standing' among other young men who are doing things. Thus you will get close to the people whom, after all, you are going to represent. Also this contact with the sharp, keen minds of the most forceful fellows in your town will be the best training you can get for the beginning of your diplomatic career."
"Now let me tell you this," said President Roosevelt to this same young man: "You may have a small under-secretaryship; but let me tell you this," said he; "do not take it just yet. You are only out of college. Take a postgraduate course with the people. Get down to earth. See what kind of beings these Americans are. Find out from personal contact.
"If you belong to exclusive clubs, quit them, and spend the time you would otherwise spend in their cold and unprofitable atmosphere in mingling with the people, the common people, merchants and street-car drivers, bankers and working men.
"Finally, when you get your post, do as John Hay did—resign in a year, or a couple of years, and come home to your own country, and again for a year or two get down among your fellow Americans. In short," said he, "be an American, and never stop being an American."
That is it, young man—that is the whole law and the gospel of this subject. Be an American. And do not be an American of imagination. You cannot be an American by seeing visions and dreaming dreams. You cannot be an American by reading about them. Professor Munsterberg's volume will not make you an American any more than a study of tactics out of a book will make you a soldier.
It is the field that makes you a soldier. It is marching shoulder to shoulder with other soldiers that makes you a soldier. It is mingling with other Americans that makes you an American. Our eighty millions will make you American. Keep close to them. The soil will make you American. Keep close to it.
Utilize your enthusiasms. Do not neutralize them by permitting them to be vague and impersonal. Be for men and against men. Be for policies and against policies. And remember always that it is far more important to be for somebody and something than to be against.
There is an excellent though fortunately a small class of citizens in this and every other country who are never for anybody but always against somebody. Frequently these men are right in their opposition; but their force is dissipated because they are habitually negative.
I know of nothing better for a young man's character than that he should become the admirer and follower of some noted public man. Let your discipleship have fervor. Permit your youth to be natural. But be sure that the political leader to whom you attach yourself is worthy of your devotion.
Usually this will settle itself. Public men will impress you not only by their deeds, words, and general attitude; but also through a sort of psychic sense within you which illumines and interprets all they say and do, and makes you understand them even better than their spoken words.
This subconscious intelligence which the people come to have of a public man is seldom wrong.
Somehow or other the people know instinctively those who really are unselfishly devoted to the Nation's interest. In the end they never fail to know the man who is honest.
This instinctive estimate of the qualities of mind and soul of public men will probably select for you the captain to whom you are to give your allegiance. Be faithful and earnest in your championship of him. In this way you make your political life personal and human.
You give to the policies in which you believe the warmth and vitality of flesh and blood. And, best of all, you increase within yourself human sympathies and devotions, and thus make yourself more and more one of the people who in due time, in your turn, it may be your duty to lead, if the qualities of leadership are in you.
This matter of leadership among public men is becoming more and more important, because personality in politics is meaning more every day. Obeying generally, then, your instinct as to the public men whom you intend to follow, subject your choice to the corrective of cold and careful analysis.
It is probably true that the greatest danger of our future is the peril of classes, and inseparably connected with classes the menace of demagogy. The last decade has revealed signs that the demagogue, in the modern meaning of that word, is making his appearance in American civic life.
Such men always seize the most attractive "cause" as argument to the people for their support. They are quite as willing to pose as the especial apostles of righteousness and purity as they are to enact the character of the divinely appointed tribunes of patriotism. Whatever the political fashion of the day may be, your demagogue will appeal to it. It makes no difference what methods he finds necessary to use, so that he can achieve the power and consequence which is his only purpose.
If the ruling tendency be for honesty, these men will make that serve their purpose, or commercialism, or expansion, or war, or peace, or what not. There is no conviction about them. Sometimes such a man will represent himself as a great conservative. He does this not because he is conservative (sometimes he does not even know what that word really means), but because he thinks by associating his name with this word he can capture the "solid" elements among the people, business men and the like.
These illustrations can be multiplied without limit. They are as numerous as the "issues" which can be used to influence the people. Beware of the demagogue in whatever guise he presents himself. Look out for the play-actor in politics. Whether he wear the cloth of the pulpit, the uniform of the soldier, the garment of the reformer, he is always the same at heart, never for the people, always for himself; never for the Nation and the future, always for power and the present.
Make sure, then, that the captain whom you elect to follow is above all other things sincere. Insist upon his being genuine. See to it that he is intellectually honest. I do not mean that he should be honest in money matters alone, or in telling the truth merely. I mean that he should be square with himself, as well as with you and the world. When a public man is honest and in earnest, you know it—know it without knowing why.
It is safe to follow such a man as this even when you do not agree with all of his public views. You know that he is honest about them; and a man who is honest within himself will change his views, no matter how dear they may be to him, when he finds that he is mistaken about them. The first and last essential of the men who are to voice the opinion and enact the purposes of the American people is an honesty so perfect that it is unconscious of itself.
"He does not deserve the least credit for being square," said Dr. Albert Shaw, the eminent editor, scholar, and publicist, concerning a public man; "he was born that way. His mind is so upright that he cannot help saying what he thinks. It would be impossible for him to tell you or the people a falsehood. He is truth personified. His honesty works as naturally as his heart beats, quite free from the influences of his will."
That is the kind of a political leader you ought to attach yourself to, while your young days last and your political and civic character is forming. But follow no man who is striving merely to advance his personal interests. What are they to you? Be sure that the man you choose for your chief is trying to do something for the Nation rather than for himself.
Of course you will belong to some political party. That is all right. Be a partizan. And be a hearty partizan while you are about it. But do not be a narrow one. Never forget that parties are only modes of political action. They are not sacred, therefore. So never mistake partizanship for patriotism. Remember always that your only reason for belonging to any particular party is because you find that the best method of being an American.
When your party is fundamentally wrong on some absolutely vital question of principle which affects the fate of the Republic, do not hesitate to leave it. It has ceased to be of any use to you. Because your political association has been with certain men is no reason at all for continuing it. Or, rather, it is purely a sentimental reason, like that which makes the companionship of friends so dear, or the comradeship of soldiers so lasting.
But do not break away from your party merely because you think it wrong on minor questions. If you think its general tendency right, stay loyally with it through its common mistakes. Try to prevent those mistakes within the party. Fight like a man to make your party take the right course on every question, big or little, as you see it.
But when you are unable to convince the majority of your party associates that they are wrong; when they think that you are the person who is wrong, fall in line with them and march in the ranks, battling even more vigorously than you would had you prevailed. If the majority were right and you were wrong, you ought to help execute their views. If the majority were wrong and you were right, the earlier that fact is demonstrated the better for you and everybody.
So keep step with your rank and file, whether your party does what you think it ought to do or not on matters of passing moment. But I repeat, on large issues which come to your conscience—on questions which you think affect the destiny of the Nation, you are a traitor to the Republic if, in spite of your convictions, you stand by your party and against your country.
But to break with your party on minor issues is foolish. A certain class is coming to regard leaving one's party as a smart thing. But it is not a smart thing. Quitting your party does not necessarily mean independence. It may mean that, and then again it may mean stupidity; and still again it may only mean a "sore head," as the political phrase has it.
In a country as old as ours there finally comes to be in politics a fundamental division. There is the constructive and progressive on the one side, and the destructive and reactionary on the other side. These are merely the centripetal and centrifugal forces of nature at work in human society. Usually it is found that one of these parties is naturally the Governing Party, and the other one is naturally the Party of Opposition.
Not only your judgment but your instincts will tell you, young man, to which one of these forces you belong. Each has its uses. You can well serve your country in either organization. It is merely a question as to whether you are in character and temperament a builder, a doer of things, or a critic of things done and the doing of them. Each is necessary.
I have no quarrel with your partizan creed, no matter what it is. That is your business. But whatever you are, be National. Be broad. Do not be deceived by catchwords. Remember that this is a Nation in the making. When the first railroad was built across the boundaries of states it modified old-time interpretations of our Constitution.
Telegraph and telephone wires, steam and electric railways, all the means of instantaneous communication which this wizard-like age of ours is weaving from ocean to ocean, are consolidating the American people into a single family.
Natural conditions and the ordinary progress of industry and invention are making old methods inadequate and unjust. So keep abreast of the growing Nation in your political thinking. Solve all American problems from the view-point of the Nation, and not from the view-point of state or section. Consider the American people as a People, and not as a lot of separate and hostile communities. Be National. Be an American. Know but one flag.
Whatever party you belong to, and whatever your views on public questions, you will never make a profound mistake as long as you keep your civic ideals high and pure. Believe in the mission of the American people. Have faith in our destiny. Never question that this Republic is God's handiwork, and that it will surely do His will throughout the earth.
Understand that we are not living for to-day alone. Keep in mind the future—the tasks, opportunities, and rewards of which for the American people will make our large performances of to-day seem like mere suggestions. Strive to make yourself worthy of this Nation of your ideals.
And of all your ideals, let the Nation itself be the noblest. Fear not lest you pitch your thought too high for American realities and possibilities. No single mind can scale the heights the American people will finally conquer. No single imagination can compass the American people's combined activity, power, and righteousness even at this present moment.
We have defects and deficiencies; fear not, they will be remedied and supplied. We have perplexities and problems; fear not, they will be untangled and solved. We have burdens, foreign and domestic; fear not, we will bear them to the place appointed, and, at the hands of the Master who gave us those burdens to carry, receive the reward for the well-doing of our work, and, strengthened by our labor, go on to heavier and nobler tasks which He will have ready and waiting for us.
For this Nation of ours is here for a purpose. He did not give us our liberty for nothing, or our location or our physical resources, or any element of our material, intellectual, or spiritual power. No, the Father of Lights has thus highly endowed us that we may do the very things which are at our hands to-day, and those other and greater things which will follow. It is for us Americans to solve the problems that confront us now, and the still harder and deeper ones that we do not yet behold; and we will solve them, never doubt. Live up to this ideal of your Nation's place and purpose in the world, young man. Be an American.
There has been much counseling of the young man respecting the world. But what of counseling the world respecting the young man? Do not men and women riper in years and richer in experience need to have their attention called to the young man and the potentialities of him. He faces the world with vigor, courage, and faith—this stout-hearted, hopeful young fellow with To-morrow and all its possibilities coiled up in his brain and heart.
The young man is the future incarnate. His soul is the abiding-place of uplifting ideals, and the world—that vast collective individuality to which you and I belong—too often dispels those sensitive enthusiasms by its neglect or disapproval. Do we not find in our daily speech a certain cynicism toward youth? Does not our skeptic wisdom paste the label "illusions" over the word "ideals" written on the young man's brow? Is there not a refusal to recognize young manhood's force until it compels recognition by sheer mastery?
If so, it is a fault that the world should remedy. Not that the young man should not prove himself before the world accepts him; not that he should not win his spurs before he is knighted. No one insists that he shall "make good" more than I do. But in the testing of him, let us give him the help of our kindly attention. Let us lend him the encouragement of our applause as he rides into the lists.
Countless young men have been needlessly discouraged by the indifference of the occupied and the sneers of the calloused. Let us not be so chary of our sympathy. Faith in most young men is a much safer hazard than infidelity. For all things strong and pure and helpful to the world may be possible of those young fellows who must, in any event, very soon possess the earth.
So let not the frost of the world's unconcern fall upon young manhood's unfolding powers. Let us beware how we extinguish the feeblest of youth's idealisms. Let us check not the onset of his knight-errantry. And the world does these things—not purposely, not even knowingly, but thoughtlessly. Many a young man has had his life's work kept back and the ardor of it chilled by rebuff at the beginning.
Many another has had his faith in God and humanity and the effectiveness of the eternal verities in the world's work enfeebled and even shattered by what he felt was the world's disbelief in them. No statistician can collect and classify the instances of young lives impaired by the heedlessness and insensibility of the mature to the beatitudes which glorify all youth.
This attitude of the world toward young men is not caused by any distrust of them or by any undervaluing of the high qualities of the true, the beautiful, and the good which the young man brings to it. Let no young man get the idea that the world of society and affairs is "down on him," to borrow the phrasing of the people again. Let him never for a moment feel that this world of experience and present power does not believe in him.
For the world does believe in you, young man. It is not "down on" you. It is busy, that is all. It is engaged with the numberless and pressing concerns of its from-day-to-day existence. It is forgetful, no doubt, but its apathy does not go deeper than that.
With this caution to the young man that he may not misunderstand what is here written, I appeal to men and women, in whose faces the years have etched the lines and wrinkles of knowledge and understanding, to give more attention to young men; to encourage the nobilities of them; to reach down a helping hand from your secure station on the heights to him who struggles upward toward you.
It will not hurt you, sir or madam, to closely watch for signs of developing power in the young men of your acquaintance and to cultivate that growing strength by your active and aggressive faith in the young giant whom you have thus discovered.
Men and women there are who search minutely for unknown powers in plant-life, and by infinite pains in the use of that power, when found, evolve newer, higher, and better types of fruit and flower. And this is a good work. Men and women there are who sweep the infinitudes of the skies that they may find a star hitherto unseen, or steal unawares upon a hidden planet or a flying comet swiftly, yet stealthily, emerging upon the field of the telescope's vision.
And that is a good work, too—yet fruitless, for the immensities of the universe will never be measured, nor the mysteries of the skies be solved, nor the stars give up their secrets. Most of us are on some quest which requires the very infinitesimalities of patience, quests that are grand and quests that are foolish, searchings that are useful and explorations that are frivolous.
But the noblest of all prospecting is for strength and high purpose and thoroughbred quality among the young manhood of our Nation. For any one who helps some young man to make his life righteously successful has enriched humanity more than he who reveals a Klondike to the uses and the greed of the clans of trade.
Yes; and he or she who, in the search for strong minds and pure hearts among young men, discovers to the world a great man has in that achievement wrought immortality for himself and herself, while rendering to mankind a service like that of a Columbus or a Pasteur. For Columbus discovered a new continent; but what of the man or woman who while looking through all the immaturities of his youth "discovers" a Columbus.
Thus would I direct the divining keenness of our men of affairs, so swift and sure to detect advantages in business, to the young men who wait at their outer gates for recognition and service. I would invite the world, whose hearing is so sensitive to the material things of commerce, to the exalted and eternal subject of human characters and human destinies as they are developing daily, hourly, all about us. In a word, I ask the ear of the world for its young men.
I read in some sermon—I think it was by Myron Reed—that the most pathetic thing in life is that a man of either thought or action must spend two-thirds of his time getting a hearing. "During this time," said the preacher, "the man of thought speaks his immortal word; the man of action does his immortal deed; all the time the World is refusing to listen or to heed; but finally, when the fires of genius have burned low, when the great thoughts have been uttered and the great works wrought, then it is willing to give ear and eye to the necessarily feebler acts and thoughts of the great man's later days."
It refuses to come near the fire when in full glow; it comes and puts its hands into the ashes after the flame has died out and the ashes themselves are growing cold. Do we not find ourselves worshiping echoes and ghosts in the persons of men who once wrought splendidly, and denying the real forces of the present hour until they compel recognition by their overwhelmingness; and then, having exhausted themselves, become in their turn ghosts and echoes.
It is all right to honor those who have done big things and are "living on their reputations"; but it is all wrong to deny to those young men who are doing and will do big things, now and in the future, full and glad recognition of their power and possibilities.
The first thing that the world should remember about the young man who is confronting it, asking his daily bread of it, is the inestimable value of the qualities of freshness, of innocence, of faith, of confidence, of high honesty, of Don Quixote courage which the young man brings to it. These are qualities which in human character are worth all the wisdom of the market-place many million times multiplied. They are the qualities which, in spite of itself, keep the world young and tolerable.
The young man comes to the world fresh from his mother's knee. The Lord's Prayer is still in his mind; his mother taught it to him. The glorious fable of Washington and the cherry-tree is still in his heart; his mother taught it to him. A beautiful honor that makes him very foolish on the stock exchange and causes the shrewd ones to say, "He will know more after a while"—the splendid honor that makes him throw over what the world calls "advantages"—still glorifies his soul; his mother taught him that honor. The confidence that God is just, and that success is surely his if he will but do right, still beautifies him like the rose-tinted clouds of morning; it is the influence of his mother's teaching.
Let the world understand that these qualities with which the mother labors to endow her child, from the time the blessing of maternity is hers to the time the bright-eyed young fellow steps out from the old home, are more valuable to the world itself than all its gold-mines, all its scientific discoveries, all its electric railroads, all its games of politics, all its commerce. "Il mondo va da sé," said a cynical Italian statesman—"the world goes by itself." But it does not.
If the world were not each year renewed, refreshed, glorified by the magnificent honor and fine expectancies of its young men, it would soon become simply fiendish in its sordidness, selfishness, and baseness. Let the world, then, preserve these fine qualities at which it too often idly sneers; not for the young man's sake—no, that is not to be expected—but for its own sake.
Let the world turn to the Master and think of what he said: "Except ye become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." I am pleading for the tolerance of what, by a certain class of men, are called impracticable business defects in youthful character, which in reality are the vital blood by which the world is kept morally alive.
The first attitude that the world ought really to take toward the young man is charity. How parrot-like one is! Charity! "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." I defy any man who talks about the practical affairs of this life to get away from the Bible.
Let the world then have charity for the young man. Let it realize that for the particular moment there is nothing conceivable so helpless as he. He is just as helpless as, in time, he will become irresistible. I have already earnestly advised every young man, as a practical matter, to do at least one thing each day not only free from any selfish motive, but from which no possible material benefit could come to himself.
And now this is the reverse side of that shield. Let the world give to the young man a little start, a little help, a little foothold, a little encouragement. And I repeat that by the world I mean the great mass of men who have ceased to be young men, or who, still young in years, have achieved places of power—those who hold the reins of affairs and business, of industrial and social conditions.
I heard of a banker once who saw to it that at least once each week he hunted up some young man, bravely struggling, bravely fighting, and gave him some little assistance—a piece of business, an opportunity, needful and kindly counsel—something that moistened his parched lips, dry and hot from running the hard race that all youth must run for success. I said to myself: "There is something in reincarnation; the soul of Abou-ben-Adhem is dwelling in that banker's heart."
For years the greatest pleasure of my life has been that young boys have come to me from all over my State to talk about how they should proceed in life's battle. You, too, may have the pleasure of helping young men. But beware how you do this, saying in your heart, "I will help this young man, and when he succeeds I will reap my reward." Such a selfish thought will utterly poison your advice, deflect your moral vision, distort your intellectual perceptions.
That man who advises a young man with the thought that some day he will be able to harvest personal advantage from that young man's success, has probably by that very thought been rendered incapable of giving sound advice or profitable help. Help the young man for his sake, for the sake of the great humanity of which he is a fresh and beautiful part, for the sake of that abstract good which, after all, is the only reward in this life worthy the consideration of a serious man.
I heard not long ago of a brilliant and crafty young politician who was and is an earnest champion and helper of a very successful and highly practical man in public life. He had acquired some unfortunate traits. He was suspicious, distrustful. He feared betrayal here, a Judas there. The caution increased his cunning but was impairing his character. The man to whose fortunes he was attached called him in, in the midst of a great political battle on which the fortunes of that man depended, and said to his young lieutenant:
"Success in this fight is important to me, but it is not so important as the impairing of your character which I see going on. You are becoming permanently distrustful, suspicious. You think one friend will fail us here, that that friend is untrue, that the other one may be influenced improperly. Very soon you will begin to suspect me, then you will suspect yourself, and then—then, you are utterly lost. Stop it. I would rather lose the fight than see your character become negative."
That man was right, and the attitude he took in his advice to the young man was right. Let the world quit encouraging young men to think that guile succeeds. Let it encourage the faith that nothing but the noble and the good really succeed in the end. Let every one point out to the young man confronting the world that it is not so great a thing after all to be "smart," not so great a thing after all to be capable with the little tricks of life, but that it is everything to be good and trustful and fearless and constructive.
It will not do for the world to reply that it does, in words, encourage these fine qualities of youth. It does not, except in formal and meaningless utterances—preachments that have not the vitality of individuality in them. Words are very little, almost less than nothing; but attitude and action are everything. The young man would not feel that he had to be "slick," or crafty, or cunning, if the world's attitude did not invite him to such a conclusion. It is the nature of young men the world over, and particularly of young Americans, to be open in life, direct in method, lofty in purpose, and fearless in action.
A very successful lawyer once told me the following—it illustrates my point: "I remember," said he, "that when I was a law student one of the most brilliant young men I ever met—one of the most brilliant young or old men I ever met—one day received a client of the firm with a luxury of attention and a sumptuousness of courtesy that deeply aroused my ignorant and rural admiration.
"When the consultation had been finished and the rich client had left the office, this young lawyer, who had bowed him out with a deft compliment which made the client feel that he was the point about which the universe was revolving, turned and said, as he went to his desk, 'There goes the shallowest fool and most stupid rascal in the state.'
"When asked how he could say such a thing after having treated the client with such distinction, he turned with a wink of his eye, and said: 'That is the way to work them. You don't know the world yet. Wait till you get on in the world; it will teach you how to handle them.'
"That young man had become thoroughly saturated with the opinion that Ferrers, in "Ernest Maltravers," is the type to be imitated—a character of crafty cunning, playing on the weaknesses of men. He had gotten his opinion from the apparent success of the tricks and sharp practises of the law. He had not seen the broader horizon above which only those who are as good as they are capable ever rise.
"It was a fatal method for him. He finally failed. It was a fatal method for at least two young students upon whom his ideals and influences fell with determining power."
Of course; and it is a fatal view of life for any young man to get. The young man who comes out from the ennobling influence of the American mother will not take this view if the world does not compel him to do so. The world, then, should not applaud any feat of smartness or cunning on the part of the young man. It should not wink its eye and pat him on the shoulder and say, "That was very 'smooth,' very 'smooth' indeed; I congratulate you."
The young man confronts the world with mingled courage and timidity. It is so vast. It seems so unconquerable. And yet he has been taught to believe that if he meets it with a high fearlessness he will conquer. That is what his mother taught him. Out of this thought and his nervous timidity combined comes what appears to the world to be a senseless courage, a foolish daring. He is very much afraid; he wants to make the world think he is not afraid; he has been told to put up a bold front—and men think him rash and adventurous. He is not—he is only trying to keep you from seeing how scared he is.
In the campaign of 1898 a young man with all of these qualities, and gifted with considerable oratorical power, was seeking an opportunity to get a little hearing. He had just graduated from college, had opened a law office, had never had the shadow or substance of a client, but he had that fresh confidence and the ability back of it which the world neglects until, finally, it is forced to accept it.
I secured for him an invitation to make some speeches in a neighboring State. He was delighted. He went, but returned wounded in spirit by the heedlessness of the State Committee and the indifference of the men of prominence who had refused to notice him. And yet the fine courage that dared take part in the great struggle just beginning was a quality which was more valuable to his party and to the world and to humanity, than all of the schemes of the men who rejected him.
It is this courage constantly injected into the veins of the world which, little by little, is lifting mankind up to a more and still more endurable estate. I shall never be able to perform a higher service than to light again, as I did, the fires of his confidence and young daring.
Let the world not suppose that by encouraging these great qualities of youth which it now heedlessly represses, and only too often kills, it will spoil the young man. The intrinsic difficulties of life are great enough to keep him within bounds, no matter how much encouragement he receives. The very nature of things, and the constitution of society as he comes to examine it in its concrete manifestations, will chasten his illusions.
The rarity of the air as he mounts upward in life will weight his wings at last. The limitations of Nature and of affairs will in themselves be all the chastisement he needs to correct abnormal hope, courage, faith, or honor—yes, even more than enough. Let the world, then—the men and women who have won their places in life—let them nourish the enthusiasms and the elemental "illusions" of youth wherever they see them.
After all, they are not illusions; they are the only true things in this universe. The houses that men construct will in time decay. The remorseless elements will rot the noblest trees down to the earth from which they grew. The laws that men make will lose their force and be succeeded by other statutes, equally temporary and futile. Reputations men build will vanish almost before they are made. Civilizations they erect will pass from their flowering into the seeds of future civilizations and be forgotten, too.
But the "illusions" with which the young man confronts the world at the beginning of his career are as everlasting as God's word: "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one little shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." The "illusions" of the young man—of the young American particularly—are the manifestations of that law, the eternal law of the eternal verities.
Let the world look to it, then, that the exalted qualities of youth which make it indiscreet, audacious, exhilarant—yes, and spotless, too—be not discouraged, repressed, destroyed; for these qualities are "the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men."
Speaking to the world of business and of society, I therefore plead for tolerance of all the fresh, clean, high, and splendid—absurd, if you will—"illusions" of the young man seeking his seat at the table where all men eat, and where all, at the end, must drink the same hemlock cup.
For if these "illusions" are destroyed and replaced with the wisdom of the serpent, Tennyson's "Locksley Hall" will, sure enough and in sad reality, be replaced by the "Locksley Hall Sixty Years After." Take the young man, then, by the hand, take him to your heart, and, instead of destroying, catch, if you can, some of the glory, the faith, the freshness, the "illusions" of his youth; remembering that Wordsworth uttered an ultimate note when he said:
And it is these clouds of glory that still surround the young man when he stands brave and sweet and full of faith, and with his mother's precious precepts and counsels ringing in his ears, before the great old world, wrinkled by its infinite centuries.
But you, young man, you for whom I am asking the world's helpful regard—when you read this do not go to pitying yourself. That is fatal. Do not get the notion that the world is not giving you your just due. If you have such an idea, thrust it instantly from you. If you think the world has downed you, up and at it again. If, a second time, it knocks you out, still up and at it again. And keep smiling. Never whine—you deserve defeat if you do that.
Be a "thoroughbred," as the expression of the hour has it. After "you conquer and prevail," you will find that the world has a kindly and even a loving heart. All you have to do is to keep in condition and keep fighting. And that ought to be pleasant to any male creature—what more can he want? Just go right ahead with faith in God, believing in all the virtues and keeping up your nerve. But if you get to pitying yourself, you are lost, and ought to be.
Furthermore, do not succumb to the fiction that there are fewer "chances" for young men now than there used to be. Never was there a period when there were so many opportunities as there are this very day—high-grade opportunities. They are for high-grade men—and that is what you are, is it not? If not, why not? The calls for men of fine equipment daily rise from every business, and are never satisfied.
And these calls are for young men, too. Indeed, it is not the young man, but the old and middle-aged man who has the right to complain. The exactions of modern business are discriminating in favor of the man under forty. There are calls for all kinds of men. But the fiercest demand is for first-class men. You have only to be a first-class man in order to be sought for by scores of firms and corporations—and on your own terms. No! it is not the fact that there are no chances for young men to-day. The chances are all around you.
Life has three tragedies: loss of honor, loss of health, and the black conclusion of men past middle life who think they have failed—played the game and lost. The young man starting out in life has my heart; but the man past fifty who feels that he has failed has my heart absolutely and with emphasis. Apparently he has so much to contend against—the onsweep of the world, the pitying attitude of those of his own age who have succeeded, and, over all, his secret feeling of despair. But the last is the only fatal element in his problem.
As a matter of fact, the man past middle life who has not achieved distinct success very possibly has only been "finding himself," to use Mr. Kipling's expression. Perhaps he has only been growing. Certainly he has been accumulating experience, knowledge, and the effective wisdom which only these can give. And if his failure has not been because he is a fraud, and because people found it out—if he has been, and is, genuine—it may be that he has been unconsciously preparing for continuous, enduring, and possibly great success, if he only will.
I should say that the very first thing for this man to do is to see that he does not get soured. That attitude of character is an acid which will destroy all success. Keep yourself sweet, no matter how snail-like your progress has been, no matter how paltry your apparent achievements. If you are already soured on men and the world, change that condition by a persistent habit of optimism. All death shows an acid reaction. Hopefulness is the alkaline in character.
Make "looking on the bright side" a habit. It can be done. Mingle with people as much as possible—especially with the young and buoyant and beautifully hopeful. Be a part of passing events. Read the daily newspapers. Form the habit of picking out the brighter aspects of occurrences. There is an astonishing tonic in the daily newspaper. When you read it, the blood of the world's great vitality is pouring through you.
I know a man who is now a millionaire, but who at the age of forty was without a dollar. He is now not over fifty-five. He had spent all those forty years watching for his opportunity—aye, getting ready for it. When it came, his beak was sharpened, his talons keen as needles and strong as steel, and he swooped down upon that opportunity like a bird of prey.
"No," said he, "I did not get discouraged. I was living, and my wife and children were living; and Vanderbilt was not doing any more than that, after all. I felt all the time that I was getting ready. I worked a good deal harder than I have since I achieved my fortune. Somehow, up to the time it came I had not felt equal to my chance; for I knew that my opportunity would be a large one when it came, and I knew that it would come. It did come."
Business men said for the first two or three years, "What a change of luck Mr. —— has had! But he is not equal to it. He has never accomplished anything heretofore."
Yes, but he had been getting ready. He had been saving vitality, building up character, indexing and pigeonholing experiences, accumulating and systematizing a long-continued series of observations and all the potentialities of intellect and personality out of which, when applied to proper conditions, success alone is forged.
And so he gathered to himself great riches, and the poor man of a few years ago is now—of course, of course, and alas! if you like—a member of one of the most powerful trusts in the country.
Get yourself into the current of Circumstance—"in the swim," as the colloquialism has it. A man of large experience and important achievement said to me not long ago: "I am afraid I am getting to be a back number." That was a distinct note of degeneration. If he thought so that thought was the best evidence of the fact.
Do not get it into your head that you are out of step with the times. That in itself will paralyze both intellect and will. It is an admission of permanent failure. No matter whether you think the changed conditions and methods of business, society, and affairs, which almost each day brings, are inferior or superior to the old conditions and methods or not, you must keep abreast of them; take in the spirit of them.
An attitude of protest against the progressive order of things may be heroic, but it is not practical or effective. These conditions and methods which make you feel like a "back number" may not be the best; if they are not, try to make them the best, if you will, but do not attempt to perfect them backward by returning to yesterday. The world is very impatient of apparent retrogression; it hurts its egotism.
"What! Go back to old conditions?" says the World. "Never! never! Progress, alone, for me!"
But sometimes it means motion, not progress; for true progress might possibly be a return to old and superior methods. No matter, I am speaking of your practical, personal, and material success now. I am not speaking to you as a reformer or as a teacher of the elemental truths. You are a searcher, past fifty years of age, after the flesh-pots. Very well, then. Do not run amuck of the world. Join in its progress, even if that progress seems to you to be unreal.
At the risk of iteration, I again urge constant mingling with people. It is from them that you must draw your success, after all. A man over fifty who feels that his life is a failure is apt to emphasize the outward manners and inward habits of thought of his earlier days, as he would, if he could, stick to the old styles and fashions of apparel of the days of his youth. To do the latter would be to call attention at once to his antiquity; but to retain his old mental attitude is antiquity indeed.
People are quick to see, feel, and know that you are in deed and in truth not of the present day. When they think that, you are discredited and at an unnecessary disadvantage. Therefore mingle with men. Don't withdraw into yourself. Don't be a turtle. Be an active and present part of society, not only that your whole mind and whole conscious being may be kept fresh and growing, but that people may not perceive the contrary.
Growing! Growth! It is only a question of that, after all. No man can ultimately fail who has kept himself alive, and therefore kept himself growing. If you find that you have ceased to grow, start up the process again. Make yourself take an interest in large and constructive things of the present moment in your city, county, state, and country, and in the world.
The mind and character of man are the two great exceptions to the entire constitution of the universe. Decay is the law that controls everything else except these; but thought and character need never decay. They may be kept growing as long as life endures. Who shall deny that the philosophers of India are right, and that mind and character may continue to grow throughout illimitable series of existences?
Only two classes of men are hopeless: those who think to prevail by fraud and the contrivances of indirection, and those whose minds and characters have begun to disintegrate, or degenerate, if you like the latter word better. There is every reason why character should each day get a truer bearing, why the mind each day should become more luminous, elevated, and accurate.
The Stoics said that even temperament might be given steadiness and poise by an exercise of philosophy and will, and the lives of many of them seemed to prove it. And if all this is true, your fifty years have given you an arsenal of power that is a considerable advantage over younger men, if you will but use it; and it is to point out some of the methods for its use, and some of the mistakes which I have observed men in your condition make, that this paper is written.
A great and natural desire of men such as those to whom this paper is addressed is to move from the places in which they have achieved no success to new locations, where, as they put it, they "can start life afresh." Do not do it. Such a course is, ordinarily, as fatal as it is alluring.
If you have been an upright man—and without this there can be no permanent success of any kind—your long residence in your community has put you to no disadvantage, but precisely the contrary. You have, during these years, secured the confidence of your community. They know you to be loyal, truthful, sober, steadfast, industrious. This popular faith in the elemental qualities of your character is the foundation of success, and usually it requires years to establish that.
You are at no disadvantage because the people do not have for you that admiration which the doing of things compels. The fact that your neighbors do not suspect your potentialities is really an advantage. If you have that righteous and permissible craft which every man should have, and if you take advantage of it, you can begin the work which will bring you success without that envy and competition, that friction of jealousy, which every man of acknowledged power arouses. But if you, a man of fifty or over, go into a new environment, you carry with you that heaviest of all burdens, the necessity of making explanations.
"Why have you come among us at your age?" the people ask. "What is the story of your past?" they very properly inquire. "It must be that you are not a man of integrity which commanded the respect and support of your old home," they will not unnaturally conclude; "either this, or else you were a failure there."
These are the two necessary and inevitable deductions, and either horn of that cruel dilemma of logic is enough to impale you. If you escape them, you do it because you do not attract notice, and this, in itself, is failure. And in any event, to gain the substantial confidence of the people you must spend several years of right living among them. And you have no time to waste in building up confidence at your period of life. That is an asset which your whole career of unsuccessful probity should have accumulated for you; and it is dissipated if you remove from among those in whose minds that belief in you exists.
I have seen this serious error made so many times, and nearly always with such destroying results, that I give it more space than its relative proportion deserves. I have in mind now two men who did precisely this thing. Their success in the two country towns where they had lived had been reasonable, but not considerable. It did not appear to be success at all to them, though.
They were quite sure that they were bigger than their opportunities—yes, that was what was the matter—they needed larger opportunities, "larger fields," more "scope" for their powers. Each man was about fifty years of age. Each was a man of far more than ordinary talent. Each removed to a city. And in the city which each chose, each miserably, utterly, hopelessly failed.
Had they remained where for years they had been planting the seeds of confidence, respect, and achievement, and had they awaited the slow processes of the harvest, each man would soon have become the leading man in his town, county, and district, and would have remained so until the end of his days; for the harvest was nearly theirs. They did not understand that while it takes a long time to prepare the soil and sow the seed, and let it grow to maturity, the ripening of the harvest comes in a few golden days.
It is true that there are exceptions to the above rule—the rule of abiding, of standing fast. But the exception is justified only when you have made so many definite, tangible, and public failures in your old home that there is absolutely no possibility of further hope. Of course, if you are a man of lion heart and lion power, this is another matter. Any place on earth is a fit field for achievement by these savages of enterprise.
I know one of these who won a fortune, and lost it; won another, and again lost; and who, finally, with judgments and executions showering upon him, set his face to a new land and resolved again to conquer fortune or die. He conquered—of course he conquered—and is now worth many millions. But if you look into his kindly but deadly blue eye, and consider the tragic and premature whiteness of his hair, and take in the whole resistless and compelling personality of the man, you will see why he succeeded.
We are all familiar with the stirring history of a certain great American master of millions who is now about sixty-five years of age, and has amassed his wealth since he was fifty. He had failed, and failed often, before that time—failed once humiliatingly and irretrievably, so the ordinary man would say. So the ordinary man did say, and say hard and often.
The details of his early catastrophes are not worth while here. The point is that they did not affect him except to make him stronger. They were the Thor-like blows with which Fate forged the unconquerableness of this man. For unconquerable he has become.
He has carried through daring plans; he has brought great financial institutions that opposed him to their knees; from the throne of his audacity he has dictated terms to boards of trade, and made the princes of the houses of commercial royalty his servants.
But if you look at his brow of power, at the merciless and yet delicate and sensitive lips, you will become conscious of why he succeeded—why he must eventually have succeeded anywhere. But such a man is no example for you unless you are such a man yourself—and in that case, you need no examples of any kind. You are your own example.
I read with keen interest, the other day, a feature article in one of our great daily newspapers, giving incidents in the careers of fifteen American millionaires who made their fortunes after they were fifty. But all these had the luck of the never-say-die men. They were all of the class that Emerson describes as having an excess of arterial circulation.
Every failure to them was simply an access of information. They regarded each loss as another piece of instruction in the game. Fortune always gives the winnings to such as these at last. Fortune loves a daring player; and while she may rebuff him for a while, it is only to gild the refined gold of his ultimate achievings.
Another thing. Go you to church. Use clean linen. Wear good and well-fitting clothing. Take care of your shoes. Look after all the details of your personal grooming. In short, observe all the methods which human experience has devised to keep men from degenerating. There is an unalterable connection between the physical and mental and moral.
The old saying that "cleanliness is next to godliness" has beneath it all the philosophy of civilization.
It is an easy process that produces tramps. A few days' growth of beard, the tolerance of certain personal habits of indolence, and your tramp begins, vaguely, but none the less surely, to appear. This is accompanied by a falling off in clear-cut thought, a blurring of the moralities, and a cessation of definite and effective energy. This is itself, of course, an interminable subject upon which several papers might be written; but perhaps I have said enough to make apparent to you its practical application.
The stages of degeneration are as easy as they are fatal, and since to resist them requires courage, force, and alertness, it is only too probable that the man past fifty, who feels that he has failed, is beginning to submit to them. Do not do it. Resort to every possible device to prevent it; for degeneration, in itself, is failure; more, it is death. It is exactly the same force which rots out the heart of the oak, manifesting itself in human character.
Your problem is not to give way to your weaknesses. That is the problem of all of us. "I see two men looking from your eyes," said the Norse seeress, "a young man and an old man. Do not let the old man in you conquer the young man in you." Very well! Barring the loss of health, you can always make the young man in you the victor.
Do not conclude that things are fixed, that conditions are permanent, and that, as there is no apparent place for you as circumstances now exist, there never will be. Fix in your mind this dreadful and glorious paradox, that even the most permanent things are transient. Study the clouds, those visible emblems of human experience and institutions. A twist, a curve, a change in the shape and outline, and final disappearance into the universal blue—such is their destiny; and yet each instant they are permanent, apparently, so far as that instant is concerned.
It will be useful, also, to consider the political machine. There is nothing which, in its day, is apparently more permanent or powerful; yet it dissolves in obedience to the very laws on which it is built. So, my friend, there is never a time that you can truthfully say that there is not, and never will be, any place for you in the order of society and affairs.
No, indeed; things are not fixed. Recall the story of the Oriental monarch. His wise men with all their wisdom could not produce a single truth that stood the test of time. As the tale runs, the ruler, weary of the falsehoods of so-called learning, called his wise men together and said to them:
"I sicken of your daily sagacities which the next day prove to be follies. Tell me one truth—only one. I ask but a single sentence. But let it be a sentence that will be as true next year as this year—a sentence which always has been true and always will be true. I give you one year to formulate one such sentence. If at the end of that time you cannot state an absolute verity, your lives will be forfeited."
At the end of the year the wise men came to their dread lord and said that they had found one universal truth. "State it," said their sovereign. They answered: "Here is the only sentence our wisdom can construct which is absolutely true: 'And this, too, shall pass away.'" And so shall your misfortunes, my friend past fifty, pass away. "It is a long road that has no turning," declares the maxim of the people. Your road is no exception.
The historic instances of great success past fifty are numerous and inspiring. They begin with Moses, who was forty years of age when "he slew the Egyptian," and they come down to our present day; to Bismarck, who, while so brilliant as a young man that he attracted the attention of Europe, was not great till he was past forty-five; to Disraeli, who, though so dazzling in his youth and early prime that he astounded Parliament and filled the press with comment, was not constructive or permanent in his success till comparatively late in life.
Think, too, of those historic successes of which there was not the faintest sign until far past middle life—they are not many, to be sure, but they are inspiring. Some of the great headlands that shoulder out into history—Washington, Lincoln, and the like—became visible to the world after forty-five.
Of course, it is true that the immense majority of the world's great achievers—generals, statesmen, poets, philosophers, inventors, builders—have been young men. But the noble exceptions contain sufficient encouragement for you if you still have the heart of purpose.
I like to think of a man fighting his best fight just at the end of life. There has always been something attractive to me about the expression of Western hardihood, "Dying with his boots on," and the attitude of character that it describes.
From my infancy the story of the Bon Homme Richard has been like wine to my blood. Be you like that ship, my dear friend past fifty! She had, apparently, failed, but she kept in service. She had reached the age of decay, and her timbers scarcely held together; yet she did not go out of commission.
She attacked the Serapis, one of the youngest and stanchest and best equipped of the matchless navy of England. She was blown full of holes; still she fought. She was on fire; still she fought. The water poured into her hold and she was sinking; still she fought. Fought, fought, fought, and in the grim, the terrible, and the sublime end she won.
The Serapis was captured by the Bon Homme Richard, and the victorious old ship's crew established themselves on the decks of the conquered Englishman. The gallant veteran of the waves was kept afloat that night, but at sunrise the next day they ran to her masthead her glorious, shot-torn battle-flag, and she went to her home in the abysses of the deep with that banner of battle and ultimate triumph flying as she sank beneath the waves.
Be that your end, my friend, and that of all brave hearts. Fight until the last, and let your noblest and most decisive victory be won with the final efforts of your expiring life.