Page images
[merged small][ocr errors]


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

MADD tex the topic I have selected without any anent to lead the way Tags antrodden felds of thought or to With ot new trutta. I act only believe *wat & I should enter upon such an underMaking I would be guilty of bold presumpton, but it seems to me we can quite as profitably improve the time we spend together in renewing our acquaintance with some old truths, and recalling their relationship to human life and effort. In following this suggestion we shall manifestly find it easier if we start from familiar ground, and take om departure from some well-known landmark.

With this introduction I hope I may be tolerated in the announcement that I pro

pose to submit on this occasion some simple reflections concerning the Self-Made Man.

There has been so much said of him at random, and he has been so often presented as an altogether wonderful being, that it is not strange if there exists in some quarters an entire misapprehension of the manner of his creation, as well as an exaggerated idea of his nature and mission. A romantic and sentimental glamour has enveloped him, magnifying his proportions, and causing him. to appear much larger and in every way greater than other men. As to the origin of his qualities of size and greatness, the notion seems to be current that they are the direct results of the frowns of Fortune, which deprived him of educational advantages, and doomed him to travel to success by a road rugged with obstacles and difficulties. Of course in this view of the self-made man success is a necessary factor in his existence; for unless he accomplishes something not altogether commonplace and usual, he is deemed unworthy of the name. Indeed, it need not surprise us to find that success alone, if reached after a fierce struggle with diffculties and disadvantages, leads, by familiarity and easy association, to a sort of hazy

conception that these difficulties and disadvantages were not untoward incidents, but necessary accompaniments to such success.

I desire here explicitly and emphatically to express my respect and admiration for those who have won honorable success in spite of discouraging surroundings, and who have made themselves great and useful in their day and generation through the sheer force of indomitable will and courage. Nothing can be more noble and heroic than their struggles; and nothing can be more inspiring and valuable than their example and achievements; and whatever may be their measure of success, their willingness to undergo hardships to win it, demonstrates that they have in their nature the fiber and lasting qualities that make strong men.

But while we thus pay a deserved tribute to true manliness, we by no means admit the fanciful notion that the difficulties that stood in the way of these self-made men were essential to their success. They were obstacles which they overcame, thus winning distinction and honor. Thousands of others have been discouraged by these same obstacles, and found an appropriate place among dullards and drones. It is true that

many eager men have laid the foundations of future usefulness and greatness in study between the hours of their labor for bread, and by the light of a pine knot or open fireplace; but many others have spent the same time not more profitably than in careless, sleepy indolence, and have by the same light undermined their mental and moral health with vile books and companionship, or in learning the first lessons in vice.

We have all seen handsome and quite elaborately carved articles or trinkets which were made entirely with a pocket-knife. As curiosities they challenge our interest because of the ingenuity and difficulty of their construction with such a simple tool; but we do not regard them as more useful for that reason, nor do we for a moment suppose that the pocket-knife was essential to their construction, or that their beauty or merit would have been diminished by the use of more effective and suitable tools.

It is well to remember, too, in considering those who succeed notwithstanding difficulties, that not all successes, even though so gained, are of that useful and elevating kind that should excite our admiration. The churlish curmudgeon, who by sharp practices

and avaricious dealing has amassed a fortune, should not be permitted to cajole us by boasting of his early privations and sordid self-denial. We are at liberty to resent in any case the attempt to cover a multitude of sins with the cloak of the self-made man, by playing upon our regard for the worth and labor that conquers a useful and honorable career; and the successful political hack should not be allowed to distract us from a damaged character, by parading his humble origin, his lack of early advantages, and the struggles of his boyhood, as independent and sufficient proofs that he is entitled to our suffrages.

The truth is, the merit of the successful man who has struggled with difficulties and disadvantages must be judged by the kind. of success he has achieved, by the use he makes of it, and by its effect upon his character and life. If his success is clean and wholesome, if he uses it to make his fellows better and happier, and if he faithfully responds to all the obligations of a liberal, public-spirited, and useful citizen, his struggles should add immensely to the honor and consideration he deserves.

If, on the other hand, his success is of the

« PreviousContinue »