From: How To Succeed
The best way to settle the quarrel between capital and labor is
by allopathic doses of Peter-Cooperism.
In the sublimest flights of the soul, rectitude is never
surmounted, love is never outgrown.
"One ruddy drop of manly blood the surging sea outweighs."
Virtue alone out-builds the pyramids:
Her monuments shall last when Egypt's fall.
He believed that he was born, not for himself, but for the
Wherever man goes to dwell, his character goes with him.
The spirit of a single mind
Makes that of multitudes take one direction,
As roll the waters to the breathing wind.
"No, say what you have to say in her presence, too," said King Cleomenes
of Sparta, when his visitor Anistagoras asked him to send away his
little daughter Gorgo, ten years old, knowing how much harder it is to
persuade a man to do wrong when his child is at his side. So Gorgo sat
at her father's feet, and listened while the stranger offered more and
more money if Cleomenes would aid him to become king in a neighboring
country. She did not understand the matter, but when she saw her father
look troubled and hesitate, she took hold of his hand and said, "Papa,
come away--come, or this strange man will make you do wrong." The king
went away with the child, and saved himself and his country from
dishonor. Character is power, even in a child. When grown to womanhood,
Gorgo was married to the hero Leonidas. One day a messenger brought a
tablet sent by a friend who was a prisoner in Persia. But the closest
scrutiny failed to reveal a single word or line on the white waxen
surface, and the king and all his noblemen concluded that it was sent as
a jest. "Let me take it," said Queen Gorgo; and, after looking it all
over, she exclaimed, "There must be some writing underneath the wax!"
They scraped away the wax and found a warning to Leonidas from the
Grecian prisoner, saying that Xerxes was coming with his immense host to
conquer all Greece. Acting on this warning, Leonidas and the other kings
assembled their armies and checked the mighty host of Xerxes, which is
said to have shaken the earth as it marched.
"I fear John Knox's prayers more than an army of ten thousand men," said
Mary, Queen of Scotland.
"The man behind the sermon," said William M. Evarts, "is the secret of
John Hall's power." In fact if there is not a man with a character
behind it nothing about it is of the slightest consequence.
Thackeray says, "Nature has written a letter of credit upon some men's
faces which is honored wherever presented. You can not help trusting
such men; their very presence gives confidence. There is a 'promise to
pay' in their very faces which gives confidence, and you prefer it to
another man's indorsement." _Character is credit._
In the great monetary panic of 1857, a meeting was called of the various
bank presidents of New York City. When asked what percentage of specie
had been drawn during the day, some replied fifty per cent., some even
as high as seventy-five per cent., but Moses Taylor of the City Bank
said: "We had in the bank this morning, $400,000; this evening,
$470,000." While other banks were badly "run," the confidence in the
City Bank under Mr. Taylor's management was such that people had
deposited in that institution what they had drawn from other banks.
Character gives confidence.
"There is no such thing as a small country," said Victor Hugo. "The
greatness of a people is no more affected by the number of its
inhabitants than the greatness of an individual is measured by his
"It is the nature of party in England," said John Russell, "to ask the
assistance of men of genius, but to follow the guidance of men of
"A handful of good life," says George Herbert, "is worth a bushel of
"I have read," Emerson says, "that they who listened to Lord Chatham
felt that there was something finer in the man than anything which he
said." It has been complained of Carlyle that when he has told all his
facts about Mirabeau they do not justify his estimate of the latter's
genius. The Gracchi, Agis, Cleomenes, and others of Plutarch's heroes do
not in the record of facts equal their own fame. Sir Philip Sidney and
Sir Walter Raleigh are men of great figure and of few deeds. We cannot
find the smallest part of the personal weight of Washington in the
narrative of his exploits. The authority of the name of Schiller is too
great for his books. This inequality of the reputation to the works or
the anecdotes is not accounted for by saying that the reverberation is
longer than the thunder-clap; but something resided in these men which
begot an expectation that outran all their performance. The largest part
of their power was latent. This is that which we call character,--a
reserved force which acts directly by presence, and without means. What
others effect by talent or eloquence, the man of character accomplishes
by some magnetism. "Half his strength he puts not forth." His victories
are by demonstration of superiority, and not by crossing bayonets. He
conquers, because his arrival alters the face of affairs. "O Iole! how
didst thou know that Hercules was a god?" "Because," answered Iole, "I
was content the moment my eyes fell on him. When I beheld Theseus, I
desired that I might see him offer battle, or at least drive his horses
in the chariot-race; but Hercules did not wait for a contest; he
conquered whether he stood, or walked, or sat, or whatever else he did."
"Show me," said Omar the Caliph to Amru the warrior, "the sword with
which you have fought so many battles and slain so many infidels." "Ah,"
replied Amru, "the sword without the arm of the master is no sharper nor
heavier than the sword of Farezdak the poet." So one hundred and fifty
pounds of flesh and blood without character is of no great value.
"No man throws away his vote," says Francis Willard, "when he places it
in the ballot-box with his conviction behind it. The party which elected
Lincoln in 1860 polled only seven thousand votes in 1840. Revolutions
never go backward, and the fanaticisms of to-day are the victories of
"O sir, we are beaten," exclaimed the general in command of Sheridan's
army, retreating before the victorious Early. "No, sir," replied the
indignant Sheridan; "you are beaten, but this army is not beaten."
Drawing his sword, he waved it above his head, and pointed it at the
pursuing host, while his clarion voice rose above the horrid din in a
command to charge once more. The lines paused, turned,--
"And with the ocean's mighty swing,
When heaving to the tempest's wing,
They hurled them on the foe;"
and the Confederate army was wildly routed.
When war with France seemed imminent, in 1798, President Adams wrote to
George Washington, then a private citizen in retirement at Mount Vernon:
"We must have your name, if you will permit us to use it; there will be
more efficacy in it than in many an army." Character is power.
When Pope Paul IV. heard of the death of Calvin he exclaimed with a
sigh, "Ah, the strength of that proud heretic lay in--riches? No!
Honors? No! But nothing could move him from his course. Holy Virgin!
With two such servants, our Church would soon be mistress of both
Eighteen hundred years ago, when night closed over the city of Pompeii,
a lady sat in her house nursing her son of ten years of age. The child
had been ill for some days; his form was wasted, his little limbs were
shrunk; and we may imagine with what infinite anxiety she watched every
motion of the helpless one, whose existence was so dear. What did take
place we know with an exactness very remarkable. That distant mountain
which reared its awful head on the shore of the bay, Vesuvius, was
troubled that same night with an eruption, and threw into the air such
clouds of pumice-stones that the streets and squares of Pompeii became
filled, and gradually the stones grew higher and higher, until they
reached the level of the windows. There was no chance of escape then by
the doors; and those who attempted to get away stepped out of their
first floor windows and rushed over the sulphurous stones--a short
distance only, for they were quickly overpowered by the poisonous vapors
and fell dead. After the stones there fell ashes, and after ashes hot
water fell in showers, which changed the ashes into clay. Those who ran
out of their houses during the fall of stones were utterly consumed,
while those who waited until the ashes began to fall perished likewise,
but their bodies were preserved by the ashes and water which fell upon
them. The Pompeiian mother we have mentioned opened the window of her
house when she thought the fall of stones was over, and with the child
in her arms took a few hurried steps forward, when, overpowered by the
sulphur, she fell forward, at which moment the shower of ashes began to
fall, and quickly buried mother and child. The hot water afterward
changed into a mould; the ashes and the sun baked the fatal clay to such
a degree of hardness that it has endured to the present day. A short
time ago the spot where mother and child lay was found, liquid
plaster-of-Paris was poured into the mould formed by the bodies, and
then the mould was broken up, leaving the plaster-cast whole. Thus one
touching incident in the terrible tragedy of eighteen centuries ago has
been preserved for the admiration and respect of posterity. _The arms
and legs of the child showed a contraction and emaciation which could
only result from illness._ Of the mother only the right arm was
preserved; she fell upon the ashes, and the remaining portion of her
body was consumed. _But the right hand still clasped the legs of the
child_; on her arm were two gold bracelets, and on her fingers were two
gold rings--one set with an emerald, the other with a cut amethyst. This
touching illustration of _a mother's love_ now rests in the museum of
the celebrated city.
"I was sitting with Grant once," says General Fisk, "when a
major-general entered, dressed in the uniform of his rank, who said:
'Boys, I have a good story to tell you. I believe there are no ladies
present.' Grant said, 'No, but there are gentlemen present.'"
Mr. George W. Childs, in referring to this trait, said:
"Another great trait of his character was his purity in every way. I
never heard him express or make an indelicate allusion in any way or
shape. There is nothing I ever heard that man say that could not be
repeated in the presence of women."
The writer has heard of several incidents illustrating his answer to
impure stories. On one occasion, when Grant formed one of a dinner-party
of American gentlemen in a foreign city, conversation drifted into
references to questionable affairs, when he suddenly rose and said,
"Gentlemen, please excuse me; I will retire."
When Attila, flushed with conquest, appeared with his barbarian horde
before the gates of Rome in 452, Pope Leo alone of all the people dared
go forth and try to turn his wrath aside. A single magistrate followed
him. The Huns were awed by the fearless majesty of the unarmed old man,
and led him before their chief, whose respect was so great that he
agreed not to enter the city, provided a tribute should be paid to him.
Wellington said that Napoleon's presence in the French army was
equivalent to forty thousand additional soldiers, and Richter said of
the invincible Luther, "His words were half battles."
"I know no great men," says Voltaire, "except those who have rendered
great services to the human race." Men are measured by what they do;
not by what they seem or possess.
Francis Horner, of England, was a man of whom Sydney Smith said, that
"the ten commandments were stamped upon his forehead." The valuable and
peculiar light in which Horner's history is calculated to inspire every
right-minded youth is this: he died at the age of thirty-eight,
possessed of greater influence than any other private man, and admired,
beloved, trusted, and deplored by all except the heartless and the base.
No greater homage was ever paid in Parliament to any deceased member.
How was this attained? By rank? He was the son of an Edinburgh merchant.
By wealth? Neither he nor any of his relatives ever had a superfluous
sixpence. By office? He held but one; and that for only a few years, of
no influence, and with very little pay. By talents? His were not
splendid, and he had no genius. Cautious and slow, his only ambition was
to be right. By eloquence? He spoke in calm, good taste, without any of
the oratory that either terrifies or seduces. By any fascination of
manner? His was only correct and agreeable. By what was it, then? Merely
by sense, industry, good principles and a good heart, qualities which no
well constituted mind need ever despair of attaining. It was the force
of his character that raised him; and this character was not impressed
on him by nature, but formed, out of no peculiarly fine elements, by
himself. There were many in the House of Commons of far greater ability
and eloquence. But no one surpassed him in the combination of an
adequate portion of these with moral worth. Horner was born to show what
moderate powers, unaided by anything whatever except culture and
goodness, may achieve, even when these powers are displayed amidst the
competition and jealousies of public life.
A hundred years hence what difference will it make whether you were rich
or poor, a peer or a peasant? But what difference may it not make
whether you did what was right or what was wrong?
At a large dinner-party given by Lord Stratford after the Crimean War,
it was proposed that every one should write on a slip of paper the name
which appeared most likely to descend to posterity with renown. When the
papers were opened everyone of them contained the name of Florence
Professor Blackie, of the University of Edinburgh, said to a class of
young men: "Money is not needful; power is not needful; liberty is not
needful; even health is not the one thing needful; but character alone
is that which can truly save us, and if we are not saved in this sense,
we certainly must be damned." It has been said that "when poverty is
your inheritance, virtue must be your capital."
"Hence it was," said Franklin, speaking of the influence of his known
integrity of character, "that I had so much weight with my
fellow-citizens. I was but a bad speaker, never eloquent, subject to
much hesitation in my choice of words, hardly correct in language, and
yet I generally carried my point."
When a man's character is gone, all is gone. All peace of mind, all
complacency in himself is fled forever. He despises himself. He is
despised by his fellow-men. Within is shame and remorse; without neglect
and reproach. He is of necessity a miserable and useless man; he is so
even though he be clothed in purple and fine linen, and fare sumptuously
every day. It is better to be poor; it is better to be reduced to
beggary; it is better to be cast into prison, or condemned to perpetual
slavery, than to be destitute of a good name or endure the pains and the
evils of a conscious worthlessness of character.
The time is soon coming when, by the common consent of mankind, it will
be esteemed more honorable to have been John Pounds, putting new and
beautiful souls into the ragged children of the neighborhood while he
mended his father's shoes, than to have sat upon the British throne. The
time now is when, if Queen Victoria, in one of her magnificent
progresses through her realms, were to meet that more than American
queen, Miss Dix, in her "circumnavigation of charity" among the insane,
the former should kneel and kiss the hand of the latter; and the ruler
over more than a hundred millions of people should pay homage to the
angel whom God has sent to the maniac.
"At your age," said to a youth an old man who had honorably held many
positions of trust and responsibility, "both position and wealth appear
enduring things; but at mine a man sees that nothing lasts but
Several eminent clergymen were discussing the qualities of self-made
men. They each admitted that they belonged to that class, except a
certain bishop, who remained silent, and was intensely absorbed in the
repast. The host was determined to draw him out, and so, addressing him,
said: "All at this table are self-made men, unless the bishop is an
exception." The bishop promptly replied, "I am not made yet," and the
reply contained a profound truth. So long as life lasts, with its
discipline of joy or sorrow, its opportunities for good or evil, so long
our characters are being shaped and fixed.
Milton said: "He who would write heroic poems, must make his whole life
an heroic poem." We are responsible for our thoughts, and unless we
could command them, mental and moral excellence would be impossible.
Charles Kingsley has well said: "Let any one set his heart to do what is
right and nothing else, and it will not be long ere his brow is stamped
with all that goes to make up the heroic expression, with noble
indignation, noble self-restraint, great hopes, great sorrows, perhaps
even with the print of the martyr's crown of thorns."
Said James Martineau: "God insists on having a concurrence between our
practice and our thoughts. If we proceed to make a contradiction between
them, He forthwith begins to abolish it, and if the will will not rise
to the reason, the reason must be degraded to the will."
"When I say, in conducting your understanding," says Sidney Smith, "love
knowledge with a great love, with a vehement love, with a love co-eval
with life--what do I say but love innocence, love virtue, love purity of
conduct, love that which, if you are rich and great, will vindicate the
blind fortune which has made you so, and make them call it justice; love
that which, if you are poor, will render your poverty respectable, and
make the proudest feel that it is unjust to laugh at the meanness of
your fortunes; love that which will comfort you, adorn you, and never
quit you--which will open to you the kingdom of thought, and all the
boundless regions of conception as an asylum against the cruelty, the
injustice, and the pain that may be your lot in the world--that which
will make your motives habitually great and honorable, and light up in
an instant a thousand noble disdains at the very thought of meanness and
The Arabs express this by a parable that incarnates, as is their wont,
the Word in the recital. King Nimrod, say they, one day summoned his
three sons into his presence. He ordered to be set before them three
urns under seal. One of the urns was of gold, another of amber, and the
third of clay. The king bade the eldest of his sons choose among the
urns that which appeared to him to contain the treasure of greatest
price. The eldest chose the vase of gold, on which was written the word
"Empire." He opened it and found it full of blood. The second chose the
amber vase whereon was written the word "Glory." He opened it and found
it contained the ashes of the great men who had made a sensation in the
world. The third son took the only remaining vase, the one of clay; he
found it quite empty, but on the bottom the potter had written the word
"God." "Which of these vases weighs the most?" asked the king of the
courtiers. The men of ambition replied it was the vase of gold; the
poets and conquerors, the amber one; the sages that it was the empty
vase, because a single letter of the name God weighs more than the
entire globe. We are of the opinion of the sages. We believe the
greatest things are great but in the proportion of divinity they
"Although genius always commands admiration," says Smiles, "character
most secures respect. The former is more the product of brain-power, the
latter of heart-power; and in the long run it is the heart that rules in
life. Men of genius stand to society in the relation of its intellect,
as men of character of its conscience; and while the former are admired,
the latter are followed.
"Commonplace though it may appear, this doing of one's duty embodies the
highest ideal of life and character. There may be nothing heroic about
it; but the common lot of men is not heroic. And though the abiding
sense of duty upholds man in his highest attitudes, it also equally
sustains him in the transaction of the ordinary affairs of every-day
existence. The most influential of all the virtues are those which are
the most in request for daily use. They wear the best and last the
longest. We can always better understand and appreciate a man's real
character by the manner in which he conducts himself toward those who
are the most nearly related to him, and by his transaction of the
seemingly commonplace details of daily duty, than by his public
exhibition of himself as an author, an orator, or a statesman.
Intellectual culture has no necessary relation to purity or excellence
"On the contrary, a condition of comparative poverty is compatible with
character in its highest form. A man may possess only his industry, his
frugality, his integrity, and yet stand high in the rank of true
"Character is property. It is the noblest of possessions. It is an
estate in the general good-will and respect of men; and they who invest
in it--though they may not become rich in this world's goods--will find
their reward in esteem and reputation fairly and honorably won. Without
principles, a man is like a ship without rudder or compass, left to
drift hither and thither with every wind that blows."
What a contrast is afforded by the lives of Bacon and More. Bacon sought
office with as much desire as More avoided it; Bacon used as much
solicitation to obtain it as More endured to accept it, and each, when
in it, was equally true to his character. More was simple, as Bacon was
ostentatious. More was as incorruptible as Bacon was venal. More spent
his private fortune in office, and Bacon spent the wages of corruption
there. Both left office poor in worldly goods; but while More was rich
in honor and good deeds, Bacon was poor in everything; poor in the
mammon for which he bartered his integrity; poor in the gawd for which
he sacrificed his peace; poor in the presence of the worthless; covered
with shame in the midst of the people; trusting his fame to posterity,
of which posterity is only able to say, that the wisest of men was
adviser to the silliest of kings, yet that such a king had a sort of
majesty when morally compared with the official director of his
conscience. Both More and Bacon served each a great purpose for the
world. More illustrated the beauty of holiness; Bacon expounded the
infinitude of science. Bacon became the prophet of intellect; More, the
martyr of conscience. The one pours over our understandings the light of
knowledge; but the other inflames our hearts with the love of virtue.
All have read of the proud Egyptian king who ordered a colossal
staircase built in his new palace, and was chagrined to find that he
required a ladder to climb from one step to the next. A king's legs are
as short as those of a beggar. So, too, a prince's ability to enjoy the
pleasures of life is no greater than that of a pauper.
"All that is valuable in this world is to be had for nothing. Genius,
beauty, health, piety, love, are not bought and sold. The richest man on
earth would vainly offer a fortune to be qualified to write a verse like
Milton, or to compose a melody like Mozart. You may summon all the
physicians, but they cannot procure for you the sweet, healthful sleep
which the tired laborer gets without price. Let no man, then, call
himself a proprietor. He owns but the breath as it traverses his lips
and the idea as it flits across his mind; and of that breath he may be
deprived by the sting of a bee, and that idea, perhaps, truly belongs to
"We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths:
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best;
And he whose heart beats quickest lives the longest."
Next: Moral Sunshine