From: The True Citizen How To Become One
(Category: The Youth
Genius is nothing but labor and diligence.--Hogarth.
Know something of everything and everything of something.
The difference between one boy and another lies not so much in talent as
in energy.--Dr. Arnold
Work wields the weapons of power, wins the palm of success, and wears
the crown of victory.--A. T. Pierson.
A lazy man is of no more use than a dead man, and he takes up more
room.--O. S. Harden.
By industry we mean activity that is regular and devoted to the carrying
out of some purpose. More definitely, it is activity that is designed to
be useful to ourselves or to others. It is thus a _regulated activity_
by which our welfare, or that of others, may be furthered.
We are apt to think, or at least to feel, that the necessity of working
regularly is a hardship. Because we get tired with our work and look
forward with eagerness to the time of rest, we form the opinion that the
pleasantest life would be one which should be all rest.
Industry might well be urged as a duty. But we would rather now speak of
it chiefly as an aid in accomplishing other duties. Few things are more
helpful toward right living than industry, and few more conducive to
wrong living than idleness.
No doubt there are on this subject opposing opinions. Some believe,
whether they openly confess it or not, that the glory of the highest
success is not within the reach of every honest toiler; that it is, like
other legacies, the good fortune to which some are heirs, but which
others are denied--the inheritance only of those whom nature has well
endowed. These are the advocates of genius.
The reader of "Ivanhoe"--that finest romance of Sir Walter
Scott--pronounces its author a genius. The fact is, that book is a
conspicuous illustration of industry--patient, persevering toil. It has
been pointed out that, "for years Scott had made himself familiar with
the era of chivalry; plodded over, in imagination, the weary march of
the Crusaders; studied the characteristics and contradictions of the
Jewish character; searched carefully into the records of the times in
which the scenes of his story were laid; and even examined diligently
into the strange process whereby the Norman-French and the Anglo-Saxon
elements were wrought into a common tongue."
Labor is indeed the price set upon everything which is valuable. Nothing
can be accomplished without it. The greatest of men have risen to
distinction by unwearied industry and patient application. They may have
had inborn genius; their natures may have been quick and active; but
they could not avoid the necessity of persevering labor.
Labor is the great schoolmaster of the race. It is the grand drill in
life's army, without which we are confused and powerless when called
into action. What a teacher industry is! It teaches patience,
perseverance, forbearance, and application. It teaches method and
system, by compelling us to crowd the most possible into every day and
hour. Industry is a perpetual call upon the judgment and the power of
quick decision; it makes ready and practical men.
Industry is essential for that usefulness by which each man may fill his
place in the world. The lazy, like the wicked, may be made useful. The
Spartans used to send a drunken slave through the city that the sight of
his folly and degradation might disgust young men with intemperance. He
was made useful; he did not make himself useful. From this it will be
seen that the necessity of labor is something at which we should rather
rejoice than complain, and that habits of industry are the great helpers
to virtue, happiness, and usefulness.
Industry is now as important to the woman as to the man. Some years ago,
in an art store in Boston, a group of girls stood together gazing
intently upon a famous piece of statuary. The silence was broken by the
remark, "Just to think that a woman did it." "It makes me proud," said
another. The famous statue was that of Zenobia, the product of Harriet
Hosmer, whose love of knowledge and devotion to art, gave the world a
Work is difficult in proportion as the end to be attained is high and
noble. The highest price is placed upon the greatest worth. If a man
would reach the highest success he must pay the price. He must be
self-made, or never made.
Our greatest men have not been men of luck and broadcloth, nor of legacy
and laziness, but men accustomed to hardship; not afraid of threadbare
clothes and honest poverty; men who fought their way to their own loaf.
Sir Joshua Reynolds had the passion for work of the true artist. Until
he laid aside his pencil from illness, at the age of sixty-six, he was
constantly in his painting-room from ten till four, daily, "laboring" as
he himself said, "as hard as a mechanic working for his bread."
Laziness is said to be one of the greatest dangers that besets the youth
of this country. Some young men shirk everything that requires effort or
labor. Few people entertain the idea that they are of no use in the
world; or that they are ruining themselves by their laziness. Yet lazy
persons lose the power of enjoyment. Their lives are all holiday, and
they have no interval of leisure for relaxation. The lie-a-beds have
never done anything in the world. Events sweep past and leave them
slumbering and helpless.
Industry is one of the best antidotes to crime. As the old proverb has
it, "An idle brain is the devil's workshop," for by doing nothing we
learn to do ill. The man who does not work, and thinks himself above it,
is to be pitied as well as condemned. Nothing can be worse than active
ignorance and indulged luxury. Self-indulgence saps the foundation of
morals, destroys the vigor of manhood, and breeds evils that nothing but
death can blot out.
No one is very anxious about a young man while he is busy in useful
work. But where does he eat his lunch at noon? Where does he go when he
leaves his boarding-house at night? What does he do after supper? Where
does he spend his Sundays and holidays? The way he uses his spare
moments reveals his character. The great majority of youth who go to the
bad are ruined after supper. Most of those who climb upward to honor and
fame devote their evenings to study or work, or to the society of the
wise and good. The right use of these leisure hours, we would cordially
recommend to every youth. Each evening is a crisis in the career of a
Rome was a mighty nation while industry led her people, but when her
great conquest of wealth and slaves placed her citizens above the
necessity of labor, that moment her glory began to fade; vice and
corruption induced by idleness, doomed the proud city to an ignominious
There can be no doubt that industry has been the backbone of the English
character. By it her people have made their island respected all over
the habitable globe. By industry our own land has come to be recognized
as the workshop of the world.
It is a rule in the imperial family of Germany that every young man
shall learn a trade, going through a regular apprenticeship till he is
able to do good journeywork. This is required because, in the event of
unforeseen changes, it is deemed necessary to a manly independence that
the heir apparent, or a prince of the blood, should be conscious of
ability of making his own way in the world. This is an honorable custom,
worthy of universal imitation. The Jews also wisely held the maxim that
every youth, whatever his position in life, should learn some trade.
Franklin says, "He that hath a trade hath an estate." Work, however
looked down upon by people who cannot perform it, is an honorable thing;
it may not be very profitable, but honorable it always is, and there is
nothing to be ashamed of about it. The man who has reason to be ashamed
is the one who does nothing, or is always on the lookout for an easy
berth with good pay and no work. Let the young man whose conceit greatly
exceeds his brains, be ashamed of his cane and kid gloves; but never let
a man who works be ashamed of his hard hands. There is an old proverb
which says, "Mere gentility sent to market, won't buy a peck of oats."
A keen but well deserved rebuke was once administered to a Southern
student at Andover who had bought some wood, and who then went to
Professor Stuart to learn whom he could get to saw it. "I am out of a
job of that kind," said Mr. Stuart; "I will saw it myself." It is to be
hoped that the young man learned the lesson which his teacher thus
sought to impress upon his mind.
"What is the secret of success in business?" asked a friend of Cornelius
Vanderbilt. "Secret! there is no secret about it," replied the
commodore; "all you have to do is to attend to your business and go
If you would adopt Vanderbilt's method, know your business, attend to
it, and keep down expenses until your fortune is safe from business
perils. Note the following incidents in his career: In the year 1806,
when about twelve years of age, Cornelius was sent by his father, who
was removing the cargo from a vessel stranded near Sandy Hook, with
three wagons, six horses, and three men, to carry the cargo across a
sandbar to the lighters.
When the work was finished, he started, with but a few dollars in his
pocket, to travel a long distance home over the Jersey sands, and at
length reached South Amboy. He was anxious to get his teams ferried over
to Staten Island, and as the money at his disposal was not sufficient
for the purpose, he went to an innkeeper, explained the situation and
said, "If you will put us across, I'll leave with you one of my horses
in pawn, and if I don't send you back six dollars within forty-eight
hours you may keep the horse." "I'll do it," said the innkeeper, as he
looked into the bright honest eyes of the boy. The horse was soon
In the spring of 1810, he applied to his mother for a loan of one
hundred dollars with which to buy a boat, having imbibed a strong liking
for the sea. Her answer was, "My son, on the twenty-seventh of this
month you will be sixteen years old. If, by that time, you will plow,
harrow, and plant with corn the eight acre lot, I will advance you the
money." The field was rough and stony, but the work was done in time,
and well done. From this small beginning Cornelius Vanderbilt laid the
foundation of a colossal fortune. He would often work all night; and,
as he was never absent from his post by day, he soon had the best
business in New York harbor.
In 1813, when it was expected that New York would be attacked by British
ships, all the boatmen, except Cornelius, put in bids to convey
provisions to the military posts around New York, naming extremely low
rates, as the contractor would be exempted from military duty. "Why
don't you send in a bid?" asked his father. "Of what use?" replied
young Vanderbilt; "they are offering to do the work at half price. It
can't be done at such rates." "Well," said his father, "it can do no
harm to try for it." So, to please his father, but with no hope of
success, Cornelius made an offer fair to both sides, but did not go to
hear the award. When his companions had all returned with long faces,
he went to the commissary's office and asked if the contract had been
given. "Oh, yes," was the reply; "that business is settled. Cornelius
Vanderbilt is the man. What?" he asked, seeing that the youth was
apparently thunderstruck, "is it you?" "My name is Cornelius
Vanderbilt," said the boatman. "Well," said the commissary, "don't you
know why we have given the contract to you? Why, it is because we want
this business done, and we know you'll do it."
Here we see how character begets confidence, and how character rests
upon industry as the house rests upon its foundation.
[Footnote: Consult Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, Vol.
VII., pp. 240, 241; Crofut's "The Vanderbilts and the Story of their
Fortune" (1886); also article in Munsey's Magazine, Vol. VI., p. 34.]
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