Hope without an object cannot live.--Coleridge

Have an aim in life, or your energies will all be wasted.

--M. C. Peters

Every one should take the helm of his own life, and steer instead of

drifting.--C. C. Everett

Ambition is to life just what steam is to the locomotive.

--J. C. Jaynes

No toil, no hardships can restrain ambitious men inur'd to pain.--Horace

Ambition is one of the great forces of human life. We may describe it as

a strong, fixed desire in the heart to get honor, or to attain the best

things. It is a kind of hunger or thirst for success that makes men dare

danger and trial to satisfy it. A man is of little use in the world

unless he have ambition to set him in motion. Small talent with great

ambition often does far more than genius without it.

The severest censure that can be passed upon a man is that of the poet,

"Everything by turns and nothing long." The words contain a sad

revelation of wasted opportunities, wasted powers, wasted life. These

words apply, with a painful degree of exactness, to the career of Lord

Brougham. Few men have been more richly endowed by nature. Few men have

exhibited a greater plasticity of intellect, a greater affluence of

mental resources. He was a fine orator, a clear thinker, a ready writer.

It is seldom that a man who sways immense audiences by the power of his

eloquence attains also to a high position in the ranks of literature.

Yet Brougham did this; while, as a lawyer, he gained the most splendid

prize of his profession, the Lord Chancellorship of England; and as a

scientific investigator, merited and received the applause of

scientific men.

All this may seem to indicate success; and, to a certain extent,

Brougham was successful. Nevertheless, having been everything by turns

and nothing long--having given up to many pursuits the powers which

should have been reserved for one or two--he was on the whole, a

failure. Not only did he fail to make any permanent mark on the history

or literature of his country, but he even outlived his own fame. He was

almost forgotten before he died. He frittered away his genius on too

many objects.

It has long been a question of debate whether circumstances make men, or

men control circumstances. There are those who believe that men are

governed by their environments; that their surroundings determine their


The other school of philosophers boldly assert the opposite view. Men

may control their surroundings. They are not the sport of the winds of

circumstance. Carlyle, who is a member of this school, does not

hesitate, in one of his essays, to say that "there have been great

crises in the world's history when great men were needed, but they did

not appear."

This much is certain, we have many instances in which people have risen

above their surroundings. Warren Hastings's case is one in point.

Macaulay tells the story with his accustomed brilliancy and

attractiveness. When Hastings was a mere child, the ancestral estate,

through some mismanagement, passed out of the hands of the family.

Warren would often go--for the family remained in the neighborhood--and

gaze through the bars upon what had once been his home. He registered a

mental vow to regain that estate. That became the ambition of his life;

the one great purpose to which he devoted all his energies. Many years

passed; Hastings went to other climes; but there was ever with him the

determination to get that estate; and he succeeded.

After all, would it not appear that the true theory is that of a golden

mean between these two extremes? Circumstances sometimes control men or,

at any rate, some kind of men; men, especially men of strong will power

sometimes control their environments. Circumstances give men an

opportunity to display their powers. The fuller study of this subject

clearly shows the need of some principles of morality that are not

dependent upon any chance companionship, and that may belong to the man

himself, and not merely to his surroundings.

An ambition to get on in the world, the steady struggle to get up, to

reach higher, is a constant source of education in foresight, in

prudence, in economy, in industry and courage; in fact is the great

developer of many of the strongest and noblest qualities of character.

The men at the summit fought their way up from the bottom. "John Jacob

Astor sold apples on the streets of New York; A. T. Stewart swept out

his own store; Cornelius Vanderbilt laid the foundation of his vast

fortune with a hundred dollars given him by his mother; Lincoln was a

rail splitter; Grant was a tanner; and Garfield was a towboy on a


By hard work and unconquerable perseverance you can rise above the low

places of poverty. True, you may never shine in the galaxy of the great

ones of this earth, but you may fill your lives and homes with

blessings, and make the world wiser and better for your having lived in

it. Cash cannot take the place of character. It is far better to be a

man, than merely to be a millionaire.

A man who heard Lincoln speak in Norwich, Connecticut, some time before

he was nominated for the presidency, was greatly impressed by the

closely-knit logic of the speech. Meeting him next day on a train, he

asked him how he acquired his wonderful logical powers and such

acuteness in analysis. Lincoln replied: "It was my terrible

discouragement which did that for me. When I was a young man I went into

an office to study law. I saw that a lawyer's business is largely to

prove things. I said to myself, 'Lincoln, when is a thing proved?' That

was a poser. What constitutes proof? Not evidence; that was not the

point. There may be evidence enough, but wherein consists the proof? I

groaned over the question, and finally said to myself, 'Ah! Lincoln, you

can't tell.' Then I thought, 'What use is it for me to be in a law

office if I can't tell when a thing is proved?' So I gave it up and went

back home.

"Soon after I returned to the old log cabin, I fell in with a copy of

Euclid. I had not the slightest notion what Euclid was, and I thought I

would find out. I therefore began, at the beginning, and before spring I

had gone through that old Euclid's geometry, and could demonstrate every

proposition like a book. Then in the spring, when I had got through with

it, I said to myself one day, 'Ah, do you know now when a thing is

proved?' And I answered, 'Yes, sir, I do.' 'Then you may go back to the

law shop;' and I went."

We may be rightly ambitious in various ways. It is right to be ambitious

for _fame and honor_. The love of praise is not bad in itself, but

it is a very dangerous motive. Why? Because in order to be popular, one

may be tempted to be insincere. Never let the world's applause drown the

voice of conscience.

It is right to be ambitious to excel in whatever you do. Slighted work

and half-done tasks are sins. "I am as good as they are"; "I do my work

as well as they"; are cowardly maxims. Not what others have done, but

perfection, is the only true aim, whether it be in the ball-field or in

the graver tasks of life.

Many people think that ambition is an evil weed, and ought to be pulled

up by the roots. Shakespeare makes Wolsey say,--

"I charge thee, fling away ambition

By that sin fell the angels."

But the great cardinal had abused ambition, and had changed it into a

vice. Ambition is a noble quality in itself, but like any other virtue

it may be carried to excess, and thus become an evil. Like fire or

water, it must be controlled to be safe and useful. Napoleon, while

commanding armies, could not command his own ambition; and so he was

caged up like a wild beast at St. Helena. A millionaire may be so

ambitious for gain as purposely to wreck the fortunes of others. A

politician may sell his manhood to gratify his desire for office. Boys

and girls may become so ambitious to win their games, or to get the

prizes at school, that they are willing to cheat, or take some mean

advantage; and then ambition becomes to them not a blessing but a curse.

We ought now and then to stop and test our ambition, just as the

engineer tries the steam in the boiler; if we do not, it may in some

unexpected moment wreck our lives. There are two ways of finding out

whether our ambition is too strong for safety. First, if we discover

that ambition is hurting our own character, there is danger. Second, if

we find ambition blinding us to the rights of others, it is time to

stop. These are the two tests; and so long as your ambition is harming

neither your own life nor the lives of others, it is good and wholesome,

and will add value and brightness to your life.


Henry Havelock, commonly known as "The Hero of Lucknow," was born in

England, 1795, just about the time when Napoleon was beginning his

brilliant career, and all Europe was a battlefield. As a boy he was

rather serious and thoughtful, so that his school fellows used to call

him "Old Phlos," a nickname for Old Philosopher. And yet he loved boyish

sports, and never was behind any of his companions in courage and


He was not the first scholar in his class, but he was a great reader and

took intense delight in stories of war and descriptions of battles.

Napoleon was his hero, and he watched all his movements with breathless

interest; and soon began to dream of being a soldier, too. Thus was born

in the boy's heart that ambition which afterward lifted the man into

honor and fame.

At the age of sixteen Havelock began to study law, but he soon tired of

it, and three years later obtained an appointment in the army. He now

gave himself, with all the love and enthusiasm of his nature, to his

chosen profession. He was to be a soldier; and he decided that he would

be a thorough one, and would understand the art of war completely. He

studied very hard, and it is said that it was his habit to draw with a

stick upon the ground the plan of some historic battlefield, then, in

imagination fight the battle over again, so that he might clearly see

what made the one side lose and the other win.

After eight years of service in England, he was ordered to go to India.

There he became a soldier in earnest. It would take too long to tell of

the battles he was in, and of the terrible campaigns through which he

served. It is enough to say that he always followed where duty led, and

always seemed to know just what to do amid the confusion of the

battlefield. It was the dream of his life to become a general, but he

was doomed, year after year, to stand still and see untried, beardless

men promoted above his head. This certainly was hard to bear, but he

never lost heart, never sulked, never neglected any opportunity to serve

his government. His ambition was to do his best; and this he did,

whether the world saw and applauded or not.

Until he reached the age of sixty-two, he was scarcely known outside of

India; but then came the occasion that made him famous. All India was in

mutiny. The native soldiers, mad with power, were murdering the English

in every city. Far up in the interior, at Lucknow, was a garrison of

English soldiers, women, and children, hemmed in by thousands of these

bloodthirsty Sepoys. To surrender meant a horrible death. To hold the

fort meant starvation at last, unless rescue should speedily come.

Although, when the news reached him, he was hundreds of miles away,

Havelock undertook to save that little garrison. It seemed an impossible

task, and yet with a few hundred brave soldiers, in a country swarming

with the enemy, through swamps, over swollen rivers, he fought his way

to the gates at Lucknow. And then, beneath a hailstorm of bullets from

every house-top, he marched up the narrow street, and never paused until

he stood within the fortress walls, and heard the shout of welcome from

the lips of the starving men and women. It was a wonderful march, and

put him among the great soldiers of history; but it was the direct

result of that powerful ambition which had influenced his entire career.

The world rang with applause of his heroism; but praise came too late;

for while the queen was making him a baronet, and Parliament was voting

him a princely pension, he was dying of a fever within the very city he

had so bravely stormed. But his life-work was fully completed, and his

name shines brightly among those of the great military heroes of his

native land.

[Footnote: See Marshman's "Life of Havelock" (1860); Headley's "Life of

Havelock" (1864); Brock's "Life of General Sir Henry Havelock" (1854);

Molesworth's "History of England," Vol. III., Chap, ii., and Mitchell's

"History of India" (London, 1895).]