Saturday, March 22, 2008
"THOSE who have the misfortune to be rich men's sons are heavily weighted in the race," says Andrew Carnegie.
"The vast majority of rich men's sons are unable to resist the temptations to which wealth subjects them, and they sink to unworthy lives. It is not from this class that the poor beginner has rivalry to fear.
The partner's sons will never trouble you [the poor boys,] much, but look out that some boys poorer, much poorer, than yourselves, whose parents cannot afford to give them any schooling, do not challenge you at the post and pass you at the grandstand.
Look out for the boy who has to plunge into work directly from the common school, and who begins by sweeping out the office. He is the probable dark horse that will take all the money and win all the applause."
The struggle to get away from poverty has been a great man-developer.
Had every human being been born with a silver spoon in his mouth — had there been no necessity put upon him to work — the race would still be in its infancy.
Had everybody in this country been born wealthy, ours would be one of the dark ages. The vast resources of our land would still be undeveloped, the gold would still be in the mines, and our great cities would still be in the forest and the quarry.
Civilization owes more to the perpetual struggle of man to get away from poverty than to anything else. We are so constituted that we make our greatest efforts and do our best work while struggling to attain that for which the heart longs.
It is practically impossible for most people to make their utmost exertions without imperative necessity for it. It is the constant necessity to improve his condition that has urged man onward and developed the stamina and sterling character of the whole race.
History abounds in stories of failures of men who started with wealth; and, on the other hand, it is illuminated with examples of those who owe everything to the spur of necessity.
A glance at the history of our own country will show that the vast majority of our successful men in every field were poor boys at the start. Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Abraham Lincoln, Horace Mann, George Peabody, Ulysses S. Grant, James A. Garfield — to mention but a few of the great names of past generations — rose to distinction from direst poverty.
Our most useful and successful men of today have also been evolved from the school of want and stern necessity. Our great merchants, railroad presidents, university presidents and professors, inventors, scientists, manufacturers, statesmen — men in every line of human activity — have for the most part been pushed forward by the goad of necessity, and led onward by the desire to make the most of themselves.
A youth born and bred in the midst of luxury, who has always leaned upon others, who has never been obliged to fight his own way up, and who has been coddled from his infancy, rarely develops great stamina or staying power.
He is like the weak sapling in the forest compared with the giant oak which has fought every inch of its way up from the acorn by struggling with storms and tempests.
Power is the result of force overcome. The giant is made strong in wrestling with difficulties. It is impossible for one who does not have to struggle and to fight obstacles to develop fiber or stamina. "To live without trial is to die but half a man."
Strength of character is a thing which must be wrung out of obstacles overcome. Life is a great gymnasium, and no man who sits in chair and watches the parallel bars and other apparatus ever develops muscles or endurance.
A father, by exercising for his son while he sits down, will never develop his muscle. The son will be a weakling until he uses the dumb-bells and pulley weights himself.
How many fathers try to do the exercises for their boys, while they sit on soft benches or easy chairs, watching the process! And still those fathers wonder that their boys come out of the gymnasium weak, with as soft and flabby muscles as they had when they entered.
Isn't it strange that so many successful men who take pride in having made themselves, and consider it the most fortunate thing in the world that they were thrown upon their own resources and were obliged to develop their independence and stamina and self-reliance, should work so hard to keep their children from having the same experience?
Isn't it strange that they should provide crutches so that it will be all the more difficult for them to walk alone? — that they should take away the strongest possible motive for the development of power by making it unnecessary for them to strive, but providing for every want and guarding them on all sides by wealth?
A famous artist, who was asked if he thought a young man who was studying with him would make a great painter, replied, "No, never. He has an income of six thousand pounds a year."
This artist knew how the great struggle against thwarting difficulties brings out power, and how hard it is to develop a strong, manly fiber in the sunshine of wealth.
How many young immigrants have come to this country uneducated, ignorant of our language, friendless and penniless, and yet have risen to positions of distinction and wealth, putting to shame tens of thousands of native-born youths who possessed every advantage of wealth, education and opportunity, but who have never been heard from!
I have in mind a young man of this class who came to this. It is the student who has to struggle hardest to obtain an education who gets the most discipline and good out of it. Boys who are "born scholars", and who only need to read a lesson over to know it and to be able to pass an examination upon it, do not derive half so much from their college course as do those who have to fight hard for everything they get.
It is not, as a rule, the youth who has a regular income and every want supplied by indulgent parents who makes the most of his opportunities at college, but the one who has to work his way through, who has to toil in college and out to make his expenses, or else go without an education.
What would the average youth do if he were not compelled by necessity to work— if he were not obliged to exert himself in order to get the thing he wants? If he already has all he wants, why should he struggle for more?
Not one in ten thousand would go through the struggle with poverty, the wrestling with necessity, just to produce character and make himself a stronger man, but he would do it for selfish reasons — to satisfy his ambition and get that which he longs for, for himself and those he loves.
"I am not wasting my sympathy on the children of the poor," says U.S. Senator J.P. Dolliver, once a poor boy himself. "What little sympathy I have I will give to the children of the rich. If you have one hundred thousand dollars, and give it to a boy to start him out in life, he doesn't start. I suggest keeping that hundred thousand and that boy apart; it will be better for the boy.
The cabin where Abraham Lincoln was born did not shelter the childhood of a king, but something better than a king — a man."
The boy who is conscious that he has a fortune awaiting him says to himself, "What is the use of getting up early in the morning and working one's life out? I have money enough coming to me to take care of me as long as I live."
So he turns over and takes another nap, while the boy who has nothing in the world but his own self to depend upon, feels the spur of necessity forcing him out of bed in the morning. He knows there is no other way open for him but the way of struggle. He has nobody to lean on — nobody to help him. He knows that it is a question either of being a nobody or getting up and hustling for dear life.
Thus, shrewd Nature, in making man get that which he wants most by the way of necessity, brings about her great ends of civilization and character-development of the race. The money, the property, the position are small things in comparison with the man she is after.
What price will Nature not pay for a man? She will put him through the hardest school of discipline, and train him for years, in the great university of experience, in order to perfect her work.
The mere money or property the man gets on the way is only incidental. Nature is after the man. She does not care a fig for the money, in comparison; but she will pay any price for a human giant.
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Posted by Poster at 6:50 AM