HOW TO GET ON IN THE WORLD; or, A LADDER TO PRACTICAL SUCCESS.
by MAJOR A. R. CALHOUN.
LABOR CREATES THE ONLY TRUE NOBILITY.
While believing firmly in the propriety of this way of thought, yet we would not have you imagine that we underestimate the value of a respectable lineage, but it is better to be the originator of a great family than to be the degenerate descendant of one.
With but few exceptions those Americans whose lives are very properly held up as an example for the imitation of our youth, are men who have had to work their own way from the humblest walks in life, to the highest in the gift of the nation.
This is true of [Benjamin] Franklin, the statesman and philosopher, as it is of[Abraham] Lincoln, the patriot and martyr, and the splendid list of names that adorn the pages of our intervening history.
[Samuel] Smiles [1812 - 1904] in his "Self-Help" shows how in England, a land where ancestry counts for so much, the descendants of the greatest men, even of kings, have been found in the humblest of callings.
The blood of all men flows from equally remote sources; and though some are unable to trace their line directly beyond their
grandfathers, all are nevertheless justified in placing at the head of their pedigree the great progenitors of the race, as Lord Chesterfield did when he wrote, "ADAM de Stanhope—EVE de
Stanhope." No class is ever long stationary. The mighty fall, and the humble are exalted. New families take the place of the old, who
disappear among the ranks of the common people. [Sir Bernard] Burke's "Vicissitudes of Families" strikingly exhibits the rise and fall of families, and
shows that the misfortunes which overtake the rich and noble are greater in proportion than those which overwhelm the poor. This
author points out that of the twenty-five barons selected to enforce the observance of Magna Charta, there is not now in the House of
Peers a single male descendant. Civil wars and rebellions ruined many of the old nobility and dispersed their families.
The great bulk of the English peerage is comparatively modern, so far as the titles go; but it is not the less noble that it has been recruited to so large an extent from the ranks of honorable industry. In olden times, the wealth and commerce of London, conducted as it was by energetic and enterprising men, was a prolific source of peerages. Thus, the earldom of Cornwallis was founded by Thomas Cornwallis, the Cheapside merchant; that of Essex by William Capel, the draper; and that of Craven by William Craven, the merchant tailor. The modern Earl of Warwick is not descended from the "King-maker," but from William Greville, the woolstapler; whilst the modern dukes of Northumberland find their head, not in the Percys, but in Hugh Smithson, a respectable London apothecary. The founders of the families of Dartmouth, Radnor, Ducie, and Pomfret, were respectively a skinner, a silk manufacturer, a merchant tailor, and a Calais merchant; whilst the founders of the peerages of Tankerville, Dormer, and Coventry, were mercers. The ancestors of Earl Romney, and Lord Dudley and Ward, were goldsmiths and jewelers; and Lord Dacres was a banker in the reign of Charles I, as Lord Overstone is in that of Queen Victoria. Edward Osborne, the founder of the dukedom of Leeds, was apprentice to William Hewet, a rich cloth-worker on London Bridge, whose only daughter he courageously rescued from drowning, by leaping into the Thames after her, and whom he eventually married.
William Phipps, at one time Colonial Governor of Massachusetts, and the founder of the Normandy family, was the son of a gunsmith who emigrated to Maine, where this remarkable man was born in 1651. He was one of a family of not fewer than twenty-six children (of whom twenty-one were sons), whose only fortune lay in their stout hearts and strong arms. William seems to have had a dash of the Danish seablood in his veins, and he did not take kindly to the quiet life of a shepherd in which he spent his early years. By nature bold and adventurous, he longed to become a sailor and roam through the world. He sought to join some ship; but not being able to find one, he apprenticed himself to a ship-builder, with whom he thoroughly learnt his trade, acquiring the arts of reading and writing during his leisure hours. Having completed his apprenticeship and removed to Boston, he wooed and married a widow of some means, after which he set up a little ship-building yard of his own, built a ship, and putting to sea in her, he engaged in the lumber trade, which he carried on in a plodding and laborious way for the space of about ten years.
It happened that one day, while passing through the crooked streets of old Boston, he overheard some sailors talking to each other of a wreck which had just taken place off the Bahamas; that of a Spanish ship, supposed to have much money on board. His adventurous spirit was at once kindled, and getting together a likely crew without loss of time, he set sail for the Bahamas. The wreck being well in shore he easily found it, and succeeded in recovering a great deal of its cargo, but very little money; and the result was that he barely defrayed his expenses. His success had been such, however, as to stimulate his enterprising spirit; and when he was told of another and far more richly laden vessel which had been wrecked near Port de la Plata more than half a century before, he forthwith formed the resolution of raising the wreck, or at all events of fishing up the treasure.
Being too poor, however, to undertake such an enterprise without powerful help, he set sail for England in the hope that he might there obtain it. The fame of his success in raising the wreck off the Bahamas had already preceded him. He applied direct to the Government. By his urgent enthusiasm, he succeeded in overcoming the usual inertia of official minds; and Charles II eventually placed at his disposal the "Rose Algier", a ship of eighteen guns and ninety- five men, appointing him to the chief command.
Phipps then set sail to find the Spanish ship and fish up the treasure. He reached the coast of Hispaniola in safety; but how to find the sunken ship was the great difficulty. The fact of the wreck was more than fifty years old; and Phipps had only the traditionary rumors of the even to work upon. There was a wide coast to explore, and an outspread ocean, without any trace whatever of the argosy which lay somewhere at its bottom. But the man was stout in heart and full of hope. He set his seamen to work to drag along the coast, and for weeks they went on fishing up seaweed, shingle and bits of rock. No occupation could be more trying to seamen, and they began to grumble one to another, and to whisper that the man in command had brought them on a fool's errand.
At length the murmurers gained head, and the men broke into open mutiny. A body of them rushed one day on to the quarter-deck, and demanded that the voyage should be relinquished. Phipps, however, was not a man to be intimidated; he seized the ringleaders, and sent the others back to their duty. It became necessary to bring the ship to anchor close to a small island for the purpose of repairs; and, to lighten her, the chief part of the stores was landed. Discontent still increasing among the crew, a new plot was laid among the men on shore to seize the ship, throw Phipps overboard, and start on a piratical cruise against the Spaniards in the South Seas. But it was necessary to secure the services of the chief ship-carpenter, who was consequently made privy to the plot. This man proved faithful, and a once told the captain of his danger. Summoning about him those whom he knew to be loyal, Phipps had the ship's guns loaded, which commanded the shore, and ordered the bridge communicating with the vessel to be drawn up. When the mutineers made their appearance, the captain hailed them, and told the men he would fire upon them if they approached the stores (still on land), when they drew back; on which Phipps had the stores reshipped under cover of his guns. The mutineers, fearful of being left upon the barren island, threw down their arms and implored to be permitted to return to their duty. The request was granted, and suitable precautions were taken against further mischief. Phipps, however, took the first opportunity of landing the mutinous part of the crew, and engaging other men in their places; but, by the time that he could again proceed actively with his explorations, he found it absolutely necessary to proceed to England for the purpose of repairing the ship. He had now, however, gained more precise information as to the spot where the Spanish treasure-ship had sunk; and, though as yet baffled, he was more confident than ever of the eventual success of his enterprise.
Returned to London, Phipps reported the result of his voyage to the Admirality, who professed to be pleased with his exertions; but he had been unsuccessful, and they would not entrust him with another king's ship. James II was now on the throne, and the Government was in trouble; so Phipps and his golden project appealed to them in vain. He next tried to raise the requisite means by a public subscription. At first he was laughed at; but his ceaseless importunity at length prevailed, and after four years' dinning of his project into the ears of the great and influential—during which time he lived in poverty—he at length succeeded. A company was formed in twenty shares, The Duke of Albemarle, son of General Monk, taking the chief interest in it, and subscribing the principal part of the necessary fund for the prosecution of the enterprise.
Phipps was successful in this undertaking. He started other enterprises and succeeded. He was knighted, and as has been stated, became the founder of one of England's noble families. It should be said, however, that beyond his perseverance, he had but few qualities to commend him. He was coarse, ignorant, and brutal, and had to fly from Massachusetts to save his life from an indignant people.
But true nobility is not that which is conferred by the warrant of a monarch. If as Pope says, "An honest man's the noblest work of God," then the nobles man is the honest man, who with his own clear brain and strong right arm, wins his way up from the humblest walks in life, till by virtue of his manhood, he stands the peer of peers, and by Divine right the equal of all earth's kings.
We hear a great deal about an American aristocracy, but no matter what the wishes of a few people with un-American tastes may be, the only aristocracy that can ever find recognition here, is that of brains and the success born of honest toil.
Ninety-nine out of every hundred of the rich families that are wrongly supposed to constitute our aristocracy at this time, were poor less than fifty years ago. Many of the rich families of fifty years ago are poor to-day; and so fortune varies and changes in this new land. Our true aristocrats are successful men like Peter Cooper, who left the world better for having lived in it. We count among our aristocrats, patriots like Lincoln, and if his descendants emulate his noble example, they too will be ennobled by their countrymen. We reckon Lowell, Longfellow, Whittier, Holmes, Hawthorne, Elisha Howe and George W. Childs among our aristocrats. Andrew Carnegie deserves a place in the same list of American peers, as does Thomas A. Edison.
But after all the true title to nobility is implied in the words "gentleman" and "lady," and with these we need not fear comparison with all the world's titled nobles.
A Review of "How to Get On in Life"
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Chapter XXIV - The Successful Man is Self-Made
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