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´╗┐Title: Acres of Diamonds
Author: Conwell, Russell Herman, 1843-1925
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Acres of Diamonds" ***

    Acres of Diamonds


    VOLUME 2


    597 Fifth Avenue, New York


    Copyright, 1915, by Harper & Brothers
    Printed in the United States of America

  _An Appreciation of
  Russell H. Conwell_


Though Russell H. Conwell's Acres of Diamonds have been spread all over
the United States, time and care have made them more valuable, and now
that they have been reset in black and white by their discoverer, they
are to be laid in the hands of a multitude for their enrichment.

In the same case with these gems there is a fascinating story of the
Master Jeweler's life-work which splendidly illustrates the ultimate
unit of power by showing what one man can do in one day and what one
life is worth to the world.

As his neighbor and intimate friend in Philadelphia for thirty years, I
am free to say that Russell H. Conwell's tall, manly figure stands out
in the state of Pennsylvania as its first citizen and "The Big Brother"
of its seven millions of people.

From the beginning of his career he has been a credible witness in the
Court of Public Works to the truth of the strong language of the New
Testament Parable where it says, "If ye have faith as a grain of
mustard-seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, 'Remove hence to yonder

As a student, schoolmaster, lawyer, preacher, organizer, thinker and
writer, lecturer, educator, diplomat, and leader of men, he has made his
mark on his city and state and the times in which he has lived. A man
dies, but his good work lives.

His ideas, ideals, and enthusiasms have inspired tens of thousands of
lives. A book full of the energetics of a master workman is just what
every young man cares for.


[Illustration: His yoke fellow John Wanamaker]

_Acres of Diamonds_

_Friends._--This lecture has been delivered under these circumstances: I
visit a town or city, and try to arrive there early enough to see the
postmaster, the barber, the keeper of the hotel, the principal of the
schools, and the ministers of some of the churches, and then go into
some of the factories and stores, and talk with the people, and get into
sympathy with the local conditions of that town or city and see what has
been their history, what opportunities they had, and what they had
failed to do--and every town fails to do something--and then go to the
lecture and talk to those people about the subjects which applied to
their locality. "Acres of Diamonds"--the idea--has continuously been
precisely the same. The idea is that in this country of ours every man
has the opportunity to make more of himself than he does in his own
environment, with his own skill, with his own energy, and with his own



When going down the Tigris and Euphrates rivers many years ago with a
party of English travelers I found myself under the direction of an old
Arab guide whom we hired up at Bagdad, and I have often thought how that
guide resembled our barbers in certain mental characteristics. He
thought that it was not only his duty to guide us down those rivers, and
do what he was paid for doing, but also to entertain us with stories
curious and weird, ancient and modern, strange and familiar. Many of
them I have forgotten, and I am glad I have, but there is one I shall
never forget.

The old guide was leading my camel by its halter along the banks of
those ancient rivers, and he told me story after story until I grew
weary of his story-telling and ceased to listen. I have never been
irritated with that guide when he lost his temper as I ceased
listening. But I remember that he took off his Turkish cap and swung
it in a circle to get my attention. I could see it through the
corner of my eye, but I determined not to look straight at him for
fear he would tell another story. But although I am not a woman, I
did finally look, and as soon as I did he went right into another

Said he, "I will tell you a story now which I reserve for my particular
friends." When he emphasized the words "particular friends," I listened,
and I have ever been glad I did. I really feel devoutly thankful, that
there are 1,674 young men who have been carried through college by this
lecture who are also glad that I did listen. The old guide told me that
there once lived not far from the River Indus an ancient Persian by the
name of Ali Hafed. He said that Ali Hafed owned a very large farm, that
he had orchards, grain-fields, and gardens; that he had money at
interest, and was a wealthy and contented man. He was contented because
he was wealthy, and wealthy because he was contented. One day there
visited that old Persian farmer one of those ancient Buddhist priests,
one of the wise men of the East. He sat down by the fire and told the
old farmer how this world of ours was made. He said that this world was
once a mere bank of fog, and that the Almighty thrust His finger into
this bank of fog, and began slowly to move His finger around, increasing
the speed until at last He whirled this bank of fog into a solid ball of
fire. Then it went rolling through the universe, burning its way through
other banks of fog, and condensed the moisture without, until it fell in
floods of rain upon its hot surface, and cooled the outward crust. Then
the internal fires bursting outward through the crust threw up the
mountains and hills, the valleys, the plains and prairies of this
wonderful world of ours. If this internal molten mass came bursting out
and cooled very quickly it became granite; less quickly copper, less
quickly silver, less quickly gold, and, after gold, diamonds were made.

Said the old priest, "A diamond is a congealed drop of sunlight." Now
that is literally scientifically true, that a diamond is an actual
deposit of carbon from the sun. The old priest told Ali Hafed that if he
had one diamond the size of his thumb he could purchase the county, and
if he had a mine of diamonds he could place his children upon thrones
through the influence of their great wealth.

Ali Hafed heard all about diamonds, how much they were worth, and went
to his bed that night a poor man. He had not lost anything, but he was
poor because he was discontented, and discontented because he feared he
was poor. He said, "I want a mine of diamonds," and he lay awake all

Early in the morning he sought out the priest. I know by experience that
a priest is very cross when awakened early in the morning, and when he
shook that old priest out of his dreams, Ali Hafed said to him:

"Will you tell me where I can find diamonds?"

"Diamonds! What do you want with diamonds?" "Why, I wish to be immensely
rich." "Well, then, go along and find them. That is all you have to do;
go and find them, and then you have them." "But I don't know where to
go." "Well, if you will find a river that runs through white sands,
between high mountains, in those white sands you will always find
diamonds." "I don't believe there is any such river." "Oh yes, there are
plenty of them. All you have to do is to go and find them, and then you
have them." Said Ali Hafed, "I will go."

So he sold his farm, collected his money, left his family in charge of a
neighbor, and away he went in search of diamonds. He began his search,
very properly to my mind, at the Mountains of the Moon. Afterward he
came around into Palestine, then wandered on into Europe, and at last
when his money was all spent and he was in rags, wretchedness, and
poverty, he stood on the shore of that bay at Barcelona, in Spain, when
a great tidal wave came rolling in between the pillars of Hercules, and
the poor, afflicted, suffering, dying man could not resist the awful
temptation to cast himself into that incoming tide, and he sank beneath
its foaming crest, never to rise in this life again.

When that old guide had told me that awfully sad story he stopped the
camel I was riding on and went back to fix the baggage that was coming
off another camel, and I had an opportunity to muse over his story while
he was gone. I remember saying to myself, "Why did he reserve that story
for his 'particular friends'?" There seemed to be no beginning, no
middle, no end, nothing to it. That was the first story I had ever heard
told in my life, and would be the first one I ever read, in which the
hero was killed in the first chapter. I had but one chapter of that
story, and the hero was dead.

When the guide came back and took up the halter of my camel, he went
right ahead with the story, into the second chapter, just as though
there had been no break. The man who purchased Ali Hafed's farm one day
led his camel into the garden to drink, and as that camel put its nose
into the shallow water of that garden brook, Ali Hafed's successor
noticed a curious flash of light from the white sands of the stream. He
pulled out a black stone having an eye of light reflecting all the hues
of the rainbow. He took the pebble into the house and put it on the
mantel which covers the central fires, and forgot all about it.

A few days later this same old priest came in to visit Ali Hafed's
successor, and the moment he opened that drawing-room door he saw that
flash of light on the mantel, and he rushed up to it, and shouted: "Here
is a diamond! Has Ali Hafed returned?" "Oh no, Ali Hafed has not
returned, and that is not a diamond. That is nothing but a stone we
found right out here in our own garden." "But," said the priest, "I tell
you I know a diamond when I see it. I know positively that is a

Then together they rushed out into that old garden and stirred up the
white sands with their fingers, and lo! there came up other more
beautiful and valuable gems than the first. "Thus," said the guide to
me, and, friends, it is historically true, "was discovered the
diamond-mine of Golconda, the most magnificent diamond-mine in all the
history of mankind, excelling the Kimberly itself. The Kohinoor, and the
Orloff of the crown jewels of England and Russia, the largest on earth,
came from that mine."

When that old Arab guide told me the second chapter of his story, he
then took off his Turkish cap and swung it around in the air again to
get my attention to the moral. Those Arab guides have morals to their
stories, although they are not always moral. As he swung his hat, he
said to me, "Had Ali Hafed remained at home and dug in his own cellar,
or underneath his own wheat-fields, or in his own garden, instead of
wretchedness, starvation, and death by suicide in a strange land, he
would have had 'acres of diamonds.' For every acre of that old farm,
yes, every shovelful, afterward revealed gems which since have decorated
the crowns of monarchs."

When he had added the moral to his story I saw why he reserved it for
"his particular friends." But I did not tell him I could see it. It was
that mean old Arab's way of going around a thing like a lawyer, to say
indirectly what he did not dare say directly, that "in his private
opinion there was a certain young man then traveling down the Tigris
River that might better be at home in America." I did not tell him I
could see that, but I told him his story reminded me of one, and I told
it to him quick, and I think I will tell it to you.

I told him of a man out in California in 1847, who owned a ranch. He
heard they had discovered gold in southern California, and so with a
passion for gold he sold his ranch to Colonel Sutter, and away he went,
never to come back. Colonel Sutter put a mill upon a stream that ran
through that ranch, and one day his little girl brought some wet sand
from the raceway into their home and sifted it through her fingers
before the fire, and in that falling sand a visitor saw the first
shining scales of real gold that were ever discovered in California. The
man who had owned that ranch wanted gold, and he could have secured it
for the mere taking. Indeed, thirty-eight millions of dollars has been
taken out of a very few acres since then. About eight years ago I
delivered this lecture in a city that stands on that farm, and they
told me that a one-third owner for years and years had been getting one
hundred and twenty dollars in gold every fifteen minutes, sleeping or
waking, without taxation. You and I would enjoy an income like that--if
we didn't have to pay an income tax.

But a better illustration really than that occurred here in our own
Pennsylvania. If there is anything I enjoy above another on the
platform, it is to get one of these German audiences in Pennsylvania
before me, and fire that at them, and I enjoy it to-night. There was a
man living in Pennsylvania, not unlike some Pennsylvanians you have
seen, who owned a farm, and he did with that farm just what I should do
with a farm if I owned one in Pennsylvania--he sold it. But before he
sold it he decided to secure employment collecting coal-oil for his
cousin, who was in the business in Canada, where they first discovered
oil on this continent. They dipped it from the running streams at that
early time. So this Pennsylvania farmer wrote to his cousin asking for
employment. You see, friends, this farmer was not altogether a foolish
man. No, he was not. He did not leave his farm until he had something
else to do. _Of all the simpletons the stars shine on I don't know of a
worse one than the man who leaves one job before he has gotten another._
That has especial reference to my profession, and has no reference
whatever to a man seeking a divorce. When he wrote to his cousin for
employment, his cousin replied, "I cannot engage you because you know
nothing about the oil business."

Well, then the old farmer said, "I will know," and with most commendable
zeal (characteristic of the students of Temple University) he set
himself at the study of the whole subject. He began away back at the
second day of God's creation when this world was covered thick and deep
with that rich vegetation which since has turned to the primitive beds
of coal. He studied the subject until he found that the drainings really
of those rich beds of coal furnished the coal-oil that was worth
pumping, and then he found how it came up with the living springs. He
studied until he knew what it looked like, smelled like, tasted like,
and how to refine it. Now said he in his letter to his cousin, "I
understand the oil business." His cousin answered, "All right, come on."

So he sold his farm, according to the county record, for $833 (even
money, "no cents"). He had scarcely gone from that place before the man
who purchased the spot went out to arrange for the watering of the
cattle. He found the previous owner had gone out years before and put a
plank across the brook back of the barn, edgewise into the surface of
the water just a few inches. The purpose of that plank at that sharp
angle across the brook was to throw over to the other bank a
dreadful-looking scum through which the cattle would not put their
noses. But with that plank there to throw it all over to one side, the
cattle would drink below, and thus that man who had gone to Canada had
been himself damming back for twenty-three years a flood of coal-oil
which the state geologists of Pennsylvania declared to us ten years
later was even then worth a hundred millions of dollars to our state,
and four years ago our geologist declared the discovery to be worth to
our state a thousand millions of dollars. The man who owned that
territory on which the city of Titusville now stands, and those
Pleasantville valleys, had studied the subject from the second day of
God's creation clear down to the present time. He studied it until he
knew all about it, and yet he is said to have sold the whole of it for
$833, and again I say, "no sense."

But I need another illustration. I found it in Massachusetts, and I am
sorry I did because that is the state I came from. This young man in
Massachusetts furnishes just another phase of my thought. He went to
Yale College and studied mines and mining, and became such an adept as a
mining engineer that he was employed by the authorities of the
university to train students who were behind their classes. During his
senior year he earned $15 a week for doing that work. When he graduated
they raised his pay from $15 to $45 a week, and offered him a
professorship, and as soon as they did he went right home to his
mother. _If they had raised that boy's pay from $15 to $15.60 he would
have stayed and been proud of the place, but when they put it up to $45
at one leap, he said, "Mother, I won't work for $45 a week. The idea of
a man with a brain like mine working for $45 a week!_ Let's go out in
California and stake out gold-mines and silver-mines, and be immensely

Said his mother, "Now, Charlie, it is just as well to be happy as it is
to be rich."

"Yes," said Charlie, "but it is just as well to be rich and happy, too."
And they were both right about it. As he was an only son and she a
widow, of course he had his way. They always do.

They sold out in Massachusetts, and instead of going to California they
went to Wisconsin, where he went into the employ of the Superior Copper
Mining Company at $15 a week again, but with the proviso in his contract
that he should have an interest in any mines he should discover for the
company. I don't believe he ever discovered a mine, and if I am looking
in the face of any stockholder of that copper company you wish he had
discovered something or other. I have friends who are not here because
they could not afford a ticket, who did have stock in that company at
the time this young man was employed there. This young man went out
there, and I have not heard a word from him. I don't know what became of
him, and I don't know whether he found any mines or not, but I don't
believe he ever did.

But I do know the other end of the line. He had scarcely gotten out of
the old homestead before the succeeding owner went out to dig potatoes.
The potatoes were already growing in the ground when he bought the farm,
and as the old farmer was bringing in a basket of potatoes it hugged
very tight between the ends of the stone fence. You know in
Massachusetts our farms are nearly all stone wall. There you are obliged
to be very economical of front gateways in order to have some place to
put the stone. When that basket hugged so tight he set it down on the
ground, and then dragged on one side, and pulled on the other side, and
as he was dragging that basket through this farmer noticed in the upper
and outer corner of that stone wall, right next the gate, a block of
native silver eight inches square. That professor of mines, mining, and
mineralogy who knew so much about the subject that he would not work for
$45 a week, when he sold that homestead in Massachusetts sat right on
that silver to make the bargain. He was born on that homestead, was
brought up there, and had gone back and forth rubbing the stone with his
sleeve until it reflected his countenance, and seemed to say, "Here is a
hundred thousand dollars right down here just for the taking." But he
would not take it. It was in a home in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and
there was no silver there, all away off--well, I don't know where, and
he did not, but somewhere else, and he was a professor of mineralogy.

My friends, that mistake is very universally made, and why should we
even smile at him. I often wonder what has become of him. I do not know
at all, but I will tell you what I "guess" as a Yankee. I guess that he
sits out there by his fireside to-night with his friends gathered around
him, and he is saying to them something like this: "Do you know that man
Conwell who lives in Philadelphia?" "Oh yes, I have heard of him." "Do
you know that man Jones that lives in Philadelphia?" "Yes, I have heard
of him, too."

Then he begins to laugh, and shakes his sides, and says to his friends,
"Well, they have done just the same thing I did, precisely"--and that
spoils the whole joke, for you and I have done the same thing he did,
and while we sit here and laugh at him he has a better right to sit out
there and laugh at us. I know I have made the same mistakes, but, of
course, that does not make any difference, because we don't expect the
same man to preach and practise, too.

As I come here to-night and look around this audience I am seeing again
what through these fifty years I have continually seen--men that are
making precisely that same mistake. I often wish I could see the younger
people, and would that the Academy had been filled to-night with our
high-school scholars and our grammar-school scholars, that I could have
them to talk to. While I would have preferred such an audience as that,
because they are most susceptible, as they have not grown up into their
prejudices as we have, they have not gotten into any custom that they
cannot break, they have not met with any failures as we have; and while
I could perhaps do such an audience as that more good than I can do
grown-up people, yet I will do the best I can with the material I have.
I say to you that you have "acres of diamonds" in Philadelphia right
where you now live. "Oh," but you will say, "you cannot know much about
your city if you think there are any 'acres of diamonds' here."

I was greatly interested in that account in the newspaper of the young
man who found that diamond in North Carolina. It was one of the purest
diamonds that has ever been discovered, and it has several predecessors
near the same locality. I went to a distinguished professor in
mineralogy and asked him where he thought those diamonds came from. The
professor secured the map of the geologic formations of our continent,
and traced it. He said it went either through the underlying
carboniferous strata adapted for such production, westward through Ohio
and the Mississippi, or in more probability came eastward through
Virginia and up the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a fact that the
diamonds were there, for they have been discovered and sold; and that
they were carried down there during the drift period, from some
northern locality. Now who can say but some person going down with his
drill in Philadelphia will find some trace of a diamond-mine yet down
here? Oh, friends! you cannot say that you are not over one of the
greatest diamond-mines in the world, for such a diamond as that only
comes from the most profitable mines that are found on earth.

But it serves simply to illustrate my thought, which I emphasize by
saying if you do not have the actual diamond-mines literally you have
all that they would be good for to you. Because now that the Queen of
England has given the greatest compliment ever conferred upon American
woman for her attire because she did not appear with any jewels at all
at the late reception in England, it has almost done away with the use
of diamonds anyhow. All you would care for would be the few you would
wear if you wish to be modest, and the rest you would sell for money.

Now then, I say again that the opportunity to get rich, to attain unto
great wealth, is here in Philadelphia now, within the reach of almost
every man and woman who hears me speak to-night, and I mean just what I
say. I have not come to this platform even under these circumstances to
recite something to you. I have come to tell you what in God's sight I
believe to be the truth, and if the years of life have been of any value
to me in the attainment of common sense, I know I am right; that the
men and women sitting here, who found it difficult perhaps to buy a
ticket to this lecture or gathering to-night, have within their reach
"acres of diamonds," opportunities to get largely wealthy. There never
was a place on earth more adapted than the city of Philadelphia to-day,
and never in the history of the world did a poor man without capital
have such an opportunity to get rich quickly and honestly as he has now
in our city. I say it is the truth, and I want you to accept it as such;
for if you think I have come to simply recite something, then I would
better not be here. I have no time to waste in any such talk, but to say
the things I believe, and unless some of you get richer for what I am
saying to-night my time is wasted.

I say that you ought to get rich, and it is your duty to get rich. How
many of my pious brethren say to me, "Do you, a Christian minister,
spend your time going up and down the country advising young people to
get rich, to get money?" "Yes, of course I do." They say, "Isn't that
awful! Why don't you preach the gospel instead of preaching about man's
making money?" "Because to make money honestly is to preach the gospel."
That is the reason. The men who get rich may be the most honest men you
find in the community.

"Oh," but says some young man here to-night, "I have been told all my
life that if a person has money he is very dishonest and dishonorable
and mean and contemptible." My friend, that is the reason why you have
none, because you have that idea of people. The foundation of your faith
is altogether false. Let me say here clearly, and say it briefly, though
subject to discussion which I have not time for here, ninety-eight out
of one hundred of the rich men of America are honest. That is why they
are rich. That is why they are trusted with money. That is why they
carry on great enterprises and find plenty of people to work with them.
It is because they are honest men.

Says another young man, "I hear sometimes of men that get millions of
dollars dishonestly." Yes, of course you do, and so do I. But they are
so rare a thing in fact that the newspapers talk about them all the time
as a matter of news until you get the idea that all the other rich men
got rich dishonestly.

My friend, you take and drive me--if you furnish the auto--out into the
suburbs of Philadelphia, and introduce me to the people who own their
homes around this great city, those beautiful homes with gardens and
flowers, those magnificent homes so lovely in their art, and I will
introduce you to the very best people in character as well as in
enterprise in our city, and you know I will. A man is not really a true
man until he owns his own home, and they that own their homes are made
more honorable and honest and pure, and true and economical and
careful, by owning the home.

For a man to have money, even in large sums, is not an inconsistent
thing. We preach against covetousness, and you know we do, in the
pulpit, and oftentimes preach against it so long and use the terms about
"filthy lucre" so extremely that Christians get the idea that when we
stand in the pulpit we believe it is wicked for any man to have
money--until the collection-basket goes around, and then we almost swear
at the people because they don't give more money. Oh, the inconsistency
of such doctrines as that!

Money is power, and you ought to be reasonably ambitious to have it. You
ought because you can do more good with it than you could without it.
Money printed your Bible, money builds your churches, money sends your
missionaries, and money pays your preachers, and you would not have many
of them, either, if you did not pay them. I am always willing that my
church should raise my salary, because the church that pays the largest
salary always raises it the easiest. You never knew an exception to it
in your life. The man who gets the largest salary can do the most good
with the power that is furnished to him. Of course he can if his spirit
be right to use it for what it is given to him.

I say, then, you ought to have money. If you can honestly attain unto
riches in Philadelphia, it is your Christian and godly duty to do so.
It is an awful mistake of these pious people to think you must be
awfully poor in order to be pious.

Some men say, "Don't you sympathize with the poor people?" Of course I
do, or else I would not have been lecturing these years. I won't give in
but what I sympathize with the poor, but the number of poor who are to
be sympathized with is very small. To sympathize with a man whom God has
punished for his sins, thus to help him when God would still continue a
just punishment, is to do wrong, no doubt about it, and we do that more
than we help those who are deserving. While we should sympathize with
God's poor--that is, those who cannot help themselves--let us remember
there is not a poor person in the United States who was not made poor by
his own shortcomings, or by the shortcomings of some one else. It is all
wrong to be poor, anyhow. Let us give in to that argument and pass that
to one side.

A gentleman gets up back there, and says, "Don't you think there are
some things in this world that are better than money?" Of course I do,
but I am talking about money now. Of course there are some things higher
than money. Oh yes, I know by the grave that has left me standing alone
that there are some things in this world that are higher and sweeter and
purer than money. Well do I know there are some things higher and
grander than gold. Love is the grandest thing on God's earth, but
fortunate the lover who has plenty of money. Money is power, money is
force, money will do good as well as harm. In the hands of good men and
women it could accomplish, and it has accomplished, good.

I hate to leave that behind me. I heard a man get up in a prayer-meeting
in our city and thank the Lord he was "one of God's poor." Well, I
wonder what his wife thinks about that? She earns all the money that
comes into that house, and he smokes a part of that on the veranda. I
don't want to see any more of the Lord's poor of that kind, and I don't
believe the Lord does. And yet there are some people who think in order
to be pious you must be awfully poor and awfully dirty. That does not
follow at all. While we sympathize with the poor, let us not teach a
doctrine like that.

Yet the age is prejudiced against advising a Christian man (or, as a Jew
would say, a godly man) from attaining unto wealth. The prejudice is so
universal and the years are far enough back, I think, for me to safely
mention that years ago up at Temple University there was a young man in
our theological school who thought he was the only pious student in that
department. He came into my office one evening and sat down by my desk,
and said to me: "Mr. President, I think it is my duty sir, to come in
and labor with you." "What has happened now?" Said he, "I heard you say
at the Academy, at the Peirce School commencement, that you thought it
was an honorable ambition for a young man to desire to have wealth, and
that you thought it made him temperate, made him anxious to have a good
name, and made him industrious. You spoke about man's ambition to have
money helping to make him a good man. Sir, I have come to tell you the
Holy Bible says that 'money is the root of all evil.'"

I told him I had never seen it in the Bible, and advised him to go out
into the chapel and get the Bible, and show me the place. So out he went
for the Bible, and soon he stalked into my office with the Bible open,
with all the bigoted pride of the narrow sectarian, or of one who founds
his Christianity on some misinterpretation of Scripture. He flung the
Bible down on my desk, and fairly squealed into my ear: "There it is,
Mr. President; you can read it for yourself." I said to him: "Well,
young man, you will learn when you get a little older that you cannot
trust another denomination to read the Bible for you. You belong to
another denomination. You are taught in the theological school, however,
that emphasis is exegesis. Now, will you take that Bible and read it
yourself, and give the proper emphasis to it?"

He took the Bible, and proudly read, "'The love of money is the root of
all evil.'"

Then he had it right, and when one does quote aright from that same old
Book he quotes the absolute truth. I have lived through fifty years of
the mightiest battle that old Book has ever fought, and I have lived to
see its banners flying free; for never in the history of this world did
the great minds of earth so universally agree that the Bible is
true--all true--as they do at this very hour.

So I say that when he quoted right, of course he quoted the absolute
truth. "The love of money is the root of all evil." He who tries to
attain unto it too quickly, or dishonestly, will fall into many snares,
no doubt about that. The love of money. What is that? It is making an
idol of money, and idolatry pure and simple everywhere is condemned by
the Holy Scriptures and by man's common sense. The man that worships the
dollar instead of thinking of the purposes for which it ought to be
used, the man who idolizes simply money, the miser that hordes his money
in the cellar, or hides it in his stocking, or refuses to invest it
where it will do the world good, that man who hugs the dollar until the
eagle squeals has in him the root of all evil.

I think I will leave that behind me now and answer the question of
nearly all of you who are asking, "Is there opportunity to get rich in
Philadelphia?" Well, now, how simple a thing it is to see where it is,
and the instant you see where it is it is yours. Some old gentleman gets
up back there and says, "Mr. Conwell, have you lived in Philadelphia for
thirty-one years and don't know that the time has gone by when you can
make anything in this city?" "No, I don't think it is." "Yes, it is; I
have tried it." "What business are you in?" "I kept a store here for
twenty years, and never made over a thousand dollars in the whole twenty

"Well, then, you can measure the good you have been to this city by what
this city has paid you, because a man can judge very well what he is
worth by what he receives; that is, in what he is to the world at this
time. If you have not made over a thousand dollars in twenty years in
Philadelphia, it would have been better for Philadelphia if they had
kicked you out of the city nineteen years and nine months ago. A man has
no right to keep a store in Philadelphia twenty years and not make at
least five hundred thousand dollars, even though it be a corner grocery
up-town." You say, "You cannot make five thousand dollars in a store
now." Oh, my friends, if you will just take only four blocks around you,
and find out what the people want and what you ought to supply and set
them down with your pencil, and figure up the profits you would make if
you did supply them, you would very soon see it. There is wealth right
within the sound of your voice.

Some one says: "You don't know anything about business. A preacher never
knows a thing about business." Well, then, I will have to prove that I
am an expert. I don't like to do this, but I have to do it because my
testimony will not be taken if I am not an expert. My father kept a
country store, and if there is any place under the stars where a man
gets all sorts of experience in every kind of mercantile transactions,
it is in the country store. I am not proud of my experience, but
sometimes when my father was away he would leave me in charge of the
store, though fortunately for him that was not very often. But this did
occur many times, friends: A man would come in the store, and say to me,
"Do you keep jack-knives?" "No, we don't keep jack-knives," and I went
off whistling a tune. What did I care about that man, anyhow? Then
another farmer would come in and say, "Do you keep jack-knives?" "No, we
don't keep jack-knives." Then I went away and whistled another tune.
Then a third man came right in the same door and said, "Do you keep
jack-knives?" "No. Why is every one around here asking for jack-knives?
Do you suppose we are keeping this store to supply the whole
neighborhood with jack-knives?" Do you carry on your store like that in
Philadelphia? The difficulty was I had not then learned that the
foundation of godliness and the foundation principle of success in
business are both the same precisely. The man who says, "I cannot carry
my religion into business" advertises himself either as being an
imbecile in business, or on the road to bankruptcy, or a thief, one of
the three, sure. He will fail within a very few years. He certainly will
if he doesn't carry his religion into business. If I had been carrying
on my father's store on a Christian plan, godly plan, I would have had
a jack-knife for the third man when he called for it. Then I would have
actually done him a kindness, and I would have received a reward myself,
which it would have been my duty to take.

There are some over-pious Christian people who think if you take any
profit on anything you sell that you are an unrighteous man. On the
contrary, you would be a criminal to sell goods for less than they cost.
You have no right to do that. You cannot trust a man with your money who
cannot take care of his own. You cannot trust a man in your family that
is not true to his own wife. You cannot trust a man in the world that
does not begin with his own heart, his own character, and his own life.
It would have been my duty to have furnished a jack-knife to the third
man, or the second, and to have sold it to him and actually profited
myself. I have no more right to sell goods without making a profit on
them than I have to overcharge him dishonestly beyond what they are
worth. But I should so sell each bill of goods that the person to whom I
sell shall make as much as I make.

To live and let live is the principle of the gospel, and the principle
of every-day common sense. Oh, young man, hear me; live as you go along.
Do not wait until you have reached my years before you begin to enjoy
anything of this life. If I had the millions back, or fifty cents of it,
which I have tried to earn in these years, it would not do me anything
like the good that it does me now in this almost sacred presence
to-night. Oh, yes, I am paid over and over a hundredfold to-night for
dividing as I have tried to do in some measure as I went along through
the years. I ought not speak that way, it sounds egotistic, but I am old
enough now to be excused for that. I should have helped my fellow-men,
which I have tried to do, and every one should try to do, and get the
happiness of it. The man who goes home with the sense that he has stolen
a dollar that day, that he has robbed a man of what was his honest due,
is not going to sweet rest. He arises tired in the morning, and goes
with an unclean conscience to his work the next day. He is not a
successful man at all, although he may have laid up millions. But the
man who has gone through life dividing always with his fellow-men,
making and demanding his own rights and his own profits, and giving to
every other man his rights and profits, lives every day, and not only
that, but it is the royal road to great wealth. The history of the
thousands of millionaires shows that to be the case.

The man over there who said he could not make anything in a store in
Philadelphia has been carrying on his store on the wrong principle.
Suppose I go into your store to-morrow morning and ask, "Do you know
neighbor A, who lives one square away, at house No. 1240?" "Oh yes, I
have met him. He deals here at the corner store." "Where did he come
from?" "I don't know." "How many does he have in his family?" "I don't
know." "What ticket does he vote?" "I don't know." "What church does he
go to?" "I don't know, and don't care. What are you asking all these
questions for?"

If you had a store in Philadelphia would you answer me like that? If so,
then you are conducting your business just as I carried on my father's
business in Worthington, Massachusetts. You don't know where your
neighbor came from when he moved to Philadelphia, and you don't care. If
you had cared you would be a rich man now. If you had cared enough about
him to take an interest in his affairs, to find out what he needed, you
would have been rich. But you go through the world saying, "No
opportunity to get rich," and there is the fault right at your own door.

But another young man gets up over there and says, "I cannot take up the
mercantile business." (While I am talking of trade it applies to every
occupation.) "Why can't you go into the mercantile business?" "Because I
haven't any capital." Oh, the weak and dudish creature that can't see
over its collar! It makes a person weak to see these little dudes
standing around the corners and saying, "Oh, if I had plenty of capital,
how rich I would get." "Young man, do you think you are going to get
rich on capital?" "Certainly." Well, I say, "Certainly not." If your
mother has plenty of money, and she will set you up in business, you
will "set her up in business," supplying you with capital.

The moment a young man or woman gets more money than he or she has grown
to by practical experience, that moment he has gotten a curse. It is no
help to a young man or woman to inherit money. It is no help to your
children to leave them money, but if you leave them education, if you
leave them Christian and noble character, if you leave them a wide
circle of friends, if you leave them an honorable name, it is far better
than that they should have money. It would be worse for them, worse for
the nation, that they should have any money at all. Oh, young man, if
you have inherited money, don't regard it as a help. It will curse you
through your years, and deprive you of the very best things of human
life. There is no class of people to be pitied so much as the
inexperienced sons and daughters of the rich of our generation. I pity
the rich man's son. He can never know the best things in life.

One of the best things in our life is when a young man has earned his
own living, and when he becomes engaged to some lovely young woman, and
makes up his mind to have a home of his own. Then with that same love
comes also that divine inspiration toward better things, and he begins
to save his money. He begins to leave off his bad habits and put money
in the bank. When he has a few hundred dollars he goes out in the
suburbs to look for a home. He goes to the savings-bank, perhaps, for
half of the value, and then goes for his wife, and when he takes his
bride over the threshold of that door for the first time he says in
words of eloquence my voice can never touch: "I have earned this home
myself. It is all mine, and I divide with thee." That is the grandest
moment a human heart may ever know.

But a rich man's son can never know that. He takes his bride into a
finer mansion, it may be, but he is obliged to go all the way through it
and say to his wife, "My mother gave me that, my mother gave me that,
and my mother gave me this," until his wife wishes she had married his
mother. I pity the rich man's son.

The statistics of Massachusetts showed that not one rich man's son out
of seventeen ever dies rich. I pity the rich man's sons unless they have
the good sense of the elder Vanderbilt, which sometimes happens. He went
to his father and said, "Did you earn all your money?" "I did, my son. I
began to work on a ferry-boat for twenty-five cents a day." "Then," said
his son, "I will have none of your money," and he, too, tried to get
employment on a ferry-boat that Saturday night. He could not get one
there, but he did get a place for three dollars a week. Of course, if a
rich man's son will do that, he will get the discipline of a poor boy
that is worth more than a university education to any man. He would then
be able to take care of the millions of his father. But as a rule the
rich men will not let their sons do the very thing that made them great.
As a rule, the rich man will not allow his son to work--and his mother?
Why, she would think it was a social disgrace if her poor, weak, little
lily-fingered, sissy sort of a boy had to earn his living with honest
toil. I have no pity for such rich men's sons.

I remember one at Niagara Falls. I think I remember one a great deal
nearer. I think there are gentlemen present who were at a great banquet,
and I beg pardon of his friends. At a banquet here in Philadelphia there
sat beside me a kind-hearted young man, and he said, "Mr. Conwell, you
have been sick for two or three years. When you go out, take my
limousine, and it will take you up to your house on Broad Street." I
thanked him very much, and perhaps I ought not to mention the incident
in this way, but I follow the facts. I got on to the seat with the
driver of that limousine, outside, and when we were going up I asked the
driver, "How much did this limousine cost?" "Six thousand eight hundred,
and he had to pay the duty on it." "Well," I said, "does the owner of
this machine ever drive it himself?" At that the chauffeur laughed so
heartily that he lost control of his machine. He was so surprised at the
question that he ran up on the sidewalk, and around a corner lamp-post
out into the street again. And when he got out into the street he
laughed till the whole machine trembled. He said: "He drive this
machine! Oh, he would be lucky if he knew enough to get out when we get

I must tell you about a rich man's son at Niagara Palls. I came in from
the lecture to the hotel, and as I approached the desk of the clerk
there stood a millionaire's son from New York. He was an indescribable
specimen of anthropologic potency. He had a skull-cap on one side of his
head, with a gold tassel in the top of it, and a gold-headed cane under
his arm with more in it than in his head. It is a very difficult thing
to describe that young man. He wore an eye-glass that he could not see
through, patent-leather boots that he could not walk in, and pants that
he could not sit down in--dressed like a grasshopper. This human cricket
came up to the clerk's desk just as I entered, adjusted his unseeing
eye-glass, and spake in this wise to the clerk. You see, he thought it
was "Hinglish, you know," to lisp. "Thir, will you have the kindness to
supply me with thome papah and enwelophs!" The hotel clerk measured that
man quick, and he pulled the envelopes and paper out of a drawer, threw
them across the counter toward the young man, and then turned away to
his books. You should have seen that young man when those envelopes came
across that counter. He swelled up like a gobbler turkey, adjusted his
unseeing eye-glass, and yelled: "Come right back here. Now thir, will
you order a thervant to take that papah and enwelophs to yondah dethk."
Oh, the poor, miserable, contemptible American monkey! He could not
carry paper and envelopes twenty feet. I suppose he could not get his
arms down to do it. I have no pity for such travesties upon human
nature. If you have not capital, young man, I am glad of it. What you
need is common sense, not copper cents.

The best thing I can do is to illustrate by actual facts well-known to
you all. A. T. Stewart, a poor boy in New York, had $1.50 to begin life
on. He lost 87-1/2 cents of that on the very first venture. How
fortunate that young man who loses the first time he gambles. That boy
said, "I will never gamble again in business," and he never did. How
came he to lose 87-1/2 cents? You probably all know the story how he
lost it--because he bought some needles, threads, and buttons to sell
which people did not want, and had them left on his hands, a dead loss.
Said the boy, "I will not lose any more money in that way." Then he went
around first to the doors and asked the people what they did want. Then
when he had found out what they wanted he invested his 62-1/2 cents to
supply a known demand. Study it wherever you choose--in business, in
your profession, in your housekeeping, whatever your life, that one
thing is the secret of success. You must first know the demand. You must
first know what people need, and then invest yourself where you are most
needed. A. T. Stewart went on that principle until he was worth what
amounted afterward to forty millions of dollars, owning the very store
in which Mr. Wanamaker carries on his great work in New York. His
fortune was made by his losing something, which taught him the great
lesson that he must only invest himself or his money in something that
people need. When will you salesmen learn it? When will you
manufacturers learn that you must know the changing needs of humanity if
you would succeed in life? Apply yourselves, all you Christian people,
as manufacturers or merchants or workmen to supply that human need. It
is a great principle as broad as humanity and as deep as the Scripture

The best illustration I ever heard was of John Jacob Astor. You know
that he made the money of the Astor family when he lived in New York. He
came across the sea in debt for his fare. But that poor boy with nothing
in his pocket made the fortune of the Astor family on one principle.
Some young man here to-night will say, "Well, they could make those
fortunes over in New York, but they could not do it in Philadelphia!" My
friends, did you ever read that wonderful book of Riis (his memory is
sweet to us because of his recent death), wherein is given his
statistical account of the records taken in 1889 of 107 millionaires of
New York. If you read the account you will see that out of the 107
millionaires only seven made their money in New York. Out of the 107
millionaires worth ten million dollars in real estate then, 67 of them
made their money in towns of less than 3,500 inhabitants. The richest
man in this country to-day, if you read the real-estate values, has
never moved away from a town of 3,500 inhabitants. It makes not so much
difference where you are as who you are. But if you cannot get rich in
Philadelphia you certainly cannot do it in New York.

Now John Jacob Astor illustrated what can be done anywhere. He had a
mortgage once on a millinery-store, and they could not sell bonnets
enough to pay the interest on his money. So he foreclosed that mortgage,
took possession of the store, and went into partnership with the very
same people, in the same store, with the same capital. He did not give
them a dollar of capital. They had to sell goods to get any money. Then
he left them alone in the store just as they had been before, and he
went out and sat down on a bench in the park in the shade. What was John
Jacob Astor doing out there, and in partnership with people who had
failed on his own hands? He had the most important and, to my mind, the
most pleasant part of that partnership on his hands. For as John Jacob
Astor sat on that bench he was watching the ladies as they went by; and
where is the man who would not get rich at that business? As he sat on
the bench if a lady passed him with her shoulders back and head up, and
looked straight to the front, as if she did not care if all the world
did gaze on her, then he studied her bonnet, and by the time it was out
of sight he knew the shape of the frame, the color of the trimmings, and
the crinklings in the feather. I sometimes try to describe a bonnet, but
not always. I would not try to describe a modern bonnet. Where is the
man that could describe one? This aggregation of all sorts of driftwood
stuck on the back of the head, or the side of the neck, like a rooster
with only one tail feather left. But in John Jacob Astor's day there was
some art about the millinery business, and he went to the
millinery-store and said to them: "Now put into the show-window just
such a bonnet as I describe to you, because I have already seen a lady
who likes such a bonnet. Don't make up any more until I come back." Then
he went out and sat down again, and another lady passed him of a
different form, of different complexion, with a different shape and
color of bonnet. "Now," said he, "put such a bonnet as that in the
show-window." He did not fill his show-window up-town with a lot of hats
and bonnets to drive people away, and then sit on the back stairs and
bawl because people went to Wanamaker's to trade. He did not have a hat
or a bonnet in that show-window but what some lady liked before it was
made up. The tide of custom began immediately to turn in, and that has
been the foundation of the greatest store in New York in that line, and
still exists as one of three stores. Its fortune was made by John Jacob
Astor after they had failed in business, not by giving them any more
money, but by finding out what the ladies liked for bonnets before they
wasted any material in making them up. I tell you if a man could foresee
the millinery business he could foresee anything under heaven!

Suppose I were to go through this audience to-night and ask you in this
great manufacturing city if there are not opportunities to get rich in
manufacturing. "Oh yes," some young man says, "there are opportunities
here still if you build with some trust and if you have two or three
millions of dollars to begin with as capital." Young man, the history of
the breaking up of the trusts by that attack upon "big business" is only
illustrating what is now the opportunity of the smaller man. The time
never came in the history of the world when you could get rich so
quickly manufacturing without capital as you can now.

But you will say, "You cannot do anything of the kind. You cannot start
without capital." Young man, let me illustrate for a moment. I must do
it. It is my duty to every young man and woman, because we are all going
into business very soon on the same plan. Young man, remember if you
know what people need you have gotten more knowledge of a fortune than
any amount of capital can give you.

There was a poor man out of work living in Hingham, Massachusetts. He
lounged around the house until one day his wife told him to get out and
work, and, as he lived in Massachusetts, he obeyed his wife. He went out
and sat down on the shore of the bay, and whittled a soaked shingle into
a wooden chain. His children that evening quarreled over it, and he
whittled a second one to keep peace. While he was whittling the second
one a neighbor came in and said: "Why don't you whittle toys and sell
them? You could make money at that." "Oh," he said, "I would not know
what to make." "Why don't you ask your own children right here in your
own house what to make?" "What is the use of trying that?" said the
carpenter. "My children are different from other people's children." (I
used to see people like that when I taught school.) But he acted upon
the hint, and the next morning when Mary came down the stairway, he
asked, "What do you want for a toy?" She began to tell him she would
like a doll's bed, a doll's washstand, a doll's carriage, a little
doll's umbrella, and went on with a list of things that would take him a
lifetime to supply. So, consulting his own children, in his own house,
he took the firewood, for he had no money to buy lumber, and whittled
those strong, unpainted Hingham toys that were for so many years known
all over the world. That man began to make those toys for his own
children, and then made copies and sold them through the boot-and-shoe
store next door. He began to make a little money, and then a little
more, and Mr. Lawson, in his _Frenzied Finance_ says that man is the
richest man in old Massachusetts, and I think it is the truth. And that
man is worth a hundred millions of dollars to-day, and has been only
thirty-four years making it on that one principle--that one must judge
that what his own children like at home other people's children would
like in their homes, too; to judge the human heart by oneself, by one's
wife or by one's children. It is the royal road to success in
manufacturing. "Oh," but you say, "didn't he have any capital?" Yes, a
penknife, but I don't know that he had paid for that.

I spoke thus to an audience in New Britain, Connecticut, and a lady four
seats back went home and tried to take off her collar, and the
collar-button stuck in the buttonhole. She threw it out and said, "I am
going to get up something better than that to put on collars." Her
husband said: "After what Conwell said to-night, you see there is a need
of an improved collar-fastener that is easier to handle. There is a
human need; there is a great fortune. Now, then, get up a collar-button
and get rich." He made fun of her, and consequently made fun of me, and
that is one of the saddest things which comes over me like a deep cloud
of midnight sometimes--although I have worked so hard for more than half
a century, yet how little I have ever really done. Notwithstanding the
greatness and the handsomeness of your compliment to-night, I do not
believe there is one in ten of you that is going to make a million of
dollars because you are here to-night; but it is not my fault, it is
yours. I say that sincerely. What is the use of my talking if people
never do what I advise them to do? When her husband ridiculed her, she
made up her mind she would make a better collar-button, and when a woman
makes up her mind "she will," and does not say anything about it, she
does it. It was that New England woman who invented the snap button
which you can find anywhere now. It was first a collar-button with a
spring cap attached to the outer side. Any of you who wear modern
waterproofs know the button that simply pushes together, and when you
unbutton it you simply pull it apart. That is the button to which I
refer, and which she invented. She afterward invented several other
buttons, and then invested in more, and then was taken into partnership
with great factories. Now that woman goes over the sea every summer in
her private steamship--yes, and takes her husband with her! If her
husband were to die, she would have money enough left now to buy a
foreign duke or count or some such title as that at the latest

Now what is my lesson in that incident? It is this: I told her then,
though I did not know her, what I now say to you, "Your wealth is too
near to you. You are looking right over it"; and she had to look over it
because it was right under her chin.

I have read in the newspaper that a woman never invented anything.
Well, that newspaper ought to begin again. Of course, I do not refer to
gossip--I refer to machines--and if I did I might better include the
men. That newspaper could never appear if women had not invented
something. Friends, think. Ye women, think! You say you cannot make a
fortune because you are in some laundry, or running a sewing-machine, it
may be, or walking before some loom, and yet you can be a millionaire if
you will but follow this almost infallible direction.

When you say a woman doesn't invent anything, I ask, Who invented the
Jacquard loom that wove every stitch you wear? Mrs. Jacquard. The
printer's roller, the printing-press, were invented by farmers' wives.
Who invented the cotton-gin of the South that enriched our country so
amazingly? Mrs. General Greene invented the cotton-gin and showed the
idea to Mr. Whitney, and he, like a man, seized it. Who was it that
invented the sewing-machine? If I would go to school to-morrow and ask
your children they would say, "Elias Howe."

He was in the Civil War with me, and often in my tent, and I often heard
him say that he worked fourteen years to get up that sewing-machine. But
his wife made up her mind one day that they would starve to death if
there wasn't something or other invented pretty soon, and so in two
hours she invented the sewing-machine. Of course he took out the patent
in his name. Men always do that. Who was it that invented the mower and
the reaper? According to Mr. McCormick's confidential communication, so
recently published, it was a West Virginia woman, who, after his father
and he had failed altogether in making a reaper and gave it up, took a
lot of shears and nailed them together on the edge of a board, with one
shaft of each pair loose, and then wired them so that when she pulled
the wire one way it closed them, and when she pulled the wire the other
way it opened them, and there she had the principle of the
mowing-machine. If you look at a mowing-machine, you will see it is
nothing but a lot of shears. If a woman can invent a mowing-machine, if
a woman can invent a Jacquard loom, if a woman can invent a cotton-gin,
if a woman can invent a trolley switch--as she did and made the trolleys
possible; if a woman can invent, as Mr. Carnegie said, the great iron
squeezers that laid the foundation of all the steel millions of the
United States, "we men" can invent anything under the stars! I say that
for the encouragement of the men.

Who are the great inventors of the world? Again this lesson comes before
us. The great inventor sits next to you, or you are the person yourself.
"Oh," but you will say, "I have never invented anything in my life."
Neither did the great inventors until they discovered one great secret.
Do you think it is a man with a head like a bushel measure or a man like
a stroke of lightning? It is neither. The really great man is a plain,
straightforward, every-day, common-sense man. You would not dream that
he was a great inventor if you did not see something he had actually
done. His neighbors do not regard him so great. You never see anything
great over your back fence. You say there is no greatness among your
neighbors. It is all away off somewhere else. Their greatness is ever so
simple, so plain, so earnest, so practical, that the neighbors and
friends never recognize it.

True greatness is often unrecognized. That is sure. You do not know
anything about the greatest men and women. I went out to write the life
of General Garfield, and a neighbor, knowing I was in a hurry, and as
there was a great crowd around the front door, took me around to General
Garfield's back door and shouted, "Jim! Jim!" And very soon "Jim" came
to the door and let me in, and I wrote the biography of one of the
grandest men of the nation, and yet he was just the same old "Jim" to
his neighbor. If you know a great man in Philadelphia and you should
meet him to-morrow, you would say, "How are you, Sam?" or "Good morning,
Jim." Of course you would. That is just what you would do.

One of my soldiers in the Civil War had been sentenced to death, and I
went up to the White House in Washington--sent there for the first time
in my life--to see the President. I went into the waiting-room and sat
down with a lot of others on the benches, and the secretary asked one
after another to tell him what they wanted. After the secretary had been
through the line, he went in, and then came back to the door and
motioned for me. I went up to that anteroom, and the secretary said:
"That is the President's door right over there. Just rap on it and go
right in." I never was so taken aback, friends, in all my life, never.
The secretary himself made it worse for me, because he had told me how
to go in and then went out another door to the left and shut that. There
I was, in the hallway by myself before the President of the United
States of America's door. I had been on fields of battle, where the
shells did sometimes shriek and the bullets did sometimes hit me, but I
always wanted to run. I have no sympathy with the old man who says, "I
would just as soon march up to the cannon's mouth as eat my dinner." I
have no faith in a man who doesn't know enough to be afraid when he is
being shot at. I never was so afraid when the shells came around us at
Antietam as I was when I went into that room that day; but I finally
mustered the courage--I don't know how I ever did--and at arm's length
tapped on the door. The man inside did not help me at all, but yelled
out, "Come in and sit down!"

Well, I went in and sat down on the edge of a chair, and wished I were
in Europe, and the man at the table did not look up. He was one of the
world's greatest men, and was made great by one single rule. Oh, that
all the young people of Philadelphia were before me now and I could say
just this one thing, and that they would remember it. I would give a
lifetime for the effect it would have on our city and on civilization.
Abraham Lincoln's principle for greatness can be adopted by nearly all.
This was his rule: Whatsoever he had to do at all, he put his whole mind
into it and held it all there until that was all done. That makes men
great almost anywhere. He stuck to those papers at that table and did
not look up at me, and I sat there trembling. Finally, when he had put
the string around his papers, he pushed them over to one side and looked
over to me, and a smile came over his worn face. He said: "I am a very
busy man and have only a few minutes to spare. Now tell me in the fewest
words what it is you want." I began to tell him, and mentioned the case,
and he said: "I have heard all about it and you do not need to say any
more. Mr. Stanton was talking to me only a few days ago about that. You
can go to the hotel and rest assured that the President never did sign
an order to shoot a boy under twenty years of age, and never will. You
can say that to his mother anyhow."

Then he said to me, "How is it going in the field?" I said, "We
sometimes get discouraged." And he said: "It is all right. We are going
to win out now. We are getting very near the light. No man ought to
wish to be President of the United States, and I will be glad when I get
through; then Tad and I are going out to Springfield, Illinois. I have
bought a farm out there and I don't care if I again earn only
twenty-five cents a day. Tad has a mule team, and we are going to plant

Then he asked me, "Were you brought up on a farm?" I said, "Yes; in the
Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts." He then threw his leg over the corner
of the big chair and said, "I have heard many a time, ever since I was
young, that up there in those hills you have to sharpen the noses of the
sheep in order to get down to the grass between the rocks." He was so
familiar, so every-day, so farmer-like, that I felt right at home with
him at once.

He then took hold of another roll of paper, and looked up at me and
said, "Good morning." I took the hint then and got up and went out.
After I had gotten out I could not realize I had seen the President of
the United States at all. But a few days later, when still in the city,
I saw the crowd pass through the East Room by the coffin of Abraham
Lincoln, and when I looked at the upturned face of the murdered
President I felt then that the man I had seen such a short time before,
who, so simple a man, so plain a man, was one of the greatest men that
God ever raised up to lead a nation on to ultimate liberty. Yet he was
only "Old Abe" to his neighbors. When they had the second funeral, I was
invited among others, and went out to see that same coffin put back in
the tomb at Springfield. Around the tomb stood Lincoln's old neighbors,
to whom he was just "Old Abe." Of course that is all they would say.

Did you ever see a man who struts around altogether too large to notice
an ordinary working mechanic? Do you think he is great? He is nothing
but a puffed-up balloon, held down by his big feet. There is no
greatness there.

Who are the great men and women? My attention was called the other day
to the history of a very little thing that made the fortune of a very
poor man. It was an awful thing, and yet because of that experience
he--not a great inventor or genius--invented the pin that now is called
the safety-pin, and out of that safety-pin made the fortune of one of
the great aristocratic families of this nation.

A poor man in Massachusetts who had worked in the nail-works was injured
at thirty-eight, and he could earn but little money. He was employed in
the office to rub out the marks on the bills made by pencil memorandums,
and he used a rubber until his hand grew tired. He then tied a piece of
rubber on the end of a stick and worked it like a plane. His little girl
came and said, "Why, you have a patent, haven't you?" The father said
afterward, "My daughter told me when I took that stick and put the
rubber on the end that there was a patent, and that was the first
thought of that." He went to Boston and applied for his patent, and
every one of you that has a rubber-tipped pencil in your pocket is now
paying tribute to the millionaire. No capital, not a penny did he invest
in it. All was income, all the way up into the millions.

But let me hasten to one other greater thought. "Show me the great men
and women who live in Philadelphia." A gentleman over there will get up
and say: "We don't have any great men in Philadelphia. They don't live
here. They live away off in Rome or St. Petersburg or London or
Manayunk, or anywhere else but here in our town." I have come now to the
apex of my thought. I have come now to the heart of the whole matter and
to the center of my struggle: Why isn't Philadelphia a greater city in
its greater wealth? Why does New York excel Philadelphia? People say,
"Because of her harbor." Why do many other cities of the United States
get ahead of Philadelphia now? There is only one answer, and that is
because our own people talk down their own city. If there ever was a
community on earth that has to be forced ahead, it is the city of
Philadelphia. If we are to have a boulevard, talk it down; if we are
going to have better schools, talk them down; if you wish to have wise
legislation, talk it down; talk all the proposed improvements down. That
is the only great wrong that I can lay at the feet of the magnificent
Philadelphia that has been so universally kind to me. I say it is time
we turn around in our city and begin to talk up the things that are in
our city, and begin to set them before the world as the people of
Chicago, New York, St. Louis, and San Francisco do. Oh, if we only could
get that spirit out among our people, that we can do things in
Philadelphia and do them well!

Arise, ye millions of Philadelphians, trust in God and man, and believe
in the great opportunities that are right here--not over in New York or
Boston, but here--for business, for everything that is worth living for
on earth. There was never an opportunity greater. Let us talk up our own

But there are two other young men here to-night, and that is all I will
venture to say, because it is too late. One over there gets up and says,
"There is going to be a great man in Philadelphia, but never was one."
"Oh, is that so? When are you going to be great?" "When I am elected to
some political office." Young man, won't you learn a lesson in the
primer of politics that it is a _prima facie_ evidence of littleness to
hold office under our form of government? Great men get into office
sometimes, but what this country needs is men that will do what we tell
them to do. This nation--where the people rule--is governed by the
people, for the people, and so long as it is, then the office-holder is
but the servant of the people, and the Bible says the servant cannot be
greater than the master. The Bible says, "He that is sent cannot be
greater than Him who sent Him." The people rule, or should rule, and if
they do, we do not need the greater men in office. If the great men in
America took our offices, we would change to an empire in the next ten

I know of a great many young women, now that woman's suffrage is coming,
who say, "I am going to be President of the United States some day." I
believe in woman's suffrage, and there is no doubt but what it is
coming, and I am getting out of the way, anyhow. I may want an office by
and by myself; but if the ambition for an office influences the women in
their desire to vote, I want to say right here what I say to the young
men, that if you only get the privilege of casting one vote, you don't
get anything that is worth while. Unless you can control more than one
vote, you will be unknown, and your influence so dissipated as
practically not to be felt. This country is not run by votes. Do you
think it is? It is governed by influence. It is governed by the
ambitions and the enterprises which control votes. The young woman that
thinks she is going to vote for the sake of holding an office is making
an awful blunder.

That other young man gets up and says, "There are going to be great men
in this country and in Philadelphia." "Is that so? When?" "When there
comes a great war, when we get into difficulty through watchful waiting
in Mexico; when we get into war with England over some frivolous deed,
or with Japan or China or New Jersey or some distant country. Then I
will march up to the cannon's mouth; I will sweep up among the
glistening bayonets; I will leap into the arena and tear down the flag
and bear it away in triumph. I will come home with stars on my shoulder,
and hold every office in the gift of the nation, and I will be great."
No, you won't. You think you are going to be made great by an office,
but remember that if you are not great before you get the office, you
won't be great when you secure it. It will only be a burlesque in that

We had a Peace Jubilee here after the Spanish War. Out West they don't
believe this, because they said, "Philadelphia would not have heard of
any Spanish War until fifty years hence." Some of you saw the procession
go up Broad Street. I was away, but the family wrote to me that the
tally-ho coach with Lieutenant Hobson upon it stopped right at the front
door and the people shouted, "Hurrah for Hobson!" and if I had been
there I would have yelled too, because he deserves much more of his
country than he has ever received. But suppose I go into school and say,
"Who sunk the _Merrimac_ at Santiago?" and if the boys answer me,
"Hobson," they will tell me seven-eighths of a lie. There were seven
other heroes on that steamer, and they, by virtue of their position,
were continually exposed to the Spanish fire, while Hobson, as an
officer, might reasonably be behind the smoke-stack. You have gathered
in this house your most intelligent people, and yet, perhaps, not one
here can name the other seven men.

We ought not to so teach history. We ought to teach that, however humble
a man's station may be, if he does his full duty in that place he is
just as much entitled to the American people's honor as is the king upon
his throne. But we do not so teach. We are now teaching everywhere that
the generals do all the fighting.

I remember that, after the war, I went down to see General Robert E.
Lee, that magnificent Christian gentleman of whom both North and South
are now proud as one of our great Americans. The general told me about
his servant, "Rastus," who was an enlisted colored soldier. He called
him in one day to make fun of him, and said, "Rastus, I hear that all
the rest of your company are killed, and why are you not killed?" Rastus
winked at him and said, "'Cause when there is any fightin' goin' on I
stay back with the generals."

I remember another illustration. I would leave it out but for the fact
that when you go to the library to read this lecture, you will find this
has been printed in it for twenty-five years. I shut my eyes--shut them
close--and lo! I see the faces of my youth. Yes, they sometimes say to
me, "Your hair is not white; you are working night and day without
seeming ever to stop; you can't be old." But when I shut my eyes, like
any other man of my years, oh, then come trooping back the faces of the
loved and lost of long ago, and I know, whatever men may say, it is

I shut my eyes now and look back to my native town in Massachusetts, and
I see the cattle-show ground on the mountain-top; I can see the
horse-sheds there. I can see the Congregational church; see the town
hall and mountaineers' cottages; see a great assembly of people turning
out, dressed resplendently, and I can see flags flying and handkerchiefs
waving and hear bands playing. I can see that company of soldiers that
had re-enlisted marching up on that cattle-show ground. I was but a boy,
but I was captain of that company and puffed out with pride. A cambric
needle would have burst me all to pieces. Then I thought it was the
greatest event that ever came to man on earth. If you have ever thought
you would like to be a king or queen, you go and be received by the

The bands played, and all the people turned out to receive us. I marched
up that Common so proud at the head of my troops, and we turned down
into the town hall. Then they seated my soldiers down the center aisle
and I sat down on the front seat. A great assembly of people--a hundred
or two--came in to fill the town hall, so that they stood up all around.
Then the town officers came in and formed a half-circle. The mayor of
the town sat in the middle of the platform. He was a man who had never
held office before; but he was a good man, and his friends have told me
that I might use this without giving them offense. He was a good man,
but he thought an office made a man great. He came up and took his seat,
adjusted his powerful spectacles, and looked around, when he suddenly
spied me sitting there on the front seat. He came right forward on the
platform and invited me up to sit with the town officers. No town
officer ever took any notice of me before I went to war, except to
advise the teacher to thrash me, and now I was invited up on the stand
with the town officers. Oh my! the town mayor was then the emperor, the
king of our day and our time. As I came up on the platform they gave me
a chair about this far, I would say, from the front.

When I had got seated, the chairman of the Selectmen arose and came
forward to the table, and we all supposed he would introduce the
Congregational minister, who was the only orator in town, and that he
would give the oration to the returning soldiers. But, friends, you
should have seen the surprise which ran over the audience when they
discovered that the old fellow was going to deliver that speech himself.
He had never made a speech in his life, but he fell into the same error
that hundreds of other men have fallen into. It seems so strange that a
man won't learn he must speak his piece as a boy if he intends to be an
orator when he is grown, but he seems to think all he has to do is to
hold an office to be a great orator.

So he came up to the front, and brought with him a speech which he had
learned by heart walking up and down the pasture, where he had
frightened the cattle. He brought the manuscript with him and spread it
out on the table so as to be sure he might see it. He adjusted his
spectacles and leaned over it for a moment and marched back on that
platform, and then came forward like this--tramp, tramp, tramp. He must
have studied the subject a great deal, when you come to think of it,
because he assumed an "elocutionary" attitude. He rested heavily upon
his left heel, threw back his shoulders, slightly advanced the right
foot, opened the organs of speech, and advanced his right foot at an
angle of forty-five. As he stood in that elocutionary attitude, friends,
this is just the way that speech went. Some people say to me, "Don't you
exaggerate?" That would be impossible. But I am here for the lesson and
not for the story, and this is the way it went:

"Fellow-citizens--" As soon as he heard his voice his fingers began to
go like that, his knees began to shake, and then he trembled all over.
He choked and swallowed and came around to the table to look at the
manuscript. Then he gathered himself up with clenched fists and came
back: "Fellow-citizens, we are--Fellow-citizens, we are--we are--we
are--we are--we are--we are very happy--we are very happy--we are very
happy. We are very happy to welcome back to their native town these
soldiers who have fought and bled--and come back again to their native
town. We are especially--we are especially--we are especially. We are
especially pleased to see with us to-day this young hero" (that meant
me)--"this young hero who in imagination" (friends, remember he said
that; if he had not said "in imagination" I would not be egotistic
enough to refer to it at all)--"this young hero who in imagination we
have seen leading--we have seen leading--leading. We have seen leading
his troops on to the deadly breach. We have seen his shining--we have
seen his shining--his shining--his shining sword--flashing. Flashing in
the sunlight, as he shouted to his troops, 'Come on'!"

Oh dear, dear, dear! how little that good man knew about war. If he had
known anything about war at all he ought to have known what any of my G.
A. R. comrades here to-night will tell you is true, that it is next to a
crime for an officer of infantry ever in time of danger to go ahead of
his men. "I, with my shining sword flashing in the sunlight, shouting to
my troops, 'Come on'!" I never did it. Do you suppose I would get in
front of my men to be shot in front by the enemy and in the back by my
own men? That is no place for an officer. The place for the officer in
actual battle is behind the line. How often, as a staff officer, I rode
down the line, when our men were suddenly called to the line of battle,
and the Rebel yells were coming out of the woods, and shouted: "Officers
to the rear! Officers to the rear!" Then every officer gets behind the
line of private soldiers, and the higher the officer's rank the farther
behind he goes. Not because he is any the less brave, but because the
laws of war require that. And yet he shouted, "I, with my shining
sword--" In that house there sat the company of my soldiers who had
carried that boy across the Carolina rivers that he might not wet his
feet. Some of them had gone far out to get a pig or a chicken. Some of
them had gone to death under the shell-swept pines in the mountains of
Tennessee, yet in the good man's speech they were scarcely known. He did
refer to them, but only incidentally. The hero of the hour was this boy.
Did the nation owe him anything? No, nothing then and nothing now. Why
was he the hero? Simply because that man fell into that same human
error--that this boy was great because he was an officer and these were
only private soldiers.

Oh, I learned the lesson then that I will never forget so long as the
tongue of the bell of time continues to swing for me. Greatness consists
not in the holding of some future office, but really consists in doing
great deeds with little means and the accomplishment of vast purposes
from the private ranks of life. To be great at all one must be great
here, now, in Philadelphia. He who can give to this city better streets
and better sidewalks, better schools and more colleges, more happiness
and more civilization, more of God, he will be great anywhere. Let every
man or woman here, if you never hear me again, remember this, that if
you wish to be great at all, you must begin where you are and what you
are, in Philadelphia, now. He that can give to his city any blessing, he
who can be a good citizen while he lives here, he that can make better
homes, he that can be a blessing whether he works in the shop or sits
behind the counter or keeps house, whatever be his life, he who would be
great anywhere must first be great in his own Philadelphia.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Note:

The following paragraph appears at the bottom of page 3 in the original:

This is the most recent and complete form of the lecture.
It happened to be delivered in Philadelphia, Dr. Conwell's
home city. When he says "right here in Philadelphia," he means
the home city, town, or village of every reader of this book, just
as he would use the name of it if delivering the lecture there,
instead of doing it through the pages which follow.

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