Eugene V. (Eugene Valentine) Brewster.

What's what in America online

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the advantages and practicability of NA-
TIONAL DIRECTION of our industries, and
the harmonious operation of those natural laws
and forces which are incessantly working out
their destiny. The inherent instincts of man, his
nature, his desires, his ambitions, his weaknesses
must all be considered in forming conclusions.


That which is right will finally prevail. We may
retard the onward march of civilization, but we
cannot permanently check it. Not only does rea-
son and logic urge the acceptance of the conclu-
sions herein presented, as it appears to the writer,
but unmistakable evidences of a natural move-
ment in the direction indicated are now apparent.
If the premises given are sound, NATIONAL
DIRECTION is desirable. If the conclusions
are logical, NATIONAL DIRECTION is

The Public

WHO or what are the public? You say,
the people! What people? Dr. John-
son defined the public as "A majority
of society," but this is rather indefinite. "The
public! the public!" exclaims Chamfort, "how
many fools does it take to make the public?"
Bancroft did not think the public fools, for he
says, "The public is wiser than the wisest critic."
If the public is the majority, who is to say that
they are wise or unwise, right or wrong, fools or
philosophers? Who or what is to be the court
of last resort? Somebody has said that the ma-
jority is usually wrong, but who is to decide
whether the majority or that "somebody" is
wrong? Schiller had but little faith in the ma-
jority, for he wrote, "Votes should be weighed,
not counted ; the voice of the majority is no proof
of justice:" and Bovee suggests that a better
principle than this, that "the majority shall rule."
is this other, that justice shall rule. And ac-
cording to the code of Justinian, "Justice is the



constant and perpetual desire to render every
man his due." But, as a matter of fact, the ma-
jority seldom do rule, for while our public men
and political bosses may say "The public be
damned," as was publicly said by at least one
man and echoed by at least a thousand, the public
is pretty sure to get anything but justice, so long
as such men are in control of the election ma-
chinery. The public have opinions, doubtless,
but they have not yet found a way of expressing
them when they want to, and not often do they
get what they want. The public is a heterogene-
ous mass, without organization and without any
settled community of interest. Sometimes, we
call the public by the uncomplimentary name,
the mob. Goethe thought the public particu-
larly sensitive, for he said that "The public
wishes itself to be managed like a woman; one
must say nothing to it except what it likes to
hear." He also thought them ungrateful, for he
said, "He who serves the public is a poor animal ;
he worries himself to death, and no one thanks
him for it." Hazlitt was of like mind, and he
maintained that the public have neither shame
nor gratitude.

When we say of a man that he is popular with
the masses, we mean with the people; and it is
interesting to speculate on how we form such an


opinion. How do we know that a man is popu-
lar with the people? Certainly we have not
asked all the people about it, and the few we
have asked may not be representative. Perhaps
we form our opinion of the public's opinion
from one or more of these things : what the news-
papers say, what those persons say with whom
we have talked, and from our knowledge of the
human heart generally. As for the last, we know
that such virtues as honesty, self-sacrifice, ability
and courage are universally admired, and that
such vices as dishonesty, selfishness and coward-
ice are universally condemned; so that if we
know what impression certain acts of a public
official have made, we may come pretty near
knowing whether that man is or is not popular.
As to the newspapers, they are usually very close
to the people, but they are sometimes closer to
some other influence.

Certainly the public must not be put down as
fools. They may be ignorant, when it comes to
determining some great question over which the
best minds of the world are in dispute; they may
be illogical; they may be unreasoning; they may
be sentimental; they may be unstable in judg-
ment; but certainly they are not fools. Like
children and animals, the most ignorant of the
public have their instincts and intuitions, and


while the sun of public opinion may fluctuate
from cloud to cloud, it generally sets true at last.
Like the Athenians, and sheep, the public are
more easily driven in a flock than individually.
Just as the crowd will make way for the man
who pushes boldly forward, so will the public
follow any good leader who knows enough about
his business to appreciate the value of such senti-
ments as patriotism, humanity, unselfish devo-
tion and human sympathy. While such a leader
is in favor, the public are more than willing to
be led, like so many sheep, but the most trivial
incident will sometimes win their disfavor, and
history shows that the public are perfectly
willing to crown a man one day and to hang him
the next. To gain the favor of the mob is not
so difficult; but to serve the public so that they
and their posterity will in after years honor his
name, that is indeed difficult, and decidedly
worth while.


"I court not the votes of the fickle mob." Horace.

PUBLIC favor is fickle fancy. It is as
capricious, uncertain and unreliable as
the weather; and, while we may at times
predict where it will bestow its alleged blessings,
we can never with certainty tell how long it will
remain there. Those who crave popularity
should remember that it begins by making a man
its tool, and usually ends in making him an ob-
ject of contempt. A very trifling circumstance
often creates popularity, and a single circum-
stance just as trifling usually destroys it. Was
there ever a more popular man than Dewey after
the Manila victory? Yet the trifling circum-
stance of transferring his gift-house to his new
wife almost destroyed it. Hobson was equally
popular after the Merrimac episode, but he for-
feited it by numerous kissing exhibitions. Bird
S. Coler was extremely popular while comp-
troller of New York and lost the governorship
by an inch, but his popularity was as quickly



forfeited as it was acquired. Louis XVI was ex-
tremely popular, but he died at the guillotine a
despised and hated monarch. Marie Antoinette
was equally popular, until she told the mob, who
were crying for bread, to eat cake. Napoleon
was universally popular until he divorced
Josephine, and again popular at the cradle of
the King of Rome. The memory of Cromwell
was infamous for more than a century, but now
he is a world hero. Robespierre was popular
until he attempted to check the effusion of

Popularity knows no law and no precedent.
It sometimes attaches to tyrants, for were not
Caligula and Nero more popular than Germani-
cus? It sometimes attaches to ignorance, for
who is today more popular than our champion
batter or prize fighter? It sometimes attaches
to immorality, for did it not adopt the infamous
Pompadour and du Barry? It sometimes at-
taches to trifles, for was there ever such a fuss
made over anything as the Teddybear? It some-
times delights in the downfall of royal favorites,
and then exults in their reinstatements. It at-
taches to the great, at times, and then hails with
shouts of exultation those who overthrow the

He who delights in popularity must be pre-


pared to submit to the veriest subjugation, for he
must obey the very ones whom he desires to

True merit heeds not the fulsome acclama-
tions of capricious popularity, but goes on its
way regardless. It asks itself "What is right?"
not "What will the public applaud?" Merit as
well as folly, loves appreciation, but the one
hopes for it as a just reward, while the other
seeks it as a theft.

There are two kinds of popularity: the popu-
larity of men and the popularity of their produc-
tions, the latter being the more reliable and con-
stant. The popularity of Roosevelt was mainly
of the former kind, for it was his pleasing and
picturesque personality that made him one of
the most popular men of the last hundred years.
As he recedes into history, we can tell better
whether his name will remain a household word
like Napoleon, Jackson, Lincoln, Webster,
Grant, Bismarck and Gladstone's. It may be
that certain popularity is ephemeral, for public
opinion resembles a mind obeying by turns two
directly opposite impulses, lauding a man to the
skies one day, and, on the next, as it discovers
him deficient in the merit it gratuitously ascribed
to him, avenging itself by deprecating that which
it had capriciously over-rated.


Popularity is the keystone of modern politics.
Alas, too few men have we, who think, say, or
act, without weighing the probabilities of its
popularity. Our statesmen care more for what is
popular than for what is right, and popularity
is generally the sole consideration. To attain the
honors of posterity and of history, a more solid
merit is required than the ephemeral smile of

Popularity is a delusion.

It is an easy matter to become popular if one
wants to, for all it requires is passive tolerance,
and active commendat-ion. Taking the indi-
vidual, listen to his stories attentively, applaud
his hobbies, rave over his phonograph, his
pianola, or his pictures, or books, or his dog. A
good listener is always popular. Taking the in-
dividual collectively, the public, the same rule
holds good. Place your ear to the ground, study
the whims of the people, learn how they worship,
how they play and how they work, then preach
their doctrines, pat them on the back, applaud
their errors, and you can be popular. Rub the
fur the right way and the cat won't scratch.
Pioneers of thought seldom attain popularity.
The man with a new idea, or who dares to
preach something different, is usually put in jail


while he is alive, and put in marble after he is
dead. As Goethe says, ^'The public must be
treated like women: they must be told absolutely
nothing but what they like to hear."


The first step to greatness is to be honest. — Johnson.

All great men are partially inspired. — Cicero.

All great men come out of the middle classes. — Emerson.

No really great man ever thought himself so. — Hazlitt.

The world knows nothing of its greatest men. — H. Taylor.

What millions died that Caesar might be great! — Campbell.

The great are only great because we carry them on our
shoulders: when we throw them of? they sprawl on the
ground. — Montandre.

It is not in the nature of great men to be exclusive and
arrogant. — Beecher.

None think the great unhappy but the great. — Young.

There is but one method, and that is hard labor. — Sydney

No man has come to true greatness who has not felt in
some degree that his life belongs to his race, and that God
gives him for mankind. — Phillips Brooks.

WHAT is genius? Is it merely the ability
to master details, as somebody has
said, or is it the result of some natural
endowments, faculties, or aptitudes for a par-
ticular thing? That it is some uncommon power
of intellect, all admit; but whether it is a gen-
eral or a specific power, is much disputed. Doc-
tor Johnson's notion was that genius is nothing
more or less than great general powers of mind,
capable of being turned any way, or in any di-
rection, and that ''a man who has vigor may



walk to the East just as well as to the West."
Emerson held quite the contrary view, for he says
that a man is born to some one thing, and that he
is "like a ship in a river; he runs against ob-
structions on every side but one; on that side all
obstruction is taken away, and sweeps serenely
over a deepening channel into an infinite sea."
And again, in Representative Men, "Each man
is, by secret liking, connected with some district
of nature, whose agent and interpreter he is, as
Linnaeus, of plants; Huber, of bees; Fries, of
lichens; Van Mons, of pears; Dalton, of atomic
forms; Euclid, of lines; Newton, of fluxions."
On the other hand, versatility of genius is not
uncommon, for was not Leonardo da Vinci mas-
ter of all the arts? did not Lord Brougham excel
in everything, until they said of him "Science is
his forte, onmiscence his foible"? and was not
our own Franklin equally famous for his several
accomplishments? Nevertheless, it is quite cer-
tain that most of the great men of history, in art,
arms or letters, displayed genius in only one line ;
yet this does not signify that they could not have
displayed equal genius in one or more other lines.
Perhaps the case could be stated thus: (i) A
genius is a man of uncommon power of intellect;
(2) Every man has a natural bent for some one
line of effort; (3) A genius is apt to follow his


natural bent, and thus excel in only one line; (4)
A genius may also excel in one or more other
lines, circumstances and environment leading
him away from his natural inclinations.

What is greatness? Who were the greatest
men of history? Who are the great and the great-
est men of the time? These are questions on
every tongue, yet who may say the answer?
Seneca, Bacon, Carlyle, Goethe, Emerson, Col-
ton and other philosophers have written volumes
without answering any of these questions, and
nobody yet has been able to give answers satis-
factory to all. There are four kinds of great-
ness: village greatness, provincial greatness,
world greatness and era greatness, for we know
that a man may be great in his village, mediocre
in his province, county, state or country, a non-
enity in the world, and a nobody in the era fol-
lowing that in which he lived. A few men are
accepted as great during their lifetimes, a few
of these are accepted as great outside their own
colonies, and only a very few of these survive
their own eras. While it is true that a man is
seldom a hero in his own home, and that great-
ness is seen to better advantage from a distance,
yet some greatness is so weak that it dies before it
is fullgrown. Greatness is often divided into
two kinds, — greatness of men of action, and


greatness of men of thought; yet this is an im-
proper division, since all great men are men of
action, and are always endowed with a force
which may be called pneumatic energy.

Bismarck once said that a really great man is
known by three signs — generosity in the design,
humanity in the execution, moderation in suc-
cess; but Brougham insists that "the true test of
a great man is his having been in advance of his
age." Schopenhauer, in estimating the great-
ness of great men, applies the inverted law of the
physical, which stands for the intellectual and
spiritual nature, the former being lessened by dis-
tance, the latter increased. But these views do
not help us much in our effort to find what is
greatness. When Sir William Jones was asked
who was the greatest man, he answered, "The
best: and if I am required to say who is the best,
I reply he that deserved most of his fellow-
creatures." Is this a correct test? — what fellow-
creatures? — creatures of his own time, or of all
time? — who is to judge what is best for them, —
they or I? — and who is to say whether he is de-
serving or not, and deserving of what? Dempsey
is a great fighter; Raphael was a great painter;
Socrates a great philosopher; Hannibal a great
general; Beecher a great preacher; Columbus a
great discoverer; Browning a great poet; Gib-


bon a great historian; Lincoln a great agitator;
Dana a great editor; Steinitz a great chess-
player; and so on, — perhaps the greatest of their
time, but would they be numbered among the
greatest men? Is a great shoemaker a great man?
Yet he is very deserving of his fellow-creatures,
and he may be the greatest of his kind. Is a
great hangman as great as a great divine, and is
the greatest clown to be numbered among the
greatest men of history?

Again, in selecting the great men, should there
not be some limit in number and some method of
declaring different degrees of greatness, because
otherwise the man who wrote "Home, Sweet
Home" might find a place alongside Shakes-
peare. Again, should a conqueror be classed
among the great? Still again, are philosophers
like Schopenhauer, Ibsen, Bernard Shaw and
Nietzsche to be numbered among the great, when
most people say that their philosophy is wrong,
destructive and immoral? No wonder, then,
thatnobodyhasyetbeenable to give a satisfactory
definition of Greatness. Alexander accomplished
wonders: he conquered the then known world
and wept for other worlds to conquer; but per-
haps he was not so deserving of his fellows as
some poor shoemaker. And take Napoleon: he
made all Europe run blood; yet he certainly did


much good; are we to balance his account and
determine if the good outweighed the bad?
Dante and Milton are always numbered among
the greatest men, yet some do say that these great
poets did more harm than good by perpetuating
the false doctrines of Hell and Paradise. Was
Robespierre a great man? — no one questions that
great good came from the French Revolution,
yet who will urge a monument to Robespierre,
the personification of that Revolution? His in-
tentions were good, however bad may have been
the method, but so were Cromwell's regardless
of his fanaticism; yet public opinion curses
the one and crowns the other. Some men seem
to accomplish world-wonders without efifort,
while others struggle against tremendous odds:
of the two, the latter, of course, are the greater,
because, as Bryant says, "Difficulty is a nurse of
greatness — a harsh nurse, who rocks her foster
children roughly, but rocks them into strength.
The mind, grappling with great aims and
wrestling with mighty impediments, grows by a
certain necessity to the stature of greatness."
Some say that greatness is founded in human
sympathy, and that the man who shows the big-
gest heart plus the greatest ability to do, is the
greatest man. Others say that greatness consists
in reforming the world along religious lines, and


still others maintain that greatness is merely
righteousness — "He is not great, who is no
greatly good" (Shakespeare). Was Caesar
great? Remember Campbell's line, — "What
millions died that Caesar might be great."
Beecher was doubtless right when he said,
"Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the
right use of strength," but men may differ as to
what is the right use, for, suppose he uses it to
defend his people against some other people, and
for a cause which he believes in, as did Robert
E. Lee? He thought he was right, many others
thought he was right, and he displayed qualities
truly great, yet Beecher would say that Lee was
not a great man. No great man ever yet lived
who was conceded so to be by everybody. We
see many who are great, in a sense, and many that
are good; but we seldom see a man who is both
great and good; and, according to Franklin, 3
great man must be both. Leonardo da Vinci was
great at many things, — "master of all the arts,"
and as virtuous as most men, yet many people
place Caesar and Alexander in the list of great
men and leave da Vinci out. Perhaps Colton
was right when he said, "Subtract from the great
men all that he owes to opportunity, all that he
owes to chance, and all that he has gained by the
wisdom of his friends and the folly of his


enemies, and the giant will often be seen to be a
pigmy." Shall we class Joan of Arc among the
great? She was the victim of an illusion and she
accomplished that which was bound to come.
Shall we nominate Diogenes? He was what
would now be called a tramp and lived in a tub.
Shall we give Socrates a niche? He was also
something of a tramp, and we may never know
how much he really said of the many wise things
which Plato attributed to him. Shall we declare
Washington and Jefferson great, and not Tom
Paine, when the latter knew more than the other
two together, and gave them most of their ideas?
No, we don't do that, because they say that
Paine's religious views were bad. Shall Theo-
dore Roosevelt go on the list? Shall we put Mar-
tin Luther on, and not Voltaire? And how about
poor John Brown? — he did not accomplish
much but he tried mighty hard and died in the
attempt. Shall Booker T. Washington's name
not go on the immortal list just because he is
black? If not, how about Confucius who was
yellow? Shall Jesus' name be written on the
scroll and not Buddha's or Mohammed's? The
fact is that it is next to impossible to name a com-
plete list of the great men of history, — to say
nothing of the greatest men. One of the tough-
est problems I ever attempted to solve was once


given me by a young student, who asked me to
write down the names of the twenty-five greatest
men. I spent many evenings on it, and the an-
swer was published in many newspapers. The
chief difficulty came in the attempt to limit the
list to just twenty-five — it is easy to make a list of
about twenty-five, or about fifty, or about ten.

As I remember it, the list was as follows:

1. Moses 13. Dante

2. Homer 14. Copernicus

3. Pericles 15. Galileo

4. Alexander 16. Shakespeare

5. Plato 17. Bacon

6. Aristotle 18. Milton

7. Archimedes 19. Cromwell

8. Julius Caesar 20. Newton

9. Augustus Caesar 21. Napoleon

10. Charlemagne 22. Beethoven

11. Alfred the Great 23. Goethe

12. Leonardo da Vinci 24. Franklin

25. Lincoln

This list is not yet satisfactory. It should con-
tain John Fiske, who knew everything, Herbert
Spencer, Darwin, Kant, Descartes, Emerson,
Washington, — but hold! there is no end. Ten
years from now I shall make another list and it


will probably contain a new name, perhaps
Roosevelt, Wilson, Bryan, Foch.

As Rochefoucauld says, "However brilliant
an action may be, it ought not to pass for great
when it is not the result of great design." Some
men became famous — apparently great — by acci-
dent, or because of circumstances, but that is not
greatness. I once became the manager of a din-
ner in honor of Mr. Bryan, and, like Byron, woke
up one morning to find myself famous — think of
it! — famous for getting up a dinner. But such
fame is meteoric and has but a mushroom ex-
istence. Fielding says somewhere that Great-
ness is like a laced coat from Monmouth Street,
which fortune lends us for a day to wear and
tomorrow puts it on another's back; but he did
not mean Greatness, but Fame, or Popularity,
Greatness is not greatness if it is not last-
ing. If we cannot tell what greatness is,
we can tell what it is not. The greatness of
a man must be judged from the viewpoint
of his own time, and we must make due al-
lowance for his weaknesses and blunders;
for was not Napoleon a believer in astrology,
and could not any school-child today correct
Aristotle in natural history and physiology?
With this thought in mind we shall not have
so much difficulty in singling out the great men


of history. "Nature never sends a great man
into the planet, without confiding the secret to
another soul" (Emerson), and we soon discover
them, but not often in their own time — it requires
the perspective of history to get them in focus.
Great men are the models of nations. As Long-
fellow says, "they stand like solitary towers in
the City of God, and secret passages running
deep beneath external nature give their thoughts
intercourse with higher intelligence, which
strengthens and consoles them, and of which
the laborers on the surface do not even dream."

"Corporations are great engines for the pro-
motion of the public convenience, and for the
development of public wealth, and, so long as
they are conducted for the purposes for which
organized, they are a public benefit; but if al-
lowed to engage, without supervision, in subjects
of enterprise foreign to their charters, or if per-
mitted unrestrainedly to control and monopolize
the avenues to that industry in which they are
engaged, they become a public menace; against
which public policy and statutes design protec-

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Online LibraryEugene V. (Eugene Valentine) BrewsterWhat's what in America → online text (page 9 of 12)