Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

that in each case there is contentment with surroundings; but they affirm that this contentment is better nurtured in a palace, and is more stable there. But are kings and dukes the happiest of men? History seems rather to make their woes conspicuous. Responsibilities produce risks. The higher you mount, a slip brings the greater fall. Moreover, where cares multiply anxieties intrude. We must not ignore all this because we see the prince pass by with a crown on his head and a retinue at his heels. It is an ignorant proletariat that looks up to royalty, and fails to see the human soul with its weakness under the velvet robes.

Now, what we have said of palaces and royalty is applicable to the possession of pecuniary wealth. The power, that wealth gives is not a power to be happy, but a power to obtain certain articles which are supposed to contribute to happiness. To a certain extent it is true that these do so contribute; but it is equally true that very many of them delude the purchaser, and minister only to his care and sorrow. The splendid establishment, grand houses in city and country, troops of attendants, rich banquets, gay equipage, princely yachts, are very dazzling as a sight to the poor, but they who have these things soon tire of them. There is no permanent ministry of pleasure in them, because the soul's content must have a more solid and spiritual foundation than material wealth can purchase. So far as wealth preserves from the distressing circumstances of poverty it may be said to minister to happiness, for it then removes a provocation to discontent; and, moreover, so far as wealth enables a grand soul to help the unfortunate or advance the higher interests of mankind, it may be said to minister to happiness; but these are the only two conditions of such a ministry. In the first one all who have riches can partici. pate, but in the second it is only the grand soul that can enjoy the result, and that grand soul would have been happy without the wealth. How different is the truth of this analysis from the common idea that wealth has in itself a magic power to make a man happy!

Now, when we look at the other side of the picture and see how many circumstances calculated to produce unhappiness wealth introduces, we have to discount largely the little benefit which we have found in its possession. From without are jeal. ousies and envies in various forms, with their accompanying sneers, slanders, and impugnings of motive; also the incessant applications from cranks and loafers, as well as from the worthy, for donations, the prying curiosity of the public and reporters into the minutive of private life, the ill-disguised expectancy of heartless heirs, the dangerous though unreasonable enmity of the ignorant rabble, the settled attitude of the shopkeeper and the employee for plunder, and the perilous conspicuity in time of public disorder. From within are the daily cares of managing the large estate, involving examination of investments, the testing of character in subordinates, the watching of markets, the intricacies of bargains and covenants, and the personal drudgery of details. Then there is the constant conviction, unless the conscience is seared, that this style of life is not what the human soul was made for, that it utterly fails to answer the great end of being, that it is an entanglement in magnificent trifles, and a waste of time and talents. Then agaiu there is the fear of losses, anxiety with regard to speculations, absorption in thought marring social intercourse with its pleasures and benefits, and the foreboding that the riches will one day all be gone. To these evils, experienced consciously and painfully by the man of great wealth, is to be added an evil, to which, alas! he is indifferent, but which is, perhaps, in the end the greatest evil of all. He is lifted up out of all sympathy with his fellow man. He cannot understand the wants of the poor, nor can he, through such an experience as the many have, and the sympathy thus created, have his soul expand and strengthen. The benefit of the common humanity is largely lost to him, and he does not grow, but shrivels. Surely this is not the road to happiness, and the eagerness for wealth on the part of men is a fearful mistaking

of the way.

We have considered the possession of riches in its best form. We have not used as a factor in the case what is found so generally in man, the readiness to use wealth wickedly to minister to base passions, to injure personal enemies, to make corners and control markets, to purchase votes in legislatures, and to pervert judgment. We purposely omitted to use this in our argument, for we wished to speak of riches in their necessary sequences, and not in what the evil heart of man puts into them. We might have added, however, in this list of necessary sequences, the exceptions are so few, that the wealth is piled up by the father for the ruin of the children, who, free from all incentive to work, give themselves up to selfish enjoyments that destroy both body and soul.

We bave not overdrawn our description. The observation of any thoughtful mind corroborates all that we have said, and yet my neighbor and half the world will not believe it, but they will rush on headlong for the golden goal. It is very evident that if we could persuade men of the truth of what we have said, the baste to be rich would cease. But we expect no such Utopian result. Folly is immortal. We do hope, however, to open the eyes of a few thoughtful ones, who are not fully pos. sessed by the craze, and whose minds have some appreciation of what is truly noble and satisfying. It is to such we address our argument.

The making of money is a most becoming business, if the object be to support in comfort one's self and family. It would be also a most becoming business, if the object were to give away the money to those that need it, but not one in ten millions ever followed such a plan. Many think they are doing something of this sort when they are only intending to give out of their swelling profits for the benefit of the needy; but this is only a conscience drug, that the personal profits may be sought the more eagerly. The object is not to help the needy. That is a side affair. But there are many sensible men who limit their desire of money-making to the comfortable and reasonable support of self and family. This principle is totally different from that of desiring wealth. It involves none of the dangers which we have enumerated above. On the contrary, it is a healthy prin. ciple, promoting industry, regularity, social improvement, and public utility. It commands respect and does not excite envy. It helps mutual dependence and does not produce selfish isolation. It conforms to the divine law of labor, and hence sweetens the hours of rest. Tbe aids to happiness, therefore, in this form of money-making, are unspeakably greater than in the race for

wealth or in the actual possession of riches. The men who are found in this class are (other things being equal) the happiest men on earth. Their contentment is a daily enjoyment, and not deferred to the end of a hot race, only then to turn out a deception. Of course they, like all men, will have their disappointments, but our comparison now is only between them and the slaves of Mammon. It is in this comparison that we confidently assert the towering superiority of the bread-winner to the wealth-seeker or wealth-possessor. We have spoken of the disadvantages of the wealth-possessor. The wealth-seeker has others, but, while different from those of the wealth-possessor, they are equally harmful to himself and to society. He is not as yet exposed to the catalogue of woes which we have enumerated, which, like an enemy's battery, are opened for the millionaire; but a more disguised, yet no less destructive, evil is connected with his progress.

What is the inevitable result to himself ? His eye cannot be taken off the distant goal, or he will lose his bearings and inevi. tably fail, for the distance of the goal multiplies the conditions and sequences that enter into the race. Hence his whole being must be absorbed in the one thing. Mental improvement and social culture must be denied. In such a process the mind must necessarily shrink, and the disposition become blunted. The man dwarfs as the money-maker grows. The healthy enjoy. ment of intellectual exercise, the increase of general knowledge, the pleasures of observation in nature and art, the genial fellowship of enlightened men, and the mellowness of attrition with the world's varieties, are all impossible when the gold-hunt is entered on. The germs of broadness, benevolence, and sympathy, which were in the soul at the start, are all smothered, for, if allowed to grow, they would seriously interfere with the arrival at El Dorado. It is for this reason that a man, as he gains riches, becomes close and miserly. He has constructed a fortress of selfishness in which he is impregnable. The few conspicuous exceptions to this rule by no means invalidate it. That some men have successfully resisted this law of tendency is to their honor, but still the law remains. Even with regard to the exceptions, we are wont to judge too liberally. The man of twenty millions gives a hundred thousand to a college, and the newspapers blazon bis generosity, and yet when the man with a hundred thousand gives five hundred dollars (the same proportion) to any object of worth, no newspaper ever thinks of sounding his praise. The latter gift is, indeed, far the larger, because the man of a hundred thousand needs all his income to live with the ordinary comforts of life, while the man of twenty millions has nearly a million of surplus every year. Moreover, this millionaire's gift, besides being a mere drop spilling over his brimming bucket, is very often pressed out of him by the machinery of events. In itself it is no proof of public spirit or human sympathies. With all this caution about indiscriminate praise, we cheerfully acknowledge that there are men of great wealth and men wbo are making great wealth, who are likewise men of great hearts. But again we say that this does not in the least mar our argument.

Another evil in the gold-hunt is that which is produced on the community. We have seen how it shrivels the man who hunts. Now let us see how it harms the public. The healthiest form of human society is where the many are equally independent in their management of their affairs, where professions and trades are represented by individual thinking minds, and where those engaged in any one branch of industry stand on a level with one another. This condition of things promotes invention, activity, interest, manliness, and good citizenship. Now, the gold-hunt system is directly antagonistic to all this. It seeks to destroy the many independent tradesmen, and to make them servants in a gigantic monopoly. The happy homes of freemen become the pinched quarters of serfs. The lords of trade have their hundreds and thousands of humble subordinates, over whom they rule, often with a rod of iron. They may be turned away from work and wages at any moment, from any whim of the selfish employer. Hence, through fear of this they lose their manhood, and dare not assert even a decision of their conscience. There is no more melancholy sight to my eyes than that which I so often see nowadays, the former happy possessor of a shop or store, who has lived comfortably and with the true nobility of a citizen, and whose family has felt the dignity of the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »