Mrs. Hetty Green is probably the richest woman in the world. Her fortune has grown from the little industry of her father in New Bedford, Mass. She has raised the nine millions left her by her father and nine millions left her by her aunt to thirty millions. She is a woman of great ability and courage. She once took with her five millions of dollars of securities in a satchel on a street car to deposit with her banker on Wall street.
The probabilities are that billionaires will be as plentiful in the twentieth century as millionaires are to-day, through hard work, self-denial, rigid economy, method, accuracy, and strict temperance, for not one of the self-made millionaires are intemperate. John D. Rockefeller never tastes intoxicating liquor. He seems as unvarying in his method and system as the laws of the universe. Jay Gould did not use wine or intoxicating liquor of any kind. Mr. Huntington does not even drink coffee, while William Waldorf Astor merely takes a sip of wine for courtesy’s sake. Not one of the leading millionaires uses tobacco, and not one of them is profane. Very rich men are almost always honest in their dealings, so far as their word is concerned. William Waldorf Astor, until recently, has been considered the richest man in the world, but John D. Rockefeller surpasses him now, it is said. The whole wealth of Croesus was little more than the income of this modern Croesus for one year. Mr. Rockefeller controls about eighty or ninety millions of capital stock in the Standard Oil Trust. The Standard Oil Company is one of the best managed corporations in the world.
Two centuries and a quarter ago, a little, tempest-tossed, weather-beaten bark, barely escaped from the jaws of the wild Atlantic, landed upon the bleakest shore of New England. From her deck disembarked a hundred and one careworn exiles.
To the casual observer no event could seem more insignificant. The contemptuous eye of the world scarcely deigned to notice it. Yet the famous vessel that bore Cæsar and his fortunes, carried but an ignoble freight compared with that of the Mayflower. Though landed by a treacherous pilot upon a barren and inhospitable coast, they sought neither richer fields nor a more congenial climate, but liberty and opportunity.
A lady once asked Turner the secret of his great success.
“I have no secret, madam, but hard work.”
“This is a secret that many never learn, and they don’t succeed because they fail to learn it. Labor is the genius that changes the world from ugliness to beauty, and the great curse to a great blessing.”
See Balzac, in his lonely garret, toiling, toiling, waiting, waiting, amid poverty and hunger, but neither hunger, debt, poverty nor discouragement could induce him to swerve a hair’s breadth from his purpose. He could wait, even while a world scoffed.
“Mankind is more indebted to industry than to ingenuity,” says Addison; “the gods set up their favors at a price and industry is the purchaser.”
Rome was a mighty nation while industry led her people, but when her great conquests of wealth and slaves placed her citizens above work, that moment her glory began to fade, and vice and corruption, induced by idleness, doomed the proud city to an ignominious history. Even Cicero, Rome’s great orator, said, “All artisans are engaged in a disgraceful occupation;” and Aristotle said, “The best regulated states will not permit a mechanic to be a citizen, for it is impossible for one who lives the life of a mechanic, or hired servant, to practice a life of virtue. Some were born to be slaves.” But, fortunately there came a mightier than Rome, Cicero or Aristotle, whose magnificent life and example forever lifted the false ban from labor and redeemed it from disgrace. He gave dignity to the most menial service, and significance to labor.
Christ did not say, “Come unto me all ye pleasure hunters, ye indolent and ye lazy;” but “Come all ye that _labor_ and are _heavy laden_.”
Columbus was a persistent and practical, as well as an intellectual hero. He went from one state to another, urging kings and emperors to undertake the first visiting of a world which his instructed spirit already discerned in the far-off seas. He first tried his own countrymen at Genoa, but found none ready to help him. He then went to Portugal, and submitted his project to John II., who laid it before his council. It was scouted as extravagant and chimerical. Nevertheless, the king endeavored to steal Columbus’s idea. A fleet was sent forth in the direction indicated by the navigator, but, being frustrated by storms and winds, it returned to Lisbon after four days’ voyaging.