“There sat this man before me, wholly undisturbed by the pageantry of the occasion, calmly waiting to perform his part in the drama, just as an actor awaits his cue to appear on a stage. It was his first visit to Washington. He had never before seen the Capitol and knew absolutely nothing of the machinery of government. All was a mystery to him, but a stranger not understanding the circumstances would have imagined that the proceedings going on before him were a part of his daily life.
“The man positively did not move a limb, shut an eye or twitch a muscle during the entire hour he sat in the Senate chamber. Nor did he betray the faintest evidence of self-consciousness or emotion, and as I thought of the dingy office over the livery stable but three years before he struck me as a remarkable illustration of the possibilities of American citizenship.
“But the most marvelous exhibition of the man’s nerve and of the absolute confidence he has in himself was yet to come. After the proceedings in the Senate chamber Cleveland was conducted to the east end of the Capitol to take the oath of office and deliver his inaugural address. He wore a close buttoned Prince Albert coat, and between the buttons he thrust his right hand, while his left he carried behind him. In this position he stood until the applause which greeted him had subsided, when he began his address.
“I looked for him to produce a manuscript, but he did not, and as he progressed in clear and distinct tones, without hesitation, I was amazed. With sixty millions of people, yes, with the entire civilized world looking on, this man had the courage to deliver an inaugural address making him President of the United States as coolly and as unconcernedly as if he were addressing a ward meeting. It was the most remarkable spectacle this or any other country has ever beheld.”
Believe in yourself; you may succeed when others do not believe in you, but never when you do not believe in yourself.
“Ah! John Hunter, still hard at work!” exclaimed a physician on finding the old anatomist at the dissecting table. “Yes, doctor, and you’ll find it difficult to meet with another John Hunter when I am gone.”
“Heaven takes a hundred years to form a great genius for the regeneration of an empire and afterward rests a hundred years,” said Kaunitz, who had administered the affairs of his country with great success for half a century. “This makes me tremble for the Austrian monarchy after my death.”
“Isn’t it beautiful that I can sing so?” asked Jenny Lind, naïvely, of a friend.
“My Lord,” said William Pitt in 1757 to the Duke of Devonshire, “I am sure that I can save this country and that nobody else can.” He did save it.
What seems to us disagreeable egotism in others is often but a strong expression of confidence in their ability to attain. Great men have usually had great confidence in themselves. Wordsworth felt sure of his place in history and never hesitated to say so. Dante predicted his own fame. Kepler said it did not matter whether his contemporaries read his books or not. “I may well wait a century for a reader since God has waited six thousand years for an observer like myself.” “Fear not,” said Julius Cæsar to his pilot frightened in a storm, “thou bearest Cæsar and his good fortunes.”
When the Directory at Paris found that Napoleon had become in one month the most famous man in Europe they determined to check his career, and appointed Kellerman his associate in command. Napoleon promptly, but respectfully, tendered his resignation, saying, “One bad general is better than two good ones; war, like government, is mainly decided by tact.” This decision immediately brought the Directory to terms.
Emperor Francis was extremely anxious to prove the illustrious descent of his prospective son-in-law. Napoleon refused to have the account published, remarking, “I had rather be the descendant of an honest man than of any petty tyrant of Italy. I wish my nobility to commence with myself and derive all my titles from the French people. I am the Rudolph of Hapsburg of my family. My patent of nobility dates from the battle of Montenotte.”
When Napoleon was informed that the British Government had decreed that he should be recognized only as general, he said, “They cannot prevent me from being myself.”
An Englishman asked Napoleon at Elba who was the greatest general of the age, adding, “I think Wellington.” To which the Emperor replied, “He has not yet measured himself against me.”
“Well matured and well disciplined talent is always sure of a market,” said Washington Irving; “but it must not cower at home and expect to be sought for. There is a good deal of cant, too, about the success of forward and impudent men, while men of retiring worth are passed over with neglect. But it usually happens that those forward men have that valuable quality of promptness and activity, without which worth is a mere inoperative property. A barking dog is often more useful than a sleeping lion.”
“Self-respect is the early form in which greatness appears.”
“You may deceive all the people some of the time,” said Lincoln, “some of the people all the time, but not all the people all the time.” We cannot deceive ourselves any of the time, and the only way to enjoy our own respect is to deserve it. What would you think of a man who would neglect himself and treat his shadow with the greatest respect?
“Self-reliance is a grand element of character,” says Michael Reynolds. “It has won Olympic crowns and Isthmian laurels; it confers kinship with men who have vindicated their divine right to be held in the world’s memory.”