ePub 版

life with the most promising and propitious circumstances investing them, while others, with none of these environments, appear to be Fortune's master and Fortune's favorites. Whether found "drawing at a well," or "grinding at a mill," the one is chosen and the other is left.

The reader will pray indulge me while I present another thought suggested by the study of these remarkable lives. Judicious labor and earnest zeal, the persistent purpose of a determined, positive nature, are the essential conditions on which one is permitted to receive the smiles of Fortune. "The gods help them who help themselves," is not alone a trite maxim, older than Esop's philosophy, but quite as true as it is old. Those are most apt to succeed in life who deserve success, and to be deserving one must conform to the exacting conditions upon which bread was promised to our recreant parents in Paradise; he must learn to labor, to watch and wait. Nothing is or can be denied to well-directed labor, and nothing worth the having can be secured without it. Again, those men who have been the most useful in life, whether in Church or State, or in directing the industrial pursuits of society-who have left behind them a history that only brightens as the ages go by—are those who, in a slow and careful development of the powers of the mind and a uniform practice of the virtues of true manhood, have preserved their individuality, while they have adhered to the principles, recognised the precedents and profited by the experiences of those who had preceded them on the stage of life. It is not the most brilliant intellect that is the least erratic, nor is it he who has a birth-right that for this reason alone must become the great man and the good citizen. "Honor and shame from no conditions rise." It is a weakness of our humanity to regard what we are pleased to call misfortunes, and especially those which deprive us of wealth and the caste in which that possession sometimes expresses

its power, as being disgraceful and of necessity humiliating to the spirit of a proud man. While the possession of wealth brings a certain degree of independence, and may add dignity to the surroundings of those who properly use it, by no means does it follow that poverty is a badge of disgrace.

This is especially true with the young, who, though inconvenienced and often made to suffer through the improvidence or misfortunes of their parents, are yet without the experiences of turpitude, the essential precursor of disgrace. It is only a very vain and very weak person who would seek to hide away in oblivion or to obscure with falsehood an humble origin, or an association with those who had been the recipients of so noble a charity as that of the Charleston Orphan House.

I have taken up my pen to write the history of a great man, whose character and achievements are not dependent upon the suppression of a single fact of his history, as it cannot be added to by the mere platitudes of eulogy. Mr. Memminger, not even when he had acquired fortune, when his fame as a great lawyer was well secured, and his name had become a household word with the people of the Southern States-who delight to honor their statesmen-not only when as a Cabinet officer he sat at the Council Board of President Davis, recognised as his most trusted adviser, did he ever boast of, or in any manner deny, the fact of his orphanage or the benefaction he had received in his childhood. Whenever occasion required him to make reference to this period in his history, it was never that he did so with the boasting spirit of the so-called "self-made” man, nor was it with the mean evasion that the vain person alone evidences, but always with a manly frankness and a greatful sense of a kindness bestowed, that could but exalt him in the estimation of all right-thinking people. In after years, when as an alderman and a citizen of wealth and influence

in Charleston, he was in position to do so, he not only became a Commissioner to guard the institution that had been his childhood's home, but with a solicitude which could only have come from his experiences, he would watch the education and minister in the gentlest manner to the comfort of the children who were, as he had been, the wards of the city. As his biographer, I consider that it would not be just to the character of my noble friend, nor would it be more than a partial discharge of the duty I owe to posterity should I omit this most interesting period of his life. A gentleman of high character, now residing in Charleston, informs me that he, in a public speech of Mr. Memminger's long, long ago, remembers only this sentence:

"Not that I would object to have any son of mine sit by the side of the poorest boy in the land, for I have not forgotten that I was once a poor boy myself.”

Leaving the nursery, the play-grounds, the school-room and sympathies of the Orphan House at the tender age of eleven years, young Memminger found himself a part of the family of an excellent gentleman whose many graces of character were to infuse themselves into the plastic nature of a clever boy, while his ample fortune enabled him to secure for his protegé the best facilities that the country offered for securing an education. At the time that young Memminger was adopted into his family, Mr. Bennett had not only reached distinction, but was recognized in Charleston and throughout the State of South Carolina as a representative man among the men who in that day made the peculiar virtues of Carolina civilization admirable even in the courtly circles of Europe. Around the fireside or in the counsels of the nursery, at the dinner table or in the drawing-room, there were no associations but those of the Christian gentleman, the devoted patriot, and the upright citizen. The refinements of a cultured family were there to inculcate the virtues of a true manhood.


From boyhood to manhood is but a short period in the evolution of character, but it is a most important and interesting one. It is then that the boy needs the constant care of one whose disinterested love and experiences are to lead him in the right way, and are to secure to him the facilities for mental training and proper physical as well as moral cultivation. The germs or elemental principles of character may have, and undoubtedly do come through laws of heredity, but it requires patient watchfulness and good training to educe possibilities which otherwise may remain dormant or become perverted to base ends and ignoble purposes.

At the home of Governor Bennett, young Memminger was made to feel that he was at his own home, and without a word or an act to indicate a distinction, he was treated in every sense as a son and a brother. The best training that tutors could give was provided for him, while on his young mind and aspiring nature a lofty ambition and determined purpose was fixed by one who took him gently by the hand and lead his thoughts into deep channels of truth, and who strengthened his spirit by a noble example of manhood. It was in such an elemental school that destiny had ordained

that the future statesman was to be tutored, and not in the Heri?

home of his good Aunt Frederica at Stuttgart, in Germany. In after years, when her nephew was fast coming into prominence as a public man, and was winning his first laurels in his city and State, this noble kinswoman sends across the Atlantic this message of love: "It was my intention to raise you in my family, and if I had what would I have done? May be I would have deterred you from your destiny decreed to you, as I believe, by the Almighty Creator."

This "destiny" was preparing her "lovely Gustavus," as she endearingly addresses him in her letter, for a life of usefulness and for a chaplet of honor in far away America, just as it is to-day

"Shaping our ends, rough-hew them how we will."

The letter of his aunt, Madame Frederica Gauger (formerly Memminger), above referred to, is a beautiful expression of a woman's tender regard for a relative of whom she evidently had lost trace, but whom she yet held dear in her memory. It is dated at "Blumenmacherci in der Hauptstrasse, Stuttgard, Würtemberg." I extract from it the following sentence:

When I consider the emigration of your honorable grandfather and your beloved mother, the great persuasion I used to deter them from such an uncertain project in a far distant part of the world, I am, by your achievement, reminded that there is an All-wise Dispenser of human events who governs the affairs of His children better than they are at times disposed to believe.

« 上一頁繼續 »