He who ascends to mountain-tops shall find
The loftiest peaks most wrapt in clouds and snow;
He who surpasses or subdues mankind,
Must look down on the hate of those below.
Some conceited wights, who study party politics more than philosophy or ethics, call all
the laudable desires of the human heart ambitions, aiming to strip the monster of its
deformity, that they may use it as the livery of heaven to serve the devil in. The former are
based on philanthropy, the latter on selfishness. Lexicographers define ambition to be an
earnest desire of power, honor, preferment, pride. The honor that is awarded to power is
of doubtful grandeur, and the power that is acquired by ambition is held by a slender
tenure, a mere rope of sand. Its hero often receives the applause of the multitude one day,
and its execrations the next. The summit of vain ambition is often the depth of misery.
Based on a sandy foundation, it falls before the blasts of envy, and the tornado of faction. It
is inflated by a gaseous thirst for power, like a balloon with hydrogen, and is in constant
danger of being exploded by the very element that causes its elevation. It eschews charity,
and deals largely in the corrosive sublimate of falsehood. Like the kite, it cannot rise in a
calm, and requires a constant wind to preserve its upward course. The fulcrum of
ignorance, and the lever of party spirit, form its magic power. An astute writer has well
observed, that "ambition makes the same mistake concerning power, that avarice makes
relative to wealth." The ambitious man begins by accumulating it as the desideratum of
happiness, and ends his career in the midst of exertions to obtain more. So ended the
onward and upward career of Napoleon; his life a modern wonder; his fate a fearful
warning; his death a scene of gloom. Power is gained as a means of enjoyment, but oftener
than otherwise, is its fell destroyer. Like the viper in the fable, it is prone to sting those
who warm it into life. History fully demonstrates these propositions. Hyder Ali was in the
habit of starting frightfully in his sleep. His confidential friend and attendant asked the
reason. He replied: "My friend, the state of a beggar is more delightful than my envied
monarchy - awake, he sees no conspirators - asleep, he dreams of no assassins." Ambition,
like the gold of the miser, is the sepulchre of the other passions of the man. It is the grand
centre around which they move with centripetal force. Its history is one of carnage and
blood; it is the bane of substantial good; it endangers body and soul for time and eternity.
Reader, if you desire peace of mind, shun ambition and the ambitious man. He will use you
as some men do their horses, ride you all day without food, and give you post meat for
supper. He will gladly make a bridge of you on which to walk into power, provided he can
pass toll free. Let your aim be more lofty than the highest pinnacle ambition can rear.
Nothing is pure but heaven, let that be the prize you seek,
"And taste and prove in that transporting sight,
Joy without sorrow, without darkness --- light."
The road ambition travels is too narrow for friendship, too crooked for love, too rugged for
honesty, too dark for science, and too hilly for happiness.
The Royal Path of Life - Aims and Aids to Success and Happiness - 1882 by T.L. Haines & L.W. Yaggy