In every community there are men who are determined not to work if work can be shirked.
Without avowing this determination to themselves, or reflecting that they are fighting against a
law of nature, they begin life with a resolution to enjoy all the good things that are accumulated
by the labor of man, without contributing their own share of labor to the common stock. Hence
the endless schemes for getting rich in a day - for reaching the goal of wealth by a few gigantic
bounds, instead of by slow and plodding steps. It matters not in what such men deal, whether in
oroide watches or in watered stock; whether they make "corners" in wheat or gold; whether
they gamble in oats or at roulette; whether they steal a railway or a man's money by
"gift-concerts" - the principle is in all cases the same, namely, to obtain something for nothing,
to get values without parting with anything in exchange. Everybody knows the history of such
men, the vicissitudes they experience - vicissitudes rending the millionaire of to-day a beggar
Firms are constantly changing. Splendid mansions change hands suddenly. A brilliant party is
held in an up-town house, the sidewalk is carpeted, and the papers are full of the brilliant
reception. The next season the house will be dismantled, and a family, "going into the country,"
or "to Europe," will offer their imported furniture to the public under the hammer. A brilliant
equipage is seen in the parks in the early part of the season, holding gaily dressed ladies and
some successful speculators. Before the season closes some government officer or sporting man
will drive that team on his own account, while the gay party that called the outfit their own in
the early part of the season have passed away forever. This grows out of the manner in which
business is done. There is no thrift, no forecast, no thought for the morrow. A man who makes
fifty thousand dollars, instead of settling half of it on his wife and children, throws the whole
into a speculation with the expectation of making it a hundred thousand. A successful dry goods
jobber, who has a balance of seventy-five thousand dollars to his credit in the bank, instead of
holding it for a wet day or a tight time, goes into a little stock speculation and hopes to make a
fortune at a strike. Men who have a good season launch out into extravagancies and luxuries,
and these, with the gambling mania, invariably carry people under.
A gentleman, who had a very successful trade, built him an extraordinary country seat in
Westchester county, which was the wonder of the age. His house was more costly than the
palace of the Duke of Buccleuch. His estate comprised several acres laid out in the most
expensive manner, and the whole was encircled with gas lights, several hundred in number,
which were lit every evening. As might have been expected, with the first reverse, (and it comes
sooner or later to all,) the merchant was crushed, and as he thought disgraced; and he was soon
carried to his sepulchre, the wife obliged to leave her luxurious home, and by the kindness of
creditors was allowed, with her children, to find temporary refuge in the coachman's loft in her
Americans are always in a hurry when they have an object to accomplish; but if there be any
vocation or pursuit in which gradual, slow-coach processes are scouted with peculiar
detestation, it is that of acquiring riches. Especially is this true at the present day, when
fortunes are continually changing hands, and men are so often, by a lucky turn of the wheel,
lifted from the lowest depths of poverty to the loftiest pinnacle of wealth and affluence.
Exceptional persons there are, who are content with slow gains - willing to accumulate riches
by adding penny to penny, dollar to dollar; but the mass of business men are too apt to despise
such a tedious, laborious ascent of the steep of fortune, and to rush headlong into schemes for
the sudden acquisition of wealth. Hence honorable labor is too often despised; a man of parts is
expected to be above hard work.
There is, with a great majority of men, a want of constancy in whatever plans they undertake.
They toil as though they doubted that life had earnest and decided pathways; as though there
were no compass but the shifting winds, with each of which they must change their course. Thus
they beat about on the ocean of time, but never cross it, to rest on delightful islands or
The Royal Path of Life - Aims and Aids to Success and Happiness - 1882 by T.L. Haines & L.W. Yaggy