Acres of Diamonds – Russell H. Conwell – 1900-1925 (Part – 1)
Acres of Diamonds
delivered over 5000 times at various times and places from 1900-1925
When going down the Tigris and Euphrates rivers many years ago with a party of English travelers I found myself under the direction of an old Arab guide whom we hired up at Baghdad, and I have often thought how that guide resembled our barbers in certain mental characteristics. He thought that it was not only his duty to guide us down those rivers, and do what he was paid for doing, but to entertain us with stories curious and weird, ancient and modern strange, and familiar. Many of them I have forgotten, and I am glad I have, but there is one I shall never forget.
The old guide was leading my camel by its halter along the banks of those ancient rivers, and he told me story after story until I grew weary of his story-telling and ceased to listen. I have never been irritated with that guide when he lost his temper as I ceased listening. But I remember that he took off his Turkish cap and swung it in a circle to get my attention. I could see it through the corner of my eye, but I determined not to look straight at him for fear he would tell another story.
But although I am not a woman, I did finally look, and as soon as I did he went right into another story. Said he, “I will tell you a story now which I reserve for my particular friends.” When he emphasized the words “particular friends,” I listened and I have ever been glad I did. I really feel devoutly thankful, that there are 1,674 young men who have been carried through college by this lecture who are also glad that I did listen.
The old guide told me that there once lived not far from the River Indus an ancient Persian by the name of Ali Hafed. He said that Ali Hafed owned a very large farm; that he had orchards, grain-fields, and gardens; that he had money at interest and was a wealthy and contented man. One day there visited that old Persian farmer one of those ancient Buddhist priests, one of the wise men of the East. He sat down by the fire and told the old farmer how this old world of ours was made.
He said that this world was once a mere bank of fog, and that the Almighty thrust His finger into this bank of fog, and began slowly to move His finger around, increasing the speed until at last He whirled this bank of fog into a solid ball of fire. Then it went rolling through the universe, burning its way through other banks of fog, and condensed the moisture without, until it fell in floods of rain upon its hot surface, and cooled the outward crust.
Then the internal fires bursting outward through the crust threw up the mountains and hills, the valleys, the plains and prairies of this wonderful world of ours. If this internal molten mass came bursting out and cooled very quickly, it became granite; less quickly copper, less quickly silver, less quickly gold, and, after gold, diamonds were made. Said the old priest, “A diamond is a congealed drop of sunlight.” Now that is literally scientifically true, that a diamond is an actual deposit of carbon from the sun.
The old priest told Ali Hafed that if he had one diamond the size of his thumb he could purchase the county, and if the had a mine of diamonds he could place his children upon thrones through the influence of their great wealth. Ali Hafed heard all about diamonds, how much they were worth, and went to his bed that night a poor man. He had not lost anything, but he was poor because he was discontented, and discontented because he feared he was poor. He said, “I want a mine of diamonds,” and he lay awake all night.
Early in the morning he sought out the priest. I know by experience that a priest is very cross when awakened early in the morning, and when he shook that old priest out of his dreams, Ali Hafed said to him:
“Will you tell me where I find diamonds?”
“Diamonds! What do you want with diamonds?”
“Why, I wish to be immensely rich.”
“Well, then, go along and find them. That is all you have to do; go and find them, and then you have them.”
“But I don’t know where to go.”
“Well, if you will find a river that runs through white sands, between high mountains, in those white sands you will always find diamonds.”
“I don’t believe there is any such river.”
“Oh yes, there are plenty of them. All you have to do is to go and find them, and then you have them.”
Said Ali Hafed, “I will go.”
acres of diamondsSo he sold his farm, collected his money, left his family in charge of a neighbor, and away he went in search of diamonds. He began his search, very properly to my mind, at the Mountains of the Moon. Afterward he came around into Palestine, then wandered on into Europe, and at last when his money was all spent and he was in rags, wretchedness, and poverty, he stood on the shore of that bay at Barcelona, in Spain,
when a great tidal wave came rolling in between the pillars of Hercules, and the poor, afflicted, suffering, dying man could not resist the awful temptation to cast himself into that incoming tide, and he sank beneath its foaming crest, never to rise in this life again.
Then after that old guide had told me that awfully sad story, he stopped the camel I was riding on and went back to fix the baggage that was coming off another camel, and I had an opportunity to muse over his story while he was gone. I remember saying to myself, “Why did he reserve that story for his ‘particular friends’?” There seemed to be no beginning, no middle, no end, nothing to it.
That was the first story I had ever heard told in my life, and would be the first one I ever read, in which the hero was killed in the first chapter. I had but one chapter of that story, and the hero was dead. When the guide came back and took up the halter of my camel, he went right ahead with the story, into the second chapter, just as though there had been no break.
The man who purchased Ali Hafed’s farm one day led his camel into the garden to drink, and as that camel put its nose into the shallow water of that garden brook, Ali Hafed’s successor noticed a curious flash of light from the white sands of the stream. He pulled out a black stone having an eye of light reflecting all the hues of the rainbow. He took the pebble into the house and put it on the mantel which covers the central fires, and forgot all about it.
A few days later this same old priest came in to visit Ali Hafed’s successor, and the moment he opened that drawing-room door he saw that flash of light on the mantel, and he rushed up to it, and shouted:
“Here is a diamond! Has Ali Hafed returned?”
“Oh no, Ali Hafed has not returned, and that is not a diamond. That is nothing but a stone we found right out here in our own garden.”
“But,” said the priest, “I tell you I know a diamond when I see it. I know positively that is a diamond.”
Then together they rushed out into that old garden and stirred up the white sands with their fingers, and lo! There came up other more beautiful and valuable gems then the first. “Thus,” said the guide to me, “was discovered the diamond-mine of Golconda, the most magnificent diamond-mine in all the history of mankind, excelling the Kimberly itself. The Kohinoor, and the Orloff of the crown jewels of England and Russia, the largest on earth, came from that mine.”
When that old Arab guide told me the second chapter of his story, he then took off his Turkish cap and swung it around in the air again to get my attention to the moral. Those Arab guides have morals to their stories, although they are not always moral. As he swung his hat, he said to me, “Had Ali Hafed remained at home and dug in his own cellar, or underneath his own wheat fields or in his own garden, instead of wretchedness, starvation, and death by suicide in a strange land, he would have had ‘acres of diamonds.’
For every acre of that old farm, yes, every shovelful, afterward revealed gems which since have decorated the crowns of monarchs.”
When he had added the moral of his story I saw why he reserved it for “his particular friends.” But I did not tell him that I could see it. It was that mean old Arab’s way of going around a thing like a lawyer, to say indirectly what he did not dare say directly, that “in his private opinion there was a certain young man then traveling down the Tigris River that might better be at home in America.” I did not tell him I could see that, but I told it to him quick, and I think I will tell it to you.
I told him of a man out in California in 1847, who owned a ranch. He heard they had discovered gold in southern California, and so with a passion for gold he sold his ranch to Colonel Sutter, and away he went, never to come back. Colonel Sutter put a mill upon a stream that ran through that ranch, and one day his little girl brought some wet sand from the raceway into their home and sifted it through her fingers before the fire, and in that falling sand a visitor saw the first shining scales of real gold that were ever discovered in California.
The man who had owned that ranch wanted gold, and he could have secured it for the mere taking. Indeed, thirty-eight millions of dollars has been taken out of a very few acres since then.
About eight years ago I delivered this lecture in a city that stands on that farm, and they told me that a one-third owner for years and years had been getting one hundred and twenty dollars in gold every fifteen minutes, sleeping or waking, without taxation. You and I would enjoy an income like that — if we didn’t have to pay an income tax.
But a better illustration really than that occurred here in our town of Pennsylvania. If there is anything I enjoy above another on the platform, it is to get one of these German audiences in Pennsylvania, and fire that at them, and I enjoy it tonight.
There was a man living in Pennsylvania, not unlike some Pennsylvanians you have seen, who owned a farm, and he did with that farm just what I should do with a farm if I owned one in Pennsylvania- he sold it. But before he sold it he decided to secure employment collecting coal-oil for his cousin, who was in the business in Canada, where they first discovered oil on this continent. They dipped it from the running streams at that early time.
So this Pennsylvania farmer wrote to his cousin asking for employment. You see, friends, this farmer was not altogether a foolish man. No, he was not. He did not leave his farm until he had something else to do. Of all the simpletons the stars shine on I don’t know of a worse one than the man who leaves one job before he has gotten another. That has especial reference to my profession, and has no reference whatever to a man seeking a divorce. When he wrote to his cousin for employment, his cousin replied, “I cannot engage you because you know nothing about the oil business.”
Well, then the old farmer said, “I will know,” and with most commendable zeal (characteristic of the students of Temple University) he sat himself at the study of the whole subject. He began away back at the second day of God’s creation when this world was covered thick and deep with that rich vegetation which since has turned to the primitive beds of coal. He studied the subject until he found that the drainings really of those rich beds of coal furnished the coal-oil that was worth pumping, and then he found how it came up with the living springs.
He studied until he knew what it looked like, smelled like, tasted like, and how to refine it. Now said he in his letter to his cousin, “I understand the oil business.” His cousin answered, “All right, come on.”
So he sold his farm, according to the county record, for $833 (even money, “no cents”). He had scarcely gone from that place before the man who purchased the spot went out to arrange for the watering of the cattle. He found the previous owner had gone out years before and put a plank across the brook back of the barn, edgewise into the surface of the water just a few inches. The purpose of that plank at that sharp angle across the brook was to throw over to the other bank a dreadful-looking scum through which the cattle would not put their noses.
But with that plank there to throw it all over to one side, the cattle would drink below, and thus that man who had gone to Canada had been himself damming back for twenty-three years a flood of coal-oil which the state geologists of Pennsylvania declared to us ten years later was even then worth a hundred millions of dollars to our state, a thousand millions of dollars.
The man who owned that territory on which the city to Titusville now stands, and those Pleasantville valleys, had studied the subject from the second day of God’s creation clear down to the present time. He studied it until he knew all about it, and yet he is said to have sold the whole of it for $833, and again I say, “no sense.”
But I need another illustration. I found it in Massachusetts, and I am sorry I did because that is the state I came from. This young man in Massachusetts furnishes just another phase of my thought. He went to Yale College and studied mines and mining, and became such an adept as a mining engineer that he was employed by the authorities of the university to train students who were behind their classes.
During his senior years he earned $15 a week for doing that work. When he graduated they raised his pay from $15 to $45 a week, and offered him a professorship, as soon as they did he went right home to his mother. If they had raised that boy’s pay from $14 to $15.60 he would have stayed and been proud of the place, but when they put it up to $45 at one leap, he said, “Mother, I won’t work for $45 a week.
The idea of a man with a brain like mine working for $45 a week! Let’s go out to California and stake out gold-mines and silver-mines, and be immensely rich.” Said his mother, “Now, Charlie, it is just as well to be happy as it is to be rich.” “Yes,” said Charlie, “But it is just as well to be rich and happy too.” And they were both right about it. As he was an only son and she a widow, of course he had his way. They always do.
They sold out in Massachusetts, and instead of going to California they went to Wisconsin, where he went into the employ of the superior Copper Mining Company at $15 a week again, but with the proviso in his contract that he should have an interest in any mines he should discover for the company. I don’t believe he ever discovered a mine, and if I am looking in the face of any stockholder of that copper company you wish he had discovered something or other.
I have friends who are not here because they could not afford a ticket, who did have stock in that company at the time this young man was employed there. This young man went out there and I have not heard a word from him. I don’t know what became of him, and I don’t know whether he found any mines or not, but I don’t believe he ever did.
But I do know the other end of the line. He had scarcely gotten the other end of the old homestead before the succeeding owner went out to dig potatoes. The potatoes were already growing in the ground when he bought the farm, and as the old farmer was bringing in a basket of potatoes it hugged very tight between the ends of the stone fence. You know in Massachusetts our farms are nearly all stone wall.
There you are obliged to be very economical of front gateways in order to have some place to put the stone. When that basket hugged so tight he set it down on the ground, and then dragged on one side, and pulled on the other side, and as he was dragging that basket though this farmer noticed in the upper and outer corner of that stone wall, right next the gate, a block of native silver eight inches square.
That professor of mines, mining, and mineralogy who knew so much about the subject that he would not work for $45 a week, when he sold that homestead in Massachusetts sat right on that silver to make the bargain.
He was born on that homestead, was brought up there, and had gone back and forth rubbing the stone with his sleeve until it reflected his countenance, and seemed to say, “Here is a hundred thousand dollars right down here just for the taking.” But he would not take it. It was in a home in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and there was no silver there, all away off-well, I don’t know were, and he did not, but somewhere else, and he was a professor of mineralogy.
Acres of DiamondsMy friends, that mistake is very universally made, and why should we even smile at him. I often wonder what has become of him. I do not know at all, but I will tell you what I “guess” as a Yankee. I guess that he sits out there by his fireside to-night with his friends gathered around him, and he is saying to them something like this: “Do you know that man Conwell who lives in Philadelphia?” “Oh yes, I have heard of him.” “Do you know of that man Jones that lives in Philadelphia?” “Yes, I have heard of him, too.”
Then he begins to laugh, and shakes his sides, and says to his friends, “Well, they have done just the same thing I did, precisely”-and that spoils the whole joke, for you and I have done the same thing he did, and while we sit here and laugh at him he has a better right to sit out there and laugh at us. I know I have made the same mistakes, but, of course, that does not make any difference, because we don’t expect the same man to preach and practice, too.
As I come here to-night and look around this audience I am seeing again what through these fifty years I have continually seen – men that are making precisely that same mistake. I often wish I could see the younger people, and would that the Academy had been filled to-night with our high school scholars and our grammar-school scholars, that I could have them to talk to.
While I would have preferred such an audience as that, because they are most susceptible, as they have not gotten into any custom that they cannot break, they have not met with any failures as we have; and while I could perhaps do such an audience as that more good than I can do grown-up people, yet I will do the best I can with the material I have.
I say to you that you have “acres of diamonds” in Philadelphia right where you now live. “Oh,” but you will say, “you cannot know much about your city if you think there are any ‘acres of diamonds’ here.”
I was greatly interested in that account in the newspaper of the young man who found that diamond in North Carolina. It was one of the purest diamonds that has ever been discovered, and it has several predecessors near the same locality. I went to a distinguished professor in mineralogy and asked him where he thought those diamonds came from. The professor secured the map of the geologic formations of our continent, and traced it. He said it
went either through the underlying carboniferous strata adapted for such production, westward through Ohio and the Mississippi, or in more probability came eastward through Virginia and up the shore of the Atlantic Ocean.
It is a fact that the diamonds were there, for they have been discovered and sold; and that they were carried down there during the drift period, from some northern locality. Now who can say but some person going down with his drill in Philadelphia will find some trace of a diamond-mine yet down here? Oh, friends! You cannot say that you are not over one of the greatest diamond-mines in the world, for such a diamond as that only comes from the most profitable mines that are found on earth.
But it serves to simply to illustrate my thought, which I emphasize by saying if you do not have the actual diamond-mines literally you have all that they would be good for to you. Because now that the Queen of England has given the greatest compliment ever conferred upon American woman for her attire because she did not appear with any jewels at all at the late reception in England, it has almost done away with the use of diamonds anyhow. All you would care for would be the few you would wear if you wish to be modest, and the rest of you would sell for money.
Now then, I say again that the opportunity to get rich, to attain unto great wealth, is here in Philadelphia now, within the reach of almost every man and woman who hears me speak to-night, and I mean just what I say. I have not come to this platform even under these circumstances to recite something to you.
I have come to tell you what in God’s sight I believe to be the truth, and if the years of life have been of any value to me in the attainment of common sense, I know I am right; that the men and women sitting here, who found it difficult perhaps to buy a ticket to this lecture or gathering to-night, have within their reach “acres of diamonds,” opportunities to get largely wealthy.
There never was a place on earth more adapted than the city of Philadelphia to-day, and never in the history of the world did a poor man without capital have such an opportunity to get rich quickly and honestly as he has now in our city. I say it is the truth, and I want you to accept it as such; for if you think I have come to simply recite something, then I would better not be here. I have no time to waste in any such talk, but to say the things I believe, and unless some of you get richer for what I am saying to night my time is wasted.
Now then, I say again that the opportunity to get rich, to attain unto great wealth, is here in Philadelphia now, within the reach of almost every man and woman who hears me speak tonight, and I mean just what I say.
I have not come to this platform even under these circumstances to recite something to you. I have come to tell you what in God’s sight I believe to be the truth, and if the years of life have been of any value to me in the attainment of common sense, I know I am right; that the men and women sitting here, who found it difficult perhaps to buy a ticket to this lecture or gathering to-night, have within their reach “acres of diamonds,” opportunities to get largely wealthy.
There never was a place on earth more adapted than the city of Philadelphia to-day, and never in the history of the world did a poor man without capital have such an opportunity to get rich quickly and honestly as he has now in our city. I say it is the truth, and I want you to accept it as such; for if you think I have come to simply recite something, then I would better not be here. I have no time to waste in any such talk, but to say the things I believe, and unless some of you get richer for what I am saying to-night my time is wasted.
I say that you ought to get rich, and it is your duty to get rich. How many of my pious brethren say to me, “Do you, a Christian minister, spend your time going up and down the country advising young people to get rich, to get money?” “Yes, of course I do.“ They say, ”Isn’t that awful! Why don’t you preach the gospel instead of preaching about man’s making money?“ “Because to make money honestly is to preach the gospel.” That is the reason. The men who get rich may be the most honest men you find in the community.
“Oh,” but says some young man here to-night, “I have been told all my life that if a person has money he is very dishonest and dishonorable and mean and contemptible.” My friend, that is the reason why you have none, because you have that idea of people. The foundation of your faith is altogether false.
Let me say here clearly, and say it briefly, though subject to discussion which I have not time for here, ninety-eight out of one hundred of the rich men of America are honest. That is why they are rich. That is why they are trusted with money. That is why they carry on great enterprises and find plenty of people to work with them. It is because they are honest men.
Says another young man, “I hear sometimes of men that get millions of dollars dishonestly.” Yes, of course you do, and so do I. But they are so rare a thing in fact that the newspapers talk about them all the time as a matter of news until you get the idea that all the other rich men got rich dishonestly.
My friend, you take and drive me—if you furnish the auto—out into the suburbs of Philadelphia, and introduce me to the people who own their homes around this great city, those beautiful homes with gardens and flowers, those magnificent homes so lovely in their art, and I will introduce you to the very best people in character as well as in enterprise in our city, and you know I will. A man is not really a true man until he owns his own home, and they that own their homes are made more honorable and honest and pure, and true and economical and careful, by owning the home.
For a man to have money, even in large sums, is not an inconsistent thing. We preach against covetousness, and you know we do, in the pulpit, and oftentimes preach against it so long and use the terms about “filthy lucre” so extremely that Christians get the idea that when we stand in the pulpit we believe it is wicked for any man to have money—until the collection-basket goes around, and then we almost swear at the people because they don’t give more money. Oh, the inconsistency of such doctrines as that!
Money is power, and you ought to be reasonably ambitious to have it. You ought because you can do more good with it than you could without it. Money printed your Bible, money builds your churches, money sends your missionaries, and money pays your preachers, and you would not have many of them, either, if you did not pay them. I am always willing that my church should raise my salary, because the church that pays the largest salary always raises it the easiest.
You never knew an exception to it in your life. The man who gets the largest salary can do the most good with the power that is furnished to him. Of course he can if his spirit be right to use it for what it is given to him.
I say, then, you ought to have money. If you can honestly attain unto riches in Philadelphia, it is your Christian and godly duty to do so. It is an awful mistake of these pious people to think you must be awfully poor in order to be pious.
Some men say, “Don’t you sympathize with the poor people?” Of course I do, or else I would not have been lecturing these years. I won’t give in but what I sympathize with the poor, but the number of poor who are to be sympathized with is very small. To sympathize with a man whom God has punished for his sins, thus to help him when God would still continue a just punishment, is to do wrong, no doubt about it, and we do that more than we help those who are deserving.
While we should sympathize with God’s poor—that is, those who cannot help themselves—let us remember there is not a poor person in the United States who was not made poor by his own shortcomings, or by the shortcomings of some one else. It is all wrong to be poor, anyhow. Let us give in to that argument and pass that to one side.
A gentleman gets up back there, and says, “Don’t you think there are some things in this world that are better than money?” Of course I do, but I am talking about money now. Of course there are some things higher than money. Oh yes, I know by the grave that has left me standing alone that there are some things in this world that are higher and sweeter and purer than money. Well do I know there are some things higher and grander than gold.
Love is the grandest thing on God’s earth, but fortunate the lover who has plenty of money. Money is power, money is force, money will do good as well as harm. In the hands of good men and women it could accomplish, and it has accomplished, good.
I hate to leave that behind me. I heard a man get up in a prayer-meeting in our city and thank the Lord he was “one of God’s poor.” Well, I wonder what his wife thinks about that? She earns all the money that comes into that house, and he smokes a part of that on the veranda. I don’t want to see any more of the Lord’s poor of that kind, and I don’t believe the Lord does. And yet there are some people who think in order to be pious you must be awfully poor and awfully dirty. That does not follow at all. While we sympathize with the poor, let us not teach a doctrine like that.
Yet the age is prejudiced against advising a Christian man (or, as a Jew would say, a godly man) from attaining unto wealth. The prejudice is so universal and the years are far enough back, I think, for me to safely mention that years ago up at Temple University there was a young man in our theological school who thought he was the only pious student in that department. He came into my office on evening and sat down by my desk, and said to me:
“Mr. President, I think it is my duty sir, to come in and labor with you.” “What has happened now?” Said he, “I heard you say at the Academy, at the pierce School commencement, that you thought it was an honorable ambition for a young man to desire to have wealth, and that you thought it made him temperate, made him anxious to have a good name, and made him industrious.
You spoke to make him a good man. Sir, I have come to tell you the Holy Bible says that ‘money is the root of all evil.’” I told him I had never seen it in the Bible, and advised him to go out into the chapel and get the Bible, and show me the place. So out he went for the Bible, and soon he stalked into my office with the Bible open, with all the bigoted pride of the narrow sectarian, of one who founds his Christianity on some misinterpretation of Scripture.
He flung the Bible down on my desk, and fairly squealed into my ear: “There it is Mr. President; you can read it yourself.” I said to him: “Well young man, you will learn when you get a little older that you cannot trust another denomination to read the Bible for you. You belong to another denomination. You are taught in the theological school, however, that emphasis is the exegesis. Now, will you take that Bible and read it yourself, and give the proper emphasis to it?”
He took the Bible, and proudly read, “‘The love of money is the root of all evil.’” Then he had it right, and when one does quote aright from that same old Book he quotes the absolute truth. I have lived through fifty years of the mightiest battle that old Book has ever fought, and I have lived to see its banners flying free; for never in the history of this world did the great minds of earth so universally agree that the Bible is true-all true-as they do at this very hour.
So I say that when he quoted right, of course he quoted the absolute truth. “The love of money is the root of all evil.” He who tries to attain unto it too quickly, or dishonestly, will fall into many snares, no doubt about that. The love of money.
What is that? It is making an idol of money, and idolatry pure and simple every where is condemned by the Holy Scriptures and by man’s common sense. The man that worships the dollar instead of thinking of the purposes for which it ought to be used, the man who idolizes simply money, the miser that hordes his money in the cellar, or hides it in his staking, or refuses to invest it where it will do the world good, that man who hugs the dollar until the eagle squeals has in him the root of all evil.
I think I will leave that behind me now and answer the question of nearly all of you who are asking, “Is there opportunity to get rich in Philadelphia?” Well, now, how simple a thing it is to see where it is, and the instant you see where it is it is yours. Some old gentleman gets up back there and says, “Mr. Conwell, have you lived in Philadelphia for thirty-one years and don’t know that the time has gone by when you can make anything in this city?” “No, I don’t think it is.” “Yes, it is; I have tried it.”
“What business are you in?” “I kept a store here for twenty years, and never made a thousand dollars in the whole twenty years.” “Well, then, you can measure the good you have been to this city by what this city has paid you, because a man can judge very well what he is worth by what he receives’ that is, in what he is to the world at this time. If you have not made over a thousand dollars in twenty years in Philadelphia, it would have been better for Philadelphia if they had kicked you out of the city nineteen years and nine months ago.
A man has no right to keep a store in Philadelphia twenty years and not make at least five hundred thousand dollars, even thought it be a corner grocery-up-town.” You say, “You cannot make five hundred thousand dollars in a store now.” Oh, my friends, if you will just take only four blocks around you, and find out what the people want and what you ought to supply them, you would very soon see it. There is wealth right within the sound of your voice.
Some one says: “You don’t know anything about business. A preacher never knows a thing about business.” Well, then I will have to prove that I am an expert. I don’t like to do this, but I have to do it because my testimony will not be taken if I am not an expert.
My father kept a country store, and if there is any place under the stars where a man gets all sorts of experience in every kind of mercantile transactions, it is in the country store. I am not proud of my experience, but sometimes when my father was away he would leave me in charge of the store, thought fortunately for him that was not very often. But this did occur many times, friends: A man would come onto the store, and say to me, “Do you keep jack-knives?” “No we don’t keep jack-knives,” and I went off whistling a tune. What did I care about that man, anyhow?
Then another farmer would come in and say, “Do you keep jack-knives?” “No, we don’t keep jack-knives.” Then I went away and whistled another tune. Then a third man came right in the same door and said, “Do you keep jack-knives?” “No. Why is every one around here asking for jack-knives? Do you suppose we are keeping this store to supply the whole neighborhood with jack-knives?” Do you carry on your store like that in Philadelphia? The difficulty was I had not then learned that the foundation of godliness and the foundation principle of success in business are both the same precisely.
The man who says, “I cannot carry my religion into business” advertises himself either as being an imbecile in business, or on the road to bankruptcy, or a thief, one of the three, sure. He will fail within a very few years. He certainly will if he doesn’t carry his religion into business. If I had been carrying on my father’s store on a Christian plan, godly plan, I would have had a jack-knife for the third man when he called for it. Then I would have actually done him a kindness, and I would have received a reward myself, which it would have been my duty to take.
There are some over-pious Christian people who think if you take any profit on anything you sell that you are an unrighteous man. On the contrary, you would be a criminal to sell goods for less than they cost. You have no right to do that. You cannot trust a man with your money who cannot take care of his own. You cannot trust a man in your family that is not true to his wife. You cannot trust a man in the world that does not begin with his own heart, his own character, and his own life.
It would have been my duty to have furnished a jack-knife to the third, man or to the second, and to have sold it to him and actually profited myself. I have no more right to sell goods without making a profit on them than I have to overcharge him dishonestly beyond what they are worth. But I should so sell each bill of goods that the person to whom I sell shall make as much as I make.
To live and let live is the principle of the gospel, and the principle of every-day common sense. Oh, young man, hear me; live as you go along. Do not wait until you have reached my years before you begin to enjoy anything of this life. If I had the millions back, of fifty cents of it, which I have tried to earn in these years, it would not do me anything like the good that it does me now in this almost sacred presence to-night. Oh, yes, I am paid over and over a hundredfold to-night for dividing as I have tried to do in some measure as I went along through the years.
I ought not to speak that way, it sounds egotistic, but I am old enough now to be excused for that. I should have helped my fellow-men, which I have tried to do, and everyone should try to do, and get the happiness of it. The man who goes home with the sense that he has stolen a dollar that day, that he has robbed a man of what was his honest due, is not going home to sweet rest. He arises tired in the morning, and goes with an unclean conscience to his work the next day.
He is not a successful man at all, although he may have laid up millions. But the man who has gone through life dividing always with is fellow-men, making and demanding his own rights and his own profits, and giving to every other man his rights and profits, lives every day, and not only that, but it is the royal road to great wealth. The history of the thousands of millionaires shows that to be the case.
Then man over there who said he could not make anything in a store in Philadelphia has been carrying on his store on the wrong principle. Suppose I go into your store to-morrow morning and ask, “Do you know a neighbor A, who lives one square away, at house No. 1240?” “Oh yes, I have met him. He deals here at the corner store.” “Where did he come from?” “I don’t know.” “How many does he have in his family?” “I don’t know.” “What ticket does he vote?” “I don’t know.” “What church does he go to?” “I don’t know, and don’t care. What are you asking all these questions for?”
If you had a store in Philadelphia would you answer me like that? If so, then you are conducting your business just as I carried on my father’s business in Worthington, Massachusetts. You don’t know where your neighbor came from when he moved to Philadelphia, and you don’t care. If you had cared you would rich by now. If you had cared enough about him to take an interest in his affairs, to find out what he needed, you would have been rich. But you go through the world saying, “No opportunity to get rich,” and there is the fault right at your door.
But another young man gets up over there and says, “ I cannot take the mercantile business,” (While I am talking of trade it applies to every occupation.) “Why can’t you go into the mercantile business?” “Because I haven’t any capital.” Oh, the weak and dudish creature that can’t see over its collar! It makes a person weak to see these little dudes standing around the corners and saying, “Oh, if I had plenty of capital, how rich would I get.”
“Young man, do you think you are going to get rich on capital?” “Certainly.” Well, I say, “Certainly not.” If your mother has plenty of money, and she will set you up in business, you will “set her up in business,” supplying you with capital.
The moment a young man or woman gets more money than he or she has grown to by practical experience, that moment he has gotten a curse. It is no help to a young man or woman to inherit money. It is no help to your children to leave them money, but if you leave them education, if you leave them Christian and noble character, if you leave them a wide circle of friends, if you leave them an honorable name, it is far better than that they should have money.
It would be worse for them, worse for the nation, that they should have any money at all. Oh, young man, if you have inherited money, don’t regard it as a help. It will curse you through your years, and deprive you of the very best things of human life. There is no class of people to be pitied so much as the inexperienced sons and daughters of the rich of our generation. I pity the rich man’s son. He can never know the best things in life.
One of the best things in our life is when a young man has earned his own living, and when he becomes engaged to some lovely young woman, and makes up his mind to have a home of his own. Then with that same love comes also that divine inspiration toward better things, and he begins to save his money. He begins to leave off his bad habits and put money in the bank.
When he has a few hundred dollars he goes out in the suburbs to look for a home. He goes to the savings-bank, perhaps, for half of the value, and then goes for his wife, and when he takes his bride over the threshold of that door for the first time he says in words of eloquence my voice can never touch: “ I have earned this home myself. It is all mine, and I divide with thee.” That is the grandest moment a human heart may ever know.
But a rich man’s son can never know that. He takes his bride into a finer mansion, it may be, but he is obliged to go all the way through it and say to his wife, “My mother gave me that, my mother gave me that, and my mother gave me this,” until his wife wishes she had married his mother. I pity the rich man’s son.
The statistics of Massachusetts showed that not one rich man’s son out of seventeen ever dies rich. I pity the rich man’s sons unless they have the good sense of the elder Vanderbilt, which sometimes happens. He went to his father and said, “Did you earn all your money?” “I did, my son. I began to work on a ferry-boat for twenty-five cents a day.” “Then,” said his son, “I will have none of your money,” and he, too, tried to get employment on a ferry-boat that Saturday night.
He could not get one there, but he did get a place for three dollars a week. Of course, if a rich man’s son will do that, he will get the discipline of a poor boy that is worth more than a university education to any man. He would then be able to take care of the millions of his father. But as a rule the rich men will not let their sons do the very thing that made them great. As a rule, the rich man will not allow his son to work-and his mother! Why, she would think it was a social disgrace if her poor, weak, little lily-fingered, sissy sort of a boy had to earn his living with honest toil. I have no pity for such rich men’s sons.
I remember one at Niagara Falls. I think I remember one a great deal nearer. I think there are gentlemen present who were at a great banquet, and I beg pardon of his friends. At a banquet here in Philadelphia there sat beside me a kind-hearted young man, and he said, “Mr. Conwell, you have been sick for two or three years. When you go out, take my limousine, and it will take you up to your house on Broad Street.
” I thanked him very much, and perhaps I ought not to mention the incident in this way, but I follow the facts. I got on to the seat with the driver of that limousine, outside, and when we were going up I asked the driver, “How much did this limousine cost?” “Six thousand eight hundred, and he had to pay the duty on it.” “Well,” I said, “does the owner of this machine ever drive it himself?” At that the chauffeur laughed so heartily that he lost control of his machine. He was so surprised at the question that he ran up on the sidewalk, and around a corner lamp-post into the street again.
And when he got into the street he laughed till the whole machine trembled. He said: “He drive this machine! Oh, he would be lucky if he knew enough to get our when we get there.”
I must tell you about a rich man’s son at Niagara Falls. I came in from the lecture to the hotel, and as I approached the desk of the clerk there stood a millionaire’s son from New York. He was an indescribable specimen of anthropologic potency. He had a skull-cap on one side of his head, with a gold tassel in the top of it, and a gold-headed cane under his arm with more in it than in his head. It is a very difficult thing to describe that young man. He wore an eye-glass that he could not see through, patent-leather boots that he could not walk in, and pants that he could not sit down in-dressed like a grasshopper.
This human cricket came up to the clerk’s desk just as I entered, adjusted his unseeing eye-glass, and spake in this wise to the clerk. You see, he thought it was “Hinglish, you know,” to lisp. “Thir, will you have the kindness to supply me with thome papah and enwelophs!” The hotel clerk measured the man quick, and he pulled the envelopes and paper out of a drawer, threw them across the counter toward the young man, and then turned away to his books. You should have seen that young man when those envelopes came across that counter.
He swelled up like a gobbler turkey, adjusted his unseeing eye-glass, and yelled: “Come right back here. Now, thir, will you order a thervant to take that papah and enwelophs to yondah dethk.” Oh, the poor, miserable, contemptible American monkey! He could not carry paper and envelopes twenty feet. I suppose he could not get his arms down to do it. I have no pity for such travesties upon human nature. If you have not capital, young man, I am glad of it. What you need is common sense, not copper cents.
The best thing I can do is to illustrate by actual facts well known to you all. A.T. Stewart, a poor boy in New York, had $1.50 to begin life on. He lost 87½ cents of that on the very first venture. How fortunate that young man who loses the first time he gambles. That boy said, “I will never gamble again in business,” and he never did.
How came he to lose 87½ cents? You probably all know the story how he lost it-because he bought some needles, threads, and buttons to sell which people did not want, and had them left on his hands, a dead loss. Said the boy, “I will not lose any more money in that way.” Then he went around first to the doors and asked the people what they did want.
Then when he had found out what they wanted he invested his 62½ cents to supply a known demand. Study it wherever you choose-in business, in your profession, in your housekeeping, whatever your life, that one thing is the secret of success. You must first know the demand. You must first know what people need, and then invest yourself where you are most needed. A.T. Stewart went on that principle until he was worth what amounted afterward to forty millions of dollars, owning the very store in which Mr. Wanamaker carries on his great work in New York.
His fortune was made by his losing something, which taught him the great lesson that he must only invest himself or his money in something that people need. When will you salesmen learn it? When will you manufactures learn that you must know the changing needs of humanity if you would succeed in life? Apply yourselves, all you Christian people, as manufactures or merchants or workmen to supply that human need. It is a great principle as broad as humanity and as deep as the Scripture itself.
The best illustration I ever heard was of John Jacob Astor. You know that he made the money of the Astor family when he lived in New York. He came across the sea in debt for his fare. But that poor boy with nothing in his pocket made the fortune of the Astor family on one principle.
Some young man here to-night will say, “Well, they could make these over in New York, but they could not do it in Philadelphia!” My friends, did you ever read that wonderful book of Riss (his memory is sweet to us because of his recent death), wherein is given his statistical account of the records taken in 1889 of 107 millionaires of New York.
If you read the account you will see that out of the 107 millionaires only seven made their money in New York. Out of the 107 millionaires worth ten million dollars in real estate then, 67 of them made their money in towns of less than 3,500 inhabitants. The richest man in this country to-day, if you read the real-estate values, has never moved away from a town of 3,500 inhabitants.
It makes not so much difference where you are as who you are. But if you cannot get rich in Philadelphia you certainly cannot do it in New York. Now John Jacob Astor illustrated what can be done anywhere. He had a mortgage once on a millinery-store, and they could not sell bonnets enough to pay the interest on his money. So he foreclosed that mortgage, took possession of the store, and went in to partnership with the very same people, in the very same store, with the same capital.
He did not give them a dollar of capital. They had to sell goods to get any money. Then he left them alone in the store just as they had been before, and he went out and sat down on a bench in the park in the shade. What was John Jacob Astor doing out there, and in partnership with people who had failed on his own hands? Had the most important and, to my mind, the most pleasant part of that partnership on his hands.
For as John Jacob Astor sat on that bench he was watching the ladies as they went by; and where is the man who would not get rich at that business? As he sat on the bench if a lady passed him with her shoulders back and head up, and looked straight to the front, as if she did not care if all the world did gaze on her, then he studied her bonnet, and by the time it was out of sight he know the shape of the frame, the color of the trimmings, and the crinklings in the feather.
Acres of Diamonds – Russell H. Conwell – 1900-1925 (part 2): Acres of Diamonds – Russell H. Conwell – 1900-1925