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“Now, what did I see there? I found the workmen considerate for each other. I found that they would go out (those who were out of employment), day after day, and patiently trudge miles and miles seeking employment, returning, night after night, unsuccessful and dispirited. They would walk incredibly long distances to places where they heard of a job of work, and this not for a few days, but for very many days. And I have seen such a man sit down wearily by the fire (we had a common room for sitting, and cooking, and everything), with a hungry despondent look—he had not tasted food all day—and accosted by another scarcely less poor than himself, with—‘Here, mate, get this into thee,’ handing him, at the same time, a piece of bread and some cold meat, and afterwards some coffee; and adding, ‘Better luck to-morrow—keep up your pecker;’ and all this without any idea that they were practising the most splendid patience, fortitude, courage, and generosity I had ever seen. You would hear them talk of absent wife and children sometimes—there in a distant workhouse—trade was very bad then—with expressions of affection, and the hope of seeing them again, although the one was irreverently alluded to as my old woman, and the latter as the kids. I p. 147very soon got rid of miserable self-pity there, and came to reflect that Dr. Livingstone would probably be thankful for good wheaten bread; and if the bed was of flock and hay, and the sheets of cotton, that better men than I in the Crimea (the war was then going on) would think themselves very lucky to have as good; and then, too, I began to reflect, that when you come to think of it, such as these men were, so were the vast majority of the working classes; that the idle and the drunken we see about public-houses, are but a small minority of them made to appear more—because public-houses are all put in such places; that the great bulk are at home; for the man who has to be up at six in the morning can’t stay up at night; he is in bed early, and is as I found my fellow inmates. * * * Well, it was impossible to indulge in self-pity in circumstances like these; and emulous of the genuine manhood all around me, I set to work again; for what might not be done with youth and health; and simply by preparing myself rather more thoroughly for my business than had previously been considered necessary, I was soon strong enough to live more in accordance with my previous life, and am now able to speak a true word for the genuine men I left behind, simply because my dear parents had given me greater advantages than these men had.” In this confession we see the secrets of Mr. Plimsoll’s ultimate success—the better education his parents had given him, and the courage infused into him by the example of men lower down in the social scale. Under these circumstances he again went to work, and the result was fame and fortune.

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The great railway king, Mr. G. Hudson, was, for a time, a money-making M.P., who rose from the linendraper’s shop at York, to be the observed of all observers, the lion of the day, to whom, while his money lasted, the oldest and the proudest aristocracy in the world stood cap in hand. Alas! however, he outlived his wealth. It took to itself wings, and flew away.

The mother of Joseph Hume, M.P., kept a small crockery shop at Montrose; and yet her son went out to India, made a large fortune, and came back to his native land to be a distinguished member of parliament, and a leader in political and economical reform.

Mr. I. Holden, when M.P. for the eastern division of the West Riding of Yorkshire, told a large meeting of the electors at Leeds about his earlier years. “I began life,” he said, p. 148“as an operative. I was a worker in a cotton-mill, and when I had worked fourteen hours a-day, I spent two in the evening school. I educated myself by that means till I was able to continue my education by assisting in the education of others; and I sometimes remember with intense emotion, entering, upon a stage-coach, the town of Leeds, unknown, and a perfect stranger, at twenty years of age, in order to be the mathematical master in one of the first schools then in Yorkshire, and almost one of the first in England. I spent many happy months in the town of Leeds.” When he began to take an interest in politics, he watched the course of the two great parties on the subject of Catholic emancipation and the emancipation of the slaves, and became a Liberal.

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Edward Baines, who became M.P. for Leeds, and the proprietor of one of the most valuable newspaper properties in the kingdom, the Leeds Mercury, set off to make his fortune in 1793. His son writes:—“There was at that time no public conveyance on the direct route from Preston to Leeds, and the journey by coach, through Manchester, would have occupied two days. The frugal apprentice, stout of heart and limb, performed the journey on foot, with his bundle on his arm. A friend accompanied him to Clithero; but he crossed the hill into Yorkshire with no companion but his staff, and all his worldly wealth in his pocket. Wayworn he entered the town of Leeds, and, finding the shop of Messrs. Binns and Brown, he inquired if they had room for an apprentice to finish his time. The stranger was carelessly referred to the foreman; and, as he entered the Mercury office, he internally resolved that, if he should obtain admission there, he would never leave it.” And he kept his word. A man does what he wills. To succeed in life—to be even a rich man or an M.P.—is mainly the result of the effort of the indomitable will of a resolute and persevering man.

Mr. Baines succeeded because his maxim was, that what was worth doing, was worth doing well. “He laid the foundations of future success,” writes his son, “as a master, in the thorough knowledge and performance of the duties of a workman. Whilst still receiving weekly wages, he practised a prudent economy. He was anxious to improve his condition, and he took the only effectual means to do it by saving as much as he could of the fruits of his industry. His tastes were simple, his habits strictly temperate, and his companionships p. 149virtuous. Always maintaining respectability of appearance, he was superior to personal display. He lodged with a worthy family; but on a scale of expense suited to his circumstances.” An early marriage seems to have increased his business energy. “At five o’clock in the morning, and, when occasion required, at four or three, was the young printer out of bed; and whatever neighbour rose early was sure to find him in his office. He was above no kind of work that belonged to his trade. He not only directed others, but worked himself at case and press. He kept his own books, and they still remain to attest the regularity and neatness with which he kept them, though he had no training in that department. Not a penny went or came but had its record, either in his office or his domestic account-books. In consequence, he always knew the exact position of his affairs. His customers and friends steadily increased; for it was found that he was to be depended upon for whatever he undertook. With a spirit that stooped to no meanness, but with a nature that cheerfully yielded all respect and courtesy; with a temper as steady as it was sanguine and happy; with constant prudence and unfailing attention to duty, he won the confidence of every one that knew him. His punctuality and method were exemplary; he conducted his business, in all respects, in the best way. He not only took any employment for his press, however humble, that came, but he devised and suggested publications, and joined others in executing them. But,” adds the son, “it was necessary that energy in business should be seconded by economy at home. He began by laying down the rule that he would not spend more than half his income; and he acted upon it. Great was his resolution, and many the contrivances to carry out his purpose; but husband and wife being of the same mind, assiduous and equally prudent, the thing was done. For some time they kept but one servant. A main secret of his frugality was, that he created no artificial wants. He always drank water. He never smoked, justly thinking it a waste of time and money to gratify a taste which does not exist naturally, but has to be formed. He took no snuff. Neither tavern nor theatre saw his face. The circle of his visiting acquaintance was small and select. Yet he was not an earth-worm. He took an active part in the Benevolent or Strangers’ Friend Society, and was a man of public spirit. The pure joys of domestic p. 150life, the pleasures of industry, and the satisfaction of doing good, combined to make him as happy as he was useful.”

Thus it will be seen that the foundation of Mr. Baines’s success in life, and of his eminent usefulness, was laid in those homely virtues which are too often despised by the young and ardent, but which are of incomparably greater value than the most shining qualities—in integrity, industry, perseverance, prudence, frugality, temperance, self-denial, and courtesy. The young man who would use his harvest must plough with his heifer.

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If there is a passage in all his life of which his descendants are and ought to be most proud, it is that lowly commencement, when virtuous habits were formed; when the temptations of youth were resisted; when life-long friendships were won; when domestic life began in love, and piety, and prudence; when a venerable neighbour, Mr. Abraham Dickinson, used to remark, “Those young people are sure to get on, they are so industrious;” and when the same good man said to a young friend at his elbow—“C—, thou seest an example in thy neighbour Edward.”

“All’s well that ends well,” says the proverb. It is true; yet it is also of immense importance to begin well. Mr. Baines, some years since, was watching an apprentice, whose habits were not steady, fold up a newspaper. At the first fold there was a wrinkle, and at every succeeding fold the wrinkle grew worse, and more unmanageable. Mr. Baines said significantly to the lad—“Jim, its a bad thing to begin wrongly.” The poor fellow found it so; for he soon fell a victim to his vices. His master had begun right, and every succeeding fold in life was easy and straight. The lesson is worth remembering.

One of the most remarkable careers was that of Mr. Lindsay, M.P., who was a native of Ayre, in Scotland, where he was born in 1816, and left an orphan at six. When only fifteen years of age he commenced his career, leaving home with three shillings and sixpence in his pocket, to push his way as a sea-boy. He worked his way to Liverpool by trimming coals in the coal-hole of a steamer. Arrived in that great commercial emporium, he found himself friendless and destitute, and seven long weeks passed before he was able to find employment, four of which were spent in such utter destitution that he was reduced to the necessity of sleeping in the streets and sheds of Liverpool, often eating nothing but what he begged for. At length he was fortunate enough to be engaged in the Isabella, a West Indiaman; and such were the hardships to which the cabin-boy of that day was subjected, that, at times, it might almost be questioned whether the change was for the better. But William Lindsay was not a lad to be discouraged by hardships. Pressing steadily onward, in 1834, three years after he had first joined the ship in the humblest capacity, he was appointed to the position of second mate; but even when fortune had begun to smile upon him, her face was not altogether unclouded; for in the same year he was shipwrecked, and had both legs and one arm broken. The following year he was promoted to be chief mate; and in 1836, in his nineteenth year, he was appointed to the command of the Olive Branch, which seems, however, so to have belied her name, that, being in the Persian Gulf in 1839, in a hostile encounter, her commander was cut down by a sabre-stroke across the breast, he at the same time killing his assailant by a pistol-shot. p. 152The following year Mr. Lindsay retired from the sea, and, in 1841, was appointed agent for the Castle-Eden Coal Company. He was mainly instrumental in getting Hartlepool made an independent port, and rendered material assistance in the establishment of its docks and wharves. In 1845, he removed to London, and laid the foundation of that extensive business which now entitles him to recognition as one of the “merchant princes” of the metropolis. Nor, amid all the bustle and occupation of a busy life, did Mr. Lindsay lose sight of his mental improvement. Devoting his spare evening hours, which thousands waste in idleness or dissipation, to self-instruction, he speedily overcame the defects of his early education, and stored his mind with a variety of sound information, which has been of essential service to him in his subsequent career. In proof how profitably he employed these hours of study, it may be stated that he has published various pamphlets and letters on questions connected with the shipping interest, in which he himself holds so large a stake; as well as a more important work, entitled “Our Navigation and Mercantile Marine Laws.” No sooner was his position as one of the largest shipowners and shipbrokers in the kingdom achieved, than he resolved to get into parliament. He contested Monmouth in April, and Dartmouth in July, 1852, in both of which he was beaten by aristocratic influence, and the unsparing use of other means of corruption. Undaunted by these defeats, and determined to succeed at last, even if twenty times defeated, and to succeed, too, by purity and principle alone, he became a candidate for Tynemouth in March, 1854, and, after a severe struggle, was elected by a narrow majority of seventeen. In 1857, he was again elected without opposition. When engaged in the contest at Dartmouth, Mr. Lindsay gave the electors an account of his career and his commercial position, which shows, in a striking light, the magnitude of the operations of a large mercantile establishment. He then, it appeared, owned twenty-two large first-class ships; and, as an underwriter, he had, in his individual capacity, during the past year, insured risks to the amount of £2,800,000. In the conduct of their extensive export trade, the firm of W. S. Lindsay and Co., of Austin Friars, ship and insurance brokers, of which he is the head, had, during the same year, chartered 700 ships to all parts of the world, but principally p. 153in India and the Mediterranean, and, as contractors, had shipped 100,000 tons of coals, and 150,000 tons of iron; whilst, as brokers, during the year of famine, their operations extended to 1,000,000 quarters of grain. Mr. Lindsay took part in the formation of the Administrative Reform Association; and being present at the initiatory meeting at the London Tavern, proposed one of the resolutions in an amusing speech, in which he detailed his experiences connected with the subject, both at home and abroad. In the hot debates, occasioned by neglect and maladministration, on the Crimean war, he became quite a man of mark in the House of Commons. And after his retirement from parliament, he published a valuable and expensive book on the “History of Shipping and British Commerce.”

In connection with this subject must also be mentioned the respected name of Mr. Brotherton, who used often to tell the House of the time when he himself had been a poor factory lad, but who died wealthy and universally lamented.

Sir Samuel Morton Peto, the constructor of many of the greatest engineering works in the country, and who for many years represented Norwich in parliament, worked for seven years as a bricklayer, carpenter, and mason, under his uncle, Mr. Henry Peto.

Sir Francis Crossley, M.P., also was born in very humble circumstances, and acquired the enormous wealth of which he became possessed by his own energy and enterprise. Halifax, which he represented in parliament, and where his manufactory was situated, bore witness to his liberality.

Another M.P. who sprung from the ranks was Mr. Joseph Cowen, who represented—as his son still represents—Newcastle-on-Tyne. Such was his integrity, and patriotism, and perseverance, that no man was more respected in parliament or out. Crowned with grey hairs, his tall, muscular frame, and big head, denoted a more than average amount of physical and mental strength. As a member of parliament, he was noted for the regularity of his attendance. In this respect he was unrivalled.

I have already written that the late Mr. Herbert Ingram, M.P., blacked the shoes of one of his constituents. He was born at Boston, in Lincolnshire, and was then apprenticed to one of his constituents. After completing the terms of his indenture, Mr. Ingram moved to Nottingham, where he carried p. 154on business as printer, bookseller, and news-agent. Whilst a newsvendor, he displayed, in a remarkable degree, that industry and perseverance for which he became distinguished in after-life. Two instances of his extraordinary attention to business may be cited. There was, amongst his customers, a gentleman who wanted his news very early, and Mr. Ingram, anxious that the gentleman should not be disappointed, walked five miles, and of course five miles back, to serve a single customer. On one occasion he got up at five in the morning, and travelled to London to get some copies of a paper because there was no post to bring them, and being determined that his customers should have the news. His industry had its reward, for he sold above 1,000 copies of that paper in Nottingham; and it was from his experience as a newsvendor, and in the sale of metropolitan prints, that he thought of the speculation which was destined to make his fortune. He used to notice that a very bad wood-cut in an old number of a newspaper would make it sell; and it occurred to him, that if he had a number of good engravings, and put them in a paper, they would be likely to make it sell. Accordingly, in May, 1842, an experiment was resolved on, and the first number of the Illustrated News made its appearance. His success was immense; but he had learned the secret of it from his experience in the humble and laborious calling of a newspaper vendor. Indeed, the very title of the new journal was suggested by the fact that the most illiterate of his customers had been in the habit of coming to ask him for the London news: they did not care what he sold them so long as he gave them the London news; and he wisely came to the conclusion, as that name suited the poorest class, it would suit all classes; and thus his sagacity reaped a rich reward, and he became a famous as well as a wealthy man. It is thus the House of Commons has become enriched by the brains of some of the most successful money-makers of their time.

Let me, in this chapter, give the first place to Samuel Plimsoll, a man who, if he made money, spent it nobly, and deserved the peerage far more than many who have been elected to that honour—at any rate, from the time the Earl of Beaconsfield became Premier. He was down very low in the social scale, and it is thus he writes of his noble poverty and of his companions in misfortune, in that appeal on behalf of our seamen, which stirred up the community as with the voice of a trumpet, and actually forced parliament to legislate. “I don’t wish,” he writes, “to disparage the rich; but I think it may reasonably be doubted whether these qualities are so fully developed in them” (he had been writing of the honesty, of the strong aversion to idleness, of the generosity to one another in adversity, and of the splendid courage of the working classes); “for notwithstanding that not a few of them are not unacquainted with the claims, reasonable and unreasonable, of poor relations, these qualities are not in such constant exercise, and riches seem, in so many cases, to smother the manliness of their possessors, that their sympathies become not so much narrowed as, so to speak, stratified; they are reserved for the sufferings of their own class, and also the woes of those above them. They seldom tend downwards much, and they are far more likely to admire an act of high courage, like that of the engine-driver who saved his passengers lately from an awful collision by cool courage, than to admire the constantly-exercised fortitude and the tenderness which are the daily characteristics of a British workman’s life.

“You may doubt this. I should once have done so myself; but I have shared their lot; I have lived with them. For months and months I lived in one of the model lodging-houses, p. 146established mainly by the efforts of Lord Shaftesbury. There is one in Fetter Lane, another in Hatton Garden; and, indeed, they are scattered all over London. I went there simply because I could not afford a better lodging. I have had to make seven shillings and ninepence halfpenny (three shillings of which I paid for my lodging) last me a whole week, and did it. It is astonishing how little you can live on when you divest yourself of all fancied needs. I had plenty of good wheaten bread to eat all the week, and the half of a herring for a relish (less will do if you can’t afford half, for it is a splendid fish), and good coffee to drink; and I know how much, or rather how little, roast shoulder-of-mutton you can get for twopence for your Sunday’s dinner. Don’t suppose I went there from choice; I went from stern necessity (and this was promotion too), and I went with strong shrinking, with a sense of suffering great humiliation, regarding my being there as a thing to be kept carefully secret from all my old friends. In a word, I considered it only less degrading than spunging upon my friends, or borrowing what I saw no chance of ever being able to pay.

“Now, what did I see there? I found the workmen considerate for each other. I found that they would go out (those who were out of employment), day after day, and patiently trudge miles and miles seeking employment, returning, night after night, unsuccessful and dispirited. They would walk incredibly long distances to places where they heard of a job of work, and this not for a few days, but for very many days. And I have seen such a man sit down wearily by the fire (we had a common room for sitting, and cooking, and everything), with a hungry despondent look—he had not tasted food all day—and accosted by another scarcely less poor than himself, with—‘Here, mate, get this into thee,’ handing him, at the same time, a piece of bread and some cold meat, and afterwards some coffee; and adding, ‘Better luck to-morrow—keep up your pecker;’ and all this without any idea that they were practising the most splendid patience, fortitude, courage, and generosity I had ever seen. You would hear them talk of absent wife and children sometimes—there in a distant workhouse—trade was very bad then—with expressions of affection, and the hope of seeing them again, although the one was irreverently alluded to as my old woman, and the latter as the kids. I p. 147very soon got rid of miserable self-pity there, and came to reflect that Dr. Livingstone would probably be thankful for good wheaten bread; and if the bed was of flock and hay, and the sheets of cotton, that better men than I in the Crimea (the war was then going on) would think themselves very lucky to have as good; and then, too, I began to reflect, that when you come to think of it, such as these men were, so were the vast majority of the working classes; that the idle and the drunken we see about public-houses, are but a small minority of them made to appear more—because public-houses are all put in such places; that the great bulk are at home; for the man who has to be up at six in the morning can’t stay up at night; he is in bed early, and is as I found my fellow inmates. * * * Well, it was impossible to indulge in self-pity in circumstances like these; and emulous of the genuine manhood all around me, I set to work again; for what might not be done with youth and health; and simply by preparing myself rather more thoroughly for my business than had previously been considered necessary, I was soon strong enough to live more in accordance with my previous life, and am now able to speak a true word for the genuine men I left behind, simply because my dear parents had given me greater advantages than these men had.” In this confession we see the secrets of Mr. Plimsoll’s ultimate success—the better education his parents had given him, and the courage infused into him by the example of men lower down in the social scale. Under these circumstances he again went to work, and the result was fame and fortune.