Famous Americans of Recent Times eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 523 pages of information about Famous Americans of Recent Times.

The last of the Randolphs, and one of the best representatives of the original masters of Virginia, the high-toned Virginia gentleman, was no more.  Those men had their opportunity, but they had not strength of character equal to it.  They were tried and found wanting.  The universe, which loves not the high-toned, even in violins, disowned them, and they perished.  Cut off from the life-giving current of thought and feeling which kept the rest of Christendom advancing, they came to love stagnation, and looked out from their dismal, isolated pool with lofty contempt at the gay and active life on the flowing stream.  They were not teachable, for they despised the men who could have taught them.  But we are bound always to consider that they were subjected to a trial under which human virtue has always given way, and will always.  Sudden wealth is itself sufficient to spoil any but the very best men,—­those who can instantly set it at work for the general good, and continue to earn an honest livelihood by faithful labor.  But those tobacco lords of Virginia, besides making large fortunes in a few years, were the absolute, irresponsible masters of a submissive race.  And when these two potent causes of effeminacy and pride had worked out their proper result in the character of the masters, then, behold! their resources fail.  Vicious agriculture exhausts the soil, false political economy prevents the existence of a middle class, and the presence of slaves repels emigration.  Proud, ignorant, indolent, dissolute, and in debt, the dominant families, one after another, passed away, attesting to the last, by an occasional vigorous shoot, the original virtue of the stock.  All this poor John Randolph represented and was.

Virginia remains.  Better men will live in it than have ever yet lived there; but it will not be in this century, and possibly not in the next.  It cannot be that so fair a province will not be one day inhabited by a race of men who will work according to the laws of nature, and whom, therefore, the laws of nature will co-operate with and preserve.  How superior will such Virginians be to what Dr. Francis Lieber styles the “provincial egotism” of State sovereignty!

[Footnote 1:  1865-6.]

STEPHEN GIRARD AND HIS COLLEGE.

Within the memory of many persons still alive, “old Girard,” as the famous banker was usually styled, a short, stout, brisk old gentleman, used to walk, in his swift, awkward way, the streets of the lower part of Philadelphia.  Though everything about him indicated that he had very little in common with his fellow-citizens, he was the marked man of the city for more than a generation.  His aspect was rather insignificant and quite unprepossessing.  His dress was old-fashioned and shabby; and he wore the pig-tail, the white neck-cloth, the wide-brimmed hat, and the large-skirted coat of the last century.  He was blind of one eye; and though his bushy eyebrows

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Famous Americans of Recent Times from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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