Splendid thus far. But observe the next step. In about twelve months this young man came to me again. Would I help to get a certain man who held a Government position paying him $150 a month promoted? This last man’s record was admirable; he deserved promotion on his own account. But why the interest of the would-be lawyer, who was “quivering” with ambition?
It developed that if the other fellow was promoted, this embryo Erskine could, with the aid of influential political friends, be appointed in his place. But why did he want this position? Well, answered the young man, it would enable him to take his law course at one of the law schools of the Capitol and get his degree, and all that sort of thing. Also, it would enable him to live at home with mother, would it not? Yes, that was a consideration, he admitted.
But did he think that that was as good a training for his profession, and would give him the chance of a business acquaintance while he was getting that training, as well as the clerkship in the New York office would? Perhaps not, but, after all, he didn’t get very much salary in the New York law office. Why, how much did he get? Only twenty dollars a week.
But was not that enough to live on at a modest boarding-house, and get a room with bed, table, one chair, and a washstand, and buy him the necessary clothing? Oh, yes! of course he could scratch along on it, but it was hardly what a young man of his standing and family ought to have.
Oh! it didn’t enable him to get out into society, was that it? Well, yes, he must admit there was something in that. Washington had social advantages, to be sure, and $150 a month would enable him to have some of that life which a young man was entitled to and at the very same time be getting his legal education. Well! That young man did not get what he wanted.
That young man had the wrong notion of life. Of course, no man would do anything for him. Until he changed his point of view utterly, success was absolutely impossible for him. What that young man needed was the experience of going back to New York and having to apply for position after position until his shoe soles wore out, and he felt the pangs of hunger. He needed iron in his blood, that is what he needed. All the colleges in the world would not enable that man to do anything worth doing until he mastered the sound principles of living and of working.
Right before him in New York was an illustration of this. One of the most notable successes at the bar which that city or this country has witnessed in the last fifteen years has been made by a young man who had neither college education, money, nor friends. He was, I am told, a stenographer in one of New York’s great legal establishments. But that young man had done precisely what I have been pounding at over and over again in this paper. Very well. To-day he is one among half a dozen of the most notable lawyers in the greatest city of the greatest nation in the world.