“Daniel, Daniel,” he said sorrowfully, “don’t you mean to take that office?”
“No, indeed, father,” was the reply, “I hope I can do much better than that. I mean to use my tongue in the courts, not my pen; to be an actor, not a register of other men’s acts. I hope yet, sir, to astonish your honor in your own court by my professional attainments.”
Judge Webster made no attempt to conceal his disappointment. He even tried to discourage his son by reminding him that there were already more lawyers than the country needed.
It was in answer to this objection that Daniel used the famous and oft-quoted words,—“There is room enough at the top.”
“Well, my son,” said the fond but doubting father, “your mother has always said you would come to something or nothing. She was not sure which; I think you are now about settling that doubt for her.”
It was very painful to Daniel to disappoint his father, but his purpose was fixed, and nothing now could change it. He knew he had turned his face in the right direction, and though when he commenced to practice law he earned only about five or six hundred dollars a year, he never regretted the decision he had made. He aimed high, and he had his reward.
It is true now and forever, as Lowell says, that—
“Not failure, but low aim, is crime.”
THE UPLIFT OF A SLAVE BOY’S IDEAL
Invincible determination, and a right nature, are the levers that move the world.—Porter.
Born a slave, with the feelings and possibilities of a man, but with no rights above the beast of the field, Fred Douglass gave the world one of the most notable examples of man’s power over circumstances.
He had no knowledge of his father, whom he had never seen. He had only a dim recollection of his mother, from whom he had been separated at birth. The poor slave mother used to walk twelve miles when her day’s work was done, in order to get an occasional glimpse of her child. Then she had to walk back to the plantation on which she labored, so as to be in time to begin to work at dawn next morning.
Under the brutal discipline of the “Aunt Katy” who had charge of the slaves who were still too young to labor in the fields, he early began to realize the hardships of his lot, and to rebel against the state of bondage into which he had been born.
Often hungry, and clothed in hottest summer and coldest winter alike, in a coarse tow linen shirt, scarcely reaching to the knees, without a bed to lie on or a blanket to cover him, his only protection, no matter how cold the night, was an old corn bag, into which he thrust himself, leaving his feet exposed at one end, and his head at the other.