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selfish. And we must further allow for the difference of standard in different times and places, and for the different points of view of nations, creeds, and parties. A man wins approval in one time and place for acts which would not win him approval in another time and place. He is thought well of by a nation, a party, a class, which gains by his acts, while he is thought ill of by nations, parties, or classes, which suffer by them. Perhaps we may allow a man to be great, if his acts are on a great scale, and if they are such that they can plausibly be defended, such that any large body of men think well of him on the strength of them. We may dispute forever as to the greatness of all the leading characters of history, unless we at least come down so far from any abstract standard of morality as to allow them to be judged by the standard of their own age. If we are too strict, we may deny the title of great to Alexander and Cæsar. Or let us take the most striking case of all. No line of men were ever more highly gifted by nature than the early Ottoman Sultans; no men had better opportunities of doing acts on a great scale, and none made fuller use of their opportunities. Are we to refuse them a place among great men because, from our point of view, their career was purely mischievous? To a Turk their career seems exactly opposite. Surely in estimating simple greatness, we may give them the benefit of the Turkish point of view. On the whole, then, the man may be counted great whose acts are on a great scale, and are withal not so clearly evil but that they may be approved by the opinion of some time and place, of some class or creed or party.
But the great man, however highly gifted by nature, cannot show himself to be great, unless he has his opportunity. And here our great men seem to split off into two classes. There are some who make their opportunities for themselves, and others who wait till the opportunities are made for them. There are some men who, we instinctively feel, must, under any circumstances, in any time, in any place, have shown that they were something different from the mass of mankind. There are men who cannot be kept under, who must come to the front in some way, who may or may not — that depends on themselves and their opportunity deeply or lastingly influence other men, but who have something in them which makes them incapable of leaving things just as they found them. They must make a stir in some way; they must be leaders, if only of the smallest possible flock; if they get no flock at all, they are at least so far leaders that they are not led by any one else. Now this class of men are very far from being all of them great men, but one kind of great men certainly belongs to this class. To talk of “genius " is more dangerous; but it might be safe to say that, while the whole class are far from being all of them men of genius, yet all men of genius must belongs to the class. Genius is said to be akin to madness, and so it certainly is so far as this, that both in genius and in madness some one quality, some one gift, stands out before all the rest, and is, to speak the plain truth, out of proportion to the rest. The man of genius is surely the man who can do one or two things in a way far above the ordinary standard; there may be other things in which he falls below the ordinary standard. Now there are times and places in which this kind of man is the man that is wanted. If some particular truth needs to be set forth before all others, what is wanted is the man who will set forth that truth, even out of its due proportion to all others. If some particular work needs to be done, what is wanted is the man who can do that work in the best possible way, even though he may be unable to do, even though he may despise doing some other work which, in some other time and place, might be quite as needful. One might go on forever with a poetical or rhetorical picture of the man of genius, the hero, if we choose so to call him. But what has been said may pass as a practical description of him. And it must be remembered that the man of this kind, while eminently useful under one set of circumstances, may be no less mischievous under another. He has his particular work to do, his particular truth to insist on; happy is he if he comes at the time when that work, that truth, is the thing which is specially needed. A hero may become a little out of place when there is nothing stirring in his own line. We welcome St. George when there are dragons to be slain; we should hardly know what to do with him at other times. If there is a nation to be delivered by the strong arm, Garibaldi is the man; but when there are no Sicilies to deliver, Garibaldi does well to keep quiet in his own island.
Now, men of this kind do often really make their opportunity; that is, if they come at the moment when the particular thing which they can do is the thing which most needs to be done. There is another kind of men who must have their opportunities made for them, men on whom greatness, if it comes, is in a manner thrust. They are men who, if it so happens, deserve and receive the highest measure of fame, but who can hardly be said to win it, because they in no sense strive for it. And if, under one set of circumstances, their names may fill the world for ages, under another set of circumstances their names may never be heard of at all. These are the men who do not stand out above others for the special development of some particular quality, who perhaps do not stand out at all, but who, if they do stand out, are marked by having all the needful qualities in their due proportion. Some other man may be able to do some particular thing better than they; no other man can do so many things so well. They are less brilliant than the geniuses and heroes; but there is a sense in which they are more useful,- for under all circumstances they are of some use, and under no circumstances are they mischievous. These are the men who have the gift of acting well and wisely in any condition of life in which they happen to find themselves. They do their duty, whatever it is. If circumstances give them only small things to do, they do those small things well. If circumstances give them great things to do, they do the great things no less well. If only the small duties fall to them, they may be respected by their own neighbors and unheard of anywhere else; if the great duties fall to them, they may, by common consent, be placed among the famous men of history. Let us take two men of English blood and speech in widely different ages, Alfred the King and Washington the President. Both of them clearly belong to the class of which we are speaking. There is not in the character of either any overwhelming development of one quality; their greatness consists in the harmonious union of many qualities. There is no superhuman brilliancy about them, no sign that they must, under any circumstances, have stood out above other men. They show no vast and wide conceptions which they must in any case have at least tried to carry out; they simply do well whatever their duty calls on them to do. Had they only small duties to do, as at one time Washington had, they would have done those small duties well; and that would have been all. But opportunities were given to both of them. On Alfred during his whole life, on Washington during part of life, great duties were laid, and they did the great duties well. The birth of Alfred and the death of his brothers made him a king early in life, at a time when kings had hard work to do. He did all that in those days was asked e right hand quien no brag
of a king, and more also. The land needed a captain to fight its battles, and he fought them. It needed a legislator to put its laws in order, and he put them in order. Clergy and people were ignorant and needed teachers; he brought teachers from other lands, and himself wrote books to help them. Alfred always does the right thing at the right time and in the right way; but he does it simply and quietly, as if it were quite impossible to do anything else. There is no brag, no show; he does the greatest things in a way which makes us think that he would not have complained if his fate had set him to do only the smallest things. He would have done the smallest things well, and would have said nothing. Being a king, he was the model king; if he had been set in any smaller post, he would have been the model holder of that smaller post. So it is with the later Englishman beyond Ocean, with this difference that Washington was not al. ways called on to do great things. At different times of his life, he has both great and small duties laid upon him, and he does both well. He is sometimes a private man, sometimes a soldier, sometimes a statesman. He passes to and fro among the different characters, rising to greater places seemingly without ambition, going back to smaller seemingly without regret. Like Alfred, he is both deliverer and ruler. Now, the character of the deliverer is the most striking and dramatic of all characters; but both Alfred and Washington, while playing the part thoroughly well, still do it in a quiet kind of way; there is nothing amazing or supernatural about them, nothing the least like Garibaldi or Joan of Arc. But then both of them could be rulers as well as deliverers, and nobody would have set Garibaldi to rule, nor, one may suppose, the Maid of Domrémy either.
Here, then, are undoubted great men, but great men who are not in the least like Alexander or Hannibal or Cæsar. They are men who are very useful when the house is on fire, but who can also make themselves useful in a smaller way when the house is not on fire. They are great men, good men, but they are hardly geniuses or heroes; at least if they are geniuses or heroes, they lack that touch of something akin to madness which is thought to be needful for genius or heroism. Now the difference between the two classes of great men falls in well with some of Mr. Lowell's exhortations. It is the duty of a nation to produce great men. That is, we may suppose, if it can. Now the one class of great men no nation can undertake to produce to order. No people can undertake to have a Pericles, a Hannibal, a Chatham, ready by such a year of such a century. Heros nascitur, non fit. But it does strike one that it is just possible that the other class of men might be made, if any nation knew the way to set about making them. The Hannibals and the Alexanders we must wait for till they come; but it may be that there are more in posse Alfreds and Washingtons among us than we think for; it may be that by some process, like that of choosing and making the queen bee, the imperfect great man might be recognized and somehow shaped into a perfect development. The idea is very vague and would need to be scientifically examined. But Mr. Lowell says that it is the duty of a nation to produce great men. If it is a duty, it must set about trying to do that duty. It is no good consciously trying to make a Hannibal; it is just possible that it may be some good trying to make a Washington.