« AnteriorContinuar »
even than they, and enters more deeply into their wants and wishes. It is this marvellous and mysterious sympathy which explains why he is preferred to others, albeit wiser and abler far than he ; why he speaks and is respected as one having authority above all others. He rules because he serves ; his people follow and obey him, for he is among them as one that serveth. Their loyalty is not the cringing servile allegiance of the vassal, but the grateful homage of independent souls in recognition of the services rendered by their representative leader,-a noble testimonial of gratitude, worthy alike of them who give, and of him who receives it. It is not “hero-worship, not the slavish bending of the knee to mere power ; it is the tribute of respect and obedience cheerfully paid to one who is not only an extraordinary genius, but a representative ruler, who is not only a ruler, but a faithful servant, who best represents their wants and interests, and whom, therefore, they confidently invest with supreme ruling authority over themselves. The people honour themselves by honouring their prophet ; and they glorify him only so far as he is true to them. : What Napoleon said of himself, when asked to attend to the education of his son, with a view to enable him to become a fit successor, applies to all great men and prophets. “Replace me !" said he somewhat astonished at the suggestion ; “I cannot be replaced ; I am the child of circum. stances.” This was no hollow boast ; Napoleon said what he felt ; he mentioned a great fact of his life, the secret of his pre-eminence and success. His character and disposition and abilities were really unique, and were not the result of training, but were formed and moulded by the peculiar necessities of the. age. He was the man of the age, the
representative leader of his people. No amount of education or training could fit another for the position which he occupied. You must not suppose that I mean to accord to Napoleon a moral supremacy. No, I do not honour him as a prophet. I need not be reminded that he had many failings, and even vices; for all these he has been, and will ever be, condemned. But that he was a great man in his sphere, a great military genius, few will venture to dispute. It was only because he stood forth as the political representative of the people and the age, that he became a successful ruler in the cabinet and the field ; and hence he was fully justified in saying he could not be replaced by others. None but a Napoleon could fill Napoleon's place. So with regard to every great man. He cannot be replaced by others, however wise or powerful. They may be his superiors in many respects, but they lack the essential attribute which makes him a great man,they are not representative; the people would not recognise them as their own.
Great men are representatives in another sense : they represent particular ideas. Every great man comes into the world with a certain great idea fixed in his mind, which it is his mission to realize and stamp on his age. This idea is not an accident, but the essence of his being. It is not a doctrine learnt from books or deduced by reasoning. It is divinely implanted in his mind; it is inseparable from his nature, and is interwoven with his being. It is not an acquired precept, but an inborn principle of life. It is the governing principle of all his thoughts, wishes, and aspirations; the primary motive of all his movements. He lives in it and for it. His life is identified with his idea : his existence has only one meaning—the development and
realization of his idea. He does not live, as others do, for the attainment of worldly happiness and honours ; he does not, like them, pursue a variety of objects in the varied relations and circumstances of life. The peculiar destiny of every great man is to live and die for one idea. This idea is nothing more than a definite plan of the particular reform needed at the time ; it is a remedy for the manifold evils of the age, a message of peace and emancipation to nations groaning under social or spiritual oppression. It is this idea that makes a great man a necessity of his age, as it shows him forth as the reformer in whom all the grievances of the nation will find redress. He cannot but be a reformer. Around him he finds society degraded, impoverished, and ruined ; within him lies an ideal of what society ought to be, which constantly and necessarily seeks to realize and develop itself. His life is thus a life of continued struggle, whích ceases only with his life, when his subjective idea is converted into an objective reality.
From what I have already said, certain essential characteristics peculiar to greatness may be inferred. The first is the absence of selfishness. Great men do not live on their own account, they live for others. They deny themselves the pleasures and honours of earthly existence, in order that others may be enriched and exalted. They relieve and gladden their country by bearing on their own shoulders the heavy weight of its woes and sufferings. Even with their blood they wash away the evils of the world. To live unto themselves is not only wrong, but morally impossible ; to seek the welfare of others is not only right, but natural to them. Their life is necessarily a life of self-abnegation. They cannot be selfish. Self-interest can have no influence on them whose
interests are identified with those of society, and in whom the national pulse beats, and the national heart throbs. Constituted for public good, they would pine and languish away if confined in the suffocating atmosphere of a selfish existence.
Secondly, their sincerity. “ Life is real, life is earnest,” is best illustrated in the lives of great men. They are full of earnestness. They neither deceive themselves by a mere fancy, nor do they impose upon others by hypocrisy. Devoid of theatricality and sentimentalism, they pursue their vocation in sober seriousness. There is no show, no gorgeous display: all is real. Their wisdom and devotion, their power and enthusiasm, are not things of false glitter, held up to public gaze with a view to secure fame or accomplish some sinister object of worldly advancement, but sublime realities which extort admiration by the very disregard of worldly distinction which they manifest. Yet alas ! many a prophet has been, and continues to this day to be, ridiculed as an idiot, or hated as an impostor,-as if a man could sacrifice his all for a fiction, as if entire nations could be revolutionized by a fraud and a deception.
Thirdly, the originality of their wisdom. Great men do not borrow their thoughts and ideas from others ; they do not blindly follow the example of any earthly guide. Whatever they say, whatever they do in connection with their mission, they owe to the instincts and impulses of their natural constitution. In the depth of their minds lies the fountain of pure wisdom, from which they unceasingly draw fresh supplies of original truths. Their wisdom is neither the result of hard study, nor of laborious dialectic exercises : it is the wisdom of faith. They learn more by insight than by observation, experiment, or reasoning. By their natural
sagacity they at once penetrate the very secret of things, which lies hid from the perception of the acutest thinker, and by common sense they readily apprehend truths which stagger the greatest intellects. Besides, the very nature of their mission precludes the possibility of their depending upon second-hand knowledge or the teachings of others. They have to reform society as they find it, by preaching those ideas and truths which it especially needs—a work alike difficult and original, requiring original wisdom and skill for its successful accom. plishment. The accumulated treasures of good precepts and good examples of former times may be of some use in a general way, so far as analogies may be discovered between the past and the present, between other nations and the particular nation to be reformed. But as the past never reproduces itself in the world's history, and as no two national crises are ever wholly alike, every work of revolutionary reform, such as a great man has to perform, requires an amount of original wisdom in discovering and communicating truth which the past can never fur. nish, and which he alone can bring to bear upon his mission from the natural resources of his extraordi. nary mind. A prophet-reformer is always a genius, an inspired man ; and when he teaches the world is astonished at his wisdom, and says-Never man spake so before.
Lastly, their invincible power. All great men are heroes. They have to fight, almost singlehanded, against established errors aud national evils, and they have consequently to achieve success against tremendous odds. Hence they are armed with uncommon firmness and determination, inflexible force of character, and a strong will, that never yields and is above discomfiture ; in short, they are