Any man can do what any other man has done.
A man who has become free to work through his ability without loss of energy, has a further duty laid upon him; he must work persistently. He must persevere—the meaning of which is to go forward through severity. Now, a man who is willing to work by imposing severe conditions upon himself is a rare man, but the freedom he enjoys to direct severity upon himself is unlimited. Mr. Peary took this view of the matter in his effort to discover the North Pole. Buffon, the French naturalist, who worked incessant ly, used to say that genius without order worked with only a fourth of its power. Sir Isaac Newton wrote his Chronology fifteen times before he felt that it expressed his thought exactly.
How exactingly Benjamin Franklin took himself in hand and persevered in the effort to build his character as he had idealized it, is shown in his autobiography. After he had made a list of the virtues he proposed to ac quire, he actually began to practise them. He followed a plan that he checked up daily in a book devoted to the purpose. The aim of his perseverance was the firm establishment of desirable habits, for they underlie all activity and permit a man to conduct himself in the frictionless manner of a well-organized busi ness enterprise.
In conjunction with practising the "virtues" and recording his progress with them, Frank lin formulated a scheme of "employment for the twenty-four hours of the day." His plan may have no value to any other man in the world, but it is interesting as showing that a man thought it necessary to take himself in hand. Like Matthew Arnold's plan for read ing one hundred books per year, this plan of Franklin's is not for imitation, but for sug gestion. Is it a reasonable thing to do? Can I make a similar plan that will set my activity in a more direct line? These are the questions it should suggest to us, and these are the ques tions we should not be afraid to answer.
Let us not be discouraged by the fact that Franklin arose at five a. m. We are at per fect liberty to arrange the hours as best suit us. But let us not fail to ask :
Is it not wise to arrange the hours? Here is Franklin's plan for employing the twenty-four hours of the day. The applica tion of this plan to perseverance lies in follow ing its dictation day after day; that is to say, "with severity." Does this plan mean anything to us? Or, is it merely an odd idea of an old-fashioned man? Before we reply let us recall a few facts in the case, for they will assist us to put this single fact in true relation: Benjamin Franklin was born poor. His origin was humble and obscure. He left home early in life, did his journeyman labor with one printer and another in America and in England. Being poor he had to be frugal; be ing ambitious he continued to be observant, in quiring and industrious. This soap-boiler's son who landed in Philadelphia with his wash ing and a Dutch dollar in his pockets, planned one plan after another until he stood before Kings. But this was only one of the many rewards the Youth won through Opportunity.
He was the first American man of letters. Though once he walked the streets of Phila delphia with a loaf of bread under each arm, he ye.. became a philosopher and a philanthro pist. He was the first American man of sci ence. He became a great statesman and there devolved upon him—a soap-boiler's son—the honor to sign: (t) The Declaration of Independence.
(2) The Treaty of Alliance.
(3) The Treaty of Peace, and (4) The Constitution of the United States.
Now this man had no education of the schools. His perseverance, however, in mas tering books, is familiar to all; his persever ance in mastering the questions that arose be fore him and his country should be better known, for out of this perseverance came scholarship that was recognized by men in high places. Two universities in Europe, Ox ford and St. Andrews, conferred on him the title of Doctor of Laws, and three universities in America, Harvard, Yale, and William and Mary, conferred on him the degree of Master of Arts.