13 October 2015

He Said It: Douglass

Frederick Douglass (1881-1895)
[On luck egalitarianism:] "I do not think much of the accident or good luck theory of self-made men. It is worth but little attention and has no practical value. An apple carelessly flung into a crowd may hit one person, or it may hit another, or it may hit nobody. The probabilities are precisely the same in this accident theory of self-made men. It divorces a man from his own achievements, contemplates him as a being of chance and leaves him without will, motive, ambition and aspiration. Yet the accident theory is among the most popular theories of individual success. It has the air of mystery which the multitude so well like, and withal, it does something to mar the complacency of the successful. [...]

"But the main objection to this very comfortable ["accident"] theory is that, like most other theories, it is made to explain too much. While it ascribes success to chance and friendly circumstances, it is apt to take no cognizance of the very different uses to which different men put their circumstances and their chances."


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[On the key to success in life:] "From these remarks it will be evident that, allowing ordinary ability and opportunity, we may explain success mainly by one word and that word is WORK! WORK!! WORK!!! WORK!!!! Not transient and fitful effort, but patient, enduring, honest, unremitting and indefatigable work, into which the whole heart is put, and which, in both temporal and spiritual affairs, is the true miracle worker. Every one may avail himself of this marvellous power, if he will. There is no royal road to perfection."


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--Frederick Douglass, "Self-Made Men: An Address Delivered in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in March 1893" (in John W. Blassingame and John R. McKivigan, eds., The Frederick Douglas Papers: Series One: Speeches, Debates, and Interviews, Volume 5: 1881-95 [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992], pp. 552-3 and 556)

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