Ohio History Journal

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There is more than a grain of truth underlying the notion

that what the world calls greatness in men is the outgrowth

of accident rather than of any exceptional physical moral or

intellectual excellence. Nobody certainly can win victories

and gain martial renown who lives in a period of profound

peace. In civil life, however, it may be said that by change

of scene or of occupation, men can seek congenial or profitable

employment and thus shape their careers to suit them; but

this freedom of action is often restricted to very narrow limits.

What chance is there for one thrown by accident and fixed

by duty to an environment of sterile ridges, to become a

wealthy and successful farmer? He cannot remove to more

fertile regions, for he is held to the place of his birth at

first by poverty or by filial love, and ultimately by fatherly

care for his family. He may have abundant energy but it is

frittered away in unproductive toil. He may have high ambi-

tion, but for this there is no proper field of action and no en-

couragement. He may be endowed with exceptional courage;

but this simply prompts him to contend more resolutely with

the obstacles around him. He may be possessed of all the qual-

ities which ennoble the soul, but these render him only the

more devoted to those whom nature has confided to his care.

A great civil commotion, involving the honor of the state and

the liberties of its people might, perhaps, justify a disregard

of lesser obligations, and multiply his opportunities; but, for-

tunately for mankind such disturbances are infrequent, and

when they do occur accident and not merit is still too often

the controlling factor. The truth is that men, in one respect

at least, are so much like beans that when thoroughly shaken

the smaller are as likely to come uppermost as the larger.