The great deeds for
human betterment must be done by
can never be done by the many.
George Peabody was a noted American
merchant and banker. He was born in the village
of Danvers, Massachusetts, in Seventeen Hundred Ninety-five.
He died in London in Eighteen Hundred Sixty-nine.
In childhood, poverty was his portion.
But he succeeded, for he had the persistent corpuscle,
and he had charm of manner two things which
will make any man a winner in the game of life.
He gave away during his lifetime eight
million dollars. When he died he had four million
dollars left, which was distributed, by his will,
largely for the betterment of society. The fact
that Peabody left so much money was accidental.
He intended to give this money away, under his own
personal supervision, but Death came suddenly.
Has the world made head the past forty
years? Listen, Terese; it has made more progress
during the past forty years than in the two thousand
The entire fortune of George Peabody,
including what he gave away during his life and what
he left, was twelve million dollars. This is just
the income of Andrew Carnegie for six months.
We scarcely realize how much civilization smells of
paint until we remember that George Peabody was the
world’s first philanthropist. No doubt there
were many people before him, with philanthropic impulses,
but they were poor. It’s easy to sympathize
with humanity when you have nothing to give but advice.
The miracle comes in when great wealth and great love
of mankind are combined in one individual.
In the Occident, giving to the poor
is lending to the devil. The plan has always
been more or less of a pastime to the rich, but the
giving has usually been limited to sixpences, with
absolute harm to the poor. All any one should
ask is opportunity. Sailors just ashore, with
three months’ pay, are the most charitable men
on earth we might also say they are the
most loving and the least lovable. The beggars
wax glad when Jack lumbers their way with a gay painted
galley in tow; but, alas, tomorrow Jack belongs to
the poor. Charity in the past has been prompted
by weakness and whim the penance of rogues and
often we give to get rid of the troublesome applicant.
Beggary and virtue were imagined to
have something akin. Rags and honesty were sort
of synonymous, and we spoke of honest hearts that beat
’neath ragged jackets. That was poetry,
but was it art? Or was it just a little harmless
exercise of the lacrimal glands? Riches and roguery
were spoken of in one breath, unless the gentleman
was present and then we curtsied, cringed
or crawled, and laughed loudly at all his jokes.
These things doubtless dated back
to a time when the only mode of accumulating wealth
was through oppression. Pirates were rich honest
men were poor. To be poor proved that you were
not a robber. The heroes in war took cities,
and all they could carry away was theirs. The
monasteries were passing rich in the Middle Ages, because
their valves opened only one way they received
much and paid out nothing. To save the souls
of men was a just equivalent for accepting their services
for the little time they were on earth.
The monasteries owned the land, and
the rentals paid by the fiefs and villeins went
into the church treasuries. Sir Walter Scott has
an abbot say this: “I took the vow of poverty,
and find myself with an income of twenty thousand
pounds a year.”
But wealth did not burden the monks
forever. Wealth changes hands that
is one of its peculiarities. War came, red of
tooth and claw, and the soldiery, which heretofore
had been used only to protect the religious orders,
now flushed with victory, turned against them.
Charges were trumped up against churchmen high in
authority, and without doubt the charges were often
true, because a robe and a rope girdle, or the reversal
of haberdashery, do not change the nature of a man.
Down under the robe, you’ll sometimes find a
man frail of soul grasping, sensual, selfish.
The monasteries were looked upon as
contraband of war. “To the victors belong
the spoils,” was the motto of a certain man who
was President of the United States, so persistent
was the war idea of acquiring wealth.
The property of the religious orders
was confiscated, and as a reward for heroic services,
great soldiers were given great tracts of land.
The big estates in Europe all have their origin in
this well-established custom of dividing the spoils.
The plan of taking the property of each or all who
were guilty of sedition, treason and contumacy was
well established by precedents that traced back to
Cain. When George Washington appropriated the
estate of Roger Morris, forty centuries of precedent
looked down upon him.
Also, it might be added that if a
man owned a particularly valuable estate, and a soldier
desired this estate, it was easy for this soldier
to massage his conscience by listening to and believing
the report that the owner had spoken ill of the king
and given succor to the enemy.
Then the soldier felt it his “duty”
to punish the recreant one by taking his property.
And so the Age of the Barons followed the Age of the
Monasteries. And now the Barons have given way
to the Age of the Merchant.
The Monks multiplied the poor by a
monopoly on education. Superstition, poverty
and incompetence formed the portion of the many.
“This world is but a desert drear,” was
the actual fact as long as priests and soldiers were
supreme. The Reign of the Barons was merely a
transfer of power with no revision of ideals.
The choice between a miter and a helmet is nil, and
when the owner converses through his head-gear, his
logic is alike vulnerable and valueless.
So enter the Merchant, whose business
it is to carry things from where they are plentiful
to where they are scarce. And comes he so quietly
and with so little ostentation that men do not realize
And George Peabody, an American, gives
three million dollars to the poor of London.
This money was not tossed out to purchase peace, and
to encourage idleness, and to be spent in strong drink
and frills and finery, and the ways that lead to Nowhere,
but to provide better homes for men, women and children.
“Lay hold on eternal life,”
said Paul, writing to Timothy. The proper translation
we now believe should be, “Lay hold on the age
to come.” Philanthropy now seeks to lay
hold on the age to come. We are building for
The embryo has eyes, ears and organs
of speech. But the embryo does not see, nor hear,
nor speak. It is laying hold on the age to come it
is preparing to live it is getting ready
for the future. The past is dead, the present
is dying, and only that which is to come is alive.
The life of George Peabody was not
in what he gave, but in what he taught the millionaires
that are to be. He laid hold on the age to come.
George Peabody is another example
of a boy who succeeded in spite of his parents.
The rigors of climate and the unkindness of a scanty
soil may be good things. They are good, like
competition, very excellent, provided you do not get
more than your constitution requires.
New England has her “white trash,”
as well as the South. The Peabodys of Danvers
were good folks who never seemed to get on. They
had come down from the mountains of New Hampshire,
headed for Boston, but got stuck near Salem.
If there was anything going on, like mumps, measles,
potato-bugs, blight, “janders” or the cows-in-the-corn,
they got it. Their roof leaked, the cistern busted,
the chimney fell in, and although they had nothing
worth stealing the house was once burglarized while
the family was at church. The moral to little
George was plain: Don’t go to church and
you’ll not get burgled. Life was such a
grievous thing that the parents forgot how to laugh,
and so George’s joke brought him a cuff on the
ear in the interests of pure religion and undefiled.
A couple of generations back there was a strain of
right valiant heroic Peabody blood.
Among the “Green Mountain Boys”
there was a Peabody, and another Peabody was captain
of a packet that sailed out of Boston for London.
To run away and join this uncle as cabin-boy was George’s
People in the country may be poor,
but in America such never suffer for food. If
hunger threatens, the children can skirmish among the
neighbors. The village of Danvers was separated
by only a mile or so of swale and swamp from Salem,
a place that once rivaled Boston commercially, and
in matters of black cats, and elderly women who aviated
on broomsticks by night, set the world a pace.
Fish, clams, water-lilies, berries, eels, and other
such flora and fauna were plentiful, and became objects
of merchandising for the Peabody boys, bare of foot
and filled with high emprise.
Parents often bestow upon their progeny
the qualities which they themselves do not possess,
so wonderful is this law of heredity.
George was the youngest boy in the
brood, and was looked after by his “other mother,”
that is to say, by an elder sister. When this
sister married, the boy was eleven years old.
To the lad this marriage was more like a funeral.
He could read and write and count to a hundred, having
gone to school for several months each Winter since
he was seven. He could write better than his
father or mother he wrote like copperplate,
turning his head on one side and chewing his tongue,
keeping pace with his lips, as the pen glided gracefully
over the paper. His ambition was to make a bird
with a card in its bill, and on this card, written
so small no one could read it, the proud name, G.
This ability to write brought him
local fame, and Sylvester Proctor, who kept a general
store in the village, offered to take him on a four
years’ apprenticeship and teach him the trade
of green grocer and dealer in W. I. Goods. The
papers were duly made out and signed, the boy being
consulted afterward. What the consideration was,
was not stated, but rumor has it that the elder Peabody
was paid twenty-five dollars in “W. I.
Goods” and also wet goods.
Proctor was a typical New England
merchant of the Class B type. He was up at daylight,
shaved his upper lip, and swept off the sidewalk in
front of his store. At night he put up the shutters
with his own hands. He remembered every article
he had on his shelves and what it cost. He bought
nothing he could not pay for. There was one clerk
besides the boy. After George came, the merchant
and his clerk made all the memoranda on brown paper,
and the items were duly copied into the ledger by
I have been told that a man who writes
pure Spencerian can never do anything else. This,
however, is a hasty generalization, put forth by a
party who wrote a Horace Greeley hand.
A country store is the place for a
boy to learn merchandising. In such a place he
is never swallowed up by a department. He learns
everything, from shaking down the ashes in the big
stove to buying and selling fadeless calico.
He becomes an expert with a nail-puller, knows strictly
fresh eggs from eggs, and learns how to adapt himself
to the whims, caprices and notions of the customers
who know little and assume much.
George Peabody slept in the attic
over the store. He took his meals with the Proctor
family, and used to wipe the dishes for Mrs. Proctor.
He could wait on store, tend baby, wash a blue wagon,
drive a “horse and team” and say “backsshe!”
in a way that would throw you off the front seat when
the horse stopped, if you didn’t look out.
That is to say, he was a New England
village boy, alive and alert to every phase of village
life strong, rapid, willing, helpful.
The villager who knows too much gets “fresh”
and falls a victim of arrested development. The
boy in a village who works, and then gets out into
a wider sphere at that critical period when the wanderlust
strikes him, is in the line of evolution.
George Peabody remained at Proctor’s
store until nine o’clock in the evening of the
day that marked the close of his four years of apprenticeship.
He was fifteen, and all tempting offers from Mr. Proctor
to pay him wages thereafter in real money were turned
aside. He had a new suit of clothes, five dollars
in his pocket, and ambition in his heart. He
was going to be a draper, and eliminate all “W.
Over at Newburyport, George had a
brother, David Peabody, who ran a “draper’s
shop.” That is to say, David Peabody was
a drygoods merchant. This was a comparatively
new thing in America, for a “store,” at
that time, usually kept everything that people wanted.
The exclusive draper idea came from London. It
seemed to work in Boston, and so Newburyport tried
David and George had talked it over
together, and a partnership was in mind. In the
meantime George was only fifteen years old, and David
thirty. “I am twice as old as you,”
once said David to George, with intent to make the
lad know his proper place. “Yes, I know;
but you will not be twice as old as I very long,”
replied George, who was up in mathematics.
The brothers did not mix very well.
They were tuned to a different vibration. One
had speed: the other was built for the plow.
And when the store caught fire and
burned, and almost all of Newburyport was burned up,
too, it was a good time for George to strike for pastures
new. He walked down to Boston, and spent all his
money for a passage on a coaster that was about to
sail for Washington, in the District of Columbia.
This was in the latter part of the year Eighteen Hundred
Washington was the capital of the
country, and there was an idea then that it was also
going to be the commercial metropolis hence
the desire to get in on the ground floor. Especially
was the South to look to Washington for her supplies.
George Peabody, aged sixteen, looked the ground over,
and thought he saw opportunity nodding in his direction.
He sat down and wrote to a wholesale
drygoods-dealer by the name of Todd in Newburyport,
ordering draperies to the amount of two thousand dollars.
Blessed is that man who knows what he wants, and asks
Todd remembered the boy who had given
him orders in Proctor’s, and at once filled
the order. In three months Todd got his money
and an order for double the amount. In those
days the plan of calling on the well-to-do planters,
and showing them the wares of Autolycus, was in vogue.
English dress-goods were a lure to the ladies.
George Peabody made a pack as big as he could carry,
tramped, smiled and sold the stuff. When he had
emptied his pack, he came back to his room where his
stock was stored and loaded up again. If there
were remnants he sold them out to some crossroads
The fact that the Jews know a few
things in a worldly way, I trust will not be denied.
George Peabody, the Yankee, adopted the methods of
the Chosen People. And at that early date, it
comes to us as a bit of a miracle that George Peabody
said, “You can’t afford to sell anybody
anything which he does not need, nor can you afford
to sell it at a price beyond what it is worth.”
Also this, “When I sell a woman draperies, I
try to leave the transaction so I can go back next
week and sell her more.” Also this:
“Credit is the sympathetic nerve of commerce.
There are men who do not keep faith with those from
whom they buy, and such last only a little while.
Others do not keep faith with those to whom they sell,
and such do not last long. To build on the rock
one must keep his credit absolutely unsullied, and
he must make a friend of each and all to whom he sells.”
The Judaic mental processes have been
sharpened by migration. To carry a pack and peddle
is better than to work for a Ph. D., save for
the social usufruct and the eclat of the unthinking.
We learn by indirection and not when we say:
“Go to! Now watch us take a college course
and enlarge our phrenological organs.”
Our knobs come from knocks, and not from the gentle
massage of hired tutors. Selling subscription-books,
maps, sewing-machines or Mason and Hamlin organs,
has given thousands of strong men their initial impulse
toward success. When you go from house to house
to sell things you catch the household in their old
clothes and the dog loose. To get your foot in
the front door and thus avoid the slam, sweetening
acerbity by asking the impatient housewife this question,
“Is your mother at home?” and then making
a sale, is an achievement. “The greatest
study of mankind is man,” said Pope, and for
once he was right, although he might have said woman.
From fifteen to nineteen is the formative
period, when the cosmic cement sets, if ever.
During those years George Peabody had emerged from
a clerkship into a Businessman.
What is a Businessman? A Businessman
is one who gets the business, and completes the transaction.
Book-keepers, correspondents, system men, janitors,
scrub-women, stenographers, electricians, elevator-boys,
cash-girls, are all good people and necessary and worthy
of sincere respect, but they are not Businessmen,
because they are on the side of expense and not income.
When H. H. Rogers coupled the coalmines of West Virginia
with tidewater, he proved himself a Businessman.
When James J. Hill created an Empire in the Northwest,
he proved his right to the title. The Businessman
is a salesman. And no matter how great your invention,
how sweet your song, how sublime your picture, how
perfect your card-system, until you are able to convince
the world that it needs the thing, and you get the
money for it, you are not a Businessman.
The Businessman is one who supplies
something great and good to the world, and collects
from the world for the goods. Taffy, guff and
oxaline are all well and good in their way, but they
have the great disadvantage of not being legal tender.
In migrating from New England to the
District of Columbia, George Peabody had moved into
a comparatively foreign country, and in the process
had sloughed most of his provincialism. It is
beautiful to be a New Englander, but to be nothing
else is terrible.
George had proved for himself the
most valuable lesson in Self-Reliance that
he could make his way alone. He had kept his credit
and strengthened it.
He had served as a volunteer soldier
in the War of Eighteen Hundred Twelve, and done patrol
duty on the banks of the Potomac. And when the
war was over, no one was quite so glad as he.
Serving in the volunteer ranks with him was one Elisha
Riggs, several years his senior, and also a draper.
They had met before, but as competitors and on a cold
business basis. Now they were comrades in arms,
and friends. Riggs is today chiefly remembered
to fame because he built what in its day was the most
palatial hotel in Washington, just as John Jacob Astor
was scarcely known outside of his bailiwick until
he built that grand hostelry, the Astor House.
Riggs had carried a pack among the Virginia plantations,
but now he had established a wholesale drygoods house
in Georgetown, and sold only to storekeepers.
He had felt the competitive force of Peabody’s
pack, and would make friends with it. He proposed
a partnership. Peabody explained that his years
were but nineteen, and therefore he was not legally
of age. Riggs argued that time would remedy the
defect. Riggs was rich he had five
thousand dollars, while Peabody had one thousand six
hundred fifty dollars and forty cents. I give
the figures exact, as the inventory showed.
But Peabody had one thing which will
make any man or woman rich. It is something so
sweetly beneficent that well can we call it the gift
of the gods. The asset to which I refer is Charm
of Manner. Its first requisite is glowing physical
health. Its second ingredient is absolute honesty.
Its third is good-will.
Nothing taints the breath like a lie.
The old parental plan of washing out the bad boy’s
mouth with soft soap had a scientific basis. Liars
must possess good memories. They are fettered
and gyved by what they have said and done. The
honest man is free his acts require neither
explanation nor apology. He is in possession of
all of his armament.
The outdoor work of tramping Maryland
and Virginia highways had put the glow of high health
on the cheek of George Peabody. He was big in
body, manly, intelligent and could meet men on a basis
of equality. If I were president of a college,
I would certainly have a Chair devoted to Psychic
Mixability, or Charm of Manner. Ponderosity, profundity
and insipidity may have their place, but the man with
Charm of Manner keeps his capital active. His
soul is fluid. I have never been in possession
of enough of this Social Radium to analyze it, but
I know it has the power of dissolving opposition,
and melting human hearts. But so delicate and
illusive is it that when used for a purely selfish
purpose, it evaporates into thin air, and the erstwhile
possessor is left with only the mask of beauty and
the husk of a personality. George Peabody had
Charm of Manner from his nineteenth year to the day
of his death. Colonel Forney crossed the Atlantic
with him when Peabody was in his seventy-first year,
and here is what Forney says: “I sat on
one side of the cabin and he on the other. He
was reading from a book, which he finally merely held
in his hands, as he sat idly dreaming. I was melted
into tears by the sight of his Jove-like head framed
against the window. His face and features beamed
with high and noble intellect, and his eyes looked
forth in divine love. If ever soul revealed itself
in the face, it was here. He was the very King
of Men, and I did not at all wonder that in the past
people had worked the apotheosis of such as he.”
The firm of Riggs and Peabody prospered.
It outgrew its quarters in old “Congress Hall”
in Georgetown, and ran over into a house next door,
which it pre-empted.
Moreover, it was apparent by this
time that neither Georgetown nor Washington would
ever be the commercial metropolis of America.
The city of Baltimore had special harbor advantages
that Washington did not have; the ships touched there
according to natural law. And when Riggs and
Peabody found themselves carting consignments to Baltimore
in order to make shipment to Savannah and Charleston,
they knew the die was cast. They packed up and
moved to Baltimore. This was in the year Eighteen
In order to do business you had better
go where business is being done. Trade follows
the lines of least resistance. The wholesale dealer
saw the value of honesty as a business asset, long
before the retailer made the same unique discovery.
Doctor Algernon S. Crapsey says that
truth is a brand-new virtue, and the clergy are not
quite sure about it yet. To hold his trade the
jobber found he had to be on the dead level:
he had to consider himself the attorney for his client.
Peabody was a merchant by instinct. He had good
taste, and he had a prophetic instinct as to what the
people wanted. Instead of buying his supplies
in Newburyport, Boston and New York, he now established
relations with London, direct. And London was
then the Commercial Center of the world, the arbiter
of fashion, the molder of form, the home of finance frenzied
and otherwise. Riggs and Peabody shipped American
cotton to London, and received in return the manufactured
production in its manifold forms.
In Eighteen Hundred Twenty-nine Riggs
withdrew from the firm, retaining a certain financial
interest, merely, and Peabody forged to the front,
alone, as a financier. For many years Peabody
dealt largely with Robert Owen, and thus there grew
up a close and lasting friendship between these very
able men. Both were scouts for civilization.
No doubt they influenced each other for good.
We find them working out a new policy in business the
policy of reciprocity, instead of exploitation.
Robert Owen always had almost unlimited credit, for
he prized his word as the immediate jewel of his soul.
It was exactly the same with Peabody.
In Eighteen Hundred Twenty-seven Peabody
visited England. He was then thirty-two years
old. The merchants from whom he bought discovered
a surprising thing when they met Peabody he
was not the bounding, bragging, bustling, hustling
American. He hustled, of course, but not visibly
nor offensively. He had the appearance of a man
who had all the time there was. He was moderate
in voice and gentle in manner, and we hear of a London
banker paying him the somewhat ambiguous compliment
of saying, “Why, you know, he is a perfect gentleman he
does not seem like an American, at all, you know!”
Peabody had the rare gift of never defeating his ends
through haste and anxiety.
The second trip Peabody made to London
was in Eighteen Hundred Thirty-five, and it was on
a very delicate and important errand.
The State of Maryland was in sore
financial distress. She had issued bonds, and
these were coming due. Certain Southern States
had repudiated their debts, and it looked as if Maryland
was going to default. Peabody issued an open
letter calling on the citizens of Maryland to preserve
their commercial honor. The State bonds were held
mostly in New York and Philadelphia, and these were
rival cities. Baltimore was to be tabu.
Stephen Girard had loaned money to Maryland, and in
Eighteen Hundred Twenty-nine had declined to renew,
and this some said had led to the stringency which
reached its height in Eighteen Hundred Thirty-five.
Then it was that the State of Maryland empowered George
Peabody to go to London and negotiate a loan.
The initiative was his own. He went to London,
and floated a loan of eight million dollars. Robert
Owen said that Peabody borrowed the money “on
He invited a dozen London bankers
to a dinner, and when the cloth was removed he explained
the matter in such a lucid way that the moneybags
loosened their strings and did his bidding without
parley. Peabody sailed back to Baltimore with
the gold coin. Another case of Charm of Manner.
Peabody knew the loan was a good thing
to both borrower and lender. And the man who
knows what he is going to do with money, and when and
how he is going to pay it back, is never at a loss
In Eighteen Hundred Ninety-three Andrew
Carnegie called upon the banks of Pittsburgh for a
million-dollar loan. The bankers said, “Why,
Mr. Carnegie, this is unprecedented!” The reply
was: “Well, I am a man who does unprecedented
things. If you believe that I know what I am doing,
get this money together for me life is too
short for apologies I’ll be back
in an hour.”
Three of the bankers coughed, one
sneezed, but they got the money and had it ready when
Andy called in an hour. In this transaction Andy
held the whip-hand. The Carnegie Mills were already
owing the Pittsburgh banks a tidy million or so, and
they were compelled to uphold and support the credit
of their clients, or run the risk of having smokestacks
fall about their ears. It was so, in degree, with
Peabody and the London bankers. A considerable
portion of Maryland’s old bond issue had been
hypothecated by the Philadelphia and New York bankers
with merchants in London. It was now Peabody’s
cue to show London that she must protect her own.
His gracious presence and his logic saved the day.
It is a great man who can flick a fly on the off-leader’s
ear, when occasion demands.
As a commission for securing the London
loan, the State of Maryland gave Peabody a check for
sixty thousand dollars. He endorsed the check,
“Presented to the State of Maryland with the
best wishes of G. Peabody,” and gave it back.
Peabody’s success with Threadneedle Street tapped
for him a reservoir of power. To bring Great
Britain and America into closer financial and industrial
relationship now became his life-work. In Eighteen
Hundred Thirty-five he moved his principal office to
London. This was for the purpose of facilitating
the shipment of English goods to America. The
English manufacturers were afraid to sell to American
merchants. “Capital is timid,” said
Adam Smith, the truth of which many of us can attest.
Peabody knew the trade of America;
and his business now was to make advances to English
jobbers on shipments going to “the States.”
Thus did he lubricate the wheels of trade.
London bankers had been trying to
show English manufacturers that trading with the “American
Colonies” was very risky, inasmuch as these
“Colonies” were “rebels,” and
entertained a hate and jealousy toward the Mother
Country which might manifest itself in repudiation
almost any time. This fanning of old embers was
to keep up the rate of discount. The postage
on a letter carried from England to America, or America
to England, was twenty-five cents when Peabody first
went to England. He saw the rate reduced to ten
cents, and this largely through his own efforts.
Now we send a letter to Great Britain
for two cents, or as cheaply as a letter can be sent
from New York City to Yonkers. Through the influence
of George Peabody, more than any other man of his time,
the two great countries grew to understand each other.
The business of Peabody was to maintain
the credit of America. To this end he made advances
on shipments to the States. Where brokers had
formerly charged ten per cent, he took five. And
moreover, where he knew the American importer, he
advanced to the full amount of the invoice.
He turned his money over four times
a year, and thus got an interest on it of twenty per
cent. His losses averaged only one-half of one
per cent. When he wanted funds he found no difficulty
in borrowing at a low rate of interest on his own
paper. The business was simple, easy, and when
once started yielded an income to Peabody of from three
hundred thousand to a half-million dollars a year.
And no one was more surprised than George Peabody
himself, who had once worked for a certain Sylvester
Proctor of Danvers for four years, and at the end of
that time had been paid five dollars and given a suit
Peabody lived and died a bachelor.
Bachelors are of two kinds: There is the Rara
Avis Other Sort; and the common variety known as the
Bachelorum Vulgaris. The latter variety may always
be recognized by its proclivity to trespass on the
preserve of the Pshaw of Persia, thus laying the candidate
open to a suit for the collection of royalties.
Besides that, the Bachelorum Vulgaris is apt to fall
into the poison-ivy, lose his hair, teeth, charm and
digestion, and die at the top. The other sort
is wedded to his work; for man is a molecule in the
mass and must be wedded to something. To be wedded
to your work is to live long and well.
For a man to wed a woman who has no
interest in his work, and thus live his life in an
orbit outside of hers, often causes the party to oscillate
into the course followed by the Bachelorum Vulgaris
and the Honorable Pshaw, known as the Devil and the
Deep Sea, and thus he completes the circle, revealing
the Law of Antithèses, that the opposites of
things are alike. The ideal condition is to be
a bigamist, and wed a woman and your work at the same
time. To wed a woman and be weaned from your
work is a tragedy; to wed your work and eliminate the
woman may spell success. If compelled to choose,
be loyal to your work. As specimens of those
who got along fairly well without either a feminine
helpmeet or a sinker, I give you Michelangelo,
Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Sir Isaac Newton,
Herbert Spencer and George Peabody.
George Peabody was the true apostolic
predecessor of Harry G. Selfridge, of Chicago and
the round world, who has inaugurated American Merchandising
Methods in London, selling to the swells of Piccadilly
the smart suits created by Stein-Bloch.
Unlike most men of wealth and position,
Peabody never assumed unusual importance nor demanded
favors. In London, where he lived for thirty
years, he resided in simple apartments, with no use
for a valet nor the genus flunkey. He was grateful
to servants, courteous to porters, thankful to everybody,
always patient, never complaining of inattention.
He grew to be a favorite among the bus men who came
to know him and sought to do him honor. The poor
of London blessed him as he walked by with
reasons, probably, not wholly disinterested.
He used no tobacco, never touched
spirituous liquors, and at banquets usually partook
of but a single dish.
His first great gift was three million
dollars to erect model tenements for the poor of London.
The Peabody Apartments occupy two squares in Islington
and are worth a visit today, although they were built
about Eighteen Hundred Fifty. The intent was
to supply a home for working people that was sanitary,
wholesome and complete, at a rental of exact cost.
Peabody expected that his example would be imitated
by the rich men of the nobility, and that squalor
and indigence would soon become things of the past.
Alas, the Peabody Apartments accommodate
only about a thousand people, and half a million or
more of human beings live in abasing poverty and misery
in London today.
Except in a few instances, the nobility
of London are devoid of the Philanthropic Spirit.
In New York, the Mills Hotels are yet curiosities,
and the model tenements exist mostly on paper.
Trinity Church with its millions draws an income today
from property of a type which Peabody prophesied would
not exist in the year Nineteen Hundred. One thing
which Peabody did not bank on was the indifference
of the poor to their surroundings, and the inherent
taste for strong drink. He thought that if the
rich would come to the rescue, the poor would welcome
the new regime and be grateful. The truth seems
to be that the poor must help themselves, and that
beautiful as philanthropy is, it is mostly for the
philanthropist. The poor must be educated to secrete
their surroundings, otherwise if you supply them a
palace they will transform it into a slum tomorrow.
“The sole object of philanthropy,”
said Story the sculptor, “is to model a face
like George Peabody’s.”
When the news reached America of what
George Peabody, the American, was doing for London,
there were many unkind remarks about his having forsaken
his native land. To equalize matters Peabody then
gave three million dollars, just what he had given
to London, for the cause of education in the Southern
States. This money was used to establish schoolhouses.
Wherever a town raised five hundred dollars for a school
Peabody would give a like sum. A million dollars
of the Peabody fund was finally used for a Normal
School at Nashville. The investment has proved
a wise and beneficent one. He next gave a million
and a half dollars to found the Peabody Institute
of Baltimore. That this gift fired the heart
of Peter Cooper to do a similar work, and if possible
a better work, there is no doubt.
At the first World’s Fair held
in London in Eighteen Hundred Fifty-one, Peabody gave
fifteen thousand dollars toward the exhibition of American
inventions, the chief of which at this time were the
McCormick Reaper, Eli Whitney’s Cotton-Gin,
and Colt’s Revolver.
Peabody backed Doctor Kane with a
gift of twenty thousand dollars in his search for
Franklin. He established various libraries; and
gave a quarter of a million dollars to his native
town for a Peabody Institute. Danvers can yet
be found on the map, but Peabody is a place of pilgrimage
for those who reverence that American invention a
new virtue the Art of Giving Wisely.
Joshua Bates, through whose generosity
Boston secured her Free Library, was an agent of Peabody’s,
and afterward his partner. Later, Bates became
a member of the house of Baring Brothers, and carried
on a business similar to that of George Peabody.
There is no doubt that Bates got his philanthropic
impulse from Peabody. In Eighteen Hundred Fifty-six
Peabody visited his native town of Danvers after an
absence of more than forty years. There were
great doings, in which all the school-children, as
well as the Governor of the State, had a part.
At Washington, Peabody was the guest
of the President. The House of Representatives
and the Senate adjourned their regular business to
do him honor, and he made an address to them.
The Judges of the Supreme Court invited him to sit
on the bench when he entered their Chamber. For
twenty years he was America’s unofficial chief
representative in London, no matter who was Consul
or who Ambassador.
Every year on July Fourth he gave
a dinner to the principal Americans who happened to
be in London. To be invited to this dinner was
an event. Peabody himself always presided, and
there was considerable oratory sometimes of the brand
known as Southwestern, which Peabody tolerated with
gentle smiles. On one occasion, however, things
did not go smoothly. Daniel Sickles was Consul
to London and James Buchanan, afterwards our punkest
President, was Ambassador. Sickles was a good
man, but a fire-eater, and a gentleman of marked jingo
proclivities. Sickles had asked that Buchanan
preside, in which case Buchanan was to call on Sickles
for the first toast, and this toast was to be, “The
President of the United States.” At the
same time Sickles intended to give the British lion’s
tail a few gratuitous twists. Peabody declined
to accede to Sickles’ wish, but he himself presided
and offered the first, “To the Queen of England!”
Thereupon Sickles walked out with needless clatter,
and Buchanan sat glued to his seat. The affair
came near being an international episode.
Peabody was always an American, and
better, he was a citizen of the world. He loved
America, but when on English soil, really guest of
England, he gave the Queen the place of honor.
This seems to us proper and right, and at this distance
we smile at the whole transaction, but we are glad
that Peabody, who paid for the dinner, had his way
as to the oratorical guff.
The Queen offered Peabody a knighthood,
but he declined, saying, “If Her Majesty write
me a personal letter endorsing my desire to help the
poor of London, I will be more than delighted.”
Victoria then wrote the letter, and she also had a
picture of herself painted in miniature and gave it
to him. The letter and portrait are now in the
Peabody Institute at Peabody, Massachusetts.
When Peabody died, in Eighteen Hundred
Sixty-nine, Queen Victoria ordered that his body be
placed in Westminster Abbey. The Queen in person
attended the funeral, the flags on Parliament House
were lowered to half-mast, and the body was attended
to Westminster Abbey by the Royal Guard. Gladstone
was one of the pallbearers.
Later, it was discovered that Peabody
had devised in his will that his body should rest
by the side of his father and mother, in Harmony Grove,
the village cemetery at Danvers, and in a spot over
which his boyish feet had trod. The body was
then removed from the Abbey and placed on board the
British man-of-war “Monarch,” in the presence
of the Prime Minister, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs,
and many distinguished citizens. The “Monarch”
was convoyed to America by a French and an American
gunboat. No such honors were ever before paid
to the memory of a simple American citizen.
Well did the Reverend Newman Hall
say, in his funeral oration: “George Peabody
waged a war against want and woe. He created homes;
he never desolated one.
“He sided with the friendless
and the houseless, and his life was guided by a law
of love which none could ever wish to repeal.
His was the task of cementing the hearts of Briton
and American, pointing both to their duty to God and