An Excerpt from You Can Be a Great American! 39 Steps to True and Lasting Greatness (a Growing Up Great Guide for American Boys and for the Parents and Teachers Who Love Them), by W. F. Markwick and W. A. Smith
Entry #5 in the Raising Great Americans Project! Click Here to learn More!
Truth lies at the bottom of the well.
Candor looks with equal fairness at both sides of a subject.
Daylight and truth meet us with clear dawn.
Perfect openness is the only principle
on which a free people can be governed.
— C. B. Yonge
There is no fear for any child who is frank with his father and mother.
Candor and frankness are so closely akin to each other that we may properly study them together. Each of these words has an interesting origin. “Candor” comes from a Latin word meaning “to be white“; while “frankness” is derived from the name of the Franks, who were a powerful German tribe honorably distinguished for their love of freedom and their scorn of a lie. A candid man is one who is disposed to think and judge according to truth and justice, and without partiality or prejudice; while the one word frank is used to express anything that is generous, straightforward and free.
Candor is a virtue which is everywhere commended, though not quite so prevalent in the world as might be expected. There are doctors who never tell a patient they can make nothing of his case, or that it is one which requires the attention of a specialist. There are lawyers who never assure a client that it is hopeless for him to expect to gain his suit. And so, in all trades and professions, candor is as rare as it is good.
The lack of a simple and straightforward statement of such facts as are in our possession, often leads to serious misunderstanding and sometimes to serious loss.
Frankness is a combination of truthfulness and courage. Its usefulness depends largely on its association with other qualities and circumstances; but to be frank is simply to dare to be truthful. There are many men who would scorn to tell a lie, who are destitute of frankness because they hesitate to face the consequences of perfect openness of speech or conduct.
The virtue we are now recommending is in daily and hourly demand, and of high and priceless value. But here also we must beware of counterfeits. A smooth outward manner, a countenance clothed with perpetual smiles, and an address distinguished by gentleness and insinuation, may be assumed for selfish ends. A truly candid man is neither carried away by ungenerous suspicion, nor by a weak acceptance of the views of others; and the whole constitution of his mind must be entirely changed before he can become capable of deceit.
Frankness has often been counterfeited by mere bluster. A couple of striking examples of this fact are brought into view in the recently published “Life and Letters of Charles Darwin,” in which, speaking of his childhood, Mr. Darwin says: “One little event has fixed itself very firmly in my mind, and I hope it has done so from my conscience having been afterward sorely troubled by it. It is curious as showing that apparently I was interested at this early age in the variability of plants! I told another little boy that I could produce variously colored primroses by watering them with certain colored fluids, which was of course a monstrous fable, and has never been tried by me. I may here also confess that as a little boy I was much given to inventing deliberate falsehoods, and this was always done for the sake of causing excitement. For instance, I once gathered much valuable fruit from my father’s trees and hid it in the shrubbery, and then ran in breathless haste to spread the news that I had discovered a hoard of stolen fruit.”
Mr. Darwin also relates the following incident, as illustrating the lack of truthfulness and candor on the part of another: “I must have been a very simple fellow when I first went to school. A boy of the name of Garnett took me into a cake shop one day, and bought some cakes for which he did not pay, as the shopman trusted him. When we came out I asked him why he did not pay for them, and he instantly answered, ‘Why, do you not know that my uncle left a great sum of money to the town on condition that every tradesman should give whatever was wanted without payment to any one who wore his old hat and moved it in a particular manner?’ He then showed me how to move the hat, and said, ‘Now, if you would like to go yourself into that cake shop, I will lend you my hat, and you can get whatever you like if you move the hat on your head properly.’ I gladly accepted the generous offer, and went in and asked for some cakes, moved the old hat, and was walking out of the shop, when the shopman made a rush at me; so I dropped the cakes and ran for dear life, and was astonished by being greeted with shouts of laughter by my false friend Garnett.”
Frankness and candor will always win respect and friendship, and will always retain them; and the consciousness of having such a treasure, and of being worthy of it, is more than wealth and honors. A man quickly finds when he is unworthy of public respect or private friendship; and the leaden weight he carries ever in his heart, cannot be lightened by any success or any gratification he may secure. But the man of upright character, and proper self-respect, will never meet with such trials as can deprive him of that higher happiness which rests in his own breast.
True candor is manly and leads directly to the development of nobility both of principle and conduct. The late Hon. William P. Fessenden once made a remark which was understood as an insult to Mr. Seward. When informed of it, and seeing such a meaning could be given to his words, he instantly went to Mr. Seward, and said, “Mr. Seward, I have insulted you: I am sorry for it. I did not mean it.” This apology, so prompt, frank, and perfect, so delighted Mr. Seward, that, grasping him by the hand, he exclaimed, “God bless you, Fessenden! I wish you would insult me again!” Such an exhibition of real manliness as this may well be cited as worthy of the imitation of the youth of the land.
In “Tom Brown’s Schooldays,” that charming book, so dear to all wide-awake boys, there is a scene in which little Arthur is introduced in the act of kneeling beside his bed, on his first night at school, for the purpose of saying his prayers according to the custom he had always observed at his home. We are not so much concerned with the fact that he was ridiculed and persecuted by the older boys, as with the further fact that this boy Arthur is said to bear a remarkable resemblance to Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, whose name is everywhere known as the late Dean of Westminster Abbey, the most famous church in England, if not of the world at large3. Arthur Stanley was one of the first boys to go to Rugby after the great Dr. Arnold took charge of the school, and an early illustration of his candor and open-mindedness is shown in his immediate and public appreciation of the splendid qualities of his master, at a time when Dr. Arnold was so generally abused, and even branded as an infidel. Dr. Arnold was indeed a noble teacher, and the very man to develop the best faculties in young Arthur Stanley; for one of the doctor’s own strongest traits was this same open-mindedness. The frankness and candor, the directness and fearlessness with which Stanley ever gave expression to his views; the purity and “whiteness” of his mind, and the sweetness and tenderness of his disposition,–all these had a part in the building of his fame. But it was chiefly in his power to free himself from prejudice and to look fairly at all sides of the complex questions with which both he and the church to which he belonged were so frequently brought face to face, that gave him his great popular influence, and made him so great a champion of religious liberty. Truth, simplicity and innocence are three jewels which many men barter for worldly honor and success; but Stanley held to these as with a grip of steel; and, through their influence, he succeeded where a score of the great men of his day had already failed.
To tell of all that candor and frankness have done for humanity would be to trace the beginnings of the overthrow of almost every wrong. Other qualities are of course essential to all noble reformers–courage and faith and enthusiasm; but open-mindedness, which grows out of candor and frankness, is the one pioneer that recognizes the opportunity of the hour and is willing to walk in the new light. Candor is the sign of a noble mind. It is the pride of the true man, the charm of the noble woman, the defeat and mockery of the hypocrite, and the rarest virtue of society.
This Article is an Excerpt from You Can Be a Great American! 39 Steps to True and Lasting Greatness (a Growing Up Great Guide for American Boys and for the Parents and Teachers Who Love Them), by W. F. Markwick and W. A. Smith, which is available from Better Days Books in quality hardbound, sturdy trade paperback and convenient .PDF e-book editions starting at just $4.95.
Industry, Ambition, Self Control, Self-Respect, Courtesy, Faithfulness, Courage, Duty, Honesty, Enthusiasm, Humility, Patriotism… In every era of our Nation’s history, the true alchemy by which ordinary boys have been transformed into Great American Men has always and only occurred where these indispensible moral principles have been successfully applied. In an age like our own, where such manly ideals are openly mocked and derided by our popular culture, it’s time to turn to the past to recapture a clear vision of what it takes to be a Great American, and the true moral and ethical ladder that leads reliably to its attainment.
You Can Be a Great American: 39 Steps to True and Lasting Greatness was first published in 1900, under the title The True Citizen, How to Become One, and contains 39 essential lessons in manhood tailored to each age and transition in a boy’s life, from infancy to adulthood. It is the clearest roadmap to American Greatness ever compiled for the youth of our Nation, and remains as life-changing today as it was when first published, over 100 years ago.
Whether you are an adult raising boys in a Traditional family setting, the single parent of a son, or a boy abandoned to no or poor parenting, left to grab your own bootstraps and lift yourself up to a life of achievement, success and All-American Greatness (or an adult who knows a boy in such sad straits), You Can Be a Great American!: 39 Steps to True and Lasting Greatness is the only guidebook you’ll ever need.