SPEECH AT THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE HAMPTON INSTITUTE

 

May 23, 1878

Hampton, Virginia

 

The announcement that I am to make an address is unexpected, and of course it must be without premeditation.  We all must have been very much interested in what we have observed.  When now about one-half through, as is usual in such cases, we assume that the one-half that remains will be more interesting.

 

In some entertainments, we are assured that the second half is better than the first.  If this is the case today, I am sure we may congratulate heartily, the teachers, the pupils, the patrons of this Institution.

 

Whenever I am called upon to talk to our newly made citizens—to young colored people especially, I always feel like giving them good advice.  It is so easy, you know, to give advice.  We all do it,--we like to do it.  Now there rests—evidently—on this generation of American people, a great duty—the duty of educating this people lately freed from bondage, to rear them up to the full status of American citizenship.  I am very glad to learn that the State of Virginia has contributed so largely--$10,000 yearly—to this great duty, and that there are such large voluntary contributions to it in support of this institution.  And what we have seen here shows that both sides of education to citizenship are attended to here.  Knowing how to work to support oneself is an important part of civilized life.  The man who cannot earn a home for himself—who cannot lay up something against a wet day, is not quite prepared for American citizenship.  So this is what I have to say to my colored friends:  You have learned to work.  In these two hundred years that you have been in America your people have done a great deal of work.  Now learn to save.  The question all intelligent people interested in your progress ask is, Do they accumulate property?  Do they pay taxes?  Do they own homes?  The great Doctor Johnson said, ‘Frugality is the daughter of Prudence, the sister of Temperance, the mother of Liberty.’  Remember there is no independence to be gained without frugality.  I said about this same thing the other day to the students of Howard University.  The real way to get this glorious privilege of independence is for every young colored man to learn to labor and to save.  As Burns says:

 

Not for to hide it in a hedge,

Not for a train-attendant;

But for the glorious privilege

Of being independent.

 

 

Now, this is a simple thing, but it is the real thing.  If you earn $10—save a little of it.  If you earn $100, save more.  The difference between spending all and saving something is the difference between misery and happiness.  I was riding with a friend of mine the other day, and talking about this, and he reminded me of the words of that great moral philosopher in whose mouth Dickens puts a better expression of this truth that I can give.  Mr. Wilkins Micawber—you know, who said to David Copperfield—

 

 

“My other piece of advice, Copperfield, you know.  Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness.  Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.  The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and—and in short you are forever floored.”

 

 

And this is all I have to say to you:  Be determined to work—to earn—to save.

 

And let all of us, in any event, join in a prayer that this Institution may be blessed in its endeavors—that its pupils, its teachers, and all its friends may be blessed.