Character (Kimball)

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By Eliphalet Kimball

It is not a rational opinion that there is, such a thing as a mind. The brain and nerves produce the thoughts and feelings and they are gone like sound from a violin. The brain sleeps and its action is suspended. Would a mind be fatigued and need sleep? Be stupified by rum, made crazy by sickness, or by a blow on the head and injury to the brain. The term "body and. mind" is nonsense. Body is the whole. As well might a separation be made between the. lungs and breathing, the stomach and digestion, or between music and the instrument that makes it. Many persons who have died of sickness were said to have retained their senses in full strength to the last. That is impossible. The brain cannot be strong when every other part of the body is weak and dying.

Character is formed before birth, and nothing can ever change it after birth. It is established before the infant has a thought. It is hereditary and constitutional as the face. The brain is the character expressed in the face. Education and circumstances may make the conduct better or worse than the character, for conduct and character are two different things. All persons are not known by their conduct. The tree is not always known by its fruit. Grafted trees are not. Many persons are grafted. Good training to a naturally bad child and bad training to a naturally good one have no permanent effects. In such cases, the training is outgrown, and the true character in time acts itself out. Persons who are naturally good grow better in conduct as they grow older, and those who are naturally bad, grow worse. The brain and character, like every other part of the body, could be perfected by right marriage.

Genius is of many kinds—military, poetical, mathematical, mechanical, musical, &c. Every person of course knows what his genius is. He feels an enthusiasm for that line of employment that is suited to it and an ardent desire to follow it. Poetic genius is not greatness, nor is mathematical. Some boys have shown extraordinary mathematical ability, but it left them in after life. In true greatness, the military character is highest. War requires the greatest ability and virtue, and statesmanship next. The greatest General is the greatest statesman. Excellence in both departments is the same large grasp of thought. Statesmanship is not the administration of a government, it is the making of it. The man who can plan and fight a great battle well and be cool and judicious in the greatest danger, is a noble character. Other people are not aware how much goodness and nobleness there is in men who are born military characters. All men of that character are alike in principles and feelings. They are remarkable for truth, justice, kindness and teachableness. They are disinterested, and ready to sacrifice themselves for their friends. It is their nature to be thorough and determined friends to equality. Their whole bodies are good as their brains. They have a peculiar smile that is remarkably pleasing. Napoleon had it, Garibaldi had it, and it is one evidence that he is a true commander. When the military character is united with large reasoning and perceptive faculties it makes a perfect man. Napoleon Bonaparte was undoubtedly the most perfect man who has lived in the 1ast two thousand years or since Hannibal the great Carthagenian. Julius Caesar has been called a usurper, but he was not. He never overthrew the liberties of his country. The Roman people had already lost their freedom. Society had become corrupted by luxury and inequality, and the political power had gone into the hands of the aristocracy. Caesar took the power out of bad hands into his own. The military character IS delivered from remarkable qualities of the parents. A true general is known by his parents, and they are known by him. Heroism is the sublimity of virtue. The fabled Christ, who is said to have died to save the world, was a hero. What is called God, if it was a personal being, would be a military character. Men of this character are extremely few. There may be fifty of them in the United States, but it appears more likely there are not ten. I know of only one, W. O. Butler of Kentucky. He was recommended by Jackson for commander of the army. People in general judge the merit of a general by success alone. They are not capable of judging any other way, because it takes a military character to know a military character. Success is not always proof. A true commander is known by his whole character, whether he ever fights a battle or not. He must be known by what he is. Gates, who was no general, defeated Burgoyne and captured his whole army. Scott who was not a military character, defeated Santa Anna in a succession of battles. Wellington who was no military character, defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. Hannibal as well as Napoleon was unsuccessful at last, and the death of each was tragical. Grant and Sherman happened to be successful. Grant is said to have told some person in the first of the war that he felt it his duty to do something for his country because he was educated at the public expense. That remark is an evidence against him, because a true military character would have needed no motives outside of his character. Men of true courage are afraid of danger, but their goodness and firmness raise them above it. Insensibility to danger was the courage of Arnold, Murat and Ney who was called the "bravest of the brave." Murat, with an independent command was entirely destitute of judgment. The war dragged along and armies were slaughtered because the President was incapable of selecting good generals. No doubt one half the men with a good commander would have finished the war much sooner with a comparatively small loss of life.

How do I know what are the different qualities that make a military character? I know it by knowing myself, for I am one. A description of myself is a description of all genuine military men. While Jackson was a candidate for the presidency, I, in conversation used to describe his whole character although I had never seen him. My description of him was only a copy of myself. He was the only man in the United States, that I knew of, whose character I could comprehend, because he was the only one who resembled myself. I never saw W. O. Butler of Kentucky, but he is the only man in the United States that I am acquainted with, because I know of no other who has the same character with myself. Two persons of different characters can never know each other even if brothers. In character, countenance and personal appearance, I am the Napoleon of the United States, although I have the deficiencies that he had not. If Jackson was alive and should read what I have said of military characters and of myself he would know at once that it is all true. Men of bad character and small intellect will not believe a word of it. For such I am not writing. A man's view of others is according to what he is himself. It depends on what kind of eyes he looks through, I write only for the good and rational, the brave and noble. Probably no man in the United States as stronger reasoning faculties than I have. I have never seen my equal in that respect. Love of truth always made me an open and defiant infidel. Mean men some times have mistaken my enthusiasm for fanaticism. Every man ought to do justice to himself, and especially it is required of me. History commemorates men who are remarkable for what they have done. I am remarkable for what I have not done. I have the uncommon energy that is part of the military character but extraordinary causes in my youth, had the effect of frustrating Nature's design. Napoleon said it caused him sadness to think the time would come when his deeds would be forgotten. I am saved from the regret, by having to feel the still greater one that my deeds have not been done. Men should be judged from what they are rather than from what they have done or not done. Great and good acts merit applause not for themselves, but for the genius and virtue that achieve them. The surmounting of the Alps and the passage of the bridge of Lodi excite admiration not for themselves but for the nobleness that prompted and sustained them. The French nation has more reason to be proud of Waterloo than of Austerlitz, Jena, Marengo and the Pyramids, because on that disastrous field Napoleon displayed more ability and his army more valor, if possible, than they ever did before.