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"There Is Room Enough At The Top"
by [?]

These words ere uttered many years ago by a youth who had no other means by which to reach the top than work and will. They have since become the watchword of every poor boy whose ambition is backed by energy and a determination to make the most possible of himself.

The occasion on which Daniel Webster first said “There is room enough at the top,” marked the turning point in his life. Had he not been animated at that time by an ambition to make the most of his talents, he might have remained forever in obscurity.

His father and other friends had secured for him the position of Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas, of Hillsborough County, New Hampshire. Daniel was studying law in the office of Mr. Christopher Gore, a distinguished Boston lawyer, and was about ready for his admission to the bar. The position offered him was worth fifteen hundred dollars a year. This seemed a fortune to the struggling student. He lay awake the whole night following the day on which he had heard the good news, planning what he would do for his father and mother, his brother Ezekiel, and his sisters. Next morning he hurried to the office to tell Mr. Gore of his good fortune.

“Well, my young friend,” said the lawyer, when Daniel had told his story, “the gentlemen have been very kind to you; I am glad of it. You must thank them for it. You will write immediately, of course.”

Webster explained that, since he must go to New Hampshire immediately, it would hardly be worth while to write. He could thank his good friends in person.

“Why,” said Mr. Gore in great astonishment, “you don’t mean to accept it, surely!”

The youth’s high spirits were damped at once by his senior’s manner. “The bare idea of not accepting it,” he says, “so astounded me that I should have been glad to have found any hole to have hid myself in.”

“Well,” said Mr. Gore, seeing the disappointment his words had caused, “you must decide for yourself; but come, sit down and let us talk it over. The office is worth fifteen hundred a year, you say. Well, it never will be any more. Ten to one, if they find out it is so much, the fees will be reduced. You are appointed now by friends; others may fill their places who are of different opinions, and who have friends of their own to provide for. You will lose your place; or, supposing you to retain it, what are you but a clerk for life? And your prospects as a lawyer are good enough to encourage you to go on. Go on, and finish your studies; you are poor enough, but there are greater evils than poverty; live on no man’s favor; what bread you do eat, let it be the bread of independence; pursue your profession, make yourself useful to your friends and a little formidable to your enemies, and you have nothing to fear.”

How fortunate Webster as to have at this point in his career so wise and far-seeing a friend! His father, who had made many sacrifices to educate his boys, saw in the proffered clerkship a great opening for his favorite, Daniel. He never dreamed of the future that was to make him one of America’s greatest orators and statesmen. At first he could not believe that the position which he had worked so hard to obtain was to be rejected.

“Daniel, Daniel,” he said sorrowfully, “don’t you mean to take that office?”

“No, indeed, father,” was the reply, “I hope I can do much better than that. I mean to use my tongue in the courts, not my pen; to be an actor, not a register of other men’s acts. I hope yet, sir, to astonish your honor in your own court by my professional attainments.”

Judge Webster made no attempt to conceal his disappointment. He even tried to discourage his son by reminding him that there were already more lawyers than the country needed.

It was in answer to this objection that Daniel used the famous and oft-quoted words,–“There is room enough at the top.”

“Well, my son,” said the fond but doubting father, “your mother has always said you would come to something or nothing. She was not sure which; I think you are now about settling that doubt for her.”

It was very painful to Daniel to disappoint his father, but his purpose was fixed, and nothing now could change it. He knew he had turned his face in the right direction, and though when he commenced to practice law he earned only about five or six hundred dollars a year, he never regretted the decision he had made. He aimed high, and he had his reward.

It is true now and forever, as Lowell says, that–

“Not failure, but low aim, is crime.”