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Rev. Russell Conwell, "Acres of Diamonds" (1915)

Russell Conwell was a Baptist minister and businessman. In the following speech, how does he depict the relationship between wealth and Christian virtue? Why might such a view be popular during the Gilded Age?

I say again that the opportunity to get rich, to attain unto great wealth, is here in Philadelphia now, within the reach of... every man and woman who hears me speak tonight.... I have come to tell you what in God's sight I believe to be the truth... men and women sitting here, who found it difficult perhaps to buy a ticket to this lecture or gathering to-night, have within their reach "acres of diamonds," opportunities to get largely wealthy.... Never in the history of the world did a poor man without capital have such an opportunity to get rich quickly and honestly....

I say you ought to get rich, and it is your duty to get rich. How many of my pious brethren say to me "Do you, a Christian minister, spend your time going up and down the country advising young people to get rich, to get money?" "Yes, of course I do." They say, "Isn't that awful! Why donít you preach the gospel instead of preaching about man's making money?" "Because to make money honestly is to preach the gospel."....

"Oh," but says some young man here to-night, "I have been told all my life that if a person has money he is very dishonest and dishonorable and mean and contemptible."  My friend, that is the reason you have none, because you have that idea of people....  Ninety-eight out of one hundred of the rich men of America are honest.  That is why they are rich.... That is why they carry on great enterprises and find plenty of people to work with them.  It is because they are honest men.

My friend... [if you] introduce me to the people who own their homes around this great city, those beautiful homes with gardens and flowers, those magnificent homes so lovely in their art, and I will introduce you to the very best people in character as well as in enterprise in our city.... A man is not truly a man until he owns his own home, and they that own their own homes are made more honorable and honest and pure, and true and economical and careful, by owning the home....

Money is power, and you ought to be reasonably ambitious to have it.  You ought because you can do more good with it that you could without it.  Money printed your Bible, money builds your churches... and money pays your preachers, and you would not have many of them, either, if you did not pay them....

I say, then, you ought to have money.  If you can honestly attain unto riches... it is your Christian and godly duty to do so. It is an awful mistake of these pious people to think you must be awfully poor in order to be pious....

Some men say, "Don't you sympathize with the poor people?"  Of course I do, or else I would not have been lecturing these years.... But the number of poor who are to be sympathized with is very small.... While we should sympathize with God's poor and shy; that is those who cannot help themselves; let us remember that there is not a poor person in the United States who was not made poor by his own shortcomings.... It is all wrong to be poor anyhow....

 

1. What does Russell Conwell mean when he says, "To make money honestly is to preach the gospel"?

2. What is his attitude towards the poor? How does Cornwall's piece reflect the attitudes of the time period?


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