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In the summer of 1793, he showed his bravery and his humanity by staying at his post during the terrible visitation of the malignant yellow fever, when one in six of the population were swept off in the course of three months and most of those who could leave the city fled from the pestilence to healthy localities beyond its reach. In this period for sixty days, Girard had charge of the great hospital at Bush Hill-volunteering to do so, when he knew it was ill-regulated, crowded, and ill-supplied,
—when nurses could not be obtained at any price. Here he performed all the distressing and revolting offices of the situation-receiving the sick and dying at the gate, assisting in carrying them to their beds, nursing them, receiving their last messages, and conveying the dead to their burial ground. When he left the hospital, it was to visit the infected districts, and it is recorded by eye witnesses, that this heroic man carried a sick merchant from his deserted dwelling-house to a carriage, and drove with him to the hospital. It is idle to deny to such a worker the possession of a human heart. Thus afterward, in 1797 and 1798, Girard took the lead in alleviating by personal efforts the horrors of the yellow fever in Philadelphia. Writing to a friend in France after the yellow fever of 1798, he says: During all this frightful time I have constantly remained in the city; and without neglecting my business, have visited as many as fifteen sick people in a day! and what will surprise you still more, I have lost only one patient, an Irishman, who would drink a little.'
But Girard's main business in life was that of a merchant and banker, not that of nurse or physician. Mr. Parton says :
Girard was a man who sent his own ships to foreign countries, and exchanged their products for those of his own. Beginning in the West India trade, with one small schooner built with difficulty and managed with caution, he expanded his business as his capital increased, until he was the owner of a fleet of mer. chantmen, and brought home to Philadelphia the products of every clime. Be. ginning with single voyages, his vessels merely sailing to a foreign port and back again, he was accustomed at length to project great mercantile cruises, extending over long periods of time, and embracing many ports. A ship loaded with cotton and grain would sail, for example, to Bordeaux, there discharge, and take in a cargo of wine and fruit; thence to St. Petersburgh, where sho would exchange her wine and fruit for hemp and iron; thence to Amsterdam, where the hemp and iron would be sold for dollars; to Calcutta next for a cargo of tea and silks, with which the ship would return to Philadelphia. Such were the voyages so often successfully made by the Voltaire, the Roussean, the Helvetius, and the Montesquieu ; ships long the pride of Girard and the boast of Philadelphia, their names being the tribute paid by the merchant to the litera. ture of his native land. He seldom failed to make very large profits. He rarely, if ever, lost a ship.
His neighbors, the merchants of Philadelphia, deemed him a lucky man. Many of them thought they could do as well as he, if they only had his luck. But the great volumes of his letters and papers, preserved in a room of the Girard College, show that his success in business was not due, in any degree whatever, to good fortune. Let a money making generation take note, that
Girard principles inevitably produce Girard results. The grand, the fundamental secret of his success, as of all success, was that he understood his business. He had a personal, familiar knowledge of the ports with which he traded, the commodities in which he dealt, the vehicles in which they were carried, the dangers to which they were liable, and the various kinds of men through whom he acted. He observed every thing, and forgot nothing. He had done every thing himself which he had occasion to require others to do. His directions to his captains and supercargoes full, minute, exact, peremptory, show the hand of a master. Every possible contingency was foreseen and provided for; and he demanded the most literal obedience to the maxim, 'Obey orders, though you break owners.' He would dismiss a captain from his service forever, if he saved the whole profits of a voyage by departing from his instructions. He did so on one occasion. Add to this perfect knowledge of his craft, that he had a self-control which never permitted him to anticipate his gains or spread too wide his sails; that his industry knew no pause; that he was a close, hard bar. gainer, keeping his word to the letter, but exacting his rights to the letter; that he had no vices and no vanities; that he had no toleration for those calamities which result from vices and vanities; that his charities, though frequent, were bestowed only upon unquestionably legitimate objects, and were never profuse; that he was as wise in investing as skillful in gaining money; that he made his very pleasures profitable to himself in money gained, to his neighborhood in improved fruits and vegetables ; that he had no family to maintain and indulge; that he held in utter aversion and contempt the costly and burdensome ostentation of a great establishment, fine equipages, and a retinue of servants; that he reduced himself to a money making machine, run at the minimum of expense; —and we have an explanation of his rapidly acquired wealth. He used to boast, after he was a millionaire, of wearing the same overcoat for fourteen winters; and one of his clerks, who saw him every day for twenty years, declares that he never remembered having seen him wear a new looking garment but once. Let us note, too, that he was an adept in the art of getting men to serve him with devotion. He paid small salaries, and was never known in his life to bestow a gratuity upon one who served bim; but he knew how to make his humblest clerk feel that the master's eye was upon him always
Legitimate commerce makes many men rich; but in Girard's day no man gained by it ten millions of dollars. It was the war of 1812, which suspended commerce, that made this merchant so enormously rich. In 1811, the charter of the old United States Bank expired; and the casting vote of Vice-President George Clinton negatived the bill for rechartering it. When war was imminent, Girard had a million dollars in the bank of Baring Brothers, in London. This large sum, useless then for the purpose of commerce,-in peril, too, from the disturbed condition of English finance, -he invested in United States stock and in stock of the United States Bank, both being depreciated in England. Being thus a large holder of the stock of the bank, the charter having expired, and its affairs being in liquidation, he bought out the entire concern; and, merely changing the name to Girard's Bank, continued it in being as a private institution, in the same building, with the same coin in its vaults, the same bank-notes, the same cashier and clerks. The banking-house and the house of the cashier, which cost three hundred and fifty thousand dollars, he bought for one hundred and twenty thousand. The stock, which he bought at four hundred and twenty, proved to be worth, on the winding up of the old bank, four hundred and thirtyfour. Thus, by this operation, he extricated his property in Eng
. land, invested it wisely in America, established a new business in place of one that could no longer be carried on, and saved the mercantile community from the loss and embarrassment which the total annibilation of the bank would bave occasioned.
In 1814, when the credit of the government was at its lowest ebb, when a loan of five millions, at seven per cent. interest and twenty dollars bonus, was up for weeks, and only procured twenty thousand dollars, it was "old Girard' who boldly subscribed for the whole amount; which at once gave it market value, and infused life into the paralyzed credit of the nation. Again, in 1816, when the subscriptions lagged for the new United States Bank, Girar until the last day for receiving subscriptions, and then quietly subscribed for the whole amount not taken, which was three million one hundred thousand dollars. And yet again, in 1829, when the enormous expenditures of Pennsylvania upon her canals bad exhausted her treasury and impaired her credit, it was Girard who prevented the total suspension of the public works by a luan to the Governor, which the Legislature might or might not reimburse.
Once, during the war, the control of the coin in the bank procured him a signal advantage. In the spring of 1813, his fine ship, the Montesquieu, crammed with tea and fabrics from China, was captured by a British shallop when she was almost within Delaware Bay. News of the disaster reaching Girard, he sent orders to his supercargo to treat for a ransom. The British admiral gave up the vessel for one hundred and eighty thousand dollars in coin; and, despite this costly ransom, the cargo yielded a larger profit than that of any ship of Girard's during the whole of his mercantile career. Tea was then selling at war prices. Much of it brought, at auction, two dollars and fourteen cents a pound, more than four times its cost in China. He appears to have gained about half a million of dollars.
From the close of the war to the end of his life, a period of sixteen years, Girard pursued the even tenor of his way, as keen and steady in the pursuit of wealth, and as careful in preserving it, as though bis fortune were still insecure. Why was this? We should answer the question thus: Because his defective education left him no other resource. We frequently hear the success of such men as Astor and Girard adduced as evidence of the uselessness of early education. On the contrary, it is precisely such men who prove its necessity; since, when they have conquered fortune, they know not how to avail themselves of its advantages. When Franklin had, at the age of forty-two, won a moderate competence, he could turn from business to science, and from science to the public service, using money as a means to the noblest end.
Strongminded but unlettered men, like Girard, who can not be idle, must needs plod on to the end, adding superfluous millions to their estates. In Girard's case, too, there was another cause of this entire devotion to business. His domestic sorrows had estranged him from mankind, and driven him into himself. Mr. Henry W. Arey, in his Life of Girard, remarks :
No one who has had access to his private papers, can fail to be impressed with the belief that these early disappointments furnish the true key to his entire character. Originally of warm and generous impulses, the belief in childhood that he had not been given his share of the love and kindness which were extended to others changed the natural current of his feelings, and, acting on a warm and passionate temperament, alienated him from his home, his parents, and his friends. And when in after time there were superadded the years of bitter anguish resulting from his unfortunate and ill-adapted marriage, rendered even more poignant by the necessity of concealment, and the consequent injustice of public sentiment, and marring all his cherished expectations, it may be readily understood why occupation became a necessity, and labor a pleasure.
Girard himself confirms this opinion. In one of his letters of 1820, to a friend in New Orleans, he says:
I observe with pleasure that you have a numerous family, that you are happy and in the possession of an honest fortune. This is all that a wise man has the right to wish for. As to myself, I live like a galley-slave, constantly occupied, and ofteu passing the night without sleeping. I am wrapped up in a labyrinth of affairs, and worn out with care. I do not value fortune. The love of labor is my highest ambition. Your situation is a thousand times preferable to mine.
The key to some of the peculiarities of Mr. Girard's life and character has been found by some of his biographers in his neglected early education, and in the influence of the derision of his playmates on account of his defective eye on a naturally irritable temperament; and by others in his ill-assorted marriage to Polly Lumm. Mr. Parton says :
Walking along Water street one day, near the corner of Vine street, the eyes of this reserved and ill-favored man were caught by a beautiful servant girl going to the pump for a pail of water. She was an enchanting brunette of sixteen, with luxuriant black locks curling and clustering about her neck. As she tripped along with bare feet and empty pail, in airy and unconscious grace, sho captivated the susceptible Frenchman, who saw in her the realization of the songs of the forecastle and the reveries of the quarter-deck. He sought her acquaintance, and made himself at home in her kitchen. The family whom she served, misinterpreting the designs of the thriving dealer, forbade him the hocse; when he silenced their scruples by offering the girl his hand in marriage. Ill-starred Polly Lumm! Unhappy Girard 1 She accepted his offer; and in July, 1777, the incongruous two were united in matrimony.
of all the miserable marriages this was one of the most miserable. Here was a young, beautiful, and ignorant girl united to a close, ungracious, eager man of business, devoid of sentiment, with a violent temper and an unyielding
will. She was an American, he a Frenchman: and that alone was an immense incompatibility. She was seventeen, he twenty-seven. She was a woman; he was a man without imagination, intolerant of foibles. She was a beauty, with the natural vanities of a beauty; he not merely had no taste for decoration, he disapproved it on principle. These points of difference would alone bave sufficed to endanger their domestic peace; but time developed something that was fatal to it. Their abode was the scene of coutention for eight years; at the expiration of which period Mrs. Girard showed such symptoms of insanity tiat her husband was obliged to place her in the Pennsylvania Hospital. In these distressing circumstances, he appears to have spared no pains for ber restoration. He removed her to a place in the country, but without effect. She returned to his house only to render life insupportable to him. He resumed his old calling as a mariner, and made a voyage to the Mediterranean; but on his return he found his wife not less unmanageable than before. In 1790, thirteen years after their marriage, and five after the first exhibition of insanity, Mrs. Girard was placed permanently in the hospital; where, nine months after, she gave birth to a female child. The child soon died; the mother never recovered frer reason. For twenty-five years she lived in the hospital, and, dying in 1815, was buried in the hospital grounds after the manner of the Quakers. The coffin was brought to the grave, followed by the husband and the managers of the institution, who remained standing about it in silence for several minutes. It was then lowered to its final resting place, and again the company remained motionless and silent for awhile. Girard looked at the coffin once more, then turned to an acquaintance and said, as he walked away, 'It is very well.' A green mound, without headstone or monument, still marks the spot where the remains of this unhappy woman repose. Girard, both during his lifetime and after his death, was a liberal, though not lavish, benefactor of the institution which had so long sheltered his wife.
Stephen Girard's Wil. After the peace of 1815, Girard began to consider what he should do with his millions after his death. He was then sixty-five, but he expected and meant to live to a good age. “The Russians,' he would say, when he was mixing bis olla podrida of a Russian salad, understand best how to eat and drink; and I am going to see how long, by following their customs, I can live.' He kept an excellent table; but he became abstemious as he grew older, and lived chiefly on his salad and his good claret. Enjoying perfect health, it was not until about the year 1828, when he was seventy-eight years
age, that he entered upon the serious consideration of a plan for the final disposal of his immense estate. Upon one point liis mind had been long made up. “No man,' said he, shall be a gentleman on my money.' He often said that, even if he bad bad a son, he should have been brought up to labor, and should not, by a great legacy, be exempted from the necessity of labor. *If I should leave him twenty thousand dollars,' he said, 'he would be lazy or turn gambler.' Very likely. The son of a man like Girard, who was virtuons without being able to make virtne engaging, whose mind was strong but rigid and ill-furnished, commanding but uninstructive, is likely to have a barren mind and rampant desires, the twin causes of debauchery. His decided inclination was to leave