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Addressing Self-made Men: Stephen Grover Cleveland & Frederick Douglass

Bachelor thesis

Brno 2012

Supervisor: Mgr. Pavla Buchtová Written by: Lenka Himerová

Hereby I declare that I wrote this bachelor thesis on my own and that I used only the sources listed in the bibliography.
I agree with the placing of this thesis in the library of the Faculty of Education at the Masaryk University in Brno and with the access for academic purposes.

Lenka Himerová

Brno, 2nd March 2012 ..............................

I wish to thank my brilliant and patient supervisor Mgr. Pavla Buchtová for her guidance, encouragement and kind advice. I would also like to show my gratitude to Michael George, M.A. for help with finding the right literary sources.

Table of contents

Introduction 5

1 Theoretical part

1.1 The American Dream 7

1.2 Self–improvement, Self-reliance, Self-making 12

2 About the authors

2.1 Frederick Douglass 16

2.2 Stephen Grover Cleveland 19

2.3 The Relationship between Douglass and Cleveland 23

3 Practical part

3.1 The Address of Frederick Douglass 25

3.2 The Address of Stephen Grover Cleveland 30

3.3 A Comparison of Douglass’ and Cleveland’s Speeches 34

4 Conclusion 36

Summary 37

Literature 38


What does it mean to be successful? Is it possible to become successful on one’s own? What does it take to become successful? What qualities must one possess to be able to achieve their life goals? This thesis attempts to explore these topics from the viewpoints of two famous 19th century men. The first one was a former slave and a well-known abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, the second, a former president of the United States, Stephen Grover Cleveland.

There is a pattern widely spread throughout the European fairytales and folk stories; a poor young man, with no support, or almost no support from his family, without any prospects of a happy life, decides to leave his hometown and travel the world. His abilities and character enable him to become successful, honorable, and sometimes also rich. Very often he gets a beautiful woman as a bonus.

For a long time, the United States of America have been viewed as a land of infinite possibilities, a country in which every man has an equal opportunity to reach his full potential in life, a country where a fairytale dreams might become reality. Countless adventurers left their fatherlands with a prospect of making it big on their own in the new world, where everything was possible. These people dreamt the American Dream, an enticing vision of glory and prosperity.

The newcomers had little or no money to start with. They were often forced to rely on themselves, their own abilities, knowledge, and skills in their new homelands, thus the concepts of self-improvement and self-making lie very close to the idea of the American Dream.

The concept of self-made men has usually been related to males. Precisely, it has been connected to males of Euro-American origin. Typical examples of such men are Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and Henry Ford. There have been exceptions though. Frederick Douglass, a thinker, author and abolitionist of Afro-American origin, may be considered one.

As an ex-slave, Douglass is a prime representative of the self-made culture. He even made a speech on the topic of self-made men, which was recorded. Several years after him, another person held a speech on the same topic. The man was the former American president, Stephen Grover Cleveland.

Both authors knew each other. They probably shared similar views on certain topics, however, the ideas contained in their speeches differ significantly. One of these men managed to overstep the limits of his gender and ethnicity within his speech, the other one envisioned the development of the idea of self-made men.

In this thesis the written forms of the said speeches will be examined, the views of the two authors analyzed and compared. Also the minor themes – the American Dream and self-improvement, which are closely related to the idea self-made men, will be explained.

1 Theoretical part

1.1 The American Dream

The idea of self-making is very closely related to a concept that is called the American Dream. Even though the idea of the American Dream has always been popular among people, its meaning is slightly ambiguous. The origin of the American dream is unknown, and the concept itself is ill-defined and vague.

Some scholars attribute its origin to historian James Truslow Adams, who in 1930s wanted to publish his book under the title The American Dream (Cullen 3). Nevertheless, it is also possible to follow the history of the American Dream down to the times of the first Puritan settlers that came to America. These people became “masters of their own destiny” (Cullen 18), which is a vital feature of the American Dream concept.

Some important characteristics of the American Dream may be also found in The Declaration of Independence, which is aptly called The Dream Charter by Cullen (8).

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness“ (US 1776). Yet, today we are aware of the sad fact that the pursuit of happiness was not meant for everyone at that time. All people were not equal. The then society oppressed the rights of women and rights of people of different origin than Euro-American as well.

Several features of the American Dream have been already mentioned, what are the other ones? Roth (3) describes the American Dream as an ambiguous term that appears in popular culture and is extensively promoted by media and advertising. It may be viewed as a set of social and moral ideals.

Both authors, Cullen (7) and Roth (3) claim that there is not only one American Dream, but there are actually several American Dreams. According to Cullen these are The Dream of the Good Life, The Dream of Home Ownership, The Dream of Equality and The Dream of Upward Mobility. Roth in addition suggests these: A Belief in New Beginnings, The Dream of Success and The Dream of Happiness.

Cullen (160) asserts that these dreams are bound to slightly different places or areas. The Dream of the Good Life (in a moral sense) prevails in New England because it was the destination of the Puritans. The Dream of Equality is most powerful in the South because of racial and social inequalities. The Dream of Upward Mobility is most accented in Midwest. For example Abraham Lincoln, who is a proof of the possibility of this dream’s fulfillment, came from Illinois. The western dream is the Dream of Home Ownership, and the realm of the Dream of the Good Life (possibly in the material sense) is the Coast.

Even though the concept is called the American Dream, it manifests itself in every country. It is global. The American Dream had been present all around the world even before Columbus arrived to the Americas. These ideals are most likely as old as the mankind. They have just been given a name recently. On the other hand, “the land is a chief ingredient that makes the dream a complex one” (Roth 3).

Even though the American Dream can be viewed as a universal concept, this thesis will focus more on the United States of America because both authors of the speeches that are going to be analyzed were Americans.

First of the named dreams within the American Dream is the Dream of the Good life. It has already been written that there are two ways how to understand it. We may differentiate between the Dream of a Morally Good Life and the Dream of Better Living Conditions. It is however debatable, if the pursuit of a morally good life is still a part of the American Dream since The Dream of a Morally Good Life often clashes with the Dream of Success nowadays.

As for the Dream of Better Living Conditions, the idea of improving one´s living standard remains a strong one, especially in connection with bettering lives of one’s children. It can be demonstrated on the example of the famous speech - I have a Dream (1963) by Martin Luther King. “I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream (…) I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.“ There have always been people who wanted a better world, a better place to live. If it has not been possible for them, they have at least wished to build a better future for their children.

Second dream within the American Dream concept is the Dream of Home Ownership. The English say: My home is my castle,” and the same goes for the Americans. To own a real estate means a right to do almost anything one wishes to do in their house or flat. It brings independence, self-reliance, and freedom. Immigrants have often lived in places that have been rented to them.
The price might have changed rapidly over a short span of time, thus the Dream of Home Ownership is absolutely understandable one.

Another dream that Cullen suggests is the Dream of Equality. Coming to America was not a part of everyone’s dream. Millions of inhabitants of the African continent were captured and enslaved. They were brought to America on big ships where illnesses and tyranny ruled. Many of them lost their lives even before they were able to see the Americas’ shores. When they finally arrived to their new destination, a hard physical labor, and poor living and nutritional conditions awaited majority of them. They had no rights, they had to subject to will of their masters, who could do whatever they wanted - rape them, burn them, torture them, kill them.

Having masters’ power held over their lives, the slaves dreamt of freedom and equal rights. When they were given the freedom, they sought the equal rights more than ever.

The issue of racial equality in the United States is a pressing one, even today. It is quite ironic that equality of the African-Americans is based on The Declaration of Independence (US 1776), and Constitution of the United States (US 1787), documents ratified by people who themselves owned African slaves.

The Dream of Equality is a really problematic one. There is another big group of people who were also suppressed, and probably still are – women. Women used to be ruled by men, who for a long time determined what their role within the society should be.

Many more examples of inequality could be presented, but suffice it to say that the Dream of Equality is probably the most flawed one.

The Dream of Equality is closely related to the Dream of Upward Mobility. This dream is typically American one. Unlike in Europe, in the U.S., there was no aristocracy, or at least, the nobility had no advantages ascertained by their birth. Many people left for America because they noticed the possibility of social advancement, which was unreachable for them in Europe. The Dream of Mobility is the last one that Cullen suggests.

In addition to Cullen, Roth defines another idea, A Belief in New Beginnings. On the way to their dreams, newcomers had to forget their old standards and adapt to the new conditions.

“The pioneer was taught in the school of experience that the crops of one area would not do for a new frontier; that the scythe of the clearing must be replaced by the reaper of the prairies. He was forced to make old tools serve new uses; to shape former habits, institutions and ideas to changed conditions; and to find new means when the old proved inapplicable. He was building a new society as well as breaking new soil; he had the ideal of nonconformity and of change“

(Turner 271).

America was and maybe still is considered a place for new beginnings, no matter what the past held. Everyone coming to America wanted to survive, live, thrive, simply put, be successful and happy in the new land.

Other dreams introduced by Roth are the Dream of Success and the Dream of Happiness. Success as well as happiness is an abstract word with many definitions and meanings. It is very difficult to tell what success is. Different things and different life events may bring happiness to different people. It is not easy to measure success or happiness. Puritans believed that success was a sign that God approved of them

(Roth 5). According to the same author the success in America is defined by material prosperity today.

Dreams may be sweet, but people must wake up eventually. Roads to material prosperity often become slippery and one may easily fall to the mud of moral decay. The American Dream is not viewed only as a positive one anymore. It is also thought to be a source of deception and a road to hell for those who start to believe in it.

Some harsh criticism may be found in popular songs and films. For instance in the 2002 movie Guru, Vijay Rao asks Ramu Gupta:

“You have a roof over your head, clothes on your back, food in your belly, what more do you want?

Ramu Gupta: I want what you promised.

Vijay: Do you know why they call it the American Dream? Because it only happens when you are asleep” (Guru 2002).

“Coming to America whether as a sojourner or a settler, was in many cases to partake in an adventure, a drama, even a dream. For many the adventure became a disaster, the drama a tragedy, the dream a nightmare“ (Daniels 28). When the times become rough, the American Dream always suffers a significant blow. For instance, during the Great Depression, when the Dream of Good Life became unreachable, when people were losing roofs over their heads, when the contrast between the poor and the rich became even more apparent, when there was no hope for happiness left, the American Dream shattered. Once the Depression was over, the American Dream was resurrected (Salsbury 80).

Nowadays, people are probably thought to be more realists rather than dreamers. The critics often point out the flaws of the American Dream, especially in the areas of equality, upward mobility, success, and happiness. Others, on the other hand, still advertise its power. For example the American president Barack Obama thinks about “all the faceless, nameless men and women, slaves and soldiers and tailors and butchers, constructing lives for themselves and their children and grandchildren, brick by brick, rail by rail, calloused hand by calloused hand, to fill in the landscape of our collective dreams,“ and wants to be part of that process (Obama 212).

Be it as it may, the American Dream, since its beginning, brings in an idea that might be even more important and global than the American Dream itself. It is the ability to control one’s own destiny.

1.2 Self–improvement, Self-reliance, Self-making and Self-made Men

The American Dream would not be as intriguing “if it were a self-evident falsehood or a scientifically demonstrable principle” (Cullen 7). The power of the American Dream lies in its mystery that fuels the immemorial questions of the course and sense of life. Is it the Fate that rules human lives? Are the events of our lives God’s will? Is mankind free to decide, shape and stir the directions of happenings? Does the ability to be successful depend on some external factors (deities, fate etc.) that cannot be affected?

According to Roth “the American Dream depends on the gospel of self-help” (5). The same author also claims that it places a great value on freedom of choice. The American Dream thus promotes that each man is an architect of his own fortune. In order to pursue the American Dream fully, one must employ the means of self-help, self-improvement, self-reliance and self-making.

Self-making that promotes that one can be whatever they want to be, if they work hard to achieve their goals, is an expression of the American Dream (Effing 127).

On the same page Effing declares that the history of the United States is “impregnated with the message of self help and personal improvement, the objective of which is, in most cases, the achievement of happiness.” Taking charge of one’s own destiny, self-improvement and self-help lead to construction of the American self-identity, which the author views as closely related to the belief in American values, such as liberty, democracy, equality and justice.

Young people were encouraged to build their own character, make something of themselves. “As examples for imitation, they pointed to individuals they called “self-made men” (Howe 1).

The terms self-help, self-improvement, self-reliance, self-making and self-made men have something in common - self. In this case the word conveys the meaning of “on their own”. Each of these terms can be used separately, but the term, self-made men encompasses all of them.

A simple definition may be created if the American Dream and self are mixed. Self-made person is someone who follows and reaches the American Dream solely by the means of their own resources.

This definition deliberately uses the term self-made people instead of self-made men, because “men” can suggest either male gender or people in general, as it demonstrated in some authors.

“The myth of the self-made man is, in short, a particular part of ongoing rhetorical practices that are constitutive of society, culture, and subjects―in this case, of the specific activities known as masculinity” (Catano 2).

“The term self-made man is an American neologism that defines the American ideal of masculinity” (Kimmel and Aronson 702).

The Merriam-Webster dictionary (“Man”) states that the word men denoted human beings as well as male humans in Old English. Man originates in Sanskrit. Sanskrit dictionary states that manu means wise, thinking, thinking creature, man, mankind, “Man par excellence or the representative man and father of the human race“ (“Monier Williams Online Dictionary”). It is therefore uneasy to tell what the original meaning was – human male or human in general.

On the other hand, it is arguable that in the phrase self-made men, “men” denoted males first, because at the time of the probable origin of the phrase, women were not usually allowed to be independent, thus they could not be self-made.

The term self-made man was most likely invented by Henry Clay (Howe 136). However, a blogger who calls himself SubtropicBob did a research in an archive of newspapers and found out that the phrase self-made man was not used for the first time by politician Henry Clay in his speech in 1832. The blogger found a record which dates back to 1828. A certain Professor Newman used Self Made Man as a heading for his letter about statesman Roger Sherman, who rose from humble origins.

As well as the concept of the American Dream changed its content, the term self-made man changed its meaning through the centuries as well.

In the 18th century, self-help literature became popular when Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography was published. “Franklin’s message was that God helps those who help themselves” (Howe 44). The man is the epitome of self-construction; he inspired millions of people to focus on self-improvement (Effing 128).

In the 19th century, the economic situation in the United States improved that much that it enabled extension of personal freedom - to choose what kind of character one would like to have, or what kind of person one would like to be (Howe 122).

Self-made men represented a heroic ideal, an expression of meaning of life. Money did not play any significant role in it. Scientists, inventors and statesmen were considered self-made men (Howe 136).

An increase in job availability changed the nature of the concept of self-made men in the 20th century. People started to focus on material goods. Self-making transformed into a struggle in the workplace (Catano 89). Kimmel and Aronson (703) describe self-made men as masters of their own fate and social isolates. Struggling in the workplace leads to loneliness and worries. As well as hope for upward mobility there is always the possibility of going downwards as well.

Self-improvement masks factors such as birth, education and wealth. In order to become self-improved, one must destroy oneself. The irony of the freedom to become the person one wishes to become also lies in the fact that a set of behavioral patterns is usually prescribed by others (Catano 53). One uses their freedom to achieve a complex of behaviors and manners dictated by society.

Many people were motivated to become self-made, but they were denied the means to achieve it (Catano 169). Some of the reasons for the failure are absence of equality, and the existence of institutions and corporations, which influence human lives. The American experiment promised that all would have equal opportunities to rise and fall according to their abilities (Kimmel and Aronson 702). The myth of self-making also emphasizes the role of individual, but ignores the role of institutions and corporations. (Catano 88).

After the Great Depression and World War II the American Dream started to fade away, but even the terrors of the war and helplessness of people did not exterminate the alluring vision.

Nowadays, at the beginning of the 21st century, self-making is represented by bodybuilding rather than social and economic status (Kimmel and Aronson 703).

To complete the picture of the development of self-making, it is necessary to mention women and their relationship to self-culture. Despite the suffrage movements striving for gender equality, women remained rather passive regarding society and politics until the Great War. Females were in history viewed as passive beings ruled by emotions and affections, whereas males were supposedly creatures of will and active powers
(Howe 21). That is why women were not expected to be self-made.
Today, examples of self-made women appear as well. They are often connected with monetary wealth, they are female self-made business moguls, female self-made billionaires etc. There are some exceptions though, one of them being Oprah Winfrey, “who built a media empire largely on pluck and the force of her own mythology as a self-made woman“ (Cullen 101).

In 2006, a book by Norah Vincent, Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back Again, was published. The author describes her experiment, when she lived disguised as a male for some time. This might be considered an interesting development to the history of the self-made concept. At the beginning of the 21st century, men are no longer much interested in self-making and women take up the torch.

2 About the authors

2.1 Frederick Douglass

A prime example of self-made man is Frederick Douglass. He was a famous abolitionist, politician and thinker. Douglass was born in Talbot County in Maryland, either in the year 1817 or 1818 as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. He was born a slave at a plantation. His mother was of African-American and his father probably of Euro-American origin, possibly his master. As a child, Douglass experienced the hardships and cruelty of life on a plantation (Douglass, “Narrative” 12; ch.1).

In 1826, he was sent to live with Hugh Auld’s family in Baltimore. He was to take care of Auld’s son, Tommy. There he was taught by his mistress Sophia until her husband forbade it because he believed that learning would make slaves discontented and rebellious (Douglass, “Narrative” 26; ch.60). Douglass however continued to teach himself. In 1829, the Aulds put Douglass to work in their shipyards, but in 1833 he was returned back to Talbot County.

In his new home he taught reading to fellow slaves (Douglass, “Life and Times” 136; ch.14). This made him a danger to the slave system and he was sent for a year to slave breaker Covey, where brutality ruled. Douglass was often beaten. As a town boy, he did not fit the countryside anymore. Then the situation with Covey changed. Douglass writes “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man“ (Douglass, “Narrative”41; ch.10). Once again, Covey wanted to beat Douglass severely, but Douglass fought back and defeated his tormentor in a physical fight. He was never beaten again by the man.

After some time Douglass attempted to run away, but he was caught. In the end, he was sent back to shipyards in Boston, where he met a free African American woman, Anna Murray. She helped him to escape to the north in 1838. Douglass traveled by train disguised as a sailor. Anna followed Douglass to New York City where they got married.

Douglass, whose surname was originally Bailey, changed it into Douglass in order to protect himself from detection. Douglass was an alias chosen from a poem by Walter Scott (Chesnutt; ch.3).

After gaining himself a relative freedom, Douglass attended many anti-slavery meetings and devoted himself to the cause. On one of these meetings he was noticed by a famous abolitionist named William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison invited Douglass to go on a tour and tell the story of his life. Douglass was the first runaway slave to speak publicly against slavery. “Many Northerners refused to believe that this eloquent orator could possibly have been a slave, he responded by writing an autobiography that identified his previous owners by name” (“Radical Reform and Antislavery”). That is why his famous Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave was created.

After the work was published in 1845, Douglass had to flee to Britain to escape recapture. He lectured on the anti-slavery movement and became a celebrity there. Two British abolitionists raised money to buy his freedom in 1846. Douglass was redeemed for the price of about $1,000 paid to the Aulds (Sterngass 63). He was able to return to the United States to preach there against slavery again.

As an abolitionist, Douglass was involved in many different tasks. For instance, he was publishing his own abolitionist paper –The North Star (Douglass, “Life and Times” 324; Second Part, ch. 7), he was also helping other fugitive slaves on their way to freedom by joining a network of hiding places, which was called the Underground Railroad.

Douglass was operating the last station of the Underground Railroad on the road to Canada (Douglass, “Life and Times” 329; Second Part, ch.7). The station was located in Douglass’ house in Rochester. The well-known abolitionist John Brown visited the place when he was planning his famous slave revolt. When Douglass heard about Brown’s plans, he refused to participate in it. Even though Douglass was not involved in the bloody rebellion, his name was associated with Brown. When Brown’s revolt failed and the man was executed, Douglass had to sail to Europe again (Sterngass 97-99).

In 1861 the Civil War broke out. The once returned Douglass petitioned for the African-Americans to be eligible to fight for their freedom in the War. When African-Americans were permitted to enlist, Douglass became a recruiting agent for the first African-American troop. His two sons were among the first African-Americans to enlist. When Douglass saw how the soldiers were treated, he went to President Abraham Lincoln and protested against discrimination of the Black troops“ (Chesnutt; ch.9).

After the War, Douglass worked in order to enforce the rights of the Afro-American citizens. In 1874, he was made a president of Freedmen´s Bank, but it was failure from the beginning. Douglass’ predecessors were bad managers, and even though Douglass himself used his own money to save the bank, it was closed. Many African-Americans suffered great loses (Sterngass 117-119).

In the second half of his live, Douglass worked as a politician. He was appointed the US Marshal and later the Recorder of the Deeds for the District of Columbia. In 1888 and 1889, he was appointed Consul General to Haiti, Charge d'Affaires for Santo Domingo as well as Minister Resident to Haiti. He was also nominated for vice-president and served as a presidential elector in 1872 (“Timeline of Frederick Douglass and Family”). In 1888 he was also nominated for a president by receiving one vote during the Republican convention. (“Republican National Political Conventions 1856-2008”).

In 1895 Douglass had a stroke and died. He was 77 years old. All his life Douglass fought for equal rights of African-Americans and advocated equal rights for women as well.

Frederick Douglass is considered an important historical figure today, but he was also a celebrity in his own time. Starting as a slave, Douglass became unbelievably successful and rich. “Between speaking fees, investments and income from presidential appointments, Frederick Douglass’ was able to mass $300,000 in savings--an equivalence of $25 million dollars today“ (Smith).

2.2 Stephen Grover Cleveland

Stephen Grover Cleveland was the 22 and also the 24 president of the United States. He was the first Democrat elected after the Civil War, he is the only man that was president of the United States twice non-consecutively – from 1885 to 1889 and also from 1893 to 1897.

Cleveland was born in 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey. He was the fifth child (of nine) of Richard Falley Cleveland and Ann Neal Cleveland. Richard Cleveland was a Yale graduate and a Presbyterian clergyman, Ann was a daughter of a wealthy law-book publisher. Richard Cleveland was very popular in church, but the family was relatively poor. Richard was ill and died when Grover was sixteen. The death of his father complicated Grover's situation very much. The young man wanted to go to college, yet he had to take a job to support his family. He worked as an assistant teacher for a year, then he decided to leave for the West and become a lawyer. He found himself a likeminded friend and they set out, Cleveland in Ohio being their first destination. They however did not reach Ohio. They stopped in Buffalo to visit Cleveland's uncle, Lewis F. Allen, who persuaded them to stay and not to pursue the hard life on the frontier (“Grover Cleveland Library”).

Grover’s uncle introduced him to many influential people of Buffalo. The young man was hired in a law firm, and in the end he set up his own law practice and became a member of the Democratic Party. First, he was chosen to be a sheriff of Erie County, and finally a Mayor in Buffalo.

In his early career Grover Cleveland proved to be truly competent. As a lawyer he earned so much money that he could support himself and his family as well. Originally, Cleveland had no intention to become a Mayor, but he was persuaded to run for an election by the Democratic Party delegation. From his position he fought against illnesses, having constructed a new sewage system, and corruption in general (“Grover Cleveland Library”).

In 2011, a book by Charles Lachman about Stephen Grover Cleveland was published under the title A Secret Life: The Sex, Lies and Scandals of President Grover Cleveland. Even though the title implies content of dubious quality, Lachman is an investigative journalist and the sources he uses are reliable.

Lachman suggests that during his time in Buffalo, Cleveland committed several shameful acts. The worst one was a rape of a widow, one year younger than Cleveland, Maria Halpin, whom he was courting. Cleveland threatened Maria with a death sentence, if she would speak about it. By the will of the fate, Maria became pregnant that day, and Cleveland decided not to marry her, which would ruin her life. Cleveland had his illegitimate son placed under different guardians, and even in an orphanage, separating the child from its own mother. Maria tried to get her child out of there and had to be therefore sent to a mental asylum. Cleveland never denied having an illegitimate son, but he tried to make sure people would not speak about it much.

This accusation creates a stark contrast to Cleveland’s otherwise honorable and honest character.

In 1882, Cleveland became a governor of New York. In 1884, he was made a candidate for the president of the United States. Unfortunately, the scandal with his illegitimate son erupted and Cleveland lost many voters. In the end, he won the elections, but it was a tight vote (“Grover Cleveland”).

At the time Cleveland was inaugurated, the Senate gained such authority that would have turned Presidency into an office without real power and Cleveland had to deal with this situation (Ford; ch.2). According to Weisberger (83) „Grover Cleveland was a strong President, but a poor administrator“. Ford (ch.4) states that when Cleveland was appointed a President there was an „onslaught of office seekers”. Cleveland always defied corruption, so it is no wonder that „he was loath to delegate authority” This caused that he almost impeded his staff in its work (Weisberger 83).

On the other hand, Ford (ch.3) describes Cleveland as “no genius; he was not even a man of marked talent. He was stanch, plodding, laborious, and dutiful; but he was lacking in ability to penetrate to the heart of obscure political problems and to deal with primary causes rather than with effects. The great successes of his administration were gained in particular problems whose significance had already been clearly defined. In this field, Cleveland's resolute and energetic performance of duty had splendid results.“

Hand in hand with turning down the office seekers, Cleveland rejected doing any special favors to anyone. In 1886, there was a devastating drought in Texas; Cleveland vetoed a bill to help Texas farmers (Eagles et al. 831). He also vetoed pension bills to Civil War veterans, which he believed to be fraudulent. In general, Cleveland thought that “a social welfare state was against American ideals“ (“Biography 22/24”).

During Cleveland’s first term as a president, a great dispute arose, concerning the use of silver or gold standards of coinage, when the value of those metals in coins did not reflect their real value in the market. Certain changes must have been made. Unfortunately, they were quite unpopular. People suspected that bankers and wealthy merchants ganged up to “ensure a scarcity of money” (Eagles et al. 847).”

What Cleveland rather ignored were foreign affairs. During his presidency revolutions in Cuba and Hawaii broke out, but he left the responsibility to solve these issues to his successors (“Biography 22/24”).

In the next elections, in 1888, Cleveland was defeated by the Republican candidate, but again it was a tight vote. Cleveland probably lost because of his other unpopular decision - reducing high protective tariffs (“Grover Cleveland”). Even though Cleveland lost, Ford (ch.6) acknowledges his efforts in reforms. “If it is the prime duty of a President to act in the spirit of a reformer, Cleveland is entitled to high praise for the stanchness with which he adhered to his principles under most trying circumstances.

Despite the previous fail, the year 1892 found Cleveland elected once more. According to Weisberger (84) “Cleveland had picked the wrong time to win.” During the post-Civil War years, there was an immense growth of manufacturing. “Industrial output rose by some 296 percent, reaching in 1890 a value of almost $9.4 billion“ (Whitten). However, in 1893, one of the most dreadful business panics in history set off. Before the year ended “500 banks had gone down, 16,000 business houses had closed and a full-scale economic crisis wracked the country” (Weisberger 1964). “By 1894 the economy had reached the bottom. That year some 750,000 workers went out on strike, millions found themselves unemployed” (Eagles et al. 848). “The Depression of 1893 was one of the worst in American history with the unemployment rate exceeding ten percent for half a decade” (Whitten).

The opinions on the causes of the recession differ among economists, some believe the crisis was caused by deflation during the Civil War and “slowing investment in railroads”, some blame Cleveland’s monetary reforms, some ascribe the problems to ”a general economic unsoundness and government extravagance.” Also the fact that at that time in Europe the situation was quite similar and might have influenced the American economy, cannot be overlooked (Whitten).

Cleveland’s “cheap and honest government was simply not enough” (Weisberger 85). During those sorrowful years many workers went on strike, for example in 1892, over 1300 strikes occurred. These were often suppressed by private police (Weisberger 85). One year, “more than a hundred thousand railroad workers went on strike, damaging the commerce of the entire nation, considering how mail is delivered via train. Grover Cleveland soon had no choice but to send federal troops to Chicago. The plan worked” (“Grover Cleveland”), but Cleveland became unpopular among people.

The recession lasted until June 1897 when economy started to grow again. However, Cleveland´s term of office came to an end in the midst of the strife. After his presidency ended, Cleveland took up the law practice again. He died in 1908.

2.3. Grover Cleveland and Frederick Douglass

As was stated in the beginning, Douglass and Cleveland knew each other. Cleveland was a Democrat, and Douglass, a fan of President Lincoln, Republican. At that time the African-Americans were not even allowed to become members of the Democratic Party. Segregationist politicians, who governed the South, were traditionally Democrats (Jackson).

Since 1881 Douglass served as the Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia. This was a very lucrative post. When Democrat Cleveland was elected in 1884, Douglass was in rage. Despite that, Cleveland remained the Recorder of Deeds for almost a year after Cleveland’s inauguration (Chesnutt; ch.12).

Cleveland was not a racist, for instance in 1895 he received a letter from famous scholar, Booker T. Washington. The letter contained one of the African-American’s speeches. Cleveland replied: ”I thank you (…) Your words will delight and encourage all who wish well for your race” (Washington 87; ch.14).

Douglass himself wrote about Cleveland’s administration the following: “During the first part of his administration, the time in which I held office under him, the disposition on the part of the President to fulfill that obligation was quite manifest, and the feeling at the time was that we were entering upon a new era of American politics, in which there would be no removals from office on the ground of party politics.”

Douglass believed he would remain in the office, but Cleveland made him to resign later. At first Douglass did not like the man, but he did not hold any grudge against him afterwards. “Personally, I have no cause of complaint against him. On the contrary, there is much for which I have reason to commend him. I found him a robust, manly man, one having the courage to act upon his convictions, and to bear with equanimity the reproaches of those who differed from him,” this is what Douglass writes about Cleveland in his book Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (645; Third Part, ch.5).

When Douglass married Hellen Pitts, a feminist of Euro-American origin, many people objected to their marriage, Euro-Americans as well as African-Americans, but Cleveland did not.

Mr. Cleveland found me covered with these unjust, inconsistent, and foolish reproaches, and instead of joining in with them or acting in accordance with them, or in anywise giving them countenance as a cowardly and political trickster might and probably would have done, he, in the face of all vulgar criticism, paid me all the social consideration due to the office of Recorder of Deeds of the District of Columbia. He never failed, while I held office under him, to invite myself and wife to his grand receptions, and we never failed to attend them“

(Douglass, 647; Third Part, ch.5).

3 Practical part

3.1 The Address of Frederick Douglass

Public speaking provided Frederick Douglass a way how to fight against slavery and racial prejudices. Self-Made Men was his most popular speech. It was created in 1859, and until the year 1893, more than fifty audiences in the United States, Canada and Britain saw Douglass deliver it (Howe 153).

The document used for the purposes of this work is the one stored in the online archive of the Library of Congress. The text is undated, that is why the year of the delivery of the speech can be only estimated. A conclusion may be drawn that this particular speech was delivered not long after the Civil War had ended in 1865. Douglass says: “These remarks are not intended to apply to the states where slavery has but recently existed and “This is today, the great trouble at the South. The land owners still resent emancipation” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 32).

On the other hand, it is not difficult to identify the audience. In the foreword, it is stated that this speech was intended for the students of Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It is possible to go even further. Starting from the closing words, “Ladies and gentlemen (…) If, by statement, argument, sentiment or example, I have awakened in any, a sense of the dignity of labor or the value of manhood, or have stirred in any mind, a courageous resolution to make one more effort towards self-improvement and higher usefulness, I have not spoken in vain” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 39), it made be derived that the audience consisted of Native-American males as well as females. By addressing this speech also to Native-American girls, Douglass did not exceed solely his ethnicity, but he also surpassed gender prejudices.

Who are self-made men according to Douglass? The author claims that no such men actually exist. Douglass believes that the term self-made men implies “an individual independence of the past and present which can never exist” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 5). Self-made men are only an ideal one can come very close to. In his speech Douglass continues as if they really existed, but he is aware of the fact that they actually do not exist.

Douglass suggests that the term illustrates an idea of men “who under peculiar difficulties and without the ordinary helps of favoring circumstances, have attained knowledge, usefulness, power and position and have learned from themselves the best uses which life can be put in this world, and in the exercises of these uses to build up worthy character.” According to Douglass they are men “who owe little or nothing to birth, relationship, friendly surrounding; to wealth inherited or to early approved means of education; who are what they are, without the aid of any favoring conditions by which other men usually rise in the word and achieve great results“(Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 6-7).

First, it is important to find out if the author means males or people. The word men is not transparent. Its ambiguity suggests two meanings – state of being male and state of being human. For instance, in another place within the speech, Douglass speaks about self-made men being “professors or plowmen” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 7), it is quite clear that he thinks males. Women were not supposed to be professors or plowmen at that time.

Second, according to Douglass self-made men may be of different origin – they may be Caucasian, Indian, Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-African (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 7). By stating that, Douglass exceeds ethnic differences.

As for the character and physical traits of self-made men, extremely high intelligence is not required for becoming a self-made person, Douglass believes that even quite simple people may achieve great success if they are diligent (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 9).

The same applies to the physically weak or persons with impairments. Douglass supports that idea with the example of an English poet, Milton, who was blind (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 22). This is another territory in which Douglass defies common arrogant opinions. In this case, he encompasses negative views on physical and psychical impairments.

Why are self-made men important according to Douglass? Douglass does not state it directly, but it is quite obvious that he thinks that if people of different origin than Euro-American would become successful, the views of the society on these people and the behavior towards them would change significantly.

How can success be achieved? Even nowadays people believe that luck is responsible for success. It was the same at the time of Frederick Douglass. The author vehemently refuses the then popular theory of good luck. In his speech he says:

“Fortune may crowd a man’s life with fortunate circumstances and happy opportunities, but they will, as we all know, avail him nothing unless he makes a wise and vigorous use of them” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 11).

Douglass does not believe in the influence of supernatural intervention either. He supports this with an argument that if God was responsible for making self-made men successful, He would also be responsible for making the Afro-Americans slaves. The Euro-Americans would not be guilty then, because slavery was God’s doing (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 12).

What are the real causes of success? According to Douglass they are work (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 14), industriousness, a desire to improve oneself, one’s own action, order, systematic endeavor and motivation.

Douglass states that “there is nothing good, great or desirable which man can possess in this world, that does not come by some kind of labor of physical or mental, moral or spiritual” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 13).

Douglass also claims that self-made man is successful because “he was awake while we slept. He was busy while we were idle and was wisely improving his time and talents while we were wasting ours” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 14).

Another fact that the author stresses is the desire to improve oneself and also one’s own action. “He who does not think himself worth saving from poverty or ignorance by his own efforts, will hardly be thought worth the efforts of anybody else” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 15).

Work, and in addition, order and systematic endeavor (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 22). are a must if one aspires for success. Douglass also mentions the power of motivation and lists its sources. “Happiness is the object of some. Wealth and fame are the objects of others. But wealth and fame are beyond the reach of majority of men, and thus, to them, these are not motive-impelling objects” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 24).

Another kind of motivation is necessity. Douglass claims that “something is likely to be done when something must be done” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 17). He supports this argument with the example of Africa. Douglass considers Africa glorious for her palms and not for her men, because in Africa “man finds, without effort, food, raiment and shelter. For him, there Nature has done all and he has done nothing.” Douglass believes that people are generally lazier in hotter climates and more industrious in colder climates (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 17-18).

As well as the roads to success are portrayed, the causes that hamper the self-making process are also mentioned. One of them is laziness. The other are: doing things halfway, lack of patience and perseverance, but the main cause is man himself. Douglass declares that “men who, in their noisy and impulsive pursuit of knowledge, never get beyond the outer bark of an idea, from a lack of patience and perseverance to dig to the core; men who begin everything and complete nothing; who see, but do not perceive; who read, but forget what they read, and are as if they had not read; who travel but go nowhere in particular, and have nothing of value to impart when they return. Such men may have greatness thrust upon them but they never achieve greatness“ (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 20). According to Douglass: ”nothing can bring to man so much of happiness or so much of misery as man himself” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 3).

An interesting fact is that Douglass disapproves of sports and pleasure. “The time, money and strength devoted to these phantoms, would banish darkness and hunger from every hearthstone in our land” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 24). The orator suggests that people should use their time and direct their energies on work because truly industrious men find pleasure in it.

Douglass also criticizes success gained through “meanness, trickery, fraud and dishonor.” He uses a metaphor of a ship to illustrate that. “Man can do a great many things; some easily and some with difficulty, but he cannot build a sound ship with rotten timber. Her model may be faultless; her spars may be the finest and her canvas the whitest and the flags of all nations may be displayed at her masthead, but she will go down in the first storm“ (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 21).

Another subject that Douglass criticizes is “a class of very small men who turn their backs upon any one who presumes to be anybody, independent of Harvard, Yale, Princeton or other similar institutions of learning. These individuals cannot believe that any good can come out of Nazareth. With them, the diploma is more than the man” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 36-37). We may assume that Douglass means himself when he says “one who presumes to be anybody” and he is probably speaking of some verbal attack on his person due to his lack of formal education. By the statement about Nazareth Douglass also lists Jesus among self-made men, and thus implies that he himself and Jesus have something in common. In fact, Nazareth is actually a town in Pennsylvania about 100 miles away from Carlisle and about 65 miles distant from Princeton, which creates a double meaning in the usage of the name. However, no serious conclusion can be drawn from this because it is not certain that Douglass knew about that town.

As opposed to his criticism of overestimating a university diploma, Douglass claims that he is not against learning (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 37). In addition, he states that “a self-made man is also liable to be full of contraries,” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 38), which might justify his views.

Douglass also says that self-made men are often assailed because they are indebted only to themselves and that makes them naturally think well of themselves. He notes that they often “state a very humble fact in a very haughty manner” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 38).

In defense of self-made men, Douglass claims that there is no reason to think that either wealth, knowledge or power will be monopolized by the few as against many in the U.S. America is said to be home of self-made men because the values representing the Dream of Upward Mobility, The Dream of Equality, the power of being masters of one’s own destiny, A Belief in New Beginnings, the ever present change and universal suffrage, will preserve it from the danger of being monopolized by a close group of people (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 31-35).

To summarize Douglass’ speech, the address is quite unique. The man unfolds his own theory of self-made men, in which he encompasses racial and other prejudices. He does this through addressing people of different origin than Euro-American and stating that almost everyone is entitled to become a self-made person.

In terms of language within the speech, Douglass’ style is light and swift. Throughout the speech Douglass uses plentiful of metaphors to give a better idea of his opinions, which make the speech truly engaging. For example, he puts forward “We cannot serve two masters. When here, we cannot be there” (Douglass, “Self-Made Men” 25).

Another interesting aspect of Douglass’ speech is that the man is speaking about himself, yet he often generalizes it on almost every self-made man. He is also not exactly modest, he presumes to be someone, but he is not boasting either. He may be also considered brave; delivering the speech on school’s premises, and claiming that formal education is not necessary.

3.2 The Address of Stephen Grover Cleveland

In Douglass’ speech we first estimated the year of its origin, then we analyzed the composition of the audience, later we considered his definition of self-made men. Then we found who can be self-made according to Douglass and why self-made men are important. We also looked into ways how to become or not become self-made and we inquired into criticism of self-made men as well. Last but not least, we explored Douglass’ speaking style. With Cleveland’s speech, we are going to proceed in a similar manner.

In 1897, the former American president, Stephen Grover Cleveland, gave a speech with a similar theme to Douglass’ at Princeton University, upon the occasion of anniversary of its founding in 1746. The speech was called The Self-Made Man in American Life.

Grover Cleveland and Frederick Douglass knew each other, as was proven earlier, but that Cleveland knew Douglass’ speech as well cannot be concluded and therefore any influence of Douglass’ speech on Cleveland’s cannot be solidly backed up.

There is also a high probability that unlike Douglass’ audience, Cleveland’s consisted mainly of males. Princeton was typical boys-only school. First women graduated there only in 1970 (Snowden).

Who are self-made men according to Cleveland? Cleveland defines self-made men as “those who have won honorable success in spite of discouraging surroundings, and who have made themselves great and useful in their day and generation through the sheer force of indomitable will and courage” (Cleveland 9). Cleveland also introduces a new term – educated self-made men, even though it is not a part of his definition of self-made men.

In comparison with Douglass’ definition, Cleveland’s is broader. Unlike Douglass’ it says nothing about the necessity of lack of education and family upbringing in order to be considered self-made men. That is why even people with formal education can fit in. It seems as if Cleveland tailored this definition on himself. He would not actually fit into the Douglass’ definition of self-made men. He had both, mother and father, and he also experienced institutional education. On the other hand, Douglass would easily fit into his own definition as well as Cleveland’s.

Even though Cleveland is considering the topic of self-made men “with the mass of our American citizenship constantly” before his mind (Cleveland 17), when he speaks about self-made men, it is rather clear that he means males. This conclusion is soundly based on the fact that Cleveland views self-made men as future farmers, businessmen and politicians (Cleveland 16). At the time of the origin of the speech, farmer and businessman were typically male jobs. Women were also considered rather passive, as was stated earlier in this thesis, and they were not expected to be self-made.

Cleveland sees that not every self-made man is a good man and therefore he divides self-made men into two categories. In the first category there are men whose success is “clean and wholesome” and who use it to make their fellows “better and happier.” In the second, there are men who clutch their success for selfish gratification, who are “bankrupt in character, sordidly mean, useless as citizens, or of evil influence” in their relations with their fellows. Cleveland views the second category as self-made men “not worth the making” (Cleveland 12).

Why are, according to Cleveland, the good self-made men important? Cleveland states that educated self-made men are needed in business, on farms, in politics and everywhere else. They are important because they might raise the standard of intelligence within their field of influence. They are also significant for the evidence that “education is a profitable factor in all vocations and in all the ordinary affairs of a community” (Cleveland 16). This orientation of self-made men towards the workplace is typical for 20th century. Cleveland therefore predicts the direction of its development.

It is indisputable that Cleveland believed that if there were educated self-made men in every kind of job and especially in politics, the situation of the society would have been much better. In his speech he proclaims:

“A just people willing to concede equal rights and privileges to every citizen, would enforce justice and equality in their government; a frugal and economical people would command frugality and economy in the public administration; a people who valued integrity and morality would exact them in high places; a people who held sacred the honor of their country would insist upon its scrupulous protection and defense; and a people who love peace would not again suffer the humiliation of seeing dashed from their proud gasp, the almost ripened hope of leadership among the nations of the earth, in the high mission of driving out the cruel barbarities of war by the advent of the pacific methods of international arbitration.

Happy is the land where examples of heroism and wise statesmanship abound, but happier far is the land where the people rule; and fortunate above all are those people when their government is controlled, watched, and defended by the virtue, patriotism, and intelligence of millions of truly self-made men” (Cleveland 31-32).
How one becomes successful according to Cleveland? Some people believed that the success of the self-made men originated from the obstacles that they had to overcome. Cleveland tries to contradict this believe with an argument that it is just a correlation and not a causality (Cleveland 10). The true source of self-made men lies in their nature which consists of qualities that “make them strong men” (Cleveland 9), according to Cleveland’s definition of self-made men, these are will and courage.

Cleveland also states that self-made men “can only be the products of self-endeavor and struggle – often to overcome external difficulties and disadvantages, and always to improve whatever opportunities are within their reach” (Cleveland 13).

Cleveland adds that “education is vitally important” in the construction of self-made men He believes that common schools play an important role in the process of one’s self-improvement, but they cannot compare in quality and certainty of results with universities and colleges (Cleveland 14).

Even though Cleveland’s belief in merits of education for society is strong, he is aware of the fact that education itself is not a guarantee of peace and safety. He presents the example of French revolution. “When direful anarchy held possession of the proud capital of France and drenched her streets in blood, education, though not absent, failed to stay the fury that decreed the horrors of those appalling days” (Cleveland 19-20). According to Cleveland education cannot replace the value of morality and religion.

The author underlines morality as one of the most important aspects of a self-made character because “self-made man will be exposed to the warping distortion of temptation from without, and to the corrosion of selfishness from within”
(Cleveland 22). Morality, according to Cleveland, should be promoted from the early stages of childhood. Within a child, obedience, conscience, and affection “should not only be carefully protected by the man against injury and harm, but should grow stronger” with growth (Cleveland 21) because children are potentially the future self-made men.
All in all, Cleveland claims that for a construction of good self-made men, the following instruments and materials are needed: will, courage, self-endeavor, education, morality and religion.

Cleveland’s opinions on the construction of self-made men do not contradict those of Douglass. Both men rather complement each other, maybe with exception of education and religion. Douglass does not consider those key to self-making, but he is not openly opposed to them either.

As for criticism of self-made men, Cleveland views the whole idea of such men as exaggerated, romantic and sentimental (Cleveland 8). Cleveland also condemns hoarding riches or cumulating too much education. Such behavior is viewed sordid by Cleveland, as well as a disdain for the poor or less educated (Cleveland 24). “The rich man should restrain himself from harboring, or having appearance of harboring, any feeling of purse-proud superiority over his less wealthy fellows.” “Also the man of education should carefully keep himself from the indulgence, or seeming indulgence, in a supercilious loftiness towards his fellow-citizens” (Cleveland 25). The expression “harboring or having appearance of harboring feeling of purse-proud superiority” is quite ambiguous. It either means that someone just looks proud, even if he is not, or it might imply that somebody has such feelings and should mask them. In the latter case Cleveland’s suggestion would be quite hypocritical.

To summarize Cleveland’s speech, the language used in the speech is rather difficult. The sentences tend to be long and many ornate adjectives and verbs are used. For example the expression churlish curmudgeon is quite remarkable (Cleveland 11).

The speech and the views that it contains correspond to Cleveland’s personality and to the type of self-made man that Cleveland was.

Many interesting opinions on education and wealth, and the relationship between them as well as their relationship to self-made men are included in the speech. Nevertheless, the address might be considered quite conforming when the education is discussed on the academic grounds. Within Douglass, this conformity cannot be found.

3.3 A Comparison of Cleveland’s and Douglass’ Speeches

Grover Cleveland was a former president of the United States of America. Frederick Douglass was primarily a famous abolitionist. The first named was a Democrat, the latter a Republican. Both men can be considered self-made, but there is a vast difference between these two. Whereas Douglass had no experience with formal education and grew up separated from his family, Cleveland went to school and had both, mother and father.

Their differing life experiences shed light on the difference of their views. While Douglass believed that self-improvement will lead to gaining racial equality and enforcement of human rights, Cleveland considered self-made men a force that will bring a change to political situation and society in general.

In terms of language used in the speeches, Douglass’ style is more engaging. Cleveland uses longer sentences and ornate words. Unlike Douglass, the other author does not use any addressing to make contact with his audience.

Douglass’ audience was made up of Native-American boys as well as girls, while Cleveland was with a high probability speaking to young men of Euro-American origin only. From the two men, only Douglass therefore overstepped the boundaries of his own ethnicity and gender while delivering the speech.

In comparison with Douglass’ speech, Cleveland was more tendentious, speaking on academic grounds, he focused more on education. Douglass on the other hand, was not afraid to state that formal education is not necessary for the formation of self-made men, even though he was on school’s premises as well.

As for the definition of self-made men, Douglass claims that there are no such men, whereas Cleveland considers the idea of self-made men exaggerated, enveloped with glamour, sentiment and romantic views.

For Douglass’ definition, it is typical that he stresses the lack of means of education, ordinary helps or favoring circumstances, birth status or relationship.

Cleveland’s definition omits birth or education. Cleveland’s self-made men just became successful despite discouraging surroundings. It almost seems as if each of the men tailored the definition on himself. Whereas Cleveland’s definition is broader and it would include Douglass, Douglass’ definition is stricter, and Cleveland, whose family enabled him to gain at least basic education and also helped him to get a solid and also prominent job, would not fit in it.

While Douglass directly claims that people of all races could become self-made, Cleveland only mentions equality marginally.

As Douglass within the speech refuses the theory of good luck, similarly Cleveland rejects the theory that views obstacles as an origin of self-made men.

For Douglass it is work, order, endeavor, industriousness and a desire to improve oneself, sometimes motivated by necessity that leads to success of self-made men. On the other hand, laziness, lack of patience, doing things hallway and perseverance lead nowhere. Cleveland’s view complements it. The man believes that it is will, courage and constant endeavor that enable some people to achieve success.

Douglass as well as Cleveland also describes success gained through trickery and dishonesty and both men condemn such conduct.

Regarding criticism of self-made men, Douglass sees cause of hostility towards them in their ability to speak in a haughty manner and he also criticizes their contempt for institutions of formal education, while previously stating that formal education is not necessary for creation of self-made men. Cleveland, on the other hand sees reasons for negative views on the highly educated self-made men because of their contempt for less educated people. Rich people may be criticized as well if they look down on poor.

Both speeches offer different views on self-made men. Cleveland´s speech is heading towards the ideas of the 20th century. He sees educated self-made men in a workplace. These men should according to him contribute to improvement of general society. Douglass on the other hand, visions self-made men of various origins improving social status of their fellow men, because they may function as a model and proof of success, which they may possibly achieve if they work hard enough.

Whereas Cleveland in his speech goes beyond the time and anticipates the development of the concept of self-made man, Douglass surpasses views on ethnicity, gender and impairments.

4 Conclusion

In the first part of the thesis, the concept of the American Dream and self-made men, and their mutual relationship was discussed.

The second part focused on lives and time of Frederick Douglass and Stephen Grover Cleveland. It was done in order to portray the events and experiences that influenced the authors’ views on the philosophy of self-made men.

The last, but not least part of the thesis was practical. A research into Douglass’ and Cleveland’s speeches was done and the opinions which they held were described.

To recapitulate the findings of the research, Cleveland, who was a politician and former president of the United States of America, believed that self-made men should be educated self-made men. These men should be beneficial to politics and society in general. According to Cleveland, self-made men originate from constant endeavor and they should manifest their abilities in the workplace. Even though Cleveland lived in the 19th century for major part of his life, his views anticipate the development of the concept of self-made men in the 20th century.

The popular abolitionist and politician, Frederick Douglass, on the other hand, surpassed ethnicity, gender and views on impairments in his speech. Douglass believed that anyone, regardless of their birth or social status, may become self-made person if they work hard enough. The man also hoped that self-made people might function as models and a living prove of the fact that anyone, regardless of their race or skin-tone, is capable of gaining great achievements and thus demonstrate that people of all races are equal.

It can be stated that views on self-made men differ in Douglass and Cleveland. However, both authors do not contradict each other too much. They rather complement each other’s opinions. If combined, they form an interesting and complex study of the concept of self-made men.

There is no solid prove that either of the speeches influenced anybody. On the other hand, it would be rather peculiar if none of them did, if we consider how many times each speech was delivered or read.


The theme of this thesis was the concept of self-made men as viewed and addressed by two orators in their speeches.

The Self-made Men speech by the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass was analyzed as well as the speech The Self-made Man in American Life by the former president of the United States, Stephen Grover Cleveland.

The opinions of the men were also supported by the information on their life experiences, which were crucial for their formation.

The overall picture seems that Cleveland surpassed his time and Douglass went beyond the then views on ethnicity, gender and impairments.

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