Influential Past Teachers

The Measure of a Man

by Earl Nightingale: Have you ever wondered what the measure of a real man is?  Well, one time a man by the name of W.C. Brann wrote a thing called, A Man’s Real Measure. It goes like this:

“The place to take the true measure of a man is not in the darkest place or in the amen corner, nor the cornfield, but by his own fireside.  There he lays aside his mask and you may learn whether he is an imp or an angel, cur or king, hero or humbug.  I care not what the world says of him; whether it crowns him boss or pelts him with bad eggs.  I care not a copper what his reputation or religion may be; if his babies dread his homecoming and his better half swallows her heart every time she has to ask him for a five-dollar bill, he is a fraud of the first water, even though he prays night and morning until he is blue in the face and howls hallelujah until he shakes the eternal hills.  But if his children rush to the front door to meet him and love’s sunshine illuminates the face of his wife every time she hears his footfall, you can take it for granted that he is pure, for his home is a haven  and the humbug never gets that near the great white throne of God.  He may buy votes in blocks of five, and bet on the elections; he may deal ‘em from the bottom of the deck and drink beer until he can’t tell a silver dollar from a circular saw, and still be an infinitely better man than the cowardly little humbug who is all suavity in society but who makes home a hell, who vents upon the helpless heads of his wife and children an ill nature he would inflict on his fellow men but dare not. I can forgive much in that fellow mortal who would rather make men swear than women weep; who would rather have the hate of the whole world than the contempt of his wife; who would rather call anger to the eyes of a king than fear to the face of a child”.

That’s the measure of a man according to W. C. Brann, and I agree with him.  I imagine you sort of got the idea that Mr. Brann is a man who says what he thinks and let’s the chip fly and fall where they may; and he was that kind of a man.

His full name was William Cowper Brann, born 1855. He was shot to death in a duel in Waco, Texas at the young age of 43.  He was an American journalist, and he founded a paper in Waco, called (wouldn’t you know it) The Iconoclast.  He called it a journal designed to break foolish idols and shatter false ideals.  He made violent attacks on what he considered sham, fraud, and  a word he used frequently, humbug.  He thus stirred up a lot of hostility by people who weren’t used to having the truth about them printed in the paper.  And in those wild days, particularly in the Southwest following the Civil War and before the turn of the century, a man could get killed for that sort of thing.  Brann knew this but he printed it anyway and he was killed by a fast man with a gun in 1898.  Not, however, before he had published his paper, The Iconoclast, for seven years.

I’ve mentioned that he used the word “humbug” a lot. “Humbug”  was a very common word in those days. You probably remember Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, by Dickens, saying, “Bah! Humbug!”

The word “humbug” is defined in the dictionary as meaning, “A deluding trick; a hoax; a fraud; quality of falseness or deception, a  cheat, an imposter”.  The origin of the word is unknown. While Mr. Brann was undoubtedly a character  and quite a writer, he certainly was not a humbug.

Men like Brann, who would rather die for what they believe than live by keeping quiet about what they hate, dot the pages of history as monument to progress.  Not one of them is unimportant.

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