Russell Cornwall – Acres of Diamonds

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


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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