To William Cox Cochran

8 Februrary 1873


[Autograph signed letter in the possession of Mrs. Ellen Speers, 3915 Sierra Drive, Austin, Texas 78731. The sections of the letter in italics are in the handwriting of Finney's wife Rebecca Rayl Finney.]


Oberlin 8th Feb. 1873.

Dear Willy,

Since I wrote you last

I have been thinking more

of the probable results of

your remaining with your

Father. If you lean upon

him instead of studying

up the cases for yourself it

it will perpetuate your

clerkship merely & keep

you weak & dependent.

Again if you have not

the responsibility of working

through the causes it will

keep you weak, and again,

I if you do not appear prominently

in conducting the cases, you will

gain no reputation as a lawyer.

And again, I fear your Father cannot

afford, for many years to come, to

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^ you forward, and give you the

prominent place, and consequently, the repu-

tation of being the leading man in the

office. If he were already advanced in life,

and rich, he might afford to ride

you into practice upon his shoulders.

He might get behind and boost you

into public favor, and retire himself

from business. As it is, if your Father

rolls much responsibility upon you, and

shirks, himself, he'll ruin his own

business. If he keeps the laboring oar

in his own hands, as it would seem

he must necessarily do, it will keep

you in the back-ground, weak, irresponsible,

dependent, inefficient, and without professional

reputation. Upon the whole, I am afraid that

my last letter was calculated to make a

wrong impression upon you, that is, one

inconsistent with your highest interests.

After much reflection, I am settled in

the opinion, that the sooner you throw

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yourself squarely in front of such a

business as you can get, the better it

will be for you. It will require hard

study, much circumspection, and a deep

feeling of responsibility. It will, at first,

cost much labor, and perhaps small pay,

but then, what you do, you will have

the credit of doing, and it will be sure

to pay in the end. A lawyer can never

rise, except by hard climbing. He can

never, safely, ascend like a balloon. If per-

chance he should, for a little while, he'll be sure

to fall as rapidly as he rose. There is no royal

road to lasting eminence in your profession.

It is a very laborious one & at no

period can a lawyer afford

to be careless & superficial

because if he relaxes for a

day his antagonist will

trip & floor him. This he

can not avoid or afford.

Hard, close, exact work

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must be the lawyers motto or

he had better quit the

profession. You are now

a single man & can live cheap.

If now you can work up a good

business, you can afford to marry, and

start off with the brightest prospects.

But, unless you are going to be a

permanent member of your Father's

firm, the longer you remain in it,

the later in life, if ever, will

you come into prominence.

I have partly written, and

partly dictated this letter, as you

see. Dolson is still with us. His

hand is getting well . All send

love. God Bless you all,

C. G. Finney.



"it" is repeated in the original.

Dolson Cox had sustained an injury at work during his apprenticeship with the Cleveland Iron Company:

I was grinding a planer tool on a badly worn out and cracked grindstone. The point of the tool caught in the crack of the grindstone and carried my left hand down into the frame of the machine, pinching off the ends of two of my fingers. This made it impossible for me to work for some time and those days of idleness I spent at Oberlin. Aunt Angie was visiting at grandfather's at the time, and every day she and I used to go over to the chemical laboratory to attend the lectures on physics by Dr. Dascomb (Jacob Dolcon Cox, Sr., Building An American Industry [The Cleveland Twist Drill Co, 1951], p.72).