/,J . }
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ETERNAL LIFE SERIES.
Selections from the writings of well-known religious authors'
works, beautifully printed and daintily bound in leatherette
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PRICE. 25 CENTS PER VOLUME.
ETERNAL LIFE, by Professor Henry Drummond.
LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY, by Rev. Andrew Murray.
GOD'S WORD AND GOD'S WORK, by Martin Luther.
FAITH, by Thomas Arnold.
THE CREATION STORY, by Honorable William E.
THE MESSAGE OF COMFORT, by Rt. Rev. Ashton
THE MESSAGE OF PEACE, by Rev. R. W. Church.
THE LORD'S PRAYER AND THE TEN COM-
MANDMENTS, by Dean Stanley.
THE MEMOIRS OF JESUS, by Rev. Robert F. Horton.
HYMNS OF PRAISE AND GLADNESS, by Elisabeth
DIFFICULTIES, by Hannah Whitall Smith.
GAMBLERS AND GAMBLING, by Rev. Henry Ward
HAVE FAITH IN GOD, by Rev. Andrew Murray.
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY, by Rev. Henry
THE CHRIST IN WHOM CHRISTIANS BELIEVE,
by Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks.
IN MY NAME, by Rev. Andrew Murray.
SIX WARNINGS, by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher.
THE DUTY OF THE CHRISTIAN BUSINESS MAN,
by Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks.
POPULAR AMUSEMENTS, by Rev. Henry Ward
TRUE LIBERTY, by Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks.
INDUSTRY AND IDLENESS, by Rev. Henry Ward
THE BEAUTY OF A LIFE OF SERVICE, by Rt.
Rev. Phillips Brooks.
THE SECOND COMING OF OUR LORD, by Rev. A.
THOUGHT AND ACTION, by Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks.
THE HEAVENLY VISION, by Rev. F. B. Meyer.
MORNING STRENGTH, by Elisabeth R. Scovil.
FOR THE QUIET HOUR, by Edith V. Bradt.
EVENING COMFORT, by Elisabeth R. Scovil.
WORDS OF HELP FOR CHRISTIAN GIRLS, by
Rev. F. B. Meyer.
HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE, by Rev. Dwight L.
EXPECTATION CORNER, by E- S. Elliot.
JESSICA'S FIRST PRAYER, by Hesba Stretton.
507, 500, 511, 513 Cherry Street, Philadelphia.
HENRY WARD BEECHER.
By Rev. Henry
COPYRIGHTED 1896 '
BY HENRY ALTEMUS
HENRY AI.TBMUS. MANUFACTURER
TWELVE CAUSES OF
ONLY extraordinary circumstances can
give the appearance of dishonesty to
an honest man. Usually, not to seem
honest, is not to be so. The quality must
not be doubtful like twilight, lingering
between night and day and taking hues from
both; it must be day-light, clear, and efful-
gent. This is the doctrine of the Bible :
Providing for honest tilings, not only in the
siglitof the Lord, BUT ALSO IN THE SIGHT OF
MEN. In general it may be said that no one
has honesty without dross, until he has
honesty without suspicion.
We are passing through times upon
which the seeds of dishonesty have been
sown broadcast, and they have brought forth
a hundred-fold. These times will pass
away; but like ones will come again. As
4 TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
physicians study the causes and record the
phenomena of plagues and pestilences, to
draw from them an antidote against their
recurrence, so should we leave to another
generation a history of moral plagues, as the
best antidote to their recurring malignity.
Upon a land, capacious beyond measure,
whose prodigal soil rewards labor with an
unharvestable abundance of exuberant
fruits, occupied by a people signalized by
enterprise and industry, there came a sum-
mer of prosperity which lingered so long
and shone so brightly, that men forgot that
winter could ever come. Each day grew
brighter. No reins were put upon the
imagination. Its dreams passed for realities.
Even sober men, touched with wildness,
seemed to expect a realization of oriental
tales. Upon this bright day came sudden
frosts, storms, and blight. Men awoke from
gorgeous dreams in the midst of desolation.
The harvests of years were swept away in
a day. The strongest firms were rent as
easily as the oak by lightning. Speculating
companies were dispersed as seared leaves
from a tree in autumn. Merchants were
ruined by thousands ; clerks turned adrift
by ten thousands. Mechanics were left
in idleness. Farmers sighed over flocks
and wheat as useless as the stones and dirt.
The wide sea of commerc was stagnant;
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
upon the realm of Industry settled down a
Out of this reverse swarmed an unnum-
bered host of dishonest men, like vermin
from a carcass. Banks were exploded, or
robbed, or fleeced by astounding forgeries.
Mighty companies, without cohesion, went
to pieces, and hordes of wretches snatched
up every bale that came ashore. Cities
were ransacked by troops of villains. The
unparalleled frauds, which sprung like
mines on every hand, set every man to
trembling lest the next explosion should be
under his own feet. Fidelity seemed to
have forsaken men. Many that had earned
a reputation for sterling honesty were cast
so suddenly headlong into wickedness, that
man shrank from man. Suspicion overgrew
confidence, and the heart bristled with the
nettles and thorns of fear and jealousy.
Then had almost come to pass the divine
delineation of ancient wickedness : The good
man is perished out of the earth: and there is
none upright among men : they all lie in wait
for blood ; they hunt every man his brother
with a net. That they may do evil with
both hands earnestly, the prince and the judge
ask for a reward: and the great man utter-
eth his mischievous desire ; so they wrap it
up. The best of them is a brier ; the most
upright is sharper than a thorn hedge. The
6 TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
world looked upon a continent of inex-
haustible fertility, (whose harvest had
glutted the markets, and rotted in disuse,)
filled with lamentation, and its inhabitants
wandering like bereaved citizens among the
ruins of an earthquake, mourning for chil-
dren, for houses crushed, and property
That no measure might be put to the
calamity, the Church of God, which rises a
stately tower of refuge to desponding men,
seemed now to have lost its power of pro-
tection. When the solemn voice of Re-
ligion should have gone over the land, as
the call of God to guilty man to seek in
him their strength ; in this time when Re-
ligion should have restored sight to the
blind, made the lame to walk, and bound
up the broken-hearted, she was herself
mourning in sackcloth. Out of her courts
came the noise of warring sects ; some con-
tending against others with bitter warfare;
and some, possessed of a demon, wallowed
upon the ground foaming and rending
themselves. In a time of panic, and disas-
ter, and distress, and crime, the fountain
which should have been for the healing of
men, cast up its sediments, and gave out
a bitter stream of pollution.
In every age, an universal pestilence has
hushed the clamor of contention, and cooled
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY 7
the heats of parties ; but the greatness of
our national calamity seemed only to en-
kindle the fury of political parties. Con-
tentions never ran with such deep streams
and impetuous currents, as amidst the ruin
of our industry and prosperity. States
were greater debtors to foreign nations, than
their citizens were to each other. Both
states and citizens shrunk back from their
debts, and yet more dishonestly from the
taxes necessary to discharge them. The
General Government did not escape, but
lay becalmed, or pursued its course, like a
ship, at every furlong touching the rocks,
or beating against the sands. The Capitol
trembled with the first waves of a question
which is yet to shake the whole land. New
questions of exciting qualities perplexed
the realm of legislation, and of morals. To
all this must be added a manifest decline
of family government ; an increase
of the ratio of popular ignorance ; a de-
crease of reverence for law, and an effemi-
nate administration of it. Popular tumults
have been as frequent as freshets in our
rivers ; and like them, have swept over the
land with desolation, and left their filthy
slime in the highest places : upon the
press ; upon the legislature ; in the halls
of our courts ; and even upon the sacred
bench of Justice. If unsettled times foster
8 TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
dishonesty, it should have flourished among
us. And it has.
Our nation must expect a periodical re-
turn of such convulsions ; but experience
should steadily curtail their ravages, and
remedy their immoral tendencies. Young
men have before them lessons of manifold
wisdom taught by the severest of masters
experience. They should be studied ; and
that they may be, I shall, from this general
survey, turn to a specific enumeration of
the causes of dishonesty.
1. Some men find in their bosom from
the first, a vehement inclination to dishon-
est ways. Knavish propensities are in-
herent: born with the child and transmissi-
ble from parent to son. The children of a
sturdy thief, if taken from him at birth and
reared by honest men, would, doubtless,
have to contend against a strongly dishon-
est inclination. Foundlings and orphans
under public charitable charge, are more
apt to become vicious than other children.
They are usually born of low and vicious
parents, and inherit their parents' propen-
sities. Only the most thorough moral
training can overrule this innate deprav-
2. A child naturally fair-minded, may
become dishonest by parental example. He
is early taught to be sharp in bargains, and
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY g
vigilant for every advantage. Little is said
about honesty, and much upon shrewd
traffic. A dexterous trick, becomes a
family anecdote ; visitors are regaled with
the boy's precocious keenness. Hearing
the praise of his exploits, he studies craft,
and seeks parental admiration by adroit
knaveries. He is taught, for his safety,
that he must not range beyond the law:
that would be unprofitable. He calculates
his morality thus : Legal honesty is the best
policy, dishonesty, then, is a bad bargain
and therefore wrong everything is
wrong which is unthrifty. Whatever profit
breaks no legal statute though it is gained
by falsehood, by unfairness, by gloss ;
through dishonor, unkindness, and an un-
scrupulous conscience he considers fair,
and says : The law allows it. Men may
spend a long life without an indictable
action, and without an honest one. No
law can reach the insidious ways of subtle
craft. The law allows, and religion forbids
men, to profit by others' misfortunes, to
prowl for prey among the ignorant, to over-
reach the simple, to suck the last life-drops
from the bleeding ; to hover over men as a
vulture over herds, swooping down upon
the weak, the straggling, and the weary.
The infernal craft of cunning men, turns the
law itself to piracy, and works outrageous
IO TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
fraud in the hall of Courts, by the decision
of judges, and under the seal of Justice.
3. Dishonesty is learned from one's em-
ployers. The boy of honest parents and
honestly bred, goes to a trade, or a store,
where the employer practises legal frauds.
The plain honesty of the boy excites roars
of laughter among the better taught clerks.
,The master tells them that such blundering
truthfulness must be pitied ; the boy evi-
dently has been neglected, and is not to be
ridiculed for what he could not help. At
first, it verily pains the youth's scruples,
and tinges his face to frame a deliberate
dishonesty, to finish, and to polish it. His
tongue stammers at a lie ; but the example
of a rich master, the jeers and gibes of
shopmates, with gradual practice, cure all
this. He becomes adroit in fleecing custo-
mers for his master's sake, and equally
dexterous in fleecing his master for his own
4. EXTRAVAGANCE is a prolific source of
dishonesty. Extravagance, which is fool-
ish expense, or expense disproportionate to
one's means, may be found in all grades
of society ; but it is chiefly apparent among
the rich, those aspiring to wealth, and those
wishing to be thought affluent. Many a
young man cheats his business, by trans-
ferring his means to theatres, race-courses,
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
expensive parties, and to the nameless and
numberless projects of pleasure. The en-
terprise of others is baffled by the extrava-
gance of their family ; for few men can
make as much in a year as an extravagant
woman can carry on her back in one winter.
Some are ambitious of fashionable society,
and will gratify their vanity at any expense.
This disproportion between means and
expense soon brings on a crisis. The
victim is straitened for money ; without it
he must abandon his rank ; for fashionable
society remorselessly rejects all butterflies
which have lost their brilliant colors.
Which shall he choose, honesty and morti-
fying exclusion, or gaiety purchased by
dishonesty ? The severity of this choice
sometimes sobers the intoxicated brain ;
and a young man shrinks from the gulf,
appalled at the darkness of dishonesty.
But to excessive vanity, high-life with or
without fraud, is Paradise ; and any other
life Purgatory. Here many resort to dis-
honesty without a scruple. It is at this
point that public sentiment half sustains
dishonesty. It scourges the thief of Neces-
sity, and pities the thief of Fashion.
The struggle with others is on the very
ground of honor. A wife led from affluence
to frigid penury and neglect ; from leisure
and luxury to toil and want; daughters,
12 TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
once courted as rich, to be disesteemed
when poor, this is the gloomy prospect,
seen through a magic haze of despondency.
Honor, love and generosity, strangely be-
witched, plead for dishonesty as the only
alternative to such suffering. But go,
young man, to your wife ; tell her the alter-
native; if she is worthy of you, she will
face your poverty with a courage which
shall shame your fears, and lead you into
its wilderness and through it, all unshrink-
ing. Many there be who went weeping
into this desert, and ere long, having found
in it the fountains of the purest peace, have
thanked God for the pleasures of poverty.
But if your wife unmans your resolution,
imploring dishonor rather than penury,
may God pity and help you ! You dwell
with a sorceress, and few can resist her
5. DEBT is an inexhaustible fountain of
Dishonesty. The Royal Preacher tells us :
The borrower is servant to the lender. Debt
is a rigorous servitude. The debtor learns
the cunning tricks, delays, concealments,
and frauds, by which slaves evade or cheat
their master. He is tempted to make
ambiguous statements ; pledges, with secret
passages of escape ; contracts, with fraudu-
lent constructions; lying excuses, and
more mendacious promises. He is tempted
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
to elude responsibility; to delay settle-
ments ; to prevaricate upon the terms ; to
resist equity, and devise specious fraud.
When the eager creditor would restrain
such vagrancy by law, the debtor then
thinks himself released from moral obliga-
tion, and brought to a legal game, in which
it is lawful for the best player to win. He
disputes true accounts; he studies subter-
fuges ; extorts provocations delays ; and
harbors in every nook, and corner, and
passage, of the law's labyrinth. At length
the measure is filled up, and the malignant
power of debt is known. It has opened in
the heart every fountain of iniquity ; it has
besoiled the conscience ; it has tarnished
the honor ; it has made the man a deliber-
ate student of knavery; a systematic practi-
tioner of fraud: it has dragged him through
all the sewers of petty passions, anger,
hate, revenge, malicious folly, or malignant
shame. When a debtor is beaten at every
point, and the law will put her screws
upon him, there is no depth in the gulf of
dishonesty into which he will not boldly
plunge. Some men put their property to
the flames, assassinate the detested creditor,
and end the frantic tragedy by suicide, or
the gallows. Others, in view of the catas-
trophe, have converted all property to cash,
and concealed it. The law's utmost skill,
!4 TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
and the creditor's fury, are alike powerless
now, the tree- is green and thrifty ; its
roots drawing a copious supply from some
Craft has another harbor of resort for the
piratical crew of dishonesty; viz. : putting
the property out of the law's reach by a
fraudulent conveyance. Whoever runs in
debt, and consumes the equivalent of his
indebtedness ; whoever is fairly liable to
damage for broken contracts ; whoever by
folly, has incurred debts and lost the bene-
fit of his outlay ; whoever is legally obliged
to pay for his malice or carelessness ; who-
ever by infidelity to public trusts has made
his property a just remuneration for his
defaults ; whoever of all these, or who-
ever, under any circumstances, puts out of
his hands property, morally or legally due
to creditors, is A DISHONEST MAN. The
crazy excuses which men render to their
consciences, are only such as every villain
makes, who is unwilling to look upon the
black face of his crimes.
He who will receive a conveyance of prop-
erty, knowing it to be illusive and fraudu-
lent, is as wicked as the principal ; and as
much meaner, as the tool and subordinate
of villany is meaner than the master who
If a church, knowing all these facts, or
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY jr
wilfully ignorant of them, allows a member
to nestle in the security of the sanctuary ;
then the act of this robber, and the conniv-
ance of the church, are but the two parts of
6. BANKRUPTCY, although a branch of
debt, deserves a separate mention. It some-
times crushes a man's spirit, and sometimes
exasperates it. The poignancy of the evil
depends much upon the disposition of the
creditors ; and as much upon the disposi-
tion of the victim. Should they act with
the lenity of Christian men, and he with
manly honesty, promptly rendering up what-
ever satisfaction of debt he has, he may
visit the lowest places of human adversity,
and find there the light of good men's es-
teem, the support of conscience, and the
sustenance of religion.
A bankrupt may fall into the hands of
men whose tender-mercies are cruel ; or his
dishonest equivocations may exasperate
their temper and provoke every thorn and
brier of the law. When men's passions are
let loose, especially their avarice whetted
by real or imaginary wrong; when there is
a rivalry among creditors, lest any one
should feast upon the victim more than his
share; and they all rush upon him like
wolves upon a wounded deer, dragging him
down, ripping him open, breast and flank,
1 6 TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
plunging deep their bloody muzzles to reach
the heart and taste blood at the very foun-
tain ; is it strange that resistance is desper-
ate and unscrupulous? At length the suf-
ferer drags his mutilated carcass aside, every
nerve and muscle wrung with pain, and his
whole body an instrument of agony. He
curses the whole inhuman crew with en-
venomed imprecations ; and thenceforth, a
brooding misanthrope, he pays back to so-
ciety, by studied villanies, the legal wrongs
which the relentless justice of a few, or his
own knavery, have brought upon him.
7. There is a circle of moral dishonesties
practised because the LAW allows them.
The very anxiety of law to reach the de-
vices of cunning, so perplexes its statutes
with exceptions, limitations, and supple-
ments, that like a castle gradually enlarged
for centuries, it has its crevices, dark cor-
ners, secret holes and winding passages
an endless harbor for rats and vermin, where
no trap can catch them. We are villa-
nously infested with legal rats and rascals,
who are able to commit the most flagrant
dishonesties with impunity. They can do
all of wrong which is profitable, without
that part which is actionable. The very
ingenuity of these miscreants excites such
admiration of their skill, that their life is
gilded with a specious respectability. Men
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY j-
profess little esteem for blunt, necessitous
thieves, who rob and run away; but for a
gentleman who can break the whole of
God's law so adroitly, as to leave man's law
unbroken ; who can indulge in such con-
servative stealing that his fellow-men award
him a rank among honest men for the ex-
cessive skill of his dishonesty for such a
one, I fear, there is almost universal sym-
8. POLITICAL DISHONESTY, breeds dis-
honesty of every kind. It is possible for
good men to permit single sins to co-exist
with general integrity, where the evil is in-
dulged through ignorance. Once, un-
doubted Christians were slave-traders. They
might be, while unenlightened; but not in
our times. A state of mind which will in-
tend one fraud, will, upon occasions, intend
a thousand. He that upon one emergency
will lie, will be supplied with emergencies.
He that will perjure himself to save a friend,
will do it, in a desperate juncture, to save
himself. The highest Wisdom has informed
us that He tJiat is unjust in the least, is un-
just also in much. Ci rcumstances may with-
draw a politician from temptation to any
but political dishonesty ; but under temp-
tation, a dishonest politician would be a
dishonest cashier, would be dishonest
anywhere, in anything. The fury which
l8 TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
destroys an opponent's character, would
stop at nothing, if barriers were thrown
down. That which is true of the leaders
in politics, is true of subordinates. Politi-
cal dishonesty in voters runs into general dis-
honesty, as the rotten speck taints the
whole apple. A community whose politics
are conducted by a perpetual breach of
honesty on both sides, will be tainted by
immorality throughout. Men will play the
same game in their private affairs, which
they have learned to play in public matters.
The guile, the crafty vigilance, the dishon-
est advantage, the cunning sharpness; the
tricks and traps and sly evasions; the equiv-
ocal promises, and unequivocal neglect of
them, which characterize political action,
will equally characterize private action.
The mind has no kitchen to do its
dirty work in, while the parlor remains
clean. Dishonesty is an atmosphere ; if it
comes into one apartment, it penetrates into
every one. Whoever will lie in politics,
will lie in traffic. Whoever will slander in
politics, will slander in personal squabbles.
A professor of religion who is a dishonest
politician, is a dishonest Christian. His
creed is a perpetual index of his hypocrisy.
The genius of our government directs
the attention of every citizen to politics.
Its spirit reaches the uttermost bound of
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY T g
society, and pervades the whole mass. If
its channels are slimy with corruption, what
limit can be set to its malign influence?
The turbulence of elections, the virulence
of the press, the desperation of bad men,
the hopelessness of efforts which are not
cunning, but only honest, have driven many
conscientious men from any concern
with politics. This is suicidal. Thus the
tempest will grow blacker and fiercer. Our
youth will be caught up in its whirling bos-
om and dashed to pieces, and its hail will
break down every green thing. At God's
house the cure should begin. Let the
hand of discipline smite the leprous lips
which shall utter the profane heresy: All
is fair in politics. If any hoary professor,
drunk with the mingled wine of excite-
ment, shall tell our youth, that a Christian
man may act in politics by any other rule
of morality than that of the Bible ; and
that wickedness performed for a party, is
not as abominable, as if done for a man ; or
that any necessity justifies or palliates dis-
honesty in word or deed, let such a one
go out of the camp, and his pestilent breath
no longer spread contagion among our
youth. No man who loves his country,
should shrink from her side when she
groans with raging distempers. Let every
Christian man stand in his place; rebuke
20 TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
every dishonest practice ; scorn a political
as well as a personal lie ; and refuse with
indignation to be insulted by the solicitation
of an immoral man. Let good men of all
parties require honesty, integrity, veracity,
and morality in politics, and there, as pow-
erfully as anywhere else, the requisitions of
public sentiment will ultimately be felt.
9. A corrupt PUBLIC SENTIMENT produces
dishonesty. A public sentiment, in which
dishonesty is not disgraceful ; in which bad
men are respectable, are trusted, are hon-
ored, are exalted is a curse to the young.
The fever of speculation, the universal de-
rangement of business, the growing laxness
of morals, is, to an alarming extent, intro-
ducing such a state of things. Men of no-
torious immorality, whose dishonesty is
flagrant, whose private habits would dis-
grace the ditch, are powerful and popular.
I have seen a man stained with every sin,
except those which required courage ; into
whose head I do not think a pure thought
has entered for forty years ; in whose heart
an honorable feeling would droop for very
loneliness ; in evil he was ripe and rotten ;
hoary and depraved in deed, in word, in his
present life and in all his past; evil when
by himself, and viler among men ; corrupting
to the young ; to domestic fidelity, a rec-
reant; to common honor, a traitor; to
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY 2I
honesty, an outlaw ; to religion, a hypocrite ;
base in all that is worthy of man, and ac-
complished in whatever is disgraceful ; and
yet this wretch could go where he would;
enter good men's dwellings, and purloin
their votes. Men would curse him, yet obey
him; hate him and assist him; warn their
sons against him, and lead them to the polls
for him. A public sentiment which produces
ignominious knaves, cannot breed honest
Any calamity, civil or commercial, which
checks the administration of justice between
man and man, is ruinous to honesty. The
violent fluctuations of business cover the
ground with rubbish over which men stum-
ble; and fill the air with dust, in which
all the shapes of honesty appear distorted.
Men are thrown upon unusual expedients;
dishonesties are unobserved ; those who
have been reckless and profuse, stave off
the legitimate fruits of their folly by des-
perate shifts. We have not yet emerged from
a period, in which debts were insecure;
the debtor legally protected against the
rights of the creditor; taxes laid, not by
the requirements of justice, but for political
effect; and lowered to a dishonest insuffi-
ciency ; and when thus diminished, not col-
lected ; the citizens resisting their own offi-
cers ; officers resigning at the bidding of
2 2 TWEL VE CA USES OF DISH ONES 7 Y
the electors ; the laws of property paralyzed ;
bankrupt laws built up ; and stay-laws un-
constitutionally enacted, upon which the
courts look with aversion, yet fear to deny
them, lest the wildness of popular opinion
should roll back disdainfully upon the
bench, to despoil its dignity, and prostrate
its power. General suffering has made us
tolerant of general dishonesty ; and the
gloom of our commercial disaster threatens
to become the pall of our morals.
If the shocking stupidity of the public
mind to atrocious dishonesties is not
aroused ; if good men do not bestir them-
selves to drag the young from this foul
sorcery ; if the relaxed bands of honesty
are not tightened, and conscience intoned
to a severer morality, our night is at hand,
our midnight not far off. Woe to that
guilty people who sit down upon broken
laws, and wealth saved by injustice ! Woe
to a generation fed upon the bread of fraud,
whose children's inheritance shall be a per-
petual memento of their fathers' unright-
eousness ; to whom dishonesty shall be
made pleasant by association with the re-
vered memories of father, brother, and
But when a whole people, united by a
common disregard of justice, conspire to
defraud public creditors ; and States vie
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY 33
with States in an infamous repudiation of
just debts, by open or sinister methods j
and nations exert their sovereignty to protect
and dignify the knavery of a Common-
wealth ; then the confusion of domestic
affairs has bred a fiend, before whose flight
honor fades away, and under whose feet the
sanctity of truth and the religion of solemn
compacts are stamped down and ground into
the dirt. Need we ask the causes of grow-
ing dishonesty among the young, and the
increasing untrustworthiness of all agents,
when States are seen clothed with the pan-
oply of dishonesty, and nations put on
fraud for their garments ?
Absconding agents, swindling schemes,
and defalcations, occurring in such melan-
choly abundance, have at length ceased to
be wonders, and rank with the common
accidents of fire and flood. The budget of
each week is incomplete without its mob
and runaway cashier its duel and defaulter;
and as waves which roll to the shore are
lost in those which follow on, so the vil-
lanies of each week obliterate the record of
The mania of dishonesty cannot arise
from local causes ; it is the result of disease
in the whole community; an eruption be-
tokening foulness of the blood; blotches
symptomatic of a disordered system.
24 TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
IO. FINANCIAL AGENTS are especially lia-
ble to the temptations of Dishonesty. Safe
merchants, and visionary schemers; saga-
cious adventurers, and rash speculators;
frugal beginners, and retired millionaires,
are constantly around them. Every word,
every act, every entry, every letter, suggests
only wealth its germ, its bud, its blossom,
its golden harvest. Its brilliance dazzles the
sight ; its seductions stir the appetites ; its
power fires the ambition, and the soul con-
centrates its energies to obtain wealth, as
life's highest and only joy.
Besides the influence of such associations,
direct dealing in money as a commodity,
has a peculiar effect upon the heart.
There is no property between it and the
mind; no medium to mellow its light.
The mind is diverted and refreshed by no
thoughts upon the quality of soils ; the
durability of structures ; the advantages
of sites ; the beauty of fabrics ; it is not
invigorated by the necessity of labor and
ingenuity which the mechanic feels ; by
the invention of the artisan, or the taste
of the artist. The whole attention falls
directly upon naked Money. The hourly
sight of it whets the appetite, and sharpens
it to avarice. Thus, with an intense regard
of riches, steals in also the miser's relish of
coin rthat insatiate gazing and fondling,
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY 2 <-
by which seductive metal wins to itself all
the blandishments of love.
Those who mean to be rich, often begin
by imitating the expensive courses of those
who are rich. They are also tempted to
venture, before they have means of their
own, in brilliant speculations. How can a
young cashier pay the drafts of his illicit
pleasures, or procure the seed, for the
harvest of speculation, out of his narrow
salary ? Here first begins to work the
leaven of death. The mind wanders in
dreams of gain ; it broods over projects
of unlawful riches ; stealthily at first, and
then with less reserve ; at last it boldly
meditates the possibility of being dishonest
and safe. When a man can seriously
reflect upon dishonesty as a possible and
profitable thing, he is already deeply dis-
honest. To a mind so tainted, will flock
stories of consummate craft, of effective
knavery, of fraud covered by its brilliant
success. At times, the mind shrinks from
its own thoughts, and trembles to look down
the giddy cliff on whose edge they poise,
or over which they fling themselves like
sporting sea-birds. But these imaginations
will not be driven from the heart where
they have once nested. They haunt a
man's business, visit him in dreams, and
vampire-like, fan the slumbers of the victim
2 6 TWEL VE CA USES OF DISHONES7 Y
whom they will destroy. In some feverish
hour, vibrating between conscience and
avarice, the man staggers to a compromise.
To satisfy his conscience he refuses to
steal ; and to gratify his avarice, he borrows
the funds ; not openly not of owners
not of men : but of the ti.ll the safe the
He resolves to restore the money before
discovery can ensue, and pocket the profits.
Meanwhile, false entries are made, perjured
oaths are sworn, forged papers are filed.
His expenses grow profuse, and men
wonder from what fountain so copious a
stream can flow.
Let us stop here to survey his condition.
He flourishes, is called prosperous, thinks
himself safe. Is he safe, or honest? He
has stolen, and embarked the amount upon
a sea over which wander perpetual storms;
where wreck is the common fate, and escape
the accident ; and now all his chance for
the semblance of honesty, is staked upon
the return of his embezzlements from
among the sands, the rocks and currents,
the winds and waves, and darkness, of
tumultuous speculation. At length dawns
the day of discovery. His guilty dreams
have long foretokened it. As he confronts
the disgrace almost face to face, how
changed is the hideous aspect of his deed,
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY 2 j
from that fair face of promise with which it
tempted him ! Conscience, and honor, and
plain honesty, which left him when they
could not restrain, now come back to
sharpen his anguish. Overawed by the
prospect of open shame, of his wife's dis-
grace, and his children's beggary, he cows
down, and slinks out of life a frantic suicide.
Some there be, however, less supple to
shame. They meet their fate with cool
impudence; defy their employers; brave
the court, and too often with success. The
delusion of the public mind, or the con-
fusion of affairs is such, that, while petty
culprits are tumbled into prison, a cool,
calculating and immense scoundrel is pitied,
dandled and nursed by a sympathizing
community. In the broad road slanting to
the rogue's retreat, are seen the officer
of the bank, the agent of the state, the
officer of the church, in indiscriminate
haste, outrunning a lazy justice, and bear-
ing off the gains of astounding frauds.
Avarice and pleasure seem to have dis-
solved the conscience. // is a day of trouble
and of perplexity from the Lord. We trem-
ble to think that our children must leave
the covert of the family, and go out upon
that dark and yeasty sea, from whose wrath
so many wrecks are cast up at our feet.
Of one thing I am certain ; if the church of
2 8 TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
Christ is silent to such deeds, and makes her
altar a refuge to such dishonesty, the day
is coming when she shall have no altar, the
light shall go out from her candlestick, her
walls shall be desolate, and the fox look
out at her windows.
ii. EXECUTIVE CLEMENCY, by its fre-
quency, has been a temptation to Dishon-
esty. Who will fear to be a culprit when a
legal sentence is the argument of pity, and
the prelude of pardon ? What can the
community expect but growing dishonesty,
when juries connive at acquittals, and judges
condemn only to petition a pardon ; when
honest men and officers fly before a mob ;
when jails are besieged and threatened, if
felons are not relinquished ; when the Exec-
utive, consulting the spirit of the commu-
nity, receives the demands of the mob, and
humbly complies, throwing down the fences
of the law, that base rioters may walk
unimpeded, to their work of vengeance, or
unjust mercy ? A sickly sentimentality too
often enervates the administration of justice ;
and the pardoning power becomes the
master-key to let out unwashed, unrepent-
ant criminals. They have fleeced us, robbed
us, and are ulcerous sores to the body
politic ; yet our heart turns to water over
their merited punishment. A fine young
fellow, by accident, writes another's name
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY 2O/
for his own ; by a mistake equally unfortu-
nate, he presents it at the bank; innocently
draws out the large amount ; generously
spends a part, and absent-mindedly hides
the rest. Hard-hearted wretches there are,
who would punish him for this ! Young
men, admiring the neatness of the affair,
pity his misfortune, and curse a stupid
jury that knew no better than to send to a
penitentiary, him, whose skill deserved a
cashiership. He goes to his cell, the pity
of a whole metropolis. Bulletins from
Sing-Sing inform us daily what Edwards *
is doing, as if he were Napoleon at St.
Helena. At length pardoned, he will go
forth again to a renowned liberty !
If there be oneway quicker than another,
by which the Executive shall assist crime,
and our laws foster it, it is that course
which assures every dishonest man, that it
is easy to defraud, easy to avoid arrest, easy
to escape punishment, and easiest of all to
obtain a pardon.
12. COMMERCIAL SPECULATIONS are pro-
lific of Dishonesty. Speculation is the risk-
ing of capital in enterprises greater than we
can control, or in enterprises whose elements
are not at all calculable. All calculations
of the future are uncertain ; but those which
are based upon long experience approximate
[* Monroe Edwards, a notorious forger. ED.]
3Q TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
certainty, while those which are drawn by
sagacity from probable events, are notori-
ously unsafe. Unless, however, some
venture, we shall forever tread an old and
dull path ; therefore enterprise is allowed to
pioneer new ways. The safe enterpriser
explores cautiously, ventures at first a little,
and increases the venture with the ratio of
experience. A speculator looks out upon
the new region, as upon a far-away land-
scape, whose features are softened to
beauty by distance ; upon a hope, he stakes
that, which, if it wins, will make him ; and
if it loses, will ruin him. When the alter-
natives are victory, or utter destruction, a
battle may, sometimes, still be necessary.
But commerce has no such alternatives ;
only speculation proceeds upon them.
If the capital is borrowed, it is as dis-
honest, upon such ventures, to risk, as to
lose it. Should a man borrow a noble
steed and ride among incitements which he
knew would rouse up his fiery spirit to an
uncontrollable height, and borne away with
wild speed, be plunged over a precipice,
his destruction might excite our pity, but
could not alter our opinion of his dishon-
esty. He borrowed property, and endan-
gered it where he knew that it would be
If the capital be one's own, it can scarce-
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY ^
ly be risked and lost, without the ruin of
other men. No man could blow up his
store in a compact street, and destroy only
his own. Men of business are, like threads
of a fabric, woven together, and subject,
to a great extent, to a common fate of
prosperity or adversity. I have no right
to cut off my hand ; I defraud myself, my
family, the community, and God ; for all
these have an interest in that hand. Nei-
ther has a man the right to throw away his
property. He defrauds himself, his family,
the community in which he dwells ; for all
these have an interest in that property. If
waste is dishonesty, then every risk, in pro-
portion as it approaches it, is dishonest.
To venture, without that foresight which
experience gives, is wrong ; and if we can-
not foresee, then we must not venture.
Scheming speculation demoralizes hon-
esty, and almost necessitates dishonesty.
He who puts his own interests to rash
ventures, will scarcely do better for others.
The Speculator regards the weightiest affair
as only a splendid game. Indeed, a Specu-
lator on the exchange, and a Gambler at
his table, follow one vocation, only with
different instruments. One employs cards
or dice, the other property. The one can
no more foresee the result of his schemes,
than the other what spots will come up on
32 TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
his dice ; the calculations of both are only
the chances of luck. Both burn with un-
healthy excitement ; both are avaricious of
gains, but careless of what they win ; both
depend more upon fortune than skill ; they
have a common distaste for labor ; with each,
right and wrong are only the accidents of a
game ; neither would scruple in any hour to
set his whole being on the edge of ruin,
and going over, to pull down, if possible, a
The wreck of such men leaves them with
a drunkard's appetite, and a fiend's desper-
ation. The revulsion from extravagant
hopes, to a certainty of midnight darkness ;
the sensations of poverty, to him who was
in fancy just stepping upon a princely estate ;
the humiliation of gleaning for cents, where
he has been profuse of dollars ; the chagrin
of seeing old competitors now above him,
grinning down upon his poverty a malignant
triumph ; the pity of pitiful men, and the
neglect of such as should have been his
friends, and who were, while the sunshine
lay upon his path, all these things, like so
many strong winds, sweep across the soul
so that it cannot rest in the cheerless tran-
quility of honesty, but casts tip mire and
dirt. How stately the balloon rises and
sails over continents, as over petty land-
scapes ! The slightest slit in its frail cover-
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
ing sends it tumbling down, swaying widely,
whirling and pitching hither and thither,
until it plunges into some dark glen, out of
the path of honest men, and too shattered
to tempt even a robber. So have we seen
a thousand men pitched down ; so now, in
a thousand places may their wrecks be seen.
But still other balloons are framing, and the
air is full of victim-venturers.
If our young men are introduced to life
with distaste for safe ways, because the sure
profits are slow ; if the opinion becomes
prevalent that all business is great, only as
it tends to the uncertain, the extravagant,
and the romantic ; then we may stay our
hand at once, nor waste labor in absurd ex-
postulations of honesty. I had as lief preach
humanity to a battle of eagles, as to urge
honesty and integrity upon those who have
determined to be rich, and to gain it by gam-
bling stakes, and madmen's ventures.
All the bankruptcies of commerce are
harmless compared with a bankruptcy of
public morals. Should the Atlantic ocean
break over our shores, and roll sheer across
to the Pacific, sweeping every vestige of
cultivation, and burying our wealth, it would
be a mercy, compared to that ocean-deluge
of dishonesty and crime, which, sweeping
over the whole land, has spared our wealth
and taken our virtue. What are cornfields
34 TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY
and vineyards, what are stores and manu-
factures, and what are gold and silver, and
all the precious commodities of the earth,
among beasts ? and what are men, bereft
of conscience and honor, but beasts ?
We will forget those things which are
behind, and hope a more cheerful future.
We turn to you, YOUNG MEN ! All good
men, all patriots, turn to watch your ad-
vance upon the stage, and to implore you
to be worthy of yourselves, and of your re-
vered ancestry. Oh ! ye favored of Heaven !
with a free land, a noble inheritance of wise
laws, and a prodigality of wealth in pros-
pect, advance to your possessions ! May
you settle down, as did Israel of old, a peo-
ple of God in a promised and protected
land ; true to yourselves, true to your coun-
try, and true to your God.
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SWEETNESS AND LIGHT, by Matthew Arnold.
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