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Full text of "Twelve causes of dishonesty"

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LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF 
CALIFORNIA 

SAN DIEGO 



presented to the 
UNIVERSITY LIBRARY 
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 
SAN DIEGO 

by 



Howard L. Chernoff 




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a VN- 





ALTEMUS' 
ETERNAL LIFE SERIES. 

Selections from the writings of well-known religious authors' 
works, beautifully printed and daintily bound in leatherette 
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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. 

Gladstone. 
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 

R. Scovil. 

DIFFICULTIES, by Hannah Whitall Smith. 
GAMBLERS AND GAMBLING, by Rev. Henry Ward 

Beech er. 

HAVE FAITH IN GOD, by Rev. Andrew Murray. 
TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY, by Rev. Henry 

Ward Beecher. 
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. 
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Beecher. 

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THE BEAUTY OF A LIFE OF SERVICE, by Rt. 

Rev. Phillips Brooks. 
THE SECOND COMING OF OUR LORD, by Rev. A. 

T. Pierson.D.D. 

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. 
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HENRY ALTEMUS, 
507, 500, 511, 513 Cherry Street, Philadelphia. 




HENRY WARD BEECHER. 







Twelve Causes 

of 

Dishonesty 

By Rev. Henry 

Ward 

Beecher 



Philadelphia 
Henry Altemus 




COPYRIGHTED 1896 ' 

BY HENRY ALTEMUS 



HENRY AI.TBMUS. MANUFACTURER 
PHILADBLPH1A 



TWELVE CAUSES OF 
DISHONESTY 

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 

(3) 



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 
sullen lethargy. 

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 
buried forever. 

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- 
ity. 

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 
sake. 

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 



II 



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 
wiles. 

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 
hidden fountain. 

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 
uses him. 

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 
one crime. 

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- 
pathy. 

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 
men. 

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 
friend ! 

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 last. 

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 
vault ! 

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 
uncontrollable. 

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 
hundred others. 

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 



33 



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. 



ALTEMUS' 
BELLES-LETTRES SERIES. 

A collection of Essays and Addresses by eminent English 
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