Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

violation of confidence; a falsification of the terms, upon which the loan was given, and received. No man ever lent any thing, of any value, with an agreement on his part, that it should be injured, unnecessarily, by the borrower. No man ever received a loan, with a profession on his part, that he expected to injure the thing lent, unless in cases, where the nature of the transaction obviously involved the injury, and a consequent compensation. This, it will be observed, is a case, properly arranged under the head of bargains, and not of loans. Persons are guilty of this kind of Fraud, also, when they return, instead of a consumable, or perishable, article, which they have borrowed, what is of inferior value. We often borrow those tbings, which perish

. in the use.

In this case, not a small number of individuals satisfy their consciences, if they return the same thing in kind, and quantity, although plainly inferior in its value. A scrupulous spirit of integrity would induce us rather to return somewhat more, in value, than we have received ; that we may make due satisfaction for the property loaned, and for the particular convenience which it has furnished us.

Another Fraud of the same nature is practised, whenever we unreasonably detain in our possession whatever has been loaned to

Most persons, probably, are in a greater or less degree chargeable with this fault. A want of punctuality in this respect is a serious evil; extending very far; and often intruding, not a little, upon the peace and comfort of good neighbourhood. But there are persons, who go through life, borrowing without thinking of returning that which they borrow; and who thus doubly tax the good nature of those around them. This conduct is totally contrary to good faith, and to plain justice. Every borrower, in his application for every loan, is understood, and knows that he is understood, by the lender to engage, not only to return that which he borrows, but to return it within a reasonable time. It is unjust, and unkind, to retain the property of the lender beyond his consent; to use it beyond his permission; and thus to reward his kindness with injury.

Of a similar Fraud are we guilty, when we employ that, whick is lent, for purposes, and in modes, not contemplated ly the lender. Multitudes of mankind are guilty of this crime ; and in ways al

US.

most innumerable. All our right to the use of the loan, not only as to the fact, but also as to the manner, and the degree, is derived solely from the consent of the owner. To that, which he has not given, we have nol, and cannot have, any right. We are bound, therefore, scrupulously to use what we borrow, within the limits of his permission. When we transgress these limits,

. we obviously violate the plain dictates of common justice; and are, therefore, inexcusable.

There is, perhaps, no fraud, of which youths, sent abroad for their education, are so frequently guilty, or to which they are so strongly solicited by temptation, as one strongly resembling this, which I have described. They are, of course, entrusted by their parents with property, necessary, or supposed to be necessary, to defray the expenses of their education. Every parent has his own views concerning the manner, in which this property is to be expended. This manner the Parent usually prescribes to his child; and has an absolute right to prescribe it. The property is his own: the child is his own). Both the manner, therefore, and the expense, of the child's education he has an absolute right to control. The parent's prescription, then, the child cannot escape without fraud ; nor can he violate it without filial impiety.

When such a Youth expends the property, entrusted to him by his Parents, in any manner, or to any degree, beyond his parent's choice; so far as that choice is made known to bim; he is guilty of fraud; and violates the Command, which I am discussing. Nay, if he is reasonably satisfied concerning what his parent's choice would be, although it has not been explicitly declared, he is bound scrupulously to regard it in all his conduct; and to expend no more, and for no other purposes, than those, which are involved in bis parent's pleasure. Nor can he, consistently with his plain duty, pursue different objects, and conduct himself in a different manner, from what his parent bas

prescribed, without being guilty of similar fraud.

The parent may not indeed, and probably will not often, punish his child for these transgressions. Often he may quietly acquiesce in the wrong. Still the conduct is not the less sinful; nor the child the less guilty. Human tribunals fail of punishing

many crimes; but they do not, for this reason, cease to be crimes. If a child would avoid sin ; if he would, in this respect, be blameless in the sight of God; he must direct all his expenses, and regulate all his conduct, conscientiously, according to the will and prescription of his parents. To this end, he must limit his wants to the allowed measure of his expenses; and act, scrupulously, as he would act, if his parents were continual. ly present.

2. Another species of Frauds is practised in what is called Trespassing on the properly of others.

Frauds of this nature are very numerous, and greatly diversified. Many persons, without being sensible of doing any injus. tice, walk through the inclosures of others, and tread down their grass, grain, and other valuable productions of their labour. Others leave open the entrances to their inclosures; and thus expose the fruits of the earth to damage, and often to destruction. Others still, plunder their gardens, orchards, and fields, of such fruits, particularly, as are delicious. Others plunder their forests of wood, both for their own consumption, and for the market. Both these acts are, however, falsely called Trespasses. No actions of man are more obviously thefts, in the full sense. Accordingly, they are spoken of in the language of common sense, and common custom, only under the name of stealing. Others suffer their cattle, accustomed to break through inclosures, to go at large in their own fields; and thus, in reality, turn them into the fields of their neighbours. To dwell no longer on this part of the subject, multitudes habitually neglect to repair their own walls, and fences; and in this manner leave a continual passage for their cattle into the fields of their neighbours.

A very different set of Trespasses, (I do not mean in the legal sense ; for I know not what name Law would give them ;) and undertaken with very different views, is found in the operations of that Spirit of vulgar mischief, which through enry, or some other base passion, cherishes a contemptible hostility against the im. provement, and beauty, of building, fencing, and planting, formed by its prosperous neighbours. This spirit prompts the unworthy minds, in which it dwells, to mar and deface handsome buildings and fences; to root up, or cut down, trees and shrubs, planted for shade, and for ornament. This spirit is no other, than that of the dog in the manger. It will neither enjoy the good itself; nor suffer any others to enjoy it. One would think, that, in the view of such minds, beauty and elegance were public nuisances; and that to have contributed to adorn one's country with the delightful pro luctions of nature, and art, is a trespass upon the common good.

Another class of Frauds, possessing the same nature, is seen in most places, at least in this country, in the abuses of public property. Public buildings are almost every where injured and defaced; the windows are broken; the doors, wainscoting, pillars, and other appurtenances formed of wood, are shamefully carved, and hacked; the courts, balustrades, and other vulnerable articles, are mangled, and destroyed. In a word, injuries of this nature are endless; and all of them are scandalous frauds; useless to the perpetrators; wounding to every man of integrity and taste; discouragements to public improvement; and sources of public deformity, and disgrace.

Another class of these Frauds is denoted by the general name, Peculation.

It will be useless for me to dwell on what Nations have so long, and so loudly, complained of: the plunder of the Public by statesmen, commissioners, and contractors; men, who appear to feel a prescriptive right to fatten themselves on the spoils of the community. There are, I fear, but few men, comparatively, who feel themselves bound to deal with the public, or with any body of their fellow-men, agreeably to the same strict and equitable principles, which most persons acknowledge to be indispensable in dealing with individuals. For services, rendered to public bodies, almost all men demand a greater reward, than they would dare to claim from individuals. For commodi. ties, sold to them, they charge a higher price. In settling accounts with them, they claim greater allowances : and in every transaction plainly intend to get more, than custom and equity have permitted in the private business of mankind. The single article of Perquisites is a gulf of voracity, which has no bottom.

The only rule, by which this undefined class of demands scems to be controlled, is to claim whatever the person indebted can be expected to give.

The cominon doctrine among all the claimants, to whom I have referred, appears to be, that there is no wrong in demanding more of public bodies for the same service, or the same commodity, than of individuals, because public bodies are more able to pay. Justice, on the contrary, affixes the same value to the same thing. This value will be affixed by every honest man; and will be his only rule of compensation for his commodities, or his labours, whoever may be the purchaser, or the employer.

In every one of the cases, which I have specified, the persons concerned defraud their fellow-men of their property, and cheat themselves out of their duty and their salvation. But they cannot cheat their Maker. The all-searching Eye surveys, with a terrible inspection, these workers of iniquity; and, at the final day, will be found to have traced every secret winding, every snaky path, every false pretence, and every flattering self-justification, of fraud. At that awful period, how many persons will be found to be cheats, who in this world sustained the character of fair dealers; and were regarded by all around them as honest men!

3. Another class of Frauds, is attendant upon Bargains. .

These, like the former classes, are very numerous; and are varied continually by the circumstances of the Bargain, and the ingenuity, negligence, and dishonesty, of the parties.

An honest bargain is that, and that only, in which an Equivalent is given, and received; in which, the value of the commodities in each case being supposed to be known, the fair, market price is mutually allowed. The market priee is, in all ordinary circumstances, the equitable price; and, wherever it is known, will be cheerfully paid by an honest man.

Where it cannot be known, such men will settle their contracts as equitably, as they can : each designing faithfully to render an equivalent for what he receives. Every bargain, not formed on these principles, is unjust ; and, if thus formed intentionally, is dishonest. But how different from these are the principles, upon which bargains Vol. IV.

38

« EdellinenJatka »