Слике страница
PDF
ePub

usually because some group or class agree in so regarding it. If the view of this class is to become widespread, then the class must be a strong one.

66 Honor is, as we have said before, a class or group way of thinking and feeling. The gentleman class regarded petty trade and manual labor as dishonorable. The only way to change this situation was through the rise of a class which should count them as honorable. Towns did not do the whole work of making labor honorable. A class of free 66

yeomen or farmers later arose in England who had the same view about their work. Many of them came to America, where the influence of frontier life added strength to their opinion and helped them form new community standards. But the towns and the gilds, with their wealth and their power of union and brotherhood, made the new social class which did most for the new ideal.

Honesty

Honesty and Fairness-Honesty and fair dealing were not always prized as highly as they are now. One reason for this was that traders and those with whom they traded belonged to different groups. Traders were outsiders.

Hence it was quite in accord with early group morals to drive very sharp bargains with them. And the traders, on their side, had no scruple about getting the better of the bargain if they could. In one language the word for

66 trader

came to mean a cheater or defrauder.

And, quite apart from the old notion that a man from without the group had no rights, bargaining is

one respect like war: it calls out strategy; it is a game of wits. In this respect it is like playing a game of ball or chess. One likes to win, even if there is not much at stake. Some persons thus find the same pleas

ure in bargaining that others find in sport. In some parts of the country, trading horses is regarded not so much as a way of making money as an agreeable and somewhat exciting pastime. And the neighbors watch the trade as they would a game of checkers. For both these reasons the morals of trade have been backward. The old maxim of Roman law was caveat emptor—“ let the buyer beware.” But when merchants began to enlarge their operations, to have steady customers, to settle down in towns, they felt the necessity of having standards of honest work and of fair dealing. The gilds punished members who cheated. Thus in the records of the Leicester Gild in the year 1254 we read that

Roger Alditch was charged with offending the laws of the Gild, having made a blanket in one part of which was a good woof, but elsewhere in many places weak stuff. He also caused a piece of weak and inferior vermillion cloth to be attached to a good piece of the same kind of cloth. It was adjudged that he should pay a fine of 6s. 8d. and, if he should commit another offence against the Gild, he should be expelled. *

Also, the gilds attempted to prevent their members from taking advantage of fellow members. If one gildsman bought a quantity of some article like tallow or wine, any other gildsman could claim a portion at the original price. This was to keep out middlemen's profits, so far as fellow members were concerned. Before the days of “ one price to all” it was an important check.

Although the merchants were exempted from the Customs common law of the land, they had a Law-Merchant of of

merchants This had been built up out of the Gross, The Gild Merchant, vol. II, p. 143.

their own.

cus

*

toms ” which prevailed in important ports. It dealt especially with such matters as contracts and debts, and was administered by special courts. One such court declared in 1477: "it hath been at all times accoustomned, that every person coming to the said fairs should have lawful remedy of all manner of contracts, trespasses, covenants, debts, and other deeds made or done within any of the same fairs, during the time of the said fair, and within the jurisdiction of the same, and to be tried by the merchants being of the same

fair."

As the ideals and morals of the gentleman come from the days of the early state and of chivalry, the ideals and standards of business honesty come from the “customs of merchants" and the life of towns.

CHAPTER XI

FIRST STEPS IN LIBERTY

T

HUS far we have dwelt chiefly upon early co

operation. We turn now to the other great

idea in our democracy, liberty, and look at its beginnings. It is certainly one of the great values in life. Men and nations have been willing to struggle and even to die in defense of it. America has prized liberty as one of its great aims and men have loved America because they have found liberty here. Indeed the early settlers, many of them, came to this country to find here the liberty that they could not find in the Old World. But the first steps toward liberty were taken long before our fathers came to this country. We have already referred to the fact that the towns helped their citizens to gain liberties; but the extraordinary thing is that the state, which began by conquering people and so taking away their liberty, came in time to be the great protector of liberty. It is worth while to understand how this came about, because certain things in the Constitution of the United States and in our ideas about law and government cannot be understood save as we keep in mind the way in which liberty was gained.

First of all, however, we have to notice that there Six are several different kinds of liberty. The word is used meanings

of in several different senses. Of these the principal are

liberty the following:

1. Freedom contrasted with slavery, or serfdom. This is the simplest kind of liberty.

2. National liberty, or national independence-freedom from control by a foreign power.

3. Special privilege, as when a city gained by a charter special rights of trade with freedom from tolls. To belong to a city gave one the privilege or, as it was called, the “ freedom” of the city.

4. Civil liberty. This means protection especially from violence or from any arbitrary taking of property even by the government itself. The principal rights that are included under civil liberty are freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of opinion and speech, and security of property.

5. Political liberty. This is the right to have a share in the government by voting or otherwise. Very few Englishmen had this right until the year 1832, although civil liberty had been secured very much earlier.

6. Liberty or freedom, which is in contrast with any kind of constraint or bondage. If a person is a slave to a habit, or a passion, he is not free. If he is ignorant or sick, he is not free. If he is in fear of violence, or of starvation, he has very little liberty. For the most part, these last kinds of bondage and freedom depend largely on the man himself. They cannot be so easily changed by law. It is only recently that we have begun to see that by public education and public care of health much can be done to give men an opportunity to be free.

1. Freedom

18.

The first kind of liberty does not need much explanation. We all understand the difference between a slave and a free man. What may seem curious to us is that

slavery

« ПретходнаНастави »