" See how all around us wait
The ministers of human fate
And dark misfortune's baleful train."
Neither the words "misfortune" nor "fate" seem to apply to that condition of positive evil which the tendency of the age to extravagance and luxurious living has brought about. The "form and pressure of the times" have not been subdued to their proper confines, but have been allowed to increase and swell beyond proportion, and with these neither "fate" nor "misfortune" has had anything to do. The records of the past week have made known a heavy embezzlement by the cashier of the Treasury Department of the State of New York, amounting to $ 300,000, developing a system of fraud almost unparaleled. Within the past year defalcation after defalcation has come to light both in cities and in country towns, - Boston, Brooklyn, New York, Lowell, Hingham, to say nothing of similar cases in our Western and Southwestern States, has proved how unworthy of trust have been those persons who have occupied honorable positions.
In the world of business gigantic failures and the enormous power exerted by the stock-broker in connection with the daring speculator have revealed a state of affairs as melancholy as it is reprehensible. The past year has been peculiarly marked by such events. A distinguished clergyman lately said, he was glad to have lived at the time of our Great Fire, because he had seen it bring out the courage and energy of the citizens of Boston. Without taking exception to this remark, we should like to see another kind of fire, - a fiery exorcising of that spirit of evil which brings on a "baleful train" of disaster. We should like to see a warm excitement of the conscientiousness of individuals to keep them continually alive to justice; we should be glad to realize a thorough awakening of conscience and heart.
Every robbery and defalcation, from that of the clerk who took the money from the letters in the Post-Office to the more recent case of the Albany cashier, was committed for the selfish purpose of living better. The former bought a house for his parents; the others took what did not belong to them for purposes of rash speculation, or to cover debts. This is the old story over again, - each embezzler meaning to restore the funds, but none doing so. Making haste to be rich, the dishonest inclination to live beyond one's means, to equal or outshine others, - these all excite to that demoniacal spirit of evil which leads downwards to destruction, and makes only the difference of a crooked "s" between peculation and speculation, both despoilers of the highest attributes of our nature. As to this expectation of "paying back," which is always brought forward as a salve for the conscience, it is, at best, but a very equivocal and unsatisfactory excuse, and recalls to mind the old adage that "Hell is paved with good intentions."
In this connection, the words of the late venerable Amos Lawrence have emphatic significance. "The difference," he says, "between going just right or a little wrong will be the difference of finding yourself in good quarters or in a miserable bog or slough at the end of your journey through life." This principle of justice carried out religiously through the space of thirty years, made Amos Lawrence one of our most wealthy and honored citizens. "I made it a rule," he says, "to have property to represent forty per cent more than I owed"; and, following out this rule, he rose from a very small beginning to great opulence, as did likewise his brother Abbott, who came to Boston "with his bundle under his arm and $ 3 in his pocket" to enter into partnership with his brother. We might mention similar examples, but these are enough. We would commend them to students of Harvard who will sooner or later be launched into the busy world. KEEP HONOR BRIGHT. Never go beyond your means. Beware of inflated credit or illegitimate speculation,-the rocks upon which so many split. Keep alive the nicest conscientiousness as regards the property of others; and, above all things, never be jealous of contemporary wealth. If poverty be yours, remember that it is no disgrace, and seek to rise out of it by the exertion of all your faculties, directed to high and noble ends.