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Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 420 Volume 17, New Series, January 17, 1852   By:

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No. 420. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, JANUARY 17, 1852. PRICE 1 1/2 d .


This is a very common question, usually put and answered with more or less levity. We seldom hear of any one answering very favourably as to the usage he experiences from the world. More generally, the questioned seems to feel that his treatment is not, and never has been, quite what it ought to be. It has sometimes occurred to me, that a great oversight is committed in our so seldom putting to ourselves the co relative question: What have I done to make the world use me well? What merit have I shewn by what good intention towards the world have I been animated what has been the positive amount of those services of mine on which I found my pretensions to the world's rewards? All of these are interrogations which it would be necessary to answer satisfactorily before we could be truly entitled to take measure of the world's goodness to us in return; for surely it is not to be expected that the world is to pay in mere expectancy: time enough, in all conscience, when the service has been rendered, or at soonest, when a reasonable ground of hope has been established that it will not be withheld or performed slightingly. Only too much room there is to fear that, if these questions were put and faithfully answered, the ordinary result would be a conviction that the world had used us quite as well as we deserved.

Men are of course prevented from going through this process by their self love. Unwillingness to see or own their shortcomings, keeps them in a sort of delusion on the subject. Well, I do not hope to make an extensive change upon them in this respect; but perhaps it may not be impossible to rouse one here and there to the correct view, and thus accomplish a little good.

Let us address ourselves to commercial life first, for the labour by which man lives is at the bottom of everything. Here we meet the now well recognised principle in political economy, that generally wages, salaries, remunerations of all kinds, are in pretty exact relation to the value of the services performed this value being of course determined, in a great degree, by the easiness or difficulty of the work, the commonness or rarity of the faculties and skill required for it, the risk of non success in the profession, and so forth. Many a good fellow who feels that his income is inconveniently small, and wonders why it is not greater, might have the mystery solved if he would take a clear, unprejudiced view of the capacity in which he is acting towards the public. Is he a slave of the desk, in some office of routine business? Then let him consider how many hundreds of similar men would answer an advertisement of his seat being vacant. The fatal thing in his case evidently is, that the faculties and skill required in his situation are possessed by so many of his fellow creatures. Is he a shopkeeper in some common line of business? say a draper. Then let him consider how easy it is to be a draper, and how simple are the details of such a trade. While there are so many other drapers in the same street, his going out of business would never be felt as an inconvenience. He is perhaps not doing any real good to the public at all, but only interloping with the already too small business of those who were in 'the line' before him. Let him think of the many hours he spends in idleness, or making mere appearances of business, and ask if he is really doing any effective service to his fellow creatures by keeping a shop at all. It may be a hardship to him to have failed in a good intention; but this cannot be helped. He may succeed better in some other scheme. Let him quit this, and try another, or set up in a place where there is what is called 'an opening' that is, where his services are required the point essential to his getting any reward for his work... Continue reading book >>

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