Category: Economics

“A man raised from the station of a private citizen to the rank of chief magistrate, possessed of but a moderate or slender fortune, and looking forward to a period not very remote, when he may probably be obliged to return to the station from which he was taken, might sometimes be under temptations to sacrifice his duty to his interest, which it would require superlative virtue to withstand. An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth. An ambitious man might make his own aggrandizement, by the aid of a foreign power, the price of his treachery to his constituents.” – Alexander Hamilton, “The Federalist No. 75”

“Make it a fixed point of policy in the national administration to go as far as may be practicable in making the luxury of the rich tributary to the public treasury, in order to diminish the necessity of those impositions, which might create dissatisfaction in the poorer and most numerous classes of the society. Happy it is when the interest which the government has in the preservation of its own power, coincides with a proper distribution of the public burthens, and tends to guard the least wealthy part of the community from oppression!” – Alexander Hamilton, “The Federalist No. 36”

“How is it possible that a government half supplied and always necessitous, can fulfil the purposes of its institution—can provide for the security of—advance the prosperity—or support the reputation of the commonwealth? How can it ever possess either energy or stability, dignity or credit, confidence at home or respectability abroad? How can its administration be anything else than a succession of expedients temporising, impotent, disgraceful? How will it be able to avoid a frequent sacrifice of its engagements to immediate necessity? How can it undertake or execute any liberal or enlarged plans of public good?” – Alexander Hamilton, “The Federalist No. 30”

“Money is with propriety considered as the vital principle of the body politic; as that which sustains its life and motion, and enables it to perform its most essential functions. A complete power therefore to procure a regular and adequate supply of it, as far as the resources of the community will permit, may be regarded as an indispensable ingredient in every constitution. From a deficiency in this particular, one of two evils must ensue; either the people must be subjected to continual plunder as a substitute for a more eligible mode of supplying the public wants, or the government must sink into a fatal atrophy, and in a short course of time perish.” – Alexander Hamilton, “The Federalist No. 30”

“A mind always employed is always happy. This is the true secret, the grand recipe for felicity. The idle are the only wretched. In a world which furnishes so many emploiments which are useful, and so many which are amusing, it is our own fault if we ever know what ennui is, or if we are ever driven to the miserable resource of gaming, which corrupts our dispositions, and teaches us a habit of hostility against all mankind.” – Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to Martha Jefferson”, May 21, 1787

“Articles of Agreement made this twelveth day of April Anno Domini one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven, by and between George Washington Esqr. of the Parish of Truro, in the County of Fairfax, State of Virginia, on the one part, and Philip Bater, Gardner, on the other Witness, that the said Philip Bater, for and in consideration of the covenants herein, hereafter, mentioned, doth promise and agree to serve the sd. George Washington, for the term of one year, as a Gardner, and that he will, during said time, conduct himself soberly, diligently and honestly, that he will faithfully and industriously perform all, and every part of his duty as a Gardner, to the best of his knowledge and abilities, and that he will not, at any time, suffer himself to be disguised with liquor, except on the times hereafter mentioned. In Consideration of these things being well and truly performed on the part of the sd. Philip Bater, the said George Washington doth agree to allow him (the sd. Philip) the same kind and quantity of provisions as he has heretofore had; and likewise, annually, a decent suit of clothes befitting a man in his station; to consist of a Coat, Vest and breeches; a working Jacket and breeches, of homespun, besides; two white Shirts; three Check Do; two pair of yarn Stockings; two pair of Thread Do; two linnen Pocket handkerchiefs; two pair linnen overalls; as many pair of Shoes as are actually necessary for him; four Dollars at Christmas, with which he may be drunk 4 days and 4 nights; two Dollars at Easter to effect the same purpose; two Dollars also at Whitsontide, to be drunk two days; A Dram in the morning, and a drink of Grog at Dinner or at Noon. For the true and faithful performance of all and each of these things the parties have hereunto set their hands this twenty third day of April Anno Domini 1787.” – “Contract with Philip Bater” (from George Washington: Writings, ed. John Rhodehamel)

“Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” – Chief Justice Earl Warren, “Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (No. 1), May 17, 1954”

“In the various Enumerations of the moral Virtues I had met with in my Reading, I found the Catalogue more or less numerous, as different Writers included more or fewer Ideas under the same Name. Temperance, for Example, was by some confin’d to Eating & Drinking, while by others it was extended to mean the moderating every other Pleasure, Appetite, Inclination, or Passion, bodily or mental, even to our Avarice & Ambition. I propos’d to myself, for the sake of Clearness, to use rather more Names with fewer Ideas; and I included under Thirteen Names of Virtues all that at that time occurr’d to me as necessary or desirable, and annex’d to each a short Precept, which fully express’d the Extent I gave to its Meaning.—
These Names of Virtues with their Precepts were
1. TEMPERANCE.
Eat not to Dulness
Drink not to Elevation.
2. SILENCE.
Speak not but what may benefit others or your self. Avoid trifling Conversation.
3. ORDER.
Let all your Things have their Places. Let each Part of your Business have its Time.
4. RESOLUTION.
Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
5. FRUGALITY.
Make no Expence but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.
6. INDUSTRY.
Lose no Time.—Be always employ’d in something useful.—Cut off all unecessary Actions.—
7. SINCERITY.
Use no hurtful Deceit.
Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak; speak accordingly.
8. JUSTICE.
Wrong none, by doing Injuries or omitting the Benefits that are your Duty.
9. MODERATION.
Avoid Extreams. Forbear resenting Injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. CLEANLINESS.
Tolerate no Uncleanness in Body, Cloaths, or Habitation.—
11. TRANQUILITY
Be not disturbed at Trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
12. CHASTITY.
Rarely use Venery but for Health or Offspring; Never to Dulness, Weakness, or the Injury of your own or another’s Peace or Reputation.—
13. HUMILITY
Imitate Jesus and Socrates.—
– Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography

“Let us preserve our reputation by performing our engagements; our credit by fulfilling our contracts; and friends by gratitude and kindness; for we know not how soon we may again have occasion for all of them.” – Benjamin Franklin, “Letter to Samuel Mather”, May 12, 1784

“A country whose buildings are of wood, can never increase in its improvements to any considerable degree. Their duration is highly estimated at 50 years. Every half century then our country becomes a tabula rasa, whereon we have to set out anew, as in the first moment of seating it. Whereas when buildings are of durable materials, every new edifice is an actual and permanent acquisition to the state, adding to its value as well as to its ornament.” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

“The private buildings are very rarely constructed of stone or brick; much the greatest proportion being of scantling and boards, plastered with lime. It is impossible to devise things more ugly, uncomfortable, and happily more perishable.” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

“The poor, unable to support themselves, are maintained by an assessment on the titheable persons in their parish. This assessment is levied and administered by twelve persons in each parish, called vestrymen, originally chosen by the housekeepers of the parish, but afterwards filling vacancies in their own body by their own choice. These are usually the most discreet farmers, so distributed throughout their parish, that every part of it may be under the immediate eye of some one of them. They are well acquainted with the details and œconomy of private life, and they find sufficient inducements to execute their charge well, in their philanthropy, in the approbation of their neighbours, and the distinction which that gives them. The poor who have neither property, friends, nor strength to labour, are boarded in the houses of good farmers, to whom a stipulated sum is annually paid. To those who are able to help themselves a little, or have friends from whom they derive some succours, inadequate however to their full maintenance, supplementary aids are given, which enable them to live comfortably in their own houses, or in the houses of their friends. Vagabonds, without visible property or vocation, are placed in workhouses, where they are well cloathed, fed, lodged, and made to labour. Nearly the same method of providing for the poor prevails through all our states; and from Savannah to Portsmouth you will seldom meet a beggar. In the larger towns indeed they sometimes present themselves. These are usually foreigners, who have never obtained a settlement in any parish.” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence; true friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation. Let your heart feel for the affliction, and distresses of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse; remembering always, the estimation of the Widows mite. But, that it is not every one who asketh, that deserveth charity; all however are worthy of the enquiry, or the deserving may suffer. Do not conceive that fine Cloaths make fine Men, any more than fine feathers make fine Birds. A plain genteel dress is more admired and obtains more credit than lace and embroidery in the Eyes of the judicious and sensible.” – George Washington, “Letter to Bushrod Washington”, January 15, 1783 (emphases in original)

“Wherever a discretionary power is lodged in any set of men over the property of their neighbours, they will abuse it. Their passions, prejudices, dislikes, will have the principal lead in measuring the abilities of those over whom their power extends; and assessors will ever be a set of petty tyrants, too unskilful, if honest, to be possessed of so delicate a trust, and too seldom honest to give them the excuse of want of skill.” – Alexander Hamilton, “The Continentalist No. VI”

“It is impossible to devise any specific tax, that will operate equally on the whole community. It must be the province of the legislature to hold the scales with a judicious hand and ballance one by another. The rich must be made to pay for their luxuries, which is the only proper way of taxing their superior wealth.” – Alexander Hamilton, “The Continentalist No. VI”

“We may destroy our civilization, but we cannot escape it. We may savor a soured remorse at the growth of civilization, but that will yield us no large or lasting reward. There is no turning back: our only way is a radical struggle for the City of the Just.” – Irving Howe, “The City in Literature”

“If Five Louis-d’ors may be of present Service to you, please draw on me for that Sum, and your Bill shall be paid on Sight. Some time or other you may have an Opportunity of assisting with an equal Sum a stranger who has equal need of it. Do so. By that means you will discharge any Obligation you may suppose yourself under to me. Enjoin him to do the same on Occasion. By pursuing such a Practice, much Good may be done with little money. Let kind Offices go round. Mankind are all of a Family.” — Benjamin Franklin, “Letter to William Nixon”, September 5, 1781

“If fortune should smile upon us, it will do us no harm to have been prepared for adversity; if she frowns upon us, by being prepared, we shall encounter it without the chagrin of disappointment.” – Alexander Hamilton, “Letter to Elizabeth Schuyler”, August 1780

“He had squandered a little money, which action, in a poor family, is one of the greatest crimes. With rich people a man who amuses himself only sows his wild oats. He is what is generally called a sport. But among needy families a boy who forces his parents to break into the capital becomes a good-for-nothing, a rascal, a scamp. And this distinction is just, although the action be the same, for consequences alone determine the seriousness of the act.” – Guy de Maupassant, “My Uncle Jules” (trans. McMaster, et al.)

“At my first Admission into this Printing House, I took to working at the Press, imagining I felt a Want of the Bodily Exercise, I had been us’d to in America, where Presswork is mix’d with Composing. I drank only Water; the other Workmen, near 50 in Number, were great Guzzlers of Beer. On occasion I carried up & down Stairs a large Form of Types in each hand, when others carried but one in both Hands. They wonder’d to see from this & several Instances that the Water-American as they call’d me was stronger than themselves who drank strong Beer. We had an Alehouse Boy who attended always on the House to supply the Workmen. My Companion at the Press, drank every day a Pint before Breakfast, a Pint at Breakfast with his Bread and Cheese; a Pint between Breakfast and Dinner; a Pint at Dinner; a Pint in the Afternoon about Six o’clock, and another when he had done his Day’s-Work. I thought it a detestable Custom.—But it was necessary, he suppos’d, to drink strong Beer that he might be strong to labour. I endeavour’d to convince him that the Bodily Strength afforded by Beer could only be in proportion to the Grain or Flour of the Barley dissolved in the Water of which it was made; that there was more Flour in a Penny-worth of Bread, and therefore if he would eat that with a Pint of Water, it would give him more Strength than a Quart of Beer.—He drank on however, & had 4 or 5 Shillings to pay out of his Wages every Saturday Night for that muddling Liquor; an Expence I was free from.—And thus these poor Devils keep themselves always under.” – Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography (emphases in original)

“I have lately made a Tour thro’ Ireland and Scotland. In these Countries a small Part of the Society are Landlords, great Noblemen and Gentlemen, extreamly opulent, living in the highest Affluence and Magnificence: The Bulk of the People Tenants, extreamly poor, living in the most sordid Wretchedness in dirty Hovels of Mud and Straw, and cloathed only in Rags. I thought often of the Happiness of New England, where every Man is a Freeholder, has a Vote in publick Affairs, lives in a tidy warm House, has plenty of good Food and Fewel, with whole Cloaths from Head to Foot, the Manufactury perhaps of his own Family. Long may they continue in this Situation! But if they should ever envy the Trade of these Countries, I can put them in a Way to obtain a Share of it. Let them with three fourths of the People of Ireland, live the Year round on Potatoes and Butter milk, without Shirts, then may their Merchants export Beef, Butter and Linnen. Let them with the Generality of the Common People of Scotland go Barefoot, then may they make large Exports in Shoes and Stockings: And if they will be content to wear Rags like the Spinners and Weavers of England, they may make Cloths and Stuffs for all Parts of the World. Father, if my Countrymen should ever wish for the Honour of having among them a Gentry enormously wealthy, let them sell their Farms and pay rack’d Rents; the Scale of the Landlords will rise as that of the Tenants is depress’d who will soon become poor, tattered, dirty, and abject in Spirit.” – Benjamin Franklin, “Letter to Joshua Babcock” (January 13, 1772) (emphasis in original)

“Treat your Wife always with Respect. It will procure Respect to you, not from her only, but from all that observe it. Never use a slighting Expression to her even in jest; for Slights in Jest after frequent bandyings, are apt to end in angry earnest. Be studious in your Profession, and you will be learned. Be industrious and frugal, and you will be rich. Be sober and temperate and you will be healthy. Be in general virtuous, and you will be happy. At least you will by such Conduct stand the best Chance for such Consequences.” – Benjamin Franklin, “Letter to John Alleyne” (August 9, 1768)

“In time perhaps Mankind may be wise enough to let Trade take its own Course, find its own Channels, and regulate its own Proportions, &c. At present, most of the Edicts of Princes, Placaerts, Laws and Ordinances of Kingdoms and States, for that purpose, prove political Blunders. The Advantages they produce not being general for the Commonwealth, but particular, to private Persons or Bodies in the State who procur’d them, and at the expense of the rest of the People.” – Benjamin Franklin, “Letter to Peter Collinson” (April 30, 1764) (emphases in original)