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Their greediness of gain, if it impel them not to deeds of fraud or violence, which bring them to shame and ruin, yet spurs them on to engage in rash and ruinous adventures. The estates of others, as Franklin's Poor Richard said, are spent in the getting. Fondly anticipating a fortune, they dash away as if they really had it in hand. Others again counterfeit the splendor of riches, that they may put themselves and their families in the ranks of honor. But if they have fallen from these appearances, they had better, in the eye of fashion, have fallen from grace. Whatever of estimable and amiable qualities they may possess, they fare with their former visitors and familiars, as the Cardinal did with his, at the time he was thought "an undone man.”
Industry, frugality, and thrift, are republican virtues. But a scrambling for money, as the chief good, is of bad omen. It. produces meanness of sentiment and sordidness of disposition. A free people, whose passions are set altogether on the pursuit of gain, can hardly remain free very long; because the necessary consequence of such a spirit of avarice is fraud in private life, and venality and corruption in public life.
An able author, while treating incidentally of the fall of the Roman republic, remarks :-" The course that a free nation runs is from virtuous industry to wealth ; from wealth to luxury; from luxury to an impatience of discipline and corruption of morals; till by a total degeneracy and loss of virtue, being grown ripe for destruction, it falls at last a prey to some hardy oppressor, and, with the loss of liberty, loses every thing else that is valuable."
OF THE TYRANNY OF TASHION IN LAYING ENORMOUS TAXES UPON COM
MON-CONDITIONED FOLKS, AND GRINDING THE FACES OF THE POOR.
EVERY one, who reads English history, must know that Richard the Third had a humped back. And, as ancient story goes, humping became quite fashionable during his reign. The courtiers, the Lords, the Ladies, and the under gentry, patterning after royalty, wore, each, a fashionable crook in the back : so the English of that day were "a crooked generation," sure enough. Be this, however, as it may, in point of ridiculous absurdity it hardly exceeds what is very commonly seen among ourselves.
Though we would fain be called a Christian people, it is a fact, as notorious as sad, that an anti-christian deity is worshipped among us, in town and country, and by immense numbers of all classes, and of both sexes. Look where you will, you see all ranks bowing, cringing, bending the knee—to what? to Fashion. This is the goddess of their idolatry. They yield implicit obedience to her laws, however absurd and barbarous; and though she changes as often as the moon, they follow her in all her changes, and ape her in all her freaks,-humping whenever she humps. They are brought to endure cold and nakedness, when but for having followed her mandates, they might be comfortably clad. They reject and despise the diet which she forbids, though wholesome and palatable, and best suited, as well to their constitutions, as to their circumstances. They pay tithes to her of all they possess. Tithes did I say? It were well if only a tenth would satisfy her; she often claims even more than one half. Did she tax only the rich, who are able to pay, it would not be so bad; but she lays her rapacious hands on the middling classes, and even upon the poor. Nay, the knavish hussey seizes what ought to be laid up against old age and sickness, and also what ought to go to the creditor. By the decree of fashion, this republican, and otherwise free nation is thrown into castes, as really in some respects, as the East Indians have been by their Brahmins; and the only way to gain admission, or maintain a standing in the higher castes, is to dress gorgeously and fare sumptuously, no matter by what means. Hence the general struggle. The rich march foremost in the ranks of fashion, and the others keep as close to their heels as possible, following on in a long train, like files of geese. This is comic in appearance, but tragic in reality. It is amusing, at first thought, to see families, in narrow circumstances, struggling to make the appearance of high life; to see them
vying, not only with one another, but with the rich, to exceed in finery and splendor; to see how much pains they take, and how many arts they use to dazzle the eyes of the beholder with the mockery of wealth. But on due reflection, one finds more reason to be sad than merry.- When we consider that these deluded
people are following a phantom, that is leading them to ruin; that they are incurring expenses, which they are utterly unable to support; that they are bartering away solid comforts for an empty show; that by striving to live splendidly, they are losing the means of living decently and comfortably: when we consider that they are bringing wretchedness upon their children by leaving them to the buffetings of poverty, aggravated highly by their early acquaintance with fashionable life : when we consider, finally, that some of them are defrauding their creditors, by sacrificing on the altar of fashion what is needed for the payment of their just debts ;-when we put these considerations together, we find them enough to excite deep regret and sorrow.
It is questionable whether great wealth conduces, on the whole, even to worldly happiness. It cannot cure an aching head, or soothe an aching lieart; it is no shield from the shafts of misfortune, nor from the arrows of death; it brings to the possessor an addition of cares as well as of comforts, and is often the means of bringing moral ruin upon his children; and while it increases his power and influence, it increases, also, his responsibility.The rich have, however, one exclusive privilege: they have a right to make a splendid appearance in the world, because their circumstances can well afford it. Fine houses, expensive furniture, stately equipage, and sumptuous fare, are within the bounds of their real means, and therefore not censurable in them. In one point of view, the profusion of their expenses is beneficial to the community, as it gives employment, and affords sustenance to industry. Yet there can be shown “ a more excellent way.". Frugality is comely even in the rich. Not that frugality, which degenerates to parsimony, and causes the rich to wear the garb
of poverty, from a sordid spirit of penuriousness; nor yet that frugality, which saves merely to increase a hoard of wealth, already too large; but it is a prudent saving from the grasp of profusion for the purpose of charity and beneficence. Take the following example:-
Benevolus has both largeness of wealth and largeness of heart. Content with his present worldly store, he is resolved that his expenses shall about equal his income. He lives daily in the style of affluence, but never in the style of extravagance; and what he saves by frugality he bestows in charity. To the children of misfortune and want he is a friend and a father; of every useful and laudable undertaking he is a bountiful encourager. Does Benevolus aspire to be a leader of fashion ? Yes. With all the weight of his influence he tries to make industry, prudent economy, and frugality fashionable; to make the moral and Christian virtues fashionable; to make it fashionable to behave well and to do good. Happy man! Happy the children of such a father, and the community that has such a pattern!
As the richest families may be beggared by extravagance, much sooner will it consume one's all when that all is but little and what avails the ruffle without the shirt ? Persons who are in small circumstances must prudently husband what they have, or it will quickly slip out of their hands. How unwise is it for them to make an ostentation of wealth which they do not possess, or to pursue fashion "when she runs faster than they can follow." Many thousands, by standing on tiptoe, and reaching after things too high for them, have fallen flat to the ground. If you follow fashion beyond your real means, depend upon it, the skittish jade will throw you into the mire at last.