Some Examples Of Integrity In Business
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
Notwithstanding all this, there are shining examples of truth, and honor, and integrity in the business world. There are hundreds and thousands of them scattered here and there amid the general corruption and crookedness of business life. Occasionally their names get into print, and it is a source of great rejoicing to find now and then a man of integrity among a thousand who are dishonest and deceitful.
The Duke of Wellington once purchased an estate near Strathfieldsaye. His steward negotiated the purchase, and, taking advantage of the seller's difficulties secured the estate for Z4,000, when it was clearly worth 5,500. The steward afterwards boasted of the cheapness of his purchase to the hero of Waterloo. The Duke listened to the recital with feelings of indignation, and directed his steward to take 1,500 at once to the man, and give it to him as the full value of the property. This was honorable, praiseworthy, and right; yet it was what so few business men think they are called upon to do, in the modern view of the case. Business recognizes no rights. It is carried on as a system of theft, extortion, and wickedness, and men rarely get it into their heads that a sharp bar-gain " is generally the poorest bargain.
The following incident was related by Mr. Garfield, in a public address at Washington;
" Let me cite an example of a man I recently saw in the little village of Norwich, New York. If you wish to know his name, go into any hardware store and ask for the best hammer in the world, and if the salesman be an intelligent man, he will bring you a hammer bearing the name of D. Maydole. Young gentlemen, take that hammer in your hand, drive nails with it, and draw in spiration from it.
Thirty years ago a boy was struggling through the snows of Chenango Valley, trying to hire himself to a blacksmith. He succeeded and learned his trade, but did more. He took it into his head that he could make a better hammer than any other man had made. He devoted himself to the task for more than a quarter of a century. He studied the chemistry of metals, the strength of materials, the philosophy of form. He studied failures. Each broken hammer taught him a lesson. There was no part of the process that he did not master. He taxed his wit to invent machines to perfect and cheapen his processes. No improvement in working steel or iron escaped his notice. What may not twenty-five years of effort accomplish when concentrated on a single object? He earned success; and now, when his name is stamped on a steel hammer, it is his note, his bond, his integrity embodied in steel. The spirit of the man is in each hammer ; and the work, like the man, is unrivalled. Mr. Maydole is now acknowledged to have made the best hammer in the world. Even the sons of Thor across the sea admit it.
While I was there looking through his shop, with all its admirable arrangement of tools and machinery, there came to him a large order from China. The mechanics of the Celestial King-dom had sent down to the little town, where the persistent blacksmith now lives in affluence, to get the best that Anglo-Saxon skill has accomplished in the hammer business. It is no small achievement to do one thing better than any other man in the world has done it."
Mr. Wilbur Crafts, in a recent work, has given two somewhat remarkable instances of business integrity. Mr. Hiram A. Goodrich was a prominent grocer of Milford, Mass. He was selling out his stock preparatory to leaving the business. In looking over his ac-counts, he found that when he bought his stand a mis-take of forty-six dollars had been made, fifteen years before ; but it was a mistake that, in Mr. Goodrich's mind, must be made right. He computed interest on that forty-six dollars for fifteen years, and went to the former owner of the store with about one hundred and fifty dollars to effect a settlement. The man was very greatly astonished. He said he had never known such a case of scrupulous honesty in a business experience of many years. He refused to accept any interest, taking only the principle. This was a hand-some and worthy act on the part of Mr. Goodrich. It was right, and what every man ought to do, and yet only one business man in a hundred would feel called upon to return that forty-six dollars.
The other instance was the building of Plymouth Congregational Church, of Cleveland. The contractor drew the money due for the work and left for parts unknown, without paying the laborers who had been employed upon the church, They had no shadow of claim upon the good people of Plymouth Church ; but they gathered a fund and paid the laborers their full wages, rather than have it said that unrequited toil went into a Christian church edifice.
We could multiply cases where men have shown such integrity in business. And, so far as we know, all such integrity has been honored and prospered. And we believe that nothing is to be lost, but much gained every way, by scrupulous honesty in business. Did it pay Ferdinand Ward to steal thirteen million dollars; to lose the confidence of a nation only to shovel ashes and file castings in Sing Sing? Does it ever pay any man to stultify his conscience, cheat his neighbor, and lose the confidence of the meanest of God's creatures? What does the temporary advantage of a few dollars amount to as the price of honor and integrity ? The dishonest policy of business is always the most costly and the least remunerative. The man who wins a hundred dollars dishonestly, will lose a thousand before he is done with his business career. Somebody will steal from him. He will overreach himself in theft, or some judgment of Heaven will fall upon him to punish him for the senseless crime of theft and dishonesty.