Truth needs no color, beauty no pencil.--Shakespeare

An honest man's the noblest work of God.--Pope

The basis of high thinking is perfect honesty.--Strong

Nature has written a letter of credit on some men's faces which is

honored whenever presented.--Thackeray

If there were no honesty, it would be invented as a means of getting


There are certain virtues and vices which very largely determine the

happiness or the misery of every human life. Prominent among these

virtues are those of truth and honesty; and to these are opposed the

vices of lying and cheating.

Society is like a building, which stands firm when its foundations are

strong and all its timbers are sound. The man who cannot be trusted is

to society what a faulty foundation or a bit of rotten timber is to a


It is always mean for a man or boy "to go back," as we say, on a friend.

It is still worse, if possible, to "go back" on one's self. A brave man

or boy will manfully take the consequences of his acts, and if they are

bad, will resolve to do better another time. The worst sort of deceit is

that by which one lets another bear the blame, or in any way suffer, for

what one has one's self done. Such meanness happens sometimes, but it is

almost too bad to be spoken of.

There are certain kinds of cheating that the law cannot or does not

touch. The man who practices this kind of dishonesty is even worse than

if he were doing that which the law punishes. He uses the law, which

was meant to protect society, as a cover from which he can attack


Lying is a form of dishonesty, and a very bad form of it. What would

become of the world if we could not trust each other's word? A lie is

always told for one of two ends; either to get some advantage to which

one has no real claim, in which case it is merely a form of cheating; or

to defend one's self from the bad consequences of something that one has

done, in which case it is cowardly.

The Romans arranged the seats in their two temples to Virtue and Honor,

so that no one could enter the second without passing through the first.

Such is the order of advance,--Virtue, Toil, Honor.

The solid and useful virtue of honesty is highly practicable. "Nothing

is profitable that is dishonest," is a truthful maxim. "Virtue alone is

invincible." "I would give ten thousand dollars for your reputation for

uprightness," said a sharper to an upright tradesman, "for I could make

a hundred thousand dollars with it." Honesty succeeds, dishonesty fails.

The honesty and integrity of A. T. Stewart won for him a great

reputation, and the young schoolmaster who began life in New York on

less than a dollar a day, amassed nearly forty million dollars, and

there was not a smirched dollar in all those millions.

We do not count ourselves among those who believe that "every man has

his price," and that "an honest man has a lock of hair growing in the

palm of his right hand." No! There are in the world of business many

more honest men than rogues, and for one trust betrayed there are

thousands sacredly kept.

As a mere matter of selfishness, "honesty is the best policy." But he

who is honest for policy's sake is already a moral bankrupt. Men of

policy are honest when they think honesty will pay the better; but when

policy will pay better they give honesty the slip. Honesty and policy

have nothing in common. When policy is in, honesty is out. It is more

honorable for some men to fail than for others to succeed. Part with

anything rather than your integrity and conscious rectitude. Capital is

not what a man has, but what a man is. Character is capital.

For example: A man wishes to succeed in business. His studies and his

practical training have fitted him to do this. He seeks out all the

methods by which he may reach success. He shrinks from no labor of mind,

or, if need be, of body, for this end. In all this he is right. We

admire skill, industry, and pluck. There is, however, one kind of means

that he may not use. He may not stoop to fraud of any kind. He _may_

desire and seek wealth; he _must_ desire and seek honor and

honesty. These are among the ends that morality insists upon, and that

should not be sacrificed to anything else.

What contempt we have for a man who robs another, who picks his pocket,

or knocks him down in some lonely place and strips him of whatever

articles of value he may have. But the man who cheats is a thief, just

as truly as the pickpocket and the highwayman.

There is nothing that improves a boy's character so much as putting him

on his honor--trusting to his honor. We have little hope for the boy who

is dead to the feeling of honor. The boy who needs to be continually

looked after is on the road to ruin. If treating your boy as a gentleman

does not make him a gentleman, nothing else will.

There are many incidents in Abraham Lincoln's career which illustrate

this virtue; and from these we select the following: While tending

store, Lincoln once sold to a woman goods to the amount of two dollars,

six and a quarter cents. He discovered later that a mistake had been

made, and that the store owed the customer the six and a quarter cents.

After he had closed the store that night, he walked several miles in

the darkness to return the amount.

At another time a woman bought a pound of tea. Lincoln discovered the

next morning that a smaller weight was on the scales. He at once weighed

out the remainder, and walked some distance before breakfast to return


He was once a postmaster in New Salem; but the office was finally

discontinued. Several years after, the agent called at his law office,

and presented a claim of about seventeen dollars in the settlement of

the New Salem affairs. Mr. Lincoln took out a little trunk, and

produced the exact sum, wrapped in a linen rag. It had lain there

untouched through years of the greatest hardship and self-denial. He

said, "I never use any one's money but my own."

Honor lies in doing well whatever we find to do; and the world estimates

a man's abilities in accordance with his success in whatever business or

profession he may engage. The true gentleman is known by his strict

sense of honor; by his sympathy, his gentleness, his forbearance, and

his generosity. He is essentially a man of truth, speaking and doing

rightly, not merely in the sight of men, but in his secret and private

behavior. Truthfulness is moral transparency. Hence the gentleman

promises nothing that he has not the means of performing. The Duke of

Wellington proudly declared that truth was the characteristic of an

English officer, that when he was bound by a parole he would not break

his word; for the gentleman scorns to lie, in word or deed; and is ready

to brave all consequences rather than debase himself by falsehood.

When any one complains, as Diogenes did, that he has to hunt the streets

with candles at noonday to find an honest man, we are apt to think that

his nearest neighbor would have quite as much difficulty in making such

a discovery. If you think there is not a true man living, you had

better, for appearance's sake, not say so until you are dead yourself.

A few years since, a manly boy about nine years old stepped up to a

gentleman in the Grand Central Depot, New York, and asked, "Shine,

sir?" "Yes I want my shoes blacked," said the gentleman. "Then I would

be glad to shine them, sir," said the boy. "Have I time to catch the

Hudson River train?" "No time to lose, sir; but I can give you a good

job before it pulls out. Shall I?" "Yes, my boy; but don't let me be


In two seconds the bootblack was on his knees and hard at work. "The

train is going, sir," said the boy, as he gave the last touch. The

gentleman gave the boy a half dollar, and started for the train. The boy

counted out the change and ran after the gentleman, but was too late,

for the train was gone.

Two years later the same gentleman, coming to New York, met the

bootblack, but had forgotten him. The boy remembered the gentleman, and

asked him, "Didn't I shine your shoes once in the Grand Central Depot?"

"Some boy did," said the man. "I am the boy, and here is your change,

sir." The gentleman was so pleased with the lad's honesty, that he went

with him to see his mother, and offered to adopt him, as he needed such

a boy. The mother consented, and the honest bootblack had after that a

good home. He was given a good education, and, when a man, became a

partner in the gentleman's large business.


At eleven years of age George Peabody had to go out into the world to

earn his living. His promptness and honesty won for him the esteem of

his employer. At the age of fifteen he was left fatherless, without a

dollar in the world. An uncle in Georgetown, D. C., hearing that the boy

needed work, sent for him and gave him employment. His genial manner and

respectful bearing gained him many friends. He never wounded the

feelings of the buyer of goods, never seemed impatient, and was strictly

honest in all his dealings. His energy, perseverance, and honesty made

him a partner in the business when only nineteen years of age. At the

age of thirty-five he became the head of a large and wealthy business,

which his own industry had helped to build. He had bent his life to one

purpose, to make his business a success.

Having visited London several times in matters of trade, he determined

to make that city his place of residence. In 1837, there came a great

business panic in the United States. Many banks suspended specie

payments. Many mercantile houses went to the wall, and thousands more

were in great distress. Faith in the credit of the United States was

almost lost. Probably not one half dozen men in Europe would have been

listened to for a moment in the Bank of England upon the subject of

American securities, but George Peabody was one of them.

He became a wealthy man, honored at home and abroad. He loved his

fellow-men and set himself the task of relieving their wants. He gave

ten thousand dollars to help fit out the second expedition for the

relief of Sir John Franklin. The same year, his native town of Danvers,

Massachusetts, celebrated its centennial. The rich London banker was of

course invited. He was too busy to be present but sent a letter. The

seal was broken at dinner, and this was the toast it contained:

"Education--a debt due from present to future generations." In the same

envelope was a check for twenty thousand dollars for a town library and

institute. At another banquet given in his honor at Danvers, years

afterward, he gave two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to the same

institute. Edward Everett, and others, made eloquent addresses, and then

the kind-faced, great-hearted man responded.

"There is not a youth within the sound of my voice whose early

opportunities and advantages are not very much better than were mine. I

have achieved nothing that is impossible to the most humble boy among

you. Steadfast and undeviating _truth_, fearless and straight forward

integrity, and an honor ever unsullied by an unworthy word or action,

make their possessor greater than worldly success."

[Footnote: See the life of George Peabody, by Phebe A. Hanaford (Boston,

1882), and numerous articles in the cyclopedias and magazines.]