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Rules and Measures of Justice in Bargaining.

1. In making contracts, use not many words; for all the business of a bargain is summed up in few sentences: and he that speaks least means fairest as having fewer opportunities or deceive.

2. Lie not at all, neither in a little thing nor in a great, neither in the substance nor in the circumstance, neither in word nor deed: that is, pretend not what is false, cover not what is true: and let the measure of your affirmation or denial be the understanding of your contractor; for he that deceives the buyer or the seller by speaking what is true in a sense not intended or understood by the other, is a liar and a thief. For in bargains you are to avoid not only what is false, but that also which deceives.

3. In prices of bargaining concerning uncertain merchandises, you may buy as cheap ordinarily, as you can; and sell as dear as you can, so it be, 1. without violence; and, 2. when you contract on equal terms with persons in all senses (as to the matter and skill of bargaining) equal to yourself, that is, merchants with merchants, wise men with wise men, rich with rich; and, 3. when there is no deceit, and no necessity and no monopoly: for in these cases, viz. when the contractors are equal, and no advantage on either side, both parties are voluntary, and therefore there can be no injustive or wrong to either. But then add also this consideration, that the public be not oppressed by unreasonable and unjust rates: for which the following rules are the best measure.

4. Let your prices be according to that measure of good and evil which is established in the fame and common accounts of the wisest and most merciful men, skilled in that manufacture or commodity; and be gain such which, without scandal, is allowed to persons in all the same circumstances.

5. Let no prices be heightened by the necessity or unskilfulness of the contractor: for the first is direct uncharitableness to the person, and injustice in the thing; because the man’s necessity could not naturally enter into the consideration of the value of the commodity; and the other is deceit and oppression: much less must any man make necessities; as by engrossing a commodity, by monopoly, by detaining corn, or the like indirect arts; for such persons are unjust to all single persons, with whom, in such cases, they contract, and oppressors of the public.

6. In intercourse with others, do not do all which you may lawfully do: but keep something within thy power: and, because there is a latitude of gain in buying and selling, take not thou the utmost penny that is lawful, or which thou thinkest so; for although it be lawful, yet it is not safe; and he that gains all that he can gain lawfully this year, possibly next year will be tempted to gain something unlawfully.

7. He that sells dearer, by reason he sells not for ready money, must increase his price no higher than to make himself recompense for the loss which, according to the rules of trade, he sustained by his forbearance, according to common computation, reckoning in also the hazard, which he is prudently, warily, and charitably to estimate. But although this be the measure of his justice, yet because it happens either to their friends, or to necessitous and poor persons, they are, in these cases to consider the rules of friendship and neighbourhood, and the obligations of charity, lest justice turn into unmercifulness.

8. No man is to be raised in his price or rents in regard of any accident, advantage, or disadvantage of his person.173173Mercantia non vuol ne amici ne parenti. A prince must be used conscionably as well as a common person, and a beggar be treated justly as well as a prince: with this only difference, that, to poor persons, the utmost measure and extent of justice is unmerciful, which, to a rich person, is innocent, because it is just; and he needs not thy mercy and remission.

9. Let no man, for his own poverty, become more oppressing and cruel in his bargain, but quietly, modestly, diligently, and patiently, recommend his estate to God, and follow its interest and leave the success to him: for such courses will more probably advance his trade; they will certainly procure him a blessing and a recompense; and, if they cure not his poverty, they will take away the evil of it: and there is nothing else in it that can trouble him.

10. Detain not the wages of the hireling, for every degree of detention of it beyond the time is injustice and uncharitableness, and grinds his face, till tears and blood come out, but pay him exactly according to covenant, or according to his needs.

11. Religiously keep all promises and covenants, though made to your disadvantage, though afterwards you perceive you might have done better; and let not any precedent act of yours be altered by any after-accident. Let nothing make you break your promise, unless it be unlawful, or impossible: that is, either out of your natural, or out of your civil power, yourself being under the power of another; or that it be intolerably inconvenient to yourself, and of no advantage to another; or that you have leave expressed, or reasonably presumed.174174Surgam ad sponsalia, quia promisi, quamvis non concoxerim: sed non, si febricitavero: subest enim tacita exceptio, sipotero, si debebo. Effice ut idem status sit, cum exigitur, qui futi, cum promitterem. Desitiuere levitas non erit, si aliquid intervenit novi. Eadem mihi omnia praesta: et idem sum—Seneca. De Benefie. lib. iv. cap.39 Ruhk. voll iv. p. 197

12. Let no man take wages or fees for a work that he cannot do, or cannot with probability undertake, or in some sense profitably, and with ease, or with advantage manage. Physicians must not meddle with desperate diseases, and known to be incurable, without declaring their sense before hand; that if the patient please, he may entertain him at adventure, or to do him some little ease. Advocates must deal plainly with their clients, and tell them the true state and danger of their case; and must not pretend confidence in an evil cause: but when he hath so cleared his own innocence, if the client will have collateral and legal advantages obtained by his industry, he may engage his endeavour, provided he do no injury to the right cause, or any man’s person.

13. Let no man appropriate to his own use what God, by a special mercy, or the republic, hath made common;175175Brassavol. in exam. simpl. for that is both against justice and charity too; and by miraculous accidents, God hath declared his displeasure against such enclosure. When the kings of Naples enclosed the gardens of Cenotria, where the best manna of Calabria descends, that no man might gather it without paying tribute, the manna ceased till the tribute was taken off, and then it came again; and so, when after the third trial, the princes found they could not have that in proper which God made to be common, they left it as free as God gave it. The like happened in Epire; when Lysimachus laid an impost upon the Tragasaean salt, it vanished, till Lysimachus left it public.176176Caelius Rhod. 1. ix. c. 12. Athenae. Deipnos. 1. iii. And when the procurators of king Antigonus imposed a rate upon the sick people that came to Edepsum to drink the waters which were lately sprung, and were very healthful, instantly the waters dried up, and the hope of gain perished.

The sum of all is in these words of St. Paul, “let no man go beyond and defraud his brother, in any matter; because the Lord is the avenger of all sueth.1771771 Thess. iv.6. And our blessed Saviour, in enumerating the duties of justice, besides the commandment of ‘Do not steal,’ adds,178178Lev. xix. 13; 1 Cor. vi. 8; Matt. x. 19. Defraud not,, forbidding (as a distinct explication of the old law) the tacit and secret theft of abusing our brother in civil contracts. And it needs no other arguments to enforce this caution, but only that the Lord hath undertaken to avenge all such persons. And as he always does it in the great day of recompenses, so very often he does it here, by making the unclean portion of injustice to be as a canker-worm eating up all the other increase: it procures beggary, and a declining estate, or a caitiff cursed spirit, an ill name, the curse of the injured and oppressed person, and a fool or a prodigal to be his heir.


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