Page images


adventure ? for, where you are willing to hazard the principal, there can be no reason but should

expect to take

pari of the advantage.

Fourthly, where the trade is ordinarily certain, there are yet farther considerations to be had: to which I shall make way, by these undeniable grounds :

That the value of moneys or other commodities is arbitrary, according to the sovereign authority and use of several kingdoms and countries :

That whatsoever commodity is saleable, is capable of a profit in the loan of it; as a horse, or an ox, being that it may be sold, may · be let ont for profit.

Money itself is not only the price of all commodities in all civil nations, but it is also, in some cases, a tratticable commodity : the price whereof rises and falls, in several countries, upon occasion; and yieldeth either profit or loss, in the exchange.

There can be no doubt, therefore, but that money, thus consi. dered, and as it were turned merchandise, may be bought and sold, and improved to a just profit.

But the main doubt is, whether money, merely considered as the price of all other commodities, may be let forth for profit, and be capable of a warrantable increase.

For the resolving whereof, be it determined,

1. That all usury, which is an absolute contract for the mere loan of money, is unlawful, both by law natural and positive, both di. vine and human.

Nature teacheth us, that meta's are not a thing capable of a superfætation: that no man ought to set a price on that, which is not his own tin: that the use of the stock once received, is not the lender's, but the borrower's; for the power and right of disposing the principal is, by contract, transferred, for the time, to the hands of him that receives it; so as he, that takes the interest by virtue of such transaction, doch but, in a mannerly and legal fashion, rob the borrower.

How frequent the Scripture * is, in the prohibition of this practice, no Christian can be ignorant. And, as for Human Laws, raised even from the mere light of nature amongst heathen nations, how odious and severely interdicted usurary contracts have been in all times, it appears sufficiently, by the records which we have of the Decrees of Egypt +, of Ailiens, of Rome: and not only by the restraint of the Twelve Tables, and of Claudus and Vespasian ; but by the absolute forbiddance of many popular statutes, condemning this usage. Tiberius himseif, though otherwise wicked enough, yet would rather furnish the Banks with his own stock, to be freely let out for three years to the citizens, upon only security of the sum doubied in the forfeiture, ilian he would endure this griping and oppressive transaction. And how wise Cato drove all usurers out of Sicily, and Lucullus freed all Asia from this pressure of Interest, history hath sufficiently recorded.

* Exod. xxii. 25. Lev. xxv. 36, 37. Deut. xxiii. 19, 20. Nch. v. 7. P's. xv. 5. Prov. xxvii, 8. Ezek. xvii. 8.

+ Vid. Alexand. ab Alexand. Gen. dieruin 1, 1. c. 7.

As for Laws Ecclesiastical, let it be enough that a Council * hath defined, that to say usury is not a sin, is no better than heresy : and, in succeeding times, how liable the usurer hath ever been to the highest censures of the Church, and how excluded from the favour of Christian burial, is more manifest than to need any proof.

2. However it is unlawful to covenant for a certain profit for the mere loan of money ; yet there


be and are circumstances arpending to the loan, which may admit of some benefit to be law. fully made by the lender for the use of his money: and especially these two; the loss that he sustains, and the gain that he misses, by the want of the sum lent. For, what reason can there be, that, to pleasure another man, I should hurt myself? that I should enrich another, by my own loss?

If, then, I shall incur a real loss or forfeiture, by the delayed payment of the sum lent; I may justly look for a satisfaction from the borrower: yea, if there be a true danger of loss to me imminent, when the transaction is made, nothing hinders but that ) may by compact make sure such a sum, as may be sufficient for my indemnity.

And, if I see an opportunity of an apparent profit, that I could make fairly by disbursing of such a sum bona fide; and another, that hath a more gainful bargain in chase, shall sue to me to borrow my money out of my hand for his own greater advantage; there can be no reason, why, in such a case, I should have more respect to his profit, than my own; and why should I not, even upon pact, secure unto myself such a moderate sum, as may be somewhat answerable to the gain which I do willingly forego, for his greater profit ? since it is a true ground, which Lessius, with other Casuists, maintains against Sotus and Durand, that even our hopes of an evident commodity are valuable; and that, no less than the fears of our loss.

Shortly, for the guidance of our either caution or liberty, in matter of borrowing and lending, the only cynosure is our Charity : for in all human and civil acts of commerce, it is a sure rule, That whatsoever is not a violation of charity cannot be unlawful; and, whatsoever is not agreeable to charity can be no other than sinful. And, as charity must be your rule, so yourself must be the rule of your charity: look what you could wish to be done to you by others, do but the same to others, you cannot be guilty of the breach of charity. The maxims of traffic are almost infinite : only charity, but ever inseparable from justice, must make the application of them. That will teach you, that every increase by loan of money is not usurary; and that those, which are absolutely such, are damnable: that will teach you to distinguish, betwixt the one improvement of loan and the other; and will tell you, that if you can find out

* Concil. Viennens.

a way, whether by loan or sale, to advance your stock, that may be free from all oppression and extortion, and beneficial as well to others as to yourself, you need not fear to walk in it with all honest security. But, in the mean time, take good heed that your heart beguile you not in misapplications: for we are naturally too apt, out of our self-love, to flatter ourselves with fair glozes of bad intentions; and rather to draw the rule to us, than ourselves to the rule.

But, while I give you this short solution, I must profess to lament the common ignorance or mistaking of too many Christians, whose zeal justly cries down usury as a most hateful and abominable practice, but in the mean time makes no bones of actions no less biting and oppressive. They care not how high they sell any of their commodities, at how unreasonable rates they set their grounds, how they circumvent the buyer in their bargains; and think any price just, any gain lawful, that they can make in their markets : not considering, that there is neither less, nor less odious usury, in selling and letting, than there is in lending. It is the extortion, in both, that makes the sin; without which, the kind or terms of the transaction could not be guilty. Surely, it must needs be a great weakness, to think, that the same God, who requires mercy and favour in lending, will allow us to be cruel in selling. Rigour, and excess, in both, equally violates the law of commutative justice, equally crosses the law of charity. Let those, therefore, that make scruple of an usurious lending, learn to make no less conscience of a racking bargain: otherwise, their partial obedience will argue a gross hypocrisy; and they shall prove themselves the worst kind of what they hate, usurers : for, in the ordinary loan-usury, the borrower hath yet time to boot' for his money; but here, the buyer pays down an excessive interest, without any consideration at all, but the seller's cruelty.

For the fuller clearing of which point; whereas you ask


Whether I may not sell my wares as dear as I can, and get what I

may of every buyer?

I answer, THERE is a due price to be set upon every saleable commodity : else, there were no commerce to be used among men : for, if every inan might set what rate he pleases upon his lands or goods, where should be find a buyer? Surely, nothing could follow, but confusion and want: for mere extremity must both make the market, and regulate it.

The due price is that, which cuts equally and indifferently, betwixt the buyer and seller: so as the seiler may receive a moderale gain, and the buyer a just pennyworth.

In those countries, wherein there is a price set by public authority upon all marketable commodities, the way of commerce is well expedited; an: it is soon and easily determined, that it is meet med should be held close to the rule.

But, where all things are left to an arbitrary transaction, there were no living, if some limits were not set to the seller's demands.

These limits must be the ordinary received proportion of price, current in the several countries, wherein they are sold; and the judgment of discreet, wise, experienced, and unconcerned persons; and the weil-stated conscience of the seller.

If men shall wilfully run beyond these bounds, taking advantage of the rareness of the commodity, the paucity or the necessity of the buyers, to e:hance the price to an unreasonable height; they shall be guilty of the breach of charity; ani, in making a sinful bargain, purchase a curse.

Not that a man is so strictly tied to any other's valuation, as that he may not, upon any occasion, ask or receive more t'ian the common price; or thai, if the market rise, he is bound to sit suill. There may be just reason, upon a general mortality of cattle, to set those beasts that remain at a higher rate; or, upon a deanh of grain, or other commodities, to heighten the price: bui, in such cases, we must be so allected, as that we grudge to ourselves our own gain; that we be not in the first tile of enhancers; that we strive to be the lowest in our valuation; and labour, what we may, to bring down the market: always putting ourselves, in our conceits, into the buyer's room; and bethinking how we would wish to be dealt with, if we were in his clothes.

It is lawful for the seiler, in his price, to have regard, not to li's rents and disbursements only, but to his labour and cost, to his des lay of benefit, to his loss in managing, to his hazard or difficulty in conveyance; but all these in such moderation, as that he may be a just gainer by the bargain: not setting the dice upon the buyer; not making too mucli haste to be rich, by the secret spoils of an oppressed neighbour.

Those things, whose end is only pleasure or ornament, as a jewe', a hawk, or a hound, can admit of no certain value. The owner's affection must estimate it, and t'e buyer's desire must make up an illimited bargain: but, even in these, and all other commodities that carry the face of unnecessary, conscience must be the Clerk of the Market; and tell us, that we must so sell, as we could be willing to buy

From alt which it follows,

That the common maxim current * in the shops of trade, That things are so much worth as they can be sold for; and ihose ordinary rules of chapmen, That men, who are masters of their wares, may heighten their prices at pleasure, and get what they can out of all comers; and whatever they can get out of the simplicity or necessity of the buyers, is lawful prize; are damnably uncharitable and unjust.

* Dom. Sor. de Justit. et Jure : I. vi. quæst. 2. Artic. 3. tradit hoc, u Axion.a Jurisconsultorum.

It were a happy thing, if, as it is in some other well-ordered nations, there were a certain regulation of the prices of all commodities by public authority; the wisdom whereof knows how to rise and fall, according to the necessity of the occasion : so as the buyer might be secured from injury, and the seller restrained from a lawless oppression. But, where that cannot be had, it is fit that justice and charity should so far overrule men's actions, that

every man may not be carried, in matter of contract, by the sway of his own unreasonable will; and be free to carve for himself, as he lists, of the buyer's purse. Every man hath a bird in his bosom, that sings to him another note.

A good conscience, therefore, will tell you, that if, taking adł vantage of the ignorance or unskilfulness of the buyer, you bave made a prey of him, by drawing from him double tie worth of the commodity sold, you are bound to make restitution to him accord ingly; and in a proportion so, in all the considerable sums, which you shall have, by your false protestations and oaths and plausible intimations, wrought out from an abused buyer; above that due price, which would make you a just and rightly moderated gainer: for, assure yourself, all, that you willingly do this way, is but a better-coloured picking of purses; and what you thus get is but stolen goods, varnished over with the pretence of a calling; and will prove, at the last, no other than gravel in your throat.

CASE III. Il'heiher is the seller bound to make known to the buyer the fuulls of

that which he is about to sell ? It is a question, that was long since disputed, betwist the Heati en Sages, Antipater and Diogenes, as Cicero * informs us: with whom Cato so decides it, as that his judgment may justly shame and condemn the practice of too many Christians.

For a full answer, due consideration must be had of divers circumstances.

First, what the nature and quality of the fault is; whether it be slight and unimporting; or, whether such, as may vitiate the thing sold, and render it either unuseful or dangerous to the buyer: or, again, whether the fault be apparent; or secret. Both these do justly vary the case.

Slight and larmless fanlts may be concealed without injustice: main and importing must be signified.

If apparent defects be not discerned by the buyer, he may thank himselt: secret faults known only to the seller, such as may be

prejudicial to the buyer, ought not to be concealed; or, if they be

* Tul. de Offic. l. j.

« PreviousContinue »