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Way Back When

July 25, 2011

(The Spirit is pleased to share with our readers vignettes of life in the 19th Century as originally reported in past issues of the newspaper. These reprinted stories include their original headlines and spelling.)

(Local Intelligence
March 18, 1896)


Everybody Was Honest, and Even the Saw-Mills Were Upright

"Nowadays," remarked an old residenter yesterday, "nowadays men are dishonest as a rule. Of course there are many exceptions, but the majority of men are dishonest. When I was a young man, it was different. Then men were honest as a rule. To find a dishonest man was a rare exception. Why, aman's word was as good as his note any time. When a man agreed to do a thing, he regarded that as sacred, and he'd do it if it ruined him."

"Now we don't think a verbal agreement is worth much. Even when you draw up a paper and have it legally signed and witnessed and pay some money on it, you expect a man, as a rule, to try to find some way to crawl out of it. I tell you I don't take much stock in people generally at this particular period of the world's history."

"You are prejudiced," remarked a mild-eyed young man who had been an attentive listener. "You are old now, and have had much experience.
You remember most of the men who lied to you and cheated you and thus caused you worry and anxiety, but the men who dealt honorably with you, and gave you no uneasiness, you forget. During a long and active life you have been deceived many times, and those things have made an impression on you. When you ran along without any jolts, you made no records. Hence your mind is full of images of dishonest men, while the truth is your dealings have been largely with honest men."

"I claim that as men advance in knowledge they advance in morality. It is no doubt true that the pioneer settlers of this county, the sturdy men who came here and cleared up the forests, were largely honest men. They were men who expected to honestly earn every cent they got. They did not want something for nothing. But take the whole world over, and men are better on the average than they were a hundred years ago, or last year, or yesterday. There is a constant upward tendency."

"Nonsense," said the old man, stamping his cane on the floor. "I tell you men are rascals nowadays, and you've got to deal with them as such, or you will be cheated and robbed every time." And he went out and banged the door behind him.

And he will carry that opinion with him to his grave.

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