I will not deny that there are special temptations connected with this business even when carried on legitimately. So there are dangers to the engineer on a railroad. He does not know what night he may dash into the coal-train. But engines must be run, and stocks must be sold. A nervous, excitable man ought to be very slow to undertake either the engine or the Stock Exchange.
A clever young man, of twenty-five years of age, bought ten shares in the Pennsylvania Central Railroad. The stock went up five dollars per share, and he made fifty dollars by the operation. His mother, knowing his temperament, said to him, “I wish you had lost it.” But, encouraged, he entered another operation, and took ten shares in another railroad and made two hundred dollars. By this time he was ready for the wildest scheme. He lost, in three years, forty thousand dollars, ruined his health, and broke his wife’s heart. Her father supports them chiefly now. The unfortunate has a shingle up, in a small court, among low operators. Such a man as this is unfit for this commercial sphere. He would have been unfit for a pilot, unfit for military command, unfit for any place that demands steady nerve, cool brain, and well-balanced temperament.
But, while there is a legitimate sphere for the broker and operator, there are transactions every day undertaken in our cities that can only be characterized as superb outrage and villany; and there are members of Christian churches who have been guilty of speculations that, in the last day, will blanch their cheek, and thunder them down to everlasting companionship with the lowest gamblers that ever pitched pennies for a drink.
It is not necessary that I should draw the difficult line between honorable and dishonorable speculation. God has drawn it through every man’s conscience. The broker guilty of “cornering” as well knows that he is sinning against God and man, as though the flame of Mount Sinai singed his eyebrows. He hears that a brother broker has sold “short,” and immediately goes about with a wise look, saying: “Erie is going down—Erie is going down; prepare for it.” Immediately the people begin to sell; he buys up the stock; monopolizes the whole affair; drags down the man who sold short; makes largely, pockets the gain, and thanks the Lord for great prosperity in business. You call it “cornering.” I call it gambling, theft, highway robbery, villany accursed.