It is astonishing how some men, who are kind in their families, useful in the church, charitable to the poor, are utterly transformed of the devil as soon as they enter the Stock Exchange. A respectable member of one of the churches of the city went into a broker’s office and said: “Get me one hundred shares of Reading, and carry it; I will leave a margin of five hundred dollars.” Instead of going up, according to anticipation, the stock fell. Every few days the operator called to ask the broker what success. The stock still declined. The operator was so terribly excited that the broker asked him what was the matter. He replied: “To tell you the truth, I borrowed that five hundred dollars that I lost, and, in anticipation of what I was sure I was going to get by the operation, I made a very large subscription to the Missionary Society.”
The nation has become so accustomed to frauds that no astonishment is excited thereby. The public conscience has for many years been utterly debauched by what were called fancy stocks, morus multicaulis, Western city enterprises, and New England developments.
If a man find on his farm something as large as the head of a pin, that, in a strong sunlight, sparkles a little, a gold company is formed; books are opened; working capital declared; a select number go in on the “ground floor;” and the estates of widows and orphans are swept into the vortex. Very little discredit is connected with any such transaction, if it is only on a large scale. We cannot bear small and insignificant dishonesties, but take off our hats and bow almost to the ground in the presence of the man who has made one hundred thousand dollars by one swindle. A woman was arrested in the streets of one of our cities for selling molasses candy on Sunday. She was tried, condemned, and imprisoned. Coming out of prison, she went into the same business and sold molasses candy on Sunday. Again she was arrested, condemned, and imprisoned. On coming out—showing the total depravity of a woman’s heart—she again went into the same business, and sold molasses candy on Sunday. Whereupon the police, the mayor and the public sentiment of the city rose up and declared that, though the heavens fell, no woman should be allowed to sell molasses candy on Sunday. Yet the law puts its hands behind its back, and walks up and down in the presence of a thousand abominations and dares not whisper.
There are scores of men to-day on the streets, whose costly family wardrobes, whose rosewood furniture, whose splendid turn-outs, whose stately mansions, are made out of the distresses of sewing-women, whose money they gathered up in a stock swindle. There is human sweat in the golden tankards. There is human blood in the crimson plush. There are the bones of unrequited toil in the pearly keys of the piano. There is the curse of an incensed God hovering over all their magnificence. Some night the man will not be able to rest. He will rise up in bewilderment and look about him, crying: “Who is there?” Those whom he has wronged will thrust their skinny arms under the tapestry, and touch his brow, and feel for his heart, and blow their sepulchral breath into his face, crying: “Come to judgment!”