Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter vi: Social Duties of the Commercial Kind - The Elements of Moral Philosophy
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chapter vi: Social Duties of the Commercial Kind - David Fordyce, The Elements of Moral Philosophy 
The Elements of Moral Philosophy, in Three Books with a Brief Account of the Nature, Progress, and Origin of Philosophy, ed. Thomas Kennedy (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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Social Duties of the Commercial Kind
Commercial DutiesThe next Order of Connections are those which arise from the Wants and Weakness of Mankind, and from the various Circumstances in which their different Situations place them. These we may call Commercial Connections, and the Duties which result from them Commercial Duties, as Justice, Fair-dealing, Sincerity, Fidelity to Compacts, and the like.
Their FoundationIt is observed somewhere by a Writer* of the first Rank, that though Nature is perfect in all her Works, yet she has observed a manifest and eminent Distinction among them. To all such as lie beyond the Reach of human Skill and Power, and are properly of her own Department, she has given the finishing Hand. These Man may design after and imitate, but he can never rival them, nor add to their Beauty or Perfection. Such are the Forms and Structure of Vegetables, Animals, and many of their Productions, as the Honeycomb, the Spider’s Web, and the like. There are others of her Works which she has of design left unfinished, as it were, in order to exercise the Ingenuity and Power of Man. She has presented to him a rich Profusion of Materials of every kind for his Conveniency and Use; but they are rude and unpolished, or not to be come at without Art and Labour. These therefore he must apply, in order to adapt them to his Use, and to enjoy them in Perfection. Thus Nature has given him an infinite Variety of Herbs, Grain, Fossils, Minerals, Wood, Water, Earth, Air, and a thousand other crude Materials to supply his numerous Wants. But he must sow, plant, dig, refine, polish, build, and, in short, manufacture the various Produce of Nature, in order to obtain even the Necessaries, and much more the Conveniencies and Elegancies of Life. These then are the Price of his Labour and Industry, and, without that, Nature will sell him nothing. But as the Wants of Mankind are many, and the single Strength of Individuals small, they could hardly find the Necessaries, and much less the Conveniencies of Life, without uniting their Ingenuity and Strength in acquiring these, and without a mutual Intercourse of good Offices. Some Men are better formed for some kinds of Ingenuity and Labour, and others for other kinds; and different Soils and Climates are enriched with different Productions; so that Men by exchanging the Produce of their respective Labours, and supplying the Wants of one Country with the Superfluities of another, do, in effect, diminish the Labours of each, and increase the Abundance of all. This is the Foundation of all Commerce, or Exchange of Commodities and Goods one with another; in order to facilitate which, Men have contrived different Species of Coin, or Money, as a common Standard by which to estimate the comparative Values of their respective Goods. But to render Commerce sure and effectual, Justice, Fair-dealing, Sincerity, and Fidelity to Compacts are absolutely necessary.
Justice, &c.Justice, or Fair-dealing, or, in other Words, a Disposition to treat others as we would be treated by them, is a Virtue of the first Importance, and inseparable from the virtuous Character. It is the Cement of Society, or that pervading Spirit which connects its Members, inspires its various Relations, and maintains the Order and Subordination of each Part to the Whole. Without it, Society would become a Den of Thieves and Banditti, hating and hated, devouring and devoured, by one another.
SinceritySincerity or Veracity, in our Words and Actions, is another Virtue or Duty of great Importance to Society, being one of the great Bands of mutual Intercourse, and the Foundation of mutual Trust. Without it, Society would be the Dominion of Mistrust, Jealousy, and Fraud, and Conversation a Traffic of Lies and Dissimulation. It includes in it a Conformity of Words with our Sentiments, a Correspondence between our Actions and Dispositions, a strict Regard to Truth, and an irreconcileable Abhorrence of Falsehood. It does not indeed require that we expose our Sentiments indiscreetly, or tell all the Truth in every Case; but certainly it does not and cannot admit the least Violation of Truth, or Contradiction to our Sentiments. For if these Bounds are once passed, no possible Limit can be assigned where the Violation shall stop; and no Pretence of private or public Good, can possibly counterbalance the Ill Consequences of such a Violation. And we trust, the Order of Nature and Providence is such, that it seldom or never falls out, that so valuable a Sacrifice must be made in order to obtain the Ends of an extensive Benevolence. It belongs to us to do what appears right and conformable to the Laws of our Nature, and to leave Heaven to direct and over-rule Events or Consequences, which it will never fail to do, for the best.
Fidelity to Promises, Compacts, &c.Fidelity to Promises, Compacts, and Engagements, is likewise a Duty of such Importance to the Security of Commerce and Interchange of Benevolence among Mankind, that Society would soon grow intolerable without the strict Observance of it. Hobbes, and others who follow the same Track, have taken a wonderful deal of pains to puzzle this Subject, and to make all the Virtues of this Sort merely artificial, and not at all obligatory, antecedent to human Conventions. No doubt Compacts suppose People who make them, and Promises Persons to whom they are made, and therefore both suppose some Society more or less between those who enter into these mutual Engagements. But is not a Compact or Promise binding, till Men have agreed that they shall be binding? Or are they only binding because it is our Interest to be bound by them, or to fulfil them? Do not we highly approve the Man who fulfils them, even tho’ they should prove to be against his Interest? And do not we condemn him as a Knave, who violates them on that account? A Promise is a voluntary Declaration, by Words, or by an Action equally significant, of our Resolution to do something in behalf of another, or for his Service. When it is made, the Person who makes it, is by all supposed under an Obligation to perform it. And he to whom it is made, may demand the Performance as his Right. That Perception of Obligation is a simple Idea, and is on the same Footing as our other Moral Perceptions, which may be described by Instances, but cannot be defined. Whether we have a Perception of such Obligation quite distinct from the Interest, either Public or Private, that may accompany the Fulfilment of it, must be referred to the Conscience of every Individual. And, whether the mere Sense of that Obligation, apart from its Concomitants, is not a sufficient Inducement or Motive to keep one’s Promise, without having recourse to any selfish Principle of our Nature, must be likewise appealed to the Conscience of every honest Man. Fair-dealing and Fidelity to Compacts require that we take no Advantage of the Ignorance, Passion, or Incapacity of others, from whatever Cause that Incapacity arises;—that we be explicit and candid in making Bargains, just and faithful in fulfilling our Part of them. And if the other Party violates his Engagements, Redress is to be sought for from the Laws, or from those who are intrusted with the Execution of them. In fine, the Commercial Virtues and Duties require that we not only do not invade, but maintain the Rights of others;—that we be fair and impartial in transferring, bartering, or exchanging Property, whether in Goods or Service; and be inviolably faithful to our Word and our Engagements, where the Matter of them is not criminal, and where they are not extorted by Force.—But on this the designed Brevity of the Work will not permit us farther to insist.
[*] Lord Bacon. [See, for example, Bacon’s De Augmentis, book 2, chapter 2.]