True Test of Industry

Jacob Franklin Heston, “Note I,” Moral & Political Truth: Or Reflections Suggested by Reading History and Biography, (Philadelphia: Printed for the Author, 1811), pp. 133-134:

One of these egotists, was one day boasting of his industry; and railing against his neighbour for indolence. A person who was present, asked him, who received the profit of his industry. He answered, himself. Then, said the other, who thanks you for your industry, as long as you are only industrious for yourself? If I was needy or in distress, you would not do half as much to relieve me, as the man whom you slander; hence he is a much better man, and less idle, than you are. Unless you were paid for it, you would not give a day to save your country from ruin; but he gives many to save both it, and you. This just and unexpected reproof, quite nonplussed the niggardly blockhead; and he had no more to say. We too often meet with persons of this description.

Indeed it is generally true, that men who speak, with so much asperity, against their honest neighbours, would scarcely turn their hands to serve another; unless it were in expectation of some favour in return. But, if they will not do as much gratis, as those whom they call lazy, are they not more lazy than those whom they call so? They certainly are; because they will not work for as small a reward. The degree of labour bestowed in charity, or for the benefits of others, is the true test of industry. By this test, we should frequently find, that they who boast the most of their labor, and are the most censorious, would do the least without the hope of reward; and are really in their nature the most indolent. They may toil more, perhaps, although they have a greater aversion to toil, than one who toils less: for the love of riches may predominate over their indolence; and this is the reason that avarice is mistaken for industry.

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