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Thomas Brassey from being as good as his word.” It was understood all over Europe, all over the world, that a bargain made with Mr. Brassey would be carried out.

Whether it was because this spirit of honesty generated a correspondent disposition on the other side, we are not informed; but it is a noteworthy fact, that in all of Mr. Brassey's multifarious engagements, it only once befell him to be involved in a lawsuit. This suit grew out of the construction of a road in Spain ; and we imagine that the proverbial meekness of Moses would scarce carry one through a prolonged undertaking in that most dilatory, unreliable, and aggravating of countries, without a severe trial of patience, if not a quarrel. This single lawsuit of his life, however, Mr. Brassey always regretted, and attributed it to the fact that he was acting with a partner, and could not follow his own judgment.

Mr. Brassey's honesty extended beyond the execution of formal contracts. In all his affairs,


e'en fixed on vacant space,
Beamed keen wi' honor.

His secretary says:

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I remember urging him very much to sell some shares when they were at a large premium, but he would not do it. He seemed to consider it a thing unworthy to be attended to, as if he thought some one else would lose by it, and that he would be taking the profit away from some one else; or that, having gone into the thing from its origin, and being to some extent responsible for its initiation, he ought to see it through, without getting out of it over some one else's shoulders.

During the preliminary arrangements for the construction of the Moldavian Railway, an incident occurred which illustrates the bluffness that marks the typical Englishman, and also the honesty that makes the English race, after all deductions for the insular defects, really the most respectable of the Europeans,—the only European nation, perhaps we should say, that regards a treaty, or a contract, as a thing to be carried out, whether or no.

The Austrian government had lodged the whole matter of the railway in the hands of seven persons, the chief of whom were Mr. Brassey and a Spanish capitalist, the Marquis of Salamanca. Authority had been given them to issue three-fourths of the capital in bonds. Salamanca's proposal was that these bonds should be issued before any of the shares had been taken. This course would throw all of the risks upon the bond-holders. Mr. Brassey said:

" Before we can issue the bonds, the shares must be paid up; and I am not prepared to say that we can get these shares taken." ... Several schemes were suggested for getting over this difficulty, none of which, however, were satisfactory to Mr. Brassey, who, with his characteristic scrupulousness, declined to assent to any course except a bonâ-fide sale of the bonds, or an advance upon them to the extent of the value they represented. He therefore said to the Marquis: “Look here, Mr. Salamanca, if you and your friends will put £500,000 down on the table any day you like to name, I and my friends will do so too; then the shares will be paid up, and then we can issue the bonds."


Such a standard of rectitude is brought into strong relief by facts which are transpiring as these pages go to press. The country (and we may say the civilized world) rings with the history of a gigantic railway contract, the managers of which were able to make, within a few months, dividends amounting to eight hundred per cent. On this 26th day of February, we find, in a leading paper of Philadelphia, the creator of this scheme defended in an article from which we make an extract: "He has built a road of seven hundred miles, more difficult for building than any other in this country; expended $70,000,000, with an actual profit, by his statement, of less than $10,000,000, where twenty to thirty per cent. is no unusual profit, with every circumstance favoring."

While Mr. Brassey illustrated in his life what we call (rather vaguely) common honesty (by which we mean the absence of fraud), he no less illustrated that larger, more complete honesty, which not only gives to all what they have a right to demand, but realizes the tenor of the law, “As ye would that men should do to you, do

ye even so to them likewise.” On the one hand, in his relation with the companies, he was most moderate in his demands. Nothing but the most consummate knowledge of his business could have saved him from loss, with so small a margin as three per cent. on the amount of his contracts. Nor did he recompense himself for moderation with his employers, by extortion towards his workmen. He was quite as anxious that his employees should do well, as he was to do well himself.

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Mr. Brassey would always increase the price of the contract, or make it up to the sub-contractor in some other way, if the original contract had proved to be too hard a bargain for the sub-contractor. Frequently the work appointed to the sub-contractor turned out to be of a more difficult nature than had been anticipated. He, however, would not desist from the work on that account, nor make any appeal in writing to his employer. He would wait until the time when Mr. Brassey


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should come round to visit the works. This was generally, at this period, once or twice a month. Of course Mr. Brassey had agents who represented him, providing the necessary materials, making payments, and watching the work of the sub-contractors. These agents, however, seldom felt disposed, or were not authorized, to add to the price already agreed upon between Mr. Brassey and any of the sub-contractors. The sub-contractor, therefore, who had made but an indifferent bargain, awaited eagerly the coming of Mr. Brassey to the works. One of these occasions is thus described : “He came, and saw how matters stood, and invariably satisfied the man. If a cutting, taken to be clay, turned out after a very short time to be rock, the sub-contractor would be getting disheartened: yet he still persevered, looking to the time when Mr. Brassey should come. He came, walking along the line as usual, with a number of followers, and on coming to the cutting he looked round, counted the number of wagons at work, scanned the cutting, and took stock of the nature of the stuff. * This is very hard,' said he to the sub-contractor. “Yes, it is a pretty deal harder than I bargained for.' Mr. Brassey would linger behind, allowing the others to go on, and then commenced the following conversation : What is your price for this cutting ?' 'So much a yard, sir.' 'It is very evident that you are not getting it out for that price. Have you asked for any advance to be made to you for this rock?' 'Yes, sir, but I can make no sense of them.' 'If you say that your price is so much, it is quite clear that you do not do it for that. I am glad that you have persevered with it, but I shall not alter your price; it must remain as it is, but the rock must be measured for you twice; will that do for you?' 'Yes, very well indeed, and I am very much obliged to you, sir.' Very well; go on; you have done well in persevering, and I shall look to you again.' The same witness states that one of these visits of inspection would often “cost Mr. Brassey a thousand pounds."

This manner of dealing gave him the command of the labormarket. He had always as many sub-contractors and agents and employees as he wanted, and on his own terms.

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Mr. Brassey's mode of dealing with the sub-contractors was of an unusual kind, and such as could not have been adopted except by a man who had great experience of all kinds of manual work, and who was also a very just man. They did not exactly contract with him, but he appointed to them their work, telling them what price he should give for it. All the evidence I have before me shows that they were content to take the work at his price, and that they never questioned his accuracy. One of his sub-contractors thus describes the process. “They did not ask him any question. He said, “There is a piece of work for you. Will you go into that? You will have so much for it.' And then they accepted it, and went to work."

It may somewhat surprise the reader to find that all these sub-contractors were so willing at once to accept Mr. Brassey's terms; but this

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is easily to be accounted for, by the conviction which each of them had, that, if any mistake had been made, especially a mistake to their injury, there was a court of appeal which listened very readily to any grievance, and took care to remedy it.

This “court,” of course, was Mr. Brassey himself.

"On one occasion," [says Mr. Brassey's son], "an estimate was submitted to him for a contract, for which a sharp competition was expected. The prices had accordingly been cut down to an unusually low figure. He asked, “How is it proposed to carry out the work for such inadequate prices?' In reply, it was stated that the calculation was based on the assumption that a reduction of wages could be negotiated. On receiving this explanation, he desisted from all further examination of the estimate, saying, 'If business can be obtained only by screwing down wages, I would rather be without it.'

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And the men gave a day's work for a day's wages. Not only was there the moral re-action, fairness generating fairness, but physically it was found in all his varied and wide-reaching transactions, that there was an invariable law—the more wages, the more work. The Frenchman, living on light, unsubstantial food, and working with a wooden spade, was worth two francs a day, when the Englishman by his side, was worth four and a half francs. But gradually, with better wages, the Frenchman lived better, got better tools, and was worth

It may seem to make no difference whether one pays a Neapolitan four francs for four days' work, a Frenchman four francs for two days' work (each of his days being equal to two of the former), or an Englishman four francs for one days' work, (his days' work being equal to two of the Frenchman's); but in point of fact, there is a difference, which is of great moment. It is the difference between finishing a job in six months, and deriving an income from it, on the one hand, and on the other hand, having it drag along for two years, with no revenue coming in. Mr. Brassey's remuneration was often in bonds and stocks of the roads; and his enlarged and elevated honesty, his practice of the golden rule, was as wise financially as it was humane and generous.

And he enjoyed the grateful reverence of all who dealt with him. He not only united remote regions by bands of iron; he strengthened the ties of confidence and affection between man and his fellow man. When he was constructing the Sambre and Meuse Railway, he introduced the English custom of paying the laborers each fortnight. But presently, the Belgian laborers asked to be paid only once a month. They had such confidence in him that they felt that their

1 "Work and Wages;" by Thomas Brassey, M.P. New York: D. Appleton & Co.

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money was safer in his hands than in theirs, and they thought that they could use their wages to better advantage, if paid to them in larger sums. When he was making the road from Bilbao to Tudila, in Spain, he paid the Basques in bank notes. They looked at them

very doubtingly. At last, being assured that they would be cashed by the bank, they took them hesitatingly. But after the second and third time, finding that they were always paid, they took them readily. The moral and material welfare of a region through which Mr. Brassey was carrying a railway, always was elevated, and usually the improvement was permanent.

During Mr. Brassey's last sickness

Many persons, both those who had served him in foreign countries and at home, came from great distances, solely for the chance of seeing, once more, their old master whom they loved so much. They were men of all classes; humble navvies as well as trusted agents. They would not intrude upon his illness, but would solict to be allowed to stay in the hall, and would wait for hours there, in the hope of seeing Mr. Brassey borne to his carriage, and getting once more from him a shake of the hand or the slightest sign of friendly recognition.

The lessons taught by the life of Mr. Brassey are three-fold : 1st. The way to success in business, lies through competence, industry, resolution, enterprise and honesty. 2nd. The real interests of the employer and of the employed are one. 3d. The true solution of all the problems concerning the relations of labor and capital, is found in the practice of the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount.


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