William Penn on the Conduct of Business

From Some Fruits of Solitude

The section entitled "Bearing"

182. A Man in Business must put up with many Affronts if he loves his own Quiet.

183. We must not pretend to see all that we see, if we would be easy.

184. It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.

185. A vindictive Temper is not only uneasy to others, but to them that have it.

The section entitled "Promising"

186. Rarely Promise: But, if Lawful, constantly Perform.

187. Hasty Resolutions are of the Nature of Vows; and to be equally avoided.

188. I will never do this, says one, yet does it: I am resolved to do this, says another; but flags upon second Thoughts: Or does it, tho' awkwardly, for his Word's sake: As if it were worse to break his Word, than to do amiss in keeping it.

189. Wear none of thine own chains; but keep free, whilst thou art free.

190. It is an Effect of Passion that Wisdom corrects, to lay thy self under Resolutions that cannot be well made, and must be worse performed.

The section entitled "Industry"

233. Industry, is certainly very commendable, and supplies the want of Parts.

234. Patience and Diligence, like Faith, remove Mountains.

235. Never give out while there is Hope; but hope not beyond Reason, for that shews more Desire than Judgement.

236. It is a profitable Wisdom to know when we have done enough: Much time and Pains are spared, in not flattering our selves against Probabilities.

The section entitled "Temporal Happiness"

237. Do Good with what thou hast, or it will do thee no good.

238. Seek not to be Rich, but Happy. The one lies in Bags, the other in Content: which Wealth can never give.

239. We are apt to call things by wrong Names. We will have Prosperity to be Happiness, and Adversity to be Misery; though that is the School of Wisdom, and oftentimes the way to Eternal Happiness.

240. If thou wouldest be Happy, bring thy Mind to thy Condition, and have an Indifferency for more than what is sufficient.

241. Have but little to do, and do it thy self: And do to others as thou wouldest have them do to thee: So, thou canst not fail of Temporal Felicity.

242. The generality are the worse for their Plenty: The Voluptuous consumes it, the Miser hides it: 'Tis the good Man that uses it, and to good Purposes. But such are hardly found among the Prosperous.

243. Be rather Bountiful than Expensive.

244. Neither make nor go to Feasts, but let the laborious Poor bless thee at Home in their Solitary Cottages.

245. Never voluntarily want what thou hast in Possession; nor so spend it as to involve thyself in want unavaoidable.

246. Be not tempted to presume by Success: For many that have got largely, have lost all, by coveting to get more.

247. To hazard much to get much, has more of Avarice than Wisdom.

248. It is great Prudence both to Bound and Use Prosperity.

249. Too few know when they have Enough; and fewer know how to employ it.

250. It is equally adviseable not to part lightly with what is hardly gotten, and not to shut up closely what flows in freely.

251. Act not the Shark upon thy Neighbors; nor take Advantage of the Ignorance, Prodigality or Necessity of any one: For that is next door to Fraud, and, at best, makes but an Unablest Gain.

252. It is oftentimes the Judgment of God upon Greedy Rich Men, that he suffers them to push on their Desires of Wealth to Excess of over-reaching, grinding or oppression, which poisons all the rest they have gotten: So that it commonly runs away as fast, and by as bad ways as it was heap'd together.

The section entitled "Respect"

253. Never esteem any Man, or thy self, the more for Money; nor think the meaner of thy self or another for want of it: Virtue being the just Reason of respecting, and the want of it, of slighting any one.

254. A Man like a Watch, is to be valued for his Goings.

255. He that prefers him upon other accounts, bows to an idol.

256. Unless Virtue guide us, our Choice must be wrong.

257. An able bad Man, is an ill Instrument, and to be shunned as the plague.

258. Be not deceived with the first appearance of things, but give thy self Time to be in the right.

259. Show, is not substance. Realities Govern Wise Men.

260. Have a Care therefore where there is more Sail than Ballast.

The section entitled "Hazard"

261. In all Business it is best to put nothing to hazard: But where it is unavoidable, be not rash, but firm and resign'd.

262. We should not be troubled for what we cannot help; But if it was our Fault, let it be so no more. Amendment is Repentance, if not Reparation.

263. As a Desperate Game needs and able Gamester, so Consideration often would prevent, what the best skill in the World Cannot Recover.

264. Where the Probability of Advantage exceeds not that of Loss, Wisdom never Adventures.

265. To Shoot well Flying is well; but to Choose it, has more of Vanity than Judgment.

266. To be Dextrous in Danger is a Virtue; but to Court Danger to show it, is Weakness.

The section entitled "Passion"

279. Passion is a sort of Fever in the Mind, which ever leaves us weaker than it found us.

280. But being, intermitting to be sure, 'tis curable with care.

281. It more than any thing deprives us of the use of our Judgement; for it raises a Dust very hard to see through.

282. Like Wine, whose Lees fly by being jogg'd, it is too muddy to Drink.

283. It may not unfitly be termed, the Mob of the Man, that commits a Riot upon his Reason.

284. I have sometimes thought, that a Passionate Man is like a weak Spring that cannot long stand lock'd.

285. And as true, that those things are unfit for use, that can't bear small Knocks, without breaking.

286. He that won't hear can't Judge, and he that can't bear Contradiction, may, with all his Wit, miss the Mark.

287. Objection and Debate Sift our Truth, which needs Temper as well as Judgement.

288. But above all, observe it in Resentments, for their Passion is most Extravagant.

289. Never chide for Anger, but Instruction.

290. He that corrects out of Passion, raises Revenge sooner than Repentance.

291. It has more of Wantonness than Wisdom, and resembles those that Eat to please their Pallate, rather than their Appetite.

292. It is the difference between a Wise and a Weak Man; This Judges by the Lump, that by Parts and their Connection.

293. The Greeks used to say, all Cases are governed by their Circumstances. The same thing may be well and ill as they change or vary the Matter.

294. A Man's Strength is shown by his bearing. Bonum Agere, & Male Pati, Regis est.

The section entitled "Personal Cautions"

295. Reflect without Malice but never without Need.

296. Despise nobody, nor no Condition lest it come to be thine own.

297. Never Rail nor Taunt. The one is Rude, the other Scornful, both evil.

298. Be not provoked by Injuries, to commit them.

299. Upbraid only Ingratitude.

300. Haste makes Work which Caution prevents.

301. Temp no Man lest thou fall for it.

302. Have a care of playing a second game to reverse the issue of the first: For if that miss, all is gone.

303. Opportunities should never be lost, because they can hardly be regained.

304. It is well to cure, but better to prevent a Distemper. The first shows skill, but the last more Wisdom.

305. Never Make a Trial of Skill in difficult or hazardous Cases.

306. Refuse not to be informed: For that shows Pride or Stupidity.

307. Humility and Knowledge in poor clothes, excel Pride and Ignorance in costly attire.

308. Neither despise, nor oppose, what thou dost not understand.

The section entitled "Balance"

309. We must not be concern'd above the Value of the thing that engages us; nor raised above Reason, in maintaining what we think reasonable.

310. It is too common an Error, to invert the Order of Things; by making an End of that which is a Means, and a Means of that which is an End.

311. Religion and Government escape not this Mischief: The first is too often made a Means instead of an End; the other and End instead of a Means.

312. Thus Men seek Wealth rather than Subsistence; and the End of Clothes is the least reason of their Use. Nor is the satisfying of our Appetitel our End in Eating, so much as the pleasing of our Pallate. The like may also be said of Building, Furniture, &c. where the Man rules not the Beast, and Appetite submits not to Reason.

313. It is great Wisdom to proportion our Esteem to the Nature of the Thing: For as that way things will not be undervalued, so neither will they engage as above their intrinsic worth.

314. If we suffer little Things to have great hold upon us, we shall be as much transported for them, as if they deserv'd it.

315. It is an old Proverb, Maxima bella ex levissimis causis: The greatest feuds have had the smallest beginnings.

316. No matter what the Subject of the Dispute be, but what place we give it in our Minds: For that governs our Concern and Resentment.

317. It is one of the fatalest Errors of our Lives, when we spoil a good cause by an ill Management: And it is not impossible but we may mean well in an ill Business; but that will not defend it.

318. If we are but sure the End is Right, we are too apt to gallop over all Bounds to compass it; not considering that lawful Ends may be very unlawfully attained.

319. Let us be careful to take just way to compass just Things; that they may last in their Benefits to us.

320. There is a troublesome Humor some Men have, that if they may not lead, they will not follow; but had rather a thing were never done, than not done their own way, tho' other ways very desirable.

321. This comes of an over-fullness of ourselves; and shows we are more concern'd for Praise than the Success of what we think a good Thing.

The section entitled "Qualifications"

380. Five Things are requisite to a good Officer; Ability, Clean Hands, Dispatch, Patience and Impartiality

The section entitled "Capacity"

381. He that understands not his Employment, whatever else he knows, must be unfit for it, and the Public suffers by his Inexpertness.

382. They that are able, should be just too; or the Government may be the worse for their Capacity.

Information on this page provided by James Quinn. Visit Gwynedd (Pennsylvania) Friends Meeting.