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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Choice of Civil Officers

By Thomas Bridge (1657–1715)

[Born near London, England, 1657. Died in Boston, Mass., 1715. Jethro’s Advice recommended to the Inhabitants of Boston in N. E. 1710.]

MANIFEST your value for your privileges by choosing men hating covetousness into all such public offices and stations as are at your dispose. Consider:—There is no security for any privilege or trust committed to a covetous man. They are usually timorous and fearful, they are flatterers and time-servers, and their greediness after riches will influence them to accept a good proffer when presented by them that know how to make the advantage. It is impossible to conceive the mischiefs done by the covetous. How many cities, towns and countries have been bought and sold by the covetous! Whence had the French their glory, but by pensioners in the several neighboring countries, who exposed privileges to sale whereby he had the opportunity to seize the effects? And is not this one great end of this long and expensive war (which hath cost many millions of treasure and hundreds of thousand lives), to make him refund that which he purchased so clandestinely?

Men hating covetousness will do much service. I intend not this qualification, exclusive of others, but in conjunction; even able men, men fearing God, men of truth, hating covetousness; this generous principle will dispose them to employ all their talents and interests to serve the public. They will have a watchful eye over the covetous, they know their narrow selfish souls are always contriving by subtle artifices to gull the public; and therefore will endeavor to prevent them. Whereas the public good lying near the hearts of these, they will be always projecting and contriving something to promote it, viz., To reform the manners of the town; to prevent nuisances and inconveniences; to strengthen and defend it; to regulate and increase the trade of it; to relieve and supply the poor; and to punish the disorderly as far as their power extends. And besides all this, will be examples of a ready, cheerful contribution of their proportion to the public charge.

Men hating covetousness will not only do most service for the public, but with least expense. Here we may observe: There are indeed divers offices in the town, which qualified men ought to attend out of pure regard to the public good (as members of the body politic) without expecting a salary. Men hating covetousness will serve the town in such capacities, readily, cheerfully and impartially, and ought to be treated with respect, loved and valued for their fidelity. It is lamentable to consider what ill-usage such have sometimes met with.

There are other officers in the town, who justly expect a support suitable to their stations and work; I advise to choose men hating covetousness into such stations and employment:—on this account, that they will do most good with least charge; which will appear if we consider, (1.) That those who choose persons into public offices, whether ecclesiastical or civil, ought to provide for their subsistence to such a degree, that they may diligently and cheerfully attend on that service to which they call them; this is their due by the laws of God and man; to deny or withhold it, is to contradict one of the first dictates of the law of nature, therefore such may and ought to expect it, and depend upon it (2.) Men hating covetousness will be content with a competency; there is a bound and limit to their desires in this respect. As they pray that God would feed them with food convenient, so they expect no more from man, but what is suitable to their station and circumstance. But here I must observe, that for this their temper, they are often horribly abused and neglected; for which God will judge. But then consider, if covetous greedy men be put in such stations, what will follow. They will thus argue: “There is a suitable supply for the support of me and mine due to me by all laws divine and human. If I provide not for my own, especially for those of my own house, I deny the faith, i.e., the Christian faith, and am worse than an infidel. I have no other way to subsist while I live, nor leave to mine when I die. These people deny me what is just and equal; it is not for want, they have enough, they have plenty. I see it in their costly and extravagant garbs, their stately fabrics, their rich furniture; in their shops, ships, in their fields and barns. Therefore having an opportunity in my hand, I will improve it, and employ all the methods and agents I can, to get that which they unjustly detain from me.” And thus oftentimes covetous men squeeze more treasure from them, than would support many others; and they have no remedy; but may sit down bewailing their folly, in withholding more than was meet I beseech you to consider what mischief covetous men may do in their several offices and stations; some by false entries, defacing or altering of records; by wasting of treasure; by unjust rates and cruel exactions, by denying to vote or selling of votes; and by innumerable methods and subtle devices; and you will perceive they are dangerous men and to be avoided; they are often (as we term them) sober men, and nothing to be objected, save only in the matter of covetousness; they will pretend to save charges, but are of all men most profuse and lavish, will lose opportunities for doing of service, and part with rich advantages for the public, rather than stay a few hours from their own interest.