This section is from the "Practical Banking" book, by Albert S. Bolles.
"Speculation in stocks" is another fruitful source of ruin, and I cannot forbear a word of admonition. The careful investment of your earnings or patrimony, and a similar service for friends and customers, define, in my judgment, the general limits of your operations in the stock market. To say nothing of the hopes and fears consequent upon the adventures of a dealer, and nothing of their influence upon your mind and temper—already sufficiently tasked-I may ask, in all seriousness, what assurance have you, what assurance can you have, that your virtue will resist the temptations sure to beset you? Once embarked and afloat on the stock exchange, either alone or with partners, you cannot move without means: and who shall answer for the money intrusted to your care? Who shall answer that you will not "borrow" from your vault—as others have done—feeling sure that you can "return" the sum you need "in a few days with interest? " At the outset you will not "risk much;" you desire only" to gain something to add to a moderate salary." But encouraged, at length, by your own success in small operations, or excited by the real or reported good fortune of those around you, the resolution may be formed to win a competence at a single cast of the die: you lose, and are ruined!
"The London banker of the old school," says Mr. Lawson, "had little resemblance to the modern gentleman who is known by the same title. He was a man of serious manners, plain apparel, the steadiest conduct, and a rigid observer of formalities. As you looked in his face you could read in intelligible characters that the ruling maxim of life, the one to which he turned all his thoughts and by which he shaned all his actions, was: 'That he who would be trusted with the money 0/ other men should look as if he deserved the trust, and be an ostensible pattern to society of probity, exactness, frugality, and decorum."nd further says the same writer: "The fashionable society at the West End of the town, and the amusements of high life, he never dreamed of enjoying, and would have deemed it nothing short of insanity to imagine that such an act was within the compass of human daring as that of a banker lounging for an evening in Fop's Alley at the opera, or turning out for the Derby with four grays to his chariot, and a goodly hamper swung behind, well stuffed with perigord pies, spring chickens, and iced champagne."
Be warned, I entreat, in time. No bank officer—in charity, we may believe—ever meant to be a defaulter; no one, at the beginning of an irregular course, thought defalcation and disgrace possible. Yet, alas for the many victims of self-deception! alas for the self-confident, and for those who neglected the great duty of self-examination! Most affectionately and earnestly do I charge you, as you value your peace, as you would save your integrity, as you would not be driven forth, a broken and shunned man, to resist every seduction of avarice from within, and every solicitation of companions from without. No matter what pretence or excuse a stifled conscience may allow you to frame, the cash in your vault is not your cash, and you touch it for your private benefit, or relief even, as a robber, and at the peril of your soul! Think, ere you yield, of the long roll of sad-faced men who once were honored and trusted, but who, when tempted, fell! Think of those who, wrecked in character, in fortune, and in hope, have become bloated, ragged wanderers! Think of those of whom fathers and mothers, and even wives and children, dare not speak save in whispers, and at the family fireside! Think of those who have been hurried to the: prisons and to the tribunals! Think of the graves of the suicides!
A single warning more, and I pass to less painful topics of discourse. Allow no customer to overdraw his account upon your own responsibility or without the express sanction and authority of directors.* The habit is a bad one, every way, under any circumstances; and I wish it could come to an end at once, everywhere and forever. But if it be permitted in particular cases in your bank, have neither part nor lot in the matter, save to execute a positive order. Discourage the practice in every possible manner, and if fortunate enough to put an end to it, you will deserve the praise of every correct banker in the country. At your post, and in bank hours, you are to have no friends to indulge with, favors, no enemies to punish with refusals. Then and there all men should be alike to you. The motto of the Banker's Magazine should be yours, without reservation or condition. In fine, perform no-act that you would omit in the presence of the full "Board," or in that of the sureties on your official bond. This rule will carry you safely through every difficulty and every temptation.
* I believe that no customer of the Bank of England, whatever his rank, is allowed to over-draw.
"No expectation of forbearance or indulgence should be encouraged. Favor and benevolence are not the attributes of good banking. Strict justice and the rigid performance of contracts are its proper foundation."
Pardon me if I now suggest the importance of maintaining a reputation for strict, exact veracity. An aged judge is said to have remarked, ironically, that "half the cases he had tried on the bench arose from good understanding between the parties;" and by this he meant, that half-made bargains and agreements lead to disagreement and litigation. Avoid misunderstandings from this source. Many, indeed most, of your transactions will be upon verbal contracts. But you may use words so terse, so precise, that misconception will be hardly possible.