IT is not an infrequent occurrence for persons given to the habit of

petty thefts and fraud, to seek to justify their irregular conduct by a

pretense of justice which they call secret compensation. They stand

arraigned before the bar of their conscience on the charge of niching

small sums, usually from their employers; they have no will to desist;

they therefore plead not guilty, and have nothing so much at heart as

convince themselves that they act within their rights. They

elaborate a theory of justice after their ideas, or rather, according

to their own desires; they bolster it up with facts that limp all the

way from half-truths to downright falsities; and thus acquit themselves

of sin, and go their way in peace. A judge is always lenient when he

tries his own case.

Secret compensation is the taking surreptitiously from another of the

equivalent of what is due to one, of what has been taken and is kept

against all justice, in order to indemnify oneself for losses

sustained. This sort of a thing, in theory at least, has a perfectly

plausible look, nor, in fact, is it contrary to justice, when all the

necessary conditions are fulfilled to the letter. But the cases in

which these conditions are fulfilled are so few and rare that they may

hardly be said to exist at all. It is extremely difficult to find such

A case, and nearly always when this practice is resorted to, the order

of justice is violated.

And if common sense in the case of any given individual fail to show

him this truth, we here quote for his benefit an authority capable of

putting all his doubts at rest. The following proposition was advanced:

"Domestic servants who adjudge themselves underpaid for services

rendered, may appropriate to themselves by stealth a compensation."

This proposition has received the full weight of papal condemnation. It

cannot be denied that it applies to all who engage their services for

hire. To maintain the contrary is to revolt against the highest

authority in the Church; to practise it is purely and simply to Sin.

A case is often made out on the grounds that wages are small, work very

hard and the laborer therefore insufficiently remunerated. But to

conclude therefrom the right to help oneself to the employer's goods,

is a strange manner of reasoning, while it opens the door to all manner

of injustice. Where is there a man, whatever his labor and pay, who

could not come to the same conclusion? Who may not consider himself

ill-paid? And who is there that really thinks he is not worth more than

he gets? There is no limit to the value one may put on one's own

services; and he who is justified to-day in taking a quarter of a

dollar, would be equally justified to-morrow in appropriating the whole

concern. And then what becomes of honesty, and the right of property?

And what security can anyone have against the private judgment of his


And what about the contract according to the terms of which you are to

give your services and to receive in return a stipulated amount? Was

there any clause therein by which you are entitled to change the terms

of said contract without consulting the other party interested? You

don't think he would mind it. You don't think anything of the kind; you

know he will and does mind it. He may be generous, but he is not a


"But I make up for it. I work overtime, work harder, am more attentive

to my work; and thereby save more for my employer than I take." Here

you contradict yourself. You are therefore not underpaid. And if you

furnish a greater amount of labor than is expected of you, that is your

business and your free choice. And the right you have to a compensation

for such extra labor is entirely dependent on the free will of your

employer. People usually pay for what they call for; services uncalled

for are gratuitous services. To think otherwise betokens a befuddled

state of mind.

"But I am forced to work harder and longer than we agreed." Then it is

up to you to remonstrate with your employer, to state the case as it is

and to ask for a raise. If he refuses, then his refusal is your cue to

quit and go elsewhere. It means that your services are no longer

required. It means, at any rate, that you have to stand the cut or seek

to better your condition under other employers. It is hard! Of course

it is hard, but no harder than a great many other things we have to put

up with.

If my neighbor holds unjustly what belongs to me, or if he has failed

to repair damages caused, to recover my losses by secret compensation

has the same degree of malice and disorder. The law is instituted for

just such purposes; you have recourse thereto. You may prosecute and

get damages. If the courts fail to give you justice, then perhaps there

may be occasion to discuss the merits of the secret compensation

theory. But you had better get the advice of some competent person

before you attempt to put it in practice; otherwise you are liable to

get into a bigger hole than the one you are trying to get out of.

Sometimes the bold assertion is advanced that the employer knows

perfectly that he is being systematically robbed and tolerates it. It

is incumbent on this party to prove his assertion in a very simple way.

Let him denounce himself to his employer and allow the truth or falsity

thereof hang on the result. If he does not lose his job inside of

twenty-four hours after the interview, he may continue his peculations

in perfect tranquillity of conscience. If he escapes prosecution

through the consideration of his former employer, he must take it for

granted that the toleration he spoke of was of a very general nature,

the natural stand for a man to take who is being robbed and cannot help

it. To justify oneself on such a principle is to put a premium on

shrewd dishonesty.