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instance, in which a body of trutees named in a deed of settlement by a mere acquaintance, a person who had no claim on their services, through kindred or relationship, managed, for many years, the funds of a young family,– superintended the education of the children, accounted faithfully for every farthing that came into their own possession; but, who, at the close of their trust, owing to their having employed a law agent, who did not attend to his duty, and to the children having turned out immoral, were sued personally for £1000 each, and were involved in a troublesome and expensive litigation. I mention these facts to convey to the younger part of my audience, who may not have had experience in such matters, an idea at once of the trouble and risks which often accompany the duty of guardianship. At the same time, I have no hesitation in saying, that I consider every man bound to undertake that duty, with all its discomforts and dangers, where the dictates of the higher sentiments urge him to do so. If one of our own relatives have been laid in a premature grave, nature calls aloud on us to assist and guide his children with our experience and advice. If we have passed our lives in habits of sincere friendship, and interchange of kindness, with one who is not connected with us by relationship, and if that friend be called, before the ordinary period of human life, to part with his family for ever, we are bound by all the higher and purer feelings of our nature, to lend our aid, in so far as our feeble succor will extend, in protecting and assisting his surviving partner and children, if requested by him to do so. There are instances, however, in which men from vanity, or mere selfish motives, sometimes, in their deeds of settlement, do not appeal to their own respectable relatives and friends for assistance; but name men of eminent rank, as the guardians of their children, under the double expectation of adding a posthumous lustre to their own names, and securing a distinguished patronage to their family. This practice is disowned by conscience, and by just feelings of independence; and trustees called on in such circumstances, to act, are clearly entitled to decline. Suppose, then, that a case presents itself, in which one of us feels himself called on to accept as a trustee or guardian, under a deed of settlement, what is it his duty to do? There are certain rules of law laid down for the guidance of persons acting in these capacities, with which he should, at the very outset, make himself acquainted. They are framed for the direction of average men, and on the whole, prescribe a line of duty which tends essentially to protect the ward ; but which also, when observed, afford an equal protection to the guardian. It has often appeared to me, from seeing the loss and suffering to which individuals are exposed from ignorance of the fundamental rules of law on this subject, that instruction in them, and in other principles of law applicable to duties which the ordinary members of society are called on to discharge, should form a branch of general education. After having become acquainted with our duties as trustees or guardians, we should bend our minds sedulously to the upright discharge of them. We should lay down a positive resolution not to convert our wards, their property, and affairs, into sources of gain to ourselves, and not to suffer any of our co-trustees to do such an act. However tempting it may be to employ their capital in our own business, and however confident we may feel that we shall, in the end, honestly account to them for every farthing, still I say we ought not to yield to the temptation. The moment we do so, we commit their fortunes to all the hazards of our own; and this is a breach of trust. We place ourselves in circumstances in which, by the failure of our own schemes, we may become the instruments of robbing and ruining helpless and destitute children, committed, as the most
sacred pledges, to our honesty and honor. If this grand cause of malversation be avoided, there is scarcely another that may not be easily resisted. The next duty after abstaining, ourselves, from misapplying the funds of our wards is, to keep a sharp eye over our co-trustees or guardians, that none of them may fall into that temptation. Men of sensitive, delicate, and upright minds, who are not in the least prone to commit this offence themselves, often feel extraordinary difficulty in checking a less scrupulous co-trustee in his malpractices. They feel the act to be so dishonorable that they shrink from taxing another with it; and try to shut their eyes to mismanagement as long as possible, solely from aversion to give pain by bringing it to a close. But this is a weakness which is not founded in reason, but on a most erroneous view both of duty and of human nature. I can testify, from my knowledge of human feelings, gained both by means of phrenology and of some experience and observation in the world, that a man who is thoroughly upright and honest never objects to be looked after, with the utmost strictness: He is conscious of virtue, and is pleased that his virtue should be discovered, which it can be most effectually by a close scrutiny of his conduct. We shall never, therefore, offend a really good and trustworthy man, by inquiring habitually how he is discharging his duty. On the contrary, he will invite us to do so; and esteem us the more, the more attentively we watch over the affairs of our pupils. On the other hand, if the organs of conscientiousness be so defective in any individual, that he is tempted to misapply the funds committed to his care, he stands the more in need of being closely watched, and of having his virtue supported by checks and counsel; and we are doubly called on not to allow a false delicacy to seal our lips and tie up our hands, in the very circumstances where the free action of both is most needed. We, therefore, cannot give just offence by the discharge of our duty in this respect: If our coguardian be honest, he will thank us for our scrutiny; whereas, if he be dishonest, his feeling of offence at our checking his peculation, is like that of a rogue with the officer who detects him and brings him to justice, and is beneath the serious consideration of any rational mind. But even in this case, we shall give much less offence than we imagine. It is a fact, of which I am convinced by extensive observation, that men in whom the organs of conscientiousness are deficient, and who are thereby more prone to yield to temptations to infringe justice, have very little of that sensibility to the disgrace of dishonesty, which better constituted minds feel so energetically; and that we may speak to them very plainly about their departures from duty, without their feeling debased. But whether they feel offended, or not, it is the duty of their co-trustees to prevent them from doing wrong. If the funds of our pupils be properly preserved and profitably invested, there is generally little risk of great failures in the remaining duties of trustees and guardians. These consist generally in seeing that the children are properly maintained, educated, and set out in life. Every trustee will be more able to discharge these duties well, in proportion to the range and value of his own information. The lectures delivered under the auspices of this association must conduce greatly towards rendering the citizens of Edinburgh better qualified to discharge this social duty. The views which they here obtain of the nature of man, and of the physical world, and of the relations between them, must open up their minds to a perception of what constitutes a really good education, and also render them better judges of the talents, dispositions, and acquirements on which success in life most generally depends, and thereby enable them to see that these are duly cultivated in their pupils.
The next social duty to which I advert is that of suretyship, or cautionary, as it is called in Scotland. A surety may engage either to pay a certain sum of money, if the principal obligant fail; or become bound for his good behavior and proper discharge of duty, in any office to which he has been appointed. Great losses and much misery often arise from suretyship; and, in consequence, many persons lay down the rule never to become surety for any human being; while others, of a more generous and confiding nature, are ready to bind themselves for almost every one who gives them solemn assurances that they will never be called on to pay. I shall attempt to expound the philosophy of the subject, and we shall then be better able to judge of our duty.
Suretyship is a lame substitute for a thorough knowledge of human nature. There are individual men, whose prudence and integrity are proof against every temptation; and if we were quite certain that any particular individual whom we were about to trust, or whom we intended to employ confidentially in our affairs, was one of these, we should desire no other security for his solvency or good conduct, than that afforded by his own noble nature. But we know that there are plausible and ostensibly honest men, who are rogues at the bottom, and we never feel certain that the individual whom we are about to trust or employ may not, in an unlucky hour, be found to belong to this class. We, therefore, require that some individual, who knows his dispositions and abilities, and is assured of his prudence and integrity, should certify his possession of these qualities to us, and certify them in the only way which can convince us of the entire sincerity of the recommendation, namely, that of engaging to pay the debt which he incurs, if he do not, or, to indemnify us of loss, if, through negligence or dishonesty, he shall occasion any to arise to us.
It appears to me that the practical application of phrenol