By Jeannette Holland Austin (profile)
One hundred and fifty years ago and before, if you did not pay your bills or were immoral, you were ostracized from decent society. Business was done on the word of the person borrowing money or favors. If you read the old annual returns of estates, there were plenty of promissory notes written. Farmers and planters borrowed money in advance of producing crops. But there was one thing certain. When the estate was probated, all of the monies were collected. That is because people kept their promises, paid off the notes. They did not have to employ attorneys or collection agencies. Thus, a man's word was truly his "bond." In context, the word of a lady or gentleman could be trusted. The black sheep in the family could not survive in these surroundings. No one would loan him money nor trust him socially. So, he had to leave the homeplace. It was essential to possess a good reputation because a person's behavior could make or break the family. Religion was also strict. Records were kept on the church books of misbehavior. Encyclopedia of Quakers is a prime example of such records. Also, notes concerning excommunication are found in the Minutes of all religious organizations. Old newspapers also noted when persons left "the be of Mr. Smith" and the warning that others were not to support that person, or take them in. This generation may think these ideas were restrictive. However, I find that the penalties assessed against everyone because certain people cannot be trusted, is restrictive. Personally, I would love to enjoy a society where trusting others is simple, and borrowing money is based upon reputation and integrity.
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