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This is a habit, you perceive, which a person needs every day and hour. There is no calling or condition where punctuality is not desirable. A man can plead nothing as an excuse for not possessing this virtue. He cannot say that he is so humble and obscure as not to need it, on his own or another's account. For he has needed it all his life, and will continue to need it until he dies.
ANOTHER quality which distinguished Amos Lawrence was the aim to “have a place for every thing, and every thing in its place." We call it "order," or "system." The industrious, frugal, and punctual youth or adult is usually systematic in his business. The idle man is the tardy one; and his habit of delaying matters renders “system " impossible. Many young clerks appear to shirk all the labour they can; and they put off till tomorrow things that ought to be done to-day. There is no settled order about what they do. They have no particular time for doing this, that, or the other thing, unless the rules of the establishment require it. Their time out of business hours is devoted to no particular object, and it is generally lost time. Not so with Amos Lawrence. His employer was never obliged to complain of him. He attended to each duty at the time, so that the work of each day was performed in season. In this way he avoided hurry and confusion.
When he commenced business for himself, he was equally systematic. Alluding to that period, he writes :
“I adopted the plan of keeping an accurate account of merchandise bought and sold each day, with the profit, as far as practicable. This plan was pursued for a number of years. I was thus always enabled to form an opinion of the actual state of
business." This systematic way of doing business was a principle with him. He considered it to be essential to success, and he was right. He prospered even beyond his most sanguine expectations, while, as he himself said, most of the young men who commenced at that period failed by spending too much money, and taking credit too freely.”
His exalted views of this habit never abated in the least. When his youngest son was twelve years of age, he presented him with an account-book, on the first page of which was the following letter :
“My Dear Son I give you this little book, that you may write in it how much money you receive, and how you use it. It is of much importance, in forming your early character, to have correct habits, and a strict regard to truth in all you do. For this purpose, I advise you never to cheat yourself by making a false entry in this book. If you spend money for an object you would not willingly have known, you will be more likely to avoid doing the same thing again if you call it by its right name, remembering always that there is One who cannot be deceived, and that He requires children to render an account of all their doings at last. I
pray God so to guide and direct you, that when your stewardship here is ended, He may say to you that the talents intrusted to your care have been faithfully employed. Your affectionate father,
“ A. L.” He was equally careful in looking after the affairs of his other sons.
To one of them who was at school in Andover, he wrote :
"I received your note yesterday, and was prepared to hear that something was amissing in your cash, as a 5s. piece was found in your chamber on the morning you left home. You now see the benefit of keeping accounts. Get the habit firmly fixed of putting down every halfpenny you receive and expend. In this way you will acquire some knowledge of the relative value of things, and a habit of carefulness, which will be of use
your life. Among the numerous people who have failed in business within my knowledge, a prominent cause of their failure has been the want of a system in their affairs, by which they could know when their expenses and losses exceeded their profits. This habit is as necessary for professional men as for a merchant, because in their business there are numerous ways to make little savings, if they find their income too small, which they would not adopt unless they knew their expenses. It is the habit of consideration I wish you to acquire; and the habit of being accurate will have an influence upon your whole character in life.”
In 1822 he received a youth from Connecticut into his shop; and he made the following suggestion in a letter to the boy's father :
“Will it not be well for him to furnish you, at
stated periods, an exact account of his expenditure ? The habit of keeping such an account will be serviceable, and, if he is prudent, the satisfaction will be great, ten years hence, in looking back and observing the process by which his character has been formed.”
This youth proved himself faithful, and subsequently became a partner in the firm.
So much importance did Mr Lawrence attach to this habit that his Correspondence and Diary contain many references to it. Its influence upon his own life and character probably caused him to set its price above rubies, and insist upon it as an indispensable quality. On one occasion he volunteered some excellent counsel to a son in regard to the discipline of his children. In that letter he said : “ This simple rule of making a child, after he is twelve years old, keep an exact account of all that he wears, uses, or expends in any and
every way, would save more suffering to families than can fairly be estimated by those who have not observed its operation."
We can readily see that system must facilitate business of any kind. If a scholar divide his time properly, he will accomplish much more than he otherwise could. By strict regard to order in doing things, some scholars have performed a surprising amount of literary labour. In this way alone, Martin Luther was enabled to produce the more than seven hundred volumes of which mention has been made. Sir William Jones, in addition to his public duties, made himself acquainted with twenty-eight different languages. He accomplished so much by being systematic in his labours. John Wesley, though travelling much of the time after his conversion, wrote thirty-two octavo volumes before he was seventy years of age. He was distinguished for systematic improvement of time. Cicero boasted that all his philosophical works were produced without interfering with his duties to the republic, in consequence of the order he observed in the duties of each day. He said that he spent those hours upon them "which others gave to their walks, their repasts, and their pleasures."
In the common affairs of life, system is as necessary as in the more important transactions. A housekeeper who observes no order in her domestic arrangements, is not fitted to be at the head of a family. If there is no particular hour for rising and retiring, and none for meals, and other things, confusion will reign every day, while not half so much will be accomplished.
How little would a teacher accomplish without system in his school! Unless his whole time be divided among his classes, allowing so many minutes to one, and so many to another, his school would be worthless. Varying from this systematic course only ten minutes would derange all his classes.
That farmer who does his work in order, has a better farm, and is in a more thriving condition than his neighbour, who performs his labour just when he can, seldom completing one piece of work before he begins another. All around us we behold system. “Order is heaven's first law.” Suns rise and set, the seasons come and go, and the years succeed each other with unvarying precision. The time of each can be ascertained with exactness. Even the comet's infrequent appearance is calculated to a second, so that the