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Everybody's Business is Nobody's Business Daniel Defoe

Everybody's Business Is Nobody's Business

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Gentlemen, therefore, ought to be very circumspect in their behaviour, and not undervalue themselves to servant-wenches, who are but too apt to treat a gentleman ill whenever he puts himself into their power.

Let me now beg pardon for this digression, and return to my subject by proposing some practicable methods for regulating of servants, which, whether they are followed or not, yet, if they afford matter of improvement and speculation, will answer the height of my expectation, and I will be the first who shall approve of whatever improvements are made from this small beginning.

The first abuse I would have reformed is, that servants should be restrained from throwing themselves out of place on every idle vagary. This might be remedied were all contracts between master and servant made before a justice of peace, or other proper officer, and a memorandum thereof taken in writing. Nor should such servant leave his or her place (for men and maids might come under the same regulation) till the time agreed on be expired, unless such servant be misused or denied necessaries, or show some other reasonable cause for their discharge. In that case, the master or mistress should be reprimanded or fined. But if servants misbehave themselves, or leave their places, not being regularly discharged, they ought to be amerced or punished. But all those idle, ridiculous customs, and laws of their own making, as a month's wages, or a month's warning, and suchlike, should be entirely set aside and abolished.

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When a servant has served the limited time duly and faithfully, they should be entitled to a certificate, as is practised at present in the wool-combing trade; nor should any person hire a servant without a certificate or other proper security. A servant without a certificate should be deemed a vagrant; and a master or mistress ought to assign very good reasons indeed when they object against giving a servant his or her certificate.

And though, to avoid prolixity, I have not mentioned footmen particularly in the foregoing discourse, yet the complaints alleged against the maids are as well masculine as feminine, and very applicable to our gentlemen's gentlemen; I would, therefore, have them under the very same regulations, and, as they are fellow-servants, would not make fish of one and flesh of the other, since daily experience teaches us, that "never a barrel the better herring."

The next great abuse among us is, that under the notion of cleaning our shoes, above ten thousand wicked, idle, pilfering vagrants are permitted to patrol about our city and suburbs. These are called the black-guard, who black your honour's shoes, and incorporate themselves under the title of the Worshipful Company of Japanners.

Were this all, there were no hurt in it, and the whole might terminate in a jest; but the mischief ends not here, they corrupt our youth, especially our men-servants; oaths and impudence are their only flowers of rhetoric; gaming and thieving are the principal parts of their profession; japanning but the pretence. For example, a gentleman keeps a servant, who among other things is to clean his master's shoes; but our gentlemen's gentlemen are above it nowadays, and your man's man performs the office, for which piece of service you pay double and treble, especially if you keep a table, nay, you are well off if the japanner has no more than his own diet from it.

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Everybody's Business is Nobody's Business
Daniel Defoe

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