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[89] 23. The sixth book of Hecaton's “Moral1 Duties” is full of questions like the following: “Is it consistent with a good man's duty to let his slaves go hungry when provisions are at famine prices?”

Hecaton gives the argument on both sides of the question; but still in the end it is by the standard of expediency, as he conceives it, rather than by one of human feeling, that he decides the question of duty.

Then he raises this question: supposing a man had to throw part of his cargo overboard in a storm, should he prefer to sacrifice a high-priced horse or a cheap and worthless slave? In this case regard for [p. 365] his property interest inclines him one way, human feeling the other.

“Suppose that a foolish man has seized hold of a plank from a sinking ship, shall a wise man wrest it away from him if he can?”

“No,” says Hecaton; “for that would be unjust.”

“But how about the owner of the ship? Shall he take the plank away because it belongs to him?”

“Not at all; no more than he would be willing when far out at sea to throw a passenger overboard on the ground that the ship was his. For until they reach the place for which the ship is chartered, she belongs to the passengers, not to the owner.”

1 Hecaton debates the question of expediency vs. moral rectitude.

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