John Cotton: Greed and punishment Essay

John Cotton: Greed and punishment

There is nothing wrong if a person would want to maximize the profit from the business enterprise in which they are engaged in. That is the exact purpose of any business that is to maximize the benefit one will derive from the activities in their enterprise. But where does one draw the line between acceptable extraction of profit and usury? How can it be defined as onerous profit in the conduct of business?

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In this particular case, the complaint was one of greed in the conduct of business of one Robert Keaine (John Winthrop, 1853). Mr. Keaine was being tried in court for the crimes of onerous business practices in that he was accused of overpricing his goods for sale (Winthrop, 1853). In the course of the trial, it was exposed in open court the manner by which he overpriced his goods in comparison to the traders also engaged in the same business activity (Winthrop, 1853). Mr. Keaine was fined 200 pounds for his actions, lowered to 100, raised up back to 200, and finally paying 100 in lieu of final judgment by the magistrates (Winthrop, 1853).

What strikes the reader is the description of the offender. In many instances, the offender is portrayed as an upright member of society (Winthrop, 1853). But the article balances out that in the opinion of the magistrate, Mr. Keaine was not alone in the conduct of such an offense (Winthrop, 1853). But it does enumerate certain fallacies in which Mr. Keaine might be faulted for his transgression (Winthrop, 1853). He even tries to make amends with his church after his conviction by the court (Winthrop, 1853).

There is a limit which one engaged in business may seek to gain profit from his activities. It comes down to need, and not want. Mr. Keaine was stated that he was going over his needs and those for the sustenance of his family, so he was charged with overpricing his wares above and beyond his needs (Winthrop, 1853). Limits were put forth in the opinion of the magistrate, and these should serve as guide posts in the conduct of one’s business enterprise.


Winthrop, J. (1853). The History of New England from 1630to 1649. Boston. Original from the New York Public Library. Volume 1 page 377-382.