In The Markenmore Mystery (1922) by J. S. Fletcher, two men were talking about that whoever commits a crime by chance doesn't have a reason to incriminate himself

“Ain’t no ’casion as I knows on for any man or woman to go for to accuse theirselves o’ terrible doings. Wouldn’t be a common-sense thing for anybody as that happened to come for’rard and say as they done it! Ain’t Christian conduck for anybody to walk into a trap wi’ his eyes open, I do reckon.”

“’Tis very true!” assented another wiseacre. “Noo—I don’t count as how any well-disposed, law abiding citizen have any call to ’criminate his-self—’tis agin religion and nature, which is powerful commodities. Noo!—I reckon that if Mistress Braxfield done this, accidental like, wi’ that pistol what Bill Carver refer to, she say to herself ‘Well,’ she say, ‘this here is a sad misfortune to happen to me, but I ain’t no call to tell about it,’ she say, and then, of course, she say nothing. That be the way of it—common-sense, like. And we all knows that accidents does happen to the meekest of us!”

I have two questions here:

  1. What does "powerful commodities" mean here?
  2. I found that "well-disposed" may mean "friendly, helpful or sympathetic", so what is the connection between this particular adjective and this attitude? I can, for example, understand the connection between "having a common sense" and this attitude, but I can't get that connection that I ask about. Can it mean "behave well in different situations"?

1 Answer 1

  1. One of the definitions of commodity is "something useful or valued." See meaning 2a at Merriam-Webster, where the example given is:

    that valuable commodity, patience.

    Even more than patience, religion and nature are significant forces highly valued in society, so they are powerful commodities. It is worth mentioning that agin ... nature here refers to human nature rather than flora, fauna, and the landscape.

  2. Disposition means "temperamental makeup"—see definition 1b at Merriam-Webster. The friendliness and helpfulness of well-disposed people is attributed to psychological and emotional soundness. Someone who is well-disposed would not, therefore, voluntarily incriminate themselves, because they'd have too much common sense to do so.

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