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sure of poor-rates, and the growth of those baneful habits of dependence, which it cannot be denied that poor rates are calculated to produce. By the Act for the encouragement of Friendly Societies, which Mr. Rose introduced, and which was passed in the year 1793, much good has been done. In it no attempt was made to alter the popular frame of these associations, far less to render the entrance into them compulsory. How valuable this protection has been,' says Mr. Rose, may be easily judged of by the rapid growth of these societies, the members of which have increased from somewhere about 50,000 (I speak from recollection) to more than 704,000, according to the numbers under the Act for the returns of the poor between 1793 and 1805.'-p. 29.
The advantages which have arisen, both to the individual contributors and to the public, from these Societies, have been great, and we are happy to observe that in various parts of the United Kingdom, Female Friendly Societies have lately been formed. This is indeed a simple and obvious, but a truly valuable extension of the plan. When we consider the influence of women in a civilized country on the manners of society, when we reflect that by the very constitution of their nature, they are more helpless and dependent than men, and that from their domestic occupations and retired habits, they are freed from many of those temptations which often prove too powerful for the virtue of the other sex, we cannot doubt that they are likely to avail themselves of the means offered to them of providing against the peculiar hardships of their own lot, and that they will endeavour to recommend a corresponding foresight to their husbands, sons, and neighbours.
Much has been said of the dangerous purposes to which these associations may be turned. Mr. Rose, certainly not a partial judge in such a case, intimates that he believes such apprehensions to be chimerical, and expressly declares, that, though he has sought anxiously for information on that head, he has not been able to discover a single instance where those consequences have followed in the case of a society, whose rules were registered according to law. To detect the commencement and to prevent the progress of such evil consequences, an easy expedient occurs. Let the wealthy and intelligent members of the community become honorary or ordinary members of the Friendly Societies in their neighbourhood: they will thus be entitled to vote at the election of officers, to give their opinion in cases of importance, and to awe into silence those turbulent spirits who may wish to propagate mischief. We can assure the higher ranks that their aid not only in contributing to the funds, but in making the proper arrangements, is much wanted, and will be gladly and gratefully received: indeed they can scarcely purchase so much popularity at
so trifling an expense. Their donations and contributions would be doubly acceptable, as they would be given without the prospect of a return, and this feeling, we well know, has a powerful influence in adding to the respect which poverty and ignorance are disposed to pay to intelligence and wealth. We deeply lament the disasters which, on account of the erroneous principles of their constitution, and the ignorance, neglect, or selfishness of managers, have already befallen many of these institutions, and seem to be impending over the greater part of the rest; and we cannot but join with Mr. Duncan in earnestly urging the higher ranks to turn their benevolent exertions in this direction; that by affording to them the benefit of their patronage and support, they may avert the disappointment and misery with which their ruin would be attended.
Friendly Societies partake of the nature of insurances on life and property, by promising certain advantages in the event of certain casualties or contingencies. They are preferable, however, to common insurance offices, inasmuch as the members insure each other, and retain all the profits in their own hands for the general advantage. There is also a benevolent principle intimately blended with Friendly Societies, which leads those who form them to be concerned for each other's welfare, and to consult for each other's good. Admirable, however, as this principle is, and excellent as are the institutions with which it is connected, the benefits to be derived from them by the individual members are often distant, and in their very nature uncertain. We have known industrious persons who have regularly contributed to Friendly Societies for forty or fifty years without receiving a shilling from the funds. Something more, therefore, seemed to be wanting in order to complete the system of encouragement to saving, which the legis lative support of Friendly Societies had begun, and the desideratum has been happily supplied by the institution of Banks for Savings. On this subject we quote the following apposite statement from the Introduction to the Rules of the Kelso Friendly Bank Society, which was one of the earliest establishments of this kind in Scotland.
'It was long a matter of deep regret, that no plan had been devised for securing to the labouring classes a place of safe deposit for the fruits of their industry, so as to encourage them to save, in the years of active exertion, such a portion of their gains, as they might be able to spare from their present necessities, as a resource in the season of misfortune, or the decline of life. The public banks cannot be expected to descend to the trifling details in which they would be involved, were they to receive or pay out such small sums as a shilling or two at a time; and it is their practice in this part of the kingdom (Scotland) not to receive a smaller deposit than ten pounds. Now the want of a place of safety for small profits prevents many from attempting to preserve them. Fear of being robbed, deters some; others have the virtue to begin who want
the resolution to persevere; while not a few, diffident of their own care, are tempted to commit their savings to the hands of persons of doubtful character and desperate fortune, who, grasping at whatever they can obtain from the unwary, promise them good interest, and employ the money of the industrious and frugal in their own hazardous and dishonest speculations. By the failure of such persons, the poorer inhabitants of a whole district are sometimes reduced, in a single hour, to a state of absolute indigence and dependence.
'If any method then could be devised, for giving to the honest and successful labourer or artizan, a place of security, free of expense, for that part of his gains which the immediate wants of his family do not require, with the power to reclaim all or any part of it at pleasure, it would be a most desirable thing, even though no interest should be received.
'But if in addition to such an advantage, the possessors of small savings were enabled to receive regular interest, on a scale advancing, to a certain extent, in proportion to the amount and continuance of their deposits, the benefits of the scheme would be sufficiently great to secure its popularity and permanence.
A plan, combining these advantages, occurred to the Rev. Henry Duncan, of Ruthwell, in Dumfriesshire. Having maturely reflected on the best mode of reducing it to practice, and explained its probable benefits to his neighbours, he succeeded in establishing in his own parish the first institution of the kind, about Midsummer, 1810. The name which he gave to it was, "The Parish Bank Friendly Society of Ruthwell."-Though the Society began without any patronage from rank or wealth, its intrinsic merits, and the founder's diligence and zeal in superintending its progress, ensured to it a degree of encouragement which he could not have anticipated.-We consider it indeed as an astonishing fact, that in the Bank Society of that retired parish, inhabited chiefly by cottagers, there has been a progressive accumulation of capital, amounting, at the close of 1814, to upwards of eleven hundred and sixty pounds; the greater part of it belonging to individuals who, in all probability, but for the facility which the scheme afforded, would not have saved a single shilling. This has taken place too, under circumstances in which the depositors have had it always in their power to withdraw any part or the whole.'
These remarks are well illustrated in the following anecdote which was lately related to us, with perfect simplicity, by a poor Scotch woman. Her father, she said, had contrived to scrape together thirty-two pounds, the savings of a life of labour. He deposited country bank notes to that amount in the locker of his chest, from his ignorance of any better method of disposing of them, and there they remained safe but unproductive. But at last, the notes went out of fashion, and nobody would give a shilling for them, so the money was all lost.' To avoid a similar disaster, she placed 127. of her own in the hands of a respectable tradesman, and received interest once a year. On drawing her interest she used, she said, to be vain of her superior sagacity. But alas! the
person in whom she confided became, like the country bank, insolvent, and her little treasure was swallowed up in the general ruin.
With the observations contained in the foregoing quotation on the obvious necessity and high importance of Provident Institutions, or Saving Banks, we entirely coincide. The statement, however, which it contains, respecting their origin and progress will require some correction; and while the honourable emulation which exists as to the merit of the discovery renders it necessary to weigh with impartiality the pretensions of different claimants, the change, which it requires no prophetic wisdom to anticipate from the plan, both on the comfort and character of the great mass of the people, will prevent such an inquiry from being deemed frivolous or uninteresting.
Our limits will not permit us to notice the abortive bills brought before Parliament by Mr. Pitt and Mr. Whitbread, for the improvement of the condition of the lower orders and the diminution of the burden of the poor-rates. But we cannot pass in silence the Speech of Mr. Curwen on the 28th of May last, which introduced his motion for a Select Committee to take into consideration the State of the Poor-laws.' On that occasion Mr. Curwen declared that the reform which he had in view respected a question which involved the expenditure of the enormous annual sum of eight millions, applied not to the ease and comfort of the poor, but calculated to render them dependent, indolent, and unhappy. He could not expect, he said, to cut down the system at once, but his object was gradually to undermine it, and he entertained a sanguine hope, that by means of public instruction, and the establishment of secure depositories for the savings of industry, they might be speedily diminished and eventually rendered unnecessary. In Ireland, he observed, where there are no poor-rates, the benevolence of the affluent affords a decent support to the deserving poor; and in Scotland, where the moral character of the people is so respectable, and where regular poor-rates exist only in a few districts, and are scarcely felt, the wants of the indigent are well supplied. Mr. Curwen then stated, that his plan to relieve the poor, independently of the existing statutes, would be similar to one which he could recommend as sanctioned by his own experience for the long period of thirty years. During that time all the workmen employed by him had contributed individually sixpence per week to a common fund. The money so subscribed had now increased to the sum of thirty thousand pounds; and at the present time the depositors enjoyed from it-relief in sickness, occasional weekly allowances, and many other comforts. He intended, therefore, to propose that the House should call on all classes of the people to subscribe to a National Bank on a similar principle.
The contribution, he observed, ought never to exceed one-thirtieth of a man's weekly income. Supposing a person to earn ten shillings a week, four-pence taken from that sum would produce upon a general scale 4,800,000l. Taking something from the higher classes which, compared with their incomes, would be a mere trifle, the annual amount of the bank stock would be 8,800,000l. The advantage of such a fund for the relief of the lower classes would, he said, be incalculable. It would convey comfort to every poor man, without the degradation inflicted on him by the law as it now stands.
As we are ignorant of the details of this plan we can give no opinion of its merits. We fear that, like Mr. Acland's plan of 1786, it is intended to be compulsory on the poor, as well as the rich; and, if so, it has our unqualified disapprobation. Such a scheme would act as an oppressive and ruinous impost, and would be nothing less, than relieving the wealthy from the burden of the poor laws, by placing that burthen on the back of the indigent themselves. If the poor laws, as they now stand, be the chastisement of whips, this would be the chastisement of scorpions-But we cannot at present enter on a subject which, from its magnitude and importance, demands the most patient and minute investigation. The chief purpose for which we have noticed Mr. Curwen's speech was to bring forward the remarkable fact of the long existence of a voluntary association which has been and continues to be supported by the contributions of the industrious poor, and which has actually a floating capital of 30,000/.
Although the project of encouraging industry and independence among the lower classes, by thus securing to them the fruits of their labours, appears so simple, when proposed, as to resemble a selfevident truth, with which we have always been familiar, yet, the first institution of the nature of a Saving Bank, which we have hitherto been able to discover in this kingdom, is one of which an account is given in No. 84 of the Reports of the Society for Bettering the Condition of the Poor.' It appears from that Report that a Female Benefit Club was established on the 22d of October, 1798, at Tottenham, under the patronage of a number of ladies. Combined with the main design of this institution were two other objects, viz. a fund for loans, to prevent the use of pawn-brokers' shops, and a Bank for the earnings of poor Children.
'Children of either sex,' says Mrs. Wakefield, the writer of the account, or whatever age, whether belonging to a member or not, are permitted to bring any sum above one penny, to the monthly meeting of the stewardesses, to be laid up in the funds of the society; where their small earnings may accumulate in security, until wanted for an apprentice fee, clothing on going to service, or some other important purpose.' VOL. XVI. NO. XXXĮ. -Though