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lue of patient inquiry and research, over hasty generalizations, or the construction of assailable theories. The brevity of the work, too, is the more meritorious, when we consider not only the rarity of that quality in books of this description, but the vast, and, we believe we might say, unparalleled extent both of reading and research which have gone to its composition. The prodigious number and bulk of the publications on Mineralogy and Geology which have been given to the world within these thirty years, have not only put correct information beyond the reach of ordinary readers—but have made it difficult for geologists themselves, at once to extend their own observations, and lo keep clearly in view all that has been done by their associates.
The work before us not only contains an admirable digest and collation of the most authoritative statements and opinions on a great variety of important questions, but is eminently calculated, by the contradictions which it everywhere exhibits, to abate the confidence of narrow observers and rash theorists; and to inculcate the necessity of that patient industry and modest scepticism, by which alone the pursuits of Geology can ever attain to the dignity of a Science.
Art. V. 1. Safe Method for rendering Income arising from Per
sonal Property available to the Poor-Laws. Longman & Co.
1819. 2. Summary Review of the Report and Evidence relative to the
Poor-Laws. By S. W. Nicol. York. 3. Essay on the Practicability of Modifying the Pour-Laws.
Sherwood. 1819. 4. Considerations on the Poor-Laws. By John Davison, A. M.
asked to look at any thing upon the Poor-Laws. No subject, we admit, can be more disagreeable, or more trite: But, unfortunately, it is the most important of all the important subjects which the distressed state of the country is now crowding upon our notice.
A pamphlet on the Poor-Laws generally contains some little piece of favourite nonsense, by which we are gravely told this enormous evil may be perfectly cured. The first gentleman recommends little gardens; the second cows; the third a village shop; the fourth a spade; the fifth Dr Bell, and so forth. E
very man rushes to the press with his small morsel of imbecility; and is not easy till he sees nis impertinence stitched in blue
In this list of absurdities, we must not forget the project of supporting the poor from national funds, or, in other words, of immediately doubling the expenditure, and introducing every possible abuse into the administration of it. Then there are worthy men, who call upon gentlemen of fortune and education to become overseers-meaning, we suppose, that the present overseers are to perform the higher duties of men of fortune. Then Merit is set up as the test of relief; and their Worships are to enter into a long examination of the life and character of each applicant, assisted, as they doubtless would be, by candid overseers, and neighbours divested of every feeling of malice and partiality. The children are next to be taken from their parents, and lodged in immense pedagogueries of several ac es each, where they are to be carefully secluded from those fathers and mothers they are commanded to obey and honour, and are to be brought up in virtue by the churchwardens :- And this is gravely intended as a corrective of the Poor-Laws; as if (to pass over the many other objections which might be made to it) it would not set mankind populating faster than carpenters and bricklayers could cover in their children, or separate twigs be bound into rods for their flagellation. . An extension of the Poor-Laws to personal property is also talked of. We should be very glad to see any species of property exempted from these laws, but have no wish that any which is now exempted should be subjected to their influence. The case would infallibly be like that of the Income-tax,--the more easily the tax was raised, the more profligate would be the expenditure. It is proposed also that alehouses should be diminished, and that the children of the poor should be catechised publicly in the church,—both very respectable and proper suggestions, but of themselves hardly strong enough for the evil. We have every wish that the poor should accustom themselves to habits of sobriety ; but we cannot help reflecting sometimes, that an alehouse is the only place where a poor tired creature, haunted with every species of wretchedness, can purchase three or four times a year, three pennyworth of ale, a liquor upon which winedrinking moralists are always extremely severe. We must not forget, among
other nostrums, the eulogy of small farms—in other words of small capital, and profound ignorance in the arts of agriculture ;~and the evil is also thought to be cureable by periodical contributions from men who have nothing, and can earn nothing without charity. To one of these plans, and perhaps the most plausible, Mr Nicol has stated, in the following passage, objections that are applicable to almost all the rest.
* The district school would no doubt be well superintended and well regulated ; Magistrates and Country Gentlemen would be its visitors. The more excellent the establishment, the greater the nnischief; because the greater the expense. We may talk what we will of economy, but where the care of the poor is takenr exclusively into the hands of the rich, comparative extravagance is the necessary consequence: to say that the Gentleman, or even the Overseer would never permit the poor to live at the district school, as they live at home, is saying far too little. English humanity will never see the poor in any thing like want, when that want is palpably and visibly brought before it; first, it will give necessaries, next comforts ; until its fostering care rather pampers, than merely relieves. The humanity itself is highly laudable; but if practised on an extensive scale, its consequences must entail an almost unlimited expenditure.
• Mr Locke computes that the labour of a child from 3 to 14, being set against its nourishment and teaching, the result will be exoneration of the Parish from expense. Nothing could prove more decisively the incompetency of the Board of Trade, to advise on this question. Of the productive labour of the workhouse, I shall have to speak hereafter ; I will only observe in this place, that after the greatest care and attention bestowed on the subject, after expensive looms purchased, &c. the 50 boys of the Blue Coat School earned in the year 1816, 591. 10s. 3d.; the 40 Girls earned, in the same time, 401. 7s. 7d. The ages of these children are from 8 to 16. They earn about one pound in the year, and cost about twenty.
' The greater the call for labour in public institutions, be they prisons, workhouses or schools, the more difficult to be procured that Tabour must be. There will thence be both much less of it for the comparative numbers, and it will afford a much less price; to get any labour at all, one school must underbid another.
It has just been observed, that.“ the child of a poor cottager, half clothed, half fed, with the enjoyment of home and liberty, is not only happier but better than the little automaton of a Parisht workhouse; and this I believe is accurately true. I scarcely know a more cheering sight, though certainly many more elegant ones, than the youthful gambols of a village green. They call to mind the description given by Paley of the shoals of the fry of fish: “ They are 80 happy that they know not what to do with themselves; their attitude, their vivacity, their leaps out of the water, their frolics in it, all conduce to show their excess of spirits, and are simply the effects of that excess.
· Though politeness may be banished from the cottage, and though the anxious mother may sometimes chide a little too sharply; yet, here both maternal endearments and social affection exist in perhaps their greatest vigour; the attachments of lower life, where independe ent of attachment there is so little to enjoy, far outstrip the divided if not exhausted sensibility of the rich and great ; and in depriving the
poor of these attachments, we may be said to rob them of their little all.
• But it is not to happiness only I here refer ; it is to morals. I listen with great reserve to that system of moral instruction, which has not social affection for its basis, or the feelings of the heart for its ally. It is not to be concealed, that every thing may be taught, yet nothing learned ; that systems planned with care, and executed with attention, may evaporate into unmeaning forms, where the imagination is not roused, or the sensibility impressed.
• Let us suppose the children of the « district school,” nurtured with that superabundant care which such institutions, when supposed to be well conducted, are wont to exhibit; They rise with the dawn; after attending to the calls of cleanliness, prayers follow; then a lesson ; then breakfast ; then work, till noon liberates them for per. haps an hour, from the walls of their prison, to the walls of their prison court. Dinner follows; and then, in course, work, lessons, supper, prayers ; at length, after a day dreary and dull, the counter part of every day which has preceded, and of all that are to follow, the children are dismissed to bed.
- This system may construct a machine, but it will not form a man. Of what does it consist? of prayers parotted without one sentiment in accord with the words ut. tered; of moral lectures which the underderstanding does not comprehend, or the heart feel; of endless bodily constraint, intolerable to youthful vivacity, and injurious to the perfection of the human frame.
The cottage day may not present so imposing a scene; no decent uniform ; no well trimmed locks; no glossy skin, no united re, sponse of hundreds of conjoined voices ; no lengthened procession, misnamed exercise : but if it has less to strike the eye, it has far more to engage the heart. A trifle in the way of cleanliness must suffice; the prayer is not forgot; it is perhaps imperfectly repeated, and confusedly understood ; but it is not muttered as a vain sound; it is an earthly parent that tells of a heavenly one; duty, love, obedience, are not words without meaning, when repeated by a mother to her child: To God the great unknown Being that made all things, all thanks, all praise, all adoration is due. The young reli. gionist may be in some measure bewildered by all this; his notions may be obscure, but his feelings will be roused, and the foundation at least of true piety will be laid.
• Of moral instruction, the child may be taught less at home than at school, but he will be taught better ; that is, whatever he is taught, he will feel ; he will not have abstract propositions of duty coldly presented to his mind; but precept and practice will be conjoined; what he is told it is right to do, will be instantly done. Sometimes the operative principle on the child's mind will be love, sometimes fear, sometimes habitual sense of obedience; it is always something that will impress, always something that will be remembered.'
There are two points which we consider as now admitted by all men of sense. First, That the Poor-Laws must be abolished ; 2dly, That they must be very gradually abolished. We hardly think it worth while to throw away pen and ink upon any one who is still inclined to dispute either of these propositions.
With respect to the gradual abolition, it must be observed, that the present redundant population of the country has been entirely produced by the Poor-Laws; and nothing could be so grossly unjust, as to encourage people to such a vitious multiplication, and then, when you happen to discover your folly, immediately to starve them into annihilation. You have been calling upon your population for two hundred years to beget more children-furnished them with clothes, food, and houses --taught them to lay up nothing for matrimony, nothing for children, nothing for age--but to depend upon Justices of the Peace for every human want. The folly is now detected; but the people, who are the fruit of it, remain. It was madness to call them in this manner into existence; but it would be the height of cold-blooded cruelty to get rid of them by any other than the most gentle and gradual means; and not only would it be cruel, but extremely dangerous, to make the attempt. Insurrections of the most sanguinary and ferocious nature would be the immediate consequence of any very sudden change in the system of the Poor-Laws; not partial, like those which proceed from an impeded or decaying state of manufactures, but as universal as the Poor-Laws themselves, and as ferocious as insurrections always are which are led on by hunger and despair.
These observations may serve as an answer to those angry and impatient gentlemen, who are always crying out, What has the Committee of the House of Commons done? What have they to show for their labours ? —Are the Rates lessened ? Are the evils removed ?. The Committee of the House of Commons would have shown themselves to be a set of the most contemptible charlatans, if they had proceeded with any such indecent and perilous haste, or paid the slightest regard to the ignorant folly which required it at their hands. They have very properly begun, by collecting all possible information upon the subject; by consulting speculative and practical men; by leaving time for the press to contribute whatever it could of thought or knowledge to the subject; and by introducing measures, the effects of which will be, and are intended to be, gradual. The Lords seemed at first to have been surprised that the Poor-Laws were not abolished before the end of the first Session of Parliament; and accordingly set up a little rival Committee of their own,