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in others encouraged, on the whole a large proportion of the labouring classes of this country are sober, decent, orderly, possessed of many comforts, and content with their station. There is no one circumstance more marked by the foreigner, than the means of enjoyment possessed by the lower orders of this kingdom. Suppose we could not absolutely connect this state of things with the Poor Laws as an effect proceeding from them; yet, as it has clearly arisen whilst these laws were in full operation, it would be bold indeed to determine the contrary; that is, absolutely to deny all connexion. I do not hesitate very much to attribute the comforts and respectability of the labouring class, to the general and compulsory right of maintenance, precluding, or at least greatly checking a system of vagrancy.*
• When, from the reverses to which commerce is at all times liable, ten, twenty, thirty thousand inhabitants of a single town, are reduced to distress, what, short of compulsory support, could ward off the horrors of famine? Without this preventive, the most dreadful diseases yould arise in one generation, and be communicated to others. Vagrancy must become almost universal ; for it is only by securing subsistence to the pauper at home, that you can pretend to exclude him from seeking it abroad ; and than vagrancy there is no more determined enemy of health, morals, and industry. The plan might commence with the inhabitants of towns in a state of decay; but the idle, the profligate, and the dishonest of all other places, would join them; and so the practice would spread without limit.
• Even amongst the well disposed poor, cases of distress from illness or the pressure of a family, must at all times be numerous; and where now occasional relief retains a man in his village, the want of that relief would throw his whole family into a state of mendicity. At first his children would apply in their immediate neighbourhood, next the circle would be somewhat enlarged, the mother would then join the party, and at length the whole family would take their station with
the permanent and hardened beggar.
• The Poor Laws have unquestionably checked the system of Vagrancy in a very great degree. If they do not hereafter extirpate it, the fault lies with the constable and the magistrate. Though the vagrant, when stationary, adds somewhat to the burden of his particular parish, do not the united theft and extortion to which his vagrancy gives rise, add ten times more to the burden of the kingdom at large?
• We have florid descriptions of the mischief introduced by these
* Strype relates (Annals, v. 10, p. 290,) that there were at least • three or four hundred able-bodied vagrants in every county of
England, who lived by theft and rapine. Harrison computes (De'scription of Britain, B. II. c. xi,) that Henry the Eighth, in the
course of his reign, hanged threescore and twelve thousand great 'thieves, petty thieves, and vagabonds. In the reign of Queen • Elizabeth, the annual executions of thieves, amounted to about * four hundred; and martial law was at one time proclaimed against the vagabonds who infested the streets of London.' Grahame on Population. p. 39. Vol. X. N.S.
latvs. I would that equally striking ones were given of those they have removed or palliated ; of a wretchedness of a great part of the poor where they do not prevail. The poor of Scotland are frequently mentioned; hear what is said by Fletcher and Salton : “ There are at this day in Scotland, besides a great many poor families very meanly provided for by the Church boxes, with others who by living upon bad food fall into various diseases, 200,000 people begging from door to door.” What a proportion of the population of Scotland a century ago! Four or five years ago, Edinburgh was so overrun with beggars, that a most complex institution for suppressing mendicity was formed; it had perfect success ; but no one can review the organization of this plan, without seeing that nothing but a state of mendicity far exceeding any thing known in England, could have so stimulated a whole city.'* Summary View. pp. 45–7.
The Poor Laws do not, then, as has been represented, rest upon the mistaken principle, that every member of the community, unable to labour, has an abstract right to the means of sustenance; they do not recognise in the pauper any natural right to demand relief, but they confer that right, as a sort of compensation for the restriction which the laws of society impose upon his natural freedom, and as a bond of attachment to those laws. The relief of the poor is not the object at which these enactments terminatè; they originated in policy, not in bumanity; and they were designed, by the redress of an existing evil, to meliorate the condition of society. So far as they have had this effect, it is obvious that they have proved indirectly a benefit equally to the rich.
• What the law, and notbing but the law has given, the law,' it is admitted, may wholly withdraw.' But have the
* The enormous extent to which Mendicity prevails in the Italian States, has been remarked upon by every traveller. Bonaparte, by one of the most salutary exertions of despotic power, redressed, to a considerable extent, this grievous nuisance. А gentleman who visited Turin, in 1816, complains that at that period, * all the most frequented parts were infested with insolent or wretched beggars, a great proportion of whom are disabled or deformed, and whose number and sturdy importunity are an absolute persecution
to strangers. The French suppressed this practice, and provided • a house near the city for the reception of such persons; but the restored government, as I was credibly informed, dissolved the • institution on account of its expence, and because it originated with • the French; turning the numerous mendicants loose upon the . public; as strong a trait of weak prejudice and wicked parsimony
as can be found, I should think, in any court or administration. (Sheppard's Letters, p. 57.) The necessity of combining some species of legislative provision with prohibitory severities, would seem to be uniformly recognised.
poor, in truth, under no circumstances, ' a distinct (political)
claim upon the property of the country at large, any more
than any single pauper has on any private fortune ?' Mr. Nicoll, whose words we are now using, has too hastily, we think, conceded the negative. In the case of the discharged seamen, for instance, surely their immediate claim to legal provision must be acknowledged. Men who have been forced into that precarious service, and who, when the demand for the horrid and unprofitable species of labour in which they have been employed has subsided, are placed in circumstances of indigence, which no forethought or industry of theirs could possibly obviate, have, we must always contend, the strongest claims to a resource in some fixed legislative provision. Nor is the difference between the arbitrary systein of pressing, and the more insidious method of recruiting, sufficiently great to render the claims of the discharged soldiery to the same species of relief more questionable. The numbers of both these classes who were suddenly added to our unemployed and half employed population throughout the kingdom, at the conclusion of the War, very sensibly contributed to aggravate the pressure of the poor's rates . this is specifically adverted to in the Minutes of Evidence relating to the poor of Coventry. The above mentioned classes of upemployed labourers, may, perhaps, be considered as amounting only to an exception; but the exception is quite strong enough to overturn the assertion that the poor can bave no moral or political claim, antecedent to the actual enactment of a legal provision, upon the property of the country. We think the case, if not equally strong, is clearly analogous, when political events occasion the sudden withdrawment of the funds for supporting any other particular species of labour. Whether the poor's rate be the best possible method of meeting such emergencies, may be questioned, but to some species of legislative provision the poor under such circumstances are in equity entitled. No one will dispute that they are then proper objects of relief, and, if of relief at all, of adequate relief; but adequate relief could be furnished only by some legislative provision. Private benevolence, it is a trite remark, is incomparably the most beneficial in its influence upon the moral character of the claimant; but at a period of general distress, this source of relief is precisely the least adequate to the suddenly augmented demand. The late distresses exceeded the utmost power of spontaneous liberality to alleviate them. Had there existed no compulsory means of relief, instead of partial disorders and local tumults, there would bave been a universal ferment.
• Had one combined sympathy in suffering, raised every part of the kingdom to the same tone of discontent, neither Reports of Committees, penal enactments, nor military force, could have warded off the horrors of insurrection.-Suppose the benevolent had given in charity alone, what they have now given in charity and rates combined; what portion of the whole sum raised for the Poor, in the late season of distress, would this have amounted to? Not one fifth. Subtract four-fifths of the support the Poor have received, and they must have been lost from want.' Nicoll's Summary View.
Those who grudge the labourer his living wages, would not, we may be well persuaded, have been very forward to give in charity a tenth of what is wrung from them by the parochial assessment, had they been wholly relieved from the burden of the rate. It is all very well to quote the maxim, Pus trop, gouverner, and to talk of leaving the population to the natural operation of the self regulating principle of supply and demand; but while protecting enactments are continually
being passed in favour of different classes of capitalists, and sufferers in foreign countries, as well as in our own, are permitted to indemnify themselves out of our taxes for losses which this country has only been remotely instrumental in occasioning, it should seem to require more than the ordinary sang froid of a theorist, to dispute the equitable pretensions of our own poor to a similar interference on their behalf. Just to stop short, in the full career of legislation, at this point, to pass over the class the most deserving of the best attentions of a wise policy, because as articles of commercial use there is a surplus of the human production, would argue the most depraved selfishness.
But, in fact, the same specious objections which are urged against the legislative provision, are applicable to any other mode of relief; and why indeed, if the poor have no claims, should they be relieved at all? The idea of private relief, as superseding the compulsive maintenance, is mere delusion. We have already remarked that it would be inadequate to the relief of real indigence; but private relief, if carried to the implied extent, would become in effect public relief. The existence of such a source must be known; becoming known, it would as surely give rise to expectations on the part of the poor, and as directly tend to an improper reliance upon that means of relief, as in the case of the legal provision. A system of voluntary charity, in order to be effectual and impartial in its administration, must assume the form of an organized society, and to the funds thus obtained, the poor would soon learn to consider themselves as much entitled, as they do now to the legislative provision. A habit of receiving the alms of private beneficence would soon be formed, and it would equally give rise to a sense of right in the minds of the poor, to what should thus have been expressly provided for them. They would rarely be brought into contact with their real benefactors; the distributors of the charity therefore would come to be regarded as the only persons with whom they had to deal. Can it be imagined that less deception in such a case would be practised by the indolent and the worthless ? On the contrary, since those whose feelings prompt them to ac:s of beneficence, are far from being always disposed to be at the pains of closely investigating the obtruded cases of distress, or of hunting out for objects of compassion in the dark recesses of modest indigence, might we not have reason to fear, that exactly the least deserving class of poor, the practised impostor and the importunate mendicant, would engross the diminished funds of benevolence? For mendicity must in such a state of things exist and prevail. Mendicity feeds upon private charity, and the extent to which charity would then be practised, would act as a bounty upon pauperism.
What was the effect of the unavoidable publicity of the subscriptions for the Spitalfields poor? Hearing that money was to be given away, hundreds came and sought lodgings in the district, who, when those subscriptions ceased, relapsed into indigence, and became a burden upon their adopted parish. And who were relieved by the public contributions? Of course, the most distressed, -that is, those who appeared the most distressed, from the rage which half covered them, although in some cases, the gin bottle might, perhaps, upon a narrower search, have accounted for part of that appearance. Much real misery was doubtless relieved, and the most miserable are not always the least deserving; but the more decent poor, who had struggled with the times, and still preserved some little shew of comfort, were, in numerous instances, either passed over as if they would be degraded by the alms, or denied relief from the idea that they less needed assistance. This undesigned partiality is almost inseparable from private charity. Relief given in this manner, is doubtless more grateful to the poor, and in a general way it will be more thankfully received." It has been said, too, that it has no tendency to degrade the character. But all these assertions pròceed upon the mistaken supposition, that the same good which may be done by private occasional charity, would follow from the practice of voluntary relief on a plan co-extensive with the unrelieved indigence of the whole population. Of the sturdy mendicant and the parish pauper, if there is any difference between them, it cannot be doubted that the former is the most insolent and the most degraded. Take away the license of the one, and the resource of the other, and you leave the sufferer under real indigence, to all the exas peration of want, under circumstances which would palliate any act of desperate outrage. One dreadful risk alone is now left him, and upon this he will stake his all. Men will not "starve