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solve this important problem, is to begin directly
originators of this plan have been laughed at as enthusiasts; and they who have devoted their lives to carry it into execution, and who have told of its success, have been reviled as hypocrites and liars. And that, not because the plan has failed in its operations, or because there has not been sufficient evidence of its success, but because of the seeming insignificancy of the means by which this mighty work is achieving. It is because they are not the philosophers of this world who are its executors, but those whom the philosophers of this world too often despise. It is because they are not the manuals of philosophy which have guided its operations, but that book which philosophers have too frequently rejected.
But we shall be very much deceived, if we imagine that all that can be done for a country, is to civilize it; and that, after this has been effected, the comforts of this life are secured to every individual within its borders. Such, indeed, is the vast increase in the productive powers of labor, that the very lowest member of a civilized community, has a greater command over the comforts of life, than the prince of any savage nation. But even in a civilized community, do we find much of economic wretchedness. After we have succeeded in solving the problem, "To civilize a society," there still remains to be solved another economic problem of the last importance; and one which has long occupied the attention of philanthropists both in our own and other civilized nations. It is to elevate the condition of the poor.
In the attempts which have been made, in our own country, to solve this problem, and in what we consider the only effective method of accomplishing this task, do we think that we have
several beautiful illustrations of the way in which the moral and the economic mutually influence and affect each other; and to this subject, therefore, we propose chiefly to direct our attention in the remainder of this essay.
After the division of labor has allotted to each individual his peculiar employment, and stock has been accumulated, and land appropriated, the inhabitants of every society are divided into three grand classes.
The first consists of those, who, by the labor of their hands, work up commodities both for their own consumption, and that of the other classes, and are thus the originators of the whole wealth of the society. The second class consists of those, who, in virtue of a capital, which either they or their progenitors have accumulated, are enabled to furnish the laboring class with the implements of their industry, and to support them till the produce of their labor finds a market: and who, in return for these important services, lay claim to a part of the produce of their labor. The third class consists of those who, in virtue of a possessory right, lay claim to the earth, that great implement of industry, and who derive a revenue by lending out this implement to the other classes,
On taking an abstract view of these three classes, we should least of all expect, that that class should be the poorest which furnishes the wealth of the whole society. Experience, however, teaches us that that class of the community who do most, are the worst rewarded; while they who do little, are in comfortable circumstances; and they who do least, are overflowing in wealth.
It has, accordingly, been almost universally the
custom to declaim against landlords and capitalists, as if they were the authors of all the misery which exists among the working classes: as if it were their avarice and their injustice which had wrested from the most useful class of the community, that wealth which their own hands so laboriously had earned. But they are not the landlords who are the authors of this misery; they are not the capitalists who are the authors of it: in very deed, they are the laborers themselves who are the authors of it. Were but their manners virtuous, and their habits prudential, they might bid proud defiance to their haughty superiors, and might refuse to treat with them but on honorable terms. They, and not their employers, are the arbitrators of their wages. But they are the vices to which they are wedded, which, like the false mistress of Samson, have betrayed to their enemies the secret of their strength: they are their own improvident habits which have brought them down from that lofty vantage-ground which else they might occupy, and have placed them at the mercy of their employers: they are their own over-grown numbers which have reduced them to the point of starvation, and have thus compelled them, like the inhabitants of a blockaded city, who are hard pressed by the horrors of a famine, to subunit to any terms, however humiliating, which their masters may be pleased to hold out.
This miserable condition of the working class, when contrasted with the ease and affluence of the other two, may not appear so anomalous, if we but consider the matter a little more attentively. There are comparatively few who are born heirs to fortunes or landed property,-and still fewer who acquire either by dint of their own
exertions; but, on the other hand, many who lose both by carelessness or extravagance. The working class is thus, not only naturally by far the most numerous, but is continually exposed to the overflowings of the other two. It requires an effort to resist the force of the current, which carries downward, and the most strenuous exertions seldom prove successful in the attempt to move upward against it. The demand for labor, however, is necessarily limited; and it is the eager competition which takes place among laborers, for subsistence, which is the cause of the miserable condition of the working classes.
This misery has attracted the notice of our legislators, and an attempt has been made, on their part, to relieve it. But in this attempt they have committed the same error as those philanthropists whom we formerly mentioned as having made an unsuccessful effort towards the civilization of the North American Indians. They have wrought at the wrong end of the lever. They have not adverted to the fact, that it is moral derangement which is the cause of economic misery; and that, therefore, in every improvement, the moral must take the precedency of the economic. Their experiment, accordingly, has hitherto not only failed, but has tended to aggravate the evil which it was meant to cure.
The greatest expedient by which it has been attempted to relieve the misery of the working classes, is that system of legalized charity, which is enforced, by what are usually called, the poor laws of England. We give credit to the benevolent feeling which prompted the enactment of those laws. It was a zeal in the cause of philanthropy which dictated the measure; but, unfortu