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nately, it was a zeal not according to knowledge. Our legislators seem, in this instance, to have acted like that physician, who should administer water to allay the thirst of a patient in a dropsy, and thereby increase the virulence of the disease, for the sake of giving the sufferer a few moments of temporary relief. When the Parliament of England framed the system of English pauperism, they were guilty of two inadvertencies. In the first place, they did not advert to the nature of the evil which it was their object to cure; for, had they but discovered its cause, they would at once have perceived that it was their business to set to work in a very different way; to remove, if possible, the cause of the evil, with the full assurance that the removal of the evil itself would be the necessary consequence; and aware, that while the cause of the evil continued in full operation, all their attempts to remove the evil itself would prove utterly vain. In the second place, they forgot that that same compassion which dictated their well-meant exertions, was not confined to them alone, but glowed as fervently in every English bosom. The first of these things our legislators did not perceive, or they would have conducted the business in a very different manner. The second, they did not advert to, or they would never have proceeded a single step in the business at all.
The present system of English pauperism has been productive of two very great evils, arising from these two inadvertencies of its originators. In the first place, it has prevented the operation of those effectual remedies which nature has provided for the relief of existing misery. And in the
second place, it has contributed very much to add to the numbers of the wretched.
The first and greatest of those remedies which nature has provided for the relief of existing misery, is the relative affections. The filial and parental affections are perhaps the strongest and most universal instinct we know of. They have been implanted in us by a wise Creator, for the most important ends, and were we altogether deprived of them, society could not exist. They are not confined to man alone, but are shared with him by all the tribes of animated nature; so that, to deprive him of these affections were to sink him below the level of the inferior creation. Yet this, to a certain extent at least, is the effect of English pauperism. It is the helplessness of tender infancy and childhood, and of decrepid old age, which calls into action, with all their vigor, the family affections. The poor laws, however, have provided both for the helplessness of youth, and the infirmity of age, and have thus contributed to burst asunder the strongest and tenderest ties of our nature. Nor is this an assertion that is unsupported by facts. There are instances in which a parent has actually disclaimed his own children, and has told the overseer of the parish that it is none of his business to provide for them; that the parish must find work for them, or support them, if it cannot.
If the poor laws have extinguished those natural affections which subsist between members of the same family; we cannot expect that they have left uninjuried those mutual sympathies which reciprocate between the inhabitants of the same neighborhood; far less those more distant expres
sions of kindness which descend upon the wretched from the coffers of the rich.
But were this all the mischief the poor laws had done, there might still be found some to advocate the cause of pauperism. It might be argued for this system of legalized charity, that if it had destroyed the natural remedies for existing misery, it has substituted in their place an artificial remedy, equally effective;-that a provision for the distressed is still as sure as before, though it flows through a different channel.
It were but a silly excuse for complicating a clock or a watch with a great deal of intricate mechanism, that the additional work had the wonderful property of rectifying those defects of which itself was the cause, and that the instrument answered its end every whit as well as it did before. But even such a defence; weak as it is, cannot be advanced for English pauperism.
The evils which we have mentioned, are, after all, but the least which pauperism has effected. Not only has it prevented the operation of those remedies which nature has provided for existing misery, but it has actually increased this misery. Its regulations, by insuring against the wretchedness which they generally occasion, have thrown down those barriers which naturally restrain from vice and imprudence. Imprudence qualifies an individual for receiving parish support: and vice, at least, does not qualify us. For the first of these positions there is sufficient evidence in the fact, that single persons, when the overseer has refused to enrol them on the list of paupers, have flatly told him, that if he do not give them the usual parish allowance, they will go away and marry, and thus compel the parish to support, not only them
selves, but also their families. Of the latter position, that vice is no disqualification, we have a most palpable illustration, in the case of an individual, who on the overseer refusing to give him any support at all, on the ground of his possessing some property of his own, most impudently threatened to go to the next ale-house, and there spend his all in dissipation, in order that he might more effectually burden the parish by compelling it to give him a full allowance.
But the greatest mischief of all, perhaps, of which pauperism has been the cause, is, that it not only adds to the numbers of the miserable, by destroying the prudential habits of a great part of the community, but that it deteriorates the economic condition even of those whose confirmed habits of sobriety and industry have withstood its baneful influence. The composition of wages with parish allowance, is perhaps the most mischievous part of all this mischievous system. If our legislators did mean to give the poor a title to legal support, it were better far, that in every instance, they had made the parish allowance, sufficient to maintain the pauper entirely, and that they had never had recourse to the ruinous experiment of compounding this allowance with the ordinary reward of labor.
In this case all the evils we have already mentioned, would no doubt have followed, but there is one very great evil, which would have been in a great measure prevented, the reduction of the wages of the independent part of the working classes.
In the present state of things, let a man be ever so industrious, and ever so sober, and ever so prudent, it is absolutely impossible for him to
better his condition, so long as pauperism sends forth her myriads of laborers to compete with him at any price, however low, which the employer may choose to offer. It is true, that the working classes have the power of regulating their own wages; but it is not one individual, or a number of individuals, who can effect this. It requires a combination of at least, a very considerable portion of the laboring community; and to this most desirable of all ends, pauperism presents a most insuperable obstacle.
But we have, perhaps, entered too much into detail, in enumerating the evils of a system, with regard to whose mischievous tendency, every body seems now to be perfectly agreed. It requires not now a well argued representation, to convince people of the evils of pauperism. It has long been felt, experimentally, to be the scourge of our nation. The question is not now,-Should the poor laws be abolished? but,-Can they be abolished with safety? And, if so, How is this most desirable end to be accomplished? It must be palpable to every one, that the poor laws of England are now so enwoven into the very constitution of society, and so amalgamated with the manners of a very considerable portion of the people, that a sudden repeal of them would be an experiment attended with the most dangerous consequences. There is every reason to fear, that were the Parliament of Great Britain, by a single act of their authority, at once to disinherit every pauper of his wonted allowance, the result might be nothing less than a rebellion. And that the precipitancy of such a measure could scarce fail to land us in all the horrors of internal commotion. In attempting the cure of a disease so