« EdellinenJatka »
neither becomes a habit, or takes possession of the whole man; nor is it possible he should be surfeited with either. I often see him at our club in good humour, and yet sometimes too with an air of care in his looks: but in his country re-, treat he is always unbent, and such a companion as I could desire; and therefore I seldom fail to make one with him when he is pleased to invite
The other day, as soon as we were got into his chariot, two or three beggars on each side hung upon the doors, and solicited our charity with the usual rhetoric of a sick wife or husband at home, three or four helpless little children all starving with cold and hunger. We were forced to part with some money to get rid of their importunity; and then we proceeded on our journey with the blessings and acclamations of these people.
Well then,' says Sir Andrew,' we go off with the prayers and good wishes of the beggars, and perhaps too our healths will be drunk at the next ale-house: so all we shall be able to value ourselves upon, is, that we have promoted the trade of the victualler and the excises of the government. But how few ounces of wool do we see upon the backs of these poor creatures? And when they shall next fall in our way, they will hardly be better dressed; they must always live in rags to look like objects of compassion. If their families too are such as they are represented, 'tis certain they cannot be better clothed, and must be a great deal worse fed. One would think potatoes should be all their bread, and their drink the pure element; and then what goodly customers are the farmers like to have for their wool, corn, and cattle ? Such customers, and such a consumption, cannot choose but advance the
landed interest, and hold up the rents of the gentlemen.
“But of all men living, we merchants who live by buying and selling, ought never to encourage beggars. The goods which we export are indeed the product of the lands, but much the greater part of their value is the labour of the people: but how much of these people's labour shall we export whilst we hire them to sit still? The very alms they receive from us are the wages of idleness. I have often thought that no man should be permitted to take relief from the parish, or to ask it in the street, until he has first purchased as much as possible of his own livelihood by the labour of his own hands; and then the public ought only to be taxed to make good the deficiency. If this rule was strictly observed, we should see every where such a multitude of new labourers, as would in all probability, reduce the prices of all our manufactures. It is the very life of merchandise to buy cheap and sell dear. The merchant ought to make his out-set as cheap as possible, that he may find the greater profit upon his returns; and nothing will enable him to do this like the reduction of the price of labour upon all our manufactures. This too would be the ready way to increase the number of our foreign markets. The abatement of the price of the manufacture would pay for the carriage of it to more distant countries; and this consequence would be equally beneficial both to the landed and trading interests. As so great an addition of labouring hands would produce this happy consequence both to the merchant and the gentleman, our liberality to common beggars, and every other obstruction to the increase of labourers, must be equally pernicious to both.'
Sir Andrew then went on to affirm, that the reduction of the prices of our manufactures by the addition of so many new hands, would be no inconvenience to any man; but observing I was something startled at the assertion, he made a short pause, and then resumed the discourse. It may seem,' says he,'a paradox, that the price of labour should be reduced without an abatement of wages, or that wages can be abated without an inconvenience to the labourer, and yet nothing is more certain than that both these things may happen. The wages of the labourers make the greatest part of the price of every thing that is useful; and if in proportion with the wages the price of all other things should be abated, every labourer with less wages would still be able to purchase as many necessaries of life ; where then would be the inconvenience? But the price of labour may be reduced by the addition of more hands to a manufacture, and yet the wages of persons remain as high as ever. The admirable Sir William Petty has given examples of this in some of his writings: one of them, as I remember, is that of a watch, which I shall endeavour to explain so as shall suit my present purpose. It is certain that a single watch could not be made so cheap in proportion by one only man, as a hundred watches by a hundred; for as there is vast variety in the work, no one person could equally suit himself to all the parts of it: the manufacture would be tedious, and at last but clumsily performed. But if a hundred watches were to be made by a hundred men, the cases may be assigned to one, the dials to another, the wheels to another, the springs to another, and every other part to a proper artist. As there would be no reed of perplexing any one person with too much
variety, every one would be able to perform his single part with greater skill and expedition; and the hundred watches would be finished in one. fourth part of the time of the first one, and every one of them at one-fourth part of the cost, though
of every man were equal. The reduction of the price of the manufacture would in. crease the demand of it, all the same hands would be still employed, and as well paid. The same rule will hold in the clothing, the shipping, and all other trades whatsoever. And thus an addi. tion of hands to our manufactures will only reduce the price of them; the labourer will still have as much wages, and will consequently be enabled to purchase more conveniencies of life ; so that every interest in the nation would receive a benefit from the increase of our working people,
• Besides I see no occasion for this charity to common beggars, since every beggar is an inhabitant of a parish, and every parish is taxed to the maintenance of their own poor. For my own part I cannot be mightily pleased with the laws which have done this, which have provided better to feed than employ the poor. We have a tradition from our forefathers, that after the first of those laws was made, they were insulted with that famous song ;
Hang sorrow and cast away care,
The parish is bound to find us, &c. And if we will be so good-natured as to maintain them without work, they can do no less in return than sing us “ The merry Beggars.”
• What then? Am I against all acts of charity? God forbid ! I know of no virtue in the gospel that is in more pathetic expressions recommended to our practice. “I was hungry and ye
gave me no meat, thirsty and ye gave me no drink, naked and ye clothed me not, a stranger and ye took me not in, sick and in prison and ye visited me not.” Our blessed Saviour treats the exer cise and neglect of charity towards a poor man, as the performance or breach of this duty towards himself. I shall endeavour to obey the will of my lord and master: and therefore if an industrious man shall submit to the hardest labour and coarsest fare, rather than endure the shame of taking relief from the parish, or asking it in the street, this is the hungry, the thirsty, the naked; and I ought to believe, if any man is come hither for shelter against persecution or oppression, this is the stranger, and I ought to take him in. If any countryman of our own is fallen into the hands of infidels, and lives in a state of miserable captivity, this is the man in prison, and I should contribute to his ransom. I ought to give to an hospital of invalids, to recover as many useful subjects as I can; but I shall bestow none of my bounties upon an alms-house of idle people; and for the same reason I should not think it a reproach to me if I had withheld my charity from those common beggars. But we prescribe better rules than we are able to practise; we are ashamed not to give into the mistaken manners of our country: but at the same time, I cannot but think it a reproach worse than that of common swearing, that the idle and the abandoned are suffered in the name of heaven and all that is sacred to extort from christian and tender minds a supply to a profligate way of life, that is always to be supported, but never relieved.'