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phrey abounds in striking views with respect to the same subjects, but in a more loose and careless form, and presents in a strong light, the evils which at present exist, though frequently in a coarse and somewhat ungracious manner.
Idleness, improvidence, intemperance, are regarded by both as the principal causes of the increase in the number of the poor. That an individual, in this country, is obliged to throw himself upon the public for support, is at first sight a reason for believing that he is an indolent, improvident, or vicious member of society. There can be little doubt, that in a country like ours, every one, misfortunes being out of the question, may support himself and family through life in decency and comfort, provided he regularly endeavours to do it. It requires no extraordinary exertion;-common industry, common frugality will be sufficient. But in the lower classes there is too little regard paid to the future. They are entirely ignorant of the art of living cheaply and economically. Luxuries, if they have the present means of obtaining them, are indulged in, without reflecting that if they are extravagant to-day, they must be straitened to-morrow; and it is not unfrequent to find the rarities of the season on the table of a day labourer, when their price would exclude them from almost all but those of the rich. This improvident, extravagant disposition is a cause of the extreme want to which families are frequently reduced who depend upon daily labour for support, and generally maintain themselves. in tolerable comfort. Labour is not always to be had. There are particular seasons of the year, especially in a place like this, when there is little to be done, and this unfortunately is at the very time when the expenses of living are the greatest, and when the full produce of daily labour would be no more than sufficient for daily want. At this period the pressure of poverty is particularly felt, and there are few of the lowest class who do not require some degree of assistance from public or private benevolence. At other seasons, there is generally sufficient employment, and the income of an industrious labourer amounts to more than is absolutely necessary for the support of his family. Yet the surplus is never laid by for future need. It is always spent ; and too often in a manner that contributes still more to the impoverishment of the individual.
The authors of the publications before us, in common with all who have thought or written upon this subject, attribute by far the greatest share of the burden of pauperism to the vices, and more particularly to the intemperance, which are prevalent among the lower ranks of the community. We have touched in a former number upon this subject, but it appears to us, one, which can hardly be too frequently or too forcibly pressed up.
on the attention of the public. It would be astonishing, to those who are not familiar with certain classes of people, to witness the extent to which such practices have advanced, the very venial light in which they are viewed, the little shame or compunction which the drunkard feels, and the very trifling nature of the disgrace which is attached to the habit, by a considerable majority of mankind. They would be shocked at the lessons thus instilled by example in the minds of the young, who even on the threshold of existence, are taught to tread the paths of iniquity without knowing them to be such, and blast at once, by loathsome and incurable vice, all the prospects of their future lives.
“Our own observation may convince us,”—says Dr. Holmes—“ and the records of our Almshouses will prove, that this single vice generally contributes incomparably more than any, I had almost said than all, other, towards the increase of the objects of public charity. No cause is so closely, and for the most part infallibly connected with the effect. The intemperate man is seldom reclaimed from his intemperance, the consequences of which are as certain, as they are pernicious." p. 11.
"Intemperance"-observes Mr. Humphrey after enumerating various other causes which bring individuals upon the public for their support,"is by far the greatest and most horrible of all the causes of pauperism in this country. If other vices slay their thousands, this slays its tens of thousands." There can be no question, that it sends crowds to hell every year, while it also consigns an incredible number of bloated masses of pollution, and of broken-hearted wives and belpless children, to rags and beggary. The extent of its ravages would exceed all credence, were we not furnished with facts and estimates, which cannot be controverted."
"In the forepart of 1816, it was stated in the report of the Moral Society of Portland, that out of 85 persons supported at the work-house, in that town, 71 became paupers, in consequence of intemperance; being five-sixths of the whole number and that out of 118, who were supplied at their own houses, more than half were of that character."
"Again in the winter of 1817, alarmed by the rapid increase of pauperism, the citizens of New York appointed a very respectable committee, to inquire into the state of want and misery among the poor in that city, and to devise some plan to prevent, as far as possible, a recurrence and increase of these evils. A part of the report of this committee, is in the following words."
"If we recur to the state of the poor from year to year, for ten years past, we find that they have yearly increased greatly beyond the regular increase of population. At the present period, there is reason to believe, from information received from the visiting committees of the several wards, that 15,000 men, women, and children, equal to one-seventh of the whole population of our city, have been supported by public or private bounty or munificence.
"In viewing this deplorable state of human misery, the committee have diligently attended to an examination of the causes which have produced such dire effects. And after the most mature and deliberate reflection, they are satisfied, that the most prominent and alarming cause, is the free and inordinate use of spiritous liquors. To this cause alone may fairly be attributed seven eighths of the misery and distress of the present winter;
one sixteenth to the want of employment, owing to the present distressing state of trade and commerce; and the remaining portion, to circunstances difficult to enumerate, and which possibly could not be avoided." pp. 14, 15.
A similar inquiry into the state and causes of pauperism in this metropolis, would we fear, terminate in a similar result. And if all this be true, if this evil has already arrived at such a height, and is daily increasing upon us; does it not follow that the public provisions upon this subject, fail in the objects which they ought to attain; that either our laws are not sufficient, or that there is some failure in their administration? They merely remove out of sight those who are incapable of supporting themselves without any regard to the prevention of their farther accumulation. The privileges of the authorized institutions ought not to be granted upon such easy terms. There is al ways a certain quantity of floating charity, if we may use this expression, which is adequate to the support of a certain number of individuals, and there will always be claimants enough to appropriate all these means, and often indeed to produce a competition for them. But if the hand of the law is constantly removing those of them who have become troublesome to society, their places are regularly filled by an equal number who immediately fall into the ranks, and seek to partake of this easy subsistence. Every thing in society, finds at last about its proper level, and the proportion of those who depend upon private charity, for the whole or a part of their means of living, will always be equal to the quantity of the means to be disposed of.
Is it not actually the case, that we have a right fairly to ascribe no small proportion of the number of paupers to the poor laws themselves, or to the manner in which they are executed? By removing to their public establishments those who are becoming a burden upon private charity, do they not actually make room for a new accession of numbers? Are they not in fact one of the efficient causes of increasing pauperism? Yet this is not so from an actual defect in the provisions, but from the want of energy in those whose duty it is to put them in force. They permit the subjects of their charge to lead too easy and idle a life. There is nothing in the life of the pauper to discourage those who are most likely to become such. It is true we are accustomed to view it with horror, but they have become, in some measure familiarized to the prospect. They look forward to it, indeed, as the last resort, but after all as a pretty comfortable one. They calculate upon a life without labour and without care, and such they too often find it. They cease to possess that pride in self-dependence, which has so much influence over mankind in general, and society thus loses the surest pledge for their upright and honorable conduct.
The effect of extensive charities and liberal laws for the maintenance of the poor, in producing an increase in their number, has been frequently remarked, but seems never to have been sufficiently taken into consideration, in the conduct and arrangement of alms-houses, asylums, &c. There can be no doubt of the indispensable necessity of such institutions in the present state of society; yet it appears to us something might be done to obviate the injurious consequences to which they give
Speaking of the provisions of the English government, Dr. Holmes observes
"There is not a parish in the kingdom, but what is now obliged to maintain its own poor. Besides this legal provision, charitable institutions have become multiplied, providing for the relief of every class of human beings, and for every description of human misery. Even the most profligate and abandoned may there find an asylum. In no country, however, is mendicity more prevalent than in Great Britain; in no city are beggars more numerous than in London." travelled much, and made observations in different countries, remarks ; "An intelligent writer, who had ⚫ there is no country in the world, where so many provisions are established for the poor, so many hospitals to receive them when they are sick and lame, founded and maintained by voluntary charities; so many almshouses for the aged of both sexes, together with a solemn general law made by the rich to subject their estates to a heavy tax for the support of the poor, as in England; yet there is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle and dissolute.'
"The provisions" Dr. H. goes on to observe, extensive and too indiscriminate; the facilities for admission to these chaappear to have been too rities, too great; the condition of a claim to them, too easy; and the treatment of the subjects of them such, as to counteract their original design, and actually to encourage idleness and vice. um"-says the writer just quoted," and you should not now wonder it has You offered a premi had its effect in the increase of poverty."-Of the same sentiment was Lord Kaimes- A premium," says that author, in any case than when given to promote idleness-In England every man "is not more successful is entitled to be idle; because every idler is entitled to a maintenance." p. 20, 21.
We ought certainly to bear it in mind, that if we are right in attributing poverty, for the most part, to misconduct-the most idle, useless, and vicious part of the community are actually supported out of the hard earnings of the industrious, the frugal, and the virtuous. It is perhaps hardly necessary to press this point upon the attention, by any thing more than this simple statement of the matter of fact; yet we are desirous of quoting the homely but forcible representation given of it by Mr. Humphrey.
"Have you seriously thought of the subject in this light? Do you consider, that almost every idler and drunkard in the community is a public New Series-vol. I.
pensioner? Are you sensible, when you see men reducing their families to want, by tippling and its attendant vices, that you have got to pay fourfold, for all this waste of health, and time, and property ? Do you know, that while a man is drinking up his own estate, he is every day lessening the value of yours? That while you stand by and look calmly on, he is actually laying a mortgage on every foot of your lands, which neither you nor your children can ever pay off? Dram shops are kept up at your expense. The revenue of those who subsist by dealing out ardent spirits to hard drinkers, is indirectly drawn from your pockets. You will find it charged to you with heavy interest in the rate-book. The intemperate are constantly running you in debt without your consent. They are doing it from day to day when you are at work, and from night to night while you are asleep." p. 45.
In the treatment of the poor, when they become the subjects of public relief, it ought to be a ruling principle, to oblige them to support themselves, so far as it is possible, and in a considerable proportion of cases it is possible. There is no charity, no kindness, no justice, in providing an asylum, where a considerable proportion of the community, who are at least of doubtful characier, are supported in indolence and ease at the expense of the sober and industrious. The majority of paupers become so, because they will not, not because they cannot, find labour for their subsistence-and if they are really disqualified from doing it, the difficulty has arisen from their own folly or vice, and they ought therefore to be taxed at least to the extent of their ability. Besides, it is probable, that in most of those cases, where vice has produced a bodily incapacity, a life of frugality and temperance, accompanied with so much labour as they are really adequate to bear, would gradually restore them to sufficient strength to work, at least for their own support. This course would no doubt be considered as cruel and harsh by the subjects themselves, and by many benevolent and well meaning people, who have no idea that there is any charity except where money is given. To the idle and intemperate it might seem a punishment, to be obliged to apply themselves to constant and regular employment, and denied those sensual gratifications, in which they had been accustomed to indulge. But even supposing it such-what better do they deserve? Is not poverty when it proceeds from such causes, as truly a crime against society as robbery or theft? Twenty-five thousand dollars-two thirds of the Almshouse expenses in this town-are devoted to the support of the intemperate and profligate, besides the immense sums which are distributed in various ways and from various sources, to those who are yet without the grasp of the poor laws. Do not vices, which make such a claim as this upon the public purse, deserve some more rigorous discipline than they have usually received?