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Libraries and Lectures.
It can scarcely be contended that the training of children is not impracticable under existing circumstances. Some years since a distinguished and much respected Prelate, in his Charge to the Clergy, remarked :—“In the rural districts, the lads of the parish are the thorn in the minister's side. Freed from the restraint of the school, uncontrolled by parents, no longer domiciled as formerly in their employer's house, they are, as the horse or the mule that have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near to us :” and in a more recent Charge by the same Prelate, the extreme poverty that compelled the people to send their children prematurely to work is feelingly deplored : and does not every year witness an increase of these evils ?
If by “impracticable" is meant the difficulties of realising these plans in the present state of the public mind, in that we readily acquiesce; but if the principles are true, is it not the duty of every Christian to assist in disabusing the public of their errors, in order to bring speedy relief to suffering humanity ? Railroads were long considered impracticable; nor, until one was formed between Liverpool and Manchester, would the public deem
them otherwise. But the Self-supporting Institution requires to be widely discussed as a whole, and in its details to be duly appreciated, and become an object of desire, before those who are competent to the management will come forward : any premature and crude attempt to form an establishment would fail, and only add to the existing prejudices. If it were proposed upon some fanciful theory to destroy old institutions, and attempt to remodel society, there would be some ground for hesitation; but when the Institution proposed leaves the old and dilapidated building untouched, when it offers to take the rejected materials, or those portions that have fallen away from the ancient edifice, and with them to build up an improved establishment, no danger is incurred.
The Self-supporting Institution neither interferes with the distinctions of class nor of wealth ; not a single institution is disturbed ; but, on the contrary, all become more secure, and some are even extended; for a church and schools will be required for every three hundred families at present a burden upon society, or existing in dangerous disaffection. As the subject advances in general esteem, an extraordinary impetus will be given to the beneficial employment of capital now lying dormant, and of labour for which no demand
exists; discontent will be appeased, and an interesting and useful sphere of exertion presented for all classes and for every varied talent. The families of the aristocracy, and of the shareholders, would have an opportunity of visiting and advancing the schools, composed of children assembled in better order, and more susceptible of improvement; of promoting horticultural and botanic gardens; and of aiding the rural fêtes, &c., &c.
In the speech of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in the present Session of Parliament (1845), on his proposed alteration of the law of Settlement, is the following remark :
“ It is a melancholy fact, but still a fact, that no less than one-tenth of the whole population of England and Wales receive relief from the poor-rate in the course of the year. A multitude, no less than 1,500,000 persons, in this country, receive relief from the poor-rate. (Hear.) The magnitude of the sum also thus paid is very great. I could bring that fresh to your recollection in various ways. I might state it thus : it would be no exaggeration, that, since the termination of the war in 1815, notwithstanding all that has been said of the neglect of the interests of the poor-notwithstanding all that has been said of the inhumanity of the law (hear, hear), of the culpable negligence with which the wants of the poor are regarded by the rich, independently of all private charity and of the benefactions of our charitable institutions,—since the termination of the war no less a sum has been
levied from the rate-payers of this country than £200,000,000 (hear, hear), a sum nearly amounting to one-fourth of the capital of the national debt. (Hear, hear.)"
If there is one-tenth of the population subsisting on the poor-rates, it is no exaggeration to affirm that another tenth at least require similar aid, but would rather starve, beg, or be tempted to obtain assistance by unfair means, than enter a Union; and perhaps there is another third, struggling on the verge of destitution. To adduce the sum of £200,000,000 paid in poorrates as an evidence of the charity of the rich, when those rates are compulsory, and a very large portion paid with reluctance, by numbers who are almost as much in need of support as the poor themselves, is inconsistent even with our worldly notions of charity, and has no affinity whatever with that Christian Charity described by St. Paul. The rich are much alike in all ages, and Sir James Graham cannot be ignorant of the injurious tendencies of an excess of wealth on the one hand and of extreme poverty on the other. Justice, and not Charity, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, is required from the possessors, by the producers, of wealth ; by that class through whose industry alone the £200,000,000 came into existence, through whose valour the war was terminated, and the wealth and prosperity of the country were secured.
On the same evening Lord Ebrington made the following observations :
“ As one who was connected with an union work house, where bones were ground and crushed by machinery, he wished to make a few remarks on the present occasion. Now, if those bones were to be crushed at all, he wished to ask by whom was it to be done?
Was it by free and independent labourers, and not by paupers ? (Hear, hear.) Certainly it was a new and most extraordinary doctrine for him to hear, that work which was too offensive for paupers to do, should be performed by free labourers. (Hear, hear.) He could not but declare that he was rejoiced to hear that there was no legal power to prevent the continuance of those practices, if it should seem fit to the House that they should interfere, and endeavour to do so; and he thought it right also to state, that he himself had been a party to ordering the paupers to be employed in that labour, which he contended was neither unfair nor unjust; and no did hope that the Union of South Molton would continue to persevere in that practice. (Hear, hear, from Sir C. Lemon.)”
This is in perfect harmony with the maxims of political economy, and consequently opposed to the Christian precept of “doing unto others as we would they should do unto us.” The poor old man, compelled by the infirmities of age, by ill-health, or by misfortune, through no fault of his own, to submit to incarceration in the Union, is not to have his sorrows alleviated by some ordinary or more healthful employment, but is forced to endure still further degradation and annoyance by the most disgusting occupation. In another speech, on the same evening, his Lordship thus expressed himself :
“He wished also to give some credit to a much maligned class of persons, the political economists. (A laugh.) He hoped the same charity would be extended to the Poor Law Commissioners and to their Secretary, Mr. Chadwick, who was doing all in his power to advance the sanatory and moral condition of the poor.”
For the unjustifiable epithets applied to the Poor Law Commissioners, some compensation may be found in the mutual plaudits of their friends. While the voluminous Reports of Political Eronomists, in the character of Commissioners, proclaim the evils of their