« AnteriorContinuar »
P R O P O S A L
Giving Badges to the Beggars in all
the parilhes of Dublin.
By the Dean of St. Patrick's.
Written in the Year 1737.
IT hath been a general complaint, that the
poor-house (especially since the new consti-, tution by act of parliament) hath been of no benefit to this city, for the ease of which it was wholly intended. I had the honour to be a member of it many years before it was new modelled by the legislature ; not from any personal regard, but merely as one of the two deans, who are of course put into most commissions that relate to the city; and I have likewise the honour to have been left out of several commissions upon the score of party, in which my predecessors, time out of mind, have always been members.
The first commission was made up of about fifty persons, which were, the lord mayor, aldermen, and theriffs, and some few other
citizens; the judges, the two archbishops, the two deans of the city, and one or two more gentlemen. And I must confess my opinion, that the dissolving the old commission, and establishing a new one of near three times the number, have been the great cause of rendering fo good a design not only useless, but a grievance, instead of a benefit, to the city. In the present commission all the city clergy are included, besides a great number of 'fquires, not only those who reside in Dublin and the neighbourhood, but several, who live at a great distance, and cannot possibly have the least concern for the advantage of the city.
At the few general meetings that I have at. tended since the new establishment, I observed very little was done, except one or two acts of extreme justice, which I then thought might as well have been spared : and I have found the court of assistants usually taken up in little wrangles about coachmen, or adjufting accounts of meal and small beer; which, however necessary, might sometimes have given place to matters of much greater moment, I mean fome schemes recommended to the general board, for answering the chief ends in erecting and establishing luch a poor house; and endowing it with lo considerable a revenue: and the principal end I take to have been that of maintaining the poor and ora phans of the city, where the parishes are not able to do it; and clearing the streets from all ftrollers, foreigners, and fturdy beggars,
with which, to the universal complaint and admiration, Dublin is more infested since the establishment of the poor-house, than it was ever known to be fince its first erection.
As the whole fund for supporting this hor. pital is raised only from the inhabitants of the city; so there can be hardly any thing more absurd than to see it misemployed in maintaining foreign beggars, and bastards, or orphans of farmers, whose country landlords never contributed one shilling towards their support. I would engage, that half this revenue, if employed with common care, and no very great degree of common honesty, would maintain all the real objects of charity in this city, except a small number of original poor in every parish, who might, without being burthensome to the parishoners, find a tolerable support.
I have, for some years past, applied myself to several lord mayors, and the late archbis shop of Dublin, for a remedy to this evil of foreign beggars; and they all appeared ready to receive a very plain proposal, I mean that of badging the original poor of every parish, who begged in the streets ; that the faid beggars should be confined to their own parishes; that they should wear their badges well fown upon one of their shoulders, always visible, on pain of being whipped and turned out of town ; or whatever legal punishment may be thought proper and effectual. But, by the wrong way of thinking in some clergymen, and the difference of others, this method was
perpetually defeated, to their own continual disquiet, which they do not ill deserve ; and if the grievance affected only them, it would be of less consequence; because the remedy is in their own power : but all street-walkers and shop-keepers bear an equal Mare in its hourly vexation.
I never heard more than one objection against this expedient of badging the poor, and confining their walks to their several parishes. The objection was this: What hall we do with the foreign beggars ? must they be left to starve? I answered, No: but they must be driven or whipped out of town ; and let the next country parish do as they please, or rather, after the practice in England, send them from one parish to another, until they reach their own homes. By the old laws of England still in force, every parish is bound to maintain its own poor; and the matter is of no such consequence in this point as some would make it, whether a country parish be rich or poor.
In the remoter and poorer parishes of the kingdom all necessaries for life proper for, poor people are comparatively cheaper ; 'I mean butter-milk, oat-meal, potatoes, and other vegetables; and every farmer or cottager, who is not himself a beggar, can sometimes spare a fup or a morfel, not worth the fourth part of a farthing, to an indigent neighbour of his own parish, who is disabled from work. A beggar, native of the parish, is known to the
'squire, to the church minifter, to the popish priest, or the conven
ticle teacher, as well as to every farmer : he hath generally some relations able to live, and contribute something to his maintenance. None of which advantages can be reasonably expected on a removal to places where he is altogether unknown. If he be not quite maimed, he and his trull, and litter of brats (if he has any) may get half their support by doing some kind of work in their power, and thereby be less burthensome to the people. In short, all necessaries of life grow in the country, and not in cities, and are cheaper where they grow; nor is it equitable that beggars should put us to the charge of giving them victuals, and the carriage too.
But, when the spirit of wandering takes him, attended by his females and their equipage of children, he becomes a nuisance to the whole country: he and his female are thieves, and teach the trade of stealing to their brood at four years old ; and, if his infirmities be counterfeit, it is dangerous for a single perfon unarmed to meet him on the road. 'He wanders from one county to another, but still with a view to this town, whither he arrives at last, and enjoys all the privileges of a Dublin beggar,
I do not wonder, that the country'squires hould be very willing to send up their colonies; but why the city should be content to receive them, is beyond my imagination.
If the city were obliged. by their charter, to maintain a thousand beggars, they could