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must be greater ; but then we shall have a good militia that will not be the shame of, but an honour to the nation, amounting to about 150,000 men * This strength added to our standing army, must give us weight every where, and intimidate all our enemies, both at home and abroad i and united with our seamen, must deter the French and Spaniards froin using us ill on any account, either in rifing our ships, or disturbing our settlements abroad.
ART. xiv. Observations on the Defects of the Poor Laws,
and of the causes and consequences of the great increase and burden of the Poor, &c. In a Letter to a Member of Parliament. By Thomas Alcock, A. M. 8vo. Is. Baldwin.
R. Alcock is highly dissatisfied with the present man
ner of providing for the poor. He justly observes, that England is the only country in Europe, where the poor are provided for by law, an immense fum being annually levied for that purpose ; and yet the number of indigent persons, and street-beggars, is greater with us than abroad.
Many are the bad consequences he enumerates of this compulsory method of relieving them ; but we shall only take notice of a few. In the first place, then, he obferves, that such a method has a tendency to hurt industry, care, and frugality. The fear of one day coming to want, is a strong motive with most people to be industrious and fober; and to make use of their youth and health, and strength, to provide fomething for accidents, fickness, and the infirmities of old age. But this motive is much weakned, when a man has the prospect of parish-pay to rely on, in case of future wants or misfortunes: and too many, it is to be feared, trusting to this, have neglected fair opportunities of gaining a tolerable competence, and have become chargeable upon the first cessation of their labour, whether by fickness, old-age, want of employ, or otherwife. The sluggard, upon this presumption, is tempted to continue in
* The author tells, us that this number may be established for the fame sum which 6ooo of our present forces cofts the nation : So that if we should reduce 6050 out of the 56,000 now maintained in the British dominions, it would pay the whole charge, at the highest computation.
Noth; the glutton, as he receives his gains, eats them, and the drunkard drinks them. In short, men labour less and spend more ; and the very law that provides for the poor, makes poor.
He next observes, that this compulfion is not only contrary to the principle of charity in the giver, but destroys gratitude in the receivers ; who imagine they have a legal right to be relieved, and therefore owe no thanks to their benefactors. This must of course create a great deal of ill-blood, hatred, murmuring and indignation on the side of the payer,
and make him think it an invasion on his natural right, for such unthankful, idle, and profigate wretches to go away with a considerable portion of his honest induftry. It must be allowed, therefore, that the poor-law tends to destroy charity; especially when the legal exaction is so very high, that no less a sum than three millions yearly, at a medium, is levied for this purpose, which is equal to a land-tax at fix shillings in the pound. Add to all this, that the shameless, the impudent, the idle, and least deserving poor run away with this vast sum ; while the mos deft, the bafhful, and really indigent are suffered to languish in the most distressful circumstances. People are forced to harden their hearts, not daring to take in a poor wretch for fear of bringing a new charge upon the parilh, already overburdened. A person asked for voluntary charity, may with great
ason answer to this effect: • If left to my own liberty, I should be willing to do for the poor to the utmost of my power ; but it is grating to be obliged to do it; and yet this is the case; I am obliged to pay so much to the poor by law, that, though my mind be quite charitably disposed, I am not 'of ability to bestow
any thing in voluntary contributions. I already give more by compulsion, than I am well able to do.'
After enlarging considerably on this head, our author observes, that the only good argument in favour of a poortax, is, that it forces open the purses of the covetous rich. The generous and worthier partof mankind, it is said, bear all the burden in voluntary charities. But the poor-law obliges the hard-hearted and cruel to be merciful, and contribute to the relief of their aged, helpless, distressed neighbours. To this he answers, by asking whether the evils attending such a law do not counterbalance this fingle benefit? Besides, continues he, if a man hath not the heart to part with any thing voluntarily, let him keep his riches as a curse to .. himself, and let him never taste the happiness the beneficent VOL. VI.
enjoy, enjoy, when they relieve the wants, and gladden the hearts of their fellow creatures around them. The people of England want less perhaps to be forced, than any other nation under the fun. Witness the handsome subscriptions and generous collections, that even now are commonly made, when the call is really pressing, and the object truly deserving. Witness the daily alms, the lame, the blind, the beggar of every fort commonly meets with, on the road, in the streets, or at our doors, though we know such alms to be wrong, as giving encouragement to strollers ; though we know that no poor can justifiably go about, and tho' we every now and then find, to our coft, such beggars to be impostors and thieves, and by suffering them to come about our houses, give them an opportunity of spying out the weakest parts, and, as occasion offers, of riding them, and by permitting them to approach our persons, put it in their power, especially on the highway, of assaulting and robbing us. However, in must be confessed, that at present, the love of many waxeth cold. As poor-rates have in creased, private alms and gifts
, have lessened ; and though the present times afford sufficient instances of occasional benefactions, and particular donations; a general beneficence. and constant flow of charity, it is to be feared, do not make up our modern character.
Having thus shewn the inconveniences attending the present method of providing for the poor, he proceeds next to lay down a plan for relieving the indigent without oppressing the public in such an intolerable manner. He tells us, he is not for repealing the poor-law, but only amending it; and therefore proposes, that a poor-house, workhouse, hospital, or whatever you please to call it, be erected in some convenient place near the middle of every hundred. It should consist of three parts, one for the impotent, and the able and industrious poor; one for the fick and one for the confinement, labour, and correction of vagrants, idlers, and sturdy beggars. It should be strong and plain : grandeur here is absurd; for surely palaces are not proper for paupers. The buildings need not be of large extent: that part indeed for a correction-house should be particularly strong. If possible the building should be erected near some river, and where there is a good deal of wafie, ground. The river might serve for mills of various sorts, and for many purposes of trade and manufactures as well as culinary uses: and the waste ground might be taken in and improved, and serve for the production of roots and ve
Library For FEBRUARY, 1752.
99 getables, corn, &c. for the rope yards, for bleaching and drying hemps, fax, yarn, wool, &c. and for many other purposes. If poffible also, it should be near some church, that the poor might have the benefit of divine service every Sunday, and other days of public worship.
All persons who begged or asked for relief, should directly. be sent to this house, and be immediately admitted, on an order signed by the minister and overseers for the time being, or by a majority of the churchwardens and overseers of every parish. No money, but what passed through this house, should be charged by the overseers. Here the poor should be well taken care of, and supplied with wholefome diet, clothing, and lodging. Materials should be provided for the employment of all those that should be able to work, as hemp, flax, wool, leather, yarn both linnen and woolen, iron, wood, &c. and likewise proper implements and working tools, as spinning-wheels, cards, turns, knitting and other needles, looms, shovels, axes, hammers, saws for stone and timber, and perhaps fome sorts of mills, where a stream could be had, as corn, fulling, paper-mills, . &c. Here several sorts of business and some small manufactures might be carried on, as spinning, weaving, stocking and net knitting, fawing, rope-making, wool-combing, particularly in the west of England, where the woollen trade is considerable; flax-dressing, particularly in the north, where a good deal of hemp and flax is produced. The manufacture of pin-making would employ a number of poor. A skilful manager would find work of some kind or other for every one. The lame of foot, might use their hands for many good purposes; the blind might turn a windlas, a wheel, or a grinding-stone; children mightfoon be brought to do many things, to knit stockings or nets, to wind thread or yarn, and assist the weavers, &c. And the agedo if they could do nothing else, might overlook, instruct, and direct others, in those several branches of business they were skilled in.
But none should be hardly dealt with, or forced beyond their age and strength.
For encouragement, there might be several little posts in the house, as butler, cook, gardener, porter, house-keeper, chamber-maid, &c. and these given away to those that were most industrious, and behaved best. It might be so ordered, that the
poor should in a manner do all the business of the house, and work for, and attend one another, without the expence of taylors, shoemakers, spinsters, weavers, nurses, &c. A gentleman, bred a regular apothecary and
Surgeon, might be contracted with by the year to attend the sick.
After the buildings are erected, and the furniture, and materials for work, and working implements are provided, the labour of the house will go a great way towards maintaining it. The eating of the house might be upon much the same plan as our county hospitals. The cloathing should be an uniform. The charge of building, and all other expences, should be borne by the several parishes of the hundred, each parish paying a proportion, according to a medium of what they had paid to the poor for four years Jast past. The money should be assessed and collected, in the fame manner as at present.
If any idle, disorderly persons, should be found begging, or loitering about, in twelve hours after notice to depart, they should be taken up by the minister, overseers, or constable, and sent to the house of correction, and there be kept to hard labour for one week, and then dismissed with a pass to the next hundred, &c. on a promise to behave well, and forthwith to repair to their respective places of settlement. And if found a second time loitering or begging, in the same, or any other parish of the hundred, then to be taken up, and whipped at the house, and confined' to hard labour for one month. And upon a third offence to be confined as above, till the quarter sessions of the peace, and on proof of any such person's being an incorrigible rogue, &c. to be transported, made a llave of, or whatsoever the quarter sessions fhall think proper. Nay, the officers of every parish should have a power to take up any idle, disorderly, drunken, prophane, abusive persons of their own respective parishes; especially such persons as should frequent tippling houses; neglect to provide for their families ; refuse to labour ; and had no honest, apparent. way of getting a livelihood, and send them to the workhouse, and there keep them to hard labour a longer or shorter time, according to the degree of the offence, and appearance of reformation.
If any poor in the work-houses, that were able to work, refused, St. Paul shews us the right and ready punishment, commanding, That if any would not work, neither should be eat. In case of theft, quarrelling, abufiveness, drunkenness, contumacy, lying out of the house without leave, selling their cloaths, &c. the acting officers, after proper admonition for the first offence, should have a power to 'put the offenders into the house of correction, and there