Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

The whole population of this Country is this Country's trust. No man has home, above the meanest hut, but that home is a security for the support of his poorer compatriots. He must share his citizenship with them as equal citizens. The whole law, - not a particular statute or enactment,-both written and traditionary,–the virtue of the entire code,-constitutes this benefit of property as much the right of the pauper as the holding of that property is the right of its possessor. It is not contended that this claim is never opposed, is never harshly conceded, is never niggardly supplied. It is not contended that the ablebodied are, by any just construction of the law, entitled to a fare of comfort and abundance which the self-supported cottier does not know. The luxurious diet is not the due of any: decent subsistence is the claim of all. This demands conditions; it is not desirable to make it so easy that it should not be indefatigably sought; the support it holds out should be accompanied with a feeling that every expedient needs to be tried before this shall be accepted. But it is no inhospitable shelter. It is no precarious inhabitation. It is not the fiction of which we sometimes speak. It is not the hypothetical right in which the enthusiastic Constitutionalist will often boast. No tribute is more impartially levied, more strictly collected, more fully disbursed. The Exchequer of the State is not more certainly supplied than the chest of the poor. Its relief is not of sufferance, but of consti

[ocr errors]

tutional challenge ! There is no power to relegate the meanest outcast from this national provision . It is another thing when the labourer insists upon special protections. These are refused to the capitalist and employer. Commerce and revenue may make them impossible. If the workman asks for what is incompatible with the progress of mechanical improvement and mercantile liberty, he asks, however he, the individual, may not live to suffer it, for the destruction of his class. Labour, like every trading interest, is best promoted when it is least indulged. It must hold, and abide, its market. The swaddling-bands of a mistaken kindness and custody only cramp its energies and frustrate its rewards. All that it wants is independence. It may, however, plead one legitimate consequence,—being itself free for general benefit, though such freedom may be partial evil,—that Food, whatever may be the contingent difficulties and the local objections, should be no less free. And then the poorest will think of his mother country with gratitude, and will say of her, in the language of inspired commendation: “She is like the merchants ships; she bringeth her food from afar.”

It is impossible to conceive a grosser fallacy in finance, a more cruel restriction upon international peace, than any impost upon necessary food. Political oeconomy condemns every such tax intended for revenue as unwise: but when it is protective, it is most flagrantly unjust.

Since it is very important that we should be able, in speaking of the need of Education, to show who are the parties that are its proper subjects, and, in all our complaints of the multitudes who are uneducated, to ascertain the numbers to which remedial measures can be applied,—the following Table has been drawn up with much care and with great exactness.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER II.

ON THE POOR AS A CLASS.

GENERAL views are often flattering. Our first impressions are often false. We stand upon some eminence, and contemplate the surface of a country. There is the prospect in its flowing outline of hill and valley, woodland and stream, mingling and melting into one another, in perfect proportion and harmonious array. A closer examination of the landscape would show us the ruder features, the rugged, the abrupt, the naked: the fissured rock, the mis-shapen trunk, the den, the cave, the abyss. Or, we climb some tower, and look down upon the outspread map of the city. The whole agrees and corresponds. Palace, temple, hall,—turret, spire, dome, -complete a glorious picture for the eye, —without contest or rivalry, a blended, though a well delineated, mass. A narrower inspection would set before us many unsightly objects which had been lost in our panoramic view. There is the alley, the purlieu, the hovel, the cabin; and many a noble building but hides insanity, disease, and want. Still these are only figures of a more important and a more disappointing research. Behold human society . It seems C

often a splendid pageant. There are its ensigns of state. There are its engines of power. There are its trophies of war. There are its monuments of civilization. What wealth does it contain | What learning does it boast ! What happiness does it secure ! How exquisite are its refinements How profuse are its luxuries ! Its sound of voices! Its variety of movements! Its keenness of pursuits! Yet let us look more steadily and piercingly into it. What reverses of our fond ideas come out to the light! How are our prepossessions mocked! Misery is discerned by us in concentrated measures and countless forms. The glittering disguise is stripped away. Deep are the sorrows which that veil concealed ! “All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it.” “This sore travail hath God given to the sons of man, to be exercised therewith.” But Poverty is not only a serious ill in itself-it is the aggravation of every other, and of its own nature it must be very widely diffused. We cannot hope that it will altogether cease. We can scarcely hope that, with all possible corrective and relief, it will ever cease to press upon multitudes with extreme severity. We, as Christians, need not lay our account for any other state of society. Our Bible is full of references to it as to a permanent condition of things. It makes plain our duties towards it. If it prophetically denote its subversion,-it encourages the hope, it strengthens the assurance, as the result only of reli

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »