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their continual cries, and craving importunity. This I shall venture to call an unnecessary evil, brought upon us from the gross neglect, and want of proper management, in those whose duty it is to prevent it. But, before I proceed farther, let me humbly presume to vindicate the justice and mercy of God, and his dealings with mankind. Upon this particular he hath not dealt so hardly with his creatures as some would imagine, when they see so many miserable objects ready to perish for want: for, it would infallibly be found, upon strict inquiry, that there is hardly one in twenty of those miserable objects, who do not owe their present poverty to their own faults, to their present sloth and negligence, to their indiscreet marriage, without the least prospect of supporting a family, to their foolish expensiveness, to their drunkenness and other vices, by which they have squandered their gettings, and contracted diseases in their old age. And, to speak freely, is it any way reasonable or just, that those who have denied themselves many lawful satisfactions and conveniencies of life, from a principle of conscience as well as prudence, that they might not be a burden to the public, should be charged with supporting others, who have brought themselves to less than a morsel of bread, by their idleness, extravagance, and vice? Yet such, and no other, are far the greatest number not only of those who beg in our streets, but even of what we call poor decayed housekeepers, whom we are apt to pity as real objects of charity, and distinguish them from common beggars, although, in truth, they both owe their undoing to the same causes; only the former are too nicely bred to endure walking half naked in the streets, or too proud to own their wants. For the artificer, or
other tradesman, who pleadeth he is grown too old to work or look after business, and therefore expecteth assistance as a decayed housekeeper ; may we not ask him, why he did not take care, in his youth and strength of days, to make some provision against old age, when he saw so many examples before him of people undone by their idleness and vicious extravagance? And to go a little higher, whence cometh it that so many citizens and shopkeepers, of the most creditable trade, who once made a good figure, go to decay by their expensive pride and vanity, affecting to educate and dress their children above their abilities, or the state of life they ought to expect?
However, since the best of us have too many infirmities to answer for, we ought not to be severe upon those of others; and, therefore, if our brother, through grief, or sickness, or other incapacity, is not in a condition to preserve his being, we ought to support him to the best of our power, without reflecting over seriously on the causes that brought him to his misery. But in order to this, and to turn our charity into its proper
channel, we ought to consider who and where those objects are, whom it is chiefly incumbent upon us to support.
By the ancient law of this realm, still in force, every parish is obliged to maintain its own poor; which, although some may think to be not very equal, because many parishes are very rich, and have few poor among them, and others the contrary; yet, I think, may be justly defended: for, as to remote county parishes, in the desert part of the kingdom, the necessaries of life are there so cheap, that the infirm poor may be provided for with little burden to the inhabitants. But in
what I am going to say, I shall confine myself only to this city; where we are overrun not only with our own poor, but with a far greater number from every part of the nation. Now, I say, this evil of being encumbered with so many foreign beggars, who have not the least title to our charity, and whom it is impossible for us to support, may be easily remedied, if the government of this city, in conjunction with the clergy and parish officers, would think it worth their care; and I am sure few things deserve it better. For if every parish would take a list of those begging poor which properly belong to it, and compel each of them to wear a badge, marked and numbered, so as to be seen and known by all they meet, and confine them to beg within the limits of their own parish, severely punishing them when they offend, and driving out all interlopers from other parishes, we could then make a computation of their numbers; and the strollers from the country being driven away, the remainder would not be too many for the charity of those who pass by to maintain ; neither would any beggar, although confined to his own parish, be hindered from receiving the charity of the whole town; because, in this case, those well-disposed persons who walk the streets, will give their charity to such whom they think proper objects, wherever they meet them, provided they are found in their own parishes, and wearing their badges of distinction. And, as to those parishes which border upon
the skirts and suburbs of the town, where country strollers are used to harbour themselves, they must be forced to go back to their homes, when they find nobody to relieve them, because they want that mark which only gives them licence to beg. Upon this point, it were to be wished that inferior parish officers had better encouragement given them to perform their duty in driving away all beggars, who do not belong to the parish, instead of conniving at them, as it is said they do, for some small contribution; for the whole city would save much more by ridding themselves of many hundred beggars, than they would lose by giving parish officers a reasonable support.
It should seem a strange, unaccountable thing, that those who have probably been reduced to want by riot, lewdness, and idleness, although they have assurance enough to beg alms publicly from all they meet, should yet be too proud to wear the parish badge, which would turn so much to their own advantage, by ridding them of such great numbers, who now intercept the greatest part of what belongeth to them: yet it is certain, that there are very many who publicly declare they will never wear those badges, and many others who either hide or throw them away: but the remedy for this is very short, easy, and just, by trying them like vagabonds and sturdy beggars, and forcibly driving them out of the town.
Therefore, as soon as this expedient of wearing badges shall be put in practice, I do earnestly exhort all those who hear me, never to give their alms to any public beggar, who doth not fully comply with this order; by which our number of poor will be so reduced that it will be much easier to provide for the rest. Our shop doors will be no longer crowded with so many thieves and pickpockets, in beggars' habits, nor our streets so dangerous to those who are forced to walk in the night.
Thus I have, with great freedom, delivered my thoughts upon this subject, which so nearly concerneth us. It is certainly a bad scheme, to any Christian country, which God hath blessed with fruitfulness, and where the people enjoy the just rights and privileges of mankind, that there should be any beggars at all.
But, alas! among us, where the whole nation itself is almost reduced to beggary, by the disadvantages we lie under, and the hardships we are forced to bear; the laziness, ignorance, thoughtlessness, squandering temper, slavish nature, and uncleanly manner of living in the poor popish natives, together with the cruel oppressions of their landlords, who delight to see their vassals in the dust; I say, that in such a nation, how can we otherwise expect than to be overrun with objects of misery and want? Therefore, there can be no other method to free this city from so intolerable a grievance, than by endeavouring, as far as in us lies, that the burden may be more equally divided, by contributing to maintain our own poor, and forcing the strollers and vagabonds to return to their several homes in the country, there to smite the conscience of those oppressors who first stripped them of all their substance.
I might here, if the time would permit, offer many arguments to persuade to works of charity; but you hear them so often from the pulpit, that I am willing to hope you may not now want them. Besides, my present design was only to show where your alms would be best bestowed, to the honour of God, your own ease and advantage, the service of your country, and the benefit of the poor. I desire you will weigh and consider what I have spoken, and according to your