Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

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 economy 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.

CENTESIMAL PROPORTIONs of the POPULATION of ENGLAND and

WALES, SCOTLAND and IRELAND,-severally at the undermentioned Ages,-according to the Census of 1841.

[subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

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

er.

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

gious influence. We, in the mean while, are by no means to regard poverty as any judgment upon those who suffer it: they may be the brethren of Christ, “ the holy seed” which is “ the substance” of the Nation or of the Church. We are commanded to “consider the poor.” We must study their case. We must sound their misery. We must render ourselves conversant with their affairs, their prejudices, their physical sufferings, their spiritual privations. “The righteous considereth the cause of the poor; but the wicked regardeth not to know it.”*

There have been peoples which have not comprised, in the descriptive sense, the poor. They have been found in some fertile chersonesus or thinly - inhabited isle. The rank vegetation has superseded the necessity of labour and the value of property. But these instances are few. There can be no civilization when such a state of things exists. Civilization has its root in laws which secure to men the particular advantages of their talents and exertions. It thus encourages, as well as necessitates, inequality. As it does not discover in men the same faculties and adaptations, so it does not suppose that their satisfactions can be the same. Competition, whatever may be its inconveniences, is an unmixed good, in comparison with any stagnation in human fortunes. The perfect atmospheric balance is the source of disease and the repression of energy : the drooping flower opens to the breeze,

* Prov. xxix. 7.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »