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mote the welfare of the lower orders.--- Among the various establishments to which this laudable zeal has given rise, it would be inexcusable not to give a pre-eminent place to the ' Society for bettering the condition and increasing the comforts of the Poor,' which was instituted near the close of the year 1796. His Majesty declared himself the patron of this instiiution, and it comprehended in the list of its members, pames of the first distinction for rank, wealth, talents, and public spirit. Yet notwithstanding its attractive title, the cheapness of its reports, and the pains taken to give them circulation ; —its existence, we fear, is at this day scarcely known in various parts of the kingdom; hence even those of its suggestions which are the most easy, useful, and important, have obtained only a local and very limited establishment. The chief cities of Great Britain and Ireland have indeed adopted some of its plans, and are reaping the fruits of its labours; but few of them have been diffused generally among the people. The discouraging reflections, however, to which the facts connected with this Society might have given rise, are checked by the contemplation of the extraordinary success attending that plan of benevolence which forms the subject of the publications now before us; and while this success is a happy exception to common experience, it gives us great confidence in the favourable opinion which we, in common with men of all descriptions, entertain of the principle on which Banks for Savings are founded; and affords, at the same time, a most promising symptom of the intellectual and moral improvement of the age. It must, however, be acknowledged, that though this system derived its origin from an enlightened desire to promote the welfare of society, necessity, the nurse of many a useful invention, has materially promoted its success. The progressive increase of pauperism among the people of England, by diminishing the fund from which relief was to be given, in an inverse ratio to the demand, especially for the last two or three years, has opened the eyes of the affluent and reflecting part of the nation to the failure with which we are threatened; and the same circumstance combined with the rapid improvement of the lower classes in mental cultivation, has roused in many of them a love of independence, which leads them to embrace with eagerness the means which Provident Institutions afford of a secure and profitable depository for their small savings. Yet we must add that the zeal which policy and benevolence have directed to the establishment and support of these societies among the wealthy, has hitherto been greater than the desire which has existed of taking advantage of them among the industrious poor, for whose benefit they are instituted. The multitude still require to be enlightened, and are happily better fitted than at any former period to receive instruction. Let it be given to them in the most popular
forms, directly and indirectly, and chiefly through the easy medium of the cheap Tract Societies, in the shape both of argument and amusement.
Although we enter on the consideration of this subject with peculiar satisfaction, we are sensible that it is not without its difficulties :— The facts are so numerous, and the speculations which naturally arise from the examination of them so various, that we might appear tedious should we go fully into the detail, and obscure were we to limit ourselves to mere general statement; we shall try, therefore, to pursue a middle course, and be sufficiently gratified if our remarks tend, in any degree, to make the subject better understood and more widely popular.
In order to couvey to our readers an impression of the imperious necessity of Saving Institutions for the industrious poor, we shall begin by quoting a striking passage from Sir Thomas Bernard's introductory letter to the third volume of the Reports of the Society for bettering the condition of the Poor.' The well-tried benevolence by which that gentleman has been long distinguished raises bim far above the suspicion of being actuated by interested motives in what he says against poor-rates, while his experience gives great weight to his opinion.
'The Poor Laws of England have held out a false and deceitful encouragement to population. They promise that unqualified support, that unrestricted maintenance to the cottager's family, which it is not possible for them to supply; thereby inducing the young labourer to marry before he has made any provision for the married state; and, in consequence, extinguishing all prospective prudence, and all consideration for the future. To the poor-rates, which have been for some years rapidly increasing, no determinate boundary can be put, upon our present system. Twenty shillings in the pound may be levied, throughout the kingdom, (and more than that is now raised in some manufacturing parishes*) without the object being attained, of providing a comfortless and hopeless maintenance for a forlorn and distressed body of poor.'
Mr. Rose, in his · Observations on the Poor Laws,' first published in 1804, states that the management of the poor had been acknowledged by the ablest politicians to be one of the most difficult problems of government; and that though the system of parochial relief,—which had its commencement early in the reign of Elizabeth,—was improved under the administration of some of the wisest men who ever filled offices of public trust, till the laws on the subject were consolidated in the forty-third year of her reign, yet poverty had been constantly on the increase, and the pressure upon those on whom the duty of supporting the indigent was thrown,
* This was written in January, 1801.
had become at length so great and alarming, as to require the utmost effort of legislative wisdom to counteract or diminish it.
In the pamphlet now before us, Mr. Rose observes, that his attention has long been given to the situation of the poor in this country, from a persuasion that it was capable of improvement, and that he had been an anxious coadjutor of Mr. Pitt in his measure for improving the whole systein of the Poor Laws; but that in the pursuit of that object, by attempting too much, the minister liad failed altogether.
• These evils both to the poor and to the higher classes were generally complained of, without the extent of them being known. I thought it of importance, therefore, to obtain Parliamentary Returns, by a Bill I brought in for that purpose* in the year preceding the publication above alluded to: and, I believe, considerable surprize was excited by the information then given, no less respecting the immense proportion of the population of the country reduced to subsist by money raised for their relief, than by the enormous amount of the sum so raised. I hoped that such an authentic exposure of a charge upon the property and tenantry of the country, equal to nearly one half of the revenue of it in 1783, without a proportionate benefit to the poor,—the number of whom was rapidly increasing, many of them in a comfortless state,would incite endeavours to find remedies where they were so urgently required.' (pp. 2–3.)
These remarks, proceeding as they do from a statesman who has always been friendly to the principle of legal provision for the poor, and who, in his first pamphlet, strenuously resisted the proposal of Mr. Malthus for the gradual repeal of the poor laws, must be considered as decisive of the fact, that there is, in the system of these laws, something wrong, which loudly calls for a remedy. We are not indeed of the number of those who see nothing but un ningled evil in this system, which naturally arose out of the condition of society at the time of its establishment, and which, by giving a legal claim for relief to the indigent and the wretched, has for more than two hundred years prevented or mitigated an incalculable quantity of distress. While, therefore, we regard with feelings of decided aversion, the barbarous policy of those who would cut the knot which they cannot untie, and by abolishing the system at once, con sign to neglect and hopeless misery myriads of their fellow-crea tures, we rejoice in every plan which is gradual and preventive rather than positive in its operation; and which arises from the impulse of private benevolence and the energy of private zeal, rather than from the selfish calculations of legislators.
The establishment of Corporation Boxes, and of Male Friendly Societies, the former of which are of great antiquity, and the latter nearly a century old, has to a certain extent counteracted the pres13 G: 0. III. c. 141.
sure of poor-rates, and the growth of those baneful babits of dependence, which it cannot be denied that poor rates are calculated to produce. By the Act for the encouragement of Friendly Societies, which Mr. Rose introduced, and which was passed in the year 1799, much good has been done. In it no attempt was made to alter the popular frame of these associations, far less to render the entrance into them compulsory. “How valuable this protection has been,' says Mr. Rose, may be easily judged of by the rapid growth of these societies, the members of which have increased from somewhere about 50,000 (I speak from recollection) to more than 704,000, according to the numbers under the Act for the returns of the poor between 1793 and 1805.'—p. 29.
The advantages which have arisen, both to the individual contributors and to the public, from these Societies, have been great, and we are happy to observe that in various parts of the United Kingdom, Female Friendly Societies have lately been formed. This is indeed a simple and obvious, but a truly valuable extension of the plan. When we consider the influence of women in a civilized country on the manners of society, when we reflect that by the very constitution of their nature, they are more helpless and dependent than men, and that from their domestic occupations and retired habits, they are freed from many of those temptations which often prove too powerful for the virtue of the other sex, we cannot doubt that they are likely to avail themselves of the means offered to them of providing against the peculiar bardships of their own lot, and that they will endeavour to recommend a corresponding foresight to their husbands, sons, and neighbours.
Much has been said of the dangerous purposes to which these associations may be turned. Mr. Rose, certainly not a partial judge in such a case, intimates that he believes such apprehensions to be chimerical, and expressly declares, that, though he has sought anxiously for information on that head, he has not been able to discover a single instance where those consequences have followed in the case of a society, whose rules were registered according to law.' To detect the commencement and to prevent the progress of such evil consequences, an easy expedient occurs. Let the wealthy and intelligent members of the community become honorary or ordinary members of the Friendly Societies in their neighbourhood : they will thus be entitled to vote at the election of officers, to give their opinion in cases of importance, and to awe into silence those turbulent spirits who may wish to propagate mischief. We can assure the higher rauks that their aid not only in contributing to the funds, but in making the proper arrangements, is much wanted, and will be gladly and gratefully received: indeed they can scarcely purchase so much popularity at
so trifling an expense. Their donations and contributions would be doubly acceptable, as they would be given without the prospect of a return, and this feeling, we well know, has a powerful influence in adding to the respect which poverty and ignorance are disposed to pay to intelligence and wealth. We deeply lament the disasters which, on account of the erroneous principles of their constitution, and the ignorance, neglect, or selfishness of managers, have already befallen
of these institutions, and seem to be impending over the greater part of the rest; and we cannot but join with Mr. Duncan in earnestly urging the higher ranks to turn their benevolent exertions in this direction; that by affording to them the benefit of their patronage and support, they may avert the disappointment and misery with which their ruin would be attended.
Friendly Societies partake of the nature of insurances on life and property, by promising certain advantages in the event of certain casualties or contingencies. They are preferable, however, to common insurance offices, inasmuch as the members insure each other, and retain all the profits in their own hands for the general advantage. There is also a benevolent principle intimately blended with Friendly Societies, which leads those who form them to be concerned for each other's welfare, and to consult for each other's good. Admirable, however, as this principle is, and excellent as are the institutions with which it is connected, the benefits to be derived from them by the individual members are often distant, and in their very nature uncertain. We have known industrious persons who have regularly contributed to Friendly Societies for forty or fifty years without receiving a shilling from the funds. Something more, therefore, seemed to be wanting in order to complete the system of encouragement to saving, which the legislative support of Friendly Societies had begun, and the desideratum has been happily supplied by the institution of Banks for Savings. On this subject we quote the following apposite statement from the Introduction to the Rules of the Kelso Friendly Bank Society, which was one of the earliest establishments of this kind in Scotland.
• It was long a matter of deep regret, that no plan had been devised for securing to the labouring classes a place of safe deposit for the fruits of their industry, so as to encourage them to save, in the years of active exertion, such a portion of their gains, as they might be able to spare from their present necessities, as a resource in the season of misfortune, or the decline of life. The public banks cannot be expected to descend to the trifling details in which they would be involved, were they to receive or pay out such small sums as a shilling or two at a time; and it is their practice in this part of the kingdom (Scotland) not to receive a smaller deposit than ten pounds. Now the want of a place of safety for small profits prevents many from attempting to preserve them. Fear of being robbed, deters some; others have the virtue to begin who want