« ElőzőTovább »
and all laws which seem to offer any obstruction to the accumulation of wealth. Perhaps we have been thinking too much about eligible investments, and too little about the responsibilities of property. Perhaps we have been converting a useful science into a false philosophy, by an undue extension and erroneous application of its principles. Perhaps we have been forgetting that this very philosophy, by encouraging luxurious habits and covetous principles in the rich, is quite as prejudicial to the best interests of society as any laws which are thought to encourage idle and improvident habits in the poor?
3 “ The efficacy of human laws may be cast, perhaps, into the following scale : their direct power to inspire men with love of probity, diligence, sobriety, and contentment, is small; their power to restrain the opposite vices is far greater : their power to discourage or hinder good habits of character by mistaken institutions greatest of all ; because they here act al an advantage, and the institution and the bad part of human nature go together ; whereas in the other cases they are opposed, and the enactment has to force its way.”- Considerations on the Poor Laws, by the late Rev. John Davison, M.A. formerly Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. London, 1818.
The Poor Laws certainly did act in this way, though, perhaps, through the fault of those who administered them. I am told, that the most trivial article of dress is sold frequently at shops in the West End of London for twenty-five guineas !! Some say, that so long as money circulates it does not signify how it is spent. Whatever may be the influence of philosophy to restrain the opposite vice, the present state of the country may tell us what consequences arise when it (a spurious sort) and the bad part of human nature go together.” “ Even those” (as Archbishop Secker remarks) “ for whom it (luxury) doth provide, it teaches at the same time to ruin themselves by the imitation of it. And in
Perhaps our statesmen have been spending too much time in investigating the causes of wealth, and too little in examining the grounds of moral obligation, and the nature and extent of social duties. Every possible care should be taken to preserve the straight line in all parts of the foundation of the social fabric. Perhaps, then, our Universities are to blame: the one for dispensing with a portion of its statutes, which requires of all its members some knowledge of moral philosophy as essentially requisite for a degree*; the other for initiating its scholars into the
proportion, as it prevails, it destroys every where both virtue and happiness, public and private." --Sermon on 1 Pet. iv. 10.
4 When the author of this letter resided at the University of Oxford in the year 1814, some acquaintance with moral philosophy was required of all candidates for the degree of B.A. The practice was gradually discontinued ; and, as far as he can recollect, candidates for an ordinary degree had procured an entire exemption from examination in moral philosophy, at the time that the Political Economy Professorship was founded in the university. Here he would direct attention to an article in the Edinburgh Review in the year 1839, on “ The Philosophy of Bacon.” He thinks Bacon's own fall, and the dishonest practices now so unusually prevalent, may be traced to the principles laid down in that article
“ Non aliter quam qui adverso vix flumine lembum
Remigiis subigit ; si brachia forte remisit,
“ Dolendum est plerosque mortalium, dum rerum mediocriter utilium scientiam anxie venantur, in tam crassa interim conscientiæ suæ ignoratione versari.”—Prælect. Sanderson. Episcop. Lincoln. Londini, 1661. The principles of Bishop Sanderson appear to have suffered shipwreck : the writer of the article in question is
principles of a book, which its most distinguished members have not scrupled to condemn. There is the closest connection between the habits of justice and charity, and the poor may be suffering from our Universities' defects. Perhaps also, as Church principles, properly so called, are essentially connected with the poor, so they may not have been sufficiently considered with reference to these results.
It is quite necessary to investigate the real causes of our existing distress, and to ascertain how far the legislature may be able to remove them.
It seems as if some were thinking that the perfection of government was, the discovery of an instrument endued with a principle of perpetual motion, by which things would regulate themselves, and property and station be released from all responsibility. Some would cure existing evils by initiating the poor into the mysteries of political economy. Others, again, are telling us that wages will rise of themselves if we could be rid of all mischievous meddlers, give the commissioners fair play, and not relieve the ablebodied poor except within the walls of a workhouse. Another plea for the poor, professedly grounded upon Scripture, goes upon the principle that we should have plenty of every thing by the repeal of the corn laws. It
It may be just to ridicule soup tickets, charity
not very likely to construct a diving bell by which they may be recovered.
They are, I believe, in the Hebrew expressed by the same word. They are in a striking way connected with each other, amongst numberless other texts, in Micah vi. 8. Luke xix. 8.
serinons, and charity balls; but the Scriptures say nothing about foreign competition, a great deal about provoking one another to the discharge of home and social duties.
A real plea for the poor must have for its basis, not any reform or repeal of the corn laws, but rather the reform of our luxurious habits, and the repeal of our covetous principles. It is the real business of the legislature to consider how far it may aid in the administration of these unpopular remedies. Some good, at least, would be done, if Poor Law Commissioners' Reports would direct attention to the faults of the rich as well as of the poor. Gentlemen of propertyo, who allow their tenants to keep ill-regulated beer shops, deserve, at least, as much blame as the poor who frequent them. Again, as the court adopts the dress, so let the commissioners adopt the language, of ancient times. “Pauper” and “ pauperize” are words of modern invention; the very term, “Lord High ALMONER,” and the distinguished office it represents, clearly indicate the feelings of our forefathers respecting “the dignity and claims of the Christian poor”.”
There are two essentially separate questions in this matter, whether the Poor Law, in existing circumstances, is good as a human statute; and whe
6 See Poor Law Report, 1833, p. 24. The reporter does not seem to know much of this principle.
Title of two interesting sermons by the Rev. F. Oakeley, M.A. Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, Minister of St. Margaret's Chapel.
ther it makes an adequate provision for the poor in a Christian country. The latter of these questions all Englishmen must answer in the negative. No words can express my utter abhorrence of the present bastardy laws, opposed as they are to nature, and therefore to the Gospel ; or of the irreverent practice of using a dining-room for a chapel in our modern workhouses; and we may as well think of putting Buckingham Palace and Newgate under one common roof, as of making the same establishment a house of correction for the idle and the dissolute, and an asylum for the orphan, the widow, and the aged.
Still we must remember the evils under the old system, or rather under the abuse of it. If we are now running upon Scylla, formerly we were in danger off Charybdis. The vessel may be set afloat, and a rudder provided, but all is unavailing unless every parish has a steersman. Nothing effectual can be done where there is a neglect of local duties.
Here I must call your attention to the evidence of an influential individual, given on a former occasion. “I met,” observes Mr. Whateley, “a large society of the poor some time ago, not during the late troubles, in a district of the parish a considerable way off, and in a large meeting; I suppose there were fifty persons in the room, when I said there was no person in the parish that need want, for there was no person in the parish that might not have whatever
The Union workhouse acts most forcibly upon the in lerrorem principle ; but its discipline, I fear, has no beneficial effect upon the moral character of the inmates.