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of civilized society, which rule that the lawful possessor of property shall enjoy it, as far as that enjoyment does not interfere with the interests of others. It is time, indeed, that we understood what this modern cry of reproach means. If we are never to be unmolested in the use of our own property (great or small, as the case may be) so long as poverty is prevalent in the land, let the humanity-preachers say so, and we shall know how to deal with the demand. ' We have always presumed that one of the privileges belonging to the rich and elevated classes is that of delegating to others the function of dispensing their alms, and that, when a liberal contribution to the solace and relief of the poor had been made, the donor might be permitted to frame his own life after his own tastes. But the charity-crusaders would have it otherwise. They positively erect it into an accusation against a nation, that any one man should be reclining on a soft chair, digesting his mutton and claret in a placid state of mind, whilst “thousands of shivering wretches are starving in cellars and garrets.” This sort of appeal to the vulgarest of all fallacies succeeds in alarming many kind and timid persons; and they accordingly, when attacked by the almslevier (who puts this phrase to their heads with as much effect as if it were a pistol), “stand and deliver” their money. The fundamental error on which this weakness rests, lies in believing that all this poverty is the result of blameable conduct in the existing generation of rich men. It is, on the contrary, the consequence of a natural and universal law—viz., the predominance of present over distant motives in man,
—and is no more the fault of the rich of this period
The conclusions to which a sober contemplation of the subject leads us are, first, that the evils of widespread poverty, privation, and physical deterioration, are not to be annulled by either compulsory government action or private benevolence; and next, that the remedy, if any such may be hoped for, must be sought by enlightening the lower classes themselves upon the real principles which affect the condition of individuals in civilized communities. A respect for property is a strong and admirable element in the English character, and nothing but rampant hunger can overcome it with the large majority of our people. It is the especial duty of the higher classes to cultivate this sentiment in their poor dependents; whilst, on the other hand, policy, no less than humane considerations, dictates large sacrifices at critical periods of scarcity or want of employment, in the shape of gifts, by the rich, in order to avoid the risk of the law being violated. But the fewer of these efforts that are made, the longer will capital keep ahead of the pressure of population. How far a national conscience ought to be at rest under a state of things such as M. Faucher exhibits, must, after all, depend upon the degree in which the evil is susceptible of cure, and on the amount of efforts made by Society to apply the cure. That prodigious exertions are made by the humane of all ranks in this country—by alms, by legal provision for the destitute, and by protective laws—to redeem their suffering brethren, is matter of familiar notoriety; yet the sore does not disappear; nay, it even seems to extend its baleful ravages. We have already said that, as a feature of social intercourse, charity possesses a claim to respect; serving, as it does, to animate and expand the love of doing good in the rich; the value of which sentiment it were folly to dispute. But, taking a longsighted view of the certain tendencies of actual causes in operation, we must earnestly and emphatically insist upon the unpalatable proposition, that almsgiving does not act as a remedy either against pauperism or against the degradation of our manufac. turing population; mor, on the other hand, in a free country, can a Legislature step in between a starving man and his bread, be it gained by never so large a sacrifice of toil, comfort, and self-respect, provided he offend no law in so doing.” It is for M. Fauchers and his disciples to point out a method by which bread shall be earned and eaten, without such conditions, by the mass of the labouring manufacturers; the inviolability of property always remaining sacred and unquestioned, notwithstanding. Failing in this, M. Faucher will do well to temper his animadversions on the English “social plague-spot” by a juster appreciation of our benevolent struggles to bring about its amendment, in time past, time present, and to come. We venture to add, in conclusion, a few words upon the much canvassed subject of emigration. It can hardly be called in question, we think, that the sending away of half-a-million of our people must relieve the pressure upon our social system; and therefore, as long as we are rich enough to buy out a portion of our population, annual depletion may prove a sensible benefit. But let no one persuade himself that those left behind are the gainers. They lose the best young blood of the country, and with it large masses of capital; they lose the effective labourer, and the capital that might set him to work. The emigrant profits, no doubt, but he alone. Those who remain will probably discover that the void is speedily filled up, and that the State must continue to expend large sums in order to keep the home population at its altered level. The secondary advantage, of setting up distant markets for our home produce, sounds plausibly enough; but in the actual state of the commercial world, it is hardly possible to calculate upon any permanent demand from the dweller at the Antipodes. So many casual changes in the laws of production and conveyance now hang over the relations of different countries, that the wisest
* A lesson on a small scale has been afforded us—in the attempts of the British Parliament to protect the young against undue toil– of the futility of opposing the exchange of human labour for bread, if offered.
The State, aiming at the mitigation of the evil of over labour, bearing upon the young, or those under eighteen years of age, framed enactments with this view long since, which have for some years been in operation. But the instincts of self-preservation are stronger than the statutes of the realm, and we need go no farther than the pages of M. Faucher to find ample details concerning the way in which the benevolent intentions of the Legislature are frustrated, by collusion between greedy masters and needy workpeople.f Their effect is accordingly but partial and incomplete, though not wholly nugatory.
Remain yet, moral teaching, emigration, limitation of births. With regard to the first, it has always struck us that to attempt to raise the moral tone of the poor factory helots, without furnishing the physical means of adjusting their habits to it, was perfectly fruitless. To inspire the wretched inhabitant of a Manchester cellar with a craving for decency of apparel, for a cleanly abode, or for the use of books, is to augment by so much his sense of privation and helplessness. We have in vain listened for some one to tell the working classes that the secret of ameliorating their condition is to limit their numbers. Nobody will “bell the cat.”
t See tome ii. p. 102, et seq.