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And first for its justice: If self-preservation be the first law of our nature, would not every one in a state of nature be morally justified in taking to himself that which is indispensable to such preservation, where, by so doing, he would not rob another of that which might be equally indispensable to his preservation? And if the value of life be regarded in a right point of view, may it not be questioned whether this right of preserving life, at any expense short of endangering the life of another, does not survive man's entering into the social state; whether this right can be surrendered or forfeited, except when it opposes the divine law, upon any supposition of a social compact, or of any convention for the protection of mere rights of property?
the justice of the principle, and to insist upon its lisation among them, been placed in circumstances more salutary operation. favourable to piety, and resignation to the divine will, than the inhabitants of other countries, where a like provision has not been established. And as Providence, in this care of our countrymen, acts through a human medium, the objects of that care must, in like manner, be more inclined towards a grateful love of their fellow-men. Thus, also, do stronger ties attach the people to their country, whether while they tread its soil, or, at a distance, think of their native land as an indulgent parent, to whose arms, even they who have been imprudent and undeserving may, like the prodigal son, betake themselves, without fear of being rejected.
But, if it be not safe to touch the abstract question of man's right in a social state to help himself even in the last extremity, may we not still contend for the duty of a Christian government, standing in loco parentis towards all its subjects, to make such effectual provision, that no one shall be in danger of perishing either through the neglect or harshness of its legislation? Or, waiving this, is it not indisputable that the claim of the state to the allegiance, involves the protection, of the subject? And, as all rights in one party impose a correlative duty upon another, it follows that the right of the state to require the services of its members, even to the jeoparding of their lives in the common defence, establishes a right in the people (not to be gainsaid by utilitarians and economists) to public support when, from any cause, they may be unable to Bupport themselves.
Such is the view of the case that would first present itself to a reflective mind; and it is in vain to show, by appeals to experience, in contrast with this view, that provisions founded upon the principle have promoted profaneness of life, and dispositions the reverse of philanthropic, by spreading idleness, selfishness, and rapacity: for these evils have arisen, not as an inevitable consequence of the principle, but for want of judg ment in framing laws based upon it; and, above all, from faults in the mode of administering the law. The mischief that has grown to such a height from granting relief in cases where proper vigilance would have shown that it was not required, or in bestowing it in undue measure, will be urged by no truly enlightened statesman, as a sufficient reason for banishing the principle itself from legislation.
Let us recur to the miserable states of consciousness that it precludes.
There is a story told, by a traveller in Spain, of a female who, by a sudden shock of domestic calamity, was driven out of her senses, and ever after looked up incessantly to the sky, feeling that her fellow-creatures could do nothing for her relief. Can there be Englishmen who, with a good end in view, would, upon system, expose their brother Englishmen to a like necessity of looking upwards only; or downwards to the earth, after it shall contain no spot where the destitute can demand, by civil right, what by right of nature they are entitled to?
Let us now consider the salutary and benign operation of this principle. Here we must have recourse to elementary feelings of human nature, and to truths which from their very obviousness are apt to be slighted, till they are forced upon our notice by our own suffering or those of others. In the Paradise Lost, Milton represents Adam, after the Fall, as exclaiming, in the anguish of his soul,—
"Did I request Thee, Maker, from my clay
From darkness to promote me?
Under how many various pressures of misery have men been driven thus, in a strain touching upon impiety, to expostulate with the Creator; and under few so afflictive as when the source and origin of earthly existence have been brought back to the mind by its impending close in the pangs of destitution. But as long as, in our legislation, due weight shall be given to this principle, no man will be forced to bewail the gift of life in hopeless want of the necessaries of life. Englishmen have, therefore, by the progress of civi
Suppose the objects of our sympathy not sunk into this blank despair, but wandering about as strangers in streets and ways, with the hope of succour from casual charity; what have we gained by such a change of scene? Woful is the condition of the famished Northern Indian, dependent, among winter snows, upon the chance-passage of a herd of deer, from which one, if brought down by his rifle-gun, may be made the means of keeping him and his companions alive. As miserable is that of some savage Islander, who, when the land has ceased to afford him sustenance, watches for food which the waves may cast up, or in vain endeavours to extract it from the inexplorable deep. But neither of these is in a state of wretchedness comparable to that,
which is so often endured in civilised society: multi-fact, this is done with an understanding, which pretudes, in all ages, have known it, of whom may be pares the way for the relief that each is ready to bestow said:upon his still poorer neighbours being granted to himself, or his relatives, when it shall be applied for.
"Homeless, near a thousand homes they stood, And near a thousand tables pined, and wanted food."
The author may justly be accused of wasting time in an uncalled-for attempt to excite the feelings of his reader, if systems of political economy, widely spread, did not impugn the principle, and if the safeguards against such extremities were left unimpaired. It is broadly asserted by many, that every man who endeavours to find work, may find it: were this assertion capable of being verified, there still would remain a question, what kind of work, and how far may the labourer be fit for it? For if sedentary work is to be exchanged for standing; and some light and nice exercise of the fingers, to which an artisan has been accustomed all his life, for severe labour of the arms; tho best efforts would turn to little account, and occasion would be given for the unthinking and the unfeeling unwarrantably to reproach those who are put upon such employment, as idle, froward, and unworthy of relief, either by law or in any other way! Were this statement correct, there would indeed be an end of the argument, the principle here maintained would be superseded. But, alas, it is far otherwise. That principle, applicable to the benefit of all countries, is indispensable for England, upon whose coast families are perpetually deprived of their support by shipwreck, and where large masses of men are so liable to be thrown out of their ordinary means of gaining bread, by changes in commercial intercourse, subject mainly or solely to the will of foreign powers; by new discoveries in arts and manufactures; and by reckless laws, in conformity with theories of political economy, which, whether right or wrong in the abstract, have proved a scourge to tens of thousands, by the abruptness with which they have been carried into practice.
But let us look to inner sentiments of a nobler quality, in order to know what we have to build upon. Affecting proofs occur in every one's experience, who is acquainted with the unfortunate and the indigent, of their unwillingness to derive their subsistence from aught but their own funds or labour, or to be indebted to parochial assistance for the attainment of any object, however dear to them. A case was reported, the other day, from a coroner's inquest, of a pair who, through the space of four years, had carried about their dead infant from house to house, and from lodging to lodg ing, as their necessities drove them, rather than ask the parish to bear the expense of its interment: the poor creatures lived in the hope of one day being able to bury their child at their own cost. It must have been heart-rending to see and hear the mother, who had been called upon to account for the state in which the body was found, make this deposition. She and her husband had, it is true, been once in prosperity. But examples, where the spirit of independence works with equal strength, though not with like miserable accompaniments, are frequently to be found even yet among the humblest peasantry and mechanics. There is not, then, sufficient cause for doubting that a like sense of honour may be revived among the people, and their ancient habits of independence restored, without resorting to those severities which the new Poor Law Act has introduced.
But, even if the surfaces of things only are to be examined, we have a right to expect that lawgivers should take into account the various tempers and dispositions of mankind: while some are led, by the existence of a legislative provision, into idleness and extravagance, the economical virtues might be cherished in others by the knowledge, that if all their efforts fail, But it is urged, refuse altogether compulsory relief they have in the Poor-Laws a refuge from the storm to the able-bodied, and the number of those who stand and a shadow from the heat." Despondency and disin need of relief will steadily diminish, through a con- traction are no friends to prudence: the springs of inviction of an absolute necessity for greater forethought, dustry will relax, if cheerfulness be destroyed by anxiand more prudent care of a man's earnings. Undoubt-ety; without hope men become reckless, and have a edly it would, but so also would it, and in a much sullen pride in adding to the heap of their own wretchgreater degree, if the legislative provisions were re-edness. He who feels that he is abandoned by his feltained, and parochial relief administered under the low men will be almost irresistibly driven to care little care of the upper classes, as it ought to be. For it has for himself; will lose his self-respect accordingly, and been invariably found, that wherever the funds have with that loss what remains to him of virtue. been raised and applied under the superintendence of gentlemen and substantial proprietors, acting in vestries, and as overseers, pauperism has diminished accordingly. Proper care in that quarter would effectually check what is felt in some districts to be one of the worst evils in the poor law system, viz. the readiness of small and needy proprietors to join in imposing rates that seemingly subject them to great hardships, while. in
With all due deference to the particular experience, and general intelligence of the individuals who framed the Act, and of those who in and out of parliament have approved of and supported it; it may be said, that it proceeds too much upon the presumption that it is a labouring man's own fault if he be not, as the phrase is, beforehand with the world. But the most prudent are liable to be thrown back by sickness, cutting them
tify the luxurious propensities, whether social or intellectual, of the multitude! Irreligion is, no doubt, much concerned with this offensive disrespect, shown to the bodies of the dead in France; but it is mainly attri butable to the state in which so many of the living are left by the absence of compulsory provision for the indigent, so humanely established by the law of England.
off from labour, and causing to them expense; and who | in minor regulations, and ostentatiously careful to gra but has observed how distress creeps upon multitudes without misconduct of their own; and merely from a gradual fall in the price of labour, without a correspondent one in the price of provisions; so that men who may have ventured upon the marriage state with a fair prospect of inaintaining their families in comfort and happiness, see them reduced to a pittance which no efforts of theirs can increase? Let it be remembered, also, that there are thousands with whom vicious habits of expense are not the cause why they do not store up their gains; but they are generous and kind-hearted, and ready to help their kindred and friends; moreover, they have a faith in Providence that those who have been prompt to assist others, will not be left destitute, should they themselves come to need. By acting from these blended feelings, numbers have rendered themselves incapable of standing up against a sudden reverse. Nevertheless, these men, in common with all who have the misfortune to be in want, if many theorists had their wish, would be thrown upon one or other of those three sharp points of condition before adverted to, from which the intervention of law has hitherto saved them.
Sights of abject misery, perpetually recurring, harden the heart of the community. In the perusal of history, and of works of fiction, we are not, indeed, unwilling to have our commiseration excited by such objects of distress as they present to us; but in the concerns of real life, men know that such emotions are not given to be indulged for their own sakes: there, the conscience declares to them that sympathy must be followed by action; and if there exist a previous conviction that the power to relieve is utterly inadequate to the demand, the eye shrinks from communication with wretchedness, and pity and compassion languish, like any other qualities that are deprived of their natural aliment. Let these considerations be duly weighed by those who trust to the hope that an increase of private charity, with all its advantages of superior discrimination, would more than compensate for the abandonment of those principles, the wisdom of which has been here insisted upon. How discouraging, also, would be the sense of injustice, which could not fail to arise in the minds of the well-disposed, if the burden of supporting the poor, a burden of which the selfish have hitherto by compulsion borne a share, should now, or hereafter, be thrown exclusively upon the benevolent.
All that has been said tends to show how the principle contended for makes the gift of life more valuable, and has, the writer hopes, led to the conclusion that its legitimate operation is to make men worthier of that gift: in other words, not to degrade but to exalt human nature. But the subject must not be dismissed without adverting to the indirect influence of the same principle upon the moral sentiments of a people among whom it is embodied in law. In our criminal jurisprudence there is a maxim, deservedly eulogised, that it is better that ten guilty persons should escape, than that one innocent man should suffer; so, also, might it be maintained, with regard to the Poor Laws, that it is better for the interests of humanity among the people at large, that ten undeserving should partake of the funds provided, than that one morally good man, through want of relief, should either have his principles corrupted, or his energies destroyed; than that such a one should either be driven to do wrong, or be cast to the earth in utter hopelessness. In France, the English maxim of criminal jurisprudence is reversed; there, it is deemed better that ten innocent men should suffer, than one guilty escape: in France, there is no universal provision for the poor; and we may judge of the small value set upon human life in the metropolis of that country, by merely noticing the disrespect with which, after death, the body is treated, not by the thoughtless vulgar, but in schools of anatomy, presided over by men allowed to be, in their own art and in physical science, among the most enlightened in the world. In the East, where countries are overrun with population as with a weed, infinitely more respect is shown to the remains of the deceased; and what a bitter mockery is it, that this insensibility should be found where civil polity is so busy
By having put an end to the Slave Trade and Slavery, the British people are exalted in the scale of humanity; and they cannot but feel so, if they look into themselves, and duly consider their relation to God and their fellow-creatures. That was a noble advance; but a retrograde movement will assuredly be made, if ever the principle, which has been here defended, should be either avowedly abandoned, or but ostensibly retained.
II. In a poem of the foregoing collection, the state of the workmen congregated in manufactories is alluded to.* May the author here be permitted to say, that, after much reflection upon this subject, he has not been able to discover a more effectual mode of alleviating the evils to which that class are liable, and establishing a better harmony between them and their employers, than by a repeal of such laws as prevent the formation of joint-stock companies? The combinations of masters to keep down, unjustly, the price of labour, would be fairly checked by these associations; they would encourage economy, inasmuch as they would enable a man to draw profit from his savings, by vesting them in buildings or machinery for processes of manu
* See Lines entitled Humanity', p. 423.
save the limited monarchy, and those other institutions that have, under Providence, rendered for so long a period of time this country the happiest and worthiest of which there is any record since the foundation of civil society.
III. A philosophic mind is best pleased when looking at religion in its spiritual bearing; as a guide of conduct a solace under affliction, and a support amid the instabilities of mortal life: but the Church having been forced by political considerations upon the notice of the nuthor, while treating of the labouring classes, he cannot forbear saying a few words upon that momentous topic.
facture with which he was habitually connected. His | pursued, have ever had a bond of union in the wish to little capital would then be working for him while he was at rest or asleep; he would more clearly perceive the necessity of capital for carrying on great works; he would better learn to respect the larger portions of it in the hands of others; he would be less tempted to join in unjust combinations; and, for the sake of his own property, if not for higher reasons, he would be slow to promote local disturbance, or endanger public tranquillity; he would, at least, be loth to act in that way knowingly: for it is not to be denied that such societies might be nurseries of opinions unfavourable to a mixed constitution of government, like that of Great Britain. The democratic and re- There is a loud clamour for extensive change in that publican spirit which they might be apt to foster department. The clamour would be entitled to more would not, however, be dangerous in itself, but only as respect if they who are the most eager to swell it with it might act without being sufficiently counterbalanced, their voices were not generally the most ignorant of the either by landed proprietorship, or by a Church ex-real state of the Church, and the service it renders to tending itself so as to embrace an ever-growing and the community. Reform is the word employed. Let ever-shifting population of mechanics and artisans. us pause and consider what sense it is apt to carry, and But if the tendencies of such societies would be to how things are confounded by a lax use of it. The make the men prosper who might belong to them, rulers great religious Reformation, in the sixteenth-century, and legislators should rejoice in the result, and do their did not profess to be a new construction, but a reзtoduty to the state by upholding and extending the ration of something fallen into decay, or put out of influence of that Church to which it owes, in so great sight. That familiar and justifiable use of the word a measure, its safety, its prosperity, and its glory. seems to have paved the way for fallacies with respect to the term reform, which it is difficult to escape from. Were we to speak of improvement, and the correction of abuses, we should run less risk of being deceived ourselves, or of misleading others. We should be less likely to fall blindly into the belief, that the change demanded is a renewal of something that has existed before, and that, therefore, we have experience on our side; nor should we be equally tempted to beg the question, that the change for which we are eager must be advantageous. From generation to generation, men are the dupes of words; and it is painful to observe, that so many of our species are most tenacious of those opinions which they have formed with the least consideration. They who are the readiest to meddle with public affairs, whether in church or state, fly to generalities, that they may be eased from the trouble of thinking about particulars; and thus is deputed to mechanical instrumentality the work which vital knowledge only can do well.
This, in the temper of the present times, may be difficult, but it is become indispensable, since large towns in great numbers have sprung up, and others have increased tenfold, with little or no dependence upon the gentry and the landed proprietors; and apart from those mitigated feudal institutions, which, till of late, have acted so powerfully upon the composition of the House of Commons. Now it may be affirmed, that, in quarters where there is not an attachment to the Church, or the landed aristocracy, and a pride in supporting them, there the people will dislike both, and be ready, upon such incitements as are perpetually recurring, to join in attempts to overthrow them. There is no neutral ground here: from want of due attention to the state of society in large towns and manufacturing districts, and ignorance or disregard of these obvious truths, innumerable well-meaning persons became zealous supporters of a Reform Bill, the qualities and powers of which, whether destructive or constructive, they would otherwise have been afraid of; and even the framers of that bill, swayed as they might be by party resentments and personal ambition, could not have gone so far, had not they too been lamentably ignorant or neglectful of the same truths both of fact and philosophy.
"Abolish pluralities, have a resident incumbent in every parish," is a favourite cry; but, without adverting to other obstacles in the way of this specious scheme, it may be asked what benefit would accrue from its indiscriminate adoption to counterbalance the harm it would introduce, by nearly extinguishing the order of curates, unless the revenues of the church should grow with the population, and be greatly increased in many thinly-peopled districts, especially among the parishes of the North.
The order of curates is so beneficial, that some particular notice of it seems to be required in this place.
But let that pass; and let no opponent of the bill be tempted to compliment his own foresight, by exaggerating the mischiefs and dangers that have sprung from it: let not time be wasted in profitless regrets; and let those party distinctions vanish to their very names that have separated men who, whatever course they may have
For a church poor as, relatively to the numbers of the attractive than that which prescribes for every parish a people, that of England is, and probably will continue resident incumbent. How agreeable to picture to one's to be, it is no small advantage to have youthful servants, self, as has been done by poets and romance-writers. who will work upon the wages of hope and expectation. from Chaucer down to Goldsmith, a man devoted to his Still more advantageous is it to have, by means of this ministerial office, with not a wish or a thought ranging order, young men scattered over the country, who being beyond the circuit of its cares! Nor is it in poetry and more detached from the temporal concerns of the bene-fiction only that such characters are found; they are fice, have more leisure for improvement and study, and scattered, it is hoped not sparingly, over real life, are less subject to be brought into secular collision with especially in sequestered and rural districts, where there those who are under their spiritual guardianship. The is but small influx of new inhabitants, and little change curate, if he reside at a distance from the incumbent, of occupation. The spirit of the Gospel, unaided by undertakes the requisite responsibilities of a temporal acquisitions of profane learning and experience in the kind, in that modified way which prevents him, as a world, that spirit, and the obligations of the sacred new-comer, from being charged with selfishness: while office may, in such situations, suffice to effect most it prepares him for entering upon a benefice of his of what is needful. But for the complex state of own, with something of a suitable experience. If he society that prevails in England, much more is required, should act under and in co-operation with a resident both in large towns, and in many extensive districts of incumbent, the gain is mutual. His studies will pro- the country. A minister there should not only be bably be assisted; and his training, managed by a supe- irreproachable in manners and morals, but accomplished rior, will not be liable to relapse in matters of prudence, in learning, as far as is possible without sacrifice of the seemliness, or in any of the highest cares of his func- least of his pastoral duties. As necessary, perhaps tions; and by way of return for these benefits to the more so, is it that he should be a citizen as well as a pupil, it will often happen that the zeal of a middle- scholar; thoroughly acquainted with the structure of aged or declining incumbent will be revived, by being society, and the constitution of civil government, and in near communion with the ardour of youth, when able to reason upon both with the most expert; all his own efforts may have languished through a melan- ultimately in order to support the truths of Christianity, choly consciousness that they have not produced as and to diffuse its blessings. much good among his flock as, when he first entered upon the charge, he fondly hoped.
A young man coming fresh from the place of his education, cannot have brought with him these accomplishments; and if the scheme of equalising church incomes, which many advisers are much bent upon, be realised, so that there should be little or no secular inducement for a clergyman to desire a removal f.oin the spot where he may chance to have been first set down; surely not only opportunities for obtaining the requisite qualifications would be diminished, but the motives for desiring to obtain them would be proportionably weakened. And yet these qualificatons are indispensable for the diffusion of that knowledge, by which alone the political philosophy of the New Testament can be rightly expounded, and its precepts adequately enforced. In these times, when the press is daily exercising so great a power over the minds of tho people, for wrong or for right as may happen, that preacher ranks among the first of benefactors who, without stooping to the direct treatment of curren politics and passing events, can furnish infallible guid ance through the delusions that surround them; and who, appealing to the sanctions of Scripture, may place the grounds of its injunctions in so clear a light, that disaffection shall cease to be cultivated as a laudable propensity, and loyalty cleansed from the dishonour of a blind and prostrate obedience.
It is not, however, in regard to civic duties alone, that this knowledge in a minister of the Gospel is important; it is still more so for softening and subduing private and personal discontents. In all places, and at
Let one remark, and that not the least important, be added. A curate, entering for the first time upon his office, comes from college after a course of expense, and with such inexperience in the use of money, that, in his new situation, he is apt to fall unawares into pecuniary difficulties. If this happens to him, much more likely is it to happen to the youthful incumbent; whose relations, to his parishioners and to society, are more complicated; and, his income being larger and independent of another, a costlier style of living is required of him by public opinion. If embarrassment should ensue, and with that unavoidably some loss of respectability, his future usefulness will be proportionably impaired not so with the curate, for he can easily remove and start afresh with a stock of experience and an unblemished reputation, whereas the early indiscretions of an incumbent being rarely forgotten, may be impediments to the efficacy of his ministry for the remainder of his life. The same observations would apply with equal force to doctrine. A young minister is liable to errors, from his notions being either too lax or overstrained. In both cases it would prove injurious that the error should be remembered, after study and reflection, with advancing years, shall have brought him to a clearer discernment of the truth, and better judgment in the application of it.
It must be acknowledged that, among the regulations of ecclesiastical polity, none at first view are more