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the poor-laws, which generally take place, without any great exertions either of ability or integrity, prove only the excesses of the previous abuse. Unfortunately, the magistrates, by whom these abuses are to be corrected, bring to the decision of questions between the overseers and the poor, feelings which, highly honourable to themselves, are frequently not subject to that discrimination which previous acquaintance with the subject demands and requires ; and habits of expense, from their station in life, necessarily formed upon a scale higher than that required for the necessary and even comfortable subsistence of the day labourer: and their interference has in many cases hitherto tended rather to encourage than correct mismanagement and improvidence, But the abuse of their administration does not affect the soundness of the principle on which the poor-laws are founded. The abuses are collateral, and unconnected with it: they may be removed, as we remove an unsound branch, and leave the parent trunk unhurt, vigorous, and flourishing.
Those who argue against the appropriation of the public revenues to the relief of the indigent, contend, that private charity would meet every case; and that the intercourse between the giver and receiver of alms would be attended with more reciprocal satisfaction, than that which now takes place between the administrators, and the receivers of a fund, on which the latter have a right to make a demand.
However well disposed to the exercise of private charity, very many have not leisure, and very many have not ability and experience, for the discrimination of those cases, varying from mendicity to poverty, in which real charity consists. The giver and receiver may be too far distant,the abode of objects of relief may be in the obscure corners of a town or the desolation and solitude of the country, out of the sight and out of the reach of charity. We see, in fact, in most well-judged instances of private almsgiving, that it attaches itself to societies of various descriptions, formed for the relief of different species of indigence. The practice of Scotland, where the legal assessments have not yet universally taken place; and that of France, where no law for them has as yet been enacted,-prove the habit induced by necessity of combining and uniting for charitable purposes.
But the possession of property does not necessarily imply the possession of charity commensurate with the amount of that property; and although the existence of the duty is generally allowed, yet, unless it was equally enforced by legal assessment, the avaricious would escape from the discharge of it*.
* It is curious enough, that an able writer in the Quarterly
Works of public convenience, which benefit the poor as well as the rich, are paid for by equal assessments on property ;-and ought not the preservation of the lives of human beings to be entitled to the same claim ?
That charity“ blesses him that gives and him that takes ;” that kindness on one hand, and gratitude on the other, are reciprocal,—I am most ready to allow. But as for that delightful intercourse which is to exist between the givers and receivers, when all the indigent are to be thus relieved by all the wealthy out of their abundance, which some writers have fancied ; let those who have seen on the Continent indigence reduced to mendicity decide, whether the intercourse between the overseer and the pauper, which has been the subject of so much pathetic description and declamation, is not infinitely less revolting to the feelings, as being infinitely more discriminative, than that between the beggar and the person from whom insolence and importunity have extorted an unwilling supply of alms.
Those who visited Italy in 1816 and 1817 will want no proof of the justice of this observation. Those who did not, may refer to Mr. Rose's Letters to Mr. Hallam, from the North of Italy: Letter XI.
Review No. 51. should allow the duty on one side, and yet deny the right on the other.
The precise mode of legislation on the theory which I think I have established, is a question that does not affect the theory itself. The Act of the 43d Elizabeth, which entrusted the disposał of the money to the churchwardens and a certain number of substantial householders, was designed to blend the ancient ecclesiastical establishment with the systems of municipal regulations then growing into use in consequence of the in creasing civilization of the age. The system was analogous to English manners, and to the principles of the English constitution, which leave the disposal of money under the superintendance of those who contribute it. It had, moreover, this political advantage; that, instead of locking up land from the proprietor, and consequently preventing him from cultivating it to the best advantage, as in those countries which are under a system of modified prædial servitude, or in those where it is in mortmain, as in the possession of ecclesiastic or even municipal corporations,—it leaves it alienable and convertible; satisfying the claims of indigence only in the best form of direct taxation, that of a money payment deducted from annual revenue. Its object was to provide discriminate relief by the leading divisions of the Act. The moral feeling of mankind is in favour of relief of the indigent; this feeling has in all ages anticipated and concurred with the exertions of the State. To this we must attribute the existence of those establishments which can be traced previous to the Christian dispensation, and those which now exist without the pale of it, for the relief of suffering humanity. To this must be attributed those also, which, since the Christian dispensation, have been extended almost to superfluity, and sometimes to an excess which has rendered the interference of the State necessary to restrain them. But this, if an abuse, was the abuse of a principle which was faintly shown by the light of Nature, but which Christianity has exalted into a virtue of the sublimest kind, and into a principle of action far exceeding the influence of any one virtuous motive before that period.
As private and occasional charity naturally attaches itself to public societies, so permanent charity has, in all ages subsequent to Christianity, attached itself to the State, to secure perpetuity to its intentions.
Previous to the Reformation, and still in countries where the Catholic religion subsists, we find the establishments for charitable purposes connected with religious foundations, but mixed with superstitious abuses. Among other blessings which attended the Reformation, charity took a better direction than it had formerly done. It had seen the abuses of indiscriminate relief, and