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the mischief of ignorance; and therefore houses of industry and schools were substituted for masses for the souls in purgatory.
To these establishments the spirit of charity in that age tended; and legislation, which generally follows the spirit of the age, combined it with its enactments in the other clause of the 43 Elizabeth, c. 2, which directs that “ The churchwardens and overseers of the poor shall take order from time to time for setting to work the children of all such whose parents shall not, by the said churchwardens and overseers, or the greater part of them, be thought able to keep and maintain their children: and also for setting to work all such persons, married or unmarried, having no means to maintain them, and use (using) no ordinary and daily trade of life to get their living by.”
“ And also to raise, by taxation, &c. a convenient stock of flax, hemp, thread, wool, iron, and other necessary ware and stuff, to set the poor on work.” (Clause 1.)
This clause proceeded from an opinion existing at the time, perhaps a just one, that capital was wanting for the encouragement and employment of labourers. It was in the spirit of the age. In the two principal towns of the county of Berks, about the same period, very large sums were bequeathed for this purpose, which have
been almost irrecoverably lost, owing to the mistake in the principle, which presumed that labour thus supported could enter into competition with a similar application of private capital; and doubtless these are far from solitary instances. If it was an error, the legislators of the time of Elizabeth
be excused for it, because it is one into which the ablest and most benevolent men, who have turned their attention to the subject for two hundred years since that time, have fallen; from the time of Hale, Locke, Firmin, and others, down to the present moment, when the plan is hashed up with the systems of agrarian laws and prædial servitude, and endeavoured to be reduced to practice in the parallelograms of Mr. Owen.
I am aware of the arguments that have been urged against both parts of this law by men, the goodness of whose intentions, and sincerity of whose views, I have not the least wish to impeach ; and particularly by Mr. Malthus.
The abuses of institutions on which man might depend for his support, without the exertions of industry, were not overlooked by the ancient moralists. It is to the scandalous waste of the public revenues among the idle and dissolute Athenian mob by the demagogues of his day, that Aristotle alludes, when he observes that it was “ like pouring water into a sieve;" and that the real friend to republican polity ought to study to keep the people above want, and to apply the sums which were drawn from the wealthy, and expended in useless public shows and feasts (desTovgYO), to forward their exertions in agricultural or commercial industry*.
Cicero also deprecates the inordinate largesses from the funds of the State, in full force in his time, which, combining with the legalized violations of private property, tended to the equalization of that property for the protection of which civil society was first instituted.
But both Aristotle and Cicero recognise the right of the indigent to a moderate supply from the State : the former holds up to the Athenian people the practice of Carthage and Tarentum, where a more rational system of administration took place $; the latter approves a modified relief of indigences.
But the representations of the philosopher and the statesman were alike ineffectual. Athens
Aristot. de Republica, lib. 6. c. 5. + “Hanc enim ob causam marime ut sua tenerent respublicæ civitatesque constitutæ sunt."-De officiis, lib. 2. c. 19.
Aristot. de Republica, lib. 6. c. 5. The passage which speaks of the Tarentines is very remarkable, as it seems to im. ply that the relief of the poor out of the abundance of the rich was their regular policy : its effect was to make the commonalty well disposed and quiet : “ κοινα ποιουντες τα κτηματα τοις απoρoις επι την χρησιν, ευνουν παρασκευαζουσι το πληθος.”
§ “ C. Gracchi frumentaria magna largitio exhauriebat ærarium-modica M. Octavii et reipublicæ tolerabilis et plebi necessaria, ergo et civibus et reipublicæ salutaris."-De Offic. ii. 21.
became “a great poor-house;" where the sovereign people taxed the possessors of property, not only for their support, but for their amusements. The obligation of the Government of ancient Rome to provide “ Bread and Sports," “Panem et Circenses,” is well known; and some traces of both are to be found in those European states, where the Government not only takes upon itself the difficult task of providing the general necessaries of life, particularly corn at a low price, for the supply of its capital cities*; but also maintains the performers, and admits the people to theatrical exhibitions, at a price inferior to that which defrays the actual expenses.
The poor-laws are said to have a tendency to degrade the people ;-observation does not warrant this conclusion. Our popular tumults have not been attended with cruelty ; a leading distinction between the insurrections of free men, and the rebellion of slavest. Mr. Malthus relied
* This practice, which commenced at Paris in the great fa. mine of 1661, has been an integral part of its police ever since that time ; never omitted in the greatest distresses of the State, during the regal, revolutionary, and imperial governments. Yet the system was remonstrated against at an early period.See the Eloge of M. Turgot the elder, in the Mémoires de l'Academie des Belles Lettres.
The same practice as to the provision of corn takes place in Turkey. See Browne's papers in Walpole's Memoirs relating to European and Asiatic Turkey, part 2. p. 152.
+ See an observation of Earl Charlemont 'in Hardy's Life
very strongly on the effect of them to encourage an excessive population. But in his latest edition he seems to distrust the soundness of this opinion, by the evidence of facts disclosed in the Population Returns. And the instances of Spain and Ireland, where there are no poor-laws, with an equal, if not greater, increase of population, are almost conclusive against his general argument; and of these instances he was not ignorant*.
The remarks (in the Population Returns) which state the increase of population to have resulted from the operation of the Poor Laws, are too frequent for distinct insertion ; they suppose persons to marry with a direct view of thereby obtaining a weekly allowance, or at least on reliance in that kind of resource in time of need. Nor can it be denied but that such an effect seems very naturally to follow from the compulsory nature of the relief afforded to the poor in England; and it is quite certain that whenever employment is scarce, the married man will have a preference, lest he should be constrained to apply to the overseer for gratuitous aid.
“ But there is reason to suspect that the Poor Laws are much less conducive to an increase of
of that Nobleman, p. 95; and compare mobism in England with Irish Whiteboyism.
* Vol. iii. p. 196.