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discussion; on every side humane and benevolent institutions, unknown to our forefathers, afford ample evidence that the wants of our industrial population occupy generous attention, and enlist active sympathy.
It is nevertheless very certain, that, when compared with the number and the condition of those who are raised above poverty, the number and the condition of those who are sunk in poverty still deserve serious attention. Vast sections of our population live in garrets and cellars, the state of which is known to be lamentable and appalling. Throughout large country districts the remuneration of labourers is such, that it is wonderful how they and their families can subsist. It requires but little acquaintance with this abject condition of our poor to discover what are its causes, and what alone can be its remedy. They who are most conversant with its details easily perceive that occasional alms-giving can do but very little to
rectify a misapplication of means, and to remedy a consequent inadequacy of supplies, the effect of laws and customs that have been established, with intentions however good, on wrong views of natural conditions. To give rightly is to furnish a kindly medicine; to regulate expenditure rightly, and to make right laws, is to nourish the life-blood, and to protect the health of a community. We give liberally, but we do not spend wisely, nor legislate according to the requisitions of nature, although we act under the guidance of schools of professed Economists, who doubtless exhibit much logical acumen, and are actuated by the most sincere motives, but who continually betray an unhappy discrepancy of opinions. The eulogists of our civilisation often love to contrast the supply of water, which is now conveyed to our houses through pipes, with that which water-carriers formerly distributed in buckets; charity is the bucket,
expenditure is the pipe which supplies the necessities of the poor. Our expenditure, the largest, probably, that has ever been dispensed by any people, is led by no fixed rules, either of legislation or of private conduct, to promote the "general good,” and indeed can find no accredited guide to direct it to this object, because the numerous writers who have undertaken to expound the elements of Political-economy are divided into numerous sects, which obey no single master, and deduce their tenets from no common principle.
Does it do good to the working classes to keep large hunting establishments, to employ numerous gamekeepers, to give expensive dinners and balls, to promote changes of fashion, to maintain costly equipages, large retinues of domestic servants, houses filled with elaborate furniture? These and innumerable other questions of the same character, which continually present themselves to all who take an interest
in the social questions of the day, do not certainly receive conclusive answers, if indeed they receive any answer in our existing schools of Political-economy. The most popular creed, probably, at the present moment, is that it "does good" to "give employment," and to "encourage trade;" in other words, that barren expenditure and fruitless consumption are beneficial to the community at large. It is doubtless often found difficult to reconcile this creed with the conviction which every one must entertain, that the use of machinery is prodigiously beneficial to the community, because it spares our labour, and increases the quantity of our commodities; it is found perplexing to hold, at the same time, that the employment of machinery is good because it spares labour and enables us to produce more, and that expenditure is good because it employs labour and causes us to consume more. To some it must appear evident, that the simultaneous operation
of such opposite principles puts the wants of a community in the same predicament as the urns of the daughters of Danaus, which could never be replenished because the supplies were wasted as fast as they were poured in. Popular instinct accordingly, so often the forerunner of true philosophy, has in some degree changed or modified this creed, and we may now sometimes hear a prudent husbandry of private means pronounced to be, on the whole, most conducive to the ends of philanthrophy and of patriotism. These questions however, with their all-important bearings on the occupations, the means, the health, the morals of our industrial classes, must at present be considered to be open questions. It cannot be a matter of surprise that, when the principles on which the welfare of this great section of our population depends are thus unsettled, and are therefore incapable of being embodied in consistent measures and rooted practices, the condition of the lowest.