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mities of indigence are too far removed from the heart of charity to partake of the warm blood which flows into the arteries. The agrarian division and the law of descent paralyse the efforts of the charitable and excellent men in that country, who wish to extend and increase the system of domiciliary relief, but who consider it as a matter rather to be hoped for than expected.
In the scale of civilization, with which I concluded the second part of this work, I placed England, Scotland, and France at the head, because in those countries a system of relief for the poor is made a regular object of their Legislatures. That State has best attained its object, wherein indigence is more equally relieved, and mendicity least frequent. If, as I think, the superiority be on the side of England and Scotland, where the funds are raised and applied locally, I conclude, in direct contradiction to the abstract principle laid down by the Legislative Assembly in a former page,
“ that the public relief for indigence is best derived from local and municipal funds, locally applied."
I believe too that it will be found that the comforts of the poor follow the same scale of civilization with that arranged for the modes of relief. “ Intimately acquainted,” says Mr. Wakefield*, “ with the circumstances, comforts, and
* Vol. ii. page 811.
wants of the people in both countries, I have no hesitation in saying, that an English, in comparison with an Irish, labourer, knows not what poverty indicates.” I fear that the state of the peasantry in France is also superior to that in Ireland.
But in times of the defective supply of provisions let us compare the situation of the English labourer with that of the peasantry in other countries; or rather, let me state authentic facts respecting other countries, and then let my English readers judge if any comparison can be drawn. In the winter of 1816-1817, the misery to which the lower classes of society in Italy were reduced, owing to the general failure of the primary articles of food, fell under my own observation: the poor were reduced to eat vegetable substitutes ; the consequence was, an infectious fever by which numbers perished.
“Here (at the Porta St. Giovanni in Rome) as I was making my memoranda, in May 1817, I found a poor wretch who was seeking if by chance he could find any thing which could be eaten among the refuse vegetables which the gardener had thrown over the walls .... This
may serve to show to what a state the people here are reduced by the failure, or at least the great deficiency, both of the vintage and harvest last Similar causes in France and Ireland produced similar effects, which have respectively attracted medical observation. “ The continual rains of 1816 destroyed or prevented the ripening of nearly all the grain sown in the departments of the Ain, the Jura, the Doubs, the Haute Saône, the Vosges, and a part of the Saône and Loire, &c. from which cause a dreadful famine arose, which continued the first six months of 1817. The sufferers subsisted during the months of January, February, and March, on potatoes, oatbread, pollard, or bran, and other inferior articles; the absolutely destitute were compelled to beg.
* Wood's Letters of an Architect, 1828, vol. ii. p. 25.
“ At length all resources being exhausted, and every article of food having reached a price till then unheard of, the three following months presented scenes of the most appalling character the meadows and fields were covered with our starving fellow-creatures, who were, so to speak, contending with the cattle for the herbage. Hunger at this period reduced them to live solely on herbaceous vegetables, such as goats-beard, wild sorrel, nettles, thistles, bean-tops, leaves of trees, &c.; these herbs were chopped up, boiled, and mashed: when they were too old and tough to eat in that state, they expressed the juice, and according to their means, they either used these pulps or juices alone, or mixed with a little coarse meal.
“ This new kind of food did not agree with the human constitution; and the general and constant result of this exclusive herbaceous regimen, continued for such a length of time, was universal anasarca, without ascites or disease of the liver.
“This state of dropsical effusion, of which I have just spoken, continued during the whole of the time that such food was used, even during the heat of summer, and it did not disappear till the harvest of 1817, by the return to a natural diet; but a few individuals continued to have the face, abdomen, legs, or feet, bloated for some months afterwards.
“ But, unfortunately, all did not escape so cheaply; for many of the less vigorous, or who used this bad food too long or too exclusively, or who depended for their subsistence upon the precarious support of mendicity, fell victims, and were frequently found dead by the road side *.”
“ In February 1819, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland appointed a medical inspector for each of the four provinces, who ascertained on the spot the state of the fever since 1816, and the condition of the people. The inspectors made written returns to a set of questions, ten in number, embracing all the most important points necessary to be ascertained *
* From the Journal de Physiologie Experimentale, as quoted in the Monthly Magazine, April 1822.
. “ All the inspectors attribute the fever to bad and insufficient nourishment, the potatoe crops having failed in consequence of the extreme humidity of the two years 1815 and 1816, and there being nothing which could be resorted to as a substitute.
They observe, that even the seed potatoes were taken up and eaten as food ; that nettles, and all other esculent herbs, with the coarsest bran, were eaten ; that the people became feeble from want of food ; that their extreme wretchedness, and the despondency their miserable circumstances produced, fitted them to receive the fever; that they wandered about in masses, men, women, and children, knowing not where to go, nor what to do, and spreading disease and death on all sides.
“When a stranger, or labourer who had no cabin of his own, took the disease, it was quite customary to prepare a shed for him by the road side, by inclining some spars or sticks against a wall or bank of a ditch, and covering them with straw. Under these sheds, which the rain penetrated, the patients lay on a little straw; and
* These accounts were printed, by order of the House of Commons, on the 17th May 1819.