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ART. I-Analysis of the Papers contained in the Edinburgh Re
, · Art. 1.-Minutes of the Evidence taken before the Committee apa pointed by the House of Commons, to inquire into the State of Mendicity and Vagrancy in the Metropolis and its Neighbourhood. Ordered to be printed July 11th, 1815. To which is added, the General Report, ordered to be printed May 28th, 1816.-This article is, as usual, not an account of the book it pretends to review, but a dissertation consisting of two parts: 1st, an examination of the policy of the
poor laws as a system: 2dly, an account of the methods taking to support the poor in Scotland. It is written in a laboured, affected style, totally unlike the general style of writing that pervades the Edinburgh Review; and though not without merit as to its general reasoning, it throws little light on the subject, by the account given of the charitable system of Scotland, which amounts to little more than Sunday contributions at the church door, and private donations. As the subject is very interesting at home, we shall take the present occasion to offer our own views of the pauper system of Pennsylvania.
The general objections to the poor laws, are sufficiently numerous, and at the same time obvious.
1. They hold out in their theory, and they furnish in their practice, rewards for idleness, prodigality, and thoughtlessness. They say to the poor man, eat, drink, and be merry-take no thought for the morrow-however vicious, or however idle, or however wasteful, the laws give you a support, when you have nothing else to support you. The poor know this; they feel it, and they act upon it.
Come let us the cannikin share,
For who has a right to mind us?
The parish is bound to find us. 2. They are the support of the distiller-of the tipling house: all the money that necessity would compel the poor to hoard up against the hour of sickness and of want, is now spent in the purchase of indulgences that enervate their bodies and deprave their minds.
3. They are a most oppressive tax upon the hard earnings of industry and frugality in favour of idleness and vice.
4. They tend to propagate filthiness and disease; because these are always attendants upon idleness and vice. In the city of Phila
delphia, they operate as encouragements upon debauchery in particular. The late report of the committee of public economy in this city, on the state of the poor, is a statement more favourable than the facts would warrant.
5. The poor laws operate so as to increase the number of paupers indefinitely, by the temptations they hold out to spend-thrift habits, and their direct discouragement of frugality and saving; for what poor man will be industrious, who can be idle with impunity? hence in every parish in England, the poor rates have been upon the increase for this century past: in Philadelphia, that increase is so alarming, as to threaten us with a tax that is now oppressive, and, ere long, will be intolerable.
6. The poor rates do not relieve the really indigent and deserving; they are exhausted by the bold, impudent, vociferous demands of those who know that poverty alone gives them a claim which will be attended to, and who take care to be poor, for the purpose
of demanding relief as a debt due to them. Instead of a charity, for which the receiver should be thankful, the poor consider themselves injured, if their wants are not fully supplied.
7. Hence, those who are relieved, have no gratitude for the relief afforded. This right to be idle, and extravagant, is equally strong with their right to demand support because they are so, and to be insolent whether admitted or rejected. Exceptions to all this there are occasionally; but those who have put themselves in the way of knowing the facts, know this representation to be just in all its leading features.
8. Suppose an industrious man taxed to the poor rate ten dollars; he is compelled to pay this sum toward the support of an idle and unproductive inhabitant; it brings no return. If he spent it in any form of enjoyment, or utility, he would give ten dollars of employment to those who need it, and who are willing to earn it, and which the poor laws in this case deprive them of. So that, what is thus paid to the idle poor, is withheld from the industrious poor.
9. They annihilate all mutuality of kind feelings between those who support and those who are supported. What would otherwise be a donation now becomes a right: Hence,
10. They tend to annihilate all kind and charitable feelings toward the distressed. People do not like to be taxed first by the laws, and next by their feelings; especially when they see the ill consequences that flow from the relief actually afforded.
In Great Britain there is only one opinion on the policy of these laws: no two men there, who think at all, think differently: all agree that the poor laws are inadequate to, and ill calculated for the evil meant to be remedied; that they are a most useless and oppressive burthen, which ought to be shaken off, if the legislature knew how. Malthus has proposed their abolition, by notice publicly given, that persons born after a given day should in no case be entitled to relief by poor laws.
In this country, we are apt to follow every example the British think proper to set us; we have adopted their poor laws, with all their oppressions and absurdities; with all their legal intricacies, and legal expenses; with all the temptations to dissipate the public money in showy establishments, and petty depredations; and we feel now all the consequences, in the present oppressive tax; and the melancholy prospect of its incessant increase; for it is now demonstrated in England, that the poor system is the fruitful parent of that very poverty it pretends to relieve.
A poor house, ought to be the last, the reluctant resort of pecu. niary distress: hence the poor ought to be able, by means of reasonable industry, to earn better living at home, than the coarse, scanty fare of a poor house: for coarse and scanty it ought to be, on system.
On the contrary, we give a premium to idleness, by means of plenty, cleanliness, and comfort.
Those who can usefully employ every limb of their body, ought to be made so to do, at the poor house, by means of work contrived for the purpose of compelling labour there, and forcing it upon those whose idleness has driven them to that asylum. In our establishment, we treat the poor as we do our swine when we wish to fatten them, plenty to eat and nothing to do.
Why should we not compel that abominable nuisance, our black population, to maintain their own poor? They earn enough to do it: and they are insolent enough and idle enough to justify us in compelling them to do themselves the justice of maintaining their own idlers. Set them to hard work when they go to the alms house, and give them nothing but coarse bread and water when they come there, and you will diminish the number of your coloured applicants. The most idle, the most insolent, the most depraved, the most thankless part of your population, the heaviest tax on your pockets, and your patience, are the free blacks. If you cannot get rid of them, control them.
It were much to be wished that some plan were draughted to abolish
lawsor till this can be done, that some rigid system of hard work and coarse fare, should be adopted at our alms house, where economy can hardly be said to be the order of the day in any part of it, so far as our information goes.
But the evil is progressing; fast enough perhaps to bring with it its own cure: for it will surely bring with it its own increase.
Savings-banks, have been found an excellent system in the old country, and, as it seems to us, would be equally beneficial here. We are not of opinion that any great public evil would ensue, by permitting a few persons to starve, whose wants were induced by a long series of idleness, wastefulness, drunkenness, and vice; or who would refuse to contribute a weekly pittance to preserve themselves and their families from future want.
We have stated that our poor laws are the same nearly as those of England, whose system we imitate, not merely in the good sense that serves as its foundation, but in all the negligence and absurdity
which, by defeating the work-house system, has rendered that good sense nugatory. In the meagre essay before us, there is some argument, and little fact. But as the general facts relating to the British poor are of great importance to us in America, we shall lay before our readers a few outlines of “the prospect before us."
When the monasteries in England were in full play, during the reign of Henry VIII, they maintained and increased their votaries among the lower class of people, by a very liberal distribution of alms, particularly in the form of provisions. When these religious houses were suppressed, the nation was crowded with idle people, who had been accustomed to derive their great source of subsistence from the monasteries. Many attempts were made to relieve them, and get rid of the burthen, but ineffectually, until the 43d year of queen Elizabeth, when the act was passed which is the foundation of the modern system of poor laws. By this act, overseers were appointed, whose duty was restricted, 1st, To relieve the old, the blind, the lame, the sick, and, generally, those and those only who were not able to work. 2dly, To find work for those who, being able to work, should complain that they had no work to do. These were no otherwise to be relieved, than by finding them employment in a workhouse, and paying them for what they did, until they could find a better employment elsewhere.
By degrees, the overseers in that country threw off from their shoulders the finding of work for those who were, or pretended to be, out of employ: they found it easier to supply them with money, at the expense of the parish, than to find them work. Hence the funds were swallowed up, by the idle poor, able to labour, which ought to have been applied exclusively to the lame, the sick, the blind, the old.
Faithful to our principle of imitating every thing British, we have pursued the same plan exactly in this country.
Secondly, the overseers generally contrived to make every thing a job of profit for themselves and their friends; building, altering, repairing, projecting, destroying—the apothecary's bill, the attorney's bill, and all other kinds of contract-the feasting, the carousing, the dinners which the ex-overseers, who knew, by experience, what was going forward, never failed to attend—the relief
charged to casual poor, who could not be found or brought to confront the charge-were all sources of profitable peculation to the overseer of the
poor. We do not say the case is so here; but in our back counties of Pennsylvania, it is commonly taken for granted that a county commissioner, at the end of three years, shall have saved enough to pay for building a new barn; and where there is so much money to find its way among the poor, it is not impossible but some of it may, in a few years hence, lag behind for the benefit of the overseer.
We have no hesitation in stating, that these surmises are deduced from the nature of the office and of the duty: that they are well known to be generally credited in England, and proofs abundant of the truth of them are given in the treatises published on the subject in that portion of Great Britain. How far they may be well founded here,
as to overseers of the poor, past or present, we have not examined, and have no right to say. But where so much imitation prevails of the errors complained of in England, suspicion will be at work: and some answer ought to be furnished to the question, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Let us view the progress of the poor rates in England.
188,811 £. sterling. 1698
1,720,316 1783 to 1785
8,000,000 1817 computed at
10,000,000 And the public and private charities at five millions. In proclive. ruit.
We have sufficient reason for believing that the career of increase in the city of Philadelphia, is so similar to the foregoing most alarming statement, that if something be not done soon to remedy the evil, the inhabitants will fly from the tax. In fact the poor rate, and the county tax, are at this moment among the causes of emigration from
If we cannot (as we ought) abolish the whole system of poor laws, at least, let us
Tax ardent spirits and tipling houses ten fold their present proportion. Refuse relief even to the disabled, if they have brought themselves
S1 Relieve no man or woman who can work: unless they will work hard at the alms-house for a bare subsistence, on work to be found them there. Work can be found at the jail, and why not at our almshouse?
Let the fare in the alms-house, be worse than the usual fare of a labouring man.
Provide a pharmacopæia pauperum, out of whose limits the physicians shall not be permitted to prescribe.
Reject all siphilitic patients.
In this way some good may be done, and a public evil daily inereasing be checked in its threatening progress.
• Art. 2.-Lettres écrites d'Italie en 1812 et 1813, à Mr. Charles Pictet, l'un des Redacteurs de la Bibliothéque Britannique. Par Frederic Sullin de Chateauvieux. - En 2 tomes. 8vo. A Paris, chez J. Paschoud, Libraire, 22, Rue Mazarine. 1816.'-Wearied and disgusted with sentimental travellers in Italy_with travelling connoisseurs, amateurs, and pretenders of all kinds to taste and virtuwith classical travellers, such as Addison and Eustace, who stuff