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Art. XI. -Di varié Società e Istituzioni di Beneficenza in Londra.
1828. 1832. 2 vols. 12mo. Lugano. Here is another Italian traveller, of whom it is impossible to speak in terms less favourable than the one who forms the subject of a preceding article. Signor Arrivabene, of Milan (whom we have already had occasion to introduce to our readers in No. XIX. p. 261), is understood to be the author of these unpretending, though very valuable volumes, in which he has laid before his Italian countrymen a clear, judicious, and well written account of the numerous charitable and other benevolent institutions, which the English metropolis can boast of above any
otber city in the world. Our object in noticing this work more at length than we did the other, is to make our English readers acquainted with some of the observations which this intelligent foreigner has made concerning several of our philanthropic institutions. It is well, at times, to know what an unbiased visiter, wholly removed from the sphere of local connexions and predilections, thinks of such matters.
The first volume treats more especially of institutions for educating the poor, and also for preventing distress and degradation among them. The second volume treats of those which come directly to their assistance when reduced to a state of actual want : “ in this distribution," says M. A. “ I have endeavoured to follow the order of charity herself, who takes, as it were, the infant man in her arms from his very birth, watches his progress through life, and never leaves him until infirmities or old age have laid him in the grave."
Of the infant schools, of which Pestalozzi bad the first idea in Switzerland, and which are now spread over this kingdom, our author speaks with unqualified approbation. After treating of the Charity, the National, and the Sunday Schools, he observes that all these are still insufficient for the great number of poor children, and he wishes that parochial schools were established upon the system peculiar to Scotland, is where” he says “ they have proved the greatest blessing that Providence could bestow on the country. It is chiefly through their agency that the Scotch people, once semi-barbarous, turbulent, and rapacious, have become the humane, peaceable, and industrious race they now are.
To us, who have been often disgusted with the offensive display of irreligious principles in the writings of many a continental liberal, the total absence in M. Arrivabene's work of any tbing like sneers or malevolent reflections against either the established church or any of the religious communities which exist in this country, has been peculiarly gratifying. Here is a liberal, but in the honourable sense of the word, a native of a Catholic country, an emigrant from Italy, who speaks of religion as the great means of improvement of mankind, who sneers not at our observance of the Sabbath-day, so dull and insufferable to the eyes of many a witty and free-thinking visiter to these shores, who speaks with respect of our clergy, and praises the zeal of missionaries of every Christian persuasion who labour to spread the light of the Gospel over the world, and the exertions of the Bible Society for the same purpose. The benevolence of our author is pure ; he thankfully acknowledges all the good that has
been done, and while he suggests more yet to be done, be does not rail at any one for not having done it before. We have seldom, if ever, read a book written by a foreign traveller, so perfectly honest, so temperate and sober, so totally unmixed with the bitterness of party feeling, religious or political. In speaking of the unavoidable changes which the economy of society undergoes at different epochs, « Either,” he says,
we must make of social communities so many monasteries, or by leaving men free to manage their own affairs, we must submit to the inconveniences which will at times result from their management. It has been neither caprice nor perversity of feeling that has caused the small farmers and cottagers almost to disappear from the face of England, but the new economical forms which the nation has assumed. The landholders of former times were probably neither more nor less humane than the present ones, but they found their interest in dividing their property into small tenements, which then corresponded with the general system of society; the present landed proprietors divide their estates into large farms, from motives of a similar nature."-vol. i.
132. And after accounting for the causes that have produced the change, he adds-
“ Undoubtedly distress among the workmen in the cities is at times very great; undoubtedly there is often great distress also among the labourers in the country; but we must guard against exaggeration, we must look more to facts, and not give way to imagination. A foreigner who comes to England, with his mind full of the tales he has heard and read of the extreme misery of a very great portion of the English people, and of the alarming increase of the poor, not meeting in his rambles with any considerable nunber of miserable looking objects, naturally asks, where are the crowds of
paupers I bave heard so much of ? He will probably be shewn in the country neat cot-, tages, their walls covered with fruit trees and flowers, with glazed windows, and in the inside of them beds with curtains, not unfrequently a clock, a piece of carpet, and sufficient furniture; the men warmly clad, wearing shoes and stockings, and eating fine wheaten bread at their meals. These men, he will be told, receive parish allowance,—they form a considerable number of the English poor."-p. 141.
And certainly, to one who is familiar with the habits and mode of living of the corresponding class in most parts of the continent, the lot of the persons above described cannot appear, at first sigbt, so very deplorable. Our author discusses at great length the system of the English poor laws, and the manner in which they are administered; he reprobates the abuses in the latter, especially that of paying labourers? wages out of the poor rates, and that of encouraging marriages between paupers. He observes that the whole of the rates levied by the parish on the housekeepers, are generally mistaken by foreigners as one and the same thing as the poor rates, whereas the latter often do not constitute much above one-half of the whole amount, the remainder being for the paving, lighting and repairing of streets and roads, for the watching or police, for the building of churches, &c. After fairly stating the various arguments for and against the system of work houses, he adds
“ England is the only nation in Europe where the law gives the poor a right to support at the public expense, but several other governments having declared that begging was a crime, have been obliged in consequence to open depôts of
mendicity; in other words, work houses for the destitute. In many countries however, even in those where it is acknowledged that all men have certain rights, there has been as yet a culpable propensity to treat beggars as men having no rights or will of their own. There has been a mania for general systems, for placing all relief to the poor under the direction of government. And yet the depôts have not answered the expectations formed of them; they have not extirpated mendicity, as any one travelling over the continent may perceive. After we have examined the interior of some of these depôts, it is some 'consolation to know that many mendicants succeed in evading their confinement."
In fact, the mortality in these houses is often frightful; M. Arrivabene doubts very much of the justice of making the act of begging a punishable offence in itself; and be quotes MM. Duchatel, Guizot, and Lucas, in support of his doubts.—vol.ii. p. 127.
“ Much may be done to diminish mendicity, more still to prevent fraud and imposture, but beyond a certain point, especially in our densely-inhabited cities, I fear we must resign ourselves to the sight of a certain number of beggars, for whose wants private compassion, generally more discriminating than public charity, must be left to provide.”
Of the Mechanics’ Institutions, our author observes, that at the beginning of their establishment they awakened the fears of many and the exaggerated hopes of others.
“ But there were persons more dispassionate, who, without either fearing or hoping too much from those institutions, considered that they would tend to improve the arts, and to refine the manners of the artizans, and who trusted for the continuance of social order to the powerful stimulus of necessity, which will ever oblige man to work, and to the uality of men's minds for the preservation of social inequality. The truth of this has already been shown in London, where most workmen bore the distresses of 1826 with exemplary patience, and censured the conduct of those of their brethren who broke the machines. Mechanics will become persuaded of the necessity of being temperate and provident, of saving something out of their wages for times of distress, and they will learn to understand better the relative principles of capital and labour, of profits and wages, and their inseperable connection."
And on the subject of the co-operative societies, be says:
“ It is much easier to see and to lament that the working classes are, all over che world, doomed to toil and privations, than to devise means of changing a state of things, which seems inherent in society and in human nature itself. But there are some men who imagine that, if their nostrums were adopted, poverty and distress would
disappear from the face of the earth. Foremost among these men in Great Britain stands Mr. Owen."
After speaking favourably of his intentions and charitably of his eccentricities, after relating the vicissitudes of his schemes both here and in America, and their ill success, he adds
“ Such is the fate of all those vast projects which aim at changing all at once the condition of mankind, without being grafted on the present state of society, and on the habits of men.”
And after mentioning the schemes of community of labour, community of goods, and the common education of children, &c., and
noticing the weekly meetings of the London Co-operative Society in his time, he makes the following sensible reflections.
“ It is quite sufficient to any person of but moderate judgment to have attended one of those meetings, in which questions of political science are debated, in order to estimate them as they deserve. The speeches consist chiefly of invectives against the rights of property, and against what they are pleased to call the monopoly of the lands by the actual owners, to which causes, and to the whole present social order, they attribute the miseries of the greater part of the human race, miseries for which they see in the co-operative societies the only, the universal panacea. That poor mechanics should think and say such things need not be matter of wonder, but that men in a higher rank, and wbo have received a better education, should flatter and delude their uninformed brethren by such sopbistries, is subject enough of surprise; for they cannot but know that it was the establishment and the security afforded by the laws to the rights of property, that began to diminish the mass of individual misery all over the world.”—vol. i. p. 162.
And again, about the absurd outcry against " the tyranny of capital,"
" When a workinan receives, in the shape of wages, a part of the produce, in the creation of which he participates, and this by a voluntary convention between him and the master, or capitalist, where is the tyranny, where the robbery? Tyranny and robbery occurred in former ages, when many men were obliged to work for one who gave them whatever pittance he pleased, a state of servitude from which they were not allowed to emerge. But in the present condition of society no man is forced to work in a particular spot for a particular master. Talent, good conduct, good luck make workmen rise to be masters, while capitalists and masters, from opposite causes, frequently descend to the condition of workmen. Instances of the former are more rare, it is true, because it is easier for a rich man to become poor than for a poor man to become rich, and because good qualities are scarcer than bad ones; yet the number of successful workmen is increasing, and may still further increase through the advancement of their moral powers. But to strive to impress upon workmen a false notion of the mechanism of society, to instil into their minds the poison of envy and hatred against those who happen to be better favoured by fortune, are certainly not the best means of improving their condition or making them happy."--vol. ii. p. 352.
This was written some years since; what would our author say were he to attend now the debates of the society at King's Cross, another and a more recent foundation of Mr. Owen, at which debates the belief in revelation, and the hopes and fears of a future state, are openly stigmatized as obstacles to the developement of the faculties and to human bappiness; and this before hundreds of mechanics and their wives, who cannot possibly have the information required for the rational investigation of such questions, and who, dissatisfied with their present condition, are ready to adopt any wild solution of the problem which sophistry can devise ?
If unemployed artizans can be benefited by exchange of goods and' labour notes, so much the better ; but where is the necessity of making infidels of them? Will infidelity improve their condition? We speak not of moral responsibility, of the awful denunciutions against those who give scandal to their brethren ; these are written in a book, which to them is of no authority.
Our author speaks with approbation of the friendly societies and savings' banks, as being, next to the schools, the institutions best calculated to raise and to "improve the condition of the poor classes." He gives us some information on the societés de prevoyance, which answer the same purpose in France. In Paris there are two hundred of these societies, of which 19,000 workmen are members, and their savings amounted last year to 1,300,000 francs. The regulations to maintain order and decency at their meetings are worthy of attention : in the savings' banks of the same city there were, at the beginning of 1830, eleven years after their first institution, thirty-five millions of francs.
M. Arrivabene treats at great length of the societies for the improvement of Prison Discipline, and gives many statistical details on similar institutions in France and elsewhere. The society for the Promotion of Permanent Peace gives occasion to the following reflections : --
“ War encourages, for the moment, certain branches of industry, while it stops others; when peace comes, the first cease immediately, whilst the latter revive but slowly. 'War gives rise to a few rapid fortunes, made Heaven knows how, and ive meet, therefore, with minds base enough to invoke war in the hope of being among the favoured few. There are also minds of a higher stamp, who will approve of war for national interests. But the inorals of men, in general, are not iinproved by war, which is besides decidedly opposed to the precepts of Christianity. The Society of Christian Morality'in France and that' for Universal Peace,' at Geneva, co-operate with those in England to diffuse anti-warlike principles. The President of the Geneva Society, M. Sellon, received last year a letter from the King of Prussia, expressing the interest that monarch takes in the proceedings of the society, and his intention to favour its object by his external policy. The society received similar communications from the King of the French, and from the late M. Perier. It is painful, however, to reflect that many obstacles will yet interfere between these wishes and their fulfilment." -vol. ii. p. 253.
And here we must take leave of M. Arrivabene, recommending his work as full of interesting information, useful to English as well as foreign readers. Whilst the latter will be enabled by the attentive perusal of these two small volumes to form a more correct estimate of the English nation, than they would derive from a dozen of books of travels; the former will see in them reasons for being better satisfied with their own country, and for cherishing its institutions, which bear in them the germ of further improvement.
Art. XII.-Briefe eines Lebenden. Herausgegeben von F. F. (Letters
by one of the Living. Edited by F. F.) 2 vols. 12mo. Berlin.
1831. However critical opinion may be divided touching bis Puckler Muskau Highness's account of England and English society, there can be little doubt but that Germans are, generally speaking, the individuals best adapted to achieve and record travels in such lands of enchantment, of almost holy associations, as Greece and Italy. Free alike from French vanity and from English superciliousness, Germans surrender themselves with frank bonhommie to the impressions of the moment; and even their