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materiel, as in the assessed ; though not so much needed, from the unbroken habits of economy and industry among the people. Besides, the morale which accompanies the voluntary mode of relief tends to sweeten and cement the parochial charity in the unassessed parishes. The excellence of our system, compared with that of England, is altogether of a negative kind. Our parochial charity, from the extreme moderation of its allowances, does not seduce our people from a due dependence upon themselves, or to a neglect of their relative obligations. It is not the relief administered by our Kirk Sessions which keeps them comfortable. This is mainly owing to the operation of those principles, which nature has instituted for the prevention and alleviation of poverty. I look upon a compulsory provision as that which acts with a disturbing force upon certain principles and feelings, which, if left to their own undisturbed exercise, would do more for the prevention and alleviation of poverty, than can be done by any legal and artificial system whatever. I may mention that there is not a more familiar spectacle in our cottages, than the grandfather harbored for life by his married children, and remaining with them for years, the honored inmate of the family. In fact, I have no recollection of a single instance, and I am sure it would have been branded as the most monstrous and unnatural of all things,- of the desertion of parents by their children."*
- * Minutes of Evidence before the Select Committee on the State of the Poor in Ireland, First Report. pp. 282 — 288. Dr. Chalmers also says, “ Generally speaking, the people of my parish, save in a few instances, were in a remarkably good economical condition, arising in the first place from their own industry and economy; in the second place, from the affections of relatives, which went far to su. persede any ulterior resource; but in the third place, there was never
We turn again for a moment to England, and to the operation of poor laws. And we are told that the language has actually been addressed to an Overseer, “why should I take care of my aged and sick parents, when the parish is bound to take care of them? Or, why should I excuse the parish, which is bound to pay for what is done for them?” This is one of the results of a system, under which children have been paid by parishes for the charge of their sick parents, and sisters for the charge of sick brothers. Husbands have also threatened to abandon
wanting to the full amount of the existing necessity a third resource, in the mutual kindness of neighbors ; insomuch that I hold the fourth and last resource, or the kindness of the rich to the poor, to be the least important of them all. On the strength of these four principles, matters went on quite rightly and prosperously in the parish.”
To the testimony of Dr, Chalmers respecting Scotland, may be added that of Bicheno,-a very competent witness,-respecting Ireland. To the same Committee to which Dr. Chalmers gave his ey. idence, Mr. Bicheno said, “ the most remarkable feature to be observed in Ireland, is, the charitable disposition of the poor among themselves. I made it my business to stop persons who appeared to be beggars, to ask them how they obtained their living; and I found many of them going from cabin to cabin, sleeping in any place which they chose to select; and it seemed to me as if every house was open to a poor beggar. If he was in want, he had only to enter a cabin, and relief was afforded him from the potato. The potato appeared to me to be almost a common food. As long as it lasts, it is for the benefit of any man that wants it. I have no doubt that parental feelings are much more alive in Ireland, than they are in England. I do not believe that in all Ireland there are as many instances to be found of desertion of children by parents, as in many single parishes in England. And the children appeared to me to feel the obligation of supporting their parents much more than is found in the same relation of life in England; and they feel it to be an obligation from which they can never be released. In my opinion, a compulsory assessment would diminish the charitable dispo
their wives, and children their parents, unless more money should be allowed to them. Nay, parents have not only forsaken their sick children, but have sold them for profligacy, and have lived without a sense of guilt upon the rewards of their iniquity. “ The evil of the amount of parish poor rates," or of this tax as a burden upon its payers, it is said, “sinks into insignificance when compared with the dreadful effects which the system produces
sitions both of the rich and the poor. The rich would immediately send the poor to be relieved at the parish table; the poor would excuse themselves from charity, because there would be an established provision ; and you would by this means break up what is of vital importance to a good state of society, the virtuous exercise of the social feelings. – p. 380.
So important is the subject of the operation of Poor Laws, that I hope I shall be justified by this circumstance in so far lengthening this note, as to subjoin a few remarks of Mr. Senior, a distinguished political economist, and one of the Commissioners of the King of England for revising and reporting upon the Poor Laws of that country. In a Letter to Lord Howick on a Legal Provision for the Irish Poor, he says, “ the evidence taken before the Committee of 1830, is unanimous as to the strength among the Irish of filial affection, and mutual benevolence. But very different is the experience of England. Among the lower orders, and in those districts in which the Poor Laws are in full operation, filial affection and charity, at least that filial affection which urges the exertions of industry, and sweetens the sacrifices of frugality in behalf of parents, that charity which gives a charm to abstinence by the prospect of helping a distressed neighbor, seem almost extinguished. Every one who has lived in a country parish in the south and southeastern counties, knows that the support of the old by the young and strong is not the rule, but the exception. And to what is this lamentable difference to be attributed, but to the existence of a compulsory provision ? I object, therefore, to making in Ireland any further compulsory provision for the aged, than that afforded by Dispensaries, Hospitals, and similar institutions for the supply of medical treatment and assistance." - pp. 15, 16,
upon the morals and happiness of the poor. It is as difficult to convey to the mind of the reader a true and faithful impression of the intensity, and malignity of the evil, in this view of it, as it is by any description, however vivid, to give an adequate idea of the horrors of a shipwreck, or a pestilence. A person must converse with paupers, – must enter work-houses and examine the inmates, – must attend at the parish pay-table, before he can form a just conception of the moral de basement which is the offspring of the present system. He must hear the pauper threaten to abandon an aged and bedridden mother, to turn her out of his house, and to lay her at the Overseer's door, unless he is paid for giving her a shelter; he must hear parents threaten to follow the same course with regard to their sick children ; and when he finds that he can scarcely step into a town or parish in any county, without meeting with some instance or other of this character, he will no longer consider the pecuniary pressure upon the rate-payer as the first in the class of evils, which the poor laws have entailed upon the community."*
And once more, says another witness, “ Two laborers were reported to me as extremely industrious men. They maintained large families, and had neither of them ever applied for relief. I thought it advisable that they should receive some mark of public approbation, and we gave them £1 each from the parish. Very shortly they both became applicants for relief, and have continued so ever since. I can decidedly state as the result of my experience, that when once a family has received relief, it is to be expect
* Report from his Majesty's Commissioners upon the Poor Laws. 1834, pp. 96, 97.
ed that their descendants for generations will receive it also. I remember that about two years ago, a father and mother, and two young children, were very ill, and reduced to great distress. They were obliged to sell all their little furniture for their subsistence. They were settled with us; and as we heard of their extreme distress, went to offer them relief. They, however, strenuously refused the aid. I reported this to the church warden, who determined to accompany me; and together we again pressed upon the family the necessity of receive ing relief. But still they refused, and we could not persuade them to accept our offer. We felt so much interested in the case, however, that we sent them four shillings in a parcel with a letter, desiring them to apply for more if they continued ill. This they did. And from that time I do not believe they have been three weeks off our books, although there has been little or no ill health in the family. Thus we effectually spoiled the habits acquired by their previous industry. And I have no hesitation in saying, that in nine cases out of ten, such is the constant effect of having tasted parish bounty. This applies as much to the young as to the middle aged, and as much to the middle aged as to the old. I state it confidently, as the result of my experience, that if once a young lad gets a pair of shoes given him by the parish, he never afterwards lays by sufficient to buy a pair. So it is also with parents. The disease of pauperism is hereditary. When once a family has applied to the parish for relief, they are pressed down forever."'*
* Report from his Majesty's Commissioners upon the Poor Laws. 1834, pp. 93, 94.
• There appear to be some errors so naturally plausible, that nothing but experience can detect them.- Such is the scheme of supplying by Act of Parliament the absence of charity on the part