« ZurückWeiter »
present time ; and, what are the judgments which were formed by the visiters of those who were thus brought under their notice or care. It is indeed much to be regretted, that while we have had full and satisfactory monthly reports from some of the societies, the returns from others have been irregular and defective. This is an error which we trust will not be carried into the future. Great regularity and correctness are required in the monthly reports of the delegates, if we would as fully as we may accomplish the purposes of our Association. Our monthly meetings were, however, well attended during the time of the active operations of the Societies, and the most perfect harmony of views and feelings was maintained in them. Much valuable information was given in the monthly reports, and much was imparted in the discussions which grew out of them. The right, indeed, is not recognised by us, of any interference with the objects, or modes of operation, of either of the societies represented in the Association. Each society is as free, and as independent now, as it was before this Association was formed. In a report of our doings, or objects, we have, therefore, nothing to say of the action of individual societies. It is proper, however, to give the information, that we learn from the monthly reports which have been rendered, that from October, 1834, to April, 1835, eleven hundred and thirty-two families, or individuals and families, were assisted by twenty of our benevolent societies. And of those thus assisted, it will be interesting to know, that
765 were assisted but 238 " " or 64 16 " " 22 " 16 "
twice ; three times ; four times ;
In view of the cases of illness which will be remembered, and of extreme destitution, a more favorable result than this it is believed could hardly have been anticipated. We think we have here the most satisfactory evidence, that, as an Association, we have not labored in vain. In view of the large number of our monthly reports, — for though not complete, the number of them was yet large, — your committee were surprised to find that only sixty-four were assisted three times, and only sixty-five more than three times. We believe also that nearly all those who were most frequently aided, were of a class to require little, if any, short of the aid which they received. Had it not been, however, for the influence of this Association, - or, in other words, had the Societies in this connexion acted through the last winter, as they acted in former winters, without any knowledge of each other's operations, we believe, that, by a comparison of the records of the twenty Societies which have reported to us, a very different result might have been shown. The table we have given is as accurate as we have been able to make it. It speaks for itself, and scarcely needs our comments. • The objects for which this Association was formed are, we think, of commanding interest ; and if the principles shall be carried out by which we look for the attainment of these objects, it is quite certain that much evil will be remedied, and much positive good secured. Of these objects and principles, much has been said in our monthly meetings. Our discussions of them have, however, been very general. Your committee, therefore, propose in this Report concisely, but distinctly, to bring them before the Association. In thus bringing them together as an exposition of our plan, we hope at once to give permanence to the harmony of our meetings, and still greater efficiency to the future operations of our Societies.
The objects, then, of our Association, - what are they ? Speaking of them in very general language, we may say, they are, first, the remedy and prevention of the abuses of alms; and, secondly, the most effectual relief of the suffering poor. These expressions, however, convey but vague conceptions of our objects. The question arises, what are the abuses of alms which we would prevent, or remedy? On this question we must be definite ; and with as little circumlocution as may be, we will attempt to answer it.
Allow us, however, first to observe, that the proper objects and principles of Christian alms-giving are among the great topics which are now engaging the attention of some of the best minds in Europe, and in our own coun. try. A few years only have passed, since the great questions respecting the poor were, what provision must of necessity be made for them in view of their increasing numbers, and the consequent expense to be incurred for them ? And, how are they most cheaply to be fed, and clothed, and saved from that desperation of want, under which lawlessness, and outbreaks, and depredations, and all the forms of violence are to be apprehended ? And the primary resorts for the resolution of these questions were, first, as far as philanthropists were concerned with them, the establishment of institutions for feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked, at the smallest possible cost; and where elementary provisions of this kind were found inadequate, legislative aid was demanded in the form of new Poor Laws, or the modification and new adaptation of old ones. We do not indeed mean to state, or to imply, that in the times to which we refer, there was not much very active, and very wise alms-giving. But we do mean to say, that alms-giving was even generally under a very unwise direction ; that the true principles of Christian alms-giving were not understood, as they are now understood ; that incidental and great evils had sprung up under this injudicious course of action, and were growing, and continually becoming more aggravated, which were extensively and deeply felt, but of which the true causes were not extensively or strongly perceived. Let any one read the Reports of the various institutions of Europe for a gratuitous supply of the wants of the poor, and the Reports of the British Commissioners upon the administration and operation of the Poor Laws, and in the evidence he will there every where find of the constant demand for the increase of these provisions, in proportion to the supply that was obtained of them, he will be amazed that the errors of these systems were not sooner detected, and that remedial and preventive measures were not sooner adopted in regard to them. A new era, we trust, has begun in the work of christian philanthropy. The convictions are now deep and strong in many minds, and are extending, that no great and permanent improvement of outward condition is to be looked for, but through an improvement of character; that the best resources for improving the condition
of the poor are within themselves ; that they often need enlightenment respecting these resources more than alms; and that alms may even be a means of perpetuating poverty. It is under the influence of these convictions, that we have formed our Association. The Societies represented by this delegation are indeed alms-giving Societies; and in this view of them, their great object is, the relief and comfort of the suffering poor. And this also is an object of our Association. We would that there should be no unnecessary suffering in one poor family, or of one poor individual among us. But we would rescue our Benevolent Societies from the imputation of min. istering to an increase of poverty. We would do all that may be done for security against the dangers of such a ministration. We would give to the action of these Societies the character of the highest and most unexception: able form of alms-giving. We return then to the inquiry, what are the abuses of alms-giving which most imperatively call for remedy and prevention ?
To this inquiry we answer, that the abuses of almsgiving are to be sought in its ministrations to vice. Charity, or alms-giving is abused, whenever it ministers in any way to a neglect of forethought and providence, to idleness, to pride or vanity, or to luxurious or intemperate appetites ; when it encroaches in any degree upon the feeling of a healthy self-respect, or a regard to character ; when it in any degree lessens in the receiver the feeling that it is disgraceful to depend upon alms-giving, as long as a capacity of self-support is retained. It would be easy to enumerate specific abuses both of public and private charities. We have all met with but too many of them, even in the little circles in which we have moved, as dispensers of the alms which have been entrusted to