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I have already said, that at the very outset of every case we should lead the applicant to perceive, that the relief we offer is merely incidental. We should go through the case upon this footing: We should never give money, or any other direct relief, except as the very last resort; we should try everything else first. As their guardians and true friends, we owe this to the poor.
Want may have depressed their spirits; the prospect of beggary and dependence may have blighted there hopes, and induced listlessness or despair. We should raise them out of this state, in which human nature cannot long be left with impunity, and we should avoid placing them on the ground of permanent pensioners, for their human nature would be equally exposed. We should lend them our countenance and sympathy, and our advice. We should make them longer visits than we have been accustomed to; we should sit and see how things go on; we should show them how to make the fire and save fuel; we should overlook their household movements, and point out every saving of labor, of time, and of money, that may be practicable; we should pass a forenoon, or an afternoon, with the sick, or go and watch with them all night.
Some of the poor would not like this, for it would place them in rather awkward predicaments occasionally, and reveal matters they did not wish to have known. But in every case of real merit or actual suffering, I am persuaded it would do more to cheer, to strengthen, and to bless the sick and the needy, than all things else we might have to offer.
We need to come into a close connexion with those it is our wish to benefit. None of us are sufficiently inti
mate with those we have been accustomed to aid. The charity of the gospel requires more time for its exercise, than we have been wont to give it. May we not express our hope that some improvement will ere long take place in this respect ?
In Catholic countries the Sisters of Charity devote their lives to the service of suffering. They nurse and tend, and watch with the sick. Every Monday morning on the banks of the Seine, in Paris, they gather together to wash the clothes of their patients, as we may call them.
In the cities of Italy a physician may call upon the family of any nobleman, or person of property, and secure his personal attendance, with that of his wife or his children, upon a sick person stretched on his bed in some poor hovel in the neighborhood. • Is not this as it should be ? Is not this that connexion between the rich and the poor which God had in view when he made them to differ, the one from the other? Is there not something in this superior to the most lavish subscriptions to be doled out in a round of brief visits to the abodes of sickness and want ?
Nor has the Catholic faith borne these fruits alone. I would refer you to a single instance in Protestant England, which all should emulate. The woman called Catherine Lambton, by Dr Tuckerman, is a noble proof of what I mean. Without property, a hard working woman, the wife of a small mechanic, living in a cellar,— she has done what the richest and the ablest of us have never thought of attempting. I wish we could learn to give as little money, and do as much good as she has done before us.
It is a matter worthy of our most serious attention, how
we can become more intimate with the sick and needy, and pay them more personal attention in their distress. It deserves to be brought up and discussed from time to time at our future meetings.
I look forward to the day when every family in the community, able to do it, shall have some other and poorer family connected with them in fraternal sympathy and interest. We may do much in our several spheres to hasten its advent.
I turn now to the children of the poor-and I know no words strong enough to express the duties we owe to them. They may be rescued from pauperism, indolence, beggary and crime. They may be so educated beneath our protection and auspices; they may be so treated by us as to secure every worthy end of temporal pursuit and of future hope. Or—they may be overlooked-left in the streets—allowed to stay from school-sent on the fearful errand of beggary from door to door-exposed to the demoralizing, depressing, corrupting influence of idleness, deceit, and pauperism on the part of their parents at home--and their blood laid upon our heads.
As I visit the poor and see their children, I tremble at my responsibility ; I feel disposed to retake every step, and reconsider every movement, lest harm may be doing towards these little ones.
In all our intercourse with the recipients of our charity the coming winter, let us never lose sight of the tender age, and the susceptible nature of their offspring. Let us be most jealous and watchful for the children's good; let us do all we can to keep them at their Sunday School, and their day School'; let us strictly forbid and discountenance their ever being sent on errands of charity, or the
like, in school hours; let us lead the parents by our invariable practice and example to respect those hours ; let us transfer, if possible, the receipt of cold victuals and such aid at our doors to other and less tender hands than those of the young; let us withhold relief, the moment we are satisfied all is not done, that might be, for the children at home ; let us often do nothing, till places are found for the boys and girls that are old enough to take them, and for whom we perceive that any other arrangement would be better than that of living at home. We should lay particular stress upon their sending their children to school. Perhaps no class in the community is capable of doing more towards securing a full and punctual attendance on the part of the pupils, from the families of the poor, than the agents of public and private charity in the city.
You remember the injunction laid by the government of France upon the Bureaus of Charity—to grant relief in no case where the children are out of school. It would be well were the spirit of that provision universally observed in our own community.
In closing my remarks, permit me to congratulate you upon the prospect afforded us for the coming season in the opening of the Office of the Society for the Prevention of Pauperism, under the charge of Mr Simonds. This Society having secured his services,—and having received itself the aid of the citizens generally, and especially that of one of the Societies represented at your meetings—is about to cornmence its operations with every prospect of success. You are already acquainted with the purposes of the association, and have expressed your interest in them. These purposes will be still farther un.
folded in the course of our future intercourse with you. There is a great deal of aid that you can afford the Society. I know the Agent will always be glad to avail himself of your counsel and advice.
Let us put our trust in God and enter cheerfully upon the duties of the coming season. Respectfully submitted.
CHARLES F. BARNARD.
Read and accepted October 11.
Ordered to be printed, at the next meeting, November 8, 1836.
ARTEMAS SIMONDS, Secretary.