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spirit and tendency, contain a lesson for all; not only such as I have just described, the purest and best of all lessons, that of universal charity ; but also this, which any one of you, which any man whatever, may learnnamely, to estimate the temptations of his own state. For if while I describe poverty as tending to comparative disregard of property, any should say, “What have I to do with this? I am neither poor nor in danger of poverty; I would reply, Look a little further into the matter ; have not you temptations as well as the poor, to aggression, to extortion, to an injustice which is not the less so because it may be perhaps a legal injustice ? and if you find this acting on your mind, then you have to do with the exposition which I make, and may learn from it how far more culpable in your own case is such an oversteping of the boundaries of moral honesty, than it is in others who are exposed to much harder trials, and subjected to far more pernicious influences.
The same remark will apply to a review of the circumstances and moral condition of any class. Should it be shown, with reference to the legal or the clerical profession, that there is in these a tendency to insincerity, let none turn away, and say, “ I have nothing to do with this.” For if his own tongue, or his own actions, have ever failed of being the faithful expositors of his thoughts and feelings, he has to do with it; and in the influences which operate upon others, he may read a lesson of caution for himself, and start back from a result which he might not be aware that he was approaching, but towards which, seeing others advancing in a different, and, it may be, a broader highway, he may be led to look more closely to the crooked paths wherein his own feet have been entrapped.
It is, then, desirable for each and all, that we should endeavor to estimate fairly and impartially the diversified action of circumstances upon ourselves and our fellow-creatures, comparing them with the true description of morality, namely, that it is that which tends to the production of happiness, the greatest happiness of the greatest number—the greatest amount of happiness, the most satisfactory, and the most enduring species of enjoyment.
With regard to the poor, I shall distribute this inquiry under three heads :—The unfavorable influences which operate upon them; the favorable influences which, in some degree, couuteract these ; and the means and consequent prospect of improvement which open upon us.
The first and most unfavorable circumstance in connexion with poverty is, that it must be considered generally as a state of ignorance. However ignorance may be called the mother of devotion, ignorance, is not the parent of morality. Ignorance-moral ignorance-there is in all classes, and that to an extent which it is most painful to contemplate. We find those who have accumulated many sciences, and yet who know nothing or this best science; many who can speak various languages, yet know nothing of that language which it is most important that even the infant should be taught to lisp almost in its very cradle. Even the professed teachers of religion and morality too often show a lamentable want of perception, either of the extent of the great principles on which it is founded, or the mode in which those principles should be applied to the present condition of society. But ignorance must needs abound much more-ignorance in reference even to this matters we come to the lowest classes of society, because there is that deficiency of general information which co-operates with ignorance as to the particular subject and renders more deep and intense the darkness of the soul. All vice has been traced to ignorance: the foulest guilt is so ascribed by the great Author of the Christian religion in that memorable prayer, by which he supplicated forgiveness for his murderers, because they knew not what they did. It is the universal character of the wicked man; he is, whatever his acquirements in other respects, in a state of ignorance on this point; he knows not what he does; he mistakes either that in which happiness consists, or the mode in which happiness is to be realized. And fearfully must the chances of such mistakes be mul. tiplied as we come to that class of society which is the most deprived of the manifold means of information that surround others from their early years, and that thicken and multiply upon them as they advance towards maturity in society. For many there are, especially in the rural districts of this country, that have not even the mere mechanism of knowledge; they do not even write and read; a proportion, the extent of which was fearfully brought out by the trials which took place a few years back in consequence of the spread of incendiarism. How many there are to whom these qualifications are but of little worth, only serving them for an occasional aid, and that of the most paltry kind, in their daily application and toil, just enabling them to decipher the direction of the parcel which they have to bear to its destination. How many there are who, learning to read and write, have no means of exercising the capacity which
has been imparted, in whom it dwindles and withers because books are not within their reach, nor the various means of information that are possessed by others. And when we consider the wretched quality, and the limited extent of the education which is bestowed on the children of the great mass of the community, we are left in the dreary contemplation of a wide waste of untilled mind, overgrown with weeds, and left in mist and gloom, where the light of knowledge might have arisen, and every fairest production of the soil have blossomed and ripened beneath its beams.
The results of this ignorance are vice. Whatever tends to suffering, whatever limits enjoyment, is vice. It is from a lack of morality that the poor do not make the most of those means which they do possess for obtaining the necessaries, and some of the comforts of life. All projects of an union of labor, of co-operation for production, are pressed upon by difficulties which do not at all obstruct co-operation in expenditure. What might not be done by the combination of twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty honest, however poor, families. What a multiplication might there be, by their judicious co-operation, of all the means of shelter, of warmth, and the supply of food, and of clothing. How much better in every respect-better in cleanliness, better in enjoyment, better in the training of their children, better in their own bodily sensations, and even their moral state, from day to day, might they not be even by the union of the scanty pittances which they do possess, and the power of which would be increased to such an indefinite extent by this mode of co-operation. What prevents it? What but ignorance, which in this view, leads to the loss of happi
ness which might be realized, to the enduring of sufferings which might be prevented, and which, therefore, bears the character of vice and immorality.
So, again, to what but ignorance can be ascribed that blind desire to aid themselves by acts of violence on the property of others which has sometimes been manifested, and which beyond the actual perpetration, or even the approval or palliation of violence, has extended itself in a direction of opinion and feeling that is most deeply to be lamented ? It is the result of ignorance that they think of bettering their condition by a mode that could only make that condition worse, and aggravate ten folda thousand fold—whatever of endurance they are at present exposed to. The notions which so closely connect in their minds the invention and application of machinery with their own distress are amongst the results of a want of knowledge most devoutly to be deprecated. Could the machinery of this country be by one stroke of a giant arm annihilated, what tongue can tell the results, the tremendous results of misery that would instantly be realized ? Earth has never yet seen; no siege of a city, however protracted; no war, however bloody and desolating; no revolution, however wild and ferocious, has ever a shown a parallel for the misery that would instantly descend upon the heads of millions, could any such idea be realized. The means, not only of clothing, but of food and of migration, would instantly fail us; we should be shut up from the rest of the world ; we should be reduced into a state, in which it would not be strange if even cannibalism were to ensue. The hostility to machinery, to be consistent, must be universal. Every class of workmen has the same right; and if the agricul.