Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

members “subsistence in sickness, and independence in old age,” it usually fails in permanently producing either of those results; it frequently ends in defrauding the most praise-worthy members and the oldest subscribers in the clubs of the fruits of their perseverance; and the encouragement which they afford to conviviality and dissipation is an useful instrument for few other purposes, except to fill the coffers of the brewer and ale-house keeper, and through them of the excise, at the expense of the morals of the cottager, and the comfort and happiness of his family. Such I fear are too frequently the results of benefit clubs;–and such I am sure will invariably be the consequences, wherever they are conducted upon Sir F. Eden's principle of “converting a vicious propensity into an useful instrument of economy and industry.” Now surely the strongest advocate for the jollity of the lower orders, (he who aspires with most eagerness at that cheap popularity which is acquired by flattering the vice which is the peculiar disgrace of our people in every eye but their own,) will scarcely hesitate to admit that it ought not to be professedly introduced for the furtherance of an object which it can scarcely fail to defeat. It is bringing too great a disgrace even upon their own system, and not giving drunkenness fair play, to palm upon it more than its legitimate evil consequences; to make it the instrument of defrauding as well as demoralizing its subjects. Upon their own principles, therefore, they should keep it clear from all pretensions to produce economical results, lest the obvious disappointment *at must ensue should operate in producing disgust in the people's minds against this very laudable and useful feature of our national character. Be it admitted by all means, notwithstanding the experience of the Scots, that a British soldier, sailor, or husbandman, is never worth a farthing for service, till he has spent his last farthing of money in rioting and drunkenness. Let no rational man presume to entertain any doubt whatsoever that he would become indolent, or a coward, or a milksop, or a puritan, or a methodist, if he could be prevailed upon to carry his savings to a place of secure deposit at a distance from the ale-house, and expend the interest with his family in rational and really social indulgencies. Let no one undertake to dispute the position that it is mere gratuitous theory to suppose that a poor English labourer, or soldier, or sailor, can make any savings from his hard-earned pittance, although in every parish, regiment, or ship, where the opportunity has been afforded, great numbers have eagerly availed themselves of it. Let all these wise axioms be received as oracles; but let the authors of them be consistent, and fairly encourage drunkenness and extravagance, according to the laudable precedent established in some parts of the army on the 25th and 26th of every month; and of the navy whenever some ship's crews receive their wages. Let them not act so unfairly by their own system, as to attempt to establish upon it the opposite virtues of prudence and economy. Human institutions, as Sir F. Eden well observes, do not aim at perfection ; and it is too ambitious for any moral philosophers, whose system has fairly secured all the advantages of drunkenness and dissipation, to grasp at the further rewards of sobriety and morality.

For this last-mentioned purpose, however, we will now proceed to inquire into the merits of the second species of institution mentioned at the outset of this chapter, viz.:-Provident banks for the savings of the poor, allowing interest for small deposits, with liberty of withdrawing either the whole or any part of them, as the future necessities of the person depositing may require. So many intelligent writers have entered into details concerning the nature of these institutions, that I shall be satisfied with referring to those tracts which appear to me to give the most satisfactory accounts of them. The description of the establishment at Ruthwell, near Edinburgh, by Mr. Duncan, the minister of that parish, is interesting and instructive, because it contains a clear account of the first successful attempt in this career of usefulness. The observations on banks for savings, by the Rt. Hon. G. Rose, contain, like all that gentleman's publications upon similar subjects, much sobriety and good sense, and many useful practical directions. He gives at length the rules of a bank, lately established at Southampton, by which deposits not less than a shilling are received, which begin to bear interest at 4 per cent. when they amount to 12s. 6d.; and when the sums lodged by any depositor shall amount to 25l. the same are to be withdrawn, or at his option may be invested in the public funds, for which, as well as for the receipt of the interest, the institution will afford him every facility. Mr. Rose then proceeds as follows. “Under these articles it will be seen that the depositors will be under no obligation to continue their payments into the banka week longer than they shall choose: they may stop when they shall find it inconvenient to go on to make the savings, without incurring any forfeiture; and they may begin them again when they can afford to do so; with perfect freedom to withdraw their money, without inquiry, whenever they shall have occasion for it for any purpose. And to prevent a possible mistake as to the property of any one in the bank for savings, each depositor will have in his own possession a paper, in the nature of a receipt, in which will be entered every sum he shall deposit.” * “But as it may frequently happen to persons in the lower classes of life not to know how to go about purchasing stock or to receive the interest, (whereby those few who now make savings frequently lose them, by entrusting them in improper hands, to the great discouragement of economy in others,) the institution undertakes to do both : so that the depositors can be put to no inconvenience by being obliged to withdraw their money.” “The advantages of these Institutions are too obvious to make ithecessary to say much upon them, I will therefore allude only very generally to them. “Apprentices on first coming out of their time, who now too frequently spend all their earnings, may be induced to lay by 5s. to 10s. a week, and sometimes more, as in many trades they earn from 24s. to 50s. and 60s, a week. “The same observation applies somewhat less forcibly to journeymen in most trades whose earnings are very considerable, from not beginning so early, and to workmen in many branches. With respect to these it has been made evident to me and to many members who attended the mendicity committee in the last session of parliament, that in many instances when the gains have been as large as above stated, the parties have been so improvident as to have nothing in hand for the support of themselves and families when visited with sickness, and have consequently fallen immediately upon the parish. In some instances the tools and implements of their trade have been carried to the pawnbroker, whereby difficulties are thrown in the way of their labour being resumed on the restoration of health. I will not however admit that habits of improvidence and thoughtlessness are always the offsprings of vice, as I am persuaded they are often the consequence of ignorance or accident. “Domestic Servants, whose wages are frequently more than sufficient for their necessary expenses. “Carmen, Porters, Servants in lower conditions, and others, may very generally be able to make small deposits. “It isatrite observation that drunken men are generally the best workmen: no one however will believe that drunkenness can advance skill; the plain fact is, that such workmen earn a great deal more than is necessary for their ordinary maintenance, and not knowing how to dispose of the remainder, they spend it in drunkenness and dissipation of the worst kind. “With respect to day Labourers, the full advantage cannot be expected to be derived at first, as far as relates to married men with families; it too frequently happens that where there are two or three children, it is all that the father can do to support himself and those dependant upon him with his utmost earnings; but the single man, whose wages

« ForrigeFortsett »