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interested in the maintenance of the club. So much so, that in most country villages it is called Mr. A.'s club at the White Hart, or Mr. Bi's club at the Green Man, &c. But the interest of the landlord can of course tend only to one point. It is not, therefore, with so little reason as Sir Frederic Eden seemed to suppose, that it has been asserted “ that the members of friendly societies, from being accustomed to assemble at ale-houses, are not only stimulated by interested landlords, but encouraged by the contagion of ill example in habits of drunkenness :that the money which is spent on a clubnight is entirely lost to a labourer's family ;-and that there are various ways in which the earnings of industry might be applied more advantageously to the morals of the labourer and the comfort of his family;”-it may be added also, with more certain prospects of ultimately attaining the professed end of securing a provision for old age and infirmity. For when to these causes of excessive demand upon the funds, it is added that these funds themselves are not managed with such minute attention to economy, as is necessary to secure the best interest, and the most rapid accumulation of the small sums continually coming in, the frequent bankruptcies of the clubs need excite no surprise. I fear it is too often the case that, by the time any large portion of the original members become aged and infirm, the funds fail, and those members are thrown upon the parish. Although they have paid their quota during the vigour of their age, and are now looking for the promised reward, they are excluded from the new institution which immediately rises from the ruins of the old one, under the patronage of the landlord of the public
house ; but into which, of course, are only admitted members who have the apparent means of earning a livelihood without immediate assistance. This process, be it observed, does not diminish the number of clubs, but only neutralizes the benefits they are calculated to confer. There is the same appearance of prosperity on the face of any official returns made to Parliament or to the constituted authorities. Yet, if consequences be closely investigated, the result seems to be that a set of vigorous consumers is provided in succession to the landlord of the public-house, who do in fact assist one another during the flower of their age in certain agreeable and some useful objects of minor importance, but are so far from providing effectually for their professed undertaking to secure the independence of their members as they advance in years, that they defraud them at that critical period of their just claims, and do absolutely rather subtract from, than add to, the comforts of their families. Sir F. Eden somewhere observes, when discussing the merits of a society which did not require of its members regular meetings at the publichouse :
:-" This is an omission which would discourage associations in a country village, where labourers form friendly societies, not only in order to secure themselves a competent support in old age or sickness, but likewise in order to spend a convivial hour with their neighbours, and to hear what is often (as Goldsmith says) · much older than their ale,' and generally as harmless—the news which has been collected by rustic politicians.”
The conclusion which the same writer draws from the whole of his investigation into the effects of friendly societies is to be found in the following
" These institutions do not aim at perfection, but improvement. They are not intended to be that “ faultless monster which the world ne'er saw;" but it is a sufficient proof of their excellence, that they are congenial to the social habitudes and prejudices of the labourer; and that if they cannot correct the inclination (which is too often caused by hard labour) for conviviality and dissipation, they at least convert a vicious propensity into an useful instrument of economy and industry; and secure to their members (what can seldom be purchased at too dear a rate) subsistence during sickness, and independence in old age.”-(See conclusion of chapter on Friendly Societies, in Sir F. Eden on Poor Laws, vol. i.) - I do not think that Mandeville himself could have laid down more singular principles of ercellence and improvement, especially when the objection evidently is not the want of “ correction," but the absolute encouragement “ of vicious propensities.” But it seems that even this is not “ too dear a rate” at which to purchase a subsistence in sickness, and independence in old age:” and that vice is thereby “ converted into an useful instrument.” Happily, the moral knowledge of the people of England renders it scarcely necessary to visit the profligacy of this sort of reasoning with any serious severity of remark. It may be useful, however, to show its utter absurdity in a practical point of view, by reu: ferring to the inefficacy under which this very useful instrument has always laboured for producing the advantages which were anticipated from its assist
It appears then that, so far from securing to the
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 searcely 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 that must ensue should operate in producing dis
gust 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, til he has spent his last farthing of money in rioting and drunkenness. Let no rational man presuine 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
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.