Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

are the same as those of his married fellow labourers, may certainly spare a small weekly sum; by doing which he would in a reasonable time have saved enough to enable him to marry with a hope of never allowing any one belonging to him to become a burthen to the parish. “Nothing is so likely as the encouragement of a plan of this sort, to prevent early and improvident marriages, which are the cause, more than any others, of the heavy burthen of the poor's rate. When a young single man shall acquire the habit of saving he will be likely to go on, till he shall get together as much as will enable him to make some provision for furnishing a few necessaries to assist in the support of a family, before he thinks of marrying. “This is an attainment that every man who has the good of his country at heart must certainly wish for, without going the length of Mr. Malthus (whose patriotism will not be doubted) in desiring to prevent marriages taking place till the parties can state a probability of their being able to maintain the family which they are likely to have. “If the full effect of this shall not be experienced. instantly with respect to the class I am now speaking of, it can hardly fail of being produced as the rising generation of labourers shall get up; when a large proportion of the whole class will probably become depositors. “At Edinburgh it is in proof that there is frequently an emulation among persons working in the same shop or manufactory, who shall save most during the week to deposit on the following Monday. “I may here ask if the mind of man ean invent anything more likely than this to revive and to bring

into action the old spirit of abhorrence to receiving parish relief. “The success at Edinburgh and at Bath has been very considerable; more so at the former than the latter, from the establishment having been earlier there, as well as from the greater extent of the city, and the greater variety of occupations of the lower class of its inhabitants. “It is on that experience I rely more confidently than I should have done on the theory of the plan, excellent and unexceptionable as it is; it is going on in Scotland, according to the latest accounts, with increasing prosperity.” - Such is the result of Mr. Rose's judgment, and I feel the greater pleasure in cordially assenting to it, having the misfortune widely to differ from some subsequent observations upon friendly societies, which are to be found in the same pamphlet. By far the clearest and most useful statement however, which I have seen on this subject, is comprised in the third edition of a small anonymous tract, printed at Edinburgh and sold in London by Messrs Longman and Co. entitled, “A SHORT ACCOUNT OF THE EDINBURGH SAVINGs' BANK, containing Directions for establishing similar Banks, with the Mode of keeping the Accounts, and conducting the Details of Business.”* The author begins by observing, that “the only effectual method of assisting the poor is to encourage industry, sobriety, and economy among them, to excite and animate their own exertions, and aid them in securing

* Since this was written, a very clear and able pamphlet upon the subject has been published by Mr. Barber Beaumont, which is to be bought of Messrs. Cadell and Davies, in the Strand.

the full advantages of their success.” After indulging, as is usual and natural with writers on the other side of the Tweed, in some remarks of considerable severity against the English Poor Laws, he proceeds as follows: “That much of the evil may be traced to the want of economical and provident habits among the poor themselves is unquestionable. The earnings of health and the wages of labour are made to meet only the daily expenditure, and the poor man is not careful to lay up any small sum which might be easily saved after the supply of his daily wants. The economy of nature points out the salutary maxim— that the season of plenty should provide for the season of want, and the gains of summer be laid up for the rigours of winter; for the abundant harvest of one year is intended to supply the deficient crop of another, and to be husbanded for the approaching season of scarcity. But this lesson of experience, though inculcated often with the most painful efficacy, is seldom duly appreciated till the calamity comes, and the season of preparation is past; so that the accidental occurrence of a rigorous season, or defective crop, with its constant attendant an increase in the price of the necessaries of life, is met without preparation, and must be endured without the mitigation which a little prudence might have effected. Even for the approaches of infirmity and old age, though long contemplated, provision is not always made; and against the cheerless helplessness of the union of these with poverty there is no remedy but in the casual relief of the public or the parish. “These habits of thoughtlessness and improvidence are not always the offspring of idleness or vice; they are as often the effects of ignorance or of accident, The want of a place of deposit for the small the whole family, whereas the assistance offered by the Friendly Society extends only to the individual member, whose wife or children reap little collateral assistance. The formal demand is also a very useful condition; it implies deliberation before the savings are withdrawn; and few men will deliberately perform an imprudent or extravagant act. The money therefore will probably not be withdrawn without absolute and pressing necessity, and by no means upon so slight a temptation as would induce its disappearance from a deposit in the cottager's tabledrawer. The spirit of accumulation is also a growing principle, and the poor man who has saved five pounds will much more probably exercise industry, sobriety, and self-denial to add to it other five pounds, than he who has yet received no practical proof of his power of saving, or of the advantages attending it.

The moral consequences are equally important: but it is perhaps enough to say of them in general, that every association connected with the savings in the bank is directed towards the social enjoyments of the domestic circle, which I will venture to assert are at least a necessary condition of all the poor man's virtue and respectability. Whereas the associations connected with the Friendly Society all tend towards the ale-house. I will therefore take the liberty of applying the language used by the advocates of the latter, with some trifling alterations to the former. 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 with the social virtues and domestic enjoyments of the labourer; and although they do

not prevent the inclination (often caused by hard, labour) for occasional indulgencies in his family circle, they at least convert an innocent if not a virtuous propensity into an useful instrument of economy and industry, and secure to their members, (what can seldom be purchased at too dear a rate,) relief to their families under the pressure of difficulty, subsistence during sickness, and independence in old age. The more I reflect upon the causes which tend both to demoralize and to deteriorate the temporal condition of the lower ranks in England, the more I am disposed to think, that the general prevalence of savings' banks, together with a diminution of the malt-tax, and the shutting up of two thirds of the ale-houses and liquor-shops, would operate, under the influence of moral and religious instruction, and of our other public institutions, in securing to the country a permanent supply of honest, healthy, and contented peasantry. In conclusion, I must notice one objection which I have heard against the banks for savings. It has been insinuated, that so strict an exercise of economy must necessarily introduce a stingy, sordid, and calculating spirit among the lower orders. That their thoughts will all be so completely absorbedin the means of saving, that they will be apt to forget the more -generous and public spirited art of spending. Now this apprehension is akin to those which some persons profess to entertain lest a tradesman should be too scrupulously homest, a clergyman too pious, a woman too modest, or a magistrate too firm; lest society, in short, should be cursed with too much of a good thing. And truly honesty, piety, modesty, and a strict execution of the laws, are not less adverse than

« ForrigeFortsett »