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cal results highly beneficial both to the agricultural and commercial interests of the community. It appears then that just comparisons concerning the charitable expenditure of different countries must include a review of the different states of society in which they may be; and that when the argument is stated merely by comparing the nominal amount of the sums expended in each, to be just, it must be applied only to two places where the people are in similar circumstances. These comparisons, however, when fairly drawn, are not without their use for many purposes. In an interesting volume entitled “Collections relative to the systematic Relief of the Poor, at different Periods and in different Countries,” published for Crutwell, Bath; and Murray, London; many such comparisons are instituted with great candour and sagacity, both with respect to ancient and modern states. They are well worthy of the notice of philanthropists, and seem to bear out the compiler in several conclusions highly important to his own country. One of them is stated by him in the following words:—“Whatever may be the state of religion, government, morals, and police, the sums annually devoted to the relief of the infirm and poor are not so small as to warrant the vain suggestion which many delight to propagate, that the sacrifice of property to the support of the poor in England, by the operation of the poor's law, is greatly disproportionate to that which common humanity devotes to the object in other countries. That the legal allotment of a portion of the public wealth, to the support of those whose labour has been or may be beneficial to the public, is in any view of national policy more disadvantageous to the community than the leaving
all who are in want to seek at large for the charity of individuals—is a conclusion to which I conceive an observer would never be led by an examination of the state of the poor and the effects of charity in catholic countries.” . In Naples and Milan the sums expended in charity are larger in proportion to the population than in Liverpool and London, yet no one who has seen the four cities will dispute the superiority of the condition of the people in the two latter. Edinburgh, which has no extensive poor's rate, applies nearly as large a sum to the support of its poor in proportion to the population, as Liverpool contributes, including its very high poor's rate. But the situation of the poor in Liverpool and Edinburgh is probably upon a par with respect to comfort. We see then that, where the moral duties of charity are duly performed, there its professed objects will be attained; and this by a pecuniary expenditure not greater than will be extracted by the pressure of misery against the fears or feelings of individuals where the moral duties are neglected. The difference in the two cases will not be so much in the expense as in the effect. In one the people will be happy, decent, moral, and industrious; in the other they will be wretched and brutal, and profligate and slothful. The same author, after a review and comparison of the condition of the poor in England, Scotland, and Holland, where legal relief to the poor is part of the law of the land; and in Ireland and other countries of Europe where no such laws exist, concludes with stating his conviction that “it will certainly be found that the charities of other countries have never, at any period, been so conducted as to relieve the poor of an equal population so adequately as the poor's law, with less encouragement of idleness or with better stimulus to industry.” Of course both the adequacy of the relief, and its effect upon the moral and political condition of the poor, must depend upon the sagacity, attention, and perseverance with which it is administered ; and in these respects Holland perhaps stands first in economical prudence; Scotland first in moral precaution, and second in economical prudence; and England second in moral precaution, but clearly and decidedly the last in economical prudence. The difference perhaps is upon the whole made up in England by the strong bond of union and reciprocal attention which exists between the higher and lower orders, much of which may possibly be traced to the long period during which the poor laws have been in operation amongst them; whereby a conviction has been worked among the higher ranks that, if the condition of the poor be neglected, the ultimate consequences must be an increase in the compulsory expenditure for their support. I trust that I shall stand excused for quoting, as the conclusion of this chapter, a passage formerly written by me upon the good effects which flow from such an intimate connexion of interests between the higher and the lower orders as is produced by our system of poor laws. “It may be admitted as a general axiom in the politics of a free and extensive country, that when once a strong bond of reciprocal interest is established between the higher and lower orders of the community, the statesman's task is
by their native energy and internal resources, will not only preserve the integrity of their own empire, but must by the force of their institutions gradually triumph over their enemies. In Scotland, the feudal system prevented the introduction of a state of degeneracy similar to that of Ireland; and as poor laws have for a very long time subsisted in Scotland, poor's rates have been regularly called into operation in proportion as the feudal system has worn away, and commerce, manufactures,and tillage, have usurped the seats of baronial splendour, and encroached upon the idle hospitality of the lords of the waste. An institution which produces such phenomena in society must necessarily rest on grounds of deep moral and political expediency. It has been asserted by some, particularly by foreign writers, to be the millstone around the neck of England, which must at length engulf her in a sea of ruin; and we are willing to admit that it is, in the spirit of our other institutions, calculated for a state of progressive prosperity; but that it may accelerate our downfall, should the circumstances of the country begin to decline. But to compensate this evil we think it will appear that, under Providence, so long as the several ranks of the people are true to themselves and to each other, such a state of declension is not within the scope of probability: and we have yet to learn that a law or institution is objectionable, because it is inconsistent with a selfish neglect of duty in those for whose government it is intended.”
Brief Recapitulation of the preceding Chapters .. upon Charity.
CHARITY is confessedly a moral duty enjoined in the Holy Scriptures, and is therefore to be practised in conformity to the commands of God when they can be clearly discerned; and where they are silent, it is to be regulated by the best lights which can be acquired from considerations of moral expediency. Within those limits, I think it has appeared from the preceding chapters of this book, that no political mischief can arise from the most unbounded exercise of the virtue. Beyond those limits, donations in money, under the guise of charity, partake not of the nature of virtue but of thoughtless profusion, and tend more to encourage profligacy than to relieve distress. That the due exercise of charity can produce no political evils connected with the principle of population has, I think, appeared from the consideration, that the virtue is never called into action so as materially to affect the numbers of mankind, until the natural rate of their increase becomes so slow by the progress of society, that the impulse given to it by charitable exertions is rather an advantage than otherwise to the state. That the sums bestowed in charity will be sufficient to supply all her legitimate demands, and also to satisfy the demands of the idle and profligate who would willingly subsist upon them without any exertion of industry, is more