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Memoirs of John Urquhart
Appendix I


PRIZE ESSAY ON THE MUTUAL INFLUENCES AND AFFINITIES, WHICH OBTAIN BETWEEN THE MORAL AND THE ECONOMIC CONDITION OF SOCIETY.

With those who wish to prove from natural religion, the existence of a state of retribution, beyond the grave, the unequal distribution of rewards and punishments in the present life, has always been a favourite argument. Such individuals have usually placed before us, in strongest colouring, that success which sometimes crowns the fraudulent schemes of the vicious which they have rendered doubly impressive, by contrasting it with those unforeseen calamities which so often in this world of uncertainty crush the most strenuous exertions of aspiring virtue. In order to reconcile this seeming injustice with the assumed goodness of the Deity they argue that there must be some future state of existence where a recompense shall be rendered to the virtuous for all his sufferings on earth and where that vengeance which has been long delayed, shall at last overtake, and utterly overwhelm the vicious

Now though we perfectly agree with those who thus reason and think that their conclusions are most legitimately deducible from the premises, yet we cannot help the conviction that they have somewhat overstrained their argument and that in their zeal to prove that the present life is but a state of probation they have sometimes represented the moral government of God in our world, as more deranged, and further from equity than actually is the case. Notwithstanding all that has been advanced to the contrary we think we are entitled, from the strongest historical evidence to believe that the proverb, though not universally yet very generally, holds true even when we confine our regards to man’s present existence that virtue is her own reward and that vice involves its own punishment, or, in other words, that there is a very intimate connection between a man’s moral character, and his economic circumstances. Idleness and vice are, with few exceptions, the harbingers of disease and misery while sobriety and industry seldom fail to procure for their possessor, respectability and comfort. So that we shall in general find, that if a virtuous man come to ruin, it is not because of, but in spite of his virtue; and that on the other hand, if a vicious man prosper, it is not because of, but in spite of his immorality. And these remarks are not only consonant to experience and sound philosophy, but they also receive additional confirmation from the announcements of revelation, which ever describes moral evil as the sole cause of all the misery that is to be found in our world; and which holds out to him who is obedient to its precepts, the promise of the life which now is, as well as of that life which is to come.

But if these remarks hold, generally, with regard to individuals, they are still more universally true when applied to nations. An individual may get rich by fraud and injustice; but we know of no vice that can aggrandize a nation. Some unforeseen calamity, on the other hand, may overwhelm the most virtuous individual; but we know not of any obstacle which can impede the rising greatness of a country, whose inhabitants are sober and industrious, and which is governed with justice and liberality. So that we may safely aver, if not of individuals, at least of communities, that there is a very close and intimate connection between their moral, and their economic condition.

To point out a few of the mutual influences and affinities which obtain between the moral and the economic condition of mankind, will, therefore, be the object of the following observations. And we shall consider the subject; First, As it may be illustrated in savage life, and in the subsequent progress of a community from barbarism to refinement. And, secondly, in its relation to civilized society.

The most degraded condition in which we can suppose human beings to be placed, and that in which man most nearly resembles the animals of the inferior creation, is that condition in which there is no mental culture, no moral instruction whatever. As this is the lowest condition in which a community can be placed in point of morals, so is it the lowest in point of economic comfort. The untutored savage comes into the world, and feels himself actuated by certain appetites and passions, which, as he has never been taught to restrain, he makes it his sole employment to gratify. His present wants occupy so much of his attention, that he seldom thinks of making provision for those that are future. His subsistence, therefore, consists entirely in the spontaneous productions of the earth and the sea; in the animals which he can succeed in capturing, and in the scanty fruits which the soil may produce without the labour of human hands. The latter are so insignificant that they can scarcely be taken into account; and accordingly, we find, that fishing, and the chase, constitute, in general, the sole employments of nations sunk in this lowest state of barbarism.

Nothing can be more uncertain, however, than the returns which such occupations yield; and the savage has too little foresight to make the success of one expedition compensate for the failure of another. If he catch a deer, he does not think of laying up part of it against the emergencies of future bad fortune, but proceeds forthwith to gratify the voracious appetite of himself and his family, which has in all likelihood, been whetted by long fasting, or by a long succession of scanty meals. After he has thus profusely wasted his whole stock of provisions, he must again fast, perhaps for days, or support existence by means of the few miserable berries which the woods can afford him, till another deer falls in his way, when the same scene of gluttony takes place, and the same course of misery follows. If another has been more successful than himself, his sense of justice is by far too weak to deter him from satisfying the cravings of a famished appetite at whatever expense. He will not hesitate to fight with his enemy for the sake of the animals he may have caught, or even, in some instances, to murder him for the sake of the horrid repast which his flesh may furnish. A want of the necessaries of life is said to be the cause of those bloody contentions which are ever bursting forth among savage tribes. And the cruel and merciless nature of that warfare may be imagined, where the contest is not, as among civilized nations, for some imaginary honour, or for some disputable territory; but, where the prize of victory consists in the flesh of the vanquished. It is only necessary to take into account the element of population, in order to complete this revolting picture of human wretchedness. If the savage has not foresight enough to provide for his own wants, it is not likely that he will be more careful to provide for the wants of his family. In such a state of society there can be no moral restraint to keep the population within the bounds of an uncertain and scanty subsistence: these bounds, however, it cannot exceed, and we may look for the positive checks which restrain it, in those extirpating wars to which we have already alluded, as well as in the licentious and impure habits of savages, and in those famines and pestilential diseases which are occasioned by their wretched mode of life.

In this state of things we may suppose that some savage, who had often experienced the miseries of extreme want, bethinks himself of laying up part of the provisions which he has caught to-day, to insure against the uncertainty of to-morrow’s expedition. We may suppose that he feels the benefit of this new arrangement, and that, in consequence, he continues it. There may thus originate in the mind of the savage, a sense of property. Savage, though he be, he is yet man; and on man, even in this most degraded of all conditions, may that rule of universal application have some influence, "As ye would that others should do unto you, do ye even so to them." From a feeling of attachment to his own property, and a wish to defend it from the attacks of his neighbour, may he learn to have respect for the property of others; and thus, from a sense of property, may there emerge a sense of justice.

This, however, is an important step in the progress of morality; and we shall find that it is immediately followed by a step as important in the march of economic improvement.

An example has been shown of the good effects of foresight, and property is now in some degree regarded; it therefore becomes a general custom among the savages to hoard up the overplus of a successful hunting or fishing expedition, in order to insure against future emergencies. By and by they perceive, that, if they can but keep the cattle which they take, alive, they thus acquire a kind of property, which not only furnishes a safeguard against future want, but which has also this peculiar advantage, that it is continually increasing. In a little time they find that this live stock, which is kept at home, multiplies so rapidly, as not only to enable them to bear out against the failure of a single expedition in fishing or the chase, but to render them independent of fishing and the chase altogether. Though they can now live without engaging in the toils of their old occupations, and are no longer obliged to roam through the woods in search of subsistence, yet they are by no means idle; their increasing flocks and herds demand every day more and more of their attention. Instead of hunters and fishers, they now become shepherds; and, to a state of most degraded barbarism, there now succeeds the pastoral condition, greatly more improved indeed than the former, yet still very far removed from a state of perfect civilization.

The pastoral condition is one that has been a favourite theme with the poets of every age and nation; and in their writings it has been pictured forth as a state of purest simplicity and most perfect innocence. Green fields, and flowing streams, and cattle browsing upon their banks, furnish indeed very beautiful imagery for poetry, and naturally lead us to imagine how simple, and how innocent their manners must be, who are conversant with objects so pure and so peaceful. But there is a fearful contrast between the face of external nature, and the heart of man. The curse that was pronounced upon the ground, hath still left many a lovely trace of Eden behind it; but that withering blight which hath gone forth over the face of our moral scenery, hath left scarce a vestige in our world, of primaeval sanctity and justice.

Notwithstanding all that has been said or sung about the happiness, and the innocence of the pastoral state, it seems to stand in the scale of morality and civilization just where we have placed it, at a very small distance from the grossest barbarism.

When once a number of savages have turned from the ruder occupations of fishing and the chase, to the tending of cattle, they find that the fodder of the place where they dwell is soon consumed. They are thus obliged to proceed in search of new pasture ground, which again is soon exhausted and left in its turn. In this wandering condition they find it necessary to form little bands or tribes, both for the purpose of self-defence, and also to enable them to extirpate or expel from their territories, the inhabitants of such districts, as may seem most fit to be converted into pasture ground for their cattle. The morality of these pastoral tribes seems much akin to that which is generally to be met with in a band of highwaymen, who must necessarily keep up some semblance of justice among themselves, but whose business it is to plunder everybody that does not belong to their gang. This character but ill accords with that which is assigned to them in the high-wrought descriptions of pastoral poetry; but unfortunately it is their real one. Mr. Malthus, in his work on population, describes the Scythian shepherds, as actuated by a most savage and destructive spirit; and as an exemplification of this, he tells us that "when the Moguls had subdued the northern provinces of China, it was proposed, in calm and deliberate council, to exterminate all the inhabitants of that populous country, that the vacant land might be converted to the pasture of cattle."

The economic state of pastoral nations, seems quite as miserable as their moral condition. There is still but little of prudential restraint to confine the population within the limits of subsistence; and still the checks, as in the case of utter barbarism, are vice, and famine, and pestilence, and war.

It is long before, by that gradual process of improvement which is going on in every society, the morals of such a people are so far improved, as to give security sufficient for carrying on the operations of agriculture: and it is still longer, perhaps, before by their establishment prejudices are so far removed, as to induce them to change the employment of the shepherd for that of the husbandman. But when once this period arrives, improvement advances apace. The land begins to yield a rent to the landlord. The principle of the division of labour begins to operate. New inventions are consequently made, and the productive powers of labour are almost infinitely increased. A knowledge of science and the arts is disseminated, and then follow in their train all the blessings of civilization and refinement.

This process, tardy as it is, seems to be the natural one, by which a society advances from a state of barbarism to a civilized condition, and through the whole of it may we behold how the moral and the economic blend together, and mutually influence and affect each other. And it is a fact, not the least deserving of our notice, in this beautiful process, that though the moral and the economic are mutually subservient the one to the other, yet it is the moral, generally speaking, which takes the lead. Where, by the gradual progress of improvement, a change is effected in the moral condition of a community, it is instantaneously followed up by a corresponding change in its economic condition. And not one step can be taken in the path of economic improvement, till the way has first been prepared by the advancement of a purer morality. This fact, we apprehend, if properly appreciated, would lead to the solution of a problem in economic science, which has long engaged the attention of every genuine philanthropist. It is a melancholy fact, that a very large portion of the human family are still sunk in the depths of utter barbarism, or but a few steps removed from it: and the problem is,—to civilize them. We are aware that nature herself would accomplish the task in the lapse of ages, but the question is, cannot we hasten her operations? It is extremely natural to suppose, and, accordingly, it has been the opinion of most of the philosophers of our day, that the way to solve this important problem, is to begin directly by teaching the barbarians the arts of civilized life. If, however, there be any truth in our remark, that the moral precedes and paves the way for the economic in the natural progress of society, there is a very strong presumption that we must observe the same order, when it is our wish to hasten this natural progress. And if this be the case, we should be prepared to expect, that the plan we have mentioned, however well it promised as a theory, would prove unsuccessful when brought to the test of actual experiment. And it has accordingly proved so. A class of men, who have ever stood among the foremost in the enterprises of philanthropy, have made an attempt, upon this plan, to civilize the Indian tribes of North America: but so far as we have heard, their efforts have proved unsuccessful. Nor need we wonder that such has been the result of their operations. However zealous they may have been in their endeavours, they have been working at the wrong end of the lever. The way one would think, were, first, to elevate the moral feeling of the barbarian; and then, having thus paved the way for economic improvement, to superinduce those instructions which might hasten the progress of civilization and refinement. On this plan, too, the experiment has been tried, not in one country, or among savages of one disposition; but the arena of its operations has been chosen from every latitude in either hemisphere of our globe, — from the frozen regions, encircled by the Northern Sea, to the distant islands of the Southern Ocean: and wherever the experiment has been fairly tried, it has been universally attended by a greater or less degree of success. And yet, strange as it may seem, the originators of this plan have been laughed at as enthusiasts; and they who have devoted their lives to carry it into execution, and who have told of its success, have been reviled as hypocrites and liars. And that, not because the plan has failed in its operations, or because there has not been sufficient evidence of its success, but because of the seeming insignificancy of the means by which this mighty work is achieving. it is because they are not the philosophers of this world who are its executors, but those whom the philosophers of this world too often despise. It is because they are not the manuals of philosophy which have guided its operations, but that book which philosophers have too frequently rejected.

But we shall be very much deceived, if we imagine that all that can he done for a country, is to civilize it; and that, after this has been effected, the comforts of this life are secured to every individual within its borders. Such, indeed, is the vast increase in the productive powers of labour, that the very lowest member of a civilized community, has a greater command over the comforts of life, than the prince of any savage nation. But even in a civilized community do we find much of economic wretchedness. After we have succeeded in solving the problem, "to civilize a society," there still remains to be solved another economic problem of the last importance; and one which has long occupied the attention of philanthropists, both in our own and other civilized nations. It is to elevate the condition of the poor.

In the attempts which have been made, in our own country, to solve this problem, and in what we consider the only effective method of accomplishing this task, do we think that we have several beautiful illustrations of the way in which the moral and the economic mutually influence and affect each other; and to this subject, therefore, we propose chiefly to direct our attention in the remainder of this essay.

After the division of labour has allotted to each individual his peculiar employment, and stock has been accumulated, and land appropriated, the inhabitants of every society are divided into three grand classes.

The first consists of those, who, by the labour of their hands, work up commodities both for their own consumption, and that of the other classes, and are thus the originators of the whole wealth of the society. The second class consists of those, who, in virtue of a capital, which either they or their progenitors have accumulated, are enabled to furnish the labouring class with the implements of their industry, and to support them till the produce of their labour finds a market: and who, in return for these important services, lay claim to a part of the produce of their labour. The third class consists of those who, in virtue of a possessory right, lay claim to the earth, that great implement of industry, and who derive a revenue by lending out this implement to the other classes.

On taking an abstract view of these three classes, we should least of all expect, that that class should be the poorest which furnishes the wealth of the whole society. Experience, however, teaches us that that class of the community who do most, are the worst rewarded; while they who do little, are in comfortable circumstances; and they who do least, are overflowing in wealth.

It has, accordingly, been almost universally the custom to declaim against landlords and capitalists, as if they were the authors of all the misery which exists among the working classes: as if it were their avarice and their injustice which had wrested from the most useful class of the community, that wealth which their own hands so laboriously had earned. But it is not the landlords who are the authors of this misery; it is not the capitalists who are the authors of it: in very deed, it is the labourers themselves who are the authors of it. Were but their manners virtuous, and their habits prudential, they might bid proud defiance to their haughty superiors, and might refuse to treat with them but on honourable terms. They, and not their employers, are the arbitrators of their wages. But it is the vices to which they are wedded, which, like the false mistress of Samson, have betrayed to their enemies the secret of their strength: it is their own improvident habits which have brought them down from that lofty vantage-ground which else they might occupy, and have placed them at the mercy of their employers: it is their own over-grown numbers which have reduced them to the point of starvation, and have thus compelled them, like the inhabitants of a blockaded city, who are hard pressed by the horrors of a famine, to submit to any terms, however humiliating, which their masters may be pleased to hold out.

This miserable condition of the working class, when contrasted with the ease and affluence of the other two, may not appear so anomalous, if we but consider the matter a little more attentively. There are comparatively few who are born heirs to fortunes or landed property, and still fewer who acquire either, by dint of their own exertions; but, on the other hand, many who lose both by carelessness or extravagance. The working class is thus, not only naturally by far the most numerous, but is continually exposed to the overflowings of the other two. It requires an effort to resist the force of the current, which carries downward, and the most strenuous exertions seldom prove successful in the attempt to move upward against it. The demand for labour, however, is necessarily limited; and it is the eager competition which takes place among labourers, for subsistence, which is the cause of the miserable condition of the working classes.

This misery has attracted the notice of our legislators, and an attempt has been made, on their part, to relieve it. But in this attempt they have committed the same error as those philanthropists whom we formerly mentioned as having made an unsuccessful effort towards the civilization of the North American Indians. They have wrought at the wrong end of the lever. They have not adverted to the fact, that it is moral derangement which is the cause of economic misery; and that, therefore, in every improvement, the moral must take the precedency of the economic. Their experiment, accordingly, has hitherto not only failed, but has tended to aggravate the evil which it was meant to cure.

The greatest expedient by which it has been attempted to relieve the misery of the working classes, is that system of legalized charity, which is enforced, by what are usually called, the poor laws of England. We give credit to the benevolent feeling which prompted the enactment of those laws. It was a zeal in the cause of philanthropy which dictated the measure; but, unfortunately, it was a zeal not according to knowledge. Our legislators seem, in this instance, to have acted like that physician, who should administer water to allay the thirst of a patient in a dropsy, and thereby increase the virulence of the disease, for the sake of giving the sufferer a few moments of temporary relief. When the Parliament of England framed the system of English pauperism, they were guilty of two inadvertencies. In the first place, they did not advert to the nature of the evil which it was their object to cure; for, had they but discovered its cause, they would at once have perceived that it was their business to set to work in a very different way; to remove, if possible, the cause of the evil, with the full assurance that the removal of the evil itself would be the necessary consequence; and aware, that while the cause of the evil continued in full operation, all their attempts to remove the evil itself would prove utterly vain. In the second place, they forgot that that same compassion which dictated their well-meant exertions, was not confined to them alone, but glowed as fervently in every English bosom. The first of these things our legislators did not perceive, or they would have conducted the business in a very different manner. The second, they did not advert to, or they would never have proceeded a single step in the business at all.

The present system of English pauperism has been productive of two very great evils, arising from these two inadvertencies of its originators. In the first place, it has prevented the operation of those effectual remedies which nature has provided for the relief of existing misery. And in the second place, it has contributed very much to add to the numbers of the wretched.

The first and greatest of those remedies which nature has provided for the relief of existing misery, is the relative affections. The filial and parental affections are perhaps the strongest and most universal instinct we know of. They have been implanted in us by a wise Creator, for the most important ends, and were we altogether deprived of them, society could not exist. They are not confined to man alone, but are shared with him by all the tribes of animated nature; so that, to deprive him of these affections were to sink him below the level of the inferior creation. Yet this, to a certain extent at least, is the effect of English pauperism. It is the helplessness of tender infancy and childhood, and of decrepit old age, which calls into action, with all their vigour, the family affections. The poor laws, however, have provided both for the helplessness of youth, and the infirmity of age, and have thus contributed to burst asunder the strongest and tenderest ties of our nature. Nor is this an assertion that is unsupported by facts. There are instances in which a parent has actually disclaimed his own children, and has told the overseer of the parish that it is none of his business to provide for them; that the parish must find work for them, or support them, if it cannot.

If the poor laws have extinguished those natural affections which subsist between members of the same family, we cannot expect that they have left uninjured those mutual sympathies which reciprocate between the inhabitants of the same neighbourhood; far less those more distant expressions of kindness which descend upon the wretched from the coffers of the rich.

But were this all the mischief the poor laws had done, there might still be found some to advocate the cause of pauperism. It might he argued for this system of legalized charity, that if it has destroyed the natural remedies for existing misery, it has substituted in their place an artificial remedy, equally effective; that a provision for the distressed is still as sure as before, though it flows through a different channel.

It were but a silly excuse for complicating a clock or a watch with a great deal of intricate mechanism, that the additional work had the wonderful property of rectifying those defects of which itself was the cause, and that the instrument answered its end every whit as well as it did before. But even such a defence, weak as it is, cannot be advanced for English pauperism.

The evils which we have mentioned, are, after all, but the least which pauperism has effected. Not only has it prevented the operation of those remedies which nature has provided for existing misery, but it has actually increased this misery. Its regulations, by insuring against the wretchedness which they generally occasion, have thrown down those barriers which naturally restrain from vice and imprudence. Imprudence qualifies an individual for receiving parish support; and vice, at least, does not disqualify us. For the first of these positions there is sufficient evidence in the fact, that single persons, when the overseer has refused to enrol them on the list of paupers, have flatly told him, that if he do not give them the usual parish allowance, they will go away and marry, and thus compel the parish to support, not only themselves, but also their families. Of the latter position, that vice is no disqualification, we have a most palpable illustration, in the case of an individual, who on the overseers refusing to give him any support at all, on the ground of his possessing some property of his own, most impudently threatened to go to the next ale-house, and there spend his all in dissipation, in order that he might more effectually burden the parish by compelling it to give him a full allowance.

But the greatest mischief of all, perhaps, of which pauperism has been the cause, is, that it not only adds to the numbers of the miserable, by destroying the prudential habits of a great part of the community, but that it deteriorates the economic condition even of those whose confirmed habits of sobriety and industry have withstood its baneful influence. The composition of wages with parish allowance, is perhaps the most mischievous part of all this mischievous system. If our legislators did mean to give the poor a title to legal support, it were better far, that in every instance, they had made the parish allowance sufficient to maintain the pauper entirely, and that they had never had recourse to the ruinous experiment of compounding this allowance with the ordinary reward of labour.

In this case all the evils we have already mentioned, would no doubt have followed, but there is one very great evil, which would have been in a great measure prevented, the reduction of the wages of the independent part of the working classes.

In the present state of things, let a man be ever so industrious, and ever so sober, and ever so prudent, it is absolutely impossible for him to better his condition, so long as pauperism sends forth her myriads of labourers to compete with him at any price, however low, which the employer may choose to offer. It is true, that the working classes have the power of regulating their own wages; but it is not one individual, or a number of individuals, who can effect this. It requires a combination of, at least, a very considerable portion of the labouring community; and to this most desirable of all ends, pauperism presents a most insuperable obstacle.

But we have, perhaps, entered too much into detail, in enumerating the evils of a system, with regard to whose mischievous tendency, every body seems now to be perfectly agreed. It requires not now a well argued representation, to convince people of the evils of pauperism. It has long been felt, experimentally, to be the scourge of our nation. The question is not now, — Should the poor laws be abolished? but,—Can they be abolished with safety? And, if so, How is this most desirable end to be accomplished? It must be palpable to every one, that the poor laws of England are now so enwoven into the very constitution of society, and so amalgamated with the manners of a very considerable portion of the people, that a sudden repeal of them would be an experiment attended with the most dangerous consequences. There is every reason to fear, that, were the Parliament of Great Britain, by a single act of their authority, at once to disinherit every pauper of his wonted allowance, the result might be nothing less than a rebellion; and that the precipitancy of such a measure could scarce fail to land us in all the horrors of internal commotion. In attempting the cure of a disease so virulent, and which has its seat so deep in the constitution of the society, the greatest care must be taken, lest, in the attempt to extract the part that is diseased, we pierce the very vitals, or let flow the life-blood of the body politic. If pauperism is ever to be abolished, it must be by a gradual process. The abolition of the poor laws must be the work, not of a day, but of months and of years.

It must, in fact, be a work of prevention, rather than of cure. It were cruelty, — it were madness, to snatch their wretched pittance from the present dependants on the vestry. The present race of paupers must be permitted to die away, in the quiet possession of their rights: and it must be made the main concern, not to cure the evil which exists, but to prevent the evil which threatens.

The whole system of pauperism may, we think, be illustrated by the case of a machine, which has gone into disorder, and whose errors are attempted to be rectified by one who is unacquainted with its internal mechanism. We shall suppose that the machine is a watch, and that, from some cause or other, it does not keep time. The most palpable method of rectifying this error, which would occur to one that was ignorant of its cause, would be, to move backward or forward, as the case might require, the hands on the dial-plate. But it would soon be evident, that this was but a temporary remedy, and that the index of the watch, in a short time deviated as far as ever from pointing out the real hour. Temporary, however, and withal troublesome as this remedy undoubtedly would be, it might come, by frequent repetition, to have at least the semblance of efficiency. And yet might it happen, that this continued application of external force to the hands of the dial-plate, was, all the time, doing violence to the internal mechanism of the watch; and thus, instead of diminishing, was continually increasing the real cause of the evil. Let us now suppose, that the watch is put into the hands of one who is intimately acquainted with the construction and arrangement of all its parts; and let us try to perceive, wherein the method which he takes to rectify its movements, differs from that which the first individual pursued. The existing error, he will treat just as it had been treated before: he will apply an external force to the hands of the watch. But he will not be satisfied with this. He will search amid the intricacies of the internal mechanism, for that which has been the cause of the error; and it may be by a slight touch of the regulator, he will effectually prevent the recurrence of the error in time to come.

Now it has thus happened with the vast engine of the community: its mechanism has been deranged, — and without searching for the cause of this derangement, it has been attempted to rectify it by the application of an extraneous remedy. This remedy was found to effect only a temporary cure, and accordingly it was frequently repeated. It is now found, however, that this continuous application of external force, has tended to derange more and more the internal mechanism of this mighty engine. So fearfully has the evil increased, that every one now perceives that some new method must be adopted. But there is a dread, lest, if we all at once give up this external rectification, which confessedly, however, is every day augmenting the cause of the evil, this mighty machine may go into utter disarrangement. There is then a dilemma, and either alternative seems attended with the most dangerous results. The only way, which seems at once safe and effectual, is to proceed, as in the case of our illustration; to treat the existing evil as it has been treated all along, but to prevent the future evil, by an alteration in the inner mechanism of the machine. And it is interesting to observe, that the analogy holds still further. As in the case of the watch, a very slight alteration of the regulator may be sufficient to counteract a very great deviation from the truth in the hands of the dial-plate; so, in the case of a community, the cause of the economic misery which exists among the working classes, is, after all, but slight, and consequently can be easily removed.

From these observations, it appears, that there are two grand points which must be kept in view, in any attempt to abolish the system of English pauperism. First, that the abolition of the system should be so complete, that no future amendment might be required; and yet, that in the second place, it should be so gradual as to cause no sudden disrupture. We may just briefly remark, without entering into details, that both these points may be attained by a mode of policy similar to that which has been employed with regard to the enclosure of English commons. It is interesting to observe, how, on the abolition of pauperism, the relief which nature has provided for misery, begins again to operate; and those numerous fountains of benevolence, which had been frozen up, under its cold and cheerless influence, again begin to flow. And still more interesting is it to observe, how soon our population will shake off that lethargic indifference about the future, which the provisions of legalized charity so long, have fostered; and, how soon prudential restraint will again reduce the numbers of a community, whose overgrown size has been the great cause of their misery.

But we are not so sanguine in our expectations, as to suppose that the abolition of pauperism would procure for the working classes, all the ease, and all the comfort, we could desire to see them possessed of. We assuredly do suppose, however, that by its abolition, a mighty obstacle would be removed which at present destroys the effectiveness of those means which are employing to accomplish this most desirable end. It is well, perhaps, that the evils of pauperism are continually increasing; for this is a circumstance which ensures it speedy abolition. The system cannot work much longer. Things must soon come to a crisis. And what our legislators are now unwilling to do, at the instigation of reason, they will soon be compelled to perform by the power of an irresistible necessity.

Besides the system of pauperism, there are yet two other obstacles which have hitherto stood in the way of those philanthropic exertions which are now making in every quarter, for elevating the condition of the working classes. The first is, the law against combinations of workmen, for the purpose of raising their wages. The second is, the want of a small capital among the operatives, to enable them to stand out till their masters may accede to their terms. Happily the first of these obstacles is now removed; and an attempt has been made to remove the second, which bids fair to prove successful. For the repeal of the combination laws, the labouring classes are indebted to the enlightened policy of the present age, which has at length taught our legislators, the absurdity of compelling an individual, in a country which boasts of its liberties, to sell his labour at a price which can barely supply him with the necessaries of life, and all for the purpose of keeping up the wealth and the dignity of his more affluent fellow-countrymen. For an attempt to remove the second obstacle to which we have alluded, our operatives are indebted to a zealous and philanthropic minister of the Church of Scotland.

This gentleman has succeeded in establishing, in his own parish, and in several other parts of the country, those admirable institutions, which are now beginning to be generally known, by the name of Saving Banks; institutions where the humble shilling of the labourer is received, with as much thankfulness, and tendered back to him when demanded, with as much promptness and affability, as is the most valuable deposit of his wealthy employer. It is a very remarkable coincidence, and one which augurs well for the future prospects of the labouring classes, that these two circumstances should have occurred, as if to give them every opportunity of profiting by their elevated standard of enjoyment, just at the time when, by means altogether different, it was in contemplation to elevate that standard. These means are now beginning their operation; and there is reason to expect, that the opportunities of moral and scientific instruction will soon he patent to every individual in the society. Among these means, we might enumerate our schools of arts, and our reading societies for the instruction of the old; and our parish and Sabbath-schools for the education of the young.

These are institutions which have already been productive of the most salutary results, and of whose beneficent influence we may yet hope to behold more visible manifestations written upon the face of our country. By their instrumentality may we hope, even within the short period of our life-time, to see the balance of society more equally poised, —to behold our landlords retrenching a few of their more extravagant superfluities, in order to supply more liberally, with the comforts and conveniences of life, by far the most deserving class of the community.

On the whole there seems something like the dawning of a brighter era in the history of our world. Whether we listen to those cheering reports, which are daily arriving from the friends of religion and philanthropy abroad, or direct our regards to the animating prospects of our home population; we cannot help thinking, that we already descry the visible approach of a period which has long been expected by the Christian, as well as dreamt of, and longed for by the infidel philosopher; a period, which, by the plenty and the happiness that shall be showered down upon every family, and by the fidelity, and the justice, and the benevolence, that shall animate every bosom, will outvie the high-wrought descriptions of a golden age, which poetic fancy has imagined.

We, at least, who believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible, can look forward with joyful anticipation, to that time, when, in the language of the prophecy which has foretold its coming, "the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the channel of the deep." And then, under the influence of that pure and elevated morality, which Christianity shall universally diffuse, might we confidently predict, that the economic condition of society shall assume a brighter aspect than ever yet it hath worn, since that day when man was driven from the blissful bowers of his first inheritance, and was condemned to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. Then shall those private animosities and heart-burnings, which now embitter the joys of social intercourse, be for ever extinguished: and then, too, shall the tribes of the human family forget those quarrels, which so long have been the scourge of this fair world; "nation shall not rise up against nation, neither shall they learn the art of war any more."

"ST. ANDREW’S, April, 1825.

"A truly admirable essay, replete with sound judgment, and felicitous illustration; and announcing itself, at the first glance, as worthy of the highest prize.

"THOMAS CHALMERS."


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