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ing up a crude and tottering system, than any arguments whatever,
It is always easier to quote an authority than to carry on a chain of reasoning. Mr. Malthus's reputation may, I fear, prove fatal to the poor of this country. His name hangs suspended over their heads, in terrorem, like some baleful meteor. It is the shield behind which the archers may take their stand, and gall them at their leisure. He has set them up as a defenceless mark, on which both friends and foes may exercise their malice, or their wantonness, as they think proper. He has fairly hunted them down, he has driven them into his toils, he has thrown his net over them, and they remain as a prey to the first invader, either to be sacrificed without mercy at the shrine of cold unfeeling avarice, or to linger out a miserable existence under the hands of ingenious and scientific tormentors. There is a vulgar saying, “Give a dog a bad name, and hang him.” The poor seem to me to be pretty much in this situation at present. The poor, Sir, labour under a natural stigma ; they are natur. ally despised. Their interests are at best but coldly and remotely felt by the other classes of society. Mr. Malthus's book has done all that was wanting to increase this indifference and apathy. But it is neither generous nor just, to come in aid of the narrow prejudices and hard, heartedness of mankind, with metaphysical distinctions and the cobwebs of philosophy. The balance inclines too much on that side already, without the addition of false weights. I confess I do feel some degree of disgust and indignation rising within me, when I see a man of Mr. Malthus's character and calling standing forward as the accuser of those "who have none to help them,” as the high-priest of “pride and coveta ousness,” forming selfishness into a regular code; with its codicils, institutes and glosses annexed, trying to muffle up the hand of charity in the fetters of the law, to suppress“ the compunctious visitings of nature,” to make men ashamed of compassion and good-nature as folly and weakness, “ laying the flattering unction” of religion to the conscience of the riotous and luxurious liver, and “ grinding the faces of the poor" with texts of scripture. Formerly the feelings of compassion, and the dictates of justice were found to operate as correctives on the habitual meanness and selfishness of our nature: at present this order is reversed; and it is discovered that justice and humanity are not obstacles in the way of, but that they are the most effectual strengtheners and supporters of our prevailing passions. Mr. Malthus has “ admirably reconciled the old quarrel between speculation and practice," by shewing (I sup
pose in humble imitation of Mandeville) that our duty and our vices both lean the same way, and that the ends of public virtue and benevolence are best answered by the meanness, pride, extravagance, and insensibility of individuals. This is certainly a very convenient doctrine; and it is not to be wondered at, that it should have become so fashionable as it has. *
While the prejudice infused into the public mind by this gentleman's writings subsists in its full force, I am almost convinced that any serious attempt at bettering the condition of the poor will be ineffectual. The only object at present is to gain time. The less it is meddled with either with good or bad intentions, the better. Tampering with the disease “ will but skin and film the ulcerous part, while foul corruption, mining all within, infects unseen.” I have not confidence enough either in the integrity, the abilities, or the power of our state-doctors to be willing to trust it entirely in their hands. They risk nothing, if they fail. The patient is in too
* The late Sir W. Pulteney, whose character for liberality is well known, was firmly persuaded that the author of the Essay on Population was the greatest man that ever lived, and really wished to have bestowed some personal remuneration on Mr. M. as his political confessor, for having absolved him from all doubts and scruples in the exercise of his favourite virtue.
desperate a state to bring any imputation on their skill ; and after all, it is only trying experiments in corpore vili. The only thing they need be afraid of is in reality doing (too much good. This is the only error which would never be forgiven by those whose resentment they have most reason to dread. This however there will be no danger of. The state of public feeling, the dispositions of individuals, the narrow jealousy of parties, and the interests of the most powerful members of the community will, I suspect, suffer little effectually to be done for bettering the condition, exalting the character, enlightening the understandings, or securing the comforts, the independence, the virtue and happiness of the lower classes of the people. But, I am not equally sure that the means employed for this very purpose may not be made a handle for stifling every principle of liberty and honour in the hearts of a free people. It will be no difficult matter, as things are circumstanced, under pretence of propriety and economy, to smuggle in the worst of tyrannies, a principle of unrelenting, incessant, vexatious, over-ruling influence, extending to each individual, and to all the petty concerns of life,
This is what strikes me on the first view of the subject. I would ask, Is Mr. Whitbread sure of the instruments he is to employ in the execution of his scheme? Is he sure that his managing partners in this new political firm of opulent patronage will not play the game into the hands of those whose views of government and civilization are very different from his own? But it seems, that whether practicable, or no, Mr. Whịtbread must bring in a Poor Bill. The effect of it appears to me to be putting the poor into the wardship of the rich, to be doing away the little remains of independence we have left, and making them once more what they were formerly, the vassals of a wealthy aristocracy. For my own part, who do not pretend to see far into things, and do not expect miracles from human nature, I should wish to trust as little as possible to the liberality and enlightened views of country squires, or to the tender mer, cies of justices of the peace.
The example of Scotland is held out to us as a proof of the beneficial effects of popular edu, cation, and we are promised all the same advantages from the adoption of the same plan. The education of the poor is the grand specific which is to cure all our disorders, and make the leper whole again ; and, like other specifics, it is to operate equally on all constitutions and in all cases. But I may ask, Is the education of the