Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

it as soon as they have acquired strength to return to their former indulgencies in the city, or to lead a wandering life in travelling over the country. Instead, therefore, of being a House of Industry, the institution has become at once a general infirmary, an asylum for the insane, and a refuge for the deserted and destitute children of the city.' Here, then, is the chief cause of the worst form of poverty among us ; of the poverty which calls for the largest expenditures, and which occasions the greatest public insecurity, and private misery. And here is suggested, or directly expressed, one of the practicable measures as well for its future prevention, as its immediate remedy. Let the principle be adopted, of long confinement in these institutions, and let it be faithfully carried through, and the necessity will be superseded of a large part of our annual provisions for alms. We have yet no model Work-house in our Commonwealth ; no one which admits of the classification which should be made in such an establishment; no one, which, in its construction, is favorable to moral influences ; no one suited as it should be for the most profitable employment of its inmates. Measures, however, are in train for obtaining plans of workhouses, which will comprehend all these objects. After all that can be done, these institutions cannot perhaps be made to support themselves. But if they shall greatly lessen the number, and improve the condition of the poor, as well as diminish the expenditures which may be required for the support of their inmates, will not society be compensated for the cost of them ?

The third class I have named consists of the virtuous poor, who, by reason of disease, or permanent debility, or old age, are to be permanently supported. For these,

if too numerous to he supported by private charity, the most comfortable and humane, as well as the least expensive provision, is a well ordered Alms-house By an Alms-house, I here mean all which the term imports. It should be literally a house of charity, to which, however, none but the fair claimants of alms as a charity should be sent. I would admit to it none who have been brought to poverty by their own profligacy, intemperance, or recklessness of any kind. A distinction should be made, - it is demanded by the virtuous poor, and should be demanded by the sympathies of society with them, - between themselves, and those whose poverty is immediately ascribable to the grossest sins. I would, however, make an Alms-house, as far as it may be, a house of employment, for I would give to this class of the poor all possible facilities for selfsupport. Employment will even add much to the happiness of its inmates. But it should not be forgotten, that they have a right to support from alms, when they have been brought to poverty by causes beyond their control. I have been in some Alms-houses in our country towns, in which the inmates were even generally of the class of which I am now speaking ; and more comfortable establishments are hardly to be desired for them. Nor is the fact, of which abundant: evidence is furnished by the Report of the Commissioners, unworthy of notice, that where Alms-houses have been established upon farms for the employment of the poor,

of towns for there has been lessened one half, or two thirds, even where there was so small an ability to labor in their inmates, that it would have seemed a circumstance to be cast out of the account in looking to the probable results of these institutions as an experiment.

the expense

The fourth class, that is, the class of those who are temporarily and occasionally poor, who are doing what they can for self-support, but who need, and especially in the winter, and during a time of sickness, occasional and temporary aid, I would leave for the exercises of private charity. There are some also of the immediately preceding class, whose characters and conditions will call forth that sympathy and interest, which will secure for them an adequate, an entirely comfortable support, in the homes which private charity will provide for them. So great, indeed, is the proportion of the idle, intemperate, and reckless dependents upon alms, that, if efficient measures should be taken for the care of these, I know not the claim of charity which our community would not most promptly and willingly answer. Many at least are our towns, in which there would not then be left a greater number requiring charitable alms,' than would be required to keep our sympathies with the poor in a happy and healthful exercise.

I have made a class also of the orphan, the deserted, the neglected, and otherwise morally exposed children of the poor. These, in large towns, form even a very large class of the fairest claimants of public sympathy and charity. Nothing can be more injudicious than it is to send children of this class to establishments, in which they are brought into a close connexion with adults, who have been brought to poverty by gross vices. Many of these children are innocent, and in our disposal of them, should be recognised as innocent. Many of them, however, require a very efficient moral discipline, which is hardly to be looked for but in an 'institution expressly established for their object. Such an institution is our House of Reformation. Such an

[ocr errors]

institution will be our Farm School. A due regard to the condition and claims of this class of children would be one of the most effectual of all means of preventing both poverty and crime.

I will only add, that I look for no great general good, in any of the departments of society, except from moral causes ; and I look for the operation of moral causes only to an enlightened, and a free public sentiment. Much may be done for the poor, by a ministry which shall be exclusively devoted to their improvement and happiness. But this ministry will not be effectual to the good which might be accomplished by it, till it shall have the full aid and support of public sentiment. In proportion as the classes of society shall be aroused to a distinct perception, and a just estimate of moral interests, as incomparably the greatest of all interests, the means will be multiplied, in all classes, of the amelioration of human suffering, and of the greatest advancement of human happiness. It is not surprising that so many of the causes of pauperism, and of crime and wretchedness, have continued, and still continue to act almost unchecked, when it is considered how very little thought is given to these causes ; how entirely attention, in most men, is absorbed by personal and selfish interests; how vague, even in many who would rise above these interests, is the sentiment of their relation either to God, or to their fellow beings; and, consequently, how feeble is the sentiment, that the life-spring of the purest happiness in every individual soul is that spirit of sympathy, and fraternity, which finds its own best good in the communication of good and happiness to them. I should even welcome any embarrassments, any immediate pressure, even of suffering, which would call forth a prevailing christian sentiment in man towards his fellow man; a deep conviction and feeling of the truth, that the proper object of the highest concern of every

individual, is his own moral good, and that of his fellow beings. By nothing short of this, I repeat, are the objects of christianity in our world attainable, as far as their attainment is connected with human agency. I should rejoice, therefore, in the repeal of all legal enactments for the support of the poor, if from no other cause, for the very reason that it would do something, and would, probably do much, to bring the question before the public at once as an individual, and a general concern, what is duty, and what is interest, iu respect to the several classes of the poor? The sooner this question is so to be met, the better it will be both for society, and for the poor. Both duty and interest have, I think, been alike mistaken upon this great question ; and the opposition and conflicts, which have been supposed to exist between these principles, were but the oppositions and conflicts of interests directly opposed to christian duty. Let christian precepts be made our rule, and christian purposes our end, and there will be no clashing between them. Then will the rich be honored by the poor; and in turn, they will "honor the poor.' This sentiment of respect,' – I quote the words of one whom it is my happiness to call my friend, -'is essential to an improving connexion between the more and less prospered conditions of society. This alone makes beneficence truly Godlike. Without it, alms-giving degrades the receiver. We must learn how slight and shadowy are the distinctions between us and the poor; and that the last in outward distinctions may be the first in the best attributes of humanity. A fraternal union, founded

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »