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THE AMERICAN UNITARIAN ASSOCIATION. GENTLEMEN,
The experience of a year has convinced me that I was not mistaken in the belief, that I could find an ample field for missionary labor among those in the city, who are unconnected with any of our religious societies. I visit, indeed, in a few other families; but it is for specific purposes, which are immediately connected with the great object of meliorating the condition of the poor, and of diminishing the sum of pauperism, crime and misery.
During the year, I have visited nearly one hundred and seventy families ; and my missionary visits, if I have counted them correctly, amount to about nineteen hundred and thirty. The service of the Lecture Room has been continued, and well attended; and an audience apparently more serious and attentive is not, I believe, to be found in the city. I have reason to believe that great good has resulted from this service. I have also occasionally visited the House of Correction, and the school for Juvenile Delinquents at South Boston, with a view +
the objects of my mission. I have brought a number of children into our schools, who otherwise would not have been there ; and, through the kindness of a few friends, I have been enabled to extend great relief and comfort to the sick and greatly suffering poor. Nor is it to my mind the least gratifying circumstance in a review of the year which closes today, that I have been instrumental in recovering some from intemperance, who would otherwise, probably, have fallen its victims. In reference to this part of my labors, my only regret is, that the evidence which I have furnished of what might be done by the united efforts of those more skilful than myself in the use of medicine, has led to no better results. I am perfectly satisfied that there are very many, who are every month dying the slaves of intemperance, whom physicians could bring into a condition, which would make them the subjects of a moral influence, which it is in vain to employ, while they are under the full dominion of the appetite which is destroying them.-I could easily give you a report, filled with affecting narratives of the vices of some, and of the suffering of others whom I visit ; and I could tell you also, I think, of one and another, whose piety, virtue and happiness, I have been instrumental in advancing. But I am solicitous, rather, to lay before you some statements of the actual condition of the poor around us, by which a judgment may be formed of their rightful claims, and of the duty devolving on those, whom God has made his stewards, and whose only happiness in the distinction with which they are now blessed it will at last be, to have been faithful.
It seems not to be so extensively, and so distinctly un
derstood as it should be, that there is a wide difference between the condition, and therefore between the claims, of the poor of cities, and of the poor of the country. Let me say a few words upon this topic.
In the first place, he may be accounted a poor man in the country, who owns but half a dozen acres around his poor dwelling. And yet he may have a fee of these acres, which is to descend to his children. But he will be accounted poor, because he cannot provide for his family, as all around him would be glad to see them provided for. He therefore occasionally receives assistance from others. But the fee of a single acre of land will give to him who has it the feeling of a hold upon society, and of a standing in society, of which the man knows nothing who cannot call a foot of all the earth his own. His children, too, partake of this feeling. And, not being clustered, as the children of the poor are in cities, with other poor families, they have not the facilities which cities offer, for communication with those by whom they might be corrupted. These are circumstances which give great advantages to the poor of the country over the poor of cities.
But take the case,-and it is admitted that such cases there are,-of a poor family in the country, whose hovel, or half decayed house, is held by a small rent; a rent, however, amounting not to more than a quarter of the sum which is demanded for the open, cold, damp and cheerless rooms of many of the poor in our city. This poor family, through our long winters, suffers not from a want of fuel. It has, too, a well filled powdering tub.*
* The common term in the country for a tub in which salted provisions are kept.
By charity, or otherwise, it possesses also a cow. And if it have not money with which to purchase potatoes and grain, these are readily given in exchange for labor. This family is also an integral part of the parish, equally as the family of the richest, and equally obtains the personal attention and care of the parish minister. Its place in the parish church, if vacant, would be an object of notice ; and its condition and wants are scarcely better known within its own circle, than they are among all those with whom the family joins in worship on the sabbath. Its children are in the same school with the children of their comparatively opulent neighbors ; and the parents and children of each of these classes are often laboring together in the same field. Thus are families brought into a connexion with each other, which would immediately cease if they should come into the city ; and thus is a sympathy awakened and maintained, which is the principle of a most important moral union, and exerts a great influence upon the character and condition of the poor in the country. I hardly need to say that, very different is the condition of the poor in cities.
I will briefly notice some of the circumstances of the poor in our city, which call for the attention of those, who are desirous as widely as possible to extend the influences of our religion among us.
There is a class of journeyman mechanics, who, perhaps, can generally get work enough in the summer for a comfortable
support of their families; but who can obtain little employment in the winter. Without some assistance, therefore, they cannot keep their children constantly at school. Much less can they afford to rent pews