« ÎnapoiContinuă »
task, without the least prospect of being delivered
And yet need I suggest, that those
who find the means, and those who arrive at the end, are not at all the same persons. On considering the strange and unaccountable fancies and contrivances of artificial reason, I have [i. e. Lord Bolingbroke] somewhere called this earth the Bedlam of our system. Looking now upon the effects of some of those fancies, may we not with equal reason call it likewise the Newgate and the Bridewell of the universe? Indeed the blindness of one part of mankind co-operating with the frenzy and villany of the other, has been the real builder of this respectable fabric of political society. And as the blindness of mankind has caused their slavery, in return their state of slavery is made a pretence for continuing them in a state of blindness; for the politician will tell you gravely, that their life of servitude disqualifies the greater part of the race of man for a search of truth, and supplies them with no other than mean and insufficient ideas. This is but too true; and this is one of the reasons for which I blame such institutions.
In a misery of this sort, admitting some few lenities, and those too but a few, nine parts in ten of the whole race of mankind drudge through life.
BURKE. Vindication of Natural Society, p. 93.
IN the most refined states of Europe the inequality of property has risen to an alarming height. Vast numbers of their inhabitants are deprived of almost
almost every accommodation that can render life tolerable or secure. Their utmost industry scarcely suffices for their support. The women and children lean with an insupportable weight upon the efforts of the man, so that a large family has in the lower order of life become a proverbial expression for an uncommon degree of poverty and wretchedness. If sickness, or some of those casualties which are perpetually incident to an active and laborious life, be super-added to these burthens, the distress is still greater.
It seems to be agreed that in England there is less wretchedness and distress than in most of the kingdoms of the continent. In England the poor's rates amount to the sum of two millions sterling per annum. It has been calculated, that one person in seven of the inhabitants of this country derives at some period of his life assistance from this fund. If to this we add the persons, who, from pride, a spirit of independence, or the want of a legal settlement, though in equal distress, receive no such assistance, the proportion will be considerably increased.
I lay no stress upon the accuracy of this calculation; the general fact is sufficient to give us an idea of the greatness of the evil.
GODWIN. Political Justice, b. i. ch. v.
It is impossible that a society can long subsist, and suffer many of its members to live in idleness, and enjoy all the ease and pleasure they can in
vent, without having at the same time great multitudes of people that, to make good this defect, will condescend to be quite the reverse, and by use and patience inure their bodies to work for others and themselves besides.
Abundance of hard and dirty labour is to be done, and coarse living is to be complied with: where shall we find a better nursery for these necessities than the children of the poor? None certainly are nearer to it, or fitter for it. Besides; that, the things I call hardships neither seem nor are such to those that have been brought up to them.
As the greatest part of the drudgery is to be done by day light, so it is by this only that the poor actually measure the time of their labour without any thought of the hours they are employed, or the weariness they feel; and the hireling in the country must get up in the morning, not because he has rested enough, but because the sun is going to rise. This last article alone would be an intolerable hardship to grown people under thirty, who during nonage had been used to lie a bed as long as they could sleep: but all these together make up such a condition of life as a man more mildly educated would hardly chuse, though it should deliver him from a gaol or a shrew.
"If such people there must be, as no great nation can be happy without vast numbers of them, would not a wise legislature cultivate the breed of be them
them with all imaginable care, and provide against. their scarcity as he would prevent the scarcity of provision itself? No man would be poor and fatigue himself for a livelihood, if he could help it: the absolute necessity all stand in for victuals and drink, and in cold climates for clothes and lodgings, makes them submit to any thing that can be bore with. If no body did want, no body would work; but the greatest hardships are looked upon as solid pleasures when they keep a man from starving.
To make the people easy under the meanest circumstances, it is requisite, that great numbers of them should be ignorant as well as poor. Knowledge both enlarges and multiplies our desires, and the fewer things a man wishes for, the more easily his necessities may be supplied.
The welfare and felicity therefore of every state and kingdom require that the knowledge of the working poor should be confined within the verge of their occupations, and never extended beyond what relates to their calling.
Reading, writing, and arithmetic, are very necessary to those whose business require such qualifications; but where people's livelihood has no dependence on these arts, they are very per nicious to the poor, who are forced to get their daily bread by their daily labour.
A man who has had some education, may follow husbandry by choice, and be diligent at the dirtiest and most laborious work; but then the concern must be his own; but he won't make a good