Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

To mental derangement,

4.3

In St. Pancras workhouse about the same number of cases were investigated but they included a smaller number of permanent paupers than the Stepney house whose figures were first quoted. The current cases exhibit the largest amount of drunkenness. The "ins and outs," or those who go to the workhouse for a while and then leave, are specially notable for drunken habits. Forty-three per cent of the "ins and outs" were obliged to seek refuge in the workhouse on account of drink.

The details of Mr. Booth's conclusions are to be found in his smaller volume on Pauperism.* His main conclusion is that old age is the most frequent principal cause of pauperism, and he suggests as a remedy for this cause a national scheme of endowment of old age. Old age, then, stands first, sickness next and then comes drink.

Supremely valuable as Mr. Booth's work is, it stops short of a full revelation of the reason why we have this mass of poverty. It discloses the immediate causes of poverty, it does not disclose the remoter causes of it. For the empirical investigation of these we must turn to the more comprehensive method of Frederic Le Play, the close study of the family, each family the subject of a separate monograph narrating its record as a family, its ethnical position, its migrations, its industrial status, its sources of income and methods of expenditure.

Study of poverty in the economic sense is thus a branch of the study of economic life—a branch involving special methods of research and investigation, special methods of record and generalization.

Not that this can be done easily, on the contrary, even as regards pauperism, a detailed investigation into the record of Pauperism: A Picture."

* C. Booth.

any considerable number of pauper families might be almost impossible. Yet such an investigation would probably. show us that poverty, especially in England is not wholly a creation of to-day, but is largely a legacy from the past. One cannot read the economic history of the country without feeling convinced that the underpaid and stunted weavers and mechanics of the beginning of the century and the half-starved agricultural laborers, who systematically received part of their wages out of the poor rates, have taken a frightful revenge-have bequeathed not wealth, which moth and rust might corrupt, but poverty, which flourishes in corruption. Neglect in the past of obvious. physiological laws is responsible for much of the poverty of to-day.

In a very real sense the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, even unto the third and fourth generation. Whole nations may suffer for some class sins of a bygone age. Much of the low level of modern life is due, we can hardly doubt, to causes reaching far back in the history of each race-some of them not indeed so very far back, but still behind the immediate range of vision. Thus much of the low level of modern life is due to the existence of a definite nucleus of hereditary pauperism. This hereditary pauperism is due again in a large measure, no doubt, to the modes of dispensing public and private charity, which have endured, more or less, from the middle ages until now. And the unfortunate and disagreeable fact emerges in most inquiries on the subject that not a few of the charitable agencies and not a few charitable individuals are steadily adding to the ranks of professional pauperism by an ill-considered system of doles. It is hard to resist the moving of the bowels of compassion and to refuse to give a coin to a beggar, but after all the giving of the coin is an easy salve to the conscience. It is much easier, for example, than taking pains to discover the exact reason for the poverty of the beggar and setting about to devise means at once to save the man

[ocr errors]

and prevent so far as may be future cases of the same order. I need not weary you with criticisms of the results of indiscriminate alms giving. These have been urged over and over again by every charity organizer, from Defoe in his essay "On Giving Alms no Charity," down to our own day.

Much of the misery is due also, no doubt, to the economic . changes that in many countries have transformed agricultural into industrial and industrial into commercial communities. What is popularly known as "modern progress" consists in changes of this sort. Some of these changes, probably most of them, are due to imperious forces which will not be gainsaid, are due to physical changes, climatic and other, are due to pressure of population, or external or internal influences too varied to enumerate. While the main facts of these changes are probably inevitable, because they are due to forces which it were useless to fight against, much may be done to mitigate the severity of a change to those who are victimized by it. Failure to do this by some means or other, by voluntary private action or by compulsory State or municipal action, inevitably results in accession to the ranks of those who have gone down in the struggle with the new forces. Such victims of what is called progress, where they do not die, live to produce an enfeebled and deteriorated generation. Successive changes of this kind have resulted in the casting off, as by centrifugal force, from the round of industry, of great numbers of men and women. Thus, apart altogether from personal misconduct, which counts for much, but which is often traceable to inherited tendencies, there is in modern industrial life an excessive development of this form of struggle, one of the forms of the "struggle for existence," which goes on on all the rungs and from top to bottom of the biological ladder. It is a struggle of processes as well as of men, in which the processes often victimize the men who devise them. It may be that nothing can meanwhile be done to mitigate the severity of the effects of these changes in general or on the large scale, but much

may be done-much is being done on the small scale. Manufacturers to-day who introduce new machinery are, as a rule, more considerate of their workers than they used to be, partly, perhaps, owing to the moralization of the employer and partly to the combination of the workers. Thus we have witnessed during the past few years many industrial changes and, no doubt, much victimization, but probably less serious suffering than might otherwise have been the

case.

An exhaustive examination of economic life, would involve inquiry as to how far what is known as the factory system · is associated with the development of poverty, and as to what are the precise relations between the growth of towns and the growth within them of a proletariat class, or landless, workless class, probably partly inheriting their inefficiency.

Apart from the general influence of the factory system upon industrial society, there is the influence of the commercial system. The huge circulatory system of modern commerce works smoothly for a while, and then, from an obscure or undiscoverable cause, is suddenly or gradually constricted at some point, while the whole system, intimately sympathetic as it is, is affected by the constriction. These fluctuations in commerce produce corresponding fluctuations in industry, and we have the alternate phenomena. of inflation and depression of trade.

Thus one of the results of the departure now going on in a greater or lesser degree in most civilized countries, from "the stable basis of agriculture to the fluctuating basis of trade," is the irregularity of employment. Exact figures in this connection are hard to get as yet, although they are being more industriously collected now than ever before. By way of illustration we may take the record of a period of depression where, of course, this condition of irregularity is most manifest. Of 30,000 workmen in the East of London, whose cases were investigated in 1887, 14,000 or 47 per cent had been working continuously for six months or more, while

[ocr errors]

29 per cent had been working only two months in the aggregate out of the six, and 23 per cent had been idle for various periods, extending from two to ten weeks, that is that 53 per cent of these 30,000 workmen belonging to thirty-four different classes of occupations, and a much larger number of individual occupations, were exposed to serious irregularities of employment. Of these 3 per cent only were permanently disabled and 3 per cent were temporarily disabled, and were, therefore, not physically equal to manual labor.* The returns of trade unions illustrate the same condition. Irregularity of employment leads directly or indirectly to poverty.

The alert and shrewd among workmen reckon upon and prepare for these periods of depression. They insure against them by actual saving and by paying into a trade society. It may be held, therefore, that in some industries wages are higher than they would otherwise be were it not for these fluctuations. The trade union is largely to be credited with providing a compensation balance which steadies the industrial system and prevents it from feeling the full effects of the fluctuations of commerce.

Beneath the industrious and provident workman, and forming a large class in the communities of the Old World and in some of those of the New, there are the men who, whenever the first wave of depression comes, find themselves without employment. The unskillful, the lazy, the ill-tempered (for this, as every careful observer knows, is quite a large cause of poverty), the dissolute, are naturally dismissed first, while the skillful, active and good-tempered, steady men remain till the last.

The class thus indicated form the ranks of the unemployed whenever depression in trade causes a diminution of employment.

We may now divide each of Mr. Booth's classes A, B, C and D into sub-classes. In each we will find :

* Parliamentary Paper. C. 5228. 1887. P. 2.

« AnteriorContinuar »