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in those parts of the country where they have been introduced, it is evident that many of the objections which are commonly urged against that tax as levied in England, do not apply to it when subjected to such checks and modifications as have hitherto restrained its abuse in this country. The chief and most essential of these, undoubtedly, arises from the manner in which the tax is imposed on this side of the Tweed, that being done by the persons who are to pay it; whereas in England it is trusted to the discretion of a few obscure individuals on whom the burden does not fall, and whose responsibility is not great. Accordingly, some very candid and intelligent writers, who acknowledge the intolerable burden which it has brought on the other part of the island, have expressed strongly their approbation of the general principle on which the tax proceeds, and their conviction of the expediency of extending the practice over Scotland, on a plan which has been so successfully exemplified in a variety of different instances. Nay, even Lord Kames himself, who has pushed the argument against compulsory maintenance to its utmost possible extent, has been almost led to admit an exception in favour of Scotland.*
With respect to the moral effects which have been experienced from poor-rates in Scotland, the following statement is given by a very candid and very competent judge, who has long had an opportunity of witnessing their practical tendency in that part of the country where he resides, Dr. Charters of Wilton. “ It is alleged,” says he, “that poor-rates weaken parental and filial affection. Let the fact be fairly inquired into, and it will be found, that many children labour hard to prevent their parents from receiving an aliment; and that children in good circumstances who suffer their parents to receive it are infamous :-a proof that the case is rare. During twenty-two years' ministry, in a pretty numerous parish, where the poor are maintained by taxation, I have known only one instance of children refusing to assist their parents; they forfeited the esteem of their neighbours, and banished themselves
* [Sketches of the History of Man, Book II. sketch x.; Vol. II. p. 58, orig. palit. 1774.)
[SUBSIDIARY MEASURES FOR THE RELIEF OF THE POOR.]
To the historical sketch which has already been given concerning the Poor-laws in both parts of the United Kingdom, I think it may be useful for me to add a few remarks on certain Subsidiary Measures, for the attainment of the same ends, which have either been sanctioned by the authority of the Legislature, or have been carried into execution by the act of private individuals.
(SECT. I.—OF CHARITY WORKHOUSES.] Among these measures, one of the most plausible is that of Charity Workhouses, a plan proposed more than a century ago by Sir Matthew Hale, and warmly defended by many respectable writers of a later date. The scheme proposed is, in general, this :—That after a list has been taken of all the poor in any one populous parish, or in two or more smaller parishes, a house should be built for their accommodation ; that materials for work of various kinds should be provided for them; that this house should be under the direction of a few respectable individuals, who should appoint one or more superintendents to regulate and inspect the management, &c. It cannot be denied that this plan promises, in theory, some very important advantages. In the first place, It leaves no opportunities for common beggary. The loathsome objects which fill our streets will be taken care of the lame, diseased, and aged will be provided for. Secondly, It leaves no excuse for idleness : work will be given to all who are willing to labour. And in
the third place, this appears to be the most frugal and profitable plan: a number of persons living together, will be more easily provided for, and their united work will be more productive, than when they live in separate houses.
It is not surprising that this plan, so plausible in itself, and so warmly recommended by many writers, should have met with considerable success; and that in the course of the last century, it should have been actually carried into execution in many great towns in England and Scotland. But its effects are now ascertained by experience, and it may be shown, from undoubted evidence, that Charity workhouses, in general, have been so far from answering the many excellent purposes which were expected to arise from them; that, in fact, they have proved the worst of all the methods that could have been devised for remedying the evil in question. Poor-houses, during the first years of their institution, may have proved useful, an effect which may have been partly owing to the greater zeal of the managers during the first enthusiasm of their beneficent exertions, but chiefly because the poor were then unwilling to be admitted into them. As long as this continues to be the case, the terror of being sent to a workhouse diminishes the burden of the poor-tax, in proportion to the number of indigent persons who dread poverty less than the loss of character. It is, in fact, a virtual repeal, as far as it extends, of those laws which should have, long since, given way to better regulations. But, unfortunately, it is the most worthy objects who suffer most from this institution, the effect of which is, to hinder those from receiving support who dread the confinement, or the noise and nastiness, even more than the confinement, of workhouses, and consider the security which they afford against the evils of want, as dearly purchased by the sacrifice of that serenity and peace, which can scarcely be expected to exist where an indiscriminate mixture of individuals of all different habits and tempers are collected together. The dread of involving themselves in this misery, can hardly fail to keep many poor struggling with poverty, till they sink entirely under its pressure. A most affecting statement of this nature has been the Seventh Report of the Society for Bettering the Condition of the Poor. The success which has attended the efforts of the original projectors of this plan, has far exceeded their most sanguine expectations. The institution was formed in the year 1788, at which time, out of 100,000 inhabitants of Hamburgh, there were about 7000 distressed persons, in want of regular relief, besides an average of 2500 persons in the hospitals. Since that period, scarce a beggar has been seen in Hamburgh, and the decrease of sickness and mortality has been rapidly progressive. The average mortality was, at first, in the proportion of one to ten; in 1789, it was greatly reduced ; and it has since gradually diminished to less than one to twenty. The average of all the expenses attending the employment of the poor, for three years ending 1st December 1796, including loss on the sale of manufactured goods, was annually £611.
In reviewing the origin and progress of the institution at Hamburgh, the Bishop of Durham has very justly remarked the benefits it has derived from the division of attention, the advantages of which he compares to those resulting from the division of labour in manufactures. ( The division of labour has not produced more extraordinary effects in a well-conducted manufactory, than the division of attention in a well-arranged institution. The giving to every acting member his peculiar and appropriate duty, not interfered in by any other person, as has been done with great effect at Hamburgh, is of the utmost importance in every establishment. Those who have attended much to the conduct of charities, must have had frequent occasion to regret, that, even among the best intentioned men, more time and more power is often wasted in the counteraction and controversion of petty and trivial measures, than in the furtherance of the real objects of the institution. This is the friction, the impediment of action, the obstruction to progress, which it is most essential to prevent; and it is in this respect, that the benevolent and enlightened founders of the institution at Hamburgh have been peculiarly judicious and successful."*
* [Reports of the Society for Bettering the Condition of the Poor, No. XL. ; Vol. II. p. 41, third edition.]
After all, it is impossible not to feel some apprehensions about the permanent stability of an institution which requires the active and gratuitous co-operation of so many individuals. The steadiness with which it has hitherto been conducted, does infinite credit to those concerned in its management, and may probably continue unabated while the enthusiasm of the original projectors remains to animate their exertions. But the most public-spirited and benevolent men are not always the most active and persevering, and it thus often happens that the management of institutions for the poor, of whatever nature, after the first efforts of zeal are passed, fall into the hands of persons indifferent to their interests, and unfit to carry them on. It might be advisable, therefore, if any similar establishment is formed elsewhere, that the most essential parts of its execution should be committed to men, who are paid for their labour, and at such a rate as to render the employment an object to persons placed in the more respectable conditions of life.
The publicity and regularity of the accompts, seem also to have contributed much to the success of the undertaking at Hamburgh. And, indeed, where precautions of this sort are overlooked in any charitable establishment, it cannot but, sooner or later, subside into a mere job.
It gives me much satisfaction to learn, by a letter which I received about three years ago, that this very interesting establishment continues still to prosper.
The same general views which suggested the plan now under consideration, prompted the execution of a similar establishment, by Count Rumford, at Munich. The success of this undertaking has been singularly great. But it is unnecessary for me to enter into any details with respect to it, not only because the plan is very generally known, but because a great deal seems to have depended on the particular nature of the government by which it has been so effectually protected and encouraged.