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money matters; and being led away by the impulse of the moment, ttiey spend, without reflecting on the consequences of their indiscretion, whatever sums they can spare at stated intervals, and which, if suffered to accumulate, would serve as a fund for future exigencies. To such youths a depository of this description would be of incalculable benefit; they would soon consign to it the money which they now dissipate; and even the most careless among them would become by degrees habituated to frugality, in proportion as its effects were manifested in the prosperous condition of those who availed themselves of the plan when once regularly established.
We have in this country, likewise, another description of persons who might render this measure available to their interest: I mean those who receive pensions for past services in public offices; also the widows and children of deceased clerks, who in many establishments have a fund set apart for their support. I can state it as a fact, that I have been applied to by persons of this description, to include them in the proposed measure; and I have every reason to believe that in the establishments that are adopting this plan, thei) were not forgotten. ....
Having thus given an outline of the plan I would recommend, and briefly noticed some of its advantages, I shall now proceed to offer a few remarks on the important effects which the institution of Savings Banks in general is calculated to produce on society, end shall conclude with some further illustrations of the proposed measure. ........ >'' . •
Though the origin of Savings Banks cannot be referred to the late Mr. Rose, yet it is but justice to the memory of that highly respectable character to state, that he was the first who methodised the system on which they are conducted, and that it is in consequence of his excellent work on the subject that they are now so generally extended. The legislature perceiving, from his judicious remarks, their tendency to increase the comforts of the poor, as well as to improve their morals, did not hesitate to sanction so salutary a measure; and in the Report of the Lords'Committee on the Poor Laws, it is recommended with a sanguine anticipation of its producing the most favorable results. It is justly observed in the Report adverted to, that the adoption of Provident or Savings Banks is likely to render the poor "less dependent on parochial reljef, which,, . under the best and most satisfactory administration of it, can never be so satisfactory to the person who is the object of it, or so consistent with those honorable feelings of^ pride and independence which are implanted in the breast of man, as that resource which is the result of his own industry, and the produce of his own exertions." Such is the opinion delivered hy
those members of the legislative assembly who sat to deliberate on that most important subject the Poor Laws, and the grounds on which it is founded can never be questioned by any reflecting mind. It must appear evident to any man who will for a moment consider the state of the poor in this country, endued as they are by nature with great powers for manual exertion, together with a shrewd and comprehensive intelligence, and participating in all the blessings of the freest constitution in the world, that they must look to themselves alone, and to the resources they individually possess, for the means necessary to secure their permanent comfort and prosperity. Neither the benevolence of private individuals, nor the liberality of charitable associations, nor the exacted contribution from the parochial fund, can possibly counteract the rapid progress of universal indigence among the lower orders of the community, if they are not themselves willing to relinquish pauperism for independence, by resorting to their respective energies, and making a prudent reserve from the remuneration of their labors. The poor man must be his own friend; he must lay up in the day of health and vigor some provision for the wants and infirmities of old age. While his constitution is yet unbroken, he must guard against that hour when the decay of all his faculties will prevent him from earning, as before, his daily bread, unless he prefers the miserable pittance doled out to him by the parish overseer, to the easy and independent competence realised by his own industry.
As all national wealth results from aggregate labor, it is evident that it must be an object of national importance to provide not only for the necessities but for the comforts of those classes who serve to aggrandise the country, and any plan that appears best calculated to do this with permanent success, cannot be too widely diffused nor too highly commended. This plan has in a happy hour been discovered, and it requires only to be steadily and universally acted upon, to prove it one of the most efficacious that ever yet entered into the conception of man for the benefit of his fellow creatures. The institution of Savings Banks must be hailed by the patriot and the philanthropist as invaluable to society, for it encourages, I might say, by the strongest inducements, a complete system of practical'morality, while it rescues thousands, nay millions of human beings from misery and dependence. The poor man who before was accustomed to dissipate the greatest part of his earnings; or at least the little surplus that remained after supplying his daily wants, will learn from this institution the good effects of prudence and economy, and relinquishing his dissolute or extravagant habits, will resort to the Savings Bank with that weekly sum, which heretofore he regularly took to the publicbouse. The influence which abstinence will have on his morals will very soon be perceptible; his mind will take quite a different turn, and he will insensibly become attached to a temperate, economical, and regular mode of living.
Nor is it to be apprehended from this institution that it will ever create in the mind of the poor man either pride or insolence. It offers no encouragement whatever that can make him at any time forget his station in society: a good man will never be either presumptuous or insolent, and an institution formed on the basis of rewarding good, and discountenancing bad habits, cannot possibly induce any that are obnoxious. This institution is certaiuly calculated to promote among the laboring population, a spirit which ought always to be fostered as the best support of our national superiority over all other countries, a spirit of firm independence resulting from an honest confidence in their native energies. But independence is a relative term, and there is a wide difference between a man's disdaining to derive his daily bread from the hand of charity while he can earn it by his own exertions, and his behaving with disrespect to his superiors; the former sentiment must always be encouraged, the latter invariably reproved.
We are frequently surprised that many useful, but apparently simple discoveries, which have been made in our time, were not so much as thought of by our ancestors; and we might perhaps reflect with wonder, that the first notion of Banks, where the savings of the poor might progressively accumulate, was reserved for the nineteenth century. The rich have always been able to make a selection of depositories where they could receive the highest interest for their large sums, while those persons among the poorer classes who had prudence sufficient to save an occasional trifle, were left without any established place to which they could consign it with safety or advantage. But as it needs no arguments to prove that a disposition to economy ought always to be encouraged among the poor, so it is evident that a Bank, where they can deposit their savings and receive a certain interest on them, is of the last importance, and has for ages been a desideratum in this country. How many an industrious man in humble life has lost his "little all," for want of being able to resort with it to such an institution as is now open to him! He confided it, perhaps, to the charge of some designing knave, who took advantage of his credulity; or intrusted it without profit, to some man who might have been honestly disposed, but who, from untoward circumstances, lost the little deposit in the general wreck of his own property.
Nor is it only expedient that the laborer or poor mechanic should receive interest on his savings, he certainly ought to receive somewhat more than common interest. The end proposed being the welfare of the great mass of the population, from which all national prosperity must result, any additional contribution that serves to promote it, is applied to the best of all purposes. Considered in a political point of view, these local depositories are particularly important. If the wealthy in this country find it their interest to support good order and obedience to the laws, from the stake they have in the Public Funds, independently of their duty as subjects; so the poor will likewise find it their interest to respect and defend that constitution, which secures to them the little accumulations they have invested in these depositories, and which to them are of no less value than their immense treasures are to the affluent. Self-interest is the predominant principle of the human breast, and man never fails to act in compliance with its dictates. The effect of Savings Banks in diminishing the public burdens will in a short time become apparent. In proportion as they extend over the country, applicants for parochial relief must necessarily decrease; nor will the assessments on the several parishes for the maintenance of the poor be near so heavy as before, while in the progress of time, 1 have no doubt but that the necessity of them will be entirely precluded. The burden of these assessments as it has hitherto increased, is become too weighty for all the industry of the country to bear; the agricultural counties have been unable to withstand its pressure, and the nerve and activity of the manufacturing districts are laid prostrate beneath its grievous weight. Yet intolerable as it is, it cannot possibly be removed, unless by the admirable expedient which has so happily been devised, and the Savings Bank is therefore justly termed the sinking fund of the poor's rate.
With respect to the principle on which these Banks are founded, it must be observed that it is entirely different in its nature and operation from the system of Tontines or Friendly Societies. The savings when vested to such an amount as to bear interest, continue in a progressive state of accumulation at a fixed rate, according to the particular economy on which the Bank is established; but either the whole or part of the sum vested may b^e drawn out at the option of the party, according as the exigencies of the time may require a supply. The precautions taken against the possible failure or defalcation of any of these Banks are such, that no occurrence of that nature can ever be apprehended. The fund of each Bank, when it reaches a certain amount, is vested in Government Securities, and the local security is always considerably more than sufficient for the sum deposited till it arrives at that amount. Though the establishment of these Banks is of recent date, yet their importance is already sufficiently appreciated by the public, and they are spreading with rapid increase over the several counties both in England and Scotland, and have also made some progress in Ireland. Their general tendency may he inferred from the preceding remarks, which cannot be better concluded than by making the following extract from the useful and instructive Essays of Mr. Henry Duncan of Dumfries-shire, who in the year 1810 established, in the parish of Ruthwell, in that county, the first institution of this kind that was ever known to exist in the British Empire. ''"There is something noble and affecting," he observes, "in the struggle which a poor man makes to preserve his independence, and rise superior to difficulties and discouragements incidental to his situation. The end he has in view, and the privations he must undergo before he can attain that end, are such as must attract the applause and sympathy of every good man. When from the scanty pittance which he has earned from his honest industry, and which, though it suffices to supply the common wants of nature, is inadequate to procure the conveniences or comforts of life; when from that scanty pittance he is able, by the exercise of a virtuous selfdenial, to lay up a provision for the exigencies of his family, he exhibits a pattern of prudence and manly resolution, which would do honor to the highest station. The sentiments which give rise to this conduct are nearly allied to the best feelings of the human heart: and the man who can, with such becoming fortitude, deprive himself of present indulgencies for the sake of future independence, will not readily stoop to the suppleness of duplicity or the baseness of fraud. The fact is, that the most careful and industrious are universally the most trustworthy; and he who has been accustomed to look forward with a steady eye to distant consequences, is not slow in discovering that 'honesty is the best policy.' Feeling the comfort and the dignity arising from virtuous conduct, he acquires a more elevated way of thinking and of acting, and insensibly becomes superior in mental attainments, as well as outward circumstances, to the thoughtless crew by whom he is surrounded, and who were formerly perhaps the chosen companions of his dissipated hours. Nor is the state of his feelings less favorable to religious impressions. A love of order naturally leads his affections to the 'God of order.' A habit of reflecting on the changes of life teaches him to repose with confidence in the wisdom and goodness of that Being by whose will these changes are regulated; and his mind, trained to look beyond present enjoyments to those which are future, is evidently in no improper frame for regarding not so much 'the things that are seen and temporal,' as those that are 'unseen and eternal.'"' ► ,.