페이지 이미지

is confined to the class immediately below the most wealthy. It prevails among all classes. Those who are sensible that they can never rival the first, are apt still to aim higher than they can afford; and in this way, not a few of the lower classes are added to the list of

pau pers. 6. Idleness covers multitudes with rags, and reduces them to poverty. God has put the means of competency within their reach: he has given them health and strength. By the sweat of their brow they might eat their bread; but they set themselves to counteract the decree of heaven. They are the sluggards, who will not plough by reason of the cold. What they possess is wasted for want of care. Every thing indicates neglect, and presages ruin.

I went by the field of the slothful and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; and lo! it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw and considered it well, I looked upon it and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.' But,

7. Intemperance is by far the greatest and the most horrible of all the causes of pauperisn, in this country. If other vices slay their thousands, this slays its tens of thousands. It is the overflowing source of that mighty flood, or rather it is that fiery deluge itself, which threatens to sweep away all that is valuable to man.

There can be no question, that it sends crowds to hell every year, while it also consigns an incredible multitude of bloated niasses of pollution, and of broken-hearted wives and helpless children, to rags and beggary. The extent of its

ravages would exceed all credence, were we not furnished with facts and estimates, which cannot be controverted. I have room only to exhibit the following.

In the early part of 1816, it was stated in the Report of the Moral Society of Portland, that out of 85 persons, supported at the work-house, in that town, 71 became paupers, in consequence of intemperance; being five sirths of the whole number; and that out of 118, who were supplied at their own houses, more than half were of that character.

Again ; In the winter of 1817, alarmed by the rapid increase of pauperism, the citizens of New-York appointed a very respectable committee, to inquire into the state of want and misery among the poor in that city, and to devise some plan to prevent, as far as possible, a recurrence and increase of these evils. A part of the Report of this committee, is in the following words: If we recur to the state of the

poor, year, for ten years past, we find that they have yearly increased, greatly beyond the regular increase of population. At the present period, there is reason to believe, from information received from the visiting committees in the several wards, that 15,000 men, women, and children, equal to one seventh of the whole population of our city, have been supported by public or private bounty and munificence.

• In viewing this deplorable state of human misery, the committee have diligently attended to an examination of the causes which have produced such dire effects. And after the most mature and deliberate reflection, they are satisfied, that the most prominent and alarming cause, is the free and inordinate use of spirituous liquors. To this cause alone, may be fairly attributed seven eighths of

from year to

the misery and distress among the poor, the present winter; one sixteenth to the want of employment, owing to the present distressing state of trade and commerce; and the remaining portion, to circumstances difficult to enumerate, and which possibly could not be avoided.' Think of this !

But one sixteenth part of the poverty of a great-commercial city, and that, too, during a period of peculiar embarrassment, owing to want of employment, and seven eighths to intemperate drinking! What a picture! And what would be the probable result, if similar inquiries were made in all our great cities and towns; if they were extended to


section of our country ; prosecuted through all the wards of our alms-houses, and carried into all those abodes of poverty, whose tenants are partially dependent upon charity for their subsistence ? Would not the result be calculated to fill the hardest heart with pity, and the stoutest heart with dismay ? Let the inquiry, my brethren, be made among yourselves. I am a stranger to most of those, who are maintained at the public expense, or who depend on your private bounty. I am ignorant of their history, and of the causes by which they have been reduced. But I strongly suspect, that intemperance has contributed far more than any other single cause, to crowd your poor-house, and to multiply objects of suffering and compassion around you.

I am


JII. To propose remedies, to point out ways and means of improving the condition of the poor. This is by far the most difficult part of our subject. It is incomparably easier to trace the calamities of human life back to their causes, than to cure them. Thus a neighbor is extremely sick, and we are at no loss, to account for it;

all but the disease may bafile the skill of the ablest physicians. A man has kindled a slow fire in his own vitals, and we know when and where he did it; but how shall it be extinguished, and how shall others be most effectually guarded against this horrible species of selfmurder? So, also, we see the poor; they are with us always; we hear their complaints ; we know their wants ; we can trace their downward progress from competency, perhaps from independence, to forsaken grey hairs and helpless infirmity.

But of all the problems which have exercised the ingenuity of great statesmen and distinguished philanthropists, in modern times, this appears to be the most difficult:- What are the best means of managing existing poverty, and what the surest preventives of pauperism? Human industry, and genius, and perseverance, have accomplished a thousand wonders. The circumference of this great globe has been measured. The phenomena of tides, and winds also, to a great extent, have been explained. The great law of gravitation, which binds the Universe together, is now well understood. The distances, magnitudes, and motions of the sun and his attendant worlds, have been ascertained by the infallible rules of Geometry. Fire, and air, and water, and light, have been decomposed. A mild and certain preventive of the small pox, that terrible scourge of former ages, has been discovered. But who, after all the alarm that the increasing demands of poverty have recently produced, both in Great Britian and our own country; who, after all the anxious thought which has been bestowed on the problem, and with the help of all that has been written, up to this monient; who can pretend to be a perfect master of the

subject? Who can point us, with a sure and steady aim, to the cheapest and most benevolent means of relieving present want, and of saving future generations from the burdens and sufferings of pauperism ?

Have we then nothing further to do, in this great cause of humanity ? Must we sit down in despair ? Must all the fond desires and hopes of christian philanthropy be given to the winds ?

God forbid that we should yield to this unchristian despondency. If we cannot accomplish all that is desirable, we may yet do something. If we should fail of satisfying our own minds, on every point, we may possibly gain more than we anticipate, and more than enough to pay for our trouble. Though we should not be able to strike out a single new path, who knows that we may not improve some of the old ones ? Let us do what we can, though much should be left for more enlightened minds to finish. Let us proceed as far as possible, and while we rest there, to gain new strength, let us thank God and take courage.'

In theorizing on the subject before us, even wise and good men have often mistaken first principles; and hence the disappointment of their fondest hopes; hence the failure of their best endeavors to mitigate the evils of pauperism. They have not taken man as he is, a fallen, depraved creature; naturally proud, indolent, evil and unthankful; but as be should be, holy, humble, industrious, conscientiously disposed to do every thing in his power to maintain himself, and thankful for the smallest favors.

It was once pretty generally supposed, and is still believed by many, that the existing ills of poverty might be cured, and the increase of it prevented, by generously

« 이전계속 »