James Johnson.

The recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides online

. (page 28 of 28)
Online LibraryJames JohnsonThe recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides → online text (page 28 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ness, or thoughtless extravagance or even by squandering resources
with the deliberate intention of coming upon the parish, appears to be
quite indifferent. Under this system, the lot of every man is the same.
No one can raise himself by good conduct above the ordinary level :
no one can sink himself below it by the opposite course." Report, p. 77.

What a glorious law is this for the improvement of our species in the
nineteenth century !

Fourthly, the poor-laws have an additional tendency to demoralization,


by congregating various characters, in work-houses and on roads (not
forgetting ale-houses) where labour is unproductive, where mischief is
hatched, and good principles (if any exist) are corrupted. Every page
of the Poor-law Reports exhibits illustrations of this melancholy fact !

A thousand other ways, in which the administration of the poor-laws
tends to demoralize the people, and increase pauperism, might be pointed
out : but the task is unnecessary. Through the four channels above-
named, the main streams of mischief flow, swelled as they are by innu-
merable contributory currents.

For every intractable, or even incurable disease, a hundred infallible
remedies are announced to the public every year. So, for PAUPERISM,
a great many specifics have been recommended to the government, and
to the parochial authorities. Many of these might probably have been
serviceable, had they been fairly tried. But what is everybody's busi-
ness, is nobody's ! The great mass of society grumble, and pay ; but
decline taking any part in remedial measures, from various motives.
The task itself is an invidious one ; and the loss of time is balanced
against the problematical benefit.

EMIGRATION has been generally considered as the most natural
remedy for the evil of redundant population, and its consequence,
PAUPERISM. It has been compared, and not inaptly, to the safety-valve
of a steam-engine. But this safety-valve does not affect the generation
of steam; it only lets off the redundancy, when the pressure becomes
excessive, and endangers the boiler. It is exactly so with emigration.
It carries off a portion of the redundant population, and, in that way,
diminishes, for the moment, the painful sense of distention in society.
It does not check the cause of the redundancy. On the contrary; it
rather augments it. The migration of five hundred or a thousand
people from any given locality, only enables the remainder to breathe
a little freer, and fill up the vacancies with an increased impetus. In
these voluntary migrations, too, it is by no means the worst part of the
population that seeks a new theatre for the operation of industry.

But although voluntary migration offers no preventive check to re-
dundant population ; while forced emigration (except for crimes) is
out of the question ; it is possible that a third mode alternative emi-
gration might be applicable as a preventive remedy to the evils of
pauperism. Suppose an able-bodied man applies to the parish for relief
because he cannot get employment ? The parish officer answers,
" We cannot find you work, and we will not find you the means of living
without work. But we will assist you to go to a country where work-
men are wanted." This is alternative emigration. You have the


choice of staying at home and shifting for yourself or of going abroad,
free of expense, where avocation is certain.

The fear that the parish, or even the government, would he unable to
accommodate the multitude who might accept the offer of alternative
emigration , is quite chimerical. Not one in fifty would close with the
proposal for a trip to Canada. But the refusal would leave the appli-
cant without the power of saying, " I am forced to starve in my own
country." The alternative in question would induce forty-nine in fifty
to exert themselves in gaining a livelihood at home, rather than cross
the Atlantic to the scene of hard labour. This, then, would be a pre-
ventive check to redundant population and pauperism.

Another, and a still more favourite check to redundant population
and pauperism, in the opinion of political economists, is the " DIFFU-
SION of KNOWLEDGE." This is a problem of no easy solution, as I have
remarked in another place*. It is very probable, however, that a
greater diffusion of knowledge among the lower classes of society, may
tend to check those causes on which redundant population depends.
We find that, as the scale of civilization ascends, the tendency to early
marriage decreases. Thus, the members of the learned professions are
the latest to enter within the pale of matrimony. Let us look to the
opposite extreme of the scale, in the bogs of Ireland. There, a pig and
a piece of potato-field or at most, " an acre of ground and a cow's
grass," form a sufficient SET-OUT for poor Paddy, who rears, on this
simple foundation, some twelve or fifteen HUMAN BEINGS, as poor as
himself half of them manufactured for EXPORTATION to England and
Scotland !

From this low point, in exact proportion as mankind rise on the scale
of mental endowment, OR of luxurious refinement, the obstacles to
matrimony multiply celibacy increases the average period of con-
tracting marriage is thrown back and redundancy of population is

The peasantry of Scotland are better educated than those of Ireland.
They require a greater number of comforts for the marriage state ; and
they are more cautious, as well as slow, in contracting matrimony. The
population, therefore, advances with less rapidity in Scotland than in

In England, the difficulties of providing for families check matrimo-
nial engagements among the better classes of society. But the poor-

* See p. 33, 34.


laws here offer a bounty on matrimony, head-money to children, en-
couragement to idleness and, consequently, an impetus to POPULATION !

Whether the " DIFFUSION of KNOWLEDGE," then, may check pauper-
ism in this country, ivithout producing other evils, is a problem un-
solved. The diffusion will take place, nolens volens, and the conse-
quences must be endured, be they good or evil.

The third check is labour productive labour. POVERTY ought not
to be punished as a crime it has a sufficiency of attendant evils without
that ! but it cannot be too early introduced to the acquaintance of
INDUSTRY, or even toil, the surest antidote to indigence. LABOUR has
been so rarely productive, and consequently successful, in the work-
house, that it is almost universally abandoned not because it is
inefficient in itself, but because it is ignorantly or wilfully mismanaged.
What can be done once, may be done a thousand times. What can be
effected by pauper labour in one county, may be effected in every one.
It is unnecessary to multiply examples. I shall only adduce one or

In the parish of East Bourne, Sussex, a few years ago, the vestry
converted the cavalry-barrack into a WORK-HOUSE, for the manufacture
of coarse woollens and linens ; when the families of poor people were
large, some of the children were taken into the work-house, by day, and
their earnings supported them. By this plan the rates were greatly
reduced. But the master of the work-house died, and as nobody was
found to supply his place, the scheme failed, and the rates ran up to
their old scale, or even higher.

Mrs. Gilbert Davies has made some experiments, in the same locality,
which are highly deserving of notice. She commenced with small allot-
ments of land, in 1830, to thirty-five poor people, since increased to one
hundred and seventeen. " The tenants pay their rent with punctuality,
and many labourers have made voluntary offers of surrendering parish
allowance, if allotments were made to them." Poor-law Report.

But the most remarkable illustration is the following. Mrs. D. Gil-
bert caused a portion of the shingle on the sea-shore to be covered with
clay dug from an adjoining marsh, and then some good soil to be spread
on the surface. This land (if it can be called so) was hired by labour-
ers at 3d. per rod, i. e. 40s. an acre, (which exceeds the rent of the
best arable land in the parish ;) and an excellent crop of potatoes was
raised in the autumn from that which was a shingly beach in the
spring ! !

In the parish of STANFORD RIVERS, Essex, the expenditure on the
poor was, in the year 1821, 1191/. In 1824, a gentleman, of the name
of Andrews, made a bold effort to put down pauperism. The weekly pay

R 2


was, at once, struck off; and in two years (1826) the pauper allowance
was reduced to 560/. " The labourers, by degrees, learnt to depend on
their own resources. The rates gradually diminished, and in 1828, the
rates were reduced to 196/. The vestry determined that all capable of
work should be employed, and that no relief should be given but in
return for labour." Report, p. 38.

The above instances speak for themselves. What has been done in
Stanford Rivers may be done everywhere. In every parish^of England
there is a sufficient number of unemployed and yet of philanthropic in-
dividuals, who might form an association for the employment of the poor.
This employment, if not productive, will be worse than useless. Men
compelled to work on the roads have destroyed more of their implements
than their labour was worth ; besides corrupting each other's principles.
But if coarse and common manufactories were established in work-
houses, and a portion of the earnings given to the paupers and if the
inhabitants of the parish purchased these manufactures, the rates would
soon be reduced, and pauperism checked. The hand-mills invented by
Mr. Cochrane might be very advantageously employed in every work-
house and the parish thereby supplied with wholesome flour. Every
man, woman, and child might thus be made to earn their living.

But no remedy will be of permanent avail, while the grand cause
the poor-laws themselves remain unmodified. While a bounty is offered
for improvident marriage and redundant population, pauperism must
flourish, till the opulent are ground down into indigence or till the
indigent become so numerous as, at once, to overwhelm, by brute force,
all property, and uproot the whole foundations of society. But the
sense and the self-preservative fears of society will not allow these
dreadful alternatives to obtain. The primary and fundamental check
will be, the enactment of a law that no man (after the enactment) shall
be entitled to additional relief, on account of marriage and children.
Secondly, that relief shall only be given in exchange for labour, where
the applicant is able to work. Thirdly, that ALTERNATIVE EMIGRA-
TION be offered to the able-bodied. Fourthly, that the aged and infirm
be employed in such occupations as they can pursue, while encourage-
ment is given to them by the parish, by purchasing the humble pro-
ducts of their labours.

These and other remedial checks to pauperism, will not, perhaps, be
worked effectually, till the disease acquires still greater intensity, and
threatens more imminent danger than it now presents. But the time is
approaching when the most opulent and apathetic will deem it prudent
to put their hands to the plough, and help to stem an evil which menaces
their property and consequently their comforts. The sense of danger


will ultimately spread down even to the very confines of drudgery and
PAUPERISM itself may one day begin to perceive that it is endangering
the existence of its only property the PARISH FUNDS ! It is possible,
if not probable, that the PAUPER may yet be made to comprehend that
there is a depth of misery even below his present condition, and into
which he may be plunged namely, starvation or death, in the event of
an actual conflict for the preservation of property ! But he will not be
easily made to perceive this alternative while opulence and luxury are
rolling around him, without taking any effectual steps to check the
growing evil.

Still, I am confident that, desperate as is the disease, and difficult as
is the remedy, there is an elasticity and soundness in JOHN BULL'S con-
stitution that will resist the former, and ultimately effect the latter.
The stings of insects are not poignant enough to rouse the slumbering
lion from repose ; but when he feels the barbed dart, he springs from
his lair, and shakes the puny assailants from his shaggy sides.


But the smoke and the spires of Modern Babylon rise on my view,
and, like the shock of the torpedo, benumb the senses and paralyze the
imagination ! As the unfortunate vessel was attracted to her destruc-
tion by the magnetic island, so am I impelled by my fate towards that
Syrtis of ambition, that whirlpool of passion, that abyss of cares, where
the chief consolation is, that individual feeling is merged and concealed
in the mass of general misery !

Here, then, the reader and the writer part perhaps for ever. They
have travelled together through many a varied scene they have differed,
no doubt, on many an interesting topic. But, as the tour has been
short, and the journey of life itself is not long, let them separate in
peace if not in friendship. The author has already had his reward, in
the pleasure of the excursion, and the amusement of describing it. The
book itself will show that he had no pecuniary advantage in view ; and
if public appro bation should happen to be thrown into the scale, he will
be doubly, n ay trebly rewarded. Vale !


Duke Street, Lambelli.

University of California


405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1388

Return this material to the library

from which it was borrowed.



1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 28

Online LibraryJames JohnsonThe recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides → online text (page 28 of 28)