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every parish, where the means would allow, should possess a place of meeting for the convenience of the governors, and under their control, and that the rest of the rate-payers, or inhabitants, should be admitted by ballot, and on payment of a certain subscription to form a sort of club. A point of union amongst different classes, having a common interest, must be advantageous to all, especially in the communication of information and the promotion of mutual good-will; and such institutions would be excellent objects for the munificence of public-spirited individuals, either by donation or legacy.” Establishments of this kind, I should hope, might also be made subservient to female interests, though where different classes are concerned, that is a matter of some difficulty, though, perhaps, not of an insuperable nature. Exclusiveness, so much talked against, and often so unreasonably, is really a necessary precaution in the present undefined boundaries of overgrown society ; but in a better organized state, different and more sympathetic feelings might grow up. The first year the present magnificent building of the Athenæum Club was opened, when ladies were admitted every Wednesday night during the season, it was certainly a very convenient, cheap, and easy mode of assembling, and might, it appears to me, be permanently adopted and improved upon under other circumstances.
With the political inducements I have mentioned, to the leading men of different communities to take upon themselves the charge of government, together with the attractions of such establishments as I propose, I should not apprehend any deficiency of public spirit; whilst the popular and organized mode of election would effectually prevent abuse, as far as human means can prevent it. I will only add on this part of my subject, that the higher the tone and style of government, the more unlikely improper persons would be to seek to intrude into it, because in any refined element such persons cannot exist. From St. George's, the richest, I will turn to the Hamlet of Mile End New Town in the parish of Stepney, I believe the poorest community in the Metropolis, and the same reasoning, I think, applies in both cases, reference being had to the respective degrees of wealth ; and so with respect to every parish in the land. The regulations in country parishes must often vary considerably from those in parishes in towns; but division, the superintendence of the best men, and the bringing together the inhabitants, socially and convivially, is at least as necessary as in towns, if not more so. The advantages to the country, and to country gentlemen, if the latter could once be brought to turn their attention and their energies to local government instead of their present pursuits, would be incalculable. The improvement in property and in the morals and intelligence of all classes, would be general and rapid. I have at different periods of my life examined minutely into the practicability of such improvement, and I see few difficulties, if once set about. Rivalry and example in local government would cause a wide spread of knowledge of the art, at present lamentably neglected, or unknown, though the most interesting that can occupy a rational and benevolent being's thoughts. In order to give it the most interest, it is desirable to concentrate the power and expense of government as much as possible in each separate community, and to leave the citizens to manage their own concerns, uncontrolled except by laws enforced by the higher tribunals.
I do not know that I have any thing further to add on the subject of parochial government. What I have written is somewhat desultory and interspersed with repetitions; but my wish is to impress my doctrines upon the minds of my readers as familiarly as possible. My suggestions are much scattered, and, in order fully to comprehend my views, it will be necessary to read the article on the principles of government in my first number; the life of Numa, with the prefixed remarks, and the article on government in my second ; on parochial government in my third ; on the same subject, and on the observance of the sabbath in my fourth ; on parochial government continued, and on parochial improvement in my fifth ; and on parochial government in my sixth.
DIALOGUE ON PAUPERISM.
[The following Dialogue between a Select Vestryman and
a Labourer, was composed from conversations held with labourers at different times, and was first published in 1826, in my pamphlet on Pauperism. It may be of use in throwing a little light on the unlearned in such matters.]
Could I say a word to you, sir, concerning this old man? Oh! certainly; what does he want?
He wants you to speak for him in the vestry. He is more than three score and ten. He has been a good workman in his time, but you see he is almost done: you won't say but the parish ought to do something for such as bim, for he has not a penny nor a penny's worth.
The parish ought to do! he ought to have done for himself. Above fifty years' labour, a good workman, and not saved one penny! I dare say, if he had all the money he has spent in getting drunk, and all the wages of the idle days he had made, he would not need to trouble the parish.
Bless you, sir ! he never had it in his power to drink much. He has brought up a large family, as many as ten children. He loved a little drink, too, when he could catch it; he is but like other folks in that.
The more's the pity ; but so it is, if your neighbours do wrong, that is an excuse for you all: because others drink their wages, and coine upon the parish, you think you will do the same, that they may have no advantage over you. I suppose what you call bringing up these ten children was keeping them in filth and rags, and, instead of sending them to school, going himself to the ale-house. Where were they generally to be found ?-tumbling about in the lanes, without shoes and stockings ?
There was no great care taken of them, I believe.
So there is not one now able to do any thing towards helping the old man. What is become of them all ? But, perhaps, the less that is said about them the better.
Why, they didn't turn out so well as they might have done, any of them.
I dare say they turned out quite as well as could be expected. Now, if he had laid out his spare money in bringing up his family carefully, do you suppose there would not have been one out of his ten children, or his ten children's children, able to assist him in return ?
It's much if there would not.
Well ! at any rate he might have taught them to be honest, and industrious, and clean, and civil spoken; all that costs nothing, you know, but a little trouble, and setting a good example. He would then have had no difficulty in finding them good places; and when they had got a little money themselves, they could have gone to a night-school, or something of that sort, and it would be strange if some of them had not got forward in the world. Respectable people like to take those they employ, out of a well-reputed family, and, when they have taken them, to stand their friends; and one good one in a family helps on another.
Well! I never thought of all that before.
Many a lucky thing will fall out that you never thought of, if you will but do the best you can for yourselves: but if you cannot do just as you wish, you will do nothing, or worse than nothing. If a labouring man has a large family, I know that it requires management to bring them up well ; but he can sooner get them out for it, and in return they are sure to be able to repay him some time, some of them, instead of coming to him again, as perhaps this old man's have done.
Ay, they've troubled him sadly in that way.
Well then, it is good both ways, you see; not that I approve of parents depending upon their children in their old age, except where they have had more than common difficulties to strive against, or where they have done more for their children than in their situation could have been expected of them. In other cases, they ought to lay by for themselves, and leave their children free.
But there are not many that can do as you say.
What is to prevent them, unless it be poaching, rat-hunting, bear-baiting, frequenting the ale-house, and the like ? In the mean time their children run wild, half clothed, half starved, stealing any thing they can lay hold of. If you were a master, would you employ such ?
I don't think I should be very fond of them.
The consequence is, therefore, they can only get odd jobs now and then, when there is more work than hands; and they get idle, drunken, dishonest habits, which soon leave them only two chances--a gaol or the workhouse. Instead of thinking of raising themselves, they think how little work they can do, how much drink they can get, how much they can pillage, or, what is very little better, how they can impose on the parish; for all that the idle get, must come out of somebody's industry or property. Now, what do you
Why, I believe, sir, you have given nearly a true account; but as for this old fellow, you must recollect that the times have been very bad.
I know that; but do you mean to say that he laid by money when the times were good, and that you apply to the parish for him, because he has spent all his savings in keeping himself since times have been so bad ?