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severer penalties, so that error may be exterminated and truth be triumphant. If, rather than punish a few on Earth, it allows many to be eternally damned for misbelief, it is manifestly culpable. Evidently it must do all, or it must do nothing. If it does not claim infallibility, it cannot in reason set up a national religion; and if, by setting up a national religion, it does claim infallibility, it ought to coerce all men into the belief of that religion. Thus, as we said, every Statechurch is essentially popish.
The notion popularized by Cobbett, that every one has a right to a maintenance out of the soil, leaves those who adopt it in an awkward predicament. Ask for some precise definition of the right--inquire “What is a maintenance ?” They are dumb. “Is it,” say you,“ potatoes and salt, with rags and a mud cabin? or is it bread and bacon, in a two-roomed cottage? Will a joint on Sundays suffice? or does the demand include meat and malt liquor daily? Will tea, coffee, and tobacco be expected ? and if so, how many ounces of each ? Are bare walls and brick floors all that is needed ? or must there be carpets and paper-hangings? Are shoes considered essential? or will the Scotch practice be approved ? Shall the clothing be of fustian? if not, of what quality must the broadcloth be? In short, just point out where, between the two extreines of starvation and luxury, this something called a maintenance lies.” Again they are dumb. There is no possible reply for them. Opinions they may offer in plenty; but not a precise unanimous answer. One thinks that a bare subsistence is all that can fairly be demanded. Here is another who hints at something beyond mere necessaries. And some of the more consistent, pushing the doctrine to its legitimate result, will rest satisfied with nothing short of community of property. Who now shall decide among these conflicting notions ?
The right to labour--that French translation of our poorlaw doctrine-may be similarly treated. A criticism parallel
to the foregoing would place its advocates in a parallel dilemma. But there is another way in which the fallacy of this theory, either in its English or its Continental form, may be made manifest.
When the artizan asserts his right to have work provided for him, he presupposes the existence of some power on which devolves the duty of providing such work. What power is this? The government, he says.
But the government is not an original power, it is a deputed one, and can be held responsible for nothing save the performance of its employer's behests. Who is its employer? Society. Strictly speaking, therefore, the assertion of our artizan is, that it is the duty of society to find work for him. But he is himself a member of society, and has hence a share in the duty of finding work for every man. And hence, if we indicate his fellows alphabetically, his theory is that A, B, C, and the rest of the nation, are bound to find work for him; that he is bound, in company with B, C, and the rest, to find work for A; that he is bound, in company with A, C, and the rest, to find work for B; and so on with each individual of the many millions, of whom the society may be composed !
Most of the objections raised by the dissenter to an established religion tell with equal force against established charity. He asserts that it is unjust to tax him for the support of a creed he does not believe. May not another as reasonably protest against being taxed for the maintenance of a system of relief he disapproves? He denies the right of any bishop or council to choose for him which doctrine he shall accept and which he shall reject. Why does he not also deny the right of any commissioner or vestry to choose for him who are worthy of his charity and who are not? If he dissents from a national church on the ground that religion will be more general and more sincere when voluntarily sustained, should he not similarly dissent from a poor-law on the ground that spontaneous beneficence will produce results both wider and better? Might not the corruption which he points out as neutralizing the effects of a State-taught creed, be paralleled by those evils of pauperism accompanying a State-provision for the poor? Whoso believes that spiritual destitution is to be remedied only by a national church, may with some show of reason propose to deal with physical destitution by an analogous instrumentality. But the advocate of voluntaryism is bound to stand by his principle in the one case as much as in the other.
Whether the sufferings of the unfortunate shall be soothed in obedience to the gentle whisperings of benevolence, or whether fear of the harsh threats of law shall be the motive for relieving them, is indeed a question of no small importance. In deciding how misery is best alleviated, we have to consider, not only what is done for the afllicted, but what is the reactive effect upon those who do it. The relationship that springs up between benefactor and beneficiary is, for this present state of the world, a refining one. The emotion accompanying every generous act adds an atom to the fabric of the ideal man. As no cruel thing can be done without character being thrust a degree back towards barbarism, so no kind thing can be done without character being moved a degree forward towards perfection. Doubly efficacious, therefore, are all assuagings of distress instigated by sympathy; for not only do they remedy the particular evils to be met, but they help to mould humanity into a form by which such evils will one day be precluded.
Far otherwise is it with law-enforced plans of relief. These exercise just the opposite influence. “The quality of mercy (or pity) is not strained,” says the poet. But a poor-law tries to make men pitiful by force. “It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven,” continues the poet. By a poor-law it is wrung from the unwilling. “It blesses him that gives, and him that takes,” adds the poet. A poor-law makes it curse both; the one with discontent and recklessness, the other with complainings and often-renewed bitterness.
This turning of balm into poison must have been remarked by the most careless. Watch a ratepayer when the collector's name is announced. You will observe no kindling of the eye at some thought of happiness to be conferred—no relaxing of the mouth as though selfish cares had for the moment been forgotten-no softening of the voice to tell of compassionate emotion: no, none of these; but rather will you see contracted features, a clouded brow, a sudden disappearance of what habitual kindliness of expression there may be. The tax-paper is glanced over half in fear and half in vexation; there are grumblings about the short time that has elapsed since the last rate. The purse comes slowly from the pocket; and after the collector, who is treated with bare civility, has made his exit, some little time passes before the usual equanimity is regained. Is there anything in this to remind us of the virtue which is "twice blessed ?" Note, again, how this act-of-parliament charity perpetually supersedes men's better sentiments. Here is a respectable citizen with enough and to spare: a man of some feeling; liberal, if there is need; generous even, if his pity is excited. A begyar knocks at his door; or he is accosted in his walk by some way-worn tramp. What does he do? Does he listen, investigate, and, if proper, assist ? No; he commonly cuts short the tale with _“I have nothing for you, my good man; you must go to your parish.” And then he shuts the door, or walks on, as the case may be, with evident unconcern. Thus does the consciousness that there exists a legal provision for the indigent, act as an opiate to the yearnings of sympathy. Had there been no ready-made excuse, the behaviour would probably have been different. Commiseration, pleading for at least an inquiry into the case, would most likely have prevailed ; and, in place of an application to the board of guardians, ending in a pittance coldly handed across the paytable to be thanklessly received, might have commenced a relationship good for both parties—a generosity humanizing to the one, and a succour made doubly valuable to the other