« PreviousContinue »
and religion as native to that heart as mere human affections, had sustained her in them all, without any diminution of her happiness, although with a great change of its character ; and, therefore, it was not likely that this loss should overwhelm her with such strong grief, as she had experienced at other dearer deaths. But the old man's face could not be looked at by the grateful and loving Orphan, without the fast flowing tears of holy nature ; and she kissed the cold cheeks of him to whom the tender expression of human affections had for so many solitary years been wholly unknown; and with her own gentle hands she closed his eyes. But for him, she might have been a dweller under the roof of paid and mercenary charity ; and but for her, he might have died in his loneliness, sullenly, and without those pious feelings that are best cherished by the breath of merely human love. The old man’s latter days had been happy; and the shadow of death had fallen upon him at last, a few hours after a cheerful and fatherly conversation with one he loved, beside his own hearth, while the Bible had furnished the last words uttered to his deafened ear.” P. 279.
Whether a decidedly melancholy plot be not the most consistent with the objects to which we have alluded, may be doubted; at least such seems the opinion of the Author, who seldom or never attempts humour, and whose characters, though in one or two instances admirably drawn, are chiefly subservient to the thread of the story. His great end may best be expressed in the language of Campbell.
“ • Yes ; to thy tongue shall seraph words be given,
Pleasures of Hope, P. 16. Such an employment of talent would reflect honour upon any individual, and if report err not in attributing the pre.. sent tale to the Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh, we may congratulate him on a work so well calculated to uphold his high literary character, and so consistent with the nature and objects of his dignified ollice.
Art. IX. The Christian and Civic Economy of large
Towns. By Thomas Chalmers, D.D. Glasgow. 1823. Our readers are aware that the above miscellany is a periodical work written solely by Dr. Chalmers, and that the object of it is to enlighten the present generation, in regard to the best means of managing the poor, as well indeed as of regulating all eleemosynary establishments whatsoever. There are three Numbers of the Civic Economy now before us, of which the respective titles are; On the likeliest means for the abolition of pauperism in England :-On the likeliest Parliamentary means for the abolition of pauperism in England :-On the likeliest parochial means for the abolition of pauperisim in England. - It is these topics of course, which recommend to our attention this, the latest portion of Dr. Chalmers' labours, on Christian and Civic Economy.
We find that the author, in order to qualify himself for pronouncing an accurate judgment on the practice and on the effect of our system of poor laws, spent some time last year in different parts of England ; and that much valuable information was communicated to him in Dorsetshire, Essex, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, and London. As the benevolence of his views has never been questioned, and as the practicability of his scheme had already been sufficiently proved by the success which crowned his exertions at Glasgow, he appears to have been every where well received ; readily and frankly informed on all the points to which his enquiries were directed ; and respectfully listened to, whenever he thought proper to tender his advice in return. It is our intention to give a summary view of what he learned as well as of what he recommended, during his visit amongst us; but before we proceed to this abridgment, we shall state, in a few words, the amount of his achievements in diminishing, and as applies to several parishes, effectually abolishing pauperism, in the populous city where he exercises his ministerial functions.
Glasgow, from the character of its inhabitants, who are chiefly engaged in trade or manufactures, approaches more nearly than any other town in Scotland, to that condition of things which, at first rendered necessary, and which in some measure justifies at the present day, our establishments for the relief of pauperism. Assessments for the poor had accordingly long been imposed in that city; where, as in all other places in which a fund for the indigent is raised by legal authority, the burden was becoming more and more heavy every year. The amount of rates at Glasgow was not less than 12,0001. per annum ; which, with the sums collected on the Sundays at the doors of the several Churches, might be taken at the average of fourteen or fifteen thousand pounds. The people, beginning to view such relief as a right secured to them by law, were fast becoming clamorous and shameless; assailing the magistrates with memorials and remonstrances, und demanding to be placed on the same footing, as to the regularity and amount of their allowance, as the working class in England. As the theory of the poor laws in Scotland is not materially different from that of the system which obtains among ourselves, or is, at least, so much the same as to warrant an assessment upon the real property of a parish, for the maintenance of all the impotent and necessitous householders who may belong to it, our neighbours in the North found themselves placed decidedly within the influence of that vortex which has, of late years, drawn in and destroyed so much of wealth and of good feeling in many parts of England. To avert the evil with which they were thus threatened, it was thought worth while to make an attempt to return to the more simple method of parochial charity, which had been followed throughout all Scotland, previous to the introduction of this authoritative assessment, and to supply the wants of the poor as formerly, from the Sunday collections, as well as from those more private sources of individual philanthropy, which are never closed in cases of real distress. With this view, Dr. Chalmers entreated to have his parish disjoined from the other city parishes of Glasgow, and to have the entire command of the small parish fund now mentioned ; that, namely, which is contributed by the voluntary donations of the parishioners themselves at the church door: and with these scanty means and facilities he undertook to provide for all his parochial poor; to relieve the Town's Hospital of all burdens as connected with his people ; and to allow, at the same time, the whole amount of the assessment levied within his parish, to go in aid of the general disbursement for the poor in the other parts of the city.
This was a bold challenge; and it was accepted. Dr. Chalmers, we are told, has one of the poorest parishes in Glasgow, containing about 9000 inhabitants, nearly all of them belonging to the labouring class of society, and, at the time he undertook their reformation, greatly overrun with radicalism and other political and religious impurities. But he never despaired of success; and he has succeeded beyond ali buman hope and calculation. He pot only provides for all the poor among his nine thousand mechanics, but he has already, on the bare revenue of his Sunday collections, built four substantial school-houses within the bounds of his parish; by means of which the children of his parishioners are blessed with a good education at a very small cost; and where they are taught, as one of the fundamental principles of religion and social morality, that it is their bounden duty to “ learn and labour truly to get their own living,” in that state of life, into which it may please God to call them. He is even enabled to pay out of the same fund a salary of 251. to each of his four masters; and during all these wonderful exertions of real and ardent patriotism, the weekly contributions of his bearers, so far from falling short of his liberal schemes, have always maintained a balance of several hundred pounds in his hands. His example has been followed by several other parishes in Glasgow, with the same good effect. The magistrates, who formerly charged themselves with the legal maintenance of the poor, and expended year after year from ten to fifteen thousand pounds on a partial relief of their wants, have voluntarily resigned their office of almoners, and left the whole labour of charity to the clergymen of the city, and to their lay deacons and elders. The same system we are here informed has been extended to a part of Edinburgh ; and the same happy results continue to crown the endeavours of these best of reformers. Compulsory pauperism is rapidly disappearing. The poor are supported by the gratuitous contributions of the poor themselves; and the labouring classes are taught that no individual has any claim for maintenance but upon his own industry, prudence, and perseverance.
It is natural to enquire, what are the means which are employed for effecting this remarkable improvement, and to ask upon what principle are the people of Scotland ind ced to relinquish a legal claim, in order to make way for a scheme which throws the burden of relieving the indigent upon the very class to which the indigent in general belong. In repiy to these questions it may be observed, in the first place, that, as the practice of assessing property for the maintenance of paupers is comparatively recent in that country, and confined even vow to the large towns, the labouring people are not yet accustomed to depend upon parochial aid, as an ascertained right, and, of course, do not feel that they have any particular interests in establishing it. Instead of having had their eyes fixed upon a large revenue levied by the authority of parliament, their sole reliance, in the event of sudden and unavoidable distress, has always been placed on that small gratuitous fund which is raised at the church doors, and to which every man, however poor, who goes to church, makes it a point of honour to contribute his mite.
But, we must add, the principal means by which the progress of pauperism in large towns, has been checked, are a minute investigation into the circumstances of all persons who solicit parish assistance; into the ability of their relatives to assist them ; into the amount of the private charity which is administered by their neighbours, and even into the extent to which this private aid may, upon a right understanding of the case, be carried by the benevolent householders around. For this purpose, every parish is divided into a number of districts or wards, every one of which is placed under the superintendance of an elder or deacon, who lives in the middle of his charge, and who receives, in the first instance, all the petitions for parochial relief which the poor are desirous to forward to the session, or consistory, composed of the minister, and all the elders and deacons of the parish, who ultimately decide on every claim. As every individual in the district is known to the deacon, who is usually a prudent well-doing person of the same rank with the parishioners among whom he dwells, there is not only very little room for fraud or imposition, in the statement of facts upon which the petition is founded ; but as in most situations, a great deal may be done by engaging the sympathy and good offices of the neighbours, this representative of the session will endeavour to secure the necessary aid from the inexhaustible resources of private benevolence, and to draw relief to his claimant from hands and hearts doomed to the same labours and pains with himself, and which, in such circumstances, are soon taught to feel that it is more blessed to give than to receive. There is much humanity among the poor towards the poor, when their good feelings are not intercepted by the operation of a public and legalized system, of which the professed object is to relieve their wants; but which, notwithstanding its cumbrous and expensive apparatus, does not effect balf as much as they would do for one another without it. This is a consideration which cannot be too frequently kept in view, in all discussions on the subject of the poor-laws. The labouring classes would not only not suffer any thing from the abolition of these Jaws, but they would even, in that event, be better provided for, when in sickness or want; and they would unquestiona. bly be more virtuous in their feelings, and more independent in their principles. The truth is, as Dr. Chalmers well ob. serves, that it is upon their sympathies one with another that we