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Cost of maintaining the sick and aged poor in the £* s. d.
town of Workington - - - 6°0 0 3
£. s. d.
The Colliers' Society per ann. - 2Q5 0 0
Sisterly Society - - 171 13 0
Honourable Society - 90 11 3
Provisional Society - * 81 0 0
Schoose Farm Society - 39 8 5
Friendly Society * * - 59 4 2*
Taking the estimate at 736/. 17s- l^d. as a fair average of amount, in the last fifteen years, the total sum of voluntary contributions will be 10,956/. 16*. lOjrf. The whole of the sums raised by the poor-rates, but applied to various objects not strictly applicable to the poor, up to the last year, will not exceed 8550/.
That a partial subscription of individuals (aided, I will admit, by the promoters of these Societies) should have raised so large an annual sum, will appear a. matter of astonishment to those who have not much reflected upon the subject, but it must be a matter of delight ro all.
And yet great as the amount is, and exceeding the whole sum expended by the town for supporting the necessitous poor, I can confidently assert, that had the measure been general, not less than double this sum would have been produced. -Had the different proprietors of considerable works established in the town viewed the beneficial consequences of the plan in the same light with myself, and introduced it and supported it among those in their employ, we should
at at this moment have raised out of the earnings of the mechanic, the collier, and the labourer, classed in their different societies, a gross sum amounting to little short of 1500/. I cannot resist indulging in this pleasing idea of what might and ought to have beea fully realised. The township finding itself relieved of so great a proportion of burthen, would doubtless have contributed a third or other considerable part of the whole collections, in further aid of the Societies, and as an encouragement to their meritorious perseverance and continuance.
By this means we should have had near 2000/. per annum, to be laid out in the recovery of the sick, the support of the declining, and the education of youth; and surely such an example of right-minded exertion would have acted with the happiest effects on the hopes of other individuals; and what honour could not do, the dread of shame would have brought about. Thus, then, they who depended upon industry and health for support, would in their respective classes have contributed to the relief of others, under the assurance of an equal return; and none but the aged, the infirm, and the destitute, would have been left as a charge to be supported by the bounty of the parish. A circumstance of trifling notice, but important in its influence on the feelings of a body of people, must not be omitted; the yearly celebration of the first formation of their respective Societies, the joint attendance on public worship, the dining in common with their friends and patron, the passing the yearly accounts, and choosing a new committee and other
. 2 A officers officers for the management of the affairs of the So* ciety from among themselves, are so many charms to> bind and engage man to man, and raise him in his own estimation.
As a further proof of the benefit resulting from Societies, I beg to state the following circumstance. la the last year some afflictive losses were sustained at sea, and several poor women bereft of their husbands, and left with numerous families to bewail their misfortunes, without any means but their own honest endeavours for the support of themselves and families. A subscription of nearly a hundred pounds was obtained for them, which, under the circumstances of the town, and the frequent calls upon their humanity, was liberal. Contrast this with the situation of the afflicted belonging to these Societies, where eight members received a larger sum drawn from their own funds, which were equal to the continuance of the same support so long as the necessity continued. Charity basks limits, and the relief diminishes in proportion as the pressure increases.
That such a plan might be made general, under parliamentary restrictions, and accompanied with proper checks, is what I cannot too positively affirm; but I shall submit at some length the grounds of my opinion.
That no plan is without objections, and that folly
and prejudice is ever more prone to find fault than to
'approve; as an example, I should quote the case of
Mr. Bolton, of Soho, Birmingham, who some years
ago offered the parish, in which his extensive works
are are situated, that if they would exonerate him from paying to the poor-rates, he would guarantee them from any charge from persons in his employ. The offer was refused, which I consider as highly uafortunate, as I conceive it might have led to very important national consequences.
It is not enough barely to satisfy the wants and alleviate the sufferings of our fellow-creatures; we must advance farther; and the mind must be an object of dur care as well as the b^ dy. The near alliance of vice and misery to mental degradation) and the dreadful moral effects of torpid indifference and hopeless poverty on the lower orders, (evils of late greatly increased and still increasing daily) satisfactorily prove, that whatever has already been done by law, has been founded on erroneous principles, and that something less complicated in its system, and more consentaneous to the great springs and motives of human action, must be speedily attempted. I would not hastily pull down and destroy what is even avowedly imperfect and insufficient to its ends, but I would inquire whether some plan might not be so constructed, as to supply its place, and in time render its application altogether useless.
Is the character of those receiving parish aid such as is suited to men either in a physical or moral point of view? The spring of hope is weakened, and the inducement to exertion palsied, the feelings of independence lost or destroyed, and the kindest endearments of life not unfrequently torn asunder by the severe and indiscriminating modes of relief which are afforded un
2 A 2 der
der the present system; and to aggravate the malady, the burden of inefficient contribution bears down all before it, and increases in an inverse ratio to the ability of sustaining it.
The extent of my wishes is to collect in one point of view the evidences of successful experience, and the results of candid reasoning, in support of a measure . which appears so replete with advantages; and I shall be highly gratified should I be able to draw the attention of men more accustomed to think profoundly on these questions than myself, to the full development of all its consequences.
The soundness of the principle once established, the arrangement of the details, when conducted by the collective wisdom of the legislature, will be a work of easy labour, admitting of occasional revision and amendment, until the plan shall be rendered fully complete. There are, however, two or three heads of- detail, on which I wish to offer a few remarks. Malthus's plan for the abolition of the poor laws, the education of poor children, the situation of the manufacturing poor, and the parochial burthen of illegitimate offspring. No commendation of mine can add to the merit of Mr. Malthus's valuable work; but it is just to avow, that I can see nothing either of cruelty or injustice in the principle of imposing a check upon unprovided marriages, rather than affording a direct encouragement to them. A restriction of this nature connected with the measure of benefit societies, would have a powerful effect on industry and good morals; for, by enforcing upon all classes the justice and absolute