APPEAL TO THE WEALTHY.
payers and the recipients, and demands to be soberly and calmly and candidly discussed, uninfluenced by the names or standing of the advocates, or by previous prejudices, however great.
The investigation may at present be prosecuted with more advantage than at any former period. The British parliament some time since appointed a commission, composed of the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Chester, Messrs. W. J. Bourne, Nassau W. Senior, Henry Bishop, Henry Gawler, and W. Coulson, to investigate the subject thoroughly. They addressed pertinent queries to the different overseers of the poor, and the magistrates throughout the kingdom; the responses to which shed a flood of light on the subject, and dispelled the clouds of darkness and delusion under which it has been obscured.
Copies of a digest of the information thus collected, published so late as last March, have been forwarded to this country to different individuals, with a desire of ascertaining the nature of our system for the support of the poor. Of this publication, the most authentic and conclusive that has appeared on the subject, I shall principally avail myself in the following view of it.
The law of the 43d Elizabeth, the result of the collected wisdom of the great statesmen by whom that queen was surrounded, was framed after various experiments. It ordered that "competent sums should be raised" [by the overseers of the poor] "for the necessary relief of the lame, impotent, old, blind, and such other among them being poor and unable to work;" and that the able-bodied, idle vagrants should be compelled to labour for their support. This law, which is marked by the strongest features of enlightened humanity and sound policy, has been in operation above two hundred years, and has undergone various alterations—some, obvious improvements—others, deteriorations; but the frame-work of it remains as originally enacted. I will state the main objections alleged against such a system. It is asserted by the editors of the Edinburgh Review—
- That the necessary and inevitable consequence of a statutory provision for the poor, is, to increase regularly and oppressively the amount of the burdens, as has been the case for some years in England.
- That it encourages imprudent and improvident marriages, and of course produces the distress it professes to relieve, and multiplies a pauper population.
- That it destroys, or at least impairs, the stimulus to industry, by insuring a support to the idle and vicious, equal to what honest industry can acquire by useful labour.
Were these objections well founded, they would unquestionably give irresistible force to the loud call that prevails for the abolition of a system pregnant with such baleful consequences. But I hope to prove, by the most unquestionable evidence, that the evils complained of are solely the result of the most flagrant, barefaced, and corrupt abuses, such as are perhaps without parallel in any other country in the world. Let it be observed, that I should not here trespass on the public with this subject, but that the opinions of the Edinburgh Review are spreading in this country, and are advocated by some of our best citizens. The Rev. Mr. Tuckerman, author of a Report to the Legislature of Massachusetts, and W. M. Meredith, Esq., author of an elaborate one to the Legislature of Pennsylvania on this subject, both decidedly concur in ascribing the worst consequences to a legal provision for the poor, and deprecate its continuance. These opinions are gaining ground, and therefore it is highly proper to bring them to the test of the talisman of truth and fact, so as not only to enable those who may be called to legislate on this subject, to act understandingly, but to enable the public at large to decide be-