a gift to a beggar at a church door to a grant and a tenure of land. It also, in the word almoner, represented the fulfilment of the religious obligation with the aid of an agent or delegate. The words charity or love (caritas or ἀγάπη), on the other hand, without losing the tone with which the thought of parental or family love inspires them, assume a higher meaning. In religious thought they imply an ideal life, as represented by such expressions as “love (agape) of God.” This on the one side; and on the other an ideal social relation, in such words as “love of man.” Thus in the word “charity” religious and social associations meet; and thus regarded the word means a disciplined and habitual mood in which the mind is considerate of the welfare of others individually and generally, and devises what is for their real good, and in which the intelligence and the will strive to fulfil the mind’s purpose. Charity thus has no necessary relation to relief or alms. To give a lecture, or to nurse a sick man who is not in want or “poor,” may be equally a deed of charity; though in fact charity concerns itself largely with the classes usually called “the poor,” and with problems of distress and relief. Relief, however, is not an essential part of charity or charitable work. It is one of many means at its disposal. If the world were so poor that no one could make a gift, or so wealthy that no one needed it, charity—the charity of life and of deeds—would remain.
The history of charity is a history of many social and religious theories, influences and endeavours, that have left their mark alike upon the popular and the cultivated thought of the present day. The inconsistencies of charitable effort and argument may thus in part be accounted for. To understand the problem of charity we have therefore (1) to consider the stages of charitable thought—the primitive, pagan, Greek and Roman, Jewish and Christian elements, that make up the modern consciousness in regard to charity, and also the growth of the habit of “charity” as representing a gradually educated social instinct. (2) We have also to consider in their relation to charity the results of recent investigations of the conditions of social life. (3) At each stage we have to note the corresponding stage of practical administration in public relief and private effort—for the division between public or “poor-law” relief and charity which prevails in England is, comparatively speaking, a novelty, and, generally speaking, the work of charity can hardly be appreciated or understood if it be considered without reference to public relief. (4) As to the present day, we have to consider practical suggestions in regard to such subjects as charity and economic thought, charity organization, friendly visiting and almonership, co-operation with the poor-law, charity and thrift, parochial management, hospitals and medical relief, exceptional distress and the “unemployed,” the utilization of endowments and their supervision, and their adaptation to new needs and emergencies. (5) We have also throughout to consider charitable help in relation to classes of dependants, who appear early in the history of the question—widows and orphans, the sick and the aged, vagrants and wayfarers.
First in the series come the charities of the family and of hospitality; then the wider charities of religion, the charities of the community, and of individual donors and of mutual help. These gradually assumed importance in communities which consisted originally of self-supporting classes, within which widows and orphans, for instance, would be rather provided for, in accordance with recognized class obligations, than relieved. Then come habitual almsgiving, the charitable endowment, and the modern charitable institution and association. But throughout the test of progress or decadence appears to be the condition of the family. The family is the source, the home and the hearthstone of charity. It has been created but slowly, and there is naturally a constant tendency to break away from its obligations and to ignore and depreciate its utility. Yet the family, as we now have it, is itself the outcome of infinite thought working through social instinct, and has at each stage of its development indicated a general advance. To it, therefore, constant reference must be made.
Part I.—Primitive Charity
The study of early communities has brought to light the history of the development of the family. “Marriage in its lowest phases is by no means a matter of affection or companionship”; and only very slowly has the position of both parents been recognized as implying different but correlative responsibilities towards their child. Only very slowly, also, has the morality necessary to the making of the family been won. Charity at earlier stages is hardly recognized as a virtue, nor infanticide as an evil. Hospitality—the beginning of a larger social life—is non-existent. The self-support of the community is secured by marriage, and when relations fail marriage becomes a provision against poverty. Then by the tribal system is created another safeguard against want. But apart also from these methods of maintenance, at a very early stage there is charitable relief. The festivals of the solstices and equinoxes, and of the seasons, are the occasions for sacrifice and relief; and, as Christmas customs prove, the instinct to give help or alms at such festival periods still remains. Charity is concerned primarily with certain elemental forces of social life: the relation between these primitive instincts and impulses that still influence charity should not, therefore, be overlooked. The basis of social life is also the basis of charitable thought and action.
The savage is the civilized man in the rough. “The lowest races have,” Lord Avebury writes, “no institution of marriage.” Many have no word for “dear” or “beloved.” The child belongs to the tribe rather than to the parent. In these circumstances a problem of charity such as the following may arise:—“Am I to starve, while my sister has children whom she can sell?” a question asked of Burton by a negro. From the point of view of the tribe, an able-bodied man would be more valuable than dependent children, and the relationship of the larger family of brothers and sisters would be a truer claim to help than that of mother and child. Subsequently the child is recognized as related, not to the father, but to the mother, and there is “a kind of bond which lasts for life between mother and child, although the father is a stranger to it.” Slowly only is the relative position of both parents, with different but correlative responsibilities, recognized. The first two steps of charity have then been made: the social value of the bond between the mother, and then between the father, and the child has been recognized. Until this point is reached the morality necessary to the making of the family is wanting, and for a long time afterwards it is hardly won. The virtue of chastity—the condition precedent to the higher family life—is unrecognized. Indeed, the set of such religious thought as there may be is against it. Abstract conceptions, even in the nobler races, are lacking. The religion of life is vaguely struggling with its animality, and that which it at last learns to rule it at first worships. In these circumstances there is little charity for the child and little for the stranger. “There is,” Dr Schweinfurth wrote in his Heart of Africa, “an utter want of wholesome intercourse between race and race. For any member of a tribe that speaks one dialect to cross the borders of a tribe that speaks another is to make a venture at the hazard of his life.” The religious obligations that fostered and sanctified family life among the Greeks and Romans and Jews are unknown. Much later in development comes charity for the child, with the abhorrence of infanticide—against which the Jewish-Christian charity of 2000 years ago uttered its most vigorous protests. If the child belonged primarily to the tribe or state, its maintenance or destruction was a common concern. This motive influenced the Greeks, who are historically nearer the earlier forms of social life than ourselves. For the common good they exposed the deformed child; but also “where there were too many, for in our state population has a limit,” as Aristotle says, “the babe or unborn child was destroyed.” And so, to lighten their own responsibilities, parents were wont to do in the slow years of the degradation of the Roman empire, though the interest of the state then required a contrary policy. The transition to our present feeling of responsibility for child-life has been very gradual and uncertain, through the middle ages and even till the 18th century. Strictly it may be said that all penitentiaries and other similar institutions are concrete protests on behalf of a better family life. The movement for the care of children in the 18th century naturally and instinctively allied itself with the penitentiary movement. The want of regard for child-life, when the rearing of children becomes a source of economic pressure, suggests why in earlier stages of civilization all that charitable apparatus which we now think necessary for the assistance of children is wanting, even if the need, so far as it does arise, is not adequately met by the recognized obligations of the clan-family or brotherhood.
In the case of barbarous races charity and self-support may be considered from some other points of view. Self-support is secured in two ways—by marriage and by slavery. “For a man or woman to be unmarried after the age of thirty is unheard of” (T. H. Lewin, Wild Races of South-East India). On the other hand, if any one is without a father, mother or other relative, and destitute of the necessaries of life, he may sell himself and become a slave. Thus slavery becomes a provision for poverty when relations fail. The clan-family may serve the same purpose. David Livingstone describes the formation of the clan-family among the Bakuena. “Each man, by virtue of paternity, is chief of his own children. They build huts round his.... Near the centre of each circle of huts is a spot