overlooking indirect mischiefs does not produce a greater total of misery than extreme selfishness?
Such are the objections of Mr. Spencer and Mr. Darwin in all their force. In our opinion, they still bear against the blind and irrational exercise of philanthropy, rather than against philanthropy itself. Pushed too far, the theorem relative to the moral and intellectual debasement of societies would have consequences still more inadmissible than that relative to their physical debasement. In fact, the law of mental and moral heredity, which is their principle, is much more vague and loose than the law of physical heredity. What is the meaning of the unprecise expression, "a society lowered by the artificial preservation of the individuals least capable of taking care of themselves"? Does Mr. Spencer mean that parents in the habit, for example, of soliciting at the charitable institutions will beget children endowed with the innate disposition to go to the same institutions? England certainly offers a spectacle of this kind of poor, who are assisted from father to son by the parishes; they are, we might say, the lords of beggardom; in them hereditary indigence is raised to the dignity of an institution. Poor mothers surround themselves with their numerous children as so many titles to assistance—they are Cornelias of a new race. But whose fault is it? Is it not that of the distributors of the poor-taxes, which are, moreover, increasing every day under this system? Is it not, furthermore, the fault of the bad education received by the children, rather than of heredity of temperament? If these children were brought up with the children of a lord, would they exhibit an innate propensity to beg or to be assisted by others? We believe, generally, that Messrs. Spencer and Darwin, as well as Messrs. Jacoby and Ribot, attribute too great a part to heredity, too little a one to education and circumstances.
The part played by the social and political organization in England must, moreover, not be forgotten. In France, by the operation of the rule of equality, there are between four and five million proprietors, and the increase of population is so slow as to give uneasiness to those who regard the material and military power of a nation before everything else. In England, the soil is owned by thirty thousand persons, and half of it is in the hands of a hundred and fifty large proprietors. In consequence of this feudal monopoly and this rule of inequality (for which many of our contemporary writers utter Platonic regrets), neither the workmen nor the villagers can live without the aid of the poor-taxes. The lords having arrogated to themselves the monopoly of wealth, a part of the nation would be reduced to the most extreme wretchedness if they did not deign to compensate for their injustice with their charity. We must admit that they come within a certain distance of reaching this point, for the number of assisted has diminished one half during the last thirty years. In the greater part of England the wages of the agricultural laborer vary between six and