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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/72

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62
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

profession. Hypocrisy and lies are the principal tools. Those who acquire skill in it frequently obtain greater incomes than those who labor."

A case in Washington, D. C, illustrates this:[1] In August, 1885, a boy of about fourteen years was found regularly begging on Pennsylvania Avenue. His mother, healthy and reasonably intelligent, lived in a neat house on a pretty street within three blocks of the Capitol. There was no sign of poverty or of distress about the house, inside or out. The boy had, during the sessions of Congress, sold papers at the Capitol, reaping a rich harvest. He limped about with a crutch. People gave him five, ten, or twenty-five cents for a paper, and asked no change. When Congress adjourned, he could still have supported himself well by selling papers on Pennsylvania Avenue; but people there did not pay over five cents for papers, as a rule. Still, they did give to beggars, especially to those with crutches. It easily appeared that the boy could make more money by begging than by selling papers, and so he begged. Even after he had been taken into police court twice, he returned to the street to beg. It was only with great difficulty that the writer succeeded in stopping this imposition upon the public—the sweet, confiding public, which is ever seeking to give to strangers, because "some have thereby entertained angels unawares"—yes, a public which is too lazy to investigate the effects of its alms-giving, and which deserves to be imposed upon.

Now, let no one express horror at the character disclosed in this child, or rather in his mother, who was the real actor. She was no better and no worse than the average citizen. She simply exercised business sagacity in getting money apart from moral considerations. So do Wall-Street brokers; so do many men who endow colleges, build churches, and send missionaries to "the heathen."

The solution of this economic problem is of the simplest. Make begging unprofitable, and we never need lecture beggars about their loss of self-respect. When the getting of something for nothing becomes impossible, and never till then, will men cease to endeavor to get something for nothing. When you and every one of you completely discontinue giving alms, except to those whose circumstances are perfectly understood, self-respect and other moral qualities will develop in those people without even a word being said to them upon that point. In giving to them, you degrade society far more than they degrade it by asking. This kind of altruism is a curse in the world. Fawcett said of it, "England was brought nearer the brink of ruin by the old poor-

  1. I made the investigation of it in person, and prosecuted it in the police court before Judge W. B. Snell.