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Subject of Poor Laws, continued.

enlightened government could, in this case, make the food keep pace with the population, much less a mere arbitrary edict, the tendency of which is certainly rather to diminish than to increase the funds for the maintenance of productive labor.

In the actual circumstances of every country, the prolific power of nature seems to be alway's ready to exert nearly its full force; but within the limit of possibility, there is nothing perhaps more improbable, or more out of the reach of any government to effect, than the direction of the industry of its subjects in such a manner as to produce the greatest quantity of human sustenance that the earth could bear. It evidently could not be done without the most complete violation of the law of property, from which every thing that is valuable to man has hitherto arisen. Such is the disposition to marry, particularly in very young people, that if the difficulties of providing for a family were en. tirely removed, very few would remain single at twenty-two. But what statesman or rational

government could propose, that all animal food should be prohibited, that no horses should be used for business or pleasure, that all the people should live upon potatoes, and that the whole industry of

Subject of Poor Laws, continued.

the nation should be exerted in the production of them, except what was necessary for the mere ne*cessaries of clothing and houses. Could such a revolution be effected, would it be desirable ; particularly as in a few years, notwithstanding all these exertions, want, with less resource than ever, would inevitably recur..

After a country has once ceased to be in the peculiar situation of a new colony, we shall always find, that in the actual state of its cultivation, or in that state which may rationally be expected from the most enlightened government, the increase of its food can never allow for any length of time an unrestricted increase of population ; and therefore the due execution of the clause in the 43d of Elizabeth, as a permanent law, is a physical impossibility:

It will be said perhaps, that the fact contradicts the theory, and that the clause in question has remained in force, and has been executed during the last two hundred years. In answer to this I should say without hesitation, that it has not really been executed ; and that it is merely owing to its incomplete execution, that it remains on our statute book at present.

Subject of Poor Laws, continued.

The scanty relief granted to persons in distress, the capricious and insulting manner in which it is sometimes distributed by the overseers, and the natural and becoming pride not yet quite extinct among

the

peasantry of England, have deterred the more thinking and virtuous part of them from venturing on marriage, without some better prospect of maintaining their families than mere parish assistance. The desire of bettering our condition and the fear of making it worse, ţike the vis medicatrix nature in physicks, is the vis medicatrix reipublicæ in politics, and is continually counteracting the disorders arising from narrow human institutions. In spite of the prejudices in favor of population, and the direct encouragements to marriage from the poor laws, it operates as a preventive check to increase'; and happy for this country is it that it does so. But besides that spirit of independence and prudence which checks the frequency of marriage notwithstanding the encouragements of the poor laws, these laws themselves occasion a check of no inconsiderable magnitude, and thus counteract with one hand what they encourage with the other. As each parish is 'obliged to maintain its own poor, it is naturally

Subject of Poor Laws, continued.

fearful of increasing their number, and every landholder is in consequence more inclined to pull down than to build cottages. This deficiency of cottages operates necessarily as a strong check to marriage, and this check is probably the principal reason why we have been able to continue the system of the poor laws so long.

Those who are not prevented for a time from marrying by these causes, are either relieved very scantily at their own homes, where they suffer all the consequences arising from squalid poverty ; or they are crowded together in close and unwholesome workhouses, where a great mortality almost universally takes place, particularly among the young children. The dreadful account given by Jonas Hanway of the treatment of parish chil. dren in London is well known; and it appears from Mr. Howlett and other writers that in some parts of the country their situation is not very much better. A great part of the redundant population occasioned by the poor laws is thus taken off by the operation of the laws themselves, or at least by their ill execution. The remaining part which survives, by 'causing the funds for the maintenance of labor to be divided among a great

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Subject of Poor Laws, continued.

er number than can be properly maintained by them, and by turning a considerable share from the support of the diligent and careful workınan, to the support of the idle and the negligent, depresses the condition of all those who are out of the worķhouses, forces more every year into them, and has ultimately produced the enormous evil which we all so justly deplore, that of the great and unnatural proportion of the people which is now become dependent upon charity.

If this be a just representation of the manner in which the clause in question has been executed, and of the effects which it has produced, it must be allowed, that we have practiced an unpardonable deceit upon the poor, and have promised what we have been very far from performing. It may be asserted without danger of exaggeration, that the poor, laws have destroyed many more lives then they have preserved.

The attempts to employ the poor on any great scale in manufactures have almost invariably failed, and the stock and materials have been wasted. In those few parishes which, by better management or larger funds, have been enabled to persevere

in this system, the effect of these new manufactures in the market must have been to throw out of em

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