« 上一頁繼續 »
that, if they cannot correct the inclination (which is too often caused by hard labour) for conviviality and dissipation, they at least convert a vicious propensity into a useful instrument of economy and industry, and secure to their members (what can seldom be purchased at too dear a rate) subsistence during sickness, and independence in old age."*
It is proper for me to add, after expressing myself so strongly in favour of these institutions, that I do not think they accomplish so completely all that might be attempted for the advantage of the lower orders, as to supersede the utility of farther arrangements for the attainment of the same end. Many individuals in the humbler walks of life, at least in ordinary times, can afford a still larger deduction from their expenditure than their monthly contingent requires; and it might be of infinite consequence to the industry, comforts, and morals of themselves, and of their families, if proper measures could be devised to encourage them to habits of economy, and to enable them to lend out at interest their petty gains. The losses which persons of this description, ignorant of the world, frequently suffer from ill-placed confidence, conspire with the temptations of the present moment, to divert them from habits of saving; and it would be a subject well worthy of the consideration of those who unite a spirit of humanity, and a practical acquaintance with business, to devise some plan for diminishing the risk of such loans, and for removing the other obstacles which stand in the way of so desirable an improvement.
The remarks which have been just made, appear to me to furnish the true explanation of a paradox, which has been very often insisted on from motives extremely reprehensible, by various writers, that the liberal reward of labour encourages idleness. A variety of French writers have concurred in this opinion, and Mr. Arthur Young, in several of his works, pretends that the truth of the observation is amply confirmed by his own extensive observation. Dr. Franklin, too, whose works are in general animated by a spirit of genuine humanity, has given it the sanction of his authority. “The common people,"
* [Ibid. p. 632.)
he observes, “ do not work for pleasure generally, but from necessity. Cheapness of provisions makes them idle ; less work is then done, it is then more in demand proportionally, and of course the price rises. Dearness of provisions obliges the manufacturer to work more days and more hours, thus more work is done than equals the usual demand; of course it becomes cheaper, and the manufactures in consequence."*
To this doctrine, so discouraging to the most numerous and the most essential of all the classes of society, Mr. Smith has opposed some very ingenious reasonings, endeavouring to prove, in his Wealth of Nations, t that more work is done in cheap years, than in those of greater scarcity. But although I am no less unwilling than Mr. Smith to shew any favour to the views of those who support this proposition, I must own, that his reasoning on this point does not seem to me to be quite satisfactory; nor do I think it necessary for the accomplishment of the benevolent purpose in view, to lay so much stress on the fact on which the doctrine is founded. Granting this fact in all its extent, what does it prove but the necessity of removing those circumstances in the condition of the people, which have produced in their case an effect so contrary to the general analogy of human affairs ? Among these circumstances, none has operated more powerfully than the difficulty which the inferior ranks experience, in disposing safely and profitably of the surplus of their earnings. Hence an improvidence of the future, and a habit of considering wages in the light of a daily subsistence, sometimes more and sometimes less abundant, but always destined for present consumption. The natural and necessary consequence is, that when the labour of two days is sufficient for the support of three, instead of accumulating their gains with a steady perseverance, they attempt to economize proportionally their own industry, and poverty and wretchedness are handed down from generation to generation. If an easy and unexceptionable mode of disposing prudently of that proportion of their gains, which they could spare, were devised,
* (Political Fragments, Sect. j.; +[Book I. chap. vij.; Vol. I. p. 131, Works, Vol. II. p. 415, edit. 1806) tenth edition.]
that desire of bettering their condition, which never fails to operate where it has a field, would soon produce diligence and alacrity among the poor, and the humble occupation of industry and labour would be enlivened and cheered by hope and by ambition. With the view of assisting, and without the most distant idea of interfering with this arrangement, Mr. Malthus proposed, some years ago, the establishment of country banks ; and more lately, Mr. Whitbread suggested the establishment of a great national institution of the nature of a bank, for the easy and advantageous employment of the savings of the poor.* On the merit of neither of these two plans am I prepared to give any opinion. [Our Savings Banks have originated from the same principle.]
[SECT. III.-ON THE DISTRESSES OF THE POOR, IN SO FAR AS THEY
PROCEED FROM THEIR OWN EVIL HABITS.] Having treated, at some length, of the state of the poor, and of the spirit of that branch of our police by which their condition is more immediately affected, I think it necessary to add, before concluding the subject, that in years of moderate plenty, a very great part of the distress occasioned to the lower orders in this island, must be ascribed to their own perverse habits, which are likely long to remain the subject of our unavailing complaints. It is remarked by the late Dr. Currie of Liverpool, in his Medical Reports, “ that the want of a diet sufficiently nutritious is, undoubtedly, one of the causes which promote the typhus and other diseases among our poor.” The miserable effects produced by the unfortunate appetite for intoxicating liquors, so prevalent among the lower orders, have been often discussed, and very generally lamented. Indeed, I know only of one writer of note, who has ventured to dissent from the prevailing opinion on this subject; and I scarcely apprehend, that his reasonings, confidently as they are stated, and great as the weight is which they derive from the imposing authority of so illustrious a name, will require a serious examination. I allude to a panegyric on the happy effects of dramdrinking, which occurs in a Posthumous Essay of Mr. Burke, lately published by his executors.
* [Speech on the Poor-Laus, delivered in the House of Commons, February 19, 1807, p. 42.]
“ The alembic, in my mind, has furnished the world a far greater benefit and blessing, than if the opus maximum had been really found by chemistry, and, like Midas, we could turn everything into gold.
“ Undoubtedly there may be a dangerous abuse in the excess of spirits; and, at one time, I am ready to believe the abuse was great. When spirits are cheap, the business of drunkenness is achieved with little time or labour, but that evil I consider to be wholly done away. Observation for the last forty years, and very particularly for the last thirty,* has furnished me with tеn instances of drunkenness from other causes for one from this. Ardent spirit is a great medicine, often to remove distempers—much more frequently to prevent them, or to chase them away in their beginnings. It is not nutritive in any great degree. But if not food, it greatly alleviates the want of it. It invigorates the stomach for the digestion of poor meagre diet, not easily alliable to the human constitution. Wine the poor cannot touch. Beer, as applied to many occasions, (as among seamen and fishermen for instance,) will by no means do the business. Let me add, what wits inspired with champagne and claret will turn into ridicule—it is a medicine for the mind.f Under the pressure of the cares and sorrows of our mortal condition, men have at all times, and in all countries, called in some physical aid to their moral consolations,—wine, beer, opium, brandy, or tobacco." I
The only reply I shall make to this passage is, by quoting one or two paragraphs from An Account of the Colony in New South Wales, published, a few years ago, by Colonel Collins, who held, for a considerable number of years, the office of Judge Advocate in that settlement. The book, notwithstanding the extreme prolixity of its details, is interesting and
* [This Paper was written in 1795.]
+ [The celebrated book, Medicina Mentis of Tschirnhausen, is here referred to.]
[Thoughts and Details on Scarcity, Works, Vol. VII. pp. 413, 414, edition 1808.]
instructive, in many respects, to all who turn their attention to that branch of police which relates to the morals of the lower classes of society; and on no account more than by the numerous and melancholy illustrations which are there produced, of the moral effects which have attended the invention of the alembic. Of its medical effects, I do not presume to give any opinion. “At Sydney and Paramatta, a license was given for the sale of porter ; but, under the cover of this, spirits found their way among the people, and much intoxication was the consequence. Several of the settlers, breaking out from the restraint to which they had been subject, conducted themselves with the greatest impropriety, beating their wives, destroying their stock, trampling on and injuring their crops in the ground, and destroying each other's property. ... The indulgence which was intended by the Governor for their benefit, was most shamefully abused ; and what he suffered them to purchase with a view to their future comfort, was retailed among themselves at a scandalous profit, several of the settlers’ houses being at this time literally nothing else but porterhouses, where rioting and drunkenness prevailed as long as the means remained."* ...
“The American spirit had by some means or other found its way among the convicts; and a discreet use of it being wholly out of the question with those people, intoxication was become common among them. The free use of spirits had been hitherto most rigidly prohibited in the colony; that is to say, it was absolutely forbidden to the convicts. It might therefore have been expected, that when that restraint was in ever so small a degree removed, they would break out into acts of disorder and contempt of former prohibitions. It was therefore indispensable to the preservation of peace and good order in the settlement, to prevent, if possible, the existence of so great an evil as drunkenness, which, if suffered, would have been the parent of every irregularity. The fondness expressed by these people for even this pernicious American spirit, was incredible; they hesitated not to go any length to procure it, and
* Chap. xviii. Vol. I. pp. 240, 241. London, 1798.]