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struck, empowering parish-officers to impofe a tax for the poor. The legislature certainly did not foresee the baneful confequences but how came they not to fee that they were diftrufting Providence, declaring in effect, that the plan established by our Maker for the poor, is infufficient? Many are the municipal laws that enforce the laws of nature, by additional rewards and punishments; but it was fingularly bold to abolish the natural law of charity, by establishing a legal tax in its ftead. Men will always be mending: what a confufed jumble do they make, when they attempt to mend the laws of Nature! Leave Nature to her own operations: fhe underftands them the best.
Few regulations are more plaufible than what are political; and yet few are more deceitful. A writer, blind with partiality for his country, makes the following obfervations upon the 43° Elifab. establishing a maintenance for the poor. "have been enacted in many other countries, which have punifhed the idle beg
gar, and exhorted the rich to extend "their charity to the poor: but it is,pe"culiar to the humanity of England, to
"have made their fupport a matter of obligation and neceffity on the more
wealthy. The English feem to be the "first nation in Europe in fcience, arts, "and arms; they likewife are poffeffed
of the freest and most perfect of confti"tutions, and the bleffings confequential 66 to that freedom. If virtues in an indi"vidual are fometimes fuppofed to be re"warded in this world, I do not think it "too prefumptuous to fuppofe, that na"tional virtues may likewife meet with. "their reward. England hath, to its pe"culiar honour, not only made their poor
free, but hath provided a certain and
"folid establishment to prevent their ne"ceffities and indigence, when they a"rife from what the law calls the act of "God: and are not thefe beneficent and "humane attentions to the miferies of our "fellow-creatures, the firft of those poor pleas which we are capable of offering, "in behalf of our imperfections, to an all"wife and merciful Creator! To this writer I oppofe another, whofe reflections. are more found. "In England, there is an act of the legiflature, obliging every parish to maintain its own poor. Scarce
any man living, who has not feen the "effects of this law, but muft approve of 466 it; and yet fuch are its effects, that the "ftreets of London are filled with objects
of mifery beyond what is feen in any "other city. The labouring poor, de
pending on this law to be provided in "fickness and old age, are little folicitous to fave, and become habitually profufe. "The principle of charity is established
by Providence in the human heart, for "relieving those who are difabled to work "for themselves. And if the labouring
poor had no dependence but on the principle of charity, they would be more religious; and if they were influenced by religion, they would be lefs a"bandoned in their behaviour. Thus "this feeming-good act turns to a na"tional evil: there is more diftrefs a
mong the poor in London than any " where in Europe; and more drunken"nefs both in males and females (a)."
I am aware, that during the reign of Elifabeth, fome compulfion might be neceffary to preferve the poor from ftarving.
(a) Author of Angeloni's letters.
Her father Henry had fequeftered all the hofpitals, a hundred and ten in number, and fquandered their revenues; he had alfo demolished all the abbeys. By these means, the poor were reduced to a miferable condition; efpecially as private charity, for want of exercise, was at a low ebb. That critical juncture required indeed help from the legislature and a temporary provifion for the poor would have been a proper measure; fo contrived as not to fuperfede voluntary charity, but rather to promote it. Unlucky it is for England, that fuch a measure was overlooked; but Queen Elifabeth and her parliaments had not the talent of foreseeing confequences without the aid of experience. A perpetual tax for the poor was impofed, the moft pernicious tax that ever was impofed in any country.
With refpect to the prefent times, the reafon now given pleads against abolishing at once a legal provifion for the poor. It may be taken for granted, that charity is in England not more vigorous at prefent, than it was in the days of Elifabeth. Would our miniftry but lead the way, by fhowing fome zeal for a reformation, ex
pedients would probably be invented for fupporting the poor, without unhinging voluntary charity. The following expedient is proposed, merely as a specimen. Let a tax be impofed by parliament on every parish for their poor, variable in proportion to the number; but not to exceed the half of what is neceffary: directing the landholders to make up quarterly, a lift of the names and condition of fuch perfons as in their opinion deserve charity; with an estimate of what each ought to have weekly. The public tax makes the half, and the other half is to be raised by voluntary contribution. To prevent collufion, the roll of the poor, and their weekly appointment, with a fubfcription of gentlemen for their part of the fum, fhall be examined by the juftices of peace at a quarterly meeting; who, on receiving fatisfaction, muft order the fum arifing from the public tax to be diftributed among the poor contained in the roll, according to the estimate of the landholders, As the public fund lies dead till the fubfcription be completed, it is not to be imagined that any gentleman will ftand out it would be a public imputation on his character,