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character. Far from apprehending any deficiency, confident I am, that every gentleman would confider it as honourable to contribute largely. This agreeable work must be blended with fome degree of feverity, that of excluding from the roll every profligate, male or female. If that rule be strictly followed out, the innocent poor will diminish daily; fo as in time to be fafely left upon voluntary charity, without neceffity of any tax.
But muft miferable wretches reduced to poverty by idlenefs or intemperance, be, in a Christian country, abandoned to difeases and famine. This is the argument, shallow as it is, that has corrupted the induftry of England, and reduced multitudes to difeafes and famine. Those who are able to work, may be locked up in a house of correction, to be fed with bread and water; but with liberty of working for themselves. And as for the remainder, their cafe is not defperate, when they have access to fuch tender-hearted perfons as are more eminent for pity than for principle. If by neglect or overfight any happen to die of want, the example will tend more to reformation,
formation, than the most pathetic difcourse from the pulpit.
Even at the hazard of losing a few lives by neglect or oversight, common begging ought abfolutely to be prohibited. The most profligate, are the most impudent and the most expert at feigning diftrefs. If begging be indulged to any, all will rush into the public: idlers are fond of that wandering and indolent fort of life; and there is no temptation to idleness more fuccessful, than liberty to beg. In order to be relieved from common beggars, it has been proposed, to fine those who give them alms. Little penetration muft they have, to whom the infufficiency of fuch a remedy is not palpable. It is eafy to give alms without being feen; and compassion will extort alms, even at the hazard of fuffering for it; not to mention, that every one in fuch a cafe would avoid the odious character of an informer. The following remedy is fuggested, as what probably may answer. An officer must be appointed in every parish, with a competent falary, for apprehending and carrying to the workhoufe every trolling beggar; under the penalty of lofing his office, with what fa
lary is due to him, if any beggar be found ftrolling four and twenty hours after the fact comes to his knowledge. In the workhouse fuch beggars fhall be fed with bread and water for a year, but with liberty of working for themselves.
I declare refolutely against a perpetual tax for the poor. But if there must be fuch a tax, I know of none lefs fubverfive of industry and morals than that established in Scotland, obliging the landholders in every parish to meet at ftated times, in order to provide a fund for the poor; but leaving the objects of their charity, and the measure, to their own humanity and difcretion. In this plan, there is no encroachment on the natural duty of charity, but only that the minority muft fubmit to the opinion of the majority.
In large towns, where the character and circumstances of the poor are not fo well known as in country-parishes, the following variation is propofed. Instead of landholders, who are proper in country-parishes; let there be in each town-parish a ftanding committee chofen by the proprietors of houfes, the third part to be changed annually. This committee with the minifter,
minister, make up a lift of fuch as deferve charity, adding an estimate of what, with their own labour, may be fufficient for each of them. The minifter, with one or two of the committee, carry about this lift to every family that can afford charity, fuggefting what may be proper for each to contribute. This lift, with an addition of the fum contributed or promised by each householder, muft be affixed on the principal door of the parifh-church, to honour the contributors, and to inform the poor of the provifion made for them. Some fuch mode may probably be effectual, without tranfgreffing the bounds of voluntary charity. But if any one obftinately refuse to contribute after feveral applications, the committee at their difcre tion may tax him. If it be the poffeffor who declines contributing, the tax must be laid upon him, referving relief against his landlord.
In great towns, the poor, who ought to be prohibited from begging, are lefs known than in country-parishes and among a croud of inhabitants, it is easier for an individual to escape the public eye when he with-holds charity, than in country-paVOL. III.
rishes. Both defects would be remedied by the plan above proposed: it will bring to light, in great cities, the poor who deserve charity; and it will bring to light every person who with-holds charity.
In every regulation for the poor, English and Scotch, it is taken for granted, that the poor are to be maintained in their own houfes. Parochial poor-houfes are creeping into fashion: a few are already erected both in England and Scotland; and there is depending in parliament a plan for establishing poor-houses in every part of England. Yet whether they ought to be preferred to the accustomed mode, deserves ferious confideration. The erection and management of a poor-house are expensive articles; and if they do not upon the whole appear clearly beneficial, it is better to ftop fhort in time.
Economy is the great motive that inclines people to this new mode of providing for the poor. It is imagined, that numbers collected at a common table; can be maintained at lefs expence than in feparate houses; and foot-foldiers are given for an example, who could not live on their pay if they did not mefs together.