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the reach of money help that they were not recorded among applicants. Especially noteworthy among the remarks of the visitors is one, that all who applied would at any season of the year apply in the same way and give the same evidence of poverty. 'If a fund was advertised as largely as this Fund has been in summer, and when trade was at its best, precisely the same people would apply.' The truth of the remark has been put to the test, and during the summer a large number of those relieved in the winter have been visited, with the result that they have been found apparently in like misery and equally in need of assistance.
Of the poverty of those who made application there has been no question. Some may have brought it on themselves by drink or vice, some may have been thriftless and without self-control; but all were poor, so poor as to be without the things necessary for mere existence. The men and women who crowded the relief offices had haggard and drawn faces, their worn and thin bodies shivered under their rags of clothing, and they gave no sign of strength or hope. Their homes were squalid, the children ill-fed, ill-clad, and joyless, their record showed that for months they had received no regular wage, and that their substance was more often at the pawnbroker's than in the home.
Last winter's experience shows that outside the classes of regular wage-earning workmen, who are often included among the poor,' is a mass of people numbering some tens of thousands, who are without the means of living. These are the poor, and their poverty is the common concern.
Statistics prove what has long been known to those whose business lies in poor places, to many of whom the reports of the increased prosperity of the country have been like songs of gladness in a land of sorrow. They know the streets in which every room is a home, the homes in which there is no comfort for the sick, no easy chair for the weary, no bath for the tired, no fresh air, no means of keeping food, no space for play, no possibility of quiet, and to them the news of the national wealth and the sight of fashionable luxury seem but cruel satire. The little dark rooms may bear traces of the man's struggle or of the woman's patience, but the homes of the poor are sad, like the fields of lost battles, where heroism has fought in vain. By no struggle and by no patience can health be won in so few feet of cubic air, and no parent dares to hope that he can make the time of youth so joyful as to for ever hold his children to pleasures which are pure. The homes of the poor are a mockery of the name, but yet how many would think themselves happy if even their homes were secure, and they were able to look to the future without seeing starvation for their children and the workhouse for themselves. One example will illustrate many.
The Browns are a family of five; they occupy one room. The man is a labourer,
London-born, quick-witted and slow-bodied, and, as many labourers do, he fills up slack time with hawking; the woman takes in her neighbours' washing. Their room, twelve feet by ten feet, is crowded with two bedsteads, the implements for washing, the coal bin, a table, a chest, and a few chairs ; on the walls are some pictures, the human protest against the doctrine that the poor can live by bread alone.' The man earns sometimes 38., often nothing, in the day; and his wife brings in sometimes 6d. or 9d. a day, but her work fills the room with damp and discomfort, and almost necessarily keeps the husband out of doors. Both man and woman are still young, but they look aged, and the children are thin and delicate. They seldom have enough to eat and never enough to wear, they are rarely healthy, and are never so happy as to thank God for their creation. Hard work will make these children orphans, or bad air, cold, and hunger will make these parents childless.
In the case of another family, where the wage is regular—the income is 11. a week--the outlook is not much brighter. Here there is the same crowded room, for which 38. a week is paid, the same weary half-starved faces, the same want of air and water. Here, too, the parents dare not look forwards, for even if the income remains permanent, it cannot secure necessaries for sickness, it cannot educate or apprentice the children, and it cannot provide for their own old age. No income, however, does remain permanent, and the regular hand is always anxious lest a change in trade or in his employer's temper may send him adrift.
In the cases where there is drink, carelessness, or idleness, everything of course looks worse. The room is poorer and dirtier, the faces more shrunken, and the clothes thinner. Indignation against sin does not settle the matter. The poverty is manifest, and if the cause be in the weakness of human nature, then the greater and the harder is the duty of effecting its cure.
Cases of poverty such as these are common; they who by business, duty, or affection, go among the poor know of their existence; but if those who hire a servant, employ work-people, or buy cheap articles would think, they could not longer content themselves with phrases about thrift as almighty for good, and intemperance as almighty for evil. Fourteen pounds a year, if a servant has unfailing health and unbroken work from the age of twenty to fifty-five, will only enable her to save enough for her old age by giving up all pleasure, by neglecting her own family duties, and by impoverishing her life to make a livelihood. Very sad is it to meet in some back-room the living remains of an old servant. Mrs. Smith is sixtyfive years old; she has been all her life in service, and saved over 1001. She has had but little joy in her youth, and now in her old age she is lonely. Her fear is lest, spending only 78. a week, her savings may not last her life. She could hardly have done more, and
what she did was not enough. A wage of 208. or 258. a week is called
Food, i.e. oatmeal, 1 lbs. of meat a day between eight £
0 14 0
5 0 Schooling for four children
0 0 4 Washing
0 1 0 Firing and light
0 2 6 Total
1 2 10 1
If to this account 28. a week be added for clothes and what woman dressing on 1001. or 801. a year could allow less than 5l. a year to clothe a working-man, his wife, and six children) then the necessary weekly expenditure of the family is ll. 48. 10d. Few fathers or mothers are able to resist, and ought not to resist the temptation of taking or giving some pleasure; so even where work is regular and paid at 1l. 58. Od. a week, there must be in the home want of food as well as of the luxuries which gladden life.
Those dwellers in pleasant places, without experience of the homes of the poor, who will resolutely set themselves to think about what they do know, must realise that those who make cheap goods are too poor to do their duty to themselves, their neighbours, and their country. The mystery, indeed, remains how many manage to Live at all.
One solution is that there exists among these irregular workers a kind of communism. They prefer to occupy the same neighbourhoods and make long journeys to work rather than go to live among strangers. They easily borrow and easily lend. The women spend much time in gossiping, know intimately one another's affairs, and in times of trouble help willingly. One couple, whose united earnings have never reached 158. a week, whose home has never been more than one small room, has brought up in succession three orphans. The old man, at seventy years of age, just earns a living by running messages or by selling wirework, but even now he spends many a night in hushing a baby whose desertion he pities, and whom he has taken to his care.
The poverty of the poor is understood by the poor, and their charity is according to the measure of Christ's. The charity of the rich is according to another measure, because they do not know of
| This table is taken from a paper written by my wife in the National Reriew, July 1886, in which she illustrates by many examples that the average wage is insufficient to support life.
poverty, and they do not know because they do not think. Only the self-satisfied Pharisee and the proud Roman could pass Calvary unmoved, and only the self-absorbed can be ignorant that every day the innocent and helpless are crucified. The selfishness of modern life is shown most clearly in this absence of thought. Absorbed in their own concerns, kindly people carelessly hear statements, see prices, and face sights which imply the ruin of their fellow-creatures. The rich would not be so cruel if they would think. Thought about the amount of food which 'good wages' can buy, about the hours spent in making matches or coats, about the sorrows behind the faces of those who serve them in shops or pass them in the streets -thought would make the rich ready to help, and the fact that there are in the 500,000 inhabitants of the Tower Hamlets 86,920 too poor to live, is enough to make them think.
The failure of the Fund is the other fact of the winter to stir thought. Mansion House relief represents the mercies to which the wisdom and the love of the completest age have committed the needs of the poor. Never were needs so delicate left to mercies so clumsy; needs intertwined with the sorrows and sufferings with which no stranger could intermeddle, have been met with the brutal generosity of gifts given often with little thought or cost. The result has been an increase of the causes which make poverty and a decrease of good-will among men.
The Fund failed even to relieve distress. In St. George's in the East there were nearly 4,000 applicants, representing 20,000 persons. All of these were in distress—were, that is, cold, hungry. 2,400 applicants, representing some 12,000 persons, the committee considered to be working people unemployed and within the scope of the Fund. For their relief 2,000l. was apportioned, and if it had been equally divided, each person would have had 38. 4d. on which to support life during three months. Such sums might have relieved the givers, pleased by the momentary satisfaction of the recipient, but they would not have relieved the poor, who would still have had to endure days and weeks of want.
The Fund was thus in the first place inadequate to relieve the distress. An attempt was made by discrimination to make it useful to those who were 'deserving. Forms were given out to be filled in by applicants; visitors were appointed to visit the homes and to make inquiries; committees sat daily to consider and decide on applications. The end of all has been, that in one district those assisted were found to be improvident, unsober, and non-industrious,' and in another the almoner can only say, 'they are a careless, hardliving, hard-drinking set of people, and are so much what their circumstances have made them, that terms of moral praise or blame are hardly applicable.' An analysis of the decisions of the committees shows that the decisions were according to different standards, and with different views of what was meant by 'assistance.' A halfcrown a week was voted for the support of one family in which the man was a notorious drunkard. Twelve pounds were given to start a costermonger on one day, while at a subsequent committee meeting 108. was voted for a family in almost identical circumstances. In one district casual labourers were given 20s. or 308., but in the neighbouring district casual labourers were refused relief.
Methods of relief were as many as were the districts into which London was divided. In Whitechapel a labour test was applied. The labourers were offered street-sweeping; and those who were used only to indoor work were put to whitewashing, window cleaning, or tailoring. The women were given needlework. When it was known to the large crowd brought to the office by the advertisement of the Fund that work was to be offered to the able-bodied, there was among the ne'er-do-weels great indignation. "Call this charity!' We will complain to the Lord Mayor, we will break windows,' and, addressing the almoners, 'It is you fellows who are getting ll. a day for your work. Many finding they could not get relief without doing work did not persist in their application,' and they were not entered as applicants, but work was actually offered to 850 men and accepted by only 339. Of these the foreman writes, “the labour test was a sore trial for a great many of them. I repeatedly had it said to me by them, 'The Fund is a charity, and we ought not to work for it.'
In St. George's there was no labour test, and there 1,689 men and 682 women received assistance in food or in materials for labour. In Stepney the conditions under which the Fund was collected were strictly observed, and only those out of employment through the present depression’ were assisted. The consequence was that casual labourers, the sick, the aged, all known to be frequently out of work, were refused, and much of the fund was spent in large sums for the emigration of a few. In this district the committee was largely composed of members of friendly societies, men who, by experience, were familiar both with the habits of the poor and with the methods of relief. Their co-operation was invaluable, both in itself and also for the confidence which it won for the administration.
In Mile End the committee had another standard of character and another method of inquiry. They kept no record of the number of applications, and those relieved have been differently described as 'good men' and ` loafers ' by different members of the committee. 2,5391. were spent among 2,133 families, an average of 4s. 10d. a person. The Poplar committee has published no report, but one of its members writes: ‘Relief was often given without investigation to old, chronic, sick, and poor-law cases, without distinction as to character; the rule was, Give, give ! spend, spend !' and another states the opinion that the whole neighbourhood was demoralised by the