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distribution of the Fund. As a result of their experiences, some of those engaged in relief in this district are now making efforts to unite workmen, and the members of benefit societies, in the administration of future funds.
The sort of relief given was as various as the methods of relief. Sometimes money, sometimes tickets, sometimes food; the variety is excused by one visitor, who says, ' We were ten days at work before instructions came from the Mansion House, and then it was too late to change our system.' Discrimination utterly broke down, and with all the appliances it was chance which ruled the decision. The gifts fell on the worthy and on the unworthy, but as they fell only in partial showers, none received enough and many who were worthy went empty away.
Discrimination of desert is indeed impossible. The poor law officials, with ample time and long experience, cannot say who deserves or would be benefited by out-relief. Amateurs appointed in a hurry, and confused by numbers, vainly try to settle desert. Systems must adopt rules; friendship alone can settle merit.
The Fund failed to relieve distress, and further developed some of the causes which make poverty.
Prominent among such causes are (1) faith in chance; (2) dishonesty in its fullest sense; (3) the unwisdom of so-called charity.
(1) The big advertisement of 70,0001. to be given away' offered a chance which attracted idlers, and relaxed in many the energies hitherto so patiently braced to win a living for wife or children. The effect is frequently noticed in the reports. The St. George's in the East visitors emphasize the opinion that it was 'the great publicity of the Fund which made its distribution so difficult. A visitor in Poplar thinks the publicity was tempting to bad cases and deterrent of good ones.' The chance of a gift out of so big a sum was too good to be missed for the sake of hard work and small wages.
Faith in chance was further encouraged by the irregular methods of administration. Refusals and relief followed no law discoverable by the poor. In the same street one washerwoman was set up with stock, while another in equal circumstances was dismissed. In adjoining districts such various systems were adopted that of three mates' one would receive work, another a gift, and the third nothing. The power of chance' was the teaching of the Fund, started through the accidental emotions of a Lord Mayor, and they who believe in chance give up effort, become wayward, lose power of mind and body. Chance gives up her followers to poverty, and the increase of the spirit of gambling is not the least among the causes of distress.
(2) The remark is sometimes made that 'the righteous man is never found begging his bread, or, in other words, that there is always work for the man who can be trusted. Honesty in its fullest sense, implying absolute truth, thoroughness, and responsibility, has great value in the labour market, and agencies which increase a belief in honesty increase wealth. The tendency of the Fund has been to create a belief in lies. Its organisation of visitors and committees offered a show of resistance to lies, but over such resistance lies easily triumphed, and many notorious evil-livers got by a good story the relief denied to others. Anecdotes are common as to the way in which visitors were deceived, committees hoodwinked, and money wrongly gained, while the better sort of poor, failing to understand how so much money could have had so little effect, hold the officials to have been smart fellows, who took care of themselves. The laughter roused by such talk is the laughter which deinoralises, it is the praise of the power of lies, and the laughers will not be among those who by honesty do well for themselves and for others.
(3) The mischief of foolish charity is a text on which much has been written, but no doubt exists as to the power of wise charity. The teaching which fits the young to do better work or to find resource in a bye-trade, the influence by which the weak are strengthened to resist temptation, the application of principles which will give confidence, and the setting up of ideals which will enlarge the limits of life--this is the charity which conquers poverty. In East London there are many engaged in such charity, and to their work the action of the Fund was most prejudicial. Some of them, carried away by the excitement, relaxed their patient silent efforts, while they tried to meet a thousand needs with no other remedy than a gift. Others saw their work spoiled, their lessons of self-help undone by the offer of a dole, their teaching of the duty of helping others forgotten in the greedy scramble for graceless gifts. They devoted themselves to do their utmost and bore the heavy burden of distributing the Fund, but most of them speak sadly of their experience. They laboured sometimes for sixteen hours a day, but their labour was not to do good but to prevent evil-a labour of pain -and one speaking the experience of his fellows, says, their labours had the appearance of a hurried and spasmodic effort.' The fund of charity, like a torrent, swept away the tender plants which the stream of charity had nourished. In the face of all this experience it is not extravagant to say
that the means of relief used last winter developed the causes of poverty. It may be that if all the poor were self-controlled and honest, and if all charity were wise, poverty would still exist; but self-indulgence, lies, and unwise charity are causes of poverty, and these causes have been strengthened. One visitor's report sums up the whole matter when it says:
They (the applicants) have received their relief, and they are now in much the same position as they were before, and as they will be found, it is feared, in future winters, until more effectual and less spasmodic means of improving their condition can be devised, for the of distress are chronic and permanent. The founda
tion of such independence of character as they possessed has been shaken, and some of them have taken the first step in mendicancy, which is too often neper retraced.
Examples, of course, may be found where the relief has been helpful, and some visitors, in the contemplation of the worthy family relieved from pressure and set free to work, may think that one such result justifies many failures. It is not, though, expedient that many should suffer for one, or that a population should be demoralised in order that two or three might have enough.
The Fund as a means of relief has failed: it is condemned by the recipients, who are bitter on account of disappointed hopes; by the almoners, whose only satisfaction is that they managed to do the least possible mischief; and by the mechanics, whose name was taken in vain by the agitators who went to the Lord Mayor, and who feel their class degraded by a system of relief for working men which assumes improvidence and imposition.
The failure of the latest method of relief has been made as manifest as the poverty, and no prophet is needed to tell that bad times are coming. The outlook is most gloomy. The August reports of trades societies characterise trade as 'dull’or very slack.' The pawnbrokers report in the same month that they are taking in rather than handing out pledges, and all those who have experience of the poor consider poverty to be chronic. If not in the coming winter, still in the near future there must be trouble.
Poverty in London is increasing both relatively and actually. Relative poverty may be lightly considered, but it breeds trouble as rapidly as actual poverty. The family which has an income sufficient to support life on oatmeal will not grow in good-will when they know that daily meat and holidays are spoken of as 'necessaries' for other workers and children. Education and the spread of literature has raised the standard of living, and they who cannot provide boots for their children, nor sufficient fresh air, nor clean clothes, nor means of pleasure, feel themselves to be poor, and have the hopelessness which is the curse of poverty, as selfishness is the curse of wealth.
Poverty, however, in London is increasing actually. It is increased (1) by the number of incapables: 'broken men, who by their misfortunes or their vices have fallen out of regular work,'and who are drawn to London because chance work is more plentiful, 'company' more possible, and life more enlivened by excitement. (2) By the deterioration of the physique of those born in close rooms, brought up in narrow streets, and early made familiar with vice. It was noticed that among the crowds who applied for relief there were few who seemed healthy or were strongly grown. In Whitechapel the foreman of those employed in the streets reported that the majority had not the stamina to make even a good scavenger.' (3) By the disrepute into which saving is fallen. Partly because happiness (as
the majority count happiness) seems to be beyond their reach, partly because the teaching of the example of the well-to-do is "enjoy yourselves,' and partly because “the saving man' seems bad company, unsocial and selfish ;' the fact remains that few take the trouble to save-only units out of the thousands of applicants had shown any signs of thrift. (4) By the growing animosity of the poor against the rich. Good-will among men is a source of prosperity as well as of peace. Those bound together consider one another's interests, and put the good of the whole' before the good of a class. Among large classes of the poor animosity is slowly taking the place of good-will, the rich are held to be of another nation, the theft of a lady's diamonds is not always condemned as the theft of a poor man's money, and the gift of 70,0001. is looked on as ransom and perhaps an inadequate ransom. The bitter remarks sometimes heard by the almoners are signs of disunion, which will decrease the resources of all classes. The fault did not begin with the poor; the rich sin, but the
poorer and more angry, suffer the most. On account of these and other causes it may be expected that poverty will be increased. The poorer quarters will become still poorer, the sight of squalor, misery, and hunger more painful, the cry of the poor more bitter. For their relief no adequate means are proposed. The last twenty years have been years of progress, but for want of care and thought the means of relief for poverty remain unchanged. The only resource twenty years ago was a Mansion House Fund, and the only resource available in this enlightened and wealthy year of our Lord is a similar gift thrown, not brought, from the West to the East.
The paradise in which a few theorists lived, listening to the talk at social science congresses, has been rudely broken. Lord Mayors, merchant princes, prime ministers, and able editors have no better means for relief of distress than that long ago discredited by failure. One of the greatest dangers possible to the State has been growing in the midst, and the leaders have slumbered and slept. The resources of civilisation, which are said to be ample to suppress disorder, and to evolve new policies, have not provided means by which the chief commandment may be obeyed, and love shown to the poor neighbour.
The outlook is gloomy enough, and the cure of the evil is not to be effected by a simple prescription. The cure must be worked by slow means which will take account of the whole nature of man, which will regard the future to be as important as the present, and which will win by waiting.
Generally it is assumed that the chief change is that to be effected in the habits of the poor. All sorts of missions and schemes exist for the working of this change. Perhaps it is more to the purpose that a change should be effected in the habits of the rich.
Society has settled itself on a system which it never questions. It is assumed to be absolutely within a man's right to live where he chooses and to get the most for his money.
It is this practice of living in pleasant places which impoverishes the poor. It authorises, as it were, a lower standard of life for the neighbourhoods in which the poor are left; it encourages a contempt for a home which is narrow; it leaves large quarters of the town without the light which comes from knowledge, and large masses of the people without the friendship of those better taught than themselves. The precept that every one should live over his shop ’has a very direct bearing on life, and it is the absence of so many from their shops, be the shop the land' or 'a factory,' which makes so many others poorer. Absenteeism is an acknowledged cause of Irish troub
and Mr. Goldwin Smith has pointed out that 'the greatest evils of absenteeism are—first, that it withdraws from the community the upper class, who are the natural channels of civilising influences to the classes below them, and, secondly, that it cuts off all personal relations between the individual landlord and his tenant.' He further adds that it was 'natural the gentry should avoid the sight of so much wretchedness. and be drawn to the pleasures of London or Dublin. The result in Ireland was heartbreaking poverty which relief funds did not relieve, and there is no reason why in East London absenteeism should have other results.
In the same way the unquestioned habit of every one to get the most for his money tends to make poverty. In the competition which the habit provokes, many are trampled under foot, and in the search after enjoyment wealth is wasted which would support thousands in comfort.
The habits of the people are in the charge of the Church, so that by its ministers (conformist and nonconformist) God's Spirit may bend the most stubborn will. Those ministers have a great responsibility. God's Spirit has been imprisoned in phrases about the duty of contentment and the sin of drink; the stubborn will has been strengthened by the doctor's opinion as to the necessity of living apart from the worry of work, and by the teaching of a political economy which assumes that a man's might is a man's right. The ministers who would change the habits of the rich will have to preach the prophet's message about the duty of giving and the sin of luxury, and to denounce ways of business now pronounced to be respectable and Christian. Old teaching will have to be put in new language, giving shown to consist in sharing, and earning to be sacrifice. For some time it may be the glory of a preacher to empty rather than to fill his church as he reasons about the Judgment to come, when twopence a gross to the match-makers will be laid alongside of the twenty-two per cent. to the shareholders, and penny dinners for the poor compared with sixteen courses for the richVol. XX.—No. 117.