Posts Tagged ‘problem of the poor’

“The extent, the thoughtlessness, the indiscriminate nature, of our benevolence, has called into existence a class—the most noxious that can infest a community—to whom charity is an ample, a regular, a luxurious livelihood; who can calculate with certainty upon this income–who subsist upon it, as upon any other occupation or profession. The same system not only maintains this class, it is perpetually recruiting and increasing it. It tempts into it all the more indolent, reckless, and poor of the labouring classes. It saps the virtues of energy and self-reliance in those yet uncontaminated, by holding out to them the demoralizing contrast between the eas comforts of those who beg, and the hard privations of those who toil. Wherever it plants its baneful footsteps, it spreads selfishness around it. It teaches men, ever ready to learn so luxurious a lesson, to rely on others rather than themselves. It soon teaches them to claim, as a right, sustenance from others, and to be discontented and malignant when it is withheld: it raises barricades almost insurmountable in the path of real philanthropy: it renders it almost impossible to do good among this class: it undermines the efficiency of the religions teacher, and actually poisons his ministrations. The ministers attached to the domestic missions, even while describing the most painful scenes of squalid misery, intimate that they found their power of giving pecuniary aid sadly interfered with their moral and religious influence. While money could be extracted or – hoped for, a deaf ear was too generally turned to other and more valuable species of assistance.”

– Anonymous, “Charity, Noxious and Beneficent. A Review of The Charities of London by Sampson Low.” Westminster Review, Volume 59, 1853. pp. 70-71.

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“Ce qui fait du moderne paupérisme une plaie sociale, ce qui le rend effrayant et dangereux, c’est son alliance ordinaire avec un état d’abrutissement et de dépravation chez la masse des individus, effet trop naturel de leur agglomération et de leur homogénéité. Au lieu d’être disséminés dans toute la population d’une contrée, les indigents forment a eux seuls une population à part;
an lieu d’être atteints çà et là dans tous les rangs, ils sont atteints en corps et forment une classe distincte: ce sont les laboureurs de telle localité on bien les ouvriers de telle industrie, habitant presque seuls certains cantons, certains villages dans les campagnes, certains quartiers ou fau bourgs dans les villes.

On comprend aisément l’influence déplorable que doit exercer cette circonstance sur les habitudes et les sentiments du pauvre. Une fois qu’il a commencé à déchoir de sa dignité d’homme libre et de travailleur honête, il ne se relève plus et descend toujours plus bas, parce qu’il vit au milieu d’êtres qui subissent la même dégradation, les mêmes privations, les mêmes humiliations, et qu’il envisage dès lors tous ces maux comme des choses inhérentes à sa condition, inséparables de son genre de vie et de la profession qu’il a embrassée. Il oublie peu à
peu tous les besoins intellectuels et moraux dont la satisfaction est incompatible avec son extrême pauvreté; il réduit ses besoins matériels eux-mêmes jusqu’à la dernière limite que le soutien de son existence physique puisse lui permettre de s’imposer; il tombe, en un mot, dans animalisme, et finit pas n’avoir plus la conscience de son abaissement d’hui plus, ni d’un de son million dénoûment. 

Tels sont aujourd’hui plus de un million et demi 

de paysans irlandaises; tels les ouvriers qui peuplent certains quartiers des villes de Londres, de Liverpool, de Manchester, de Leeds, etc., en Angleterre; de Lille, de Rouen, de Lyon, etc., en France. 

La concentration de la misère dans certaines localités et chez certaines catégories sociales, voilà, nous le répétons, le trait distinctif du moderne paupérisme. Le nombre total des indigents peut ne s’être point accru depuis un demi-siècle, ou n’avoir augmenté qu’en proportion de la popula tion entière de chaque pays ; mais le fléau, en se développant avec une intensité particulière sur des points déterminés et parmi des classes entie rs! d’individus, a formé des foyers de misère où la dégénération physique et morale de l’espèce humaine, favorisée par cette agglomération et cette homogénéité des populations-misérables, a
fait des progrès et pris des proportions dont il y
a en peu d’exemples dans les périodes antérieures.”

– Antoine Cherbuliez, “Paupérisme.” in Coquelin and Guillaumin, Dictionnaire de l’économie politique. Volume II. Paris: Guillaumin & Hachette, 1854. p. 337. 

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“This is all very benevolent, but still very wrong. There is but one way of benefiting the poor, viz., by developing their powers of self-reliance, and certainly not in treating them like children. Philanthropists always seek to do too much, and in this is to be found the main cause of their repeated failures. The poor are expected to become angels in an instant, and the consequence is, they are merely made hypocrites. Moreover, no men of any independence of character will submit to be washed, and dressed, and fed like schoolboys ; hence none but the worst classes come to be experimented upon. It would seem, too, that this overweening disposition to play the part of ped-agogues (I use the word in its literal sense) to the poor, proceeds rather from a love of power than from a sincere regard for the people. Let the rich become the advisers and assistants of the poor, giving them the benefit of their superior education and means — but leaving the people to act for themselves — and they will do a great good, developing in them a higher standard of comfort and moral excellence, and so, by improving their tastes, inducing a necessary change in their habits. But such as seek merely to lord it over those whom distress has placed in their power, and strive to bring about the villeinage of benevolence, making the people the philanthropic, instead of the feudal, serfs of our nobles, should be denounced as the arch-enemies of the country. Such persons may mean well, but assuredly they achieve the worst towards the poor. The curfew- bell, whether instituted by benevolence or tyranny, has the same degrading effect on the people — destroying their principle of self-action, without which we are all but as the beasts of the field.”

– Henry Mayhew, London labour and the London poor. Volume 2. Griffin, John & Company, 1851. p. 264.

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“It would be a great misunderstanding of this doctrine to suppose
that it is one of selfish indifference, which pretends that human beings
have no business with each other’s conduct in life, and that they should
not concern themselves about the well-doing or well-being of one another,
unless their own interest is involved. Instead of any diminution,
there is need of a great increase of disinterested exertion to promote the
good of others. But disinterested benevolence can find other instruments
to persuade people to their good than whips and scourges, either of the
literal or the metaphorical sort. I am the last person to undervalue the
self-regarding virtues; they are only second in importance, if even second,
to the social. It is equally the business of education to cultivate
both. But even education works by conviction and persuasion as well as
by compulsion, and it is by the former only that, when the period of
education is passed, the self-regarding virtues should be inculcated.
Human beings owe to each other help to distinguish the better from the
worse, and encouragement to choose the former and avoid the latter.
They should be for ever stimulating each other to increased exercise of
their higher faculties, and increased direction of their feelings and aims
towards wise instead of foolish, elevating instead of degrading, objects
and contemplations. But neither one person, nor any number of persons,
is warranted in saying to another human creature of ripe years, that he
shall not do with his life for his own benefit what he chooses to do with
it. He is the person most interested in his own well-being: the interest
which any other person, except in cases of strong personal attachment,
can have in it, is trifling, compared with that which he himself has; the
interest which society has in him individually (except as to his conduct
to others) is fractional, and altogether indirect; while with respect to his
own feelings and circumstances, the most ordinary man or woman has
means of knowledge immeasurably surpassing those that can be possessed
by any one else. The interference of society to overrule his judgment
and purposes in what only regards himself must be grounded on
general presumptions; which may be altogether wrong, and even if right,
are as likely as not to be misapplied to individual cases, by persons no
better acquainted with the circumstances of such cases than those are
who look at them merely from without. In this department, therefore, of

human affairs, Individuality has its proper field of action. In the conduct
of human beings towards one another it is necessary that general
rules should for the most part be observed, in order that people may
know what they have to expect: but in each person’s own concerns his
individual spontaneity is entitled to free exercise. Considerations to aid
his judgment, exhortations to strengthen his will, may be offered to him,
even obtruded on him, by others: but he himself is the final judge. All
errors which he is likely to commit against advice and warning are far
outweighed by the evil of allowing others to constrain him to what they
deem his good.”

– John Stuart Mill, On Liberty. London: John W. Parker and Son, 1859. p. 73.

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“Le devoir de la prévoyance, comme tous les de voirs, a besoin d’une sanction, et, dans l’ordre na turel des choses, cette sanction ne lui manque pas: c’est la responsabilité qui pèse sur chaque famille; c’est cet enchaînement de causes et d’effets qui condamne le travailleur imprévoyant à souffrir dans sa personne ou dans celle des membres de sa famille; c’est cette peine à la fois afflictive et infamante, la misère, dont la menace retentit sans cesse aux oreilles du nécessiteux, et qui est tou jours là, sur ses talons, prête à lui faire expier, par des privations et des souffrances physiques et morales, le moindre accès de paresse, la moindre
habitude vicieuse.”

– Antoine Cherbuliez, “Bienfaisance Publique.” in Coquelin and Guillaumin, Dictionnaire de l’économie politique. Volume 1. Paris: Guillaumin & Hachette, 1854. p. 167. 

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“…we are becoming foolishly soft, weakly tender, irrationally maudlin, unwisely and mischievously charitable. Under the specious mask of mercy to the criminal and benevolence to the wretched, we spare our own feelings at the cost of the most obvious principles of morality, the plainest dictates of prudence, the dearest interests of our country. We are kind to every one, except society. We find it easier and more agreeable to be generous than to be just. We shrink from painful subjects, painful scenes, painful necessities.

Under the old system of parochial administration, for example, mistaken kindness, a misty sense of duty, and bad political economy, had gone hand-in-hand in augmenting destitution, and demoralizing our peasantry, till the result of their joint efforts threatened absolute ruin to sociey, when the new Poor-law stepped in to arrest the evil. It did much: it would have done much more, had not blind charity-—debased this time by an admixture of the worst political passions—interfered to prevent the free and full action of those thoroughly sound, though stern principles of right and justice, on which it was founded. It was perceived by the authors of that admirable measure, that the only way of discouraging pauperism, and promoting energy and self-reliance, was by rendering the position of the pauper less comfortable and less desirable than that of the independent labourer.

It was shown—what it was a reproach to our national good sense to think required a proof—that this was demanded by every consideration of policy and justice. But since it was necessary that the poor-house should be a substantial and weather-proof building; since it was essential to health and propriety that it should be warm and clean; and since it was impossible to feed the inmates so wretchedly, or to cook their food so ill, as in the case of the honest and self-supporting peasant, it became indispensable to the object in view to compensate these advantages to the pauper with some counterbalancing désagrements, in the shape of confinement, labour, classification, privation of tobacco and other luxuries, &c. &c. It was at once seen, moreover, that paupers supported by the contributions of the industrious part of the community should not be allowed to propagate their leisure and their discretion. 

On those ill-regulated individuals whose charity is the mere dictate of a shallow vanity, or into Whose donations publicity enters as a large and necessary element, we need waste no words of condemnation. “I hate charity,” Lord Dudley is somewhere reresented as saying; “’tis such an ostentatious vice.” “We hate charity,” might as fairly be said; “’tis such a lazy vice.” In a vast proportion of cases, and among those who contribute most liberally and largely, charity is a clumsy and hollow compromise between indolence and kindness; the acting motive is the offspring of a half-awakened conscience, and a more than half triumphant sloth.”

– Anonymous, “Charity, Noxious and Beneficent. A Review of The Charities of London by Sampson Low.” Westminster Review, Volume 59, 1853. pp. 63-64, 78.  

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“It is not in charity as such that the young marquise is to find the satisfaction of her essential human nature, a human content and purpose of her activity, and hence entertainment. Charity offers rather only the external occasion, only the pretext, only the material, for a kind of entertainment that could just as well use any other material as its content. Misery is exploited consciously to procure the charitable person “the piquancy of a novel, the satisfaction of curiosity, adventure, disguise, enjoyment of his or her own excellence, violent nervous excitement”, and the like.

Rudolph has thereby unconsciously expressed the mystery which was revealed long ago, that human misery itself, the infinite abjectness which is obliged to receive alms, must serve the aristocracy of money and education as a plaything to satisfy its self-love, tickle its arrogance and amuse it.

The numerous charitable associations in Germany, the numerous charitable societies in France and the great number of charitable quixotic societies in England, the concerts, balls, plays, meals for the poor, and even the public subscriptions for victims of accidents, have no other object. It seems then that along these lines charity, too, has long been organised as entertainment.

The sudden, unmotivated transformation of the marquise at the mere word “amusant” makes us doubt the durability of her cure; or rather this transformation is sudden and unmotivated only in appearance and is caused only in appearance by the description of charité as an amusement. The marquise loves Rudolph and Rudolph wants to disguise himself along with her, to intrigue and to indulge in charitable adventures. Later, when the marquise pays a charity visit to the prison of Saint-Lazare, her jealousy of Fleur de Marie becomes apparent and out of charity towards her jealousy she conceals from Rudolph the fact of Marie’s detention. At the best, Rudolph has succeeded in teaching an unhappy woman to play a silly comedy with unhappy beings. The mystery of the philanthropy he has hatched is betrayed by the Paris fop who invites his partner to supper after the dance in the following words:

“Ah, Madame, it is not enough to have danced for the benefit of these poor Poles…. Let us he philanthropy to the end…. Let us have supper now for the benefit of the poor!”

– Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, “Chapter VIII: 5) Revelation of The Mystery of the Utilisation of Human Impulses, Or Clémence D’Harville,” The Holy Family .1845.

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