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they tell me, an act of indemnity ought to pass in favor of the ministry, to secure them from the consequences of having acted illegally. If so, pass another in favor of the mob. Others say, some of the mob ought to be hanged, by way of example. If so, - but I say no more than I have said before, when you are sure that you have a good principle, go through with it.
You say, poor laborers cannot afford to buy bread at a high price, unless they had higher wages. Possibly. But how shall we farmers be able to afford our laborers higher wages,
you will not allow us to get, when we might have it, a higher price for our corn ?
By all that I can learn, we should at least have had a guinea a quarter more, if the exportation had been allowed. And this money England would have got from foreigners.
But, it seems, we farmers must take so much less, that the poor may have it so much cheaper.
This operates, then, as a tax for the maintenance of the poor. A very good thing you will say. But I ask, Why a partial tax ? why laid on us farmers only? If it be a good thing, pray, Messieurs the Public, take your share of it, by indemnifying us a little out of your public treasury. In doing a good thing, there is both honor and pleasure; you are welcome to your share of both.
For my own part, I am not so well satisfied of the goodness of this thing. I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion about the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is, not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth, I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did
for themselves, and became richer. There is no country in the world where so many provisions are established for them ; so many hospitals to receive them when they are sick or lame, founded and maintained by voluntary charities; so many almshouses for the aged of both sexes, together with a solemn general law made by the rich to subject their estates to a heavy tax for the support of the poor. Under all these obligations, are our poor modest, humble, and thankful? And do they use their best endeavours to maintain themselves, and lighten our shoulders of this burthen ? On the contrary, I affirm, that there is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle, dissolute, drunken, and insolent. The day you passed that act, you took away from before their eyes the greatest of all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety, by giving them a dependence on somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health, for support in age or sickness.
In short, you offered a premium for the encouragement of idleness, and you should not now wonder, that it has had its effect in the increase of poverty. Repeal that law, and you will soon see a change in their man
Saint Monday and Saint Tuesday will soon cease to be holidays. Sıx days shalt thou labor, though one of the old commandments long treated as out of date, will again be looked upon as a respectable precept; industry will increase, and with it plenty among the lower people; their circumstances will mend, and more will be done for their happiness by inuring them to provide for themselves, than could be done by dividing all your estates among them.
Excuse me, Messieurs the Public, if, upon this interesting subject, I put you to the trouble of reading a little of my nonsense. I am sure I have lately read a
great deal of yours, and therefore from you (at least from those of you who are writers) I deserve a little indulgence.
I am yours, &c. ARATOR.*
This is an admirably written paper. The views taken of prohibitions of the exportation of particular articles are just, and at present not questioned by intelligent legislators and political economists.
This paper was published nine years before the “ Wealth of Nations," and takes the same view of the English poor-laws that is taken in that work. It has prevailed to the present time among the disciples of Adam Smith, by some of whom, particularly Mr. Malthus, it is maintained, that population must be starved down to the limits of the means of subsistence, the natural inference from their reasoning being, that, as this fate impends over the human race at all places and times, it is in vain to struggle against it by public or private charity. This is a result from which the characteristic philanthropy of Franklin would have revolted. He certainly would not have maintained that the resourceless sick, maimed, poor, and those destitute of the discretion requisite to support themselves, should, like aged persons among the Chinese and among some barbarous nations, be abandoned to perish of want. And if he did not maintajn this doctrine, the only course left is to make some provision for them, and certainly such provision is more equitably made by an assessment upon the community, according to the means of each member, than in any other way. The result would be a provision by law for enabling and compelling the poor to support themselves as far as practicable, and making up the deficiency for a moderate and meagre subsistence by an equitable assessment upon the other members of the community. The evils of mendicity gave rise to the poor-laws; the ill-judged provisions, but much more the abuses in the administration, of those laws have been a pretence for rushing back to the former extreme of mendicity, and the miserable spectacle of multitudes perishing of want. But the sentiments of humanity, no less than the morals and manners of well-regulated civil society, forbid this. — W. Phillips.
ON SMUGGLING, AND ITS VARIOUS SPECIES.
This letter is extracted from The London Chronicle, for November 24th, 1767, and is addressed to the printer of that newspaper. -B. V.
SIR, There are many people that would be thought, and even think themselves, honest men, who fail nevertheless in particular points of honesty ; deviating from that character sometimes by the prevalence of mode or custom, and sometimes through mere inattention ; so that their honesty is partial only, and not general or universal. Thus one, who would scorn to overreach you in a bargain, shall make no scruple of tricking you a little now and then at cards; another, that plays with the utmost fairness, shall with great freedom cheat. you in the sale of a horse. But there is no kind of dishonesty, into which otherwise good people more easily and frequently fall, than that of defrauding government of its revenues by smuggling when they have an opportunity, or encouraging smugglers by buying their goods.
I fell into these reflections the other day, on hearing two gentlemen of reputation discoursing about a small estate, which one of them was inclined to sell, and the other to buy ; when the seller, in recommending the place, remarked, that its situation was very advantageous on this account, that, being on the sea-coast in a smuggling country, one had frequent opportunities of buying many of the expensive articles used in a family (such as tea, coffee, chocolate, brandy, wines, cambrics, Brussels laces, French silks, and all kinds of India goods,) twenty, thirty, and in some articles fifty per cent cheaper than they could be had in the more interi
or parts, of traders that paid duty. The other honest gentleman allowed this to be an advantage, but insisted, that the seller, in the advanced price he demanded on that account, rated the advantage much above its value. And neither of them seemed to think dealing with smugglers a practice, that an honest man (provided he got his goods cheap) had the least reason to be ashamed of.
At a time when the load of our public debt, and the heavy expense of maintaining our fleets and armies to be ready for our defence on occasion, make it necessary, not only to continue old taxes, but often to look out for new ones, perhaps it may not be unuseful to state this matter in a light, that few seem to have considered it in.
The people of Great Britain, under the happy constitution of this country, have a privilege few other countries enjoy, that of choosing a third branch of the legislature, which branch has alone the power of regulating their taxes. Now, whenever the government finds it necessary for the common benefit, advantage, and safety of the nation, for the security of our liberties, property, religion, and every thing that is dear to us, that certain sums shall be yearly raised by taxes, duties, &c., and paid into the public treasury, thence to be dispensed by government for those purposes; ought not every honest man freely and willingly to pay his just proportion of this necessary expense ? Can he possibly preserve a right to that character, if, by fraud, stratagem, or contrivance, he avoids that payment in whole or in part.
What should we think of a companion, who, having supped with his friends at a tavern, and partaken equally of the joys of the evening with the rest of us, would nevertheless contrive by some artifice to shift his share of the reckoning upon others, in order to go off scotfree? If a man who practised this would, when