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ministers who promoted such things would be fragrant on the page of history, neither would
that be their chief reward.
Although it be generally allowed, in theory at least, that virtue is the chiefest and most steady promoter of happiness; and although by far the greater part of the distress of individuals, families, and nations, arises out of their deviations from the path of rectitude, yet it seems needful to descend from this general axiom, and consider the subject more specifically and minutely; for although sin is the cause of sorrow, improvidence is a main cause of pecuniary distress. Were it not that custom has familiarized us to the facts, we should naturally ask, with wonder and grief, a solution of this problem. That there are, at all times, in this country, hundreds of thousands pining for want of food and raiment, whose united efforts would be sufficient to procure them great abundance of both; yet, although they are anxious for such employments, there is at all times great lack of employment, and great distress among these candidates for employment, for want of those things which
these very employments procure.
seems to be no deficiency of medium for the reciprocity of these wants; farmers, traders, manufacturers, are all assiduous in their respective departments, by bringing them together, and changing them for each other, by which operation they are neutralized as wants, and converted into enjoyments; and, were it not for some grand error somewhere, it is obvious that employment would always abound while wants and desires existed, and they must continue while human nature exists.
It is grievous to reflect on-how much more grievous to endure the various privations and sufferings of a single poor family, when the husband and father no longer supplies them the means of subsistence; this defalcation generally arises from drunkenness, or absence of employment. It is also grievous to behold the effects of destitution and idleness on the youth, in that season of life when habits are formed. Surely it would be worthy the highest genius of the greatest legislator to bar the rapidly increasing destitution and
crime; and although religion alone can make a man virtuous, on those points which his constitution and habits declare to be his weak side, yet good legislation comes very valuably in aid of virtue. But the search for a remedy should be preceded by an inquiry into the causes of the grievance, which may be exhibited by a single case as a sample of the bulk of the mechanics of the metropolis: to what extent it is so in the north, the writer has not had opportunity of personal observation.
Let us then suppose a mechanic able to earn, in four days, sufficient to keep his family and himself seven days, not merely with food, but with all needful comforts, but working only three days on an average, and squandering a large proportion of even those earnings in drunkenness; his family is always struggling against want, and their expenses constantly anticipate their income; so that if his employment be suspended a single week their distress is great, and they must give from their wretched stock of apparel, or furniture, to procure food; the dear-bought
credit of drunkenness and poverty, and a slight pittance from the parish, making up the wretched means to drag on existence; so that they at once cease to make that profitable and natural demand upon the industry and procuring powers of others, except so far as imperious necessity compels them, and then chiefly by exchanging one commodity which they want much, for another which they want still more. This is the case with the bulk of the working classes of the south at least, and produces a large proportion of the want of employment, and the distress which so frequently occurs.
The poverty of the agricultural labourer also, though arising as much from unnaturally low wages as from the above causes (one effect of that competition for farms, which has induced the continuing to give for them thrice the rent, that, from the nature of things, they are worth, as compared with such property among the nations who are our competitors in manufactures, thus giving to the landlords a large proportion of the wages of the husbandman); this also impoverishes the country,
and reduces the custom of the farming man to his master, to the manufacturer, to the merchant, and in some slight degree to the revenue. But if, superadded to this, the landlord should live abroad, it makes the matter far worse still; for the labourer would be sure to spend in this country whatever he spent at all, and in a far larger proportion than the landlord, (even if the latter did always stop at home,) on the produce of his own country. So that with drunkenness, improvidence, and what has now become among farmers an injustice, which, perhaps, they can no longer control, the working classes are generally unable to afford themselves and families those comforts, or even necessaries, which would yield a constant and regularly recurring demand; and, with the natural demand so constantly and extensively curtailed, can we wonder at the want of work?
But let us imagine the case of one mechanic of average capacity for earning, of sober habits, and average number in family; and further, we will suppose him always in work: now