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A Critical Enquiry into the Causes and Effects of the

most prominent Social Evils.






the humane notions of the social reformer, the anarch

ical state of so-called civilized society presents itself under the most hideous aspects. Most appalling appears to him the contrast between squalid poverty and opulent riches, so frequently exhibited in the streets of modern cities, where ladies and gentlemen, dressed in the costliest and most comfortable attire, move amongst, or follow in close proximity, and in an unconcerned manner, repulsive human forms,-men, women, and children; barely clad in dirty rags, often shoeless, generally unwashed and unkempt, and often in such a filthy condition that their presence alone should suffice to drive cleanly dressed people away from the streets and public walks infested with these vehicles of loathsome rags, sores, and vermin. But such is the indifference of the public to these repulsive exhibitions of poverty, that not the least aversion is felt at their unsightly presence, and not the slightest notice is taken of the degradation of man; who, though lord of the creation, is, in his lowest types of poverty, less capable of ridding himself of filth and vermin than a dog. The

richly clad matron, with her charmingly dressed little daughters around her, would pass in the most leisurely and indifferent manner a crowd of half-naked, half-starved, and dirt-covered urchins of the same age as that of her own children; and if the latter would ask her why those poor little children did not wash themselves, why they did not comb their hair, or, going barefooted, if they washed their feet before going to bed, and why their parents did not buy them any better clothes—the answer she would have to give to these innocent inquirers would be of so shocking and degrading a nature, that she would most decidedly shrink from imparting the true knowledge of it to her well-bred, well-clad, well-washed, and well-fed children. For if she would tell them the truth, she would have to say that these poor children never washed themselves, and never combed their hair, because they were neglected by their parents, who never taught them the ways of cleanliness; concerning the apprehension of her daughters, that the dirty feet of those poor children might soil the bedclothes, if they were not washed before going to bed, she would have to reveal the shocking fact, that their dirty feet would not soil any bed, for they had none to lie on; and as to the neglect of their parents in not providing them with better clothing, she would have to refer to the fact, that the parents are, probably, as miserably clad as their children. Should the rich matron really venture to make these revelations to her children, an exclamation of pity, a remark of commiseration, an utterance of astonishment, may, very naturally, escape from the rosy lips of her little ones.

If it is but natural that pity should even be expressed by little children at the sight of poverty-stricken human beings, it seems however, on the contrary, to be most unnatural that some of the adult population, and especially the wealthier classes of society, should regard the existence of poverty, even when it becomes the lot of little children, as a natural result of the economical laws that govern society; while others try to excuse it as a dispensation of Divine Providence, and are always ready to refer to Holy Writ, frequently quoting: "The poor you have always

The poor shall never cease out of the land ;”

with you;

and “Blessed* are the poor;”—but generally omitting to mention the injunction of Christ to the rich man: “Go, and sell all you possess, and give the proceeds therefrom to the poor.”

Poverty is not only a saddening sight when exhibited publicly by children, in whom it is yet frequently combined with playfulness and frolic, but very saddening, moreover, is the idea of a great amount of unseen poverty hidden in workhouses, in the hovels of the agricultural population, and in the tenements of the inhabitants of overcrowded cities. In many cases poverty does not exhibit itself to public gaze in the streets and thoroughfares, and hunger hiding in the stomach is not always discernible in the features of the starving person,—for the careworn face looks very much like that which reflects the sting of hunger in its aspect. The cold suffered from insufficient fuel may in many instances be very painful, but it remains hidden from us, because we do not enter those dwellings of the poor in which they suffer from want of warmth. Startling disclosures of an enormous amount of hidden poverty have, however, of late been made by the public press, and the existence of whole dens of squalor and misery in the midst of the richest nation of Europe has been made known.

A veritable pandæmonium of wretchedness was described by a writer in the Daily News of the 26th Dec., 1872, who inspected certain localities in the East End of London, for the purpose of acquainting the public of the unhappy condition of some of the people at the very time when others were comfortably celebrating a happy Christmas. This description shows how diabolical and deadly are the social plague-spots that fester in secret on the very vitals of our social system.

The first place he visited, he found in a large back room several forms, and a huge bright charcoal fire. On the seats around the fire two dozen men and boys sat, in various stages of dirt and dilapidation, for the most part without

* If poverty is a state of blessedness, why don't the rich change places with the poor?”.-M. CABET.

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