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if another evades paying into the treasury a guinea he ought to pay in, and applies it to his own. use, when he knows it belongs to the public as much as that which has been paid in, what difference is»there\ in the. nature of the crime, or the baseness of committing it?
Some laws make the receiving of stolen goods equally penal with stealing, and upon this principle, that if there were no receivers, there would be few thieves. Our proverb too says truly, that the receiver is as bad as the thief. By the same reasoning, as there would be few smugglers, if there were none who knowingly encouraged them by buying their goods, we may say, that the encouragers of smuggling are as .bad as the smugglers; and that, as smugglers are a kind of thieves, both equally deserve the punishment of thievery.
In this view of wronging the revenufe, what must we think of those who can evade paying for their wheels * and their plate, in defiance of law and justice, and yet declaim against corruption and peculation, as if their own hands and hearts were pure and unsullied? The Americans offend us grievously, when, contrary to»our laws, they smuggle goods into their own country; and yet they had no hand in making those laws. I do not however pretend from thence to justify them. But 1 think the offence much greate*\in those, who either directly or indirectly have been concerned in making the" very laws they break. And when I hear them exclaim-' ing against the Americans, and fcr every little infrin^ment on the acts of trade, or obstruction given by afcetty mob to an officer of our customs in that country, caMng for vengeance against the, whole people as Rebels and Traitors, I cannot help thinking there are still those. in the world who can see a mote in their brother's eye,
* Alluding to the British taxes on carriage-wheels and on plate. —
while they do not discern a beam in their own; and that the old saying jp as true now as ever it was, One man may better steal a horse, than another look over the hedge.
London, July 7, 1767.
Suppose a, country, X, with three manufactures, as cloth, silk, iron, supplying three other countries, A, B, C, but is desirous of increasing the vent, and raising the price of cloth in favor of her own clothiers.
In order to thkf she forbids the importation of foreign cloth from A./
A, in return, forbids silks from X.
Tjfen the silk-workers complain of a decay of trade. /And X, to contej^ them, forbids silks from B.
B, in return, forbids iron ware from X.
. C, ira return, forbid?.cloth from X. J What is got by all thespprohibitions 1 Itjlnswer.—All four 4ind their common stock of the fijoymants and conveniences of life diminished.
» B. F.
ON THE LABORING POOR.
Communicated to the Editor of a Newspaper, April, 1768.
I have met with much invective in the papers, for these two years past, against the hard-heartedness of the rich, and much complaint of the great oppressions suffered in this country by the laboring poor. Will you admit a word or two on the other side of the question? I do not propose to be an advocate for oppression or oppressors. But when I see that the poor are, by such writings, exasperated against the rich, and excited to insurrections, by which much mischief is done, and some forfeit their lives, I could wish the true state of things were better understood, the poor not made by these busy writers more uneasy and unhappy than their situation subjects them to be, and the nation not brought into disrepute among foreigners, by public groundless accusations of ourselves, as if the rich in England had no compassion for the poor, and Englishmen wanted common humanity.
In justice, then, to this country, give me leave to remark, that the condition of the poor here is, by far, the best in Europe; for that, except in England and her American colonies, there is not in any country of the known world, not even in Scotland or Ireland, a provision by law to enforce a support of the poor. Everywhere else necessity reduces to beggary. This law was not made by the poor. The legislators were men of fortune. By that act they voluntarily subjected their own estates, and the estates of all others, to the payment of a tax for the maintenance of the poor, encumbering those estates with a kind of rent-charge for that purpose, whereby the poor are vested with an inheritance, as it were, in all the estates of the rich. I wish they were benefited by this generous provision in any degree equal to the good intention, with which it was made, and is continued. But I fear the giving mankind a dependence on any thing for support, in age or sickness, besides industry and frugality during youth and health, tends to flatter our natural indolence, to encourage idleness and prodigality, and thereby to promote and increase poverty, the very evil it was intended to cure; thus multiplying beggars instead of diminishing them.
Besides this tax, which the rich in England have subjected themselves to, in behalf of the poor, amounting in some places to five or six shillings in the pound, of the annual income, they have, by donations and subscriptions, erected numerous schools in various parts of the kingdom, for educating, gratis, the children of the poor in reading and writing; and in many of those schools the children are also fed and clothed. They have erected hospitals at an immense expense for the reception and cure of the sick, the lame, the wounded, and the insane poor, for lying-in women, and deserted children. They are also continually contributing towards making up losses occasioned by fire, by storms, or by floods, and to relieve the poor in severe seasons of frost, in times of scarcity, &c., in which benevolent and charitable contributions no nation exceeds us. Surely, there is some gratitude due for so many instances of goodness.
Add to this all the laws made to discourage foreign manufactures, by laying heavy duties on them, or totally prohibiting them, whereby the rich are obliged to pay much higher prices for what they wear and consume, than if the trade was open. These are so many laws for the support of our laboring poor, made by the rich, and
continued at their expense; all the difference of price, between our own and foreign commodities, being so much given by our rich to our poor; who would indeed be enabled by it to get by degrees above poverty, if they did not, as too generally they do, consider every increase of wages, only as something that enables them to drink more and work less; so that their distress in sickness, age, or times of scarcity, continues to be the same as if such laws had never been made in their favor.
Much malignant censure have some writers bestowed upon the rich for their luxury and expensive living, while the poor are starving, &c.; not considering that what the rich expend, the laboring poor receive in payment for their labor. It may seem a paradox if I should assert, that our laboring poor do in every year receive the whole revenue of the nation; I mean not only the public revenue, but also the revenue or clear income of all private estates, or a sum equivalent to the whole.
In support of this position I reason thus. The rich do not work for one another. Their habitations, furniture, clothing, carriages, food, ornaments, and every thing in short, that they or their families use and consume, is the work or produce of the laboring poor, who are, and must be continually, paid for their labor in producing the same. In these payments the revenues of private estates are expended, for most people live up to their incomes. In clothing or provision for troops, in arms, ammunition, ships, tents, carriages, &c. &c., (every particular the produce of labor,) much of the public revenue is expended. The pay of officers, civil and military, and of the private soldiers and sailors, requires the rest; and they spend that also in paying for what is produced by the laboring poor.
I allow that some estates may increase by the owners
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