Pauperism is the state of indigent persons requiring help, or, as it is technically called, "relief," or, as the Bible terms it, "charity." "The poor shall never cease out of the land" was said ages ago, when land was "free," and of a "chosen people," watched over by a "special providence," pasturing their flocks in fertile valleys, bright with the sunshine of a genial climate — a nature which needed no stimulus from "high-farming," but flung her wealth with prodigal hand into the lap of a community whose primitive manners ignored fashion, and whose social life was unfevered by the lavish expenditure of a high civilization. As the possession of every natural advantage was no preventive to want, but "the poor" were there, so there and everywhere they will "never cease out of the land," because human nature is weak, self-contradictory, and therefore sinful; because it is selfsufficient and indolent, and therefore ignorant and miscalculating; because it is proud and ambitious, and therefore liable to fall. Besides, in so far as poverty depends upon passion and error, the poor will increase pari passu with an artificial condition of society, for civilization intensifies the vices as well as the virtues of mankind. Therefore it is not amiss to call the poverty of the masses a product of modern civilization. It may be specially called the product of our progress in the industries, and of the employment of steam instead of simple manual labor. By these, our progressive steps, casualties and accidents have increased in this age at such a ratio among the working people that it must stand out as one of the most provoking causes of pauperism. Besides, the tremendous spread of the bad habits of intemperance, SEE TEMPERANCE, has considerably lessened the resources of this stratum of society, and thereby provoked a vast increase in paupers.
Pauperism, then, is a subject of our day which requires the gravest consideration of the philanthropist, and forces itself upon the attention of the Church as well as of the State. Indeed, we believe that the suppression of pauperism is a task of Christian ethics, for although the solution of the problem is within the province of politics, it is nevertheless true that Christian ethics must provide the motive and pave the way. It may, therefore, be well to point out in this place the principle on which all poor legislation should rest.
Paley affirms that the claim of the poor is founded on the law of nature, because all things having been originally common, the exclusive possession of property was and is permitted on the expectation that every one should have enough for subsistence, or the means of procuring it. We may doubt whether this opinion is sound, notwithstanding that it has the advocacy of some of the ablest English thinkers, and that even such an unbelieving mind as Mill approved it, but we cannot doubt that the Poor Laws rest upon moral and political considerations of great weight. If statesmen cannot contemplate masses of population in a condition of semi-starvation without anxiety and fear, Christians certainly should not suffer society to be thus endangered so long as the ethical principles of Christianity can be brought to influence not only the private life of the individual, but all conditions and numbers. For the successful, i.e. prompt and general alleviation of all suffering and want, the State has stepped in to enforce obedience to an admitted moral obligation, which might otherwise be recognized by the conscientious and disregarded by the selfish. This is the purpose of the modern Poor Laws. Different states have different methods by which this principle is evolved in practice. The general practice is for the State to delegate to the parochial authorities the proper execution of the Poor-Law principle, supplying homes called workhouses for those who are homeless. and affording assistance in money and provisions for those who are temporarily or permanently out of employment. The charges which are brought against this system are many, and some of them are serious enough to require consideration here.
It was the wise rule of Napoleon the Great that the first duty of a charitable institution is to prevent the need of charity. Hence he favored domiciliary visitation, or what is technically called in the science of pauperism "out-
door relief." In England, on the other hand, the maxim of the State is that the poor have a right to relief, or, in other words, that charity is a fund on which they can confidently depend. By Napoleon's principle, the object of charity is the reduction of pauperism; by the English, relief is the privilege of the poor, regardless of the consequences. Both systems have been tried nearly all over the Continent, and it is quite clear that Napoleon's rule alone is adapted to modern society, and should govern in the dispensing of charity. Few things degrade men in their own estimation so quickly as the habit of relying on alms for support. The divine plan for developing manhood is to make selfexertion a stern necessity. But when the State makes a working man sure of charitable support in time of need, it takes from him the sharpest spur to self-exertion; it tempts him to form unthrifty habits; it teaches him to lean on its support in his possible emergencies, instead of stores provided by his own economical forethought for the sure- coming "rainy day." This feeling demoralizes him by sapping his self- respect, his pride of character, and his sense of manly independence. In other words, legal provision making his support certain, prepares him to become a pauper whenever the battle of life waxes hot. That this is not a mere theory, but a condensed statement of historic fact, can be shown by reference to the painful results of the English poor laws. Those laws, strangely enough, were made necessary by the abolition of serfdom in the 14th century. At first they were wisely framed, making provision for the "impotent poor" only, and for the punishment of vagrant laborers. Gradually, however, they gave birth to the idea of the "right of all persons to claim relief of the State." Then came the erection of almshouses, and the establishment of "poor rates." Finally, the idea culminated in a law, passed in 1782, granting outdoor relief through the agency of the State officers. The effect was to multiply the number of paupers with fearful rapidity, and, as a writer in the Westminster Review has aptly said, to bring the "country almost to the verge of ruin... Poor rates rose to such an extent that it became hardly worth while in some instances to retain the land in cultivation." So clearly did this peculiar provision for out-door relief tend to increase the number of paupers, that in 1834 an act was passed chiefly aiming "to check out-door relief, . . . and then, within a few years, both rates and pauperism decreased to no small extent." The maxim of Malthus is (Essay on Population, 2:430) that "it is in the highest degree important to the general happiness of the poor that no man should look to charity as a fund on which he may confidently depend," and it is a good one to be adopted by those who regard charity as a Christian obligation; but with this maxim should be coupled a recognition of the obligation upon society to make education general and fiee. It is a noteworthy fact that both in England and in France pauperism has been on the increase, although the efforts have been most persistent for its diminution; and it is further evident that in countries where education is general, free, and obligatory, as, e.g. in Germany, school training has acted as a direct counter-agent to pauperism. It may reasonably be supposed that, "had the 'right of education' been as familiar an axiom with the English masses as the 'right of relief,' we should not now hear of a million paupers in a population of 22,000,000, and know that the problem of pauperism presents itself as an almost insoluble question to the best of the English reformers" (Charles L. Bruce). The influences of workhouse or almshouse life are pernicious in the extreme to the occupants. It is of the very first importance to society that pauperism should not be inherited and transmitted, from the familiar scientific principle that inherited evil is intensified in each new generation. It has been found that places of refuge for the poor, as such, are the propagators of pauperism, inasmuch as they take from its occupants all self-respect and independence. Hence in our day France and England, as well as Germany, are abandoning the workhouse system, and are adopting, or are taking steps for the adoption of what is called the "our of door relief" principle; but the relief is given by a local relieving officer, and that in time to prevent absolute dependence, or, as it may be really stated, to prevent the needy from acquiring the habits of pauperism.
In the United States of America, where the influence both of general suffrage and of the Protestant faith largely cultivates individual self-respect and independence, pauperism has not yet acquired much hold. Some go so far as to claim that the abundance of arable land, and the comparatively slight pressure of population on subsistence, as well as our methods of popular education, must prevent a development of pauperism. But those who reason in this way lose sight of the fact that the Old World pours in upon us continually such vast numbers of idlers, vagabonds, and poor, to whom dependence is as natural as breathing, and in whom that feeling of self-respect which spurns reliance on public charity has never been developed, and that pauperism is therefore sure to become, sooner or later, a fixed element in our population. In view of this possibility, if not probability, the subject requires most considerate attention from the Church of Christ. It is true the State has here and there created central boards of charity, which tend to give unity of administration to parish and town management of the poor; classification is introduced into the care of paupers; and above all, the effort has begun in New York State and Massachusetts to withdraw all pauper children not diseased in mind or body from almshouses, and to place them in private families, in order to prevent an inherited pauperism but none of these measures, we fear, adequately meet our coming wants. Were our society stationary we might succeed, but in our surging condition there must be a judicious system of out-door relief, and it can be accomplished only by close personal visitation. This in our body politic the Church alone is fitted to assume. Voluntary associations of the best citizens in every community are alone fit to judge of the deserving character of all claimants for relief; and, as besides these there are many needy ones who, in horror at receiving alms, would rather suffer death by starvation than seek for relief from the public, the noblest type of society, and not the ward politician, are proper persons to counsel and relieve the American pauper. Indeed, we would have it understood that it is not simply relief that the needy ones stand in want of; they should have such counsel as may prevent a recurrence of disaster and failure in life. Christian benevolence should not simply feed the hungry and clothe the naked, it should teach the ignorant and raise the degraded.
The most successful experiment with pauperism is notably that of Elberfeld, a German manufacturing town near Cologne, on the Rhine. This municipality was sorely afflicted, some twenty years since, with a chronic condition of pauperism. The usual machinery of almshouses or of private charity did not diminish it. If people gave freely and indiscriminately, the poor came to depend on alms; if too many public means of relief were afforded, there was a current of paupers thither from the surrounding country. In 1853, with a population of 50,364, there were relieved 4224 paupers, or about one in twelve. A certain benevolent gentleman — Herr von der Heydt, the Prussian minister of commerce — then undertook to introduce a reform in the following manner: He had the city divided for the purpose into eighteen districts, and an overseer, serving voluntarily, appointed by the common council, over each. Every district again was divided into fourteen sections, and a visitor appointed for each section. This visitor was required to be of the male sex, and he was never allowed to visit more than four families, and sometimes only two. These families he was obliged to visit at least once a fortnight, report to the overseer, discuss their cases of relief, receive their money for the ensuing two weeks, and give account of what they had already spent. The most particular inquiries were thus made into every case relieved, whether each person was doing all in his power for his own support, and whether his relatives were obeying the law in contributing towards his maintenance. The object of the visitors of the poor was not merely to give alms, but to encourage and advise unfortunate and ignorant people, and thus prevent poverty. The whole system was thus one of close supervision and moral assistance of the poor by the more comfortable classes. The fortunate and the unfortunate were brought together; the well-off and intelligent had an official right to direct the ignorant and destitute. To complete the organization, the overseers themselves met and reported to the poor commissioners of the town, and received from them the moneys for out-door relief. The best citizens were found willing to serve gratuitously as visitors or overseers; indeed, the place was considered one of some honor. The commissioners were appointed by the common council and mayor, and served for three years. At the present time the poor administration of this city of nearly 80,000 inhabitants consists of a commission of 9 members, 18 overseers, and 252 visitors, all serving gratuitously. The theory of the system, it will be observed, is a close house-to-house visitation and careful inspection, by citizens serving under officials, whose object is to prevent, not encourage, pauperism. What have been the results? A brief table will convey them best, the reader bearing in mind that the new system was introduced in 1854:
Year. Population. Paupers relieved.
1853 ................. 50,364 4224 1855 ................... 51,259 2948 1860.................... 54,002 1521 1865 ................... 63,686 1289 1873............ (about) 78,000 980
Or, in other words, before the new plan was introduced, one in twelve was a pauper, and now one in eighty. The cost has also fallen from about $38,000 in 1847 to about $17,000 in 1873. The average cost of relief in 1855-59 was only some $18,000 per annum. A still greater reduction of cost would have been shown but for the increased prices of provisions and all commodities during the past few years.
We realize that in our review of the subject the wandering pauper, or, as he is familiarly called, tramp, has had no consideration. There are everywhere numerous persons so lazy or vicious that they prefer to be supported rather than to labor for their bread; it is scarcely necessary to say that it is not the proper province of either the State or charitable individuals to relieve such drones. The alternative of work or starvation should be forced upon all such with unbending persistence. Those who, away from home and friends, need help, we can safely trust to the benevolent intentions of such individuals as we would see placed in charge of the charities of every town in the land. See Walker, Science of Wealth, p. 411 sq.; Greeley, Political Economy, p. 17 sq.; North Amer. Rev. April, 1875, art. 3, where much important literature is quoted. See also Brit. Quarterly, April, 1876, art. 6; Westminster Review, April, 1874; January, 1875.