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a real and natural quality—not the offspring of law, which makes it an artificial one: and by which idleness and impudence may make poverty pass for wealth. It is thus that the system of bank credits proves a licence for the knave, and a tax, as well as a torture, to extract the gains of the honesthand of labour. Abolish at this time, our public monopolies of capital; and interest will sink to THREE PER CENT. Usury will be unknown, and extortion will never be heard, except when the demand for interest rises to six per cent. Laws have in vain attempted to restrain usury and prevent extortion. The invention of brokers has effectually served to screen the delinquent, and bid defiance to justice; the law being a compound of words, instead of a creature of principles. Extortion is discriminated from usury, by its being a price or premium for imaginary chance of loss, instead of an interest for the use of money. It embraces all the calculations of non-payment, personal discredit, temper of the debtor, habits of punctuality, or procrastination, his wants, his necessities, all which being in the imagination of the lender, become extortion. As usury is seldom, or never resorted to by those who have credit, the extortion as it becomes greater, also becomes more cruel; and demands the intercession of the laws. This class of usurers too, being composed of the most vile and reckless of the felonious part of society, and having no feeling, or principle to restrain them from the most savage excesses of oppression, ought to be kept within limits by rigid enactments; disregarding as they do the opinion of the world, the terrors of future punishment, and the obligation of the most sacred oaths. The robber on the highway is outlawed, but there is no outlaw so bold and reckless in depredation, as the usurer.
PAUPERISM is another of the concomitants of the age of capital, extortion, and usury; and the most prominent and pernicious consequence of the distribution of property by law instead of industry.
Inequality of fortune is natural to society, because talent, as well as physical power, is unequally distributed to mankind. But this inequality does not imply pauperism, nor does this diversity of faculties necessarily lead to it. The whole order of nature, the economy of the world, physical as well as moral, and the beneficence of Providence, all proclaim that pauperism is the child of luxury, monopoly, and avarice. The superabundant fruits of the earth, the o’erteeming womb of nature in her spontaneous productions, the superfluity of labour, from the hand of industry, the immense mountains of wealth, accumulated by avaricious extortion, and legal fraud, the satiety of luxury, palled into disease by surfeited appetite, idleness pampered into the tomb by voluptuous enjoyment, one man in the possession of millions, and thousands rioting in overabundance, clearly demonstrate that the perversions and vices of man, and not the order of nature, have generated the excrescence of pauperism, upon the face of society.
It is a first principle, that no man can become rich, without making another one poor, and that all accumulation of great fortunes, necessarily begets pauper
ism. The cause of this is apparent. It is not in the power of man, to produce a sum of labour so immense, as to make every one rich ; but it is in his power, and he does produce enough to make all comfortable, and happy. If some, therefore, acquire immense portions from this mass of labour, it must leave others without any. A truth so simple requires no demonstration. Wealth, seated in the midst of her golden paradise, often deputes her attendant, pseudo-benevolence, to go among the wretched, who are famishing for want, and exhort them to economy and temperance; or, alarmed by their cries of anguish, and maledictions of suffering, she gathers the poor into an alms-house, and eases her philanthropy, by feeding them on offals, and giving their dead bodies to the dissecting room, to defray a portion of the expense. The most pernicious character in society, is the avaricious miser—the most despicable, the miserly beggar. They are the moral extremes that meet on the verge of misery, worthlessness, and non-production. The prodigal merely wants sense, for he injures none but himself, and may produce as well as spend, but the accumulator is a tyrant, whose every step inflicts anguish, crushes the heart, or slays his victim. Economy is a private virtue, but almost a public negative, in relation to national wealth; except in the unproductive consumption of luxuries. By economy, a man may grow rich, or acquire money; but he will never be able to produce industry by economy. In this argument, detail supplies the place of general principles, and individual facts are mistaken for natural results. Economy to a nation is a beggarly quality. The poorest and most indolent countries are generally the most economical. To save, is not to produce. The miser never can be equal to the working man. Even the beggar may save his pennies until he dies worth a plum; but neither misers nor beggars are admitted as elements of the wealth of nations. An argument of this kind, started to strip the industrious man of his meritorious character, is little short of absurdity, and borders close upon the pernicious. Poor and miserable, indeed, would be that country, which, under a false system of political economy, would inculcate saving instead of producing, and estimate capital as of superior value to industry. No stretch of economy, however, under the existing perversion of the principles of national wealth, could tend to remove, or even to mitigate pauperism. Its utmost extent could only produce individual exceptions, to the general lot of mendicity, decreed by capital to the skirts of labour. Economy in the poor could not reduce the fortunes of the rich, but economy of consumption in the latter, would prove beneficial. The cant of capital has ascribed pauperism to prodigality; but the voice of science refers it to avarice. The class of paupers seldom have a chance of wasting a patrimony; their only inheritance being misery and rags. A thousand are born paupers, for one who becomes so by waste and extravagance. Pauperism has been considered by some, as a constituent of national wealth. It is so, on the existing system, but it is not a constituent of national justice. To provide for the poor, ought not to engage the attention of the people, or excite the ingenuity of philosophers; when it is so easy to prevent pauperism, by giving to industry its legitimate function of distributing . its own labour, and thus affording competence to every
member of society, of industrious habits, physical health, and robust manhood. The great crime of society in its regulation of pauperism, has been in its visible organization of the poor, in public communities, or alms-houses. While it is the imperative duty of society, to provide for the destitute, this provision ought never to operate as a stimulant to idleness, or as a habit, or to appear as a necessary evil, blunting the sensibility to shame. The succour administered to paupers, should be invisible to the public eye. Instead of being huddled together in a public show, their mansions ought to be separate, and undistinguished from others of the same condition of life. Inspectors, and guardians, could report, classify, and relieve them. Under the present system, meritorious poverty suffers in silent anguish; whilst hardened and confirmed vice, little superior to felons, is ostentatiously pampered at the public cost. The plea of economy for public alms-houses, is the worst reason that could be adduced, to sustain a measure, whose pernicious consequences to society outrun all computations of cost, and expense. A private system, if more expensive, would be less deleterious; but why should capital complain of the expense of pauperism, when its own distention is the cause of the evil, and its enjoyment the source of want to thousands.