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We may now be enabled to perceive where it is that the distinction lies between such a person, and the man of true practical wisdom. The latter, though often branded with the name of a theorist, never in fact rests a single position on any other basis than that of observation. But he has the art of observation; and knows how to turn it to its legitimate purposes. He can look to one case, and has the faculty of drawing a lesson from it, by which he can enlighten and determine other cases of the same kind ; and avails himself of the constancy of Nature in such a way, as to rear upon it a general anticipation. From his daily observation of human nature, he has learned, for example, to infer, that dependence upon aid from others will impair the diligence of a man's exertions for himself; and that it both lies within the power, and is in general the disposition of the labouring poor, by the economy of a very slight and practicable retrenchment, to secure for themselves a provision against the wants of futurity; and that the strong instincts of relationship will, if not counteracted, draw a more secure and kindly protection around all its members, than ever can be offered by the cold hand of public charity; and that the sympathies of neighbourhood, if not relaxed by some ill judged and artificial process, will afford a more substantial relief to the indigence which resides within its bounds, than ever can be poured upon it out of the treasury of an almshouse; and that the wealthy, if left to give on the impulse of compassion, will at length find their way to a more useful and discriminating method of benevolence than ever can be practised by the official agents of a legal institution; and that while, in the one way, the rich and the poor often meet and exchange with each other such cordialities of affection and good-will as go to sweeten every offering, and to turn the whole of their intercourse into a scene of enjoyment; in the other way, every ministration of relief only tends to multiply their antipathies, and to widen the unfortunate distance which lies between them.-And surely if these be so many facts, authenticated by the habitual observation of his whole life, he is well warranted to conclude that it would have been greatly better had the institutions in question been dispensed with altogether; and if, as to stamp upon this doctrine its most striking verification, he can point to parishes where they are established, and compare them with parishes where they are not established, and then crown the whole of his reasoning with the triumphant allegation, that the actual result coincides in all its particulars with the conclusions of his own individual sagacity: -Surely, after this, there must be some delusion in pronouncing of such a man that he is a theorist.
But the disciple of mere localities can be made to see nothing of all this. He is wholly taken up with the individualities of his own particular remembrance. Any change in the system of management would break up the entireness of that assemblage of means which he has been in the habit of contemplating in association with the object of relieving the poor; and he cannot conceive that, with a different assemblage, the saine object can possibly be accomplished. Still less can he conceive that the utmost dexterity in managing the details of an existing scheme may meet, in the same individual, with the utmost incapacity of pronouncing aright on the wisdom of the scheme itself that he in fact may be a clever accountant in the poor-house, and an active superintendant of some one of its departments, and the wisest of all his colleagues in the business of framing regulations, and yet be as little prepared, by all this official expertness, for the general question, as if his only business had been to preside over the cookery of the establishment,- to taste of its charitable soup, or to deal it out with pointed regularity to the repairing multitude. A kind of talent, no doubt, is requisite for all these operations. Nor are we to wonder how they who possess this talent carry a certain degree of influence along with them, when they denounce all who question present modes as theoretical, or how it is that this epithet, in the progress of time, bas changed its application from one side to another, and how so many good people have been misled into the idea, that a whole host of practical authority and good sense stand opposed to the business of innovation, when they see such an array of resistance, and hear the contemptuous cry that is lifted up by clerks and vestrymen and city, assessors, and the various subalterns or dignitaries of office, and the whole collected voice of council and committeeship.
Meanwhile, it is our earnest advice to Government to prosecute, and still further to extend these inquiries, of which the Report before us gives so instructive a specimen--not to shrink from the resistance which has now been adverted to, for in truth it is far more noisy than formidable-steadily to keep in their eye the des liverance of the country from a system, of which every new exhibition proves that it augments the wretchedness of the lower orders, and cruelly deceives them by a semblance of beneficence which it never can realize. And, to encourage them in this career of true and enlightened patriotism, we may venture to assure them, that the very men who are now so sensitively alive to the alarm of innovation, will, in a few months after the establishment of some practical reform, yield a most acquiescing compliance with it in all its particulars. The great maxim of whatever is, is sright,' on the strength of which they are ever sure to raise an outcry against the enemies of an old establishment, will, in a short time, convert them to the steadiest and most determined friends of a new one. In fact, they will approve themselves to be good serviceable men under any system; and the terms • theoretical' and ' practical' will, under another order of things, once more change their place and their acceptation.
Before taking up the Report, we beg leave to be indulged with one remark more in the way of general and introductory observation.
From every page, both of the Report itself, and of the evidence which accompanies it, we may gather testimonies to the deadly mischief that lies in the system which prevails in England, of providing for the necessities of the poor ; and we carry our conclusions no further than has been already done by a Committee of one of the Houses of Parliament, when we aver, that this system ought to be entirely abolished. Now, there is nothing more natural for some people than to ask, after hearing such a statement as this—what system do you propose to substitute in its place? You are for destroying one set of positive regulations : But, ere you do this, is it not a fair demand upon you, that you furnish us with another set ?
Now, it should be recollected, that it has all along been our main object to show, that the poor-laws of England are the result of a very bungling attempt, on the part of the Le gislature, to do that which would have been better done had Nature been left to her own free processes, and man to the unconstrained influence of such principles as Nature and Christianity have bestowed upon him. We affirm, that the great and urgent law of self-preservation ought not to have been so tampered with; that the instincts of relationship ought not to have been so impeded in their operation; that the sympathies, and the attentions of neighbourhood, ought not to have been so superseded ; that the powerful workings of generous and compassionate feeling ought not to have been so damped and discouraged, as they have in fact been by this artifi. cial and uncalled for process of interference. We deem that, in this instance, the Legislature have given way to their usual passion for regulation-and that too on a matter which they ought no more to have meddled with, than any matter of trade or agriculture, or even of family arrangement. They should have kept within their own province, and left this great interest of the community to be provided for by the play of such feelings and of such principles as lie scattered in every direction throughout the great mass of the community. They have done as much mischief in this department, by stepping beyond the boundaries of a wise and legitimate superintendence, as they would most infallibly do in the department of agriculture, should they offer to legislate on the rotation of crops, and take into their own hands a concern which ought to be left to the judge ment and the care of individual cultivators. We stop short at the simple demonstration, that there would have been vastly less of suffering in our land, and vastly less of jealousy and discontent among the people, and vastly more of friendly understanding between the higher and the lower orders of the State, and, in truth, a greatly more vigorous operation of those various elements which conduce to the peace and prosperity of a nation, and to the enjoyment of all its families—had the parishes of England, in respect of their poor, been left to the influence of such an economy as still obtains in the majority of Scottish parishes. We simply aver, that it would have been better for them had they never been visited upon this subject by the unwise and intermeddling spirit of legislation, and had the natural order of human feelings, and human arrangements, not been encroached upon. And we do think it a little preposterous to demand of him who deprecates the inroads of any artificial process, upon a concern which he holds to be better provided for by being left to itself, that he should substitute another process in place of that which he thinks ought to be simply abandoned- to ask of him, as the consistent way of following up his argument, that he should turn round on the very principle which lies at the basis of his whole demonstration, and come forth, in his turn, with his specific regulation, on a matter in which he holds all regulation to be impertinent and prejudicial.
Dr Smith, in his treatise on the Wealth of Nations, reasons, and, in the estimation of the soundest politicians, reasons incontrovertibly, against the doctrine of monopolies. He contends for the abolition of this particular regulation in matters of trade altogether ;-but we have not yet heard of his ever being asked to substitute another regulation in its place. He has triumphantly exposed the impolicy of many a legislative enact: ment in the affairs of commerce; but he does not carry his demonstration to any other practical result than that these enact, ments should simply be rescinded. It has never been exacted, either from him or from his followers, that they should propose some specific enactments in place of those they would destroy. He throws the matter altogether open to the free and unshackled operation of the great principles of Nature-io che desire of gain on the part of merchants--to the desire of enjoyment on the part of customers--and, in a demonstration, every page of which is pregnant with true experimental wisdom, does he expose the impolicy of certain theories of trade which surely do not the less merit the opprobrium annexed to such theories, that, instead of lying dormant in speculation, they have actually been put in execution by Government, and accumulated into a sys. tem of practical administration. This is his terminating objeet. He stops short with the assertion, that it were better for trade, and for the interest of the country, that every positive interference on the part of Government were done away; and he escapes all the hazards of the theorist, by leaving the whole concern to the free operation of Nature, and presuming no aggression whatever on any of her provisions, or on any of her tendencies.
Now, it is in this very way that we humbly propose to stand clear of all participation in any of those theories which are now passing in such rapid succession before the eye and the imagination of the public. We certainly do not mean to advocate either the potatoe system, or the cow system, or the cottage system, or the village system of Mr Owen,-or any one system of miraculous achievement, by which, through some ingeniously constructed method of positive administration, it is proposed to combat that menacing hydra who now swells so gigantically, and stalks so largely over the face of our land. We would, in short, raise no positive apparatus whatever for the direct object of meeting and alleviating the ills of Poverty. This we leave to the theorists; and we satisfy ourselves with simply asserting, that unfettered Nature, working in individuals, can do the thing better than regulation can; and, on the obvious principles of human nature, verified by the actual result, in a way most striking and triumphant, throughout all the parishes of the kingdom, do we aver, that it would have been the wiser part in our Legislature to have let the matter alone.
But how, it may be asked, can we consistently disclaim the adventurous proposition of a positive apparatus? In a former Number of this work, did not we attempt to regale the fancy of the public, by a speculation about churches ? Did not we propose a mighty transformation in the existing condition of our larger cities, and in the existing habits of their population? Was not this the proposition of a positive apparatus ; and irstead of altogether abolishing the methods of positive administration, did not we just propose to substitute one such method for another, recommending the dealing out of relief from the produce of collections, instead of that mode of dispensation now actually adopted out of the fund as now actually raised ?
In answer to this, we must borrow another illustration from the