« ForrigeFortsæt »
were taken to give it an air of elegance, as well as of neatness and cleanliness." *
All these preparations having been made apparently without exciting any special degree of public curiosity, New-Year's Day of the year 1790 was chosen as the day for the grand stroke, that being a day when Munich was sure to be unusually full of beggars. The military were posted through the streets, so as to command the whole town, and the neighbouring country was occupied by patrols of cavalry. In the meantime, having assembled at his own residence the magistrates of Munich, and a number of military officers and citizens of rank and dignity, Count Rumford expounded to them his scheme, and requested them to accompany him into the streets where the most difficult part of the work, that of arresting the beggars, was to commence. * We were hardly got into the street,” says Rumford in his narrative of the proceedings,“ when we were accosted by a beggar, who asked us for alms. I went up to him, and laying my hand gently upon his shoulder, told him that from thenceforward begging would not be permitted in Munich; that if he really stood in need of assistance (which would be immediately inquired into), the necessary assistance should certainly be given him ; but that begging was forbidden, and if he was detected in it again, he would be severely punished. I then delivered him over to an orderly-sergeant, who was following me, with directions to conduct him to the Town-Hall, and deliver him into the hands of those he should find there to receive him. Then turning to the officers and magistrates who acco
ccompanied me, I begged they would take notice that I had myself, with my own hands, arrested the first beggar we had met; and I requested them not only to follow my example themselves, by arresting all the beggars they should meet with, but that they would also endeavour to persuade others, and particularly the officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers of the garrison, that it was by no means derogatory to their character, or in anyway disgraceful to them, to assist in so useful and laudable an undertaking: These gentlemen having cheerfully and unanimously promised to do their utmost to second me in this business, dispersed into the different parts of the town, and, with the assistance of the military, the town was so thoroughly cleared of beggars in less than an hour, that not one was to be found in the streets.”
The beggars being all taken to the Town-Hall, their names were written down, and they were dismissed to their own homes, with directions to repair next day to the “ Military Workhouse." as the new establishment was called, in consequence of its being fitted out with money from the military chest, and destined chiefly to supply the army with clothing, &c. Here they were told they would find comfortable warm rooms, a good warm
* Count Rumford's Essays.
dinner every day, and work for such as were able
to labour, with good wages, which should be regularly paid. They might, or might not come, just as they chose, but at all events they were not to beg any more; and if they appeared in the streets, they should be apprehended. The circumstances of them all
, they were told, were immediately to be inquired into, and relief granted to such as required it.
The plan met with immediate success. On the next day a great number of the beggars attended at the Military Workhouse; the rest hid themselves; and so vigorous and effective were the measures adopted to apprehend mendicants, that after trying in vain to renew their old practices, these too were obliged at length to yield. The experiment having succeeded so far, it was judged advisable to appeal to the public for their support; and a paper was accordingly drawn up by Professor Babo of Munich, urging the citizens to do their utmost to rid themselves of the scourge of mendicancy, by co-operating in the new scheme. In this paper allusion is made to a practice of the beggars, which may be here mentioned, as a proof of the deplorable viciousness of the whole system. The beggars of Munich, it appears, drove a lucrative trade in communion and confessional certificates, which they obtained from the clergy by attending twice or thrice a-day at the holy sacrament, and at confession, and afterwards sold to such of the citizens as were averse to church-going, and yet desirous of avoiding the inconveniences which neglect of religious observances entailed in a place where the Roman Catholic clergy had so much power.
Professor Babo's address having been circulated, with an outline of Count Rumford's scheme, the citizens of Munich gladly agreed to contribute, to enable the project to be fairly carried out; and indeed, accustomed as they had been to meet the incessant demands of the beggars by as incessant giving, they saw in the new plan not only an immediate moral relief, but a prospect of pecuniary, saving. Rumford's principle was, to depend entirely upon the voluntary contributions of the charitable. The city was divided into sixteen districts; the names of all the inhabitants of each district who were willing to subscribe were taken down, with a note of the sum each volunteered to contribute. This sum might be altered at the pleasure of the subscriber-increased, diminished, or even altogether retracted. The sums were to be collected regularly on the last Sunday of every month, by an officer who was to go round on purpose among the subscribers of each district. Arrangements were also made for the receipt of miscellaneous donations, both large and small; and every possible means was adopted to beget a public confidence in the administration of the fund collected, by making the publication of all accounts imperative,
Two distinct things had now been accomplished by Count Rumford-he had established a workhouse, and he had secured a
fund for the relief of the poor. Although the two objects were mixed up together at the commencement, and are of necessity included under the general descriptive head of the “Suppression of Mendicancy,” they ought not to be confounded. In seizing upon the beggars, Count Rumford had adopted the most practicable means for arriving at a very desirable end-the discrimination of the merely idle from the really necessitous. To classify these two sorts of persons was his first object. When this was done, his work then divided itself into two parts—the reclaiming of the idle to habits of industry, and the relief of the really necessitous. The modes of operation for the one and for the other were expressly kept independent; indeed it was one of Rumford's most careful provisions that the workhouse should not wear the aspect of an institution supported by charity. We shall describe first the progress of the workhouse by which Rumford meant to suppress idleness, and then the means which he employed for relieving the distress which still remained.
Before the opening of the Military Workhouse, it had been fitted up with looms, spinning-machines, &c. as well as furnished with raw materials, especially hemp, the spinning of which is easily learnt. During the first week 2600 mendicants, of both sexes, and various ages, entered the establishment. “For the first three or four days," says Rumford, “it was not possible entirely to prevent confusion. There was nothing like mutinous resistance among the poor people; but their situation was so new to them, and they were so very awkward in it, that it was difficult to bring them into any tolerable order. At length, however, by distributing them among the various halls, and assigning to each his particular place, they were brought into such order, as to enable the inspectors and instructors to begin their operations. Those who understood any kind of work were placed in the apartments where the work they understood was carried on ; and the others being classed according to their sexes, and as much as possible according to their ages, were placed under the immediate care of the different instructors.”
Every care was taken to promote the comfort of the people while at work, and to render their work agreeable to them. It being winter, the rooms were well warmed by fires kept regularly burning; the whole establishment was swept twice every day; attention was paid to the ventilation; as far as elegance was possible in halls devoted to work, it was consulted; and the kindest usage was the order of the institution. The people arrived at the establishment at a fixed hour in the morning; they continued at work till the hour of diriner, when they repaired to the dining-hall
, where they were furnished with a good dinner of white bread and fine rich soup; and after some hours of further work, they were dismissed, as from any other manufactory, and had all the rest of their time at their own disposal. Besides the dinner-hour, which was allowed as relaxation to all
in the establishment, two additional hours, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon, were allowed to the children, during which they were assembled in one of the halls, and taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, by a master paid for the purpose; and as the regular hours of labour were not longer than in any other manufactory, neither they nor the adults were overworked. Lastly, every person in the establishment was regularly paid the wages fixed for the sort of labour he was employed in. The main feature of the scheme was, to impress upon those who attended the establishment that they were not necessarily paupers by their attendance there, but workmen entitled to the wages which they received. “ The workhouse,” says Rumford, merely a manufactory, like any other manufactory, supported by its own private capital, which capital has no connexion whatever with any fund destined for the poor." In order to keep this vividly before the workpeople, an inscription, in letters of gold, was placed over the main entrance of the establishmentNó ALMS WILL BE RECEIVED HERE.
It is evident, however, considering the expenses of setting the establishment agoing, considering all the inducements which were held out at first to allure the people to especially that of paying them the ordinary rate of wages while they were yet wretchedly bad workmen, in order to keep up their courage-it is evident, in these circumstances, that the institution must at first have been maintained at a loss. Although hemp was selected at first as the material for learners to begin with, as being cheap, yet such was the awkwardness of the beginners, that even in this material a considerable loss was sustained. “By an exact calculation, it was found,” says Rumford,“ that the manufactory actually lost more than three thousand florins upon the articles of hemp and flax during the first three months. But we were not discouraged by these unfavourable beginnings; and if the establishment was supported at some little expense in the beginning, it afterwards richly repaid the loss.” By constant practice, the workmen became expert, so that not only hemp, but much more expensive materials, could be intrusted to them with safety; and in a short time it was no longer a mere benevolent pretence to treat them as men earning their wages by a fair amount of labour, for such became the fact. The bustle and activity of the establishment increased from year to year. In the sixth year of its existence the demand upon it for goods amounted to half & million of forins; and the net profits of the six years were calculated at one hundred thousand florins.
It will readily suggest itself to persons acquainted with the doctrines of political economy, that an objection might be raised to Count Rumford's experiment, from a consideration of what may have been its effects upon
the labour market. As all the articles manufactured in the Military Workhouse for the supply of the Bavarian army had formerly been manufactured by other per
sons, it is evident that the immediate effect of the establishment of the work house was to withdraw so much custom from those other persons, whoever they may have been. A moment's consideration, however, of the state of Bavaria, will rob the consideration of whatever threatening look it may wear in the case which we are now concerned with. These persons, now supporting themselves by the labour of their own hands, had formerly been mendicants, living at the expense of the industrious portion of the community; and viewing the matter, therefore, in its pecuniary aspect alone, the question with the people of Munich was, whether they sustained a greater loss by admitting 2600 persons to be competitors with themselves in the labour market, or by supporting the same 2600 persons as mendicants. Add to this, the moral comfort of living in a town where not a beggar was to be seen, and the still more exquisite satisfaction of reflecting that a number of their fellow-creatures, formerly loathsome, vicious, and wretched, were now living in cleanliness, propriety, and happiness. On the merits of the institution in this point of view, hear the words of Count Rumford himself. After alluding to the expertness which the members of the establishment acquired in the various manufactures, he proceeds—“But what was quite surprising, and at the same time interesting in the highest degree, was the apparent and rapid change which was produced in their manners. The kind usage they met with, and the comforts they enjoyed, seemed to have softened their hearts, and awakened in them sentiments as new and surprising to themselves as they were interesting to those about them. The melancholy gloom of misery, the air of uneasiness and embarrassment, disappeared by little and little from their countenances, and were succeeded by a timid dawn of cheerfulness, rendered most exquisitely interesting by a certain mixture of silent gratitude which no language can describe. In the infancy of this establishment, when these poor creatures were first brought together, I used very frequently to visit them, to speak kindly to them, and to encourage them; and I seldom passed through the halls where they were at work without being a witness to the most moving scenes. Objects formerly the most miserable and wretched, whom I had seen for years as beggars in the street; young women, perhaps the unhappy victims of seduction, who, having lost their reputation, and being turned adrift in the world without a friend and without a home, were reduced to the necessity of begging to sustain a miserable existence, now recognised me as their benefactor, and with tears dropping fast from their cheeks, continued their work in the most expressive silence. If they were asked what the matter was with them, their answer was, “Nichts' ["Nothing'), accompanied by a look of affectionate regard and gratitude so touching, as frequently to draw tears from the most insensible of the bystanders. Why should I not mention the marks of affec