Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/327

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313
PRIVATE RELIEF OF THE POOR.

each citizen, there is a special plexus more familiar to him than any other, and which has established greater claims on him than any other. Every one who can afford to give assistance, is brought by his daily activities into immediate contact with a cluster of those who by illness, by loss of work, by a death, or by other calamity, are severally liable to fall into a state calling for aid; and there should be recognized a claim possessed by each member of this particular cluster.

In early societies, organized on the system of status, there went, along with the dependence of inferiors, a certain kind of responsibility for their welfare. The simple or compound family group, formed of relatives standing in degrees of subordination, and usually possessing slaves, was a group so regulated that while the inferiors were obliged to do what they were told, and receive what was given to them, they usually had a sufficiency given to them. They were much in the position of domestic animals in respect of their subjection, and they were in a kindred position in respect of due ministration to their needs. Alike in the primitive patriarchal system and in the developed feudal system, we see that the system of status presented the general trait, that while dependents were in large measure denied their liberty, they were in large measure supplied with the means of living. Either they were directly fed and housed, or they were allowed such fixed proportion of produce as enabled them to feed and house themselves. Possession of them unavoidably brought with it care for them.

Along with gradual substitution of the system of contract for the system of status, this relation has been changed in such manner that while the benefits of independence have been gained the benefits of dependence have been lost. The poorer citizen has no longer any one to control him; but he has no longer any one to provide for him. So much service for so much money, has become the universal principle of co-operation; and the money having been paid for the service rendered, no further claim is recognized. The requirements of justice having been fulfilled, it is supposed that all requirements have been fulfilled. The ancient régime of protection and fealty has ceased, while the modern régime of beneficence and gratitude has but partially replaced it.

May we not infer, with tolerable certainty, that there has to be re-instituted something akin to the old order in a new form? May we not expect that without re-establishment of the ancient power of superiors over inferiors, there may be resumed something like the ancient care for them? May we not hope that without the formation of any legal ties between individuals of the regulating class, and those groups whose work they severally