Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/328

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314
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

regulate in one or other way, there may come to be formed stronger moral ties? Already such moral ties are in some measure recognized. Already all householders moderately endowed with sympathy, feel bound to care for their servants during illness; already they help those living out of the house who in less direct ways labor for them; already from time to time small traders, porters, errand-boys, and the like, benefit by their kind offices on occasions of misfortune. The sole requisite seems to be that the usage which thus shows itself here and there irregularly, should be called into general activity by the gradual disappearance of artificial agencies for distributing aid. As before implied, the sympathetic feelings which have originated and support these artificial agencies, would, in their absence, vitalize and develop the natural agencies. And if with each citizen there remained the amount now taken from him in rates and subscriptions, he would be enabled to meet these private demands: if not by as large a disbursement, yet by a disbursement probably as large as is desirable.

Besides re-establishing these closer relationships between superior and inferior, which during our transition from ancient slavery to modern freedom have lapsed; and besides bringing beneficence back to its normal form of direct relation between benefactor and beneficiary; this personal administration of relief would be guided by immediate knowledge of the recipients, and the relief would be adjusted in kind and amount to their needs and their deserts. When, instead of the responsibility indirectly discharged through poor-law officers and mendicity societies, the responsibility fell directly on each of those having some spare means, each would see the necessity for inquiry and criticism and supervision: so increasing the aid given to the worthy and restricting that given to the unworthy.

 

And hero we are brought face to face with the greatest of the difficulties attendant on all methods of mitigating distress. May we not by frequent aid to the worthy render them unworthy; and are we not almost certain by helping those who are already unworthy to make them more unworthy still? How shall we so regulate our pecuniary beneficence as to avoid assisting the incapables and the degraded to multiply?

I have in so many places commented on the impolicy, and indeed the cruelty, of bequeathing to posterity an increasing population of criminals and incapables, that I need not here insist that true beneficence will be so restrained as to avoid fostering the inferior at the expense of the superior—or, at any rate, so restrained as to minimize the mischief which fostering the inferior entails.