Page:Poverty, its effects on the political condition of the people.djvu/6

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Warned by the past, ought we not to-day to give battle to that curse of all old countries—poverty? The fearful miseries of want of food and leisure which the poor have to endure are such as to seriously hinder their political enfranchisement. Those who desire that men and women shall have the rights of citizens, should be conscious how low the poor are trampled down, and how incapable poverty renders them for the performance of the duties of citizenship. So that the question of political freedom is really determined by the wealth or poverty of the masses; to this extent, at any rate, that a poverty-stricken people must necessarily, after that state of pauperism has existed for several generations, be an ignorant and enslaved people.

The problem is, then, how to remove poverty, as it is only by the removal of poverty that the political emancipation of the nation can be rendered possible. It has been ascertained that the average food of the agricultural labourer in England is about half that allotted by the gaol dietary to sustain criminal life. So that the peasant who builds and guards, his master's haystack gets worse fed and worse lodged than the incendiary convicted for burning it down.

"The rural population of many parts of England are, as. a general rule, half-starved. They have to toil like bond-slaves, with no leisure for amusement, education, or any other blessing which elevates or sweetens human life; and after all, they have only half enough of the very first essential of life. The working classes in the towns, are also miserably paid, often half- starved; and are sweated to death in unhealthy sedentary drudgery, such as tailoring, cotton-spinning, weaving, &c."

How can this poverty be removed and prevented?

I quote the reply from one who has written most elaborately in elucidation of the views of Malthus and Mill:—"There is but one possible mode of preventing any evil—namely, to seek for and remove its cause. The cause of low wages, or in other words of Poverty, is over-population; that is, the existence of too many people in proportion to the food, of too many labourers in proportion to the capital. It is of the very first importance, that the attention of all who seek to remove poverty, should never be diverted from this great truth. The disproportion between the numbers and the food is the only real cause of social poverty. Individual cases of poverty may be produced by individual misconduct, such as drunkenness, ignorance, laziness, or disease;