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increased the poor rates it held out an inducement to all the oafs in the county to become married men. They were sure of a home and a maintenance at the public expense. But if the poor rates were reduced and the relief cut off, it might be a severe remedy, but it was the only one. The population of these Isles could then be reduced to a moderate limit and taxation be kept hereafter within due bounds.
"Not that alms houses were a bad thing in the abstract. He gloried in abstract benevolence. He admired soup and Soup societies in the abstract; and, could he command the skies to reign venison, every man in England should have a haunch that day for dinner, to say nothing of mutton and turnips. But Sir," quoth he, "I cannot afford to indulge my benevolent feelings. It is my weakness to be benevolent. I owe it to the interests of the landholders and householders of Sloppery, no less than to the general welfare of the property owners and tax payers of the Realm to crush down my weakness. It costs tears, Sir, but it must be done. "As a Christian I love the poor man. As a physician I sympathize with and prescribe for him. As a free Briton I rally around him; but as a tax payer, I resist him. He shares in my affections, it is true, in my warmest hopes and in my aspirations for the future progress of the race; but Sir, I know of no reason why he should, for all that, share in my coals and mutton. He has a right to draw upon my sympathies; none whatever to draw the spiggot of my ale barrel. I have no right to be generous to others until I am first just to myself. ("Hear, hear.") Sloppery rests, for its foundation, upon property. The men who hold the property should, therefore, be consulted first in all public measures. It is very well to vote to a redundant population freeholds in New Zealand or in Van Dieman's Land! It is a righteous retribution upon those Pagan Islanders to expel them from their territories; but, when it comes to a
poor-rate of three half pence on a pound, I for one say No! Half pence are half pence! They are the eggs of guineas, as guineas themselves are the eggs of copyholds. Farthings are the goslings which will grow to be the geese that sit on the golden nests of prosperity. He that touches me in my half pence touches a vital spot. I may add, touches all our vital spots. ("Hear, hear.") I move therefore that a committee be appointed to draw up resolutions expressive of the stern determination of the freeholders of this parish to resist, by all legal methods, every increase of the rates for the relief of the in-door and out-door poor." Sloppery was enthusiastic and the praise of Bumblefuz in many mouths.
Rectangle Brobose, the tobacconist, being present, now propounded his theory. Rectangle was an author. He had written an Essay on the Mathematical Properties of Curves. As Wagge in wit, so was Brobose in conic sections. His discourse abounded in X Y Z's, representing unknown quantities of sapience. Mathematics was his hobby. He abominated poor rates and looked upon all tax paying as an unjust extortion, and held that the poor should be supported by a tax upon foreigners. "Tax the foreigners," he said. Brobose was impracticable. They coughed him down.
What had this to do with Charity Green? Much. Wagge and Glim were enemies. Glim, as a thriving rate payer, rose to enter his protest. "He was opposed on principle to out-door relief. He believed in shipping off the paupers to America by contract, young and old, men, women and children. He was opposed to in-door relief also. Whenever a town had the reputation of alms giving it was flooded with paupers from the surrounding country." Epaphroditus Wagge whistled. Mr. Glim "wished to know the meaning of that whistle. He scorned to mention the name of the low wretch who whistled. He would merely remark
that whistling was libelous. Did the low whistler mean to insinuate that he was not benevolent? He had just given three pounds ten, annual subscription to the Richmanstowncum-Sloppery Orphan and Foundling Association. But this was for the orphans and foundlings of respectable people, dissenting clergymen in reduced circumstances and children. of deceased half pay officers in the army and navy. It was a genteel institution, not devoted to the interests of a swarming mendicancy. He did not believe in flummery. He did not wish to be personal. (Cries of "Oh no!" and "Hear!") But he never wore an emblematical waistcoat. (Hisses and groans, mingled with applause.) His motto was 'Every man for himself.' Let the tax payers themselves decide the amount of the poor rate to be collected. He believed in farming out such paupers as were in the Work House to the lowest bidder."
Epaphroditus Wagge now arose with great solemnity. "He too was a rate payer, and was in favor of in-door relief. If a starving child came to him at midnight when he had just returned from a charitable meeting at Ebenezer she should have something warmer than a night's lodging in a snow blanket. No objections could be offered though against blankets for those who deserved them. A good tossing in a blanket might perhaps cause a faint motion in the torpid bowels of compassion and make them roar out for the mercy they never showed to others." The excitement became intense. "He had never thrust a lass from his door of a Christmas night, though he did wear an emblematical waistcoat. Had he found that child in the snow drift, he should have gone in for out-door relief as well. It was a hard thing and would bring down a curse upon the man that did it." (Cries of "chair! chair!" hisses and applause, and shouts of "Turn him out!")
"He was a free Briton and would not be turned out till he had concluded. Dr. Bumblefuz was for reducing the
redundant population. Would the gentleman turn papist at once and make all the farm servants and cotter's daughters in the three kingdoms Sisters of the Bleeding Heart? Would he have Great Britain a nunnery, put hair cloth shirts on all the serving-men, shave their crowns, diet them on salt stock fish and dried peas, and impose a general vow of celibacy. Would he establish the inquisition and put Nancy and Susan to the torture to extort from them what young Podge or Yeoman Wiggins were saying in the lane. He advised all who were opposed to families to practice as they preached, though he would give Dr. Bumblefuz the credit of being the solitary gentleman, holding that theory, who never incurred bills for small shoes and pinafores. His motto was, 'Let population thrive.' It was far better to give work, free schools and churches, with parsons to preach in them like old Dr. Hartwell. If poor folks were not to marry because they were poor, he was not sentimental as they knew, but must say that something worse would come than small children. A good wife was a laboring man's best safe-guard against crime, and a baby in the cradle often paid more than its milk-score, to say nothing of caudle, warm flannels and nurse hire, in putting cheery thoughts in its father's heart, and inducing him to save his earnings and lay up something against a rainy day. The young children in the cottages were England's pride and glory. They grew up to man our wooden walls; to stand in hollow squares at Waterloo, till the Iron Duke cried, 'up guards and at 'em.' One poor man's son who made the spinning jenny what it was, and another who put steam and iron and fire together to bear our burdens, had conferred more blessings on the gentry and commoners of the Isles than could be repaid by a hundred years of poor rates. If the old Island was too small let the hive swarm; there was vacant land enough within six day's steaming, to say nothing of Tasmania and Amer
ica. Let us plant New Great Britains along the coast of Greece and Asia Minor, and go there with ploughs and steam engines, free schools and factories. Let Simon and Anthony and Madge and Molly marry when they liked. Let them court in hay-fields and harvest-fields. If kissing was treason he wished to know where the statute might be found. England could never be saved from her troubles by baby killers like king Herod. He too rejoiced to hear the bells ring and to meet the wedding processions, nor was he entirely averse to kissing the bride. Glad was he as well. to hear that there was no danger that the noble race of Englishmen was to become extinct in the next genera tion. Let us pay up our poor rates," concluded the Past High Mitre, "cheerfully, while good and wise men in Parliament are overhauling affairs and putting them straight again."
Common sense, after all, carries the day. First one father of a large family beamed and roared, and then another householder tickled a lad, whom he knew to be courting, in the ribs, and they roared. When the Past High Mitre touched them with the poor men's sons who had made the land rich in great inventions and stood manfully to guns and colors, their breasts heaved. Each felt that he was a Briton and could strike, shoulder to shoulder, with the best of them. Burdens grew light while they remembered blessings. Thus the storm against the poor rates passed over. So too the sad tale of the manner in which an unknown foundling, a little girl of seven summers, was thrust out into the snow-storm on Christmas night from the undertaker's house, was borne on the wings of gossip far and wide. All Sloppery knew it by the next morning, and the story of the dead woman and the wandering orphan touched many a heart, that proved its sympathy by overflowing tears.
Our Rector returned from the Town Hall to the parson