13 JUNE 1908, Page 15



SIR,—Mr. Martineau's very dogmatic statement on the above subject in your issue of May 23rd makes me wish, with your permission, to break the silence I have long observed as a reader of the Spectator. Our workhouses are, to say the least, not very uncomfortable. We have lately heard that they have the honour to shelter several of our Crimean veterans and one of Miss Nightingale's Crimean nurses. These old people do not wish to change their present " home" for one outside, so that any old person who is destitute and of good character can look forward to being entirely supported at the public expense in comfort and security. This state of things proves the humanity of the Poor Law system and its working, and has the sanction of the country. On Mr. Martineau's own showing, thrift has steadily increased alongside of these con- ditions. By what logical process does he arrive at the conclusion that the granting of five shillings a week to some of those who could already demand complete support in their old age ie going to destroy the thrifty instinct that this nation has always shown P Mr. Martineau states his opinion as if it Were an indisputable fact. It seems to me opposed both to experience and probability. I have a very large and intimate acquaintance with the working classes, and should be very sorry indeed to think that the prospect of five shillings a week at seventy was in the least likely to turn them into paupers. I have a vastly higher opinion of my countrymen than that. This etiuttiy has long ago approved of helping the needy, the sick, and the enfortutiate. Old-age pensions seem to me a perfectly right and natural development of this humane