MR. GLADSTONE'S FIRST BLOW AT PAUPERISM.
THE public scarcely yet understand the immense range of Mr. Gladstone's measure extending the right of pur- chasing State annuities to persons with small means. His object has simply been to abolish, among persons who work with their hands or who receive very low salaries' the pecu- niary risks involved in old age or death, and with i three great reserves, one permanent, one temporary, and one needless, he has secured his magnificent end. The permanent reserve is that his scheme presupposes a virtue, that of thriftiness, and those who ha.ve it not cannot benefit by the provisions of the tables he has just laid before Parliament. Every advantage he offers must be purchased at its full price, which, the rate of interest being only 3 per cent., is a dear one, and those who will not save the sum, but prefer to rely on Union alms, must even be left in their degradation, at least until men shall be sufficiently enlightened to perceive that the true substitute alike for income-tax property-tax, and the poll-tax some financial reformers advise is compulsory State insurance. The temporary reserve is the exclusion of almost all agricultural labourers who as yet do not earn the wages which would enable them to buy the annuities without excessive suffering; and the needless reserve is that of the two or three hundred thousand families who, like miners, butchers beer-sellers, silverers, needlemakers, matchmakers, bakers (Presumably), and one or two more are supposed to follow dangerous occupations. It is a little mean that exception, considering that all the tables are based upon. the average life-rate of the whole population, including the well-to-do, who live the longest, but we may let that pass. It was essential to Mr. Gladstone's scheme to show that the State was not accepting the position of universal almsgiver, and with an experiment at once so vast and so novel we may pardon both the exclusions and the preposterous charge, 20 per cent., made for all payments at short intervals, which involve extra trouble to the State, and which are, one would think, sufficiently provided for by the profit accruing from the low rate of interest allowed. For the rest the charges are based on mathematical calcu- lation, the tables are fully within the comprehension of average postmasters, and the range of the innovation is bounded only by the willingness of the people to understand and confide in it. If understood and trusted it will, we -be- lieve, effect more for the people even than the cheap loaf, will develope that virtue of thrift in which the English are deficient beyond all nations of the world, will remove gradually but for ever the fear which hangs like a cloud over the better ranks of the poor, the dread_ of the time when their capital of physical. strength being all exhausted, they must rely on alms.
It would be useless for us to reprint tables which anybody can obtain of the Queen's Printers, Messrs. W. Spottiswoode and Co., New Street, Fetter Lane, for 3d., and which will, we ultimately be sold for a penny, but we shall, we believe, do our readers a service by indicating their general drift. Papers like ours are not much read by workmen, but one excellence of the rules is that they will enable employers to perform acts of the highest kindness and consideration at wonderfully little expense. The tables, reduced to principles, have three separate objects-to enable persons of limited wages but some small capital to provide against future destitution ; to assist men without any capital but with decent wages to purchase a maintenance for old age; and to prevent the utter ruin which often follows upon the death of the house-pro- vider. The two first ends, the purchase, to express the process technically, of a deferred annuity by a payment in one sum, or by instalments, cover classes widely removed from those known as working-men. There are thousands of men among us, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of women, who own or have saved a few score pounds, utterly insufficient for maintenance, but sufficient for this transac- tion, who 'look forward cheerfully to twenty or thirty years of labour, but have a chill dread of that dreary time when, with savings insufficient for bread, few friends, and increasing wants, they shall be pronounced and shall feel themselves too old for regular work. Take the ordinary case of a governess at thirty earning 40/. a year. She may be able to save 10/. easily, but at sixty she will have little more than 300/., or at the best safe rate of in- vestment 151, a year, 6s. a week, less than she would have to pay for furnished lodging. Under Mr. Gladstone's scheme that payment will secure her 50/. a year, free of all chance of loss, or failure, or delay, as certain for life as if she owned the 1,000/., which as far as her life-interest is con- cerned it represents. The exact rate to be paid by a woman, who from the age of thirty agrees to invest her surplus in this way, will be 91. 7s. 6d. a year, though a tutor or Welsh curate under the same circumstances would buy the same advantages for only 71. 2s. 8d. Women, unfortunately for them in this case, do not drink, and when free of pecuniary care do live so long, and the rates punish them heavily for those unwilling offences. But the governess at thirty may have saved something, may have inherited something, may have people quite willing to give her something, if only she will take it once for all and not ask them again, and the tables provide for any of these pleasing contingencies. A payment of 851. Os. 10d. at thirty will secure her at sixty 25/. a year for life, or supposing her to combine the two methods, which is far best, she may by a payment once for all of 85/. Os. 10d., and a yearly payment of 41. 8s. 9d. secure 50/. a year, not much perhaps, but still equal to the life-interest in 1,0001., and far beyond utter poverty. There are classes of edu- cated people in England,-the rich do not know how many, or their hearts would break,-to whom the certainty of 501. a year in old age would seem relief out of the abyss. "My Lord," said Mary Corby, governess in a tale of Henry Kings- ley's, "look here, and see what you have done. When the children are going to sleep, I sit, and sew, and sing, and, when they are gone to sleep I still sit, and sew, and think. Then I build my Spanish castles ; but the highest tower of my castle has-risen to this-that in my old age I should have ten shillings a week left me by some one, and be able to keep a canary-bird, and have some old woman as pensioner. And now-now-now ! Oh! I'll be quiet in a moment. Dont speak to me for a moment. God is very good." Aye, and Mr. Gladstone has given the means of realizing that dream to every woman in England so circumstanced for a thrift of less than two clear shillings a week. In the case of domestic servants the advantages are even greater. Nearly half the female paupers in the -Unions have been female servants, and perhaps no class is less cared for in its friendless old age. The kind of woman who, having worked herself out in service, turns charwoman just when her strength begins to fail, and sometimes, as we have seen, dies of starvation, wants for comfort 251. a year. To gain it she must pay at thirty 42/. 10s. down, and thenceforward 21. 4s. 5d. a year, 104d. a week, or Is. 9d. without the sum down, a heavy demand, but still one it is possible to meet. But she may wish to take her annuity monthly, and in that case a payment of 8s. a month will secure her at sixty 1/.- 16s. 7d. per month, or 21/. 10s. a year for life. To a butler, or footman, or coachman, or artisan, the same payment, he being a man, will secura 21. 7s. 3d., or say 29/. a year. _In other and perhaps plainer words, any man in England may, by paying Is. a week from thirty, obtain at sixty an annuity of 6s. a week ; not enough, but enough if he can do any work at all, to keep him off the Union. It may be, however, that he can begin earlier, and then the advantage is very great, a shilling a week from twenty-five to sixty purchasing him as nearly as possible 8s. a week for the remainder of his days. All these figures are multipliable or divisible with no apparent limit, ex- cept the one fixed by statute, which limits any one annuity to 50/. a year. Their real effect, apart from small details, is to give to persons who save for deferred annuities more than five times the interest on the sum they might have had if they had heaped the same savings up in a bank, and sin times the income it would purchase if saved in a teapot or old stocking. The amount of suffering which may thus be prevented is indescribable, and it must be remembered that an insurance once begun will be kept up in circumstances under which saving would be abandoned. The amount charged may seem heavy for the lower class or labourers, and it is but it must be remembered they do pay is. a week to clubs, and do not receive in old age the advantages of which, under this Bill, they cannot IA deprived. To enjoy in old age half the income of manhood seems to most m,.n a fair edough pros- pect, and it is the certainty of securing this beyond risk of failure, or swindling, or loss which Mr. Gladstone offers to the thrifty man or woman, who has hitherto looked forward almost without a hope.
This, however, is but part of the scheme, and provides only for old age. There is the pecuniary effect of a death still to be provided against, and this also is met by these tables. Artizans as a rule, marry pretty early, and a sum of 501. pay- able at death would in moat cases enable the family to tide over the sudden stoppage of resources. Well, 1/. a year, less than fivepence a week, will purchase, if payments are begun at the age mentioned, 48/. 19s. 6d., or the same result may be secured by the sacrifice in one sum of 19/. 19s. 4d., or if both single payments and annual payments are too heavy for him, a monthly sum of two shillings, less than sixpence a week, will secure 52/. 1 is. 10d. In other words, a working man in fair employ may, by the saving of half-a-crown a week, secure himself against penury in old age, and his wife against the utter ruin which might follow his sudden decease. Half-a-crown a week out of his earnings gives him and his family the safety, the sense of ease and the freedom from comparative care which belong to the capitalists, lifts that bitter dread which lies so close to the heart of the poor that the battle of life cannot be won, that the struggle must end sooner or later in the woekhouse or in want. The power of the State is applied to give to the workman, to the friendless woman, and to the domestic servant, those aids of science and of perfect security by which the middle classes have so largely benefited, and should these tables but become popular they will produce, we believe, a definite increase in that amotuit now so miserably small—the average happiueas of the English cottage home.
The machinery through which these tables are to be put in use over the country has not yet been explained, but it clearly must be the post-office. No other at the disposal of the State is sufficiently extensive, but Mr. Gladstone must revise his rules with exceeding care. An apparently harmless limita- tion as to transfer from district to district, or as to mode and place of receipt, might end either In the general neglect of the scheme, or in fixing whole classes immoveably to the soil. He must provide-moreover, means by which the master can take out a policy for the servant without being bound to give it him except as the reward of good service, yet avoid making policies transferable like notes of hand. He has set in motion a system of State Banks for the poor, and it has now devolved on him to arrange for the insurance of a nation. That he will succeed we believe, but it is in the details that success must be secured, and details which a Minister of State, amidst the pressure of endless interests and groaning under the burden ef a surplus equal to 15s. a year for every house in Great Britain and Ireland, may be tempted to overlook.