7 OCTOBER 1882, Page 13


Sin,—Every one is agreed that assistance ought to be given to " necessitous and deserving poor." We should differ, perhaps, as to whether this help would not better be apportioned by well- organised charity, after careful inquiry into the special circum- stances of each case, rather than by -legal compulsion, and often unwillingly, as at present. But the real question is, not so much how shall help be given, or even who is " necessitous," though this is a point which is sometimes not easily cleared up, but, who is " deserving ?" Is a man " deserving who habitually spends, say, a fourth of his wages at the public-house ; who neglects to join any Friendly Society at all, or joins one that is notoriously unsound, because plenty of beer comes out of the sick fund P Is a woman " deserving " who spends nearly the whole of her wages in dressing far more smartly than her mistress, and makes no pro- vision whatever for sickness or old age P It is difficult to see the justice of compelling the thrifty and self-denying ratepayer, who has eschewed the public-house, and not wasted his money in ridiculous dress, either for himself or his family, to support such thriftless neighbours as I have described, in other words, to pay their drink bill, and their dress bill. Why should the law put its fingers into the thrifty man's savings for such a purpose, under penalty of his chairs or tables being sold P If the State chooses to say, " We will not trust men's lives to charity, how- ever worthless they may have been, but we will maintain them by a compulsory payment levied on their thrifty neighbours," at any rate, let it be made clear that this is an Imperial, and not a local, arrangement. Let the deterrent test of the workhouse be the rule, and not the exception, and let the Workhouses be under the control of, and be paid for by, the Government, leaving the local ratepayers to main- tain out of the rates, at their own discretion, all those of their neighbours whom they know to be " deserving," as well as "necessitous." On the other hand, the wage-earner has a right to ask from the Government that it should give him facili- ties for saving by making every sub-Post office a savings' bank, and security for maintenance in sickness and old age, by prohibiting the continued existence of all unsound Friendly Societies.—I am, Sir, &c., [Mr. Portal forgets entirely that the Poor-rate is ultimately paid by the freeholder, who, if it were abolished, would raise rents. His proposal is to present seven millions a year to the landlords.—En. Spectator.]