« PreviousContinue »
relish for literature, is not only doing an injury to them, bug also to society, since it makes them more sensible, and alive to their wrongs and misfortunes, without meliorating their lot, and since it deprives the public of the fruits of their toil, by impelling them to other pursuits, and superior attainments. They quote the reflection of Gray in one of his beautiful odes,
Since Ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise! But these reasons are as disgraceful, as they are untrue. They cannot be approved of by humanity, nor can they be confirmed by the approbation of the judgment. They are a libel on man, and on his creator. They pollute the lips which utter them and shew the heart from whence they flow, not only to be unacquainted with human nature, and the human disposition, but also to be little, fordid, and contracted. But to these enemies to their species (for so I must consider them) let it be conceded that the diffusion of science and knowledge, would be accompanied with the inconveniences of which they are apprehenfive, and for the prevention of which they prescribe their bounds to the advancement of human improvement. I would ask them, though they might be able to reconcile their uncharitable disposition to their own consciences, I would ask them, if they are capable of reflecting at all, how criminal must they consider themselves in the eyes of heaven, and what shame and remorfe ought they to feel, when they recollect, that they have been acting in defiance to the will of the Almighty, by impeding the progress of one of his noblest works, and by confining those blessings, which he intended should be communicated to all his creatures, within bounds so scanty in themselves, and so ho to the real happiness, and intereits of so many thousands of the human race !
Let therefore these unfecling misanthropes cease to impofe upon themselves, and upon others. Rather let them contemplate their own real condition, and let them ask themselves what powers they poffefs of contributing to the weal of the com.
munity! munity! Then let them compare their condition and powers with the condition and powers of those whom they treat with contumely, and with insult, and whom they would have precluded from enjoying the privileges of their nature ! What are they themselves? Can they turn one furrow of the soil, or do they know how to scatter one feed upon the earth? Can they of themselves procure either the provisions that are to feed them, or the raiment which is to clothe them? What preten. fions then have such men, who, like the infant, depend on others for protection, and even for the enjoyment of life itself, what pretensions have they to arrogate to themselves. so much importance in the creation, as to monopolize the best, and perhaps, only real means of happiness that providence has sent into the earth! Should there be no return made for the sweat which is drained from the brow of the poor labourer, who, after his daily toil is over, is but half paid for his work and services! It. is indeed a very gross mistake to believe that the rich man maintains the poor. The case is the reverse, it is the poor man that maintains the rich ; for it is not the estate, it is the labour which is expended on it which furnishes the luxuries of his table, and enables him to keep up the splendour of his cquipage! Which then is the dearer object to our interests, the labour, which produces the fruits and necessaries of life, or the profusion and imprudence which waste and lavish them away!
Permit, ye lower orders of society, but not the less valuable, because ye fill that humble station, permit the Philanthropist whose labours are dedicated to you, to address you in the eloquent and benevolent manner in which a writer has lately addressed his own countrymen! “ O, People !--treated always. in the extreme, as majesty, or as a mob !-worshipped in the abstract with solemn mockery, abused in the detail with wanton fcurrility!—Thou common toast and tool of pensioners and patriots !-Like the earth'on which you tread, denied as dirt, though the great pabulum of luxury and enjoyment! Let me gever outrage your wretchedness by base allusion, and contu
merious comparison ; and by the low estimation set upon you, fink you
still lower in that felf-estimation which is the spring of good character ; and by vilifying and fcandalizing your character, make you gloomily acquiesce in the calumny, and thus drive you to abandonment and despair!"* No. “I would “ make you think well of yourself; I would raise your hope ; « I would rouse your ambition ; I would shake off your na" tional enn'ui ; and develope the germs of genius, of virtue, " and of public glory. TŁere is not a tenant of the meanest “ hovel, in whom I do not recognize the capability, and “ sovereignty of his nature through all its degradation; and the « vericft wretch over whom I stumble in the streets, I deplore
as the remote, but well connected confequence, of an absurd " political constitution."
It is impossible that any one can look at the situation of the poor of this country without emotions of a very painful and agonizing nature. The children of fortune and of affuence, have seldom leisure or inclination to contemplate fo melancholy a picture.' Having never tasted themselves of the poisoned bowl of penury, they cannot feel for distresses with which they are unacquainted, nor can they commiserate the sigh, which because they never heaved, they believe to be feigned or hypocritical. They read of the amictions of their fellow-creatures, as they would amuse themselves with a tale or a romance, and they pity the unfriended child of want, perishing for a morsel of bread, as they would pity the desponding and lovelorn hero of the piece, or 'the unfortunate virgin confined by necromancy in fome enchanted castle. But there are some hearts made to sympathize with those that suffer. To fome minds it is a pleasing, though melancholy office, to leave the sunshine of prosperity, to view awhile amid the gloom of hard necessity and want, the fuene of wretchedness in which thousands of their race are engaged. It were an easy task here to awaken the compassion of benevolent souls by enumerating the miseries of hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness, pain, and sickness. But these perhaps are the
lightest lightest hardthips, which attend the abandoned, and neglected children of poverty.
In what language, and with what sentiments shall I speak of that state to which their mind, and every active energy of their nature are configned! Instead of being taught the duties, from whence are to flow all the comforts of life, they are either initiated in the docility of infant years in the arts of villainy, and are trained up for habits of dishonesty, or they are turned upon the world with no advantage to affift them, and with no guide to direct them in their path, to make their own fortunes, and to provide for their own subsistence. Who can be surprized then, that such wretches should be hurried into deeds of guilt and wickedness—and that at length, their minds debauched and rendered callous by a long course of crimes, they should be doomed to expiate their guilt at the tree of ignominy!
It is therefore from an ardent willa to do good, and to apply his humble talents to the best purposes, that the Philanthropist begins his career. To the People, whom he considers as his fellow-creatures, and his brethren, he dedicates his feeble efforts! He wishes to see them happy and enlightened, and in the possession of every blessing, and of every liberty, that are the birthright of human beings! But to be thus happy and frec, he bids them remember, that their minds must be illumined, and that the darkness of ignorance must be chased away. Their minds must be weaned from vice, and formed for virtuous action. This is the province for knowledge to accomplish. To instruct the mind, is to prepare it for the importanç talk it has to perform on the theatre of life. May then science be widely foltered in this kingdom! May education be every where patronized and promoted! May poverty be deprived of her bittereit scourge and her sharpest afflictions, and may all her children be restored to the dignity of that rank for which they were ordained by Heaven, but from which they have been debarred from the cruelty of their lot!
We conclude the first number of the Philanthropist with the following beautiful Address to Poverty.
'Tis not that look of anguish Bath'd in tears,
For this, I call the lot of those severe,