So in England the change of industrial conditions which has massed the poor in great cities, the spread of knowledge by compulsory education, cheap newspapers, libraries, and a thousand other vehicles of knowledge, the possession and growing appreciation of political power, have made poverty more self-conscious and the poor more discontented. By striving to educate, intellectually, morally, sanitarily, the poor, we have made them half-conscious of many needs they never recognized before. They were once naked, and not ashamed, but we have taught them better. We have raised the standard of the requirements of a decent human life, but we have not increased to a corresponding degree their power to attain them. If by poverty is meant the difference between felt wants and the power to satisfy them, there is more poverty than ever. The income of the poor has grown, but their desires and needs have grown more rapidly. Hence the growth of a conscious class hatred, the “growing animosity of the poor against the rich,” which Mr. Barnett notes in the slums of Whitechapel. The poor were once too stupid and too sodden for vigorous discontent, now though their poverty may be less intense, it is more alive, and more militant. The rate of improvement in the condition of the poor is not quick enough to stem the current of popular discontent.
Nor is it the poor alone who are stricken with discontent. Clearer thought and saner feelings are beginning to make it evident that in the march of true civilization no one class can remain hopelessly behind. Hence the problems of poverty are ever pressing more and more upon the better-hearted, keener-sighted men and women of the more fortunate classes; they feel that they have no right to be contented with the condition of the poor. The demand that a life worth living shall be made possible for all, and that the knowledge, wealth, and energy of a nation shall be rightly devoted to no other end than this, is the true measure of the moral growth of a civilized community. The following picture drawn a few years ago by Mr. Frederick Harrison shows how far we yet fall short of such a realization—“To me at least, it would be enough to condemn modern society as hardly an advance on slavery or serfdom, if the permanent condition of industry were to be that which we now behold; that 90 per cent, of the actual producers of wealth have no home that they can call their own beyond the end of a week; have no bit of soil, or so much as a room that belongs to them; have nothing of value of any kind except as much as will go in a cart; have the precarious chance of weekly wages which barely suffice to keep them in health; are housed for the most part in places that no man thinks fit for his horse; are separated by so narrow a margin from destitution that a month of bad trade, sickness, or unexpected loss brings them face to face with hunger and pauperism."