Let one-tenth the disgusting details so nobly exposed in the Times newspaper, as to the frightful state of some of our legalised poor law inquisitions, appear as extracts from the columns of a foreign journal, stating such treatment to exist amongst a foreign population, and mark the result. Why, the town would teem with meetings and the papers with speeches. Royal, noble, and honourable chairmen and vice chairmen would launch out their just anathemas against the heartless despots whose realms were disgraced by such atrocities. Think, think of the aged poor torn from their kindred, caged in a prison, refused all aid within, debarred from every hope without,—think of the flesh, the very flesh, rotting by slow degrees, and then in putrid masses falling from their wretched bones: think, we say, on this—then give what name you can, save murder, to their quickly succeeding death.
Fancy children—children that should be in their prime—so caged and fed that the result is disease in its most loathsome form, and with all its most appalling consequences! No hope! no flight! The yet untainted, as it were, chained to the spot, with mute despair watching the slow infection, and with breaking hearts awaiting the hour—the moment—when it must reach to them!
We say, think of these things—not as if they were the doings in England, and therefore legalised matters of course—but think of them as the arts of some despot in a far-off colony, and oh, how all hearts would burn—all tongues curse and call for vengeance on the abetors of such atrocities!
The supporters of the rights of man would indeed pour forth their eloquent denunciations against the oppressors of the absent. The poetry of passion would be exhausted to depict the frightful state of the crimeless and venerable victim of tyranny, bowing his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave; while the wailing of the helpless innocents different indeed in colour, but in heart and spirit like ourselves, being sprung from the one great source, would echo throughout the land, and find responses in every bosom not lost to the kindly feelings of good-will towards its fellows! Had the would-be esteemed philanthropists but these “foreign cues for passion,” they would indeed
the stage with tears,
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech;
Make mad the guilty, and appal the free;
Confound the ignorant; and amaze, indeed,
The very faculties of eyes and ears.”
But, alas! there is no such motive; these most destitute of Destitution’s children are simply fellow-countrymen and fellow-Christians. Sons of the same soil, and worshippers of the same God, they need no good works in the way of proselyzation to save them from eternal perdition; consequently they receive no help to keep them from temporal torture.