I had some other thoughts to offer upon this subject. But, as I am a desponder in my nature, and have tolerably well discovered the disposition of our people, who never will move a step towards easing themselves from any one single grievance; it will be thought, that I have already said too much, and to little or no purpose; which hath often been the fate, or fortune of the writer,
ABOUT MAINTAINING THE POOR.
The text of this short
paper is taken from Deane Swift’s edition,
which was followed by Sir Walter Scott.
We have been amused, for at least thirty years past, with numberless schemes, in writing and discourse, both in and out of Parliament, for maintaining the poor, and setting them to work, especially in this city: most of which were idle, indigested, or visionary; and all of them ineffectual, as it has plainly appeared by the consequences. Many of those projectors were so stupid, that they drew a parallel from Holland to England, to be settled in Ireland; that is to say, from two countries with full freedom and encouragement for trade, to a third where all kind of trade is cramped, and the most beneficial parts are entirely taken away. But the perpetual infelicity of false and foolish reasoning, as well as proceeding and acting upon it, seems to be fatal to this country.
For my own part, who have much conversed with those folks who call themselves merchants, I do not remember to have met with a more ignorant and wrong-thinking race of people in the very first rudiments of trade; which, however, was not so much owing to their want of capacity, as to the crazy constitution of this kingdom, where pedlars are better qualified to thrive than the wisest merchants. I could fill a volume with only setting down a list of the public absurdities, by which this kingdom has suffered within the compass of my own memory, such as could not be believed of any nation, among whom folly was not established as a law. I cannot forbear instancing a few of these, because it may be of some use to those who shall have it in their power to be more cautious for the future.
The first was, the building of the barracks; whereof I have seen above one-half, and have heard enough of the rest, to affirm that the public has been cheated of at least two-thirds of the money raised for that use, by the plain fraud of the undertakers.
Another was the management of the money raised for the Palatines; when, instead of employing that great sum in purchasing lands in some remote and cheap part of the kingdom, and there planting those people as a colony, the whole end was utterly defeated.