Giving Alms no Charity
by Daniel Defoe
Giving Alms no Charity and Employing the Poor A Grievance to the
Nation, Being an Essay Upon this Great Question, Whether
Work-houses, Corporations, and Houses of Correction for Employing
the Poor, as now practis'd in England; or Parish-Stocks, as
propos'd in a late Pamphlet, Entituled, A Bill for the better
Relief, Imployment and Settlement of the Poor, etc. Are not
mischievous to the Nation, tending to the Destruction of our
Trade, and to Encrease the Number and Misery of the Poor.
Addressed to the Parliament of England.
London: Printed and Sold by the Booksellers of London and
Giving Alms No Charity
To the Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses in Parliament Assembled.
He that has truth and justice, and the interest of England in
his design, can have nothing to fear from an English Parliament.
This makes the author of these sheets, however despicable in
himself, apply to this Honourable House, without any apology for
Truth, Gentlemen, however meanly dress'd, and in whatsoever
bad company she happens to come, was always entertain'd at your
bar; and the Commons of England must cease to act like
themselves, or which is worse, like their ancestors, when they
cease to entertain any proposal, that offers it self at their
door, for the general good and advantage of the people they
I willingly grant, that 'tis a crime in good manners to
interrupt your more weighty councils, and disturb your debates;
with empty nauseous trifles in value, or mistaken schemes, and
whoever ventures to address you, ought to be well assur'd he is
in the right, and that the matter suits the intent of your
meeting, viz. To dispatch the weighty affairs of the kingdom.
And as I have premis'd this, so I freely submit to any
censure this Honourable Assembly shall think I deserve, if I have
broke in upon tither of these particulars.
I have but one petition to make with respect to the author,
and that is, that no freedom of expression, which the arguments
may oblige him to, may be constru'd as a want of respect, and a
breach of the due deference every Englishman owes to the
representing power of the nation.
It would be hard, that while I am honestly offering to your
consideration something of moment for the general good, prejudice
should lay snares for the author, and private pique make him an
offender for a word.
Without entering upon other parts of my character, 'tis
enough to acquaint this Assembly, that I am an English
freeholder, and have by that a title to be concern'd in the good
of that community of which I am an unworthy member.
This Honourable House is the representative of all the
freeholders of England; you are assembl'd for their good, you
study their interest, you possess their hearts, and you hold the
strings of the general purse.
To you they have recourse for the redress of all their
wrongs, and if at any time one of their body can offer to your
assistance, any fair, legal, honest and rational proposal for the
publick benefit, it was never known that such a man was either
rejected or discourag'd.
And on this account I crave the liberty to assure you, that
the author of this seeks no reward; to him it shall always be
reward enough to have been capable of serving his native country,
and honour enough to have offer'd something for the publick good
worthy of consideration in your Honourable Assembly.
Pauper ubique jacet, said our famous Queen Elizabeth, when in
her progress thro' the kingdom she saw the vast throngs of the
poor, flocking to see and bless her; and the thought put her
Majesty upon a continu'd study how to recover her people from
that poverty, and make their labour more profitable to themselves
in particular, and the nation in general.
This was easie then to propose, for that many useful
manufactures were made in foreign parts, which our people bought
with English money, and imported for their use.
The Queen, who knew the wealth and vast numbers of people
which the said manufactures had brought to the neighbouring
countries then under the King of Spain, the Dutch being not yet
revolted, never left off endeavouring what she happily brought to
pass, viz. the transplanting into England those springs of riches
She saw the Flemings prodigiously numerous, their cities
stood thicker than her peoples villages in some parts; all sorts
of useful manufactures were found in their towns, and all their
people were rich and busie, no beggars, no idleness, and
consequently, no want was to be seen among them.
She saw the fountain of all this wealth and workmanship, I
mean the wool, was in her own hands, and Flanders became the seat
of all these manufactures, not because it was naturally richer
and more populous than other countries, but because it lay near
England, and the staple of the English wool which was the
foundation of all their wealth, was at Antwerp in the heart of
From hence, it may be said of Flanders, it was not the riches
and the number of people brought the manufactures into the Low
Countries, but it was the manufactures brought the people
thither, and multitudes of people make trade, trade makes wealth,
wealth builds cities, cities enrich the land round them, land
enrich'd rises in va1ue, and the value of lands enriches the
Many projects were set on foot in England to erect the
woollen manufacture here, and in some places it had found
encouragement, before the days of this Queen, especially as to
making of cloath, but stuffs, bays, says, serges, and such like
wares were yet wholly the work of the Flemings.
At last an opportunity offer'd perfectly unlook'd for, viz.
the persecution of the Protestants, and introducing the Spanish
inquisition into Flanders, with the tyranny of the Duke D'Alva.
It cannot be an ungrateful observation, here to take notice
how tyranny and persecution, the one an oppression of property,
the other of conscience, always ruine trade, impoverish nations,
depopulate countries, dethrone princes, and destroy peace.
When an English man reflects on it, he cannot without
infinite satisfaction look up to Heaven, and to this Honourable
House, that as the spring, this as the stream from and by which
the felicity of this nation has obtain'd a pitch of glory,
superior to all the people in the world.
Your Councils especially, when blest from Heaven, as now we
trust they are, with principles of unanimity and concord, can
never fail to make trade Sourish, war successful, peace certain,
wealth Sowing, blessings probable, the Queen glorious, and the
Our unhappy neighbours of the Low Countries were the very
reverse of what we bless our selves for in you.
Their kings were tyrants, their governours persecutors, their
armies thieves and blood-hounds.
Their people divided, their councils confus'd, and their
D'Alva the Spanish Governor, besieg'd their cities, decimated
the inhabitants, murther'd their nobility, proscrib'd their
princes, and executed 18,000 men by the hand of the hang-man.
Conscience was trampl'd under foot, religion and reformation
hunted like a hare upon the mountains, the inquisition
threaten'd, and foreign armies introduc'd.
Property fell a sacrifice to absolute power, the countrey was
ravag'd, the towns plunder'd, the rich confiscated, the poor
starv'd, trade interrupted, and the 10th penny demanded.
The consequence of this was, as in all tyrannies and
persecutions it is, the people fled and scatter'd themselves in
their neighbours countries, trade languish'd, manufactures went
abroad, and never return'd, confusion reign'd and poverty
The multitude that remain'd push'd to all extremities, were
forc'd to obey the voice of nature, and in their own just defence
to take arms against their governours.
Destruction it self has its uses in the world, the ashes of
one city rebuilds another, and God Almighty, who never acts in
vain, brought the wealth of England, and the power of Holland
into the world from the ruine of the Flemish liberty.
The Dutch in defence of their liberty revolted, renounc'd
their tyrant prince, and prosper'd by Heaven and the assistance
of England, erected the greatest commonwealth in the world.
Innumerable observations would flow from this part of the
present subject, but brevity is my study, I am not teaching; for
I know who I speak to, but relating and observing the connexion
of Causes, and the wonderous births which lay then in the womb of
Providence, and are since come to life.
Particularly how Heaven directed the oppression and tyranny
of the poor should be the wheel to turn over the great machine of
trade from Flanders into England.
And how the persecution and cruelty of the Spaniards, against
religion should be directed by the secret overruling Hand, to be
the foundation of a people, and a body that should in ages then
to come, be one of the chief bulwarks of that very liberty and
religion they sought to destroy.
In this general ruine of trade and liberty, England made a
gain of what she never yet lost, and of what she has since
encreas'd to an inconceivable magnitude.
As D'Alva worried the poor Flemings, the Queen of England
entertain'd them, cherish'd them, invited them, encourag'd them.
Thousands of innocent people fled from all parts from the
fury of this merciless man, and as England, to her honour has
always been the sanctuary of her distress'd neighbours, so now
she was so to her special and particular profit.
The Queen who saw the opportunity put into her hands which
she had so long wish'd for, not only received kindly the exil'd
Flemings, but invited over all that would come, promising them
all possible encouragement, privileges and freedom of her ports
and the like.
This brought over a vast multitude of Flemings, Walloons, and
Dutch, who with their whole families settled at Norwich, at
Ipswich, Colchester, Canterbury, Exeter, and the like. From these
came the Walloon Church at Canterbury, and the Dutch Churches at
Norwich, Colchester, and Yarmouth; from hence came the true born
English families at those places with foreign names; as the De
Vinks at Norwich, the Rebows at Colchester, the Papilons, &c. at
Canterbury, families to whom this nation are much in debt for the
first planting those manufactures, from which we have since
rais'd the greatest trades in the world.
This wise Queen knew that number of inhabitants are the
wealth and strength of a nation, she was far from that opinion,
we have of late shown too much of in complaining that foreigners
came to take the bread out of our mouths, and ill treating on
that account the French Protestants who fled hither for refuge in
the late persecution.
Some have said that above 50,000 of them settled here, and
would have made it a grievance, tho' without doubt 'tis easie to
make it appear that 500,000 more would be both useful and
profitable to this nation.
Upon the setling of these forreigners, the scale of trade
visibly turn'd both here and in Flanders.
The Flemings taught our women and children to spin, the youth
to weave, the men entred the loom to labour instead of going
abroad to seek their fortunes by the war, the several trades of
bayes at Colchester, sayes and perpets, at Sudbury, Ipswich, &c.
stuffs at Norwich, serges at Exeter, silks at Canterbury, and the
like, began to flourish.
All the counties round felt the profit, the poor were set to
work, the traders gain'd wealth, and multitudes of people flock'd
to the several parts where these manufactures were erected for
employment, and the growth of England, both in trade, wealth and
people since that time, as it is well known to this Honourable
House; so the causes of it appear to be plainly the introducing
of these manufactures, and nothing else.
Nor was the gain made here by it more visible than the loss
to the Flemings, from hence, and not as is vainly suggested from
the building the Dutch fort of Lillo on the Scheld, came the
decay of that flourishing city of Antwerp. From hence it is plain
the Flemings, an industrious nation, finding their trade ruin'd
at once, turn'd their hands to other things, as making of lace,
linnen, and the like, and the Dutch to the sea affairs and
From hence they became poor, thin of people, and weak in
trade, the flux both of their wealth and trade, running wholly
I humbly crave leave to say, this long introduction shall not
be thought useless, when I shall bring it home by the process of
these papers to the subject now in hand, viz. The providing for
and employing the poor.
Since the times of Queen Elizabeth this nation has gone on to
a prodigy of trade, of which the encrease of our customs from
400,000 crowns to two millions of pounds sterling per ann. is a
demonstration beyond the power of argument; and that this whole
encrease depends upon, and is principally occasion'd by the
encrease of our manufacturers is so plain, I shall not take up
any room here to make it out.
Having thus given an account how we came to be a rich,
flourishing and populous nation, I crave leave as concisely as I
can to examine how we came to be poor again, if it must be
granted that we are so.
By poor here I humbly desire to be understood, not that we
are a poor nation in general; I should undervalue the bounty of
Heaven to England, and act with less understanding than most men
are masters of, if I should not own, that in general we are as
rich a nation as any in the world; but by poor I mean burthen'd
with a crowd of clamouring, unimploy'd, unprovided for poor
people, who make the nation uneasie, burthen the rich, clog our
parishes, and make themselves worthy of laws, and peculiar
management to dispose of and direct them: How these came to be
thus is the question.
And first I humbly crave leave to lay these heads down as
fundamental maxims, which I am ready at any time to defend and
1. There is in England more labour than hands to perform it,
and consequently a want of people, not of employment.
2. No man in England, of sound limbs and senses, can be poor
meerly for want of work.
3. All our work-houses, corporations and charities for
employing the poor, and setting them to work, as now they are
employ'd, or any Acts of Parliament to empower overseers of
parishes, or parishes themselves, to employ the poor, except as
shall be hereafter excepted, are, and will be publick nusances,
mischiefs to the nation which serve to the ruin of families, and
the encrease of the poor.
4. That 'tis a regulation of the poor that is wanted in
England, not a setting them to work.
If after these things are made out, I am enquir'd of what
this regulation should be, I am no more at a loss to lay it down
than I am to affirm what is above; and shall always be ready,
when call'd to it, to make such a proposal to this Honourable
House, as with their concurrence shall for ever put a stop to
poverty and beggery, parish charges, assessments and the like, in
If such offers as these shall be sighted and rejected, I have
the satisfaction of having discharg'd my duty, and the
consequence must be, that complaining will be continued in our
'Tis my misfortune, that while I study to make every head so
concise, as becomes me in things to be brought before so
honourable and august an assembly, I am obig'd to be short upon
heads that in their own nature would very well admit of
particular volumes to explain them.
1. I affirm, that in England there is more labour than hands
to perform it. This I prove,
1st. From the dearness of wages, which in England out goes
all nations in the world; and I know no greater demonstration in
trade. Wages, like exchanges, rise and fall as the remitters and
drawers, the employers and the workmen, ballance one another.
The employers are the remitters, the work-men are the
drawers, if there are more employers than work-men, the price of
wages must rise, because the employer wants that work to be done
more than the poor man wants to do it, if there are more work-men
than employers the price of labour falls, because the poor man
wants his wages more than the employer wants to have his business
Trade, like all nature, most obsequiously obeys the great law
of cause and consequence; and this is the occasion why even all
the greatest articles of trade follow, and as it were pay homage
to this seemingly minute and inconsiderable thing, the poor man's
I omit, with some pain, the many very useful thoughts that
occur on this head, to preserve the brevity I owe to the dignity
of that assembly I am writing to. But I cannot but note how from
hence it appears, that the glory, the strength, the riches, the
trade, and all that's valuable in a nation, as to its figure in
the world, depends upon the number of its people, be they never
so mean or poor; the consumption of manufactures encreases the
manufacturers; the number of manufacturers encreases the
consumption; provisions are consum'd to feed them, land improv'd,
and more hands employ'd to furnish provisions: All the wealth of
the nation, and all the trade.is produc'd by numbers of people;
but of this by the way.
The price of wages not only determines the difference between
the employer and the work-man, but it rules the provisions rates
of every market. If wages grow high, rise in proportion, and I
humbly conceive it to be a mistake in those people, who say
labour in such parts of England is cheap because provisions are
cheap, but 'tis plain, provisions are cheap there because labour
is cheap, and labour is cheaper in those parts than in others;
because being remoter from London there is not that extraordinary
disproportion between the work and the number of hands; there are
more hands, and consequently labour cheaper.
'Tis plain to any observing eye, that there is an equal
plenty of provisions in several of our south and western
counties, as in Yorkshire, and rather a greater, and I believe I
could make it out, that a poor labouring man may live as cheap in
Kent or Sussex as in the bishoprick of Durham; and yet in Kent a
poor man shall earn 7s. 10s. 9s. a week, and in the north 4s. or
perhaps less; the difference is plain in this, that in Kent there
is a greater want of people, in proportion to the work there,
than in the north.
And this on the other hand makes the people of our northern
countries spread themselves so much to the south, where trade,
war and the sea carrying off so many, there is a greater want of
And yet 'tis plain there is labour for the hands which remain
in the north, or else the country would be depopulated, and the
people come all away to the south to seek work; and even in
Yorkshire, where labour is cheapest, the people can gain more by
their labour than in any of the manufacturing countries of
Germany, Italy or France, and live much better.
If there was one poor man in England more than there was work
to employ, either somebody else must stand still for him, or he
must be starv'd; if another man stands still for him he wants a
days work, and goes to seek it, and by consequence supplants
another, and this a third, and this contention brigs it to this;
no, says the poor man, that is like to be put out of his work,
rather than that man shall come in I'll do it cheaper; nay, says
the other, but I'll do it cheaper than you; and thus one poor man
wanting but a days work would bring down the price of labour in a
whole nation, for the man cannot starve, and will work for any
thing rather than want it.
It may be objected here, this is contradicted by our number
I am sorry to say I am obliged here to call begging an
employment, since 'tis plain, if there is more work than hands to
perform it, no man that has his limbs and his senses need to beg,
and those that have not ought to be put into a condition not to
So that begging is a meer scandal in the general, in the able
'tis a scandal upon their industry, and in the impotent 'tis a
scandal upon the country.
Nay, the begging, as now practic'd, is a scandal upon our
charity, and perhaps the foundation of all our present grievance.
-- How can it be possible that any man or woman, who being sound
in body and mind, may as 'tis apparent they may, have wages for
their work, should be so base, so meanly spirited, as to beg an
alms for Godsake. -- Truly the scandal lies on our charity; and
people have such a notion in England of being pittiful and
charitable, that they encourage vagrants, and by a mistaken zeal
do more harm than good.
This is a large scene, and much might be said upon it; I
shall abridge it as much as possible. -- The poverty of England
does not lye among the craving beggars but among poor families,
where the children are numerous, and where death or sickness has
depriv'd them of the labour of the father. these are the houses
that the sons and daughters of charity, if they would order it
well, should seek out and relieve; an alms ill directed may be
charity to the particular person, but becomes an injury to the
publick, and no charity to the nation. As for the craving poor, I
am perswaded I do them no wrong when I say, that if they were
incorporated they would be the richest society in the nation; and
the reason why so many pretend to want work is, that they can
live so well with the pretence of wanting work, they would be mad
to leave it and work in earnest; and I affirm of my own
knowledge, when I have wanted a man for labouring work, and
offer'd 9s per week to strouling fellows at my door, they have
frequently told me to my face, they could get more a begging, and
I once set a lusty fellow in the stocks for making the
I shall, in its proper place, bring this to a method of
tryal, since nothing but demonstration will affect us, 'tis an
easie matter to prevent begging in England, and yet to maintain
all our impotent poor at far less charge to the parishes than
they now are oblig'd to be at.
When Queen Elizabeth had gain'd her point as to manufactories
in England, she had fairly laid the foundation, she thereby found
out the way how every family might live upon their own labour,
like a wise princess she knew 'twould be hard to force people to
work when there was nothing for them to turn their hands to; but
as soon as she had brought the matter to bear, and there was work
for every body that had no mind to starve, then she apply'd
herself to make laws to oblige the people to do this work, and to
punish vagrants, and make every one live by their own labour; all
her successors followed this laudable example, and from hence
came all those laws against sturdy beggars, vagabonds, stroulers,
&c., which had they been severely put in execution by our
magistrates, 'tis presum'd these vagrant poor had not so
encreas'd upon us as they have.
And it seems strange to me, from what just ground we proceed
now upon other methods, and fancy that 'tis now our business to
find them work, and to employ them rather than to oblige them to
find themselves work and go about it.
From this mistaken notion come all our work-houses and
corporations, and the same error, with submission, I presume Was
the birth of this bill now depending, which enables every parish
to erect the woollen manufacture within it self, for the
employing their own poor.
'Tis the mistake of this part of the bill only which I am
enquiring into, and which I endeavour to set in a true light.
In all the parliaments since the Revolution, this matter has
been before them, and I am justified in this attempt by the House
of Commons having frequently appointed committees to receive
proposals upon this head.
As my proposal is general, I presume to offer it to the
general body of the House; if I am commanded to explain any part
of it, I am ready to do any thing that may be serviceable to this
great and noble design.
As the former Houses of Commons gave all possible
encouragement to such as could offer, or but pretend to offer at
this needful thing, so the imperfect essays of several, whether
for private or publick benefit. I do not attempt to determine
which have since been made, and which have obtain'd the powers
and conditions they have desir'd, have by all their effects
demonstrated the weakness of their design; and that they either
understood not the disease, or know not the proper cure for it.
The imperfection of all these attempts is acknowledg'd, not
only in the preamble of this new Act of Parliament, but even in
the thing, in that there is yet occasion for any new law.
And having survey'd, not the necessity of a new act, but the
contents of the act which has been proposed as a remedy in this
case; I cannot but offer my objections against the sufficiency of
the proposal, and leave it to the consideration of this wise
assembly, and of the whole nation.
I humbly hope the learned gentleman, under whose direction
this law is now to proceed, and by whose order it has been
printed, will not think himself personally concerned in this
case, his endeavours to promote so good a work, as the relief,
employment, and settlement of the poor, merit the thanks and
acknowledgment of the whole nation, and no man shall be more
ready to pay his share of that debt to him than my self. But if
his scheme happen to be something superficial, if he comes in
among the number of those who have not search'd this wound to the
bottom, if the methods propos'd are not such as will either
answer his own designs or the nations, I cannot think my self
oblig'd to dispense, with my duty to the publick good, to
preserve a personal value for his judgment, tho' the gentleman's
merit be extraordinary.
Wherefore, as in all the schemes, I have seen laid for the
poor, and in this act now before your Honourable House; the
general thought of the proposers runs upon the employing the poor
by work-houses, corporations, houses of correction, and the like,
and that I think it plain to be seen, that those proposals come
vastly short of the main design. These sheets are humbly laid
before you, as well to make good what is alledg'd, viz. That all
these work-houses, &c., tend to the encrease, and not the relief
of the poor, as to make an humble tender of plain, but I hope,
rational proposals for the more effectual cure of this grand
In order to proceed to this great challenge, I humbly desire
the bills already pass'd may be review'd, the practice of our
corporation work-houses, and the contents of this proposed act
In all these it will appear that the method chiefly proposed
for the employment of our poor, is by setting them to work on the
several manufactures before-mention'd; as spinning, weaving, and
manufacturing our English wool.
All our work-houses lately erected in England, are in general
thus employ'd, for which without enumerating particulars, I
humbly appeal to the knowledge of the several members of this
Honourable House in their respective towns where such
corporations have been erected.
In the present Act now preparing, as printed by direction of
a member of this Honourable House, it appears, that in order to
set the poor to work, it shall be lawful for the overseers of
every town, or of one or more towns joyn'd together to occupy any
trade, mystery, &c. And raise stocks for the carrying them on for
the setting the poor at work, and for the purchasing wool, iron,
hemp, flax, thread, or other materials for that purpose. Vide the
Act publish'd by Sir Humphry Mackworth.
And that charities given so and so, and not exceeding 200 l.
per annum for this purpose, shall be incorporated of course £or
In order now to come to the case in hand, it is necessary to
premise, that the thing now in debate is not the poor of this or
that particular town. The House of Commons are acting like
themselves, as they are the representatives of all the commons of
England, 'tis the care of all the poor of England which lies
before them, not of this or that particular body of the poor.
In proportion to this great work, I am to be understood that
these work-houses, houses of correction, and stocks to employ the
poor may be granted to lessen the poor in this or that particular
part of England; and we are particularly told of that at Bristol,
that it has been such a terror to the beggars that none of the
strouling crew will come near the city. But all this allow'd, in
general, 'twill be felt in the main, and the end will be an
encrease of our poor.
1. The manufactures that these gentlemen employ the poor
upon, are all such as are before exercis'd in England.
2. They are all such as are manag'd to a full extent, and the
present accidents of war and foreign interruption of trade
consider'd rather beyond the vent of them than under it.
Suppose now a work-house for employment of poor children,
sets them to spinning of worsted. -- For every skein of worsted
these poor children spin, there must be a skein the less spun by
some poor family or person that spun it before; suppose the
manufacture of making bays to be erected in Bishopsgate-street,
unless the makers of these bays can at the same time find out a
trade or consumption for more bays than were made before. For
every piece of bays so made in London there must be a piece the
less made at Colchester.
I humbly appeal to the Honourable House of Commons what this
may be call'd, and with submission, I think it is nothing at all
to employing the poor, since 'tis only the transposing the
manufacture from Colchester to London, and taking the bread out
of the mouths of the poor of Essex to put it into the mouths of
the poor of Middlesex.
If these worthy gentlemen, who show themselves so commendably
forward to relieve and employ the poor, will find out some new
trade, some new market, where the goods they make shall be sold,
where none of the same goods were sold before; if they will send
them to any place where they shall not interfere with the rest of
that manufacture, or with some other made in England, then indeed
they will do something worthy of themselves, and may employ the
poor to the same glorious advantage as Queen Elizabeth did, to
whom this nation, as a trading country, owes its peculiar
If these gentlemen could establish a trade to Muscovy for
English serges, or obtain an order from the Czar, that all his
subjects should wear stockings who wore none before, every poor
child's labour in spinning and knitting those stockings, and all
the wool in them would be clear gain to the nation, and the
general stock would be improved by it, because all the growth of
our country, and all the labour of a person who was idle before,
is so much clear gain to the general stock.
If they will employ the poor in some manufacture which was
not made in England before, or not bought with some manufacture
made here before, then they offer at something extraordinary.
But to set poor people at work, on the same thing which other
poor people were employ'd on before, and at the same time not
encrease the consumption, is giving to one what you take away
from another; enriching one poor man to starve another, putting a
vagabond into an honest man's employment, and putting his
diligence on the tenters to find out some other work to maintain
As this is not at all profitable, so with submission for the
expression, I cannot say 'tis honest, because 'tis transplanting
and carrying the poor peoples lawful employment from the place
where was their lawful settlement, and the hardship of this our
law consider'd is intolerable. For example.
The manufacture of making bays is now establish'd at
Colchester in Essex, suppose it should be attempted to be erected
in Middlesex, as a certain worthy and wealthy gentleman near
Hackney once propos'd, it may be suppos'd if you will grant the
skill in working the same, and the wages the same, that they must
be made cheaper in Middlesex than in Essex, and cheapness
certainly will make the merchant buy here rather than there, and
so in time all the bay making at Colchester dyes, and the staple
for that commodity is removed to London.
What must the poor of Colchester do, there they buy a
parochial settlement, those that have numerous families cannot
follow the manufacture and come up to London, for our parochial
laws impower the Church-wardens to refuse them a settlement, so
that they are confin'd to their own countrey, and the bread taken
out of their mouths, and all this to feed vagabonds, and to set
them to work, who by their choice would be idle, and who merit
the correction of the law.
There is another grievance which I shall endeavour to touch
at, which every man that wishes well to the poor does not forsee,
and which, with humble submission to the gentlemen that contriv'd
this Act, I see no notice taken of.
There are arcanas in trade, which though they are the natural
consequences of time and casual circumstances, are yet become now
so essential to the publick benefit, that to alter or disorder
them, would be an irreparable damage to the publick.
I shall explain my self as concisely as I can.
The manufactures of England are happily settled in different
corners of the kingdom, from whence they are mutually convey'd by
a circulation of trade to London by wholesale, like the blood to
the heart, and from thence disperse in lesser quantities to the
other parts of the kingdom by retail. For example.
Serges are made at Exeter, Taunton, &c. stuffs at Norwich;
bayes, sayes, shaloons, &c. at Colchester, Bocking, Sudbury, and
parts adjacent, fine cloath in Somerset, Wilts, Gloucester and
Worcestershire, coarse cloath in Yorkshire, Kent, Surry, &c.
druggets at Farnham, Newbury, &c. All these send up the gross of
their quantity to London, and receive each others sorts in retail
for their own use again. Norwich buys Exeter serges, Exeter buys
Norwich stuffs, all at London; Yorkshire buy s fine cloths, and
Gloucester coarse, still at London; and the like, of a vast
variety of our manufactures.
By this exchange of manufactures abundance of trading
families are maintain'd by the carriage and recarriage of goods,
vast number of men and cattle are employed, and numbers of
inholders, victuallers, and their dependencies subsisted.
And on this account I cannot but observe to your honours, and
'tis well worth your consideration, that the already transposing
a vast woollen manufacture from several parts of England to
London, is a manifest detriment to trade in general, the several
woollen goods now made in Spittlefields, where within this few
years were none at all made, has already visibly affected the
several parts, where they were before made, as Norwich, Sudbury,
Farnham, and other towns, many of whose principal tradesmen are
now remov'd hither, employ their stocks here, employ the poor
here, and leave the poor of those countries to shift for work.
This breach of the circulation of trade must necessarily
distemper the body, and I crave leave to give an example or two.
I'll presume to give an example in trade, which perhaps the
gentlemen concern'd in this bill may, without reJection upon
their knowledge, be ignorant of.
The city of Norwich, and parts adjacent, were for some ages
employ'd in the manufactures of stuffs and stockings.
The latter trade, which was once considerable, is in a manner
wholly transpos'd into London, by the vast quantities of worsted
hose wove by the frame, which is a trade within this 20 years
almost wholly new.
Now as the knitting frame performs that in a day which would
otherwise employ a poor woman eight or ten days, by consequence a
few frames perform'd the work of many thousand poor people; and
the consumption being not increased, the effect immediately
appear'd; so many stockings as were made in London so many the
fewer were demanded from Norwich; till in a few years the
manufacture there wholly sunk, the masters there turn'd their
hands to other business; and whereas the hose trade from Norfolk
once return'd at least 5,000s. per week, and as some say twice
that sum, 'tis not now worth naming.
'Tis in fewer years, and near our memory, that of
Spittlefields men have fallen into another branch of the Norwich
trade, viz., making of stuffs, drugets, &c.
If any man say the people of Norfolk are yet full of employ,
and do not work; and some have been so weak as to make that
reply, avoiding the many other demonstrations which could be
given, this is past answering, viz. That the combers of wool in
Norfolk and Suffolk, who formerly had all, or ten parts in eleven
of their yarn manufactur'd in the country, now comb their wool
indeed, and spin the yarn in the country, but send vast
quantities of it to London to be woven; will any man question
whether this be not a loss to Norwich; can there be as many
weavers as before? And are there not abundance of workmen and
masters too remov'd to London?
If it be so at Norwich, Canterbury is yet more a melancholy
instance of it, where the houses stand empty, and the people go
off, an d the trade dyes, because the weavers have follow'd the
manufacture to London; and whereas there was within few years 200
broad looms at work, I am well assur'd there are not 50 now
employ'd in that city.
These are the effects of transposing manufactures, and
interrupting the circulation of trade.
All methods to bring our trade to be manag'd by fewer hands
than it was before, are in themselves pernicious to England in
general, as they lessen the employment of the poor, unhinge their
hands from the labour, and tend to bring our hands to be superior
to our employ, which as yet they are not.
In Dorsetshire and Somersetshire there always has been a very
considerable manufacture for stockings, at Colchester and Sudbury
for bayes, saves, &c. most of the wool these countries use is
bought at London, and carried down into those counties, and then
the goods being manufactur'd are brought back to London to
market; upon transposing the manufacture as before, all the poor
people and all the cattel who hitherto were employ'd in that
voiture, are immediately disbanded by their country, the
innkeepers on the roads must decay, so much land lye for other
uses, as the cattle employ'd, houses and tenement on the roads,
and all their dependencies sink in value.
'Tis hard to calculate what a blow it would be to trade in
general, should every county but manufacture all the several
sorts of goods they use, it would throw our inland trade into
strange convulsions, which at present is perhaps, or has been, in
the greatest regularity of any in the world.
What strange work must it then make when every town shall
have a manufacture, and every parish be a ware-house; trade will
be burthen'd with corporations, which are generally equally
destructive as monopolies, and by this method will easily be made
Parish stocks, under the direction of Justices of Peace, may
soon come to set up petty manufactures, and here shall all useful
things be made, and all the poorer sort of people shall be aw'd
or byass'd to trade there only. Thus the shop-keepers, who pay
taxes, and are the support of our inland circulation, will
immediately be ruin'd, and thus we shall beggar the nation to
provide for the poor.
As this will make every parish a market town, and every
hospital a store-house, so in London, and the adjacent parts, to
which vast quantities of the woollen manufacture will be thus
transplanted, too great and disproportion'd numbers of the people
will in time assemble.
Tho' the settled poor can't remove, yet single people will
stroul about and follow the manufacturer; and thus in time such
vast numbers will be drawn about London, as may be inconvenient
to the government, and especially depopulating to those countries
where the numbers of people, by reason of these manufactures are
An eminent instance of this we have in the present trade to
Muscovy, which however design'd for an improvement to the English
nation, and boasted of as such, appears to be converted into a
monopoly, and proves injurious and destructive to the nation. The
persons concern'd removing and carrying out our people to teach
that unpolish'd nation the improvements they are capable of.
If the bringing the Flemings to England brought with them
their manufacture and trade, carrying our people abroad,
especially to a country where the people work for little or
nothing, what may it not do towards instructing that populous
nation in such manufactures as may in time tend to the
destruction of our trade, or the reducing our manufacture to an
abatement in value, which will be felt at home by an abatement of
wages, and that in provisions, and that in rent of land; and so
the general stock sinks of course.
But as this is preparing, by eminent hands, to be laid before
this House as a grievance meriting your care and concern, I omit
insisting on it here,
And this removing of people is attended with many
inconveniences which are not easily perceived, as
1. The immediate fall of the value of all lands in those
counties where the manufactures were before; for as the numbers
of people, by the consumption of provisions, must where ever they
encrease make rents rise, and lands valuable; so those people
removing, tho' the provisions would, if possible, follow them,
yet the price of them must fall by all that charge they are at
for carriage, and consequently lands must fall in proportion.
2. This transplanting of families, in time, would introduce
great and new alterations in the countries they removed to, which
as they would be to the profit of some places, would be to the
detriment of others, and can by no means be just any more than it
is convenient; for no wise government studies to put any branch
of their country to any particular disadvantages, tho' it may be
found in the general account in another place.
If it be said here will he manufactures in every parish, and
that will keep the people at home,
I humbly represent what strange confusion and particular
detriment to the general circulation of trade mention'd before it
must be, to have every parish make its own manufactures.
1. It will make our towns and counties independent of one
another, and put a damp to correspondence, which all will allow
to be a great motive of trade in general.
2. It will fill us with various sorts and kinds of
manufactures, by which our stated sorts of goods will in time
dwindle away in reputation, and foreigners not know them one from
another. Our several manufactures are known by their respective
names; and our serges, bayes and other goods, are bought abroad
by the character and reputation of the places where they are
made; when there shall come new and unheard of kinds to market,
some better, some worse, as to be sure new undertakers will vary
in kinds, the dignity and reputation of the English goods abroad
will be lost, and so many confusions in trade must follow as are
too many to repeat.
3. Either our parish-stock must sell by wholesale or by
retail, or both; if the first, 'tis doubted they will make sorry
work of it, and having other business of their own make but poor
merchants; if by retail, then they turn pedlars, will be a
publick nusance to trade, and at last quite ruin it.
4. This will ruin all the carriers in England, the wool will
be all manufactured where it is sheer'd, every body will make
their own cloaths, and the trade which now lives by running thro'
a multitude of hands, will go then through so few, that thousands
of families will want employment, and this is the only way to
reduce us to the condition spoken of, to have more hands than
'Tis the excellence of our English manufacture, that it is so
planted as to go thro' as many hands as 'tis possible; he that
contrives to have it go thro' fewer, ought at the same time to
provide work for the rest -- as it is it employs a great
multitude of people, and can employ more; but if a considerable
number of these people be unhing'd from their employment, it
cannot but be detrimental to the whole.
When I say we could employ more people in England, I do not
mean that we cannot do our work with those we have, but I mean
First, It should be more people brought over from foreign
parts. I do not mean that those we have should be taken from all
common employments and put to our manufacture; we may unequally
dispose of our hands, and so have too many for some works, and
too few for others; and 'tis plain that in some parts of England
it is so, what else can be the reason, why in our southern parts
of England, Kent in particular, borrows 20,000 people of other
counties to get in her harvest.
But if more forreigners came among us, if it were 2 millions,
it could do us no harm, because they would consume our
provisions, and we have land enough to produce much more than we
do, and they would consume our manufactures, and we have wool
enough for any quantity.
I think therefore, with submission, to erect manufactures in
every town to transpose the manufactures from the settled places
into private parishes and corporations, to parcel out our trade
to every door, it must be ruinous to the manufacturers
themselves, will turn thousands of families out of their
employments, and take the bread out of the mouths of diligent and
industrious families to feed vagrants, thieves and beggars, who
ought much rather to be compell'd, by legal methods, to seek that
work which it is plain is to be had; and thus this Act will
instead of setting and relieving the poor, encrease their number,
and starve the best of them.
It remains now, according to my first proposal page 37, to
consider from whence proceeds the poverty of our people, what
accident, what decay of trade, what want of employment, what
strange revolution of circumstances makes our people poor, and
consequently burthensome, and our laws deficient, so as to make
more and other laws requisite, and the nation concerned to apply
a remedy to this growing disease. I answer,
I. Not for want of work; and besides what has been said on
that head, I humbly desire these two things may be consider'd.
First, 'Tis apparent, that if one man, woman, or child, can
by his, or her labour, earn more money than will subsist one
body, there must consequently be no want of work, since any man
would work for just as much as would supply himself rather than
starve. -- What a vast difference then must there be between the
work and the work-men, when 'tis now known that in
Spittle-fields, and other adjacent parts of the city, there is
nothing more frequent than for a journey-man weaver, of many
sorts, to gain from 15s. to 30s. per week wages, and I appeal to
the silk throwsters, whether they do not give 8s. 9s. and 10s.
per week, to blind men and cripples, to turn wheels, and do the
meanest and most ordinary works.
Cur Moriatur Homo, &c.
Why are the families of these men starv'd, and their children
in work-houses, and brought up by charity; I am ready to produce
to this Honourable House the man who for several years has gain'd
of me by his handy labour at the mean scoundrel employment of
tile making from 16s. to 20s. per week wages, and all that time
would hardly have a pair of shoes to his feet, or cloaths to
cover his nakedness, and had his wife and children kept by the
The meanest labours in this nation afford the workman
sufficient to provide for himself and his family, and that could
never be if there was a want of work.
2. I humbly desire this Honourable House to consider the
present difficulty of rising soldiers in this kingdom; the vast
charge the kingdom is at to the officers to procure men; the many
little and not over honest methods made use of to bring them into
the service, the laws made to compel them; why are gaols rumag'd
for malefactors, and the Mint and prisons for debtors, the war is
an employment of honour, and suffers some scandal in having men
taken from the gallows, and immediately from villains, and
housebreakers made gentlemen soldiers. If men wanted employment,
and consequently bread, this could never be, any man would carry
a musket rather than starve, and wear the Queen's cloth, or any
bodies cloth, rather than go naked, and live in rags and want;
tis plain the nation is full of people, and 'tis as plain our
people have no particular aversion to the war, but they are not
poor enough to go abroad; 'tis poverty makes men soldiers, and
drives crowds into the armies, and the difficulties to get
English-men to list is, because they live in plenty and ease, and
he that can earn 20s. per week at an easie, steady employment,
must be drunk or mad when he lists for a soldier, to be knock'd
o'th'head for 3s. 6d. per week; but if there was no work to be
had, if the poor wanted employment, if they had not bread to eat,
nor knew not how to earn it, thousands of young lusty fellows
would fly to the pike and musket, and choose to dye like men in
the face of the enemy, rather than lye at home, starve, perish in
poverty and distress.
From all these particulars, and innumerable unhappy instances
which might be given, 'tis plain, the poverty of our people which
is so burthensome, and increases upon us so much, does not arise
from want of proper employments, and for want of work, or
employers, and consequently,
Work-houses, corporations, parish-stocks, and the like, to
set them to work, as they are pernicious to trade, injurious and
impoverishing to those already employ'd, so they are needless,
and will come short of the end propos'd.
The poverty and exigence of the poor in England, is plainly
deriv'd from one of these two particular causes.
Casualty or Crime.
By Casualty, I mean sickness of families, loss of limbs or
sight, and any, either natural or accidental impotence as to
These as infirmities meerly providential are not at all
concern'd in this debate; ever were, will, and ought to be the
charge and care of the respective parishes where such unhappy
people chance to live, nor is there any want of new laws to make
provision for them, our ancestors having been always careful to
The crimes of our people, and from whence their poverty
derives, as the visible and direct fountains are,
Good husbandry is no English vertue, it may have been brought
over, and in some places where it has been planted it has thriven
well enough, but 'tis a forreign species, it neither loves, nor
is belov'd by an English-man; and 'tis observ'd nothing is so
universally hated, nothing treated with such a general contempt
as a rich covetous man, tho' he does no man any wrong, only saves
his own, every man will have an ill word for him, if a misfortune
happens to him, hang him a covetous old rogue, 'tis no matter,
he's rich enough, nay when a certain great man's house was on
fire, I have heard the people say one to another, let it burn and
'twill, he's a covetous old miserly dog, I wo'nt trouble my head
to help him, he'd be hang'd before he'd give us a bit of bread if
we wanted it.
'Tho this be a fault, yet I observe from it something of the
natural temper and genius of the nation, generally speaking, they
cannot save their money.
'Tis generally said the English get estates, and the Dutch
save them; and this observation I have made between forreigners
and English-men that where an Englishman earns 20s. per week, and
bit just lives, as we call it, a Dutch-man grows rich, and leaves
his children in very good condition; where an English labouring
man with his 9s. per week lives wretchedly and poor, a Dutch-man
with that wages will live very tolerably well, keep the wolf from
the door, and have every thing handsome about him. In short, he
will be rich with the same gain as makes the English-man poor,
he'll thrive when the other goes in rags, and he'll live when the
other starves, or goes a begging.
The reason is plain, a man with good husbandry, and thought
in his head, brings home his earnings honestly to his family,
commits it to the management of his wife, or otherwise disposes
it for proper subsistance, and this man with mean gains, lives
comfortably, and brings up a family, when a single man getting
the same wages, drinks it away at the ale-house, thinks not of to
morrow, layes up nothing for sickness, age, or disaster, and when
any of these happen, he's starv'd, and a beggar.
This is so apparent in every place, that I think it needs no
explication; that English labouring people eat and drink, but
especially the latter three times as much in value as any sort of
forreigners of the same dimensions in the world.
I am not writing this as a satyr on our people, 'tis a sad
truth; and worthy the debate and application of the nations
physitians assembled in Parliament, the profuse extravagant
humour of our poor people in eating and drinking, keeps them low,
causes their children to be left naked and starving, to the care
of the parishes, whenever either sickness or disaster befalls the
The next article is their sloath.
We are the most lazy diligent nation in the world, vast
trade, rich manufactures, mighty wealth, universal correspondence
and happy success have been constant companions of England, and
given us the title of an industrious people, and so in general we
But there is a general taint of slothfulness upon our poor,
there's nothing more frequent, than for an Englishman to work
till he has got his pocket full of money, and then go and be
idle, or perhaps drunk, till, tis all gone, and perhaps himself
in debt; and ask him in his cups what he intends, he'll tell you
honestly, he'll drink as long as it lasts, and then go to work
I humbly suggest this distemper's so general, so epidemick,
and so deep rooted in the nature and genius of the English, that
I much doubt its being easily redress'd, and question whether it
be possible to reach it by an Act of Parliament.
This is the ruine of our poor, the wife mourns, the children
starve, the husband has work before him, but lies at the
ale-house, or otherwise idles away his time, and won't work.
'Tis the men that wont work, not the men that can get no
work, which makes the numbers of our poor; all the work-houses in
England, all the overseers setting up stocks and manufactures
won't reach this case; and I humbly presume to say, if these two
articles are remov'd, there will be no need of the other.
I make no difficulty to promise on a short summons, to
produce above a thousand families in England, within my
particular knowledge, who go in rags, and their children wanting
bread, whose fathers can earn their 15 to 25s. per week, but will
not work, who may have work enough, but are too idle to seek
after it, and hardly vouchsafe to earn any thing more than bare
subsistance, and spending money for themselves.
I can give an incredible number of examples in my own
knowledge among our labouring poor. I once paid 6 or 7 men
together on a Saturday night, the least 10s. and some 30s. for
work, and have seen them go with it directly to the ale-house,
lie there till Monday, spend it every penny, and run in debt to
boot, and not give a farthing of it to their families, tho' all
of them had wives and children.
From hence comes poverty, parish charges, and beggary, if
ever one of these wretches falls sick, all they would ask was a
pass to the parish they liv'd at, and the wife and children to
the door a begging.
If this Honourable House can find out a remedy for this part
of the mischief. If such Acts of Parliament may be made as may
effectually cure the sloath and luxury of our poor, that shall
make drunkards take care of wife and children, spendthrifts lay
up for a wet, day; idle, lazy fellows diligent; and thoughtless
sottish men, careful and provident.
If this can be done, I presume to say, there will be no need
of transposing and confounding our manufactures, and the
circulation of our trade; they will soon find work enough, and
there will soon be less poverty among us, and if this cannot be
done, setting them to work upon woollen manufactures, and thereby
encroaching upon those that now work at them, will but ruine our
trade, and consequently increase the number of the poor.
I do not presume to offer the schemes I have now drawn of
methods for the bringing much of this to pass, because I shall
not presume to lead a body so august, so wise, and so capable as
this Honourable Assembly.
I humbly submit what is here offered, as reasons to prove the
attempt now making insufficient; and doubt not but in your great
wisdom, you will find out ways and means to set this matter in a
clearer light, and on a right foot.
And if this obtains on the House to examine farther into this
matter, the author humbly recommends it to their consideration to
accept, in behalf of all the poor of this nation, a clause in the
room of this objected against, which shall answer the end without
this terrible ruin to our trade and people.