« PreviousContinue »
'nufacture. The exclusion from foreign markets, but as this is a con
sequence of the peace, we do not repine-we rejoice to think, that this which causes our distress, causes also the happiness of others, and subserves the general interests of humanity. But there is one consequence of the peace which we cannot survey with the same cornplacency-and I mention it the more freely, because we are so highly honoured in one part of our attendance this day (the Ladies)--the introduction of silks of foreign manufacture. I am. persuaded that the efforts and the influence of the example of this meeting may check this cruel practice; and I am also persuaded that no female of our country would array herself in silks of foreign manufacture, if she knew the
groans and the tears it occasions in the deplorable recesses of our disrict.--(Loud applauses.) These are the causes which produce a degree, an expense of distress, utterly beyond my powers to describe. I could detain you till midnight, reading scenes of distress that we have witnessed, but I hasten to a larger topic. We all have been educated in a belief that the necessity of going to the work-house is the last of human misfortunes to the poor ; aud truly to resign their home, even with its few endearments, their liberty, their every hope of future independence and prosperity-to separatc child from parent, the wife from the husband--to separate those branches from the same stem, which have only entwined the more closely under the wintry blast of misfortune (misfortune often rivets more nearly the ties of natural and conjugal affection)--and to exchange for these, the constraint and the fare of a workhouse, is truly heart-rending; yet such is the aggravated distress, that to get into the work house is an object of great desire with the poor--that we are actually canvassed for our interest and that the candidates for this s bad eminence," for the enviable distinction of residing in the midst of rags and ruin, are most earnest in their intreaties, that success in it is an object of congratulation. But let me not mislead you; you may imagine, from this eagerness of the poor, that our work-house is peculiar in its kind. I do not deny that it is conducted with every atteution to cleanliness and comfort; but to prove to you that it is not an abode of luxurious entertainment or sumptuous accommodation, I must tell you, that at a late visit to it, I fouud that three persons slept in each będ, and that it is now necessary to increase that number to four.
My Lord, I feel more and more that I cannot do justice to the distress. I wish I could prevail upon you to see it with your own eyes. Come when you please, select almost your own street, almost your own house in that street, your own room in that house, and I undertake that in that room you will find a proof that our picture is faint and feeble. Every where are to be seen scenes of ruin, hunger, and even death. Physicians well acquainted with the district assure us that our people are peculiarly subjected to disorders originating in defici. ency of food, and that at this time multitudes of children are swept into an untimely grave by disorders, of which abstinence was the only cause, and for which food would be the only cure. But this is not all, there are scenes of deeper misery, of darker horror, scanes so sad, so dismal, so revolting, that did not imperious duty demand the sacrifice of our feelings, I should gladly bury them in eternal oblivion --scenes of actual starvation. On Friday last I saw a man who was lately found amongst some willows in our district. There were some remains of life in him, but (I hardly know how to convey so loathsome an image,) the vermin of all kinds had already seized upon him as their prey.--He was found on a Saturday, and his own story was that the last he recollected was sinking down there on the preceding Wednesday, overcome with weariness and hunger. I asked him if he had a wife ? No, Sir, said he, thank God, I can suffer better than many others, because I suffer alone. I could tell you another such instance, but I must throw a veil over these scenes, too sad even for description ; and, indeed, our wretchedness does not consist so much in individual instances, as in the mass, the aggregate, the immensity. It is not that some starve, but that so many are on the verge of starvation-it is not that a few suffer, but that so few,escape-it is not one of those disorders that are deadly in one street, and unknown in the next, it rather partakes of the nature of those more general visitations of pestilence, which spread their disastrous contagion all around, and desolate a district, and in which the general contagion envenoms the individual taint. So it is with us the general distress deepens the private calamity. In ordinary times the poor are the best friends of the poor. There is and happy is it) a sympathy in affliction (we find it as a ray of light amid the gloom), a fellow feeling in distress, a kind of benefit society to which all the wretched are free, a society not indeed enrolled and registered by Act of Parliament, but by higher authority, and with more awful sanction, by the instincts which Providence has implanted in the human heart, but this is a virtue that is for better times. The poor man can hardly support himself, and therefore can hardly assist others. I do not mean to say that he does not. We have met with instances which have exalted our respect for human nature-instances which recal the Widow recorded in the New Testiment, who “out of her want gave all her living;'—and the Widow of Sarepto in the Old Testament, whose whole possession was “ a handful of meal in a barrel, and a drop of oil in a cruse," yet she was willing to share them with the afflicted stranger. But if this proves that the poor are not bereft of every ordinary hope, is it not a lesson to us. If the poor man who is obliged to deny his unsatis. fied appetite, and having divided sufficient from his only loaf to hide the remainder for the next day's meal if he yet find some place for mercy in his soul, and miserable himself, is yet impelled to share his remaining crust with the more miserable ; if the strong impulse of humanity urges him to so dear a sacrifice, does it not teach the man who is clothed in soft raiment and fares sumptuously every day, to give something more than the crumbs that fall from his table to the wretchedness that surround his gate [Great Applause]; But why this superior mercy in the poor? Because he has learned it in the shool of affliction. He knows what it is to want bread, and this has opened his heart, and enlivened his affectious for those who are exposed to the rigour of the season, and the craving importunities of
hunger-but the rich man cannot feel this. He can experimentally know nothing of what it is, when the poor man willing to strain every nerve in labour, is denied the employment which inight staunch the tears of his wife, and appease the cries of his children, when like the wretch I have mentioned, he is willing to suffer, if he might suffer alone, firm against his own afflictions, but when he looks around him, sunk to the effeminacy of tears [loud applause]-In ordinary times, too, individual charity may meet individual distress-it may discover cases of peculiar hardship and relieve them, but in this mass of misery, selection is almost cruelty. You relieve one case,
you must deny a thousand with equal claims to your compassion. Private charity found itself perplexed, confused, and baffled by the variety of applicants, and hardly knew which was right, the partiality which would select some, to the exclusion of others or that impartiality which could give but a crumb to each. A general effort was necessary, a division of labour, a division of districts, a combination of energy, of activity, of bounty was necessary, and this was the origin of our institution. A survey of the whole mass was taken it was divided into thirty eight districts—and 120 Gentlemen volunteered their services.--Thus every street and every alley of this wide district is regularly visited, and would be regularly relieved, did our funds allow it. Believe me, my Lord, this system of visitation has its advantages--the poor are seen at their own houses, the truth of their tale is ascertained—we are not so much exposed to deception-besides where charity gives without personal inquiry, importunity, often gains that which modest and unobtrusive merit cannot obtain. Widows, for instance, who having disposed of almost all their clothing to procure bread, are ashamed to appear
in the streets.
Those who have seen better times we met a soldier, a man who had fought the battles of his country with some humble distinction, but is now oppressed by a very large family-he was one of those,
“ Who ask with painful shyness, and refused,
Because deserving, silently retire.” (Hear, hear!] There was something in his breast, be it pride, or be it feeling, but something forbad him to mingle in the herds of importunate beggary. This general visitation is part of our plan ; but besides this, we sell, or rather have sold, rice at 2d. per lb., salt fish -fish, my Lord, that would not disgrace your hospitable mansion, at id. per Ib. Now observe the chain of good-we employ a very distressed class, the sailors in this time of dearth we introduce food into the country; and, lastly, we distribute that food exactly where it is wanted most. This is our plan, if it proceed it must do great good-if it fail, and fail it must, if this day does not give it vital vigour-the hopes of the poor fail with it.
Remember then, that the distress is urgent beyond all former occasions that thousands and tens of thousands hang upon your deci. sion this day. Remember that you sit in judgment upon the fate of the widow and the orphan. If unfavourable you steep the orphan in ten-fold misery-if favourable you will indeed make the widow's heart to sing with joy.
THE LIFE OF H. M. DE LATUDE,
Cancluded from page 149.) All this served to support him through the heavy hours of confinement, but could not at all contribute to the restoration of his liberty. He therefore thought he might interest the King in his favour, if he could lay before him a plan he had formed of increasing the strength of the army. But how to communicate his project was the difficulty, as he was denied the use of pens and paper ;
he therefore formed small tablets of the crumb of his bread by squeezing and moistening it in his hands, took the bone of a fish for his pen, and drew blood froom his arm forink. When he had prepared his memorial, he procured an interview with the Confessor of the Bastille, who promised to have it transcribed on paper, and presented to the minister, application of the Confessor, he obtained the free use of writing materials, and composed a memorial, which was presented to the King in 1758. The King must have read it, for he availed himself of Latude's observations, but he would not give liberty to the poor prisoner who communicated them.
He waited three months, in hopes that this Memorial would, at least, procure him his liberty, but in vain; he therefore drew up and sent to the King another plan, which had'occurred to him, of forming an establishment for the widows and orphans of soldiers, and of defraying the expense attending the institution by a tax on the postage of letters. The tax was immediately laid, but the rest of the plan forgotten.
Notwithstanding all this, Latude still languished in his dungeon. Denied the enjoyment of exercise and air, and deprived of the hopes which had hitherto supported him, he was seized by an illness, and his sufferings are detailed in a report made by the surgeon on his case. He states, that the unwholesome air of the dungeon, in which he had been confined so many years, the weight of the irons on his hands and feet, the severity of the cold
when he had no fire, thë damp from the walls, and the want of clothing, had, altogether, rendered the prisoner's existence so miserable, that he wished to destroy himself.
Even this representation produced no effect on his persecutors, and Latude temained in his dungeon, till the Seine overflowed its banks, and filled the lower apartments of the prison with water.
In the room to which he was removed he enjoyed more air, but in no other respect was his situation amended, except, indeed, that a pigeon, flew into his room, (for whom he ingeniously caught a companion) and in their society found some relief from the burden of his own thoughts. The inhuman gaoler demanded
part of his allowance of provisions for permission to keep them, and raised his demands so that Latude, in a fit of despair, killed them himself. Another trait of savage cruelty was an endeavour to take from him a flageolet, which he had contrived to make, and which helped to lighten many a weary hour. His agony at this was so great that they thought fit to restore it to him.
A new Governor was appointed to the Bastille, in 1764, and greater attention was shown to the prisoners, of which Latude immediately felt the comforts. In the same year he also learned the death of his great enemy, the Marchioness of Pompadour ; but he found also that other enemies as powerful and as inveterato remained, and who had determined that he should continue a prisoner for the remainder of his life.. After various remonstances and petitions, which were attended with no effect, he wrote a very indignant and sarcastic letter to M. Sartines, then Lieutenant of the Police, for which he was cast into a dungeon, and fed upon
bread and water. After passing some months in this state, he was removed from the Bastille, and carried to the Chateau of Vincennes. His persecutors had prepared a dungeon for him here, but the humanity of the Governor led him to exchange it for a comfortable apartment, and to give him liberty to walk-in the garden two hours a day. This last privilege seemed to give him some little prospect of obtaining his freedom ; but the watchfulness of his guardians precluded, during several months, all possibility of making an attempt. On the 23d of November, 1765, he succeeded in the following daring manner.
As he was walking in the garden attended, as usual, by thre men, a very thick fog suddenly obscured the air: he broke suddenly from them, and had passed three centinels before the alarm was given, so that they could stop him, but they joined in pursuing and calling after him ; the last centinel, who was stationed at the narrow entrance gate, being thus put upon his guard, stood in the middle of the passage, presenting his bayonet. It was a desparate moment'; Latude slackened his pace, as if going to surrender himself, then suddenly leaped upon the fellow knocked him down, and ran off. When he was at some distance, he hid him. self in the Park till the evening, and then entered Paris.
He carefully concealed himself from the eyes of the police, but it confined him so much to do so, that he soon found that escaping from the prison was not the recovery of his liberty; he therefore wrote to M. Sartines, whose animosity he could not soften, and to the Duke de Choisel, whose protection he could not gain. Poor Latude, therefore, as he was going to Versailles, in hopes that he might lay his case before the King, or some man in power, again fell into the hands of the police-officers, who carried him to the prison of the Conciergerie, and shortly after to his old dungeon at Vincennes.