Full Title: A New Discourse of Trade: Wherein Are recommended several weighty Points, relating to Companies of Merchants; The Act of Navigation, Naturalization of Strangers, and our Woollen Manufactures. The Balance of Trade, And Nature of Plantations; with their Consequences, in relation to the Kingdom, are seriously discussed. Methods for the Employment and Maintenance of the Poor are proposed. The Reduction of Interest of Money to 4 l. per cent. is recommended. And some Proposals for erecting a Court of Merchants, for determining Controversies relating to Maritime Affairs, and for a Law for Transferring of Bills of Debts, are humbly offer’d. To which is added, A short, but most excellent Treatise of Interest. By Sir Josiah Child, Baronet. Fourth Edition. London: Printed for J. Hodges, on London-Bridge; W. Meadows at the Angel in Cornhill; C. Corbet, against St. Dunstan’s Churdd, Fleet Stree; J. Jackson, at St. James Gate; J. Stagg, in Westminster-Hall; and J. Bevill, near S. Saviours Church, Southwark, .
Concerning the Relief and Employment of the Poor.
THIS is a calm subject, and thwarts no common or private interest amongst us, except that of the common enemy of mankind, the Devil; so I hope that what shall be offered towards the effecting of so universally acceptable a work as this, and the removal of the innumerable inconveniencies that do now, and have in all ages attended this Kingdom, through defect of such provision for the Poor will not be ill taken , altho’ the plaister at first essay do not exactly fit the sore.
In the discourse of this subject, I shall first assert some particuclars, which I think are agreed by common consent, and from thence take occasion to proceed to what is more doubtful.
1. That our Poor in England have always been in a most sad and wretched condition, some famished for want of bread, others starved with cold and nakedness, and many whole families in the out-parts of cities and great towns, commonly remain in a langishing, nasty, and useless condition, uncomfortable to themselves, and unprofitable to the Kingdom, this in confessed and lamented by all men.
2. That the Children of our Poor bred up in beggary and laziness, do by that means become not only of unhealthy bodies, and more than ordinarily subject to many loathsome diseases, of which very many die in their tender age, and if any of them do arrive to years and strength, they are, by their idle habits contracted in their youth, rendered for ever after indisposed to labour, and serve but to stock the Kingdom with thieves and beggars.
3. That if all our impotent Poor were provided for, and those of both sexes and all ages that can do any work of any kind, employed, it would redound some hundred of thousands of pounds per annum to the publick advantage.
4. That it is our duty to god and Nature, so to provide for, and employ the Poor.
5. That by so doing one of the great sins, for which this land ought to mourn, would be removed.
6. That our Forefathers had pious intentions towards this good work, as appears by many statutes made by them to this purpose.
7. That there are places in the world, wherein the poor are so provided for, and employed, as in Holland, Hamborough, New-England, and others, and as I am informed, now in the city of Paris.
Thus far we all agree: the first question then that naturally occurs, is,
Question 1. How comes it to pass that in England we do not, nor ever did, comfortably maintain and employ our Poor?
The common answers to this question are two.
1. That our Laws to this purpose are as good as any in the world, but we fail in the execution.
2. That formerly in the days of our pious ancestors the work was done, but now charity is deceased, and that is the reason we see the Poor so neglected as now they are.
In both which answers, I humbly conceive, the effect is mistaken for the cause; for though it cannot be denied, but there has been, and is, a great failure in the execution of those Statutes which relate to the Poor, yet I say, the cause of that failure, has been occasioned by defect of the laws themselves.
For otherwise, what is the reason that in our late times of confusion and alteration, wherein almost every party in the Nation, at one time or other, took their turn at the helm, and all had that compass, those laws, to steer by, that none of them could, or ever did, conduct the Poor into a harbour of security to them, and profit for the Kingdom, i.e. none sufficiently maintained the impotent, and employed the indigent amongst us: And if this was never done in any age, nor by any sort of men whatsoever in this Kingdom, who had the use of those laws now in force, it seems to me a very strong argument that it never could, nor ever will be done by those laws, and that consequently the defect lies in the laws themselves, not in the men, i. e. those that should put them in execution.
As to the second answer to the aforesaid question, wherein want of charity is assigned for another cause why the poor are now so much neglected, I think it is a scandalous ungrounded accusation of our contemporaries, except in relation to building of Churches, which I confess this generation is not so propense to as former have been, for most that I converse with, are not so much troubled to part with their money, as how to place it, that it may do good, and not hurt the Kingdom: for, if they give to the beggrs in the streets, or at their doors, they fear they may do hurt by encouraging that lazy unprofitable kind of life; and if they give more than their proportions in thier respective parishes, that, they say, is but giving to the rich, for the poor are not set on work thereby, nor have the more given them; but only their rich neighbours pay the less. And of what was given in churches to the visited poor, and to such as were impoverished by the fire; we have heard of so many and great abuses of that kind of charity, that most men are under sad discouragements in relation thereto. . . .