Front Page Titles (by Subject) Summary of Principles illustrated in this Volume. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 3
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Summary of Principles illustrated in this Volume. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 3 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1832). Vol. 3.
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Summary of Principles illustrated in this Volume.
In a society composed of a natural gradation of ranks, some must be poor; i. e. have nothing more than the means of present subsistence.
Any suspension of these means of subsistence, whether through disaster, sickness, or decrepitude, converts the poor into the indigent.
Since indigence occasions misery, and disposes to vice, the welfare of society requires the greatest possible reduction of the number of the indigent.
Charity, public and private, or an arbitrary distribution of the subsistence-fund, private, has hitherto failed to effect this object; the proportion of the indigent to the rest of the population having increased from age to age.
This is not surprising, since an arbitrary distribution of the subsistence-fund, besides rendering consumption unproductive, and encouraging a multiplication of consumers, does not meet the difficulty arising from a disproportion of numbers to the means of subsistence.
The small unproductive consumption occasioned by the relief of sudden accidents and rare infirmities is necessary, and may be justifiably provided for by charity, since such charity does not tend to the increase of numbers; but, with this exception, all arbitrary distribution of the necessaries of life is injurious to society, whether in the form of private almsgiving, public charitable institutions, or a legal pauper-system.
The tendency of all such modes of distribution having been found to be to encourage improvidence with all its attendant evils,—to injure the good while relieving the bad,—to extinguish the spirit of independence on one side,—and of charity on the other,—to encourage peculation, tyranny, and fraud,—and to increase perpetually the evil they are meant to remedy,—but one plea is now commonly urged in favour of a legal provision for the indigent.
This plea is that every individual born into a state has a right to subsistence from the state.
This plea, in its general application, is grounded on a false analogy between a state and its members, and a parent and his family.
A parent has a considerable influence over the subsistence-fund of his family, and an absolute control over the numbers to be supported by that fund; whereas the rulers of a state, from Whom a legal provision emanates, have little influence over its subsistence-fund, and no control whatever over the number of its members.
If the plea of right to subsistence be grounded on the faults of national institutions, the right ought rather to be superseded by the rectification of those institutions, than admitted at the cost of perpetuating an institution more hurtful than all the others combined.
What, then, must be done to lessen the number of the indigent, now so frightfully increasing?
The subsistence-fund must be employed productively, and capital and labour be allowed to take their natural course; i. e. the pauper system must, by some means or other, be extinguished.
The number of consumers must be proportioned to the subsistence-fund. To this end, all encouragements to the increase of population should be withdrawn, and every sanction given to the preventive check; i. e. charity must be directed to the enlightenment of the mind, instead of to the relief of bodily wants.
If not adopted speedily, all measures will be too late to prevent the universal prevalence of poverty in this kingdom, the legal provision for the indigent now operating the extinction of our national resources at a perpetually increasing rate.
printed by william clowes, stamford-street.
Thought it is my business to treat of the permanent rather than of the transient causes of the distress of Ireland,—of her economy rather than her polities,—I have been perplexed by some of the difficulties which at present beset all who would communicate with the public on her behalf. It is impossible to foresee while writing what may have happened, before our thoughts are printed, to change the aspect of affairs, and modify the counsel we would offer. No pains have been spared to ascertain the correctness of the data on which my story is constructed; yet I have felt through the whole course of it that I might finally resolve to keep it back as useless, there being a strong probability that it might, a few weeks hence, appear antiquated in comparison with the treatises which may then be wanted. I cannot but trust, however, that leisure will soon be spared from the consideration of emergencies for an investigation into the long-subsisting causes of Irish distress ; that the painful labour of punishing crime may give place to the more hopeful task of superseding it; and that the government may ere long turn from enforcing obnoxious laws to fostering the resources of the country.
Many will think with me that the title of this story is too grand for its contents; and more may be disappointed oil finding how few are my personages, and how little I have dealt with the horrors of the time.—The purpose of my title is to direct the work into the hands of those whom it most concerns; and my personages arc few because it is my object to show, in a confined space. how long a series of evils may befall individuals in a society conducted like that of Ireland, and by what a repetition of grievances its members are driven into disaffection and violence. As for the incidents of the tale, my choice was influenced by the consideration, not of what would best suit the purposes of fiction, but of what would most serve the cause of the Irish poor. A much more thrilling and moving story might have been made of conspiracy, rebellion, and slaughter by weapon and by gibbet ; but these scenes want no further development than may be found in our daily newspapers; while the silent miseries of the cottier, the unpitied grievances of the spirit-broken labourer cannot have been sufficiently made known, since they still subsist. These miseries, protracted from generation to generation, are the origin of the more lively horrors of which everybody hears. Let them be superseded, and there !will be an end of the rebellion and slaughter which spring from them.
Now that it is the fashion with a certain portion of society to denounce every exposition of state impolicy as inflammatory, I may be exposed to the common charge of attempting to excite the disaffection, some of whose causes I have attempted to expose. Since it is no longer a secret, however, that Ireland has been and is misgoverned, and since the readiest method of winning back the discontented to their allegiance is to allow those things to be grievances which are felt to be so, and to show a disposition to afford redress, I cannot but hold the part of true loyalty to be to expose abuses fearlessly and temperately, and to stimulate the government to the reparation of past errors and the improvement of its principles of policy. Such should be my loyalty if I had access to the councils of the state ; and such it is now that I can speak only as a wellwisher to Ireland, and an indignant witness of her wrongs.