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LETTER III.: TO THE EDITOR OF THE SCOTS CHRONICLE. - John Millar, Letters of Sidney, on Inequality of Property. To which is added, a Treatise of the Effects of War on Commercial Prosperity 
Letters of Sidney, on Inequality of Property. To which is added, a Treatise of the Effects of War on Commercial Prsoperity (Edinburgh: the Office of the Scots Chronicle, 1796).
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TO THE EDITOR OF THE SCOTS CHRONICLE.
August 19. 1796.
The rich, in each country, are but a handful; and I have perhaps occupied too much of your Paper in showing, that great inequality of property is disadvantageous to them. Each rich man requires multitudes to minister to his various luxuries, vanities, and caprices; and accordingly, in every country of Europe, the poor, those who depend for their maintenance on their daily labour, form a great majority of the nation. In examining their condition, let us always recollect, that it is the condition of the greater number, and that the happiness of each individual of this class is, in justice, equally important, both to himself and to the community, with that of a prince.
Shall we begin our iniquiry with the Education of the Poor? Alas, Sir! the poor are deprived of every thing which can bear the name of education. Their parents are continually employed in providing the mere necessaries of life, and are themselves most deplorably ignorant; they have neither time, inclination, nor abilities, to inculcate morals into their children. They allow them to run about without controul, till they attain that degree of strength which enables them to add a small pittance to the family income; and the moment this period arrives, they consign them to ignorance and hard labour for ever. Of all grievances, this total ignorance is the greatest; it degrades the mind, it smothers the lurking seeds of genius, it is a fertile source of all the vices. A certain degree of labour is good for man; but that degree which prevents him from informing himself of his interests, of his rights, and of his duties, is the most intolerable and destructive of all calamities.
Whatever inducements there may be to constant labour, nature, with irresistible authority, demands occasional relaxations. When we have degraded the mind, when we have destroyed the very idea of any pleasures but those of sense, when we have effectually precluded all intellectual and moral improvement, when we have changed the man almost into a brute; to what relaxations must he have recourse? To riot, to debauchery, to indulgences fatal to himself, and ruinous to his family. The greatest possible industry, temperance, and frugality, are requisite to enable a workman to maintain and educate his children; and it seems the height of folly to expect a regular and unremitting attention to these difficult virtues, from the most ignorant and most neglected part of the community. Yet the smallest deviation from these duties, even a casual sickness, or a temporary stagnation of trade, are sufficient to reduce whole families to misery and despair; to put them into such a situation, that they must make their choice, between sufferings, which even the philosopher could not easily support, and dishonesty. I believe I should not exceed the truth, in saying, that the families of two thirds of our workmen have, at some time, suffered the extremity of want. Shall I be told that this arises from their profligacy and extravagance? I grant it often does; but I must contend that this profligacy ought to be ascribed to their ignorance; this extravagance to the want of almost any motive to economy: both have their source in that state of degradation to which excessive inequality has reduced them. What is that degree of virtue which you require from the poor, as the price of the bare necessaries of life? It is a continued and most difficult exertion of self-command: And how do you propose to enable them to attain this high pitch of virtue? By ignorance, oppression, and contempt.
Hardships, if possible, still more distressing, fill up the measure of misery to the poor. While by their utmost efforts they are scarcely able to continue their existence, they continually witness the splendour and profusion of others. They see immense sums daily lavished on show and folly, on entertainments and equipages, dress, servants, dogs, and horses; and it is impossible for them to avoid the reflection, that a small portion of this superfluity would remove all their pressures, would render their families cheerful and happy. They do not see the price which is paid for this splendour; they cannot perceive the cares, the disgust, the remorse which are covered by smiles; they connect the situation of the rich with ease, admiration, and pleasure; and finding nothing in the characters of the Great to entitle them to such distinction and happiness, their peace of mind is ruined by envy, while their exentions are damped by the hoplessness of their situation. How can they ever expect to escape from their present difficulties? The small pittance which a workman can, at any one time, save from his wages, can have no perceptible effect on his future welfare. The motive to parsimony is too weak to regulate his conduct; its advantages are so distant, and seem so precarious, that nothing is left to counterbalance the strong temptation of present enjoyment. If he is married, all prospects of raising his condition are at an end; he may be considered as fortunate, while, by his labour, he can maintain his family, and he looks forward to public charity as his only resource in sickness, and in age: Man in this situation soon loses all ambition; he becomes discontented with the present, and careless of the future; he squanders whatever trifle he may procure beyond the necessaries of life; he gradually contracts a fondness for improper indulgences; habits of dissipation grow upon him; his labour at last becomes irksome; he seeks to drown reflection in riotous debauchery; and that he may procure the means of idleness and dissipation, he is at first guilty of slight transgressions, till, by degrees, becoming hardened in iniquity, he no longer shrinks from the most attrocious crimes. What man of understanding or humanity can contemplate such a picture, and repeat the absurd expression, that all at present is well? No, Sir, all is not well; it is neither just nor expedient that, to swell the pomp of a few, the majority of the people should be condemned to the most brutish ignorance, to envy, to want, to debauchery, to the most flagitious crimes. No, Sir, all is not well, although the rich and luxurious, careless of the anguish of their fellow men, may have the effrontery to assert it. I am, Sir,