This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
(1) Such charity must not be administered in connection with stated pauperism, or in public institutions.
(2) This is the best field for individual benevolence, unless the prostration of business is so universal that nothing but the credit and authority of the government can intervene.
(3) Government may, by foreign loans or other means, remit the pressure of ordinary taxation.
(4) Government may appropriate the necessaries of life for the public good, if the emergency is as great as would justify the same invasion of property in war; not otherwise, not merely to save expense or extinguish speculation.
(5) Government may very properly employ its marine and its finance in furnishing subsistence promptly, at low rates, and on easy terms.
(6) Government may, in exceptional cases, offer employment on works of public concern. This should be done at least to the extent of such enterprises as are in themselves desirable and profitable. The time of general distress is the only time in which government can largely enter the field of industry without working a considerable share of disturbance and mischief. All works of manifest utility should be undertaken at such a time. This will cost less, and be a mighty kindness to the suffering poor. Governments have often proceeded much further than this, have undertaken works that involved a far greater expense to itself than relief to labor, and entailed a permanent burden on the country. This was done in Ireland during the great famine, and has more than once been done in France. The policy of such employment is very doubtful; for, —
(7) Government should administer its charity to the necessary amount by direct personal assistance, generally of supplies in kind, through its own local agencies. The degradation of accepting relief is, in such cases, removed by the universality of the distress. It is the most appropriate and least costly remedy. For example: it is not a matter of question, that the assistance which the United States furnished during the Irish famine, in its cargoes of provisions and clothing, was more sensible and effective, in proportion to the expense, than the outlay of the British Government on useless roads.
But the occasions for such extraordinary charity are few. The greater the freedom of intercourse, the wider the ramifications of trade, the quicker the sympathies of industry, the less frequent and the less destructive will be all local and temporary calamities. In the present winter, when, by the unusual severity of war, hundreds of thousands of families have been thrown on the public support, government, both State and national, has adopted, without hesitation and without discussion, the most simple, economical, and beneficial method of relief. There has been no loud outcry for grand public works. No useless costly piles will remain as tokens of this hard winter, and burdens to every succeeding year. The hungry mouths have fed off the hand of government, open now in charity, as lately clenched in wrath.
6th, In what spirit should charity be administered?
In that of kindness and respect. No condition of life and character is so abandoned that it needs or deserves that marks of ignominy should be attached. When the murderer, with his bloody hands, is to be executed, the sentiment of the community shrinks from the idea of adding insult to his doom. He is treated among no magnanimous people with contumely or outrage. If his manhood is respected, even in his crime, should not those who are the victims of misfortune, or at the worst of only passive vices, be free from more than the disgrace which is necessary to their condition? It is unchristian, it is cowardly, to insult by word or badge the unfortunates of society. No true man will do it: no brave people will allow it to be done. The followers of Mahomet would not suffer a tattered bit of paper to blow by them or remain on the ground, but would reverently pick it up, lest it should contain some fragment of Alcoran. There is no broken piece of humanity in the mire of poverty and crime on which the proudest of earth can place his foot, and not crush God's image. Tenderly, reverently, should we bear ourselves to all; but to none more kindly, more ourselves rebuked, than to the forlorn and helpless.
Yet there should be no weakness or paltering in charity. While all harshness and contumely are avoided, public maintenance should never be made desirable to the able-bodied workman, nor should even the feeble be allowed to escape just so much of labor as their condition permits. This is justice to the community, and kindness to the unfortunate. Especially should the public sense discourage and banish that shameless and obtrusive mendicancy by which the bold and bad snatch away the portion of the weak, the honest, the retiring poor. The truly helpless and suffering should be sheltered under the wings of charity; the indolent and wasteful, driven out into the storms of the world.