Puslapio vaizdai

country, that a Board of some eight or nine gentlemen, armed certainly with extraordinary powers, but still not authorised to repeal or enact, but simply to administer laws, should secretly and systematically set themselves to overturn the injunctions of the statute-book, and to wrest from a numerous

sustentation” which has been so recently declared to be their imprescriptible right by the highest legal authorities in Scotland, without provoking the interference of a guardian Legislature, or drawing forth the unanimous protest of an indignant nation. It is true, the parties wronged are the poor-the down-trodden, the tattered, the hungry, and the friendless poor-to whom the spirit of Selfishness has denied the simplest offices of humanity, and whom the power of Authority would now exclude from the commonest privileges of citizenship. But yet it may be well to remember that the Constitution can be as fatally wounded in the person of a pauper, as of a peer. Such is the noble doctrine which the genius of British liberty teaches. There are rights and privileges of a high and noble order, which none but the more distinguished citizens are yet permitted to possess; but there are others of a less glittering, perhaps, but not less valuable character, which, in the darkest days of British history, were the birthright of all. In these latter are included the right to be governed according to the laws, and the right to a free and equal administration of justice. Both of these have been shamefully violated in the persons of the poor of Scotland. A secret and irresponsible Board has been erected, which takes upon itself, without the sanction of Queen, Lords, or Commons, to contravene the statutes, and overturn the decisions of the courts. To complete this new despotism, no pauper is permitted to have access to the College of Justice, until he first obtain permission from this central Board, although his object is to obtain redress from the wrongs inflicted by this very Board, or the parochial authorities of whom it has constituted itself the patron and protector. The purport of the regulation virtually is, that the poor shall not be permitted to ask for justice in the usual legal channels, until the parties of whose injustice they complain may choose to allow them! Had the parochial authorities. been bound equally with the poor to submit to the decrees of the Board of Supervision, then, however unconstitutional the law, it would, at least, have had the merit of dealing impartially with the parties most closely interested; but while the

amount of allowances in the various districts of Scotland, the more reason do we find for surprise, if not a much severer feeling, in regard to the policy which has been pursued by the Board of Supervision. To this central body, according to the new law, all complaints of inadequate aliment must be addressed in the first instance. No pau- | portion of Her Majesty's subjects that “needful per, however cruelly starved, is permitted access to the Supreme Court, until the Board first decide that he has a just cause of action; and by this novel contrivance the Board has literally become invested with those functions which formerly devolved upon the Court of Session. There is a marked contrast between the decisions of the Court and those of the Board; and the poor have certainly not been gainers by the change. The voice of the Judges was ever raised on the side of the oppressed, and we believe there is not a single instance, in recent years, of a pauper complaining to their Lordships of inadequate relief, without obtaining ample and immediate redress. But on the other hand, so far as can be gathered from this Report, there does not appear to be one case in which the Board of Supervision has declared a poor man to have a just cause of action! Out of 497 complaints lodged with the Board in the short space of six months, no fewer than 397 were directly refused any redress; the remaining 182 having been with drawn, on account of some additional aliment wrung from the Parochial authorities by the remonstrance of the Board. It is impossible for a casual peruser of the Report to judge whether the additional aliment thus obtained by the complaining paupers be adequate or not; because this document, though it be the only account of their stewardship which the Board is called upon to render, very singularly omits to inform us what the aliment complained of amounted to; how much additional relief was granted; or whether the parties complaining were single or married, healthy or bedridden, partially or totally destitute, solitary paupers or the heads of young and helpless families. Had the Board intended to keep Parliament and the country in perfect ignorance of its ideas of what constituted adequate relief to the poor, it could not have constructed its return of applications for increase of aliment, on a happier or more suitable principle. We can well believe, that, amid the hurry of winding up the affairs of a protracted Parliament and the bustle of preparation for a general election, the Report has been quite successful in blinding the eyes, both of the officials of the Government, and the members of the Legislature, to the real char-Act of 1845 debars a pauper from appealing to acter of the proceedings of the Board; but, to the writer of this article, and to those who, like him, have other and clearer sources of information than this official document, it is abundantly evident that the Board is in the almost daily habit of refusing the applications of paupers, whose allowances do not amount to one-half the sum which the Court of Session promptly awarded to the widow of Ceres, or the sisters Halliday of Balmaclellan.

It is an alarming novelty in this constitutional

the Court of Session from an adverse decision of the Board, it places no similar restriction upon the parochial authorities with whom he is struggling, but leaves them full power to drag the poor man through a painful process of litigation whenever the decision of the Board may chance to be in his favour. A more partial, unconstitutional, and un-British regulation, was never admitted to the statute-book; and having tamely permitted this outrage on the rights of the poor, who can tell where the evil will stop? Once familiarise with

the legislation and legal practice of this country | parish is £8 Os. 7d. per annum ; in another it is such maxims as, that no poor man shall be per- 2s. 6d.; and between these wide extremes, there are mitted to enter a court of law against the rich average allowances of every amount. Sometimes until a secret Board sit in conclave upon his case, the greatest difference prevails in the same city. and declare that he has a just cause of action, and In the city parish of Glasgow, for example, the what becomes of the boasted purity of British average allowance is £5 2s. 3d.; while in the justice, the equality of British subjects, the disen- Barony parish, in the same city, it is only thralling magic of British soil, and all the high- £3 17s. 8d. No one will say that the expense of sounding attributes with which we have been subsistence varies so much in these two parishes accustomed to associate the name and glory of our as to justify this wide difference of allowance; country? Could the practical mischief of such and upon what other ground is it possible to dean innovation be confined to the class of paupers, | fend it? In the northern county of Ross, the many might not care perhaps to bear its shame; average allowance is £1 9s. 3d.; while in the but of this there can be no security. The blow southern county of Kirkcudbright, it is £47s. 3d. which strikes down the most common right, in- It cannot be said that the poor are so much more evitably weakens the stability of the highest. numerous in the former county than in the latter, The poison of injustice habitually administered or that the value of property is so much less, that to the meanest extremity of the body politic, will it is unable to sustain so great a burden; for circulate with malignant virulence through the Kirkcudbrightshire, in proportion to its populaentire frame. tion, supports fully twice as many poor as Rossshire, and expends, in relief, to the extent of 1s. 34d. per pound on its real property; while the expenditure of Ross-shire does not amount to more than 5d. per pound on its real property. Yet the Board of Supervision must be pretty well satisfied with the state of matters in Ross-shire; for after a tour of inquiry, made by their Secretary, in the Highland counties, that gentleman arrived at the conclusion that 1s. 3d. per week is a quite adequate allowance for an entirely destitute Highland pauper! If 1s. 3d. be a sufficient aliment in Ross-shire, the allowances given in many other parts of Scotland must be extremely extravagant; and if the Board does not think it necessary to raise the allowances in the one case, it ought to reduce them in the other. The glaring inequality which prevails in the mode of treatment must necessarily attract the poor from the favourable to the unfavourable parishes, and thus prove a source of great injustice to those very districts where the law is most strictly obeyed.

Whatever evils may be expected to result to other classes of the people, there can be no doubt that to the poor the closing of the Court of Session is daily bearing very bad fruits. Complaints of inadequate relief are rejected by the Board of Supervision, which there can be no doubt would have received immediate redress from the Court; and even in those cases in which "the ground of complaint is removed" by the Board, the additional aliment allowed, always much less than was judged necessary in similar cases by the Court, is only obtained after the most distressing delay. A case appears in the return of applications to the Board, in which, after having remitted the complaint to the parochial authorities three several times, the Board at length intimated that permission would be granted the pauper to enter the Court of Session; and additional relief was granted nearly six months after the complaint was lodged. A poor cripple and his destitute family were thus deprived nearly half a-year of the "needful sustentation" to which they were The Report of the Board of Supervision, thereentitled by law; while the parochial Board, which fore, along with many signs of progress to a better was the cause of this injustice, was not only sub-system, exhibits much that is objectionable. The jected to no expenses, but actually gained by the illegal act to the extent of nearly four poundsthe amount of the poor man's additional aliment for six months; whereas, had the case been decided by the Court, the parish would have been compelled to pay over to the pauper the additional allowance from the date of his first application to the parochial board, besides bearing the expense of the litigation. It is obvious that the effect of this change must be to encourage parochial boards in resisting the just claims of the poor; and that, in fact, it operates as a premium upon the obduracy with which they disregard the entreaties of paupers, and the orders of the Board of Supervision.

Another striking evil which still clings to the administration of the poor-law in Scotland, is the inequality in the amount of allowances in the various parishes, The average allowance in one

minor defects, to which we have not been able to
allude, are numerous, but very inferior in impor-
tance to the neglect of destitute children, the stin-
ted allowances given to the most deserving poor,
and the encouragement of mendicity and vagrancy,
which still characterise our poor-law system. Let
the benevolent classes be once fully assured that
every really destitute person is readily and ade-
quately provided for by the regular officers, and in
a very short time you may sweep from society
those daring bands of vagrants which infest the
wynds of large cities, and periodically spread
plunder and havoc over the rural districts. But
in present circumstances, every benevolent person
knows very
well that a poor-law official is not one
who relieves, but one who wrangles with the poor,
and if possible denies them support; and so long
as this lasts, vagrancy, imposture, and theft must
be tolerated.


any time in the East, and been conversant with any one of its numerous populations, without having become intimately convinced of this; though few, perhaps, have studied, and much fewer still comprehended, the range of circumstances in which the peculiarity originated. Persons who have philosophised in one corner of the world, and upon a narrow basis, are too apt to conclude that our thoughts and opinions exist inde

we denominate nature. They forget that man is a part of the universe, and not altogether an independent part, since all his primitive ideas come to him from without, while his feelings are moulded and are the creation of his mind, impregnated by external influences.

AMONG the questions suggested by the present condition of the world, none, perhaps, is more deeply interesting than that which regards the state and prospects of Western Asia. Lying in close juxta-position with Europe, its aspect, nevertheless, presents the most striking contrast with everything European. Covered, in many places, by primitive populations, and elsewhere by the mingled dregs of all races, it has long excited the attention of statesmen and diplomatists, of politi-pendently of those influences, the sum of which cians and philosophers, and displayed moral and social phenomena which have perplexed them all. A contemporary writer, who, to give greater currency to his speculations, has clothed them in the forms of fiction, deserves the credit of having directed some degree of public attention to that part of the Asiatic continent comprehending Syria and Palestine. How far his opinions are to be interpreted seriously, it is, of course, impossible to decide; and this constitutes the chief objection to works which are neither fact nor fiction, and embody innumerable notions for which the author would not be held strictly responsible. But this is of comparatively little moment. The important point just now for Europe to clear up is, whether or not our actual principles of civilisation be sufficiently powerful to regenerate society in the East. In order to arrive at any definite conclusion, we must previously be acquainted with the spirit which pervades that society, which travellers have usually overlooked, and which the chroniclers of passing events scem hitherto to have regarded as beneath their notice.

The moment we traverse the Mediterranean and pass into the East, we encounter tribes of men whom we can with difficulty recognise as our contemporaries. Instead of having migrated from one geographical division of the globe to another, we seem to have travelled back centuries in time, and to be placed among generations commonly supposed to have long past away. The novelties we observe in costume and manners constitute the least remarkable feature in the picture before us: were all the inhabitants of Syria, and the East generally, to be clothed at once in the garb of Englishmen or Frenchmen, and to adopt, at the same time, our furniture and our cookery, our domestic architecture and our amusements, the most essential difference between them and us would still remain untouched. Even the adoption of our opinions, religious, political, and literary, would leave behind a line of demarcation too broad to allow any approximation to identity.

In what, then, it will perhaps be asked, does the difference between them and us consist? It may seem philosophical to say, that man in every age and country is the same; and that all that distinguishes race from race, and people from people, is comprehended under the terms, religious and civil institutions. But there is something else something which, for want of a more appropriate expression, we must call the make and constitution of the mind. No one can have resided

In Syria all great and prolific ideas may be said to be extinct. It has no creed of any kind on which it can itself place reliance, much less which it can offer fearlessly to the rest of the world. Syria has always been a sort of Golgotha of faiths, where the intellectual offspring of other lands has found death and sepulture. The streams of population have very strongly set in from every part of the world, towards that lovely land, where they have melted away, in a manner not explained in history. Before the invasion of the Israelites, who fought their way thither from Egyptian servitude, it had been conquered and possessed by a great variety of tribes from the desert and elsewhere; but none has taken root in it; to all appearance there never has been a Syrian people-a people living under the same institutions-speaking the same language-believing the same opinion-and tracing their origin to the same stock. On the contrary, fragments of a hundred nations have met there and settled in sight of each other, but without amalgamating-without forgetting their difference of origin-without laying aside their hereditary antipathies-without, in short, acquiring anything in common, a spark of patriotism or fraternal attachment. Consequently, the annals of Syria are without parallel in the history of the world. Small as it is, it has never, properly speaking, formed one country, though its numerous tribes have, nearly in all ages, been constrained to submit together to some foreign conqueror.

There is now no aboriginal vitality in Syria. The very Arabs of the desert, though distinguished for boldness and generosity in their native waste, are soon forsaken by the proud spirit of enterprise when they settle in Syria, and induced to prefer enjoyment to exertion, and to devote to dreamy indolence the life which in the desert would have been swayed by stern virtue or ambition.

Of this Mohammed himself was sensible, as we may gather from the observation which he made on Damascus. Having, from the neighbouring mountains, surveyed its gardens and groves; its orchards, meadows, and limpid streams, and in

haled the perfumed atmosphere which breathed | large the field of political intrigue, and multiply around, he said it was too delicious, and refused the points by which it hopes to obtain a footing to enter it. He felt that the rude man of the in the East. To unmask the iniquity of such wilderness, who aimed at affecting the moral a design would be highly praiseworthy, because, aspect of half the world, had nothing to do in so however cheaply we may hold the intellect of the interesting a place. His mind and body required Syrians, it is impossible we should regard them to be braced by the air of the desert, by toil, by without sympathy and compassion. They reckon fatigue, by resolute contention with man and among them a considerable number of that pernature. The bait which he so wisely shunned, secuted race, the Jews, who have there, perhaps, the caliphs, his successors, were caught with, to been subjected to more ignominy, insult, and contheir ruin. Their courage and their virtue melted tempt, than anywhere else in the world. Mr. away in the spicy valleys of Syria, where their D'Israeli, in his recent work, represents the thing stern creed and martial manners have degene- differently. But no traveller who has ever set rated into a stupid superstition and the habits of foot in the East, and witnessed there the practical thieves. degradation of the Israelites, will corroborate his views. Among the terms of reproach which an angry Mussulman can apply to another, the most opprobious and offensive is that of " Yahoodi," or " Jew." The scale of insult runs, as nearly as possible, as follows: When the annoyance is slight, the offended individual satisfies his bile with calling his neighbour an "Infidel;" but the term is often applied jocularly, as we denominate a child a "little rogue." When more anger is intended to be expressed, the reviler selects the word "dog;" from which, as his rage increases, he will descend to "pig ;" and, lastly, to "Jew," beyond which there is but one lower depth, into which a sinner against social usages can be thrust, but this is so peculiarly Oriental, that we abstain from translating the term.

Everything throughout the Syrian land, from north to south, bears upon it the indelible stamp of decay and death. Populations, formerly numerous and powerful, have dwindled almost to nothing. Industry is at a stand-still, commerce is fast forsaking the country, agriculture is neglected, the government is oppressive, and the subjects are, in consequence, discontented and disloyal. No doubt fresh insurrection and revolution will, in the course of time, be organised in Syria; and it might even, if properly investigated, be found to be true that, at this moment, efforts are making to undermine the authority of the Ottoman Porte, and give a new master or masters to the Syrians. But this would affect Europe only in so far as the change might be secured by its own political intrigues or combinations; for of so little consequence, to the rest of the world, are the internal struggles and vicissitudes of that country in themselves, that the overthrow and establishment of a new dynasty in Syria, if brought about by native means, would not disturb, for an hour, the calculations of any statesman in Christendom.

At present the East is awaiting, in a passive state, the impression that may be made upon it by the masculine powers of the West. This must be quite evident to those who considered the late troubles in the Lebanon, which were excited, continued, and terminated entirely by European influence. Throughout the whole range of country inhabited by the Maronites, French emissaries laboured for years, sowing diligently the seeds of dissension, undermining the authority of the Sultan, sharpening their prejudices against the Druses, and giving birth to indefinite hopes of effectual succour from Christendom. With the result of all this active intriguing the world is too well acquainted. The ambition of the Maronite was extinguished in blood. Having got up the storm, the French agents effected their escape, and suffered it to burst pitilessly on the heads of their victims. The Druses rose in insurrectionthe Turks poured an army into the mountains all resistance was overpowered-and the wretched Maronites learned, too late, that they had been induced to lean on a broken reed.

At this moment European diplomacy is again at work among the scattered tribes of the Lebanon; not, however, with a view to civilise them, and improve their condition, but in order to en

Condemn, as earnestly and sincerely as we may, the prejudices of all Eastern nations against the Jews, it is impossible for us to deny the fact, nor are we, indeed, able to perceive any advantage that could accrue from creating in Europe a false impression upon the subject. The Osmanlis seldom read our speculations, and when they do, can only respect us when they find our reasoning based on truth. Now they are conscious that, throughout the Turkish empire, the Hebrew race is under a ban, condemned to carry on the most disreputable callings-overwhelmed with perpetual scorn-excluded from all socialintercourse-thrust aside, in the common highways of life, by the meanest and most despised among the believers in the Koran-and condemned to console themselves, for all this weight of scorn and obloquy, by the possession of money. It is quite true that capital is power, and that pashas and grandees in the East, as well as in the West, are occasionally constrained to mask their dislike, and ask favours of the persecuted race. But this, only, is not a thing to be proud of. That the moneypower sometimes triumphs over birth and rank, over prejudice and bigotry, is quite true; but this does not prove the non-existence of fanaticism, or show that the objects of perpetual contempt are not despised. We are not excusing the ignorance and folly of the Orientals, but simply stating an undeniable fact. By way of illustration, let any man inquire for the Jewish quarter in any eastern city, and he will invariably be directed to the worst built, the most dingy, filthy, and infected with malaria, where the devoted children of mammon hoard their gold, in stench and obscurity. Scarely

will a Mohammedan deign to look into its unsa- forefathers, experiences the most humiliating convoury streets, where his nose is assailed by any-sciousness of inferiority. He sees that the man thing but the perfumes of Arabia, the entrance from the West, of colossal stature and iron-mould, to which he proverbially compares with the de- can do what he can't-that he can subdue to his scent to Gehennam, and whose inhabitants he own uses the powers of the elements-that he is believes to be destined to the warmest conceivable irresistible in war, and wise and full of resources quarter in the next world. in peace--and the pride which besotted ignorance engenders melts away in the light of facts.

The worst consequence, perhaps, resulting from feelings and ideas so reprehensible, is the sense of degradation experienced by the sufferers; whatever may in this country be imagined to the contrary, the Jew of the East almost acquiesce in the judgment of his Turkish neighbour. He feels himself to be weak and powerless, and perpetually breathing an atmosphere of scorn and obloquy; withers and dwindles, under its deleterious influence, into the wretched creature he is supposed to be. He crawls about the city in fear and trembling, and never experiences the dignified feelings of a man, but when bending over his gold, the sole staff of his life, with which he sometimes is enabled to smite the heathen, and return them a portion of the scorn they lavish on him. In England a Jew may always be respectable if he pleases. The laws recognise in him most of the rights of citizenship, and will shortly grant him all he can desire, or that humanity can contend for in his behalf. But how different is the case in the East? There he has no rights, is acknowledged by no law, protected by no institutions; but simply suffered to exist as a necessary evil, like a drain or a kennel; all but his own people shun him in the street, and consider themselves polluted by his very touch. Even the fascinations of beauty, which reconcile the nobles and princes of the East to the women of all other nations, seldom or never subdue their aversion for a Jewess, whom they generally regard with as much abhorrence as a vampire. We never knew of a female Yahood having been admitted into a harem. The inerradicable prejudices of creed and race forbid the shocking idea. All the other inmates, at the first glimpse of that acquiline physiognomy, which our less fastidious taste often regards as handsome, would immediately take to flight, and leave the perfumed chambers and luxurious gardens a desert to their possessor.

Nothing, therefore, can be more preposterous than the idea of seeking, among the unfortunate Yahoodis of Syria, the germs of a new revelation to ameliorate the condition of the human race. The mind of Asia, from Behring's Straits to the Isthmus of Suez, is burnt out. Nothing but the cinders, as it were, of creeds and dogmas, bespreads its empires and kingdoms. The dwellers in secluded fastnesses-the pastoral wanderers over steppes and plains-the ignorant and uncivilised populations which congregate together, and carry on rude trades and callings, in large, but disorganised cities, still cherish the wrecks of outworn religions, sometimes with warmth and enthusiasm, but for the most part with a lassitude and indifference which it is painful to witness. When brought, therefore, accidentally into contact with an European, the Oriental, in spite of the stupid prejudices which he has inherited from his

This is more especially the case with respect to Englishmen, a wonderful idea of whose power and character has penetrated even into the wildest deserts and least enlightened portions of Asia. Who and what we are, they frequently fail to comprehend. With the resources, and even, perhaps, with the geographical position of our islands, they are unacquainted. They only know that we have marched as conquerors over half the east; that from central Asia to the Chinese wall, our banners have waved, and our soldiers deposited their bones; and that our fleets have swept like hurricanes, along the coasts of every maritime nation in the habitable world-that we possess more colonies than they can number, and that we have acquired everything, by the exertion of an intellectual energy, never hitherto displayed by any other people known to history. If the project, consequently, were proposed to them of reconstructing our social system, by means of any mental influence originating in the East, they would treat the idea with the most contemptuous ridicule. To discover the gigantic proportions of Great Britain, we must detract from her as we do from the Pyramids, and take our stand among the tribes and races which contemplate her from a distance. That the Asiatics thoroughly comprehend us, and are able to infer our future destiny, from what we have already accomplished, we are very far from affirming. But the slightest possible knowledge of their opinions and manner of thinking will suffice to convince us that they would as soon think of deranging the march of the constellations, as hope to give a bias to our civilisation, by any process of thought or modification of belief originating among them, in their present helpless condition; and if Asia, generally, be a spent volcano, Syria may be regarded as its most exhausted crater.

Nevertheless, the material prosperity of the country might be indefinitely promoted, could we but impart to it some few of these institutions to which Europe owes all its greatness. Mr. D'Israeli ridicules Parliaments, and declaims with bitterness against what he calls the tyranny of selfgovernment. At present the Syrians if consulted might possibly, for want of knowing better, agree with him; but if they would ever emerge from the miserable state of servitude in which they now grovel, they must consent, in these matters, to imitate the Franks, and be at the pains to tyrannise over themselves. Upon careful inquiry, it would, we think, be found that the desire for some such revolution already exists among them, though the unfortunate circumstances in which they have long been placed their sectarian divisions, the obstacles, material and political, which have obstructed the development of trade

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