« PreviousContinue »
that such a vagrancy is far more lucrative in humble districts than in the Squares and Avenues and Terraces of the plutocracy. But there is all the difference between “the unfortunate” and “the beggar.” The lowest poor of the East End never beg. A few weeks ago some fifteen hundred poor match-makers were thrown out of work by a trade-strike. The Socialists advised them to go in procession to the West End, begging of the rich classes to give them bread. They replied with indignation, “We have not got so low as to go cadging; we would much rather starve than do that." And this is the ordinary spirit of the London poor—that is, of the “ bright side" of the London poor; and it is of the bright side we are now speaking. They have an immense amount of what the rich call proper pride; but nothing at all of the improper pride of the rich. There is a striking dignity in their ordinary endurance of crushing woe. Domestic troubles, domestic famine, which even to think of makes one groan—are borne by them with a profound calm and deep silence, such as the old Greek philosophers would have richly praised, and the old Greek poets would have sung.
IV. From alms-needing to alms-giving-what a leap! Many an Englishman will shy a copper at a poor man, and will consider that he has merited a paradise. This is not the place in which to discuss alms-giving, save so far as it is an apology for want of charity. And want of charity, on the part of the comfortable classes, is the main cause why the London poor are so unhappy. Let a few words be permitted on this point. “Low Radicalism" is provoked chiefly by the upper classes,—who affect to be so extremely disgusted at it,-by their bad example of dismal egotism and complacency, or by their vulgar treatment of those who work hard for them. This is true in all the grooves of moneyed life. Thus, a "Company," in order to raise its dividends by a paltry fraction, will overwork and underpay all its servants; leaving fathers to keep their families on a very few shillings a week, so as to add oneeighth to the six and a quarter per cent. interest. And then the shareholders in this company will column their Christmas charities in the very newspapers which are read by those very workmen from whose muscles and whose stomachs that extra fraction per cent. per annum was wrung by such simply shameful injustice. Here we have one scandal of London poverty. And in the same spirit business managers, overseers of poor work-people, who have no regard for the health or happiness of their servants, will prate about honesty and integrity and justice, while sapping the nerves and the very souls of young and old by their brutal want of sense and sensibility. "Charities” are no reparation for all
this. A country is Pagan which can contemplate it, and there is more of it in England than in any country. England is the slave country of Christendom. Par excellence it is the country of unhappy workmen. It is the country of a sort of national penal servitude, London being the Tullamore of the convicts. And to compensate for a chronic state of barbarism the newspaper-charitygiving is ostentatious. To patronize the poor is to exalt oneself; and this is the most abundant "active" charity. Rich people who would not habitually go into "the slums" if they were asked by an angel guardian to do it, are as proud of their Christmas cheques, Christmas blankets, Christmas soups, as though they had almost sacrificed a dinner. The babbling about social virtues is social cant. The London poor perfectly appreciate the London rich, when Grosvenor Square sends a five pound cheque to Shoreditch.
But just as there is a bright side to the London poor, so there is a bright side to the London rich. And, first, let the highest praise be given to the Anglican clergy-who, though not rich, are the chief distributors of most “charities” which are placed in their hands by the benevolent-for the admirable devotion and constancy with which they work their hardest in the East End. It is not an agreeable lot to live all one's days in neighborhoods where there is no cultured class, no “society;” or to spend one's days among the poorest of the poor, ministering to their bodies as well as souls. These gentlemen deserve infinite praise. They have difficulties of all kinds to contend with. They are sometimes asked, “Why do you not discourage early marriages, which are the cause of much of the misery of the poor?" Their answer is, " Because, if we did so, the young people would get married in some secular or possibly Pagan way, and we think it better to try to keep them within restraint." Again, they have the difficulty of protecting their flocks against the howling infidelity which encircles them; and this difficulty to Protestant clergymen is necessarily twice as great as it would be to priests of the Catholic faith. Moreover, they have to contend against the enchantments of the spirit shops, the drinking clubs, the large variety of cheap allurements to dissipation; nor can they persuade their poor parishioners to come to church in their rough toilets--Sunday clothes being an exceptional luxury for the very poor. On the other hand, they are assisted, and very generously assisted, by exceptional, kind, and wealthy individuals, who provide concerts, evening clubs, and amusing lectures-besides helping to found museums and polytechnics—for the entertainment and the instruction of many thousands. The universities also have sent their emissaries to the East End; educating and also examining the aspiring poor, and thus imparting a high tone to some poor neighborhoods.
As to the normal conventional postulate," poverty is a crime;" it is national, perhaps Protestant, certainly British. In Rome, in the good days of Pius IX., poor people who were incompetent to work were presented with a sort of medal of incompetency, and were allowed to make their living by begging. In England the rule is : “Go to the workhouse or starve." But the workhouse is in all respects a prison save only that the leaving it is optional. So the very poor, as a rule, prefer to starve. And they do starve. About five thousand people die every year in London from either rapid or protracted starvation. And nobody's night's rest is disturbed by it-nobody whose feather-bed is well made. Now and then there is a spasmodic eleemosynariness; the rich have a sort of fit of pauper interest; H. R. H. goes down into the slums, and a brief fashion of sympathy sets in. Then all is cold again for five years. Unless there is a riot or an epidemic, sweet oblivion lulls the interests of the comfortable.
There is no cure for it. Politico-economic causes may be modified; tradesmen may abandon "sweating," or may decrease it; the foreign immigration may become less; socialism and communism may lose their hold on desperate men who now rush at any theory which looks promising; injurious clubs may be discountenanced by the authorities; an enlarged electorate may bring the poor man's friends into Parliament; wealthy guilds may make better use of their funds; temperance may be enforced by act of Parliament; education may be fostered by the philanthropic; and museums and polytechnics may be multiplied; but-all this granted—ruinous evils must prevail. The gravitation of the rich classes to exclusive neighborhoods; the horror of the "respectable" classes of poor districts; the sense of despair among the poor of being really cared for by the government, by society, by the rich tradesmen; the habit of commercial companies to think only of their dividends and not of the work people who create them; the determination of most landlords to exact the largest possible rent for the smallest and most wretched of lodgings; the brutal indifference of managers and overseers to the health and happiness of their subordinates; and, above all, the prevailing English fallacy that poverty in itself is a crime; these and kindred causes must keep the poor poor, must keep the poorest from even the first rung of the ladder. Nor even if London should become Catholic-one of the most unlikely of hypotheses—would many of the natural evils be removed. Rich Catholics are as conventional as rich Protestants. This, at least, is the general principle. The London poor are partly the product of the size of London; but human nature-not the bricklayer or the politician-is the Alpha and Omega of all scandals.
THE DIOCESE OF QUEBEC UNDER EARLY BRITISH
1. Mandements, Lettres Pastorales et Circulaires des Evêques de Quebec,
By Mgr. Têtu and L'abbe C. 0. Gagnon. Second volume. A.
Cote & Co. Quebec, 1888. 2. Biography of Bishop Plessis. By L'abbe Ferland. G. & G. E.
Desbarats. Quebec, 1864. 3. Etudes Historiques et Legales sur la Liberté Religieuse en Canada.
By S. Pagnuelo, Advocate. G. O. Beauchemin & Valois. Mon
treal, 1872. 4. Le droit Civil Canadien. By MM. Doutre & Lareau, Avocats. Mon
treal, 1872. 5. History of Lower Canada. By Robert Christie. Quebec, 1850. 6. Rome in Canada. By Charles Lindsey. Toronto, 1877: 7. The Maseres Collection of Papers. Attorney-General Maseres.
1772, et seq. 8. Reports on the Canadian Archives. By Douglas Brymner. 1888.
HE second volume of the Mandements, Lettres Pastorales et
Circulaires des Evêques de Quebec, issued within the past few weeks, is an elaborate work entrusted to the competent hands of Mgr. Têtu and L'abbe C. U. Gagnon, of Quebec, and will be of interest to all historical students.
This volume covers a period of over sixty years, from 1741 to 1806, and embraces the last of the old French régime and the first half century of English rule. It closes with Bishop Denaut, and the next volume will be of even greater interest, as certain to contain much of the writings of Bishop Plessis not generally known to the English-speaking public. It was during the episcopate of this distinguished prelate that the vast Diocese of Quebec was divided; and so every part of the Dominion of Canada, as well English as French, is referred back to those times in tracing the origin of its own diocese. The period embraced in the volumes already published is of interest to the whole of North America. In considering in advance some circumstances in the early history of Canada under British rule, the reader will the better appreciate the position of Bishop Plessis and his predecessors; he will be able also to see more fully the whole situation when the next volume of the Mandements is put before him. The writer of this paper has necessarily drawn from other authorities, and will look
forward with great eagerness for their confirmation or correction by the work in question.
There are some circumstances in the history of the Church in Canada under British rule, of more than local interest. Towards the middle of the last century it will be remembered that, by the fortunes of war, Canada with all its dependencies fell under the sway of the English. The Canadian population at that time may be set down at seventy thousand inhabitants, all of whom, with the exception of the civil and military officers and a few others, not aggregating altogether five hundred persons, were Roman Catholics. Freedom of religion was guaranteed to the Catholics, but only such freedom as the laws of Great Britain permitted to Catholics. At that time there was no freedom for the exercise of the Catholic religion, there was no legal recognition of a Catholic in Great Britain. Apparently, therefore, the guarantees meant nothing; they seemed contradictory and nugatory, as much as to say the Catholics are to have freedom of worship so far as they can under a system of laws which prevent them from having any sort of freedom whatever. Yet within the first half century of British rule these difficulties were cleared up, and to-day the Catholics are in as good a position before the law as any other denomination. Indeed, they are thought by some to be the favored body under our constitution.
The object of this paper will be to show how the legal inconsistencies and other difficulties of the first half century were met and disposed of; and the circumstances may be worth the passing notice of those learned in the great history of the Church. In a lesser way it may be of interest to those learned in the subtle science of the law, as another instance of the confounding and mystification of that misguided man, be he historian or litigant, who does not first seek counsel from those learned in its mysteries.
The occupation of Canada from 1759, when Quebec was taken, down to 1763, when the treaty of cession was signed, was purely military. So far as religion and other matters were concerned the terms of capitulation of Quebec and Montreal were the interim guides. Everything was uncertain; the ultimate destiny of the colony was in doubt; affairs were managed largely by the English commander as around a drum-head council. Fortunately for the Catholics, that commander was a reasonable, sensible man; and his conduct towards the Bishop of Quebec and the Catholics generally was, in view of his position and his prejudices, not to be fairly found fault with. Bishop Pontbriand, who had ruled the ancient See for nearly twenty years, was ill at Charlesbourg during the siege of 1759, and when, at the end of September, he returned to Quebec, it was to find the Cathedral, the palace, the churches of