The Unemployed In London -- By: John Bascom
BSac 63:250 (April 1906) p. 335
The Unemployed In London
A significant fact—one we could hardly have expected and should do our utmost to understand—is the large number of the unemployed in London; a number so large as to raise the question both of an immediate and of an ultimate remedy. When so many are thrown out of the productive processes of society, those processes are either working amiss, or are fatally insufficient. Such a fact opens afresh the inquiry of the adequacy of economic and social forces as we are applying them. If we have any sympathy with men, this want of employment will stand with us for a grievous social state; and if we cherish any hopes of a more perfect social condition, any belief in laws looking to the ultimate welfare of the race, it will raise most serious doubts as to our existing theories of society. These doubts will be the more troublesome because this destitution occurs in England, so productively powerful and prosperous.
The unemployed appealed, in the first instance, to Mr. Balfour, premier under a conservative administration, and later to Campbell-Bannerman, just entering on a liberal administration. They also made a half-mute, half-violent appeal to the church, presenting themselves in a body at the services in St. Paul’s. This sense of a possible remedy, or at least of indirect responsibility, was expressed in thus approaching with their wants those who represented the state and the church. Society collectively is expressed in these organizations, and, finding no relief in themselves, it was natural that the unem-
BSac 63:250 (April 1906) p. 336
ployed should bring their hard case to the notice of that society of which they were discarded members. Its construction, they felt, either on the material or the spiritual side, must be faulty, some duty must be shirked or obligation overlooked, when results so ruinous to themselves, and so inimical to social growth, stood forth in such large proportions. This reasoning was inevitable, and not altogether false. It is the province of the state, so far as possible, to provide conditions under which all industrious citizens can support themselves. It is the office of Christian faith to search into and declare those principles, and cherish those sentiments, under which the poor can, sympathetically, be given a footing in the paths of life. Inattention to these claims on the part of any organizing power in the community is an inadmissible attitude. An inability to render aid becomes a discouraging confession of the partial failure of society. When society is wholly unable to give assistance, this fact weakens the reciprocal claim of obedience. It outlaws those thus left to their own destitution. There thus devolves on every good c...
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