The Cure Of Penury -- By: Washington Gladden
BSac 57:225 (Jan 1900) p. 135
The Cure Of Penury
My subject is not the cure of poverty, for I am not clear that there is any reason to expect that poverty will ever be completely cured. The saying of Jesus, “The poor ye have always with you,” expresses, probably, a fact of universal experience. So long as sickness and accident are inseparable from the lot of humanity, so long there will be men and women and little children who, from no fault of their own, will be poor, and must be cared for by those more prosperous and fortunate. A considerable portion of the work of all our charitable organizations is done for persons of this class; it is work that claims the sympathy and support of all of us, and deserves our praise. Poverty may be perfectly honorable; the relief of such poverty is one of our simplest and clearest obligations, and those who receive such relief, whether from private charity or from the state, ought not to be degraded by it. The poor whose poverty is due to unpreventable sickness and unavoidable calamity will be with us to the end of time; we may lessen the causes which produce such poverty, and greatly reduce the amount of it, but we shall not be able to abolish it altogether. We must relieve its distresses, and this beautiful ministry to those in want and suffering will call forth the sympathy and kindness of human hearts as long as men live in this world.
Nor am I dealing now with the cure of pauperism. Pauperism is the poverty which seeks relief from the public treasury. As I have already intimated, those who are poor
BSac 57:225 (Jan 1900) p. 136
with no discredit to themselves, may become a charge upon the state. When there are no kinsfolk to take up the burden of such helpless ones, the state should promptly assume it. It may well be, therefore, that in the Utopia of which we dream, some of the unfortunate will be cared for at the public expense. Such, according to the present use of terms, would be paupers. No stigma ought to attach to them; no stigma would attach to them, if only such as they received the state’s assistance. The cure of pauperism I do not, therefore, look for. I only hope for the day when the word itself will be transfigured, so that it shall convey no sense of disgrace, or when some other word shall take its place as the designation of those who, in need, are cared for by the public authorities.
It is the cure of penury of which I ask you to think; and penury is not purely poverty, it is the poverty that is abject and effortless and apparently chronic; the poverty that is occasioned by, or that consists with, a spirit of dependence, with a willingness to live upon public or private charity. Sometimes penury is the offspring of poverty. Sickness or misfortune reduces human bei...
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