« AnteriorContinuar »
Men are also differently endowed by nature. Some are strong in body and mind, others weak. Some are little tempted to err, others are much tempted. Some get wealth and good education from their parents, others get neither. Different nations have lots not less unequal, some being enlightened, while others are sunk in barbarism. It is therefore necessary that we should all, both as individuals and as nations, take an interest in each other, the strong to help the weak, the good to correct and improve the bad, the rich to help the needy, and the enlightened to impart their knowledge to the ignorant.
Our Almighty Creator has given us the sentiment of benevolence, that we may use it for these purposes, and he has further, in the scriptures, laid upon us his direct commands to love each his neighbour, to succour the poor, to visit the widow and fatherless, and to exhort and instruct one another. In all these things we must use prudence.
Where our gifts would encourage idleness or minister to vice, it were better to withhold them. We must take care that our gifts are sure to relieve real suffering, and that they will do good, and not harm, to those who receive them. It is generally best to help a needy person in such a way as to enable him to help himself. We must also take care that what we give can be well spared, and that our giving it will not prevent us from paying what we owe to others. If we give what is not our own, or what ought to pay our own debts, we may be said rather to act as robbers than as givers.
HOWARD, THE PHILANTHROPIST. John Howard, an English gentleman of fortune, is famous for the exertions he made to lessen human suffering. On a voyage to Lisbon when a young man, he was taken by the French, and thrown into a wretched dungeon at Brest, where he and his companions had to lie for several nights on a stone floor, and were nearly starved. The hardships which he suffered, and saw others suffering, on this
HOWARD, THE PHILANTHROPIST.
occasion, made a great impression on his mind, and when he returned to his country, he so exerted himself with the British government, that. a complaint was made, and the French were induced to treat English prisoners with more humanity.
For some years afterwards he lived at his estate at Cardington, near Bedford, diffusing happiness all around him. He settled a number of worthy and industrious persons in little cottages on his ground, and watched over their comfort with the greatest care. He built schools, where children were taught to read gratuitously, and he distributed a large portion of his income in charity, living, for his own part, on a very moderate sum.
At length, about the year 1773, his attention was called to the state of the jails in his native county. He found them to be, as jails then were every where, dens of misery, where health was lost, and vice rather increased than punished. By great exertions, he was able to effect some improvement in the prisons near his own residence. Then he was led to inquire into the condition of more distant jails. In time, he visited every large prison in England, and many of those in Scotland and Ireland. Being able to describe their condition to persons in authority, he proved the means of causing two acts of parliament to be passed, one for lessening the fees to acquitted prisoners, and the other for preserving the health of prisoners. Having thus done some good in his own country, he resolved to extend his benevolent exertions abroad. In 1775, he commenced a series of tours on the continent, which were only concluded by his death sixteen years afterwards. He visited the prisons of every country in Europe, ascertaining their condition, and exerting himself with the various governments to get them improved. Every where he lived frugally, and devoted his superfluous fortune to the relief of the miserable. From time to time, in the course of his travels, he published his observations, with suggestions for a better system of prison discipline, and by these means, as well as by the interest felt in his own singular benevolence, he so effectually fixed public attention on the subject, that much improvement was the consequence. In 1784, he found that he had travelled no less than forty-two thousand miles, or nearly as much as twice the circumference of the globe, for the purpose of alleviating the hardships suffered in prisons.
Howard had heard much of the miseries which the plague produces at all the ports along the Mediterranean. At each of these there is a kind of hospital called the lazaretto, where the whole of the individuals landing from a vessel which comes from an infected place, are kept confined for a considerable time, to make sure that they are quite free of the disease. Of these lazarettos, which are as horrible places as the worst prisons, and probably occasion more sickness and mortality than they prevent, Mr Howard resolved to make a personal examination. He set out in 1785, without a servant, for he did not think himself at liberty to expose any life but his own. He took his way by the south of France, through Italy, to Malta, Zante, Smyrna, and Constantinople. From the latter capital he returned to Smyrna, where he knew the plague then to prevail, for the purpose of going to Venice with a foul bill of health, that he might be subjected to the rigour of a quarantine in the lazaretto, and thus have a personal experience of its rules. In the course of the voyage from Smyrna, the vessel was attacked by a Moorish privateer, and in the action which took place, and by which the barbarians were repelled, Mr Howard fought with great bravery. At Venice, he went with the greatest cheerfulness into the lazaretto, and there remained, as usual, for forty days, thus deliberately exposing his life for the sake of his fellow-creatures. Such conduct could not fail to procure for him universal esteem. The Emperor of Germany so much admired his heroic benevolence, that, when Mr Howard returned through Vienna, he requested an interview with him, and commenced a subscription in order to erect a statue of him in a public part of the city. The design to honour Mr Howard in this way was afterwards abandoned, at the express request of the philanthropist, who was as modest as he was good.
In the summer of 1789, Mr Howard set out upon his last tour. He went through Germany to St Petersburg and Moscow. The prisons and hospitals were every where
thrown open to him, as to one who had acquired a censorship over those abodes of the unfortunate in every part of the civilised world. He then travelled to the new Russian settlements on the Black Sea, and established himself at Cherson, where a malignant fever prevailed. A young lady, who had caught the infection, desired a visit from Howard, who, she thought, might be able to cure her. Ever alive to the call of the distressed, he went to administer to her relief. He caught the infection, probably from her, and became one of its victims. He was buried in the neighbourhood of Cherson, where, some years after, the Emperor Alexander caused a monument to be erected to his memory.
SIR PHILIP SYDNEY.
Sir Philip Sydney was a gallant soldier, a poet, and the most accomplished gentleman of his time. At the battle of Zutphen, in the Netherlands, after having two horses killed under him, he received a wound while in the act of mounting a third, and was carried bleeding and faint to the camp. Men wounded in battle usually feel very thirsty; but water at such a time is not easily found. A small quantity was brought to allay the thirst of Sir Philip; but as he was raising it to his lips, he observed that a poor wounded soldier, who was carried past at the moment, looked at the cup with wistful eyes. The generous Sydney instantly withdrew it untasted from his mouth, and gave it to the soldier, saying, “Thy necessity is yet greater than mine."
He died of his wound, aged only thirty-three; but his kindness to the poor soldier has caused his name to be remembered ever since with admiration, and it will probably never be forgotten while generous actions are appreciated by mankind.
About seventy years ago, George Drummond was the provost or chief magistrate of Edinburgh, and renowned for the benevolence of his disposition. He was one day coming
into the town by the suburb called the West Port, when he saw a funeral procession leaving the door of a humble dwelling, and setting out for the churchyard. The only persons composing the funeral company were four poorlooking old men, seemingly common beggars, one at each end of a spoke, and none to relieve them; there was not a single attendant. The provost at once saw that it must be a beggar's funeral, and he therefore went forward to the old men, saying to them, “ Since this poor creature now deceased has no friends to follow his remains to the grave, I will perform that melancholy office myself.” He then took his place at the head of the coffin. They had not gone far till they met two gentlemen who were acquainted with the provost, and they asked him what he was doing there. He told them that he was going to the interment of a poor friendless mendicant, as he had none else to do it; so they turned and accompanied him. Others joined in the same manner, so that there was a respectable company at the grave. “ Now," said the kind-hearted provost, “ I will lay the old man's head in the grave," which he accordingly did, and afterwards saw the burial completed in a decent manner. When the solemnity was accomplished, he asked if the deceased had left a wife or family, and learned that he had left a wife, an old woman, in a state of perfect destitution. “ Well, then, gentlemen,” said the provost, addressing those around him, “ we met in rather a singular manner, and we cannot part without doing something creditable for the benefit of the helpless widow; let each give a trifle, and I will take it upon me to see it administered to the best advantage.” All immediately contributed some money, which made up a respectable sum, and was afterwards given in a fitting way to the poor woman; the provost also afterwards placed her in an industrious occupation, by which she was able to support herself without depending on public relief.
General Kosciusko, the hero of Poland, was a very benevolent man. He once wished to send some bottles of good wine to a clergyman at Solothuon, and, not liking to put