The Collected Letters, Volume 25


TC TO EDWARD HERFORD ; 20 January 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18500120-TC-EH-01; CL 25: 6-8


Chelsea, 20 jany, 1850—


I heartily rejoice to hear of such a Society as the one you describe to be in the act of forming itself.1 For many years, especially for the last three or four, the question of Pauperism has haunted me as the most alarming of all Social Questions: indeed it is properly the summary and essence of everything that is alarming in Society; for Pauperism is the practical issue that all Error or Injustice among us comes to. I describe it to myself as the general drippings of the poison from all the curses that lie upon: nothing is rotten any where in our Public or Private ways of Existence but it is sure to yield Pauperism in the long run, and to testify at last in that way, to the blindest of us, that there was rottenness. Or by an opposite figure, we may describe Pauperism as the general leakage which oozes in upon the Ship by every joint that is not tight. Alas, the number of feet we have in the hold just now, and the way the water is rising in spite of all efforts,—these are phenomena that fill every thinking man with anxiety!— You are very welcome to my name, if it can do you any good in your Enterprise; and I return you thanks for the honour you do me.

Curious enough: in these very days I have sent out of my hand a kind of Discourse or Pamphlet,2 in which are various considerations on this very subject, and several ideas strongly confirmatory of your own. You will probably see it in print about the beginning of next month,—and will not find it very difficult to peruse.

The only notion of mine which could have much chance to be at all new to you is, That in providing employment for Paupers, or the class now called Paupers, it will be necessary to introduce the most rigorous discipline; and to put an end altogether to what I call the nomadic scheme of procedure, whereby a Pauper comes to you today demanding work, and in a week hence can walk off again, with a few shillings in his pocket, to begin a new course of vagrancy. This, I think, whatever “British Liberty” may say to it, will require to be peremptorily put an end to.

You say in one place, The State cannot be trusted to employ Labour.3 Doubtless you do wisely to start with that declaration: and I suppose, with the kind of State and Statesmen we have just now, there is no calling it in question. But I believe well withal, the State, in these extraordinary new times, will actually have to set about that strange function, and by degrees do it, and do innumerable other things that in the rear of it extend thro' Society altogether; that such is becoming in hard reality the task of the thing called “State”; and that if we cannot get some kind of “State” which will make an attempt upon this, there will by and by be no State at all possible among us,—more than there is in France or some other countries just now.— — But these are considerations which, of course, lie quite out of your way in the present undertaking, and which I need not farther insist on here. Indeed you will gather my ideas sufficiently from the Pamphlet alluded to, or from others that may follow it;—and of my good wishes, of all kinds, to the Society now in birth I very emphatically assure you.4

Believe me / Yours very sincerely /

T. Carlyle

Edwd Herford Esq &c &c