The following is the "Poor Pastoral" which the bishop published in the spring of 1869. It was an instance of the solicitude which he felt for the temporal as well as the spiritual welfare of his people.
"S. JOHN'S, April 21, 1869.
"My Reverend Brother,--'God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb:' and great reason have we to acknowledge with thankfulness His mercy, in mitigating the sufferings of the many half-clothed, half-fed poor around us, by a comparatively mild winter. How would their sufferings have been increased, if the season had been one of the severe frost and cold, which we have sometimes experienced! That aggravation of misery has been mercifully prevented: but we have witnessed enough of want and suffering to sadden our hearts; and to make us, I trust, most anxious to remove, if we may, some of the causes which have occasioned of late years such an overwhelming increase of pauperism. Ministers of religion have reasons and occasions for lamenting this state of destitution, which men of other professions have not, at least not in the same degree. I speak, you will observe, not of poverty, but pauperism. A poor man may be honest, industrious, contented in, and with, his lot in this world. 'Hath not God,' asks an apostle, 'chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him?' (St. James ii. 5). God forbid that we should despise them. But we cannot conceal from ourselves that the state of pauperism too often occasions idleness, discontent and dishonesty. And who can wonder, when it is known (as we too well know), that it almost of necessity prevents attendance at the house of prayer, keeps the children of the family from their school, and wholly occupies them both in seeking means of maintaining life. And as one of the old fathers of the Church has said: 'Men must live, before they can live well.' We have then to see and lament, as a consequence of this physical or bodily destitution, the still worse evil of social and moral degradation.
I will not enter upon the supposed causes of this widespread, and, it may be feared, wider-spreading, pauperism, further than is requisite for the suggestion of some means of at least checking its growth, if it cannot altogether be eradicated. Some of the causes, which I or others have seen or supposed, may not exist in your locality, while, on the other hand, some may exist of which I am ignorant.
It seems generally to be agreed that what is called the supply system--i.e., the system of supplying fishermen, and others of the labouring class, with provisions and an outfit, in expectation of receiving, in payment, the result and produce of a season's work--has been one of the principal causes of this general degradation. And--without presuming to condemn what was, under the different circumstances of the colony fifty years ago, a wise and considerate arrangement, and may still be a necessary one,--it cannot be doubted that it had always a tendency to create recklessness, if not idleness; and now, with the increased opportunities and temptations to dispose of produce, dishonesty. And let it not be forgotten that this system has its dangers to the suppliers as well as to the supplied (I refer to its moral, or rather immoral, effects), against which it is equally our duty, in love and faithfulness, to warn them also. I would be permitted to remind you of the words I addressed to you on this subject, in my Charge, eleven years ago:--'There are, as I believe everybody in this community knows and feels, peculiar temptations to both the great classes into which the population of this country is divided, from the extended system of supply in anticipation of the means of payment; temptations which can only be withstood by a very high sense of duty both to God and our neighbour.1 Far be it from me to condemn those who heretofore introduced, or who now, of necessity, adopt and continue this system. It is much easier to perceive and lament a disease than to discover and apply the remedy; more especially if the disease has become inveterate. It is, however, an obvious duty, on our part, to point out, as we have opportunity, to both parties the manifold mischiefs of the system, and to plead, if we may, for its discontinuance.
It is useless to deprecate, though we cannot but deplore, the continual withdrawal from the colony, yearly and every year, of wealth, earned by hard and ill-requited labour to be wholly spent in other countries; cruelly hindering all material progress and improvement here.
It may be equally useless to allude to political causes. Yet the natural result of the mutual obligations of pauper constituents and their representatives ought not to be forgotten, nor the evils, under such conditions of society, of responsible government. And let us not build much, in this respect, upon the proposed Confederation; or the new laws and legislators under and by which we shall be governed. We may hope for some change for the better, in our social, as well as political, state. But he must have greater faith in Dominion politics and politicians than I have, who expects to obtain much relief from that quarter.
I must confess I cannot regard without apprehension the introduction of any system of poor relief sustained by Government. They who have witnessed, as I have, and they who hear of, as all who choose may, the increase of pauperism in England, under wise and well-considered Poor-laws, will hesitate to introduce any like system, where the difficulties of levying a rate are greater, and the safeguards against abuse in its distribution are fewer and less powerful. It would indeed he only just and right, if a portion of the wealth drawn out of, and taken from, the Colony could he detained for the support of our men worn down in earning it, and of, alas! our many widows and orphans brought to that state by the frequent wrecks and disasters in conveying well-insured produce and merchandize from shore to shore.
Again, it is much to be feared that the gifts of charity, particularly in clothing, have a tendency to prevent the necessary and becoming care and concern even for outward appearance. And perhaps the same may be said of patronizing rags. To provide decent apparel for the Lord's day and Lord's house ought to be inculcated as a duty of religion.
It is not beyond hope that the merchants or capitalists in different localities, and especially in S. John's, may discover some means sufficiently remunerative of employing their fishermen and dependants in the dreary unproductive winter.
In default of any such enterprise, you may possibly suggest some profitable or useful employment, at least for the females; as knitting and spinning, making and mending clothes; occupations not so generally pursued in this country as in England: though probably there is no country where the homely proverb, 'A stitch in time saves nine,' more deserves attention; as the good clothes we give, too soon reduced to rags and tatters, plainly testify.
Attention should he directed to the cultivation of the land, in connection with the fishery, if there be land in the settlement or neighbourhood available for that purpose; or, otherwise, removal may be suggested to localities where those occupations may be successfully combined. Sheep have been introduced with great advantage in many settlements and may be in many more; for, besides the supply of food, you have, in the fleece, material for clothing of various kinds, and for employment in the winter.
If the population of the country be really redundant, either generally or in particular localities, the remedy must be sought in emigration or removal. In this respect, and by introducing capital, and furnishing employment, the opening and working of mines must prove highly beneficial.
I need not, I am confident, enlarge upon the duty of endeavouring, by all Christian methods and motives, to repress the use of intoxicating liquors, the fruitful source of misery unpon misery; physical destitution and moral degradation. I earnestly hope that the decrease of intoxication, which has been observed of late, is due to some higher and more abiding cause than the want of the means of indulgence. But, I conceive, our most likely method, under God, of attaining our object--I mean the bettering the condition of the poorer classes, and preventing the continuance and spread of pauperism--is to inculcate publicly and privately, in the pulpit and from house to house, our obligations, as men and as Christians, to exercise forethought and economy. We know that the circumstances and habits of people, who make their profits and livelihood in one portion or season of the year--especially if they receive their provisions and supplies before earning them--naturally and almost necessarily lead to carelessness and extravagance. Against this result it is our indispensable and paramount duty to warn and exhort every man exposed to the temptation. It is not necessary to call, or suppose, a man a 'sluggard' to justify the scriptural direction, 'Go to the ant,--consider her ways and be wise; who, having no guide, overseer or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer and gathereth her food in the harvest.' You may sometimes find an occasion and opportunity of inducing and assisting the fisherman to deposit his spring or summer earnings in the savings' bank.1 And no person will hesitate to recommend, by precept and example, the most strict and careful economy in the use of God's gifts for our support, who remembers the injunction--the injunction of Him who provided, without labour or expense, a feast for five thousand men, besides women and children--to 'gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.'
Let these considerations be frequently, earnest!}', and affectionately pressed upon your flock, not only for credit and comfort, but for conscience and Christ's sake--and we may yet, with God's help and blessing, lift some out of the mire of pauperism, and set them with 'the poor of this world'--honest, sober and industrious--'whom God has chosen.' If fishermen,--let us remember the debt we and the world owe to men of that calling.
In the meantime let none distrust God, our heavenly Father, by seeking, or accepting relief in unlawful or forbidden ways. 'Man cloth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' And 'The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous and His ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.'
I remain, Reverend and dear Brother,
Your friend and fellow labourer in Christ,
[I have had in my keeping a fisherman's savings'-bank book, who, by depositing for several years his summer earnings, had laid by nearly four hundred pounds for the winter of his old age.]