The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 36
The Rev. Mr. Byng, in a few words, moved the adoption of the report. He expressed regret at seeing so few persons present at a meeting of that nature, which was so very benevolent in its movement, and so essentially Christian in in character. He hoped that year by year, as the effects of the Institution were seen, the meetings would be much larger.
The Rev. Dr. Copland: I have seen this report, and have read it with a good deal of interest, and it affords me very much pleasure to have this opportunity of expressing the high appreciation I have of the valuable services which this Institution renders—to the poor especially, and to the community at large. It ministers to the wants of the poor in a very complete manner, providing for the necessities both in regard to the body and likewise in regard to the higher things which come under its immediate care. Moreover, it opens its doors wide to receive all, without distinction as to nationality or creed, and in the highest way, I think, is deserving of the thanks of the community for carrying out its special work with so much care and efficiency. I am glad to observe from the report that the amount of collections and subscriptions during this year has increased over that of last year by about £600, and I trust this state of matters will continue; for looking at the appearance of the community and continually-increasing population, there is of page 13 course to be expected an equal strain upon the funds of the Institution during the present year to that of the past, and probably a still greater strain. When we remember, from what was given in the Report at the beginning of last year, that there was a large balance on hand, which is now reduced at the beginning of this year to very much less, it is quite evident, unless a larger amount of subscriptions and collections be received during this year than the last, the present demands upon the Institution cannot be adequately met. I trust, however, there will be no danger in shortcomings; in fact, I have every confidence in the liberality of the community at large when matters are fully and fairly brought before them. It is gratifying to me to observe what is reported here, the decrease during the past year of a class of cases which must always be viewed with a good deal of anxiety and sorrow when they prevail in a community—namely, cases of wife desertion. There is a smaller number of these brought before the notice of the Institution than during the past year. At the same time, I observe that the number of children which through these cases have been thrown upon the charity of the public, is no less than during the former year. Now, I do trust the Institution will use all the powers which are at its command to bring those to account who throw such a burden upon the charity of the public. I think it is a duty which is due to society, and, at the same time, still more pressingly to the families that are thus left in a helpless condition. I think that in doing this the Directors, if they have power to overtake the delinquents, will read a useful lesson which will act as a deterrent, and prevent what we believe will naturally be increased if no check is placed on this practice. I think this, however, only in relation to the action of this Institution. I do not look to the preventive or deterrent measures which the law-can supply, as sufficient check upon this practice. For that, I consider, we must look to moral, religious, and prudential restraint acting upon people generally. Still, I think, so far as the law can prevent it, it should be made use of: and while the utmost care is exercised in bestowing relief, which is absolutely necessary for all existing cases in whatever way these arise, it is well to take whatever means are within the page 14 power of the Directors to keep that down to the minimum. Of course, when a case is placed before the Institution, calling for assistance, from whatever cause arising, it must be for the time met. And this is the point which I think ought to be very strongly pressed upon the attention of the public. Unless this be done—and it can only be done by the public supplying the necessary funds to the Directors—that distress will seek relief in other ways. It will seek relief by begging from door to door, and I think it is a very serious evil to the community, tending so readily as it does to foster not mere poverty, but rogues and swindlers of the worst kind. Besides, it should be borne in mind by the public, if this Institution is not able to dispense the necessary relief, there is no other result which can follow, except either that of the begging which I have referred to; or, on the other hand, compulsory relief by the operation of a Poor Act. I think it would be hard to say which of those two evils would be the worst in this community. I rather fear, if the present system of supplying the necessities of the poor by voluntary agency were discontinued, we should probably have to endure begging in various ways, and at the same time the introduction of a Poor Law. I trust the Province will liberally respond, so that this Institution may accomplish, as it has hitherto done, all the necessitous work which is brought to its door. While it saves the community the evils of imposture, and from many of the evils attending a Poor Law, it is, at the same time, acting as a grand practical moral instructor to the community at large, by fostering brotherly kindness and charity. I sincerely trust it will, in future, be at least quite as successful, in proportion to the work laid upon it, as it has been in its past history. I have great pleasure in seconding the adoption of the Report.
The President stated, in reference to wife-desertion, that the husband generally left the Colony, when it was impossible to set the law in motion. The law only affected this Colony. The Directors had frequently urged the Legislature to do something in the matter, but as yet nothing had been done.
The Report was unanimously adopted.
On the motion of Mr. Mollison, the following were elected page 15 office-bearers;—President, Mr. A. C. Strode, Vice-Presidents, Messrs. R. B. Martin and Rennie; Treasurer, Mr. James Brown; Committee, Messrs. James Fulton, James Brown, H. Wise, John Hislop, R. A. Low, T. M. Wilkinson, A. H. Ross, and Captain Thomson.
Mr. Hawkins moved a vote of thanks to the retiring officebearers.
Mr. A. Rennie returned thanks. He referred to the unpleasant task the Directors sometimes had in dealing with rags and tears, and he hoped the public would support the Institution more handsomely than they had done.
A vote of thanks to the Chairman terminated the proceedings.