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declare daily that they have nothing less at heart than to do justly by their creditors. Such are they who live idly and profusely, and are constantly diminishing what they have, and by so doing are rendering themselves less able every day to pay their just debts. Now what reason can you imagine, that is proper to be laid before an honest industrious man, to persuade him to be content that his own family should suffer, and his substance be wasted by the folly and extravagance of a stranger ? Such a man would certainly punish and restrain a son of his own, were he idle and extravagant; and what kind of goodness or charity is it to maintain and support the like extravagance in another ? Some wise commonwealths have debarred such persons from the management of their own estates: I am sure there is more reason to debar them from spending the estates of other men; and this is what every extravagant man does, whilst he consumes his substance, and leaves his debts unpaid.

In these cases, therefore, and in others of the like nature, every good man may, and every wise man will, make use (in a reasonable manner) of the power which the law gives him for the security of his property; and in so doing he stands clear of all offence against charity and good conscience.

But when the circumstances mentioned in the text meet to. gether ; when the debtor is chargeable with no fault or fraud, but is disabled by mere poverty to satisfy his debts-; to use the extremity of the law against such a man is not only cruel and inhuman, but, as far as I can judge, contrary to the true meaning and design of the law itself. For the law which gives power over the body of the debtor, is not a criminal law, ordained for the punishment of offenders; but is a law made to secure men in their properties, and to guard them against the arts and contrivances of such as would injure them in their just lemands. To use the law therefore, where it cannot possibly have any effect towards securing your property, but can serve only to harass and torment a poor unfortunate man, is

perverting the law, and making it subservient to purposes very different from those for the sake of which it was ordained. The law does not intrust private men with the execution or relaxation of its penalties for crimes and offences ; but in the present case

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every man may imprison, or release from prison, his debtor, as he pleases; a plain evidence that this law was meant as a defence of private rights, and not as a punishment for criminals.

Is it then a general rule that the law can never with good conscience be executed against insolvent debtors ? possibly be exceptions, and more than I can foresee; but I think they must all be attended with this circumstance, that there be a prospect of recovering the debt, though the debtor himself be insolvent. It may so happen that he who has nothing of his own, may have wealthy friends and relations; and though friends are not often willing, for the sake of justice, to pay the debts of a relation, yet for the honor of the family, or out of personal regard to the relation, they will pay the money as the price of his redemption from a jail. Many cases may be imagined, where a rich relation ought in reason to pay the debt, rather than the poor creditor to lose it. In such cases, there may be a reason to justify or excuse the proceeding.

Some think that no severity is too great to be used towards such as have spent their estates riotously, to the injury of their creditors. And indeed little is to be said in behalf of such per

Yet still it is worth considering whether you would choose to be judge and executioner in your own cause. And if the case be really so desperate, that you can aim at nothing by the execution of the law but the punishment of the man who has wronged you, I am sure it is the safer way to leave the punishment to him who has said, Vengeance is mine, and I will repay.'

But the case which I have principally in view stands clear of these exceptions. The unfortunate persons with whom the jails are crowded, are for the most part such as have neither money nor friends to assist them ; such as have fallen into poverty by misfortunes, by a decay in their business, or perhaps by the largeness of a family, which their utmost diligence could not support. Were they at liberty, they might probably be of use to themselves and their poor families, and also to their creditors, by following their honest callings and employments. But now their strength consumes in vain, they starve in prison, and their children 'out of it, or are thrown on the parish for a


miserable maintenance; and no benefit or advantage accrues, or can possibly accrue, to the person who confines them.

Men are often urged to deal thus severely with others, by the grief and anguish which attend the disappointment they meet with in their just expectation; and being themselves sufferers, they think no treatment too bad for those to whom they impute their own distress. But could men consider calmly how much misery they bring into the world, and how many must partake in the sad effects of their resentment, I am persuaded that humanity and compassion, virtues to which this country never was a stranger, would in great measure prevent this evil.

When the father of a poor family, who have nothing to depend on for their subsistence but his labor and industry, is torn from them, what can the poor widow and orphans do ? For a widow she is, and orphans they are, to all the intents and purposes of sorrow and affliction. It is well if they take no worse employment than begging; oftentimes they are tempted to pilfer or steal, or to prostitute themselves for bread; and happy is it for them, if they meet with no worse fortune than to fall into your hands to be corrected and reformed.

In the mean time the wretched father sees himself undone, and his family dispersed and ruined. His spirits sink under sorrow, and despair eats out his strength and life; that should you in time relent and release him, it is ten to one but the relief comes too late. He is no longer the same man; before his imprisonment he was active and strong, and had spirit to go through his labor; now he is broken in mind and body, and not able to improve to any advantage that liberty which at last you are willing to allow him.

Would not any one who considers this, be apt to imagine that no man lies in prison but for some great debt; that it is impossible that any one should use another thus cruelly for a trifle ? And yet, in truth, the case is quite otherwise : there are few, in comparison, who lie for great sums; the far greater number are confined for trifles, for such sums as must be reckoned by pence, and not by pounds. It is true they are commonly confined at the suit of those who are almost as poor as themselves; and the poverty on the one side is often urged as a justification of the severity used against the other. But alas ! what relief is it to one poor man to undo another ? What comfort is it to torment a wretch whose misery can yield you no profit or advantage?

Whether I have justly represented the consequences of this case or no, you, who have the poor orphans of this city under your care, and you, whose charitable work it is to correct and reform the vicious and profligate, are best able to say; for you know all the distresses of the poor, and the causes from whence they spring; and, to your honor I speak it, you have provided for every evil of life a proper remedy or a proper comfort. But I need not be your orator; your own deeds will speak for you far better than I can. The report now to be read will show both the nature and the good management of the several charities under


direction. Here the report was read. The account now laid before you is capable of raising very different sentiments in the heart of a Christian. It is a melancholy thing to hear the poor orphans in one place, the profligate vagrants in another, the lame and impotent in a third, and the distempered in mind in a fourth, reckoned up by hundreds and by thousands. To what miseries is human life exposed !

But still, in the midst of these calamities, there is reason to ble and adore the goodness of God, who has put it into the hearts of his servants to provide comfort and relief for these sons and daughters of affliction.

The richest among us, when he views these misfortunes, sees nothing but what he is liable to himself. Examine the condition of these orphans, many of them perhaps born in the midst of plenty, though now they live on charity. There was a time perhaps when their fathers as little thought they should be beholden to an hospital for the maintenance of their children as we may think it at this day.

Other calamities make no distinction between rich and poor ; we have no inheritance in the use of our limbs and senses, but enjoy them by the good pleasure of him who gave them. And whenever these misfortunes overtake us, our riches make but little difference in the case : a rich distracted man and a poor distracted man are very near on an equality; and as far as the power of imagination goes, they often change conditions ; the poor man fancying himself to be a prince, whilst the rich one pines and torments himself with the all-fears and anxieties of poverty

Since then you are so nearly related to all the miseries now placed within your view, need I say much to move tenderness and compassion towards a case already so much your own ? This is a cause which nature will plead for in every heart not made of stone. But there is one still greater Advocate to plead this cause, even he who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification. These orphans, these diseased in body or in mind, nay, even the profligate wretches who are brought to you for punishment and correction, are his care ; and whatever charity you bestow on them, he will reckon it as done to himself, and acknowlege it in the sight of men and of angels, when he shall come again to judge the world in righteousness.

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