We have received from our esteemed vice-president, Mr. H. S. Salt, a letter in which he strongly deprecates our communication, in a recent number, of the views lately put forward by the Weekly Times and Echo. Mr. Salt says: “The upshot of the article in question is this—that intemperance and thriftlessness are the main causes of poverty, and that, therefore, it is useless or unfair to propose such socialistic legislation as the feeding of the children of the poor at the public cost. But, in the first place, I deny that the main cause of poverty is to be sought in intemperance and thriftlessness; they are only a secondary and accessory cause, and in many cases an effect; the true cause being the constant and remorseless depression of wages, by which the workmen are grievously underpaid in order that their employers may secure a larger profit. The need of reforming this anomaly would be just as imperative even if there were no intemperance among the lower classes.
“Secondly, I would submit that it is very far from being ‘noble’ or ‘wise’ to offer any resistance to so truly humane a proposal as that of feeding our children at the expense of the State. ‘If you feed all,’ says the Weekly Times and Echo, ‘then all must pay for it; and, at the best, it would only be an extension of the present system of poor relief, degrading little children into pauperism.’ But this idea of ‘degradation’ in accepting the whole social position. A free dinner to poor children would be, not a ‘charity,’ but a repayment to the working classes of a portion of their honest earnings which are at present appropriated by their employers—in other words, an act of simple justice. Hygienists, of all people, ought to be the last to object to a proposal of this sort, since it is impossible to conceive of any step which would tend more surely to the physical and moral improvement of the race than this provision of a proper sustenance for the rising generation.”
The Vegetarian Messenger, Vol. III No. 7, July 1, 1889, p. 187