The Ashburton Guardian. COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER THURSDAY, APRIL 1, 1880.
Charity, as a rule, knows no system. Just as the heart of the giver is touched by the urgency or particular circumstances of the case calling for his aid, and according to his circumstances at the time, does he contribute of his means. When a great calamity, like the Kaitangata coal mine disaster for instance, agitates our bosoms, and stirs up the better feelings of our natures, and the cry for aid is heard throughout the length and breadth of the land, then money is lavishly poured in by every man who owns a copper and a heart with ever so little of humanity in it. But just as often as not, more money is given than the circumstances of the case really require. Not unfreqnently funds have been raised in this way for some special object, and having been disbursed to an extent that afforded the required relief, a handsome i-esiduum is left, never to be used, but is allowed to lie in the hands of the bankers, tied up and useless to any one but the bank that holds it. While the world wags, calamities will occur that call forth the sympathies and aid of humanity for those who suffer by them ; but as these calamities occur by no rule, and cannot be regulated by any rule, any more than they can be prevented, so the giving of the benevolent to relieve the distress that follows, is usually only regulated by the magnitude of the disaster, and the amount of the element of sensation that may' have accompanied its occurrence. A great and sensational disaster is thus the most effectual in raising relief funds. But, as we said, the occurrence of calamities cannot be regulated, and sometimes they occur when a man’s, a community’s, ..or a nation’s pockets are empty—when giving is perforce limited by the want of means to give, and it may he that a comparatively trifling accident, that involves only a few hundred people in its disastrous influence, is the signal for a a lavish outpour of generosity, while a great and widespread disaster, that may perchance make want stalk like a plague over a whole land, and touch thousands upon thousands with its terrible finger, does not meet with that response to its call for aid that the pressing nature of its case and the magnitude of suffering demand from thoso to whom its victims may naturally look for We had evidence of this in the meagre response—comparatively speaking, at least—that has been given to the call for aid from this colony that lias reached us from Ireland. The above remarks have been inspired by a circular we have received from the editor of the Oamaru “ Times,” a gentleman not unknown in Ashburton. The circular contains a reprinted leading arfcle, and two “ letters to the editor/' bearing the signature of “North Britain.” The article and the letters strike out what seems to us to be a,new idea in the way of reducing giving to a principle and a They advocate the establishment of a “ National Penny Relief Fund,” which shall be contributed to by every member of the population at the rate of a penny per month per head, but need not, of course, interfere in any way with the more generous giving which the benevolent will always continue. It is suggested by the article that the collection of the penny subscriptions could be facilitated by boxes in the post offices, courthouses, and banks of the colony, and by enlisting the co-operation of householders as collectors within their circles ; wTfle the management of the fund should be placed in the hands of local committees elected by subscribers from those of their number who had subscribed a guinea to the fund over and above their penny per month subscription. Both “North Britain” and the editor would apply the fund thus raised to cases of distress not assisted from other sources, or, if so assisted, requiring further assistance, and they would make the fund operative in localities altogether irrespective of those in which the distress immediately existed. The idea is of course crude, and wants elaboration, but we fancy that were it taken up, and its details perfected it might be brought to as great efficiency as has been the penny postage or the penny press. Certainly _ it would be a great boon to civilisation, which carries so much of suffering of every kind with it, wherever it advances, to have some permanent and living fund ever available for the relief of distress that is not absolutely pauperism ; and if the idea of “ North Britain,” with any modification it may require, can be brough t to a workable and adoptable scheme, it will doubtless be a benefit to the country. Thrown at us all at once, as the idea of a “National Penny Relief Fund” is, we are not prepared to give an opinion upon it other than the favorable one that strikes us at the first glance, and we give the outline of it in the hope that some of our men of figures and powers of organisation may set to work to think out its practicability. “ North Britain” gives the following figures as what would bo the result of the scheme’s adoption in the British possessions— Great Britain would rake annually ,£1,500,000 Australia and Tasmania ... ... 150,000 New Zealand ... ... ... 22,500 Canada 150,000 India 9,300,000 Other possessions, say ... ... 500,000 Total £11,622,500