As grandpa was standing there you could hear a grumbling from amidst of the small crowd gathered. Then it seem as if out of nowhere a small little old man came walking out of the crowd. He was wearing clothing that seemed to depict him as belonging in a hospital somewhere. As he stood by grandpa’s side you could hear the snickering among the people. He did not appear to take notice of this as he spoke.
“My name is Ben and I have stood among you listening to your grumblings as this man has spoken and from what I hear it appears that many are in disagreement with him and feel that he is willing to starve the poor. There could be nothing further from the truth than this accusation on his words. It seems that by your ideology of government that the rich must take so much less, so that the moneys can be redistributed so that the poor may have it so much better.
This operates then as a tax for the maintenance of the poor. A very good thing, you will say. But I ask, Why a partial tax? Why laid on the rich only? If it be a good thing, pray, Messrs. the Public, take your share of it, by indemnifying us a little out of your public treasury. In doing a good thing there is both honour and pleasure; you are welcome to your part of both.
For my own part, I am not so well satisfied of the goodness of this thing. I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.
In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.
There is no country in the world where so many provisions are established for them; so many hospitals to receive them when they are sick or lame, founded and maintained by voluntary charities; so many alms-houses for the aged of both sexes, together with a solemn general law made by the rich to subject their estates to a heavy tax for the support of the poor.
Under all these obligations, are our poor modest, humble, and thankful; and do they use their best endeavors to maintain themselves, and lighten our shoulders of this burthen? On the contrary, I affirm that there is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle, dissolute, drunken, and insolent. The day you passed that act, you took away from before their eyes the greatest of all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety, by giving them a dependence on somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health, for support in age or sickness.
In short, you offered a premium for the encouragement of idleness, and you should not now wonder that it has had its effect in the increase of poverty. Repeal that law, and you will soon see a change in their manners. St. Monday, and St. Tuesday, will cease to be holidays. SIX days shalt thou labour, though one of the old commandments long treated as out of date, will again be looked upon as a respectable precept; industry will increase, and with it plenty among the lower people; their circumstances will mend, and more will be done for their happiness by inuring them to provide for themselves, than could be done by dividing all your estates among them.
Excuse me, Messrs. the Public, if upon this interesting subject, I put you to the trouble of listening a little of my nonsense. I am sure I have lately listened a great deal of yours; and therefore from you (at least from those of you who are speakers) I deserve a little indulgence. I am yours.”
With these words the old man looked up at grandpa and gave him a big smile. He then walked back into the crowd and seem to disappear as if he never existed.
I looked up at grandpa and asked, “Do you know that old man?”
“That, boy, was an old man who goes by the name of Benjamin Franklin, a man well respected among his peers for his wisdom and knowledge of life.”