Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

The Poor Man—An Ideal Sketch

The sketch of the Rich Man, made some three or four weeks since, seems to require this companion-piece, and we shall make the attempt, though the subject is far more difficult than the former was.1

In the first place, we must state what we mean by a poor man, for it is a term of wide range in its relative applications. A pains-taking artisan, trained to self-denial and a strict adaptation, not of his means to his wants, but of his wants to his means, finds himself rich and grateful, if some unexpected fortune enables him to give his wife a new gown, his children cheap holiday joys, and to his starving neighbor a decent meal; while George IV, when heir apparent to the throne of Great Britain, considered himself driven by the pressure of poverty to become a debtor, a beggar, a swindler, and, by the aid of perjury, the husband of two wives at the same time, neither of whom he treated well.2 Since poverty is made an excuse for such depravity in conduct, it would be well to mark the limits within which self-control and resistance to temptation may be expected.

When he of the olden time prayed “Give me neither poverty nor riches,”3 we presume he meant that proportion of means to the average wants of a human being which secures freedom from eating cares, freedom of motion, and a moderate enjoyment of the common blessings offered by earth, air, water, the natural relations, and the subjects for thought which every day presents. We shall certainly not look above this point for our poor man.—A Prince may be poor, if he has not means to relieve the sufferings of his subjects, or secure to them needed benefits. Or he may make himself so, just as a wellpaid laborer by drinking brings poverty to his roof. So may the Prince, by the

____________________
1
“The Rich Man—An Ideal Sketch,” New-York Daily Tribune, 6 February 1846.
2
George IV (1762–1830), King of England (1820–30), whose first marriage was not recognized because it lacked his father the King's permission, was known for his extravagance and dissolute habits.
3
Proverbs 30:8.

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