We are behind hand with the 120orientals, and even with some European nations, in gratuitous accommodations for the public. In the Choultries of Hindostan the poor traveller finds shelter without expence. Dr. Buchanan notices another convenience in that country, “Near the road (he says) charitable persons have built many resting places for porters, who here carry all their burdens on the head. These resting places consist of a wall about four feet high, on which the porters can deposit their burdens, and from which, after having rested themselves, they can again, without assistance, take up their loads.” There is a corner by St. Dunstan’s church which serves for this purpose, and is so seldom without an occupier, that whoever has noticed it must wish such resting places were provided in the streets of London.
Digging tanks, building choultries, planting rows of trees, and such other acts of charity towards the public, form a 121separate class of virtues among the Hindoos, which they call Bourtam. The Man of Ross has had his fame in England for the practice of such virtues. Some Wiltshire poet may perhaps one day celebrate “the worthy Maud Heath, of Langley Burrell, spinster, who in the year of grace 1474, for the good of travellers, did in charity bestow in land and houses about eight pounds a year for ever, to be laid out on the highway and causey leading from Wick Hill to Chippenham Cliff.” The Spaniards have a Saint who was put in the kalendar for mending the road to Santiago and building bridges. When the blessed day of reformation shall arrive in Spain, I hope his name will be suffered to hold its place.
There is little encouragement to the practice of this kind of charity in England. Mile-stones are defaced, directing posts broken, the parapets of bridges 122thrown down. We seldom see a new horse block erected at the top of the hill; and when a public pump is set up, no iron ladle is now appended to it, because it would in all probability be stolen. I once lived in a house which had a large porch by the road side; it was about two miles from a great city, and the milk-women had from time immemorial established a custom of rendezvousing in it. Of all nuisances that can be imagined, this was the most intolerable. “Rest and be thankful” was what they would not do. They “out-billingsgated Billingsgate,” and were their beastliness to be related it would scarcely be believed. There was no remedy but destroying the porch.
Whenever public education shall become a part of the established system of England (as sooner or later, in spite of every political Maltenebros, it must) it would be wise and just to inculcate a belief, that of all property, public 123property is that which should be held most sacred.