Count Rumford

After reforming the army, the next subject which occupied the attention of the Bavarian statesman was one of universal and perpetual interest the condition of the poor. In order, however, not to be interrupted in our narrative of his measures for the relief of the poor of Bavaria, we shall note a few of the principal events in his personal history during the period of his residence in that country. In 1784, when he commenced his residence in Bavaria, he was thirty-one years of age. The titles which were then conferred on him were, as we have already informed our readers, those of aid-de-camp and chamberlain. Soon afterwards, however, he received the appointments of member of the council of state, and major-general in the army; the elector at the same time procuring him the decorations of two orders of Polish knighthood, in lieu of the Bavarian order, which the rules of German knighthood prevented him from bestowing. The scientific part of the community also showed their esteem for him by electing him a member of the academies of Munich and Manheina. All this took place not long after Thompson had settled in Munich. Every year of his subsequent stay brought him fresh honors. In 1787, when on a visit to Prussia, he was chosen a member of the Academy of Sciences at Berlin; in Bavaria, to follow the list of dignities given by his American biographer, 'he attained the military rank of lieutenant-general, was commander-in-chief of the general staff, minister of war, and superintendent of the police of the electorate; he was for a short time chief of the regency that exercised soverei g nty during the absence of the elector; and in the interval between the death of the Emperor Joseph and the coronation of his successor Leopold, the elector becoming vicar of the empire availed himself of the prerogatives of that office to make him a Count of the Holy Roman Empire.' When this last dignity was conferred on him, Thompson chose the title of Count of Rumford, in memory of the American village where he had once officiated in the humble capacity of schoolmaster. Although it was not till the year 1790, that this title was bestowed on him and the measures we are about to detail were for the most part matured before that time, we shall consult our convenience by henceforth calling him Count Rumford.

The condition of the poor, and the mode of treating them, are questions which every country on earth must incessantly be occupied with; but in few countries, probably, was the necessity of coming to some decided practical conclusion on the subject more glaring, more imperious, than in Bavaria at the time when Count Rumford undertook the social survey of that state. Beggary had there become an enormous and apparently ineradicable evil weed overgrowing the whole field. The beggars almost ate up the industrious part of the community. The number of itinerant beggars of both sexes and all ages, as well foreigners as natives, who strolled about the country in all directions, levying contributions upon the industri ous inhabitants, stealing and robbing, and leading a life of indolence and the most shameless debauchery, was quite incredible; and so numerous were the swarms of beggars in all the great towns, and particularly in the capital, so great their impudence, and so perserving their importunity, that it was almost impossible to cross the streets without being attacked, and absolutely forced to satisfy their clamorous demands. They not only infested all the streets, public walks, and public places, but they even made a practice of going into private houses; and the churches were so full of them, that people at their devotions were continually interrupted by them, and were frequently obliged to satisfy their demands in order to be permitted to finish their prayers in peace and quiet. In short, these detesta ble vermin swarmed everywhere; and not only their impudence and clamorous importunity were without any bounds, but they had recourse to the most diabolical arts and most horrid crimes in prosecution of their trade. The growing number of the beggars, and their success, gave a kind of eclat to their profession and the habit of begging became so general, that it ceased to be considered as infamous, and was by degrees in a manner in terwoven with the internal regulations of society. Herdsmen and shep herds who attended their flocks by the roadside, were known to derive con siderable advantage from the contributions which their situation enabled them to levy from passengers; and I have been assured that the wages they received from their employers were often regulated accordingly. The children in every country village, and those even of the best farmers, made a constant practice of begging from all strangers who passed; and one hardly ever met a person on foot upon the road, particularly a woman, who did not hold out her hand and ask for charity.'