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GREENWICH AND CHELSEA PENSIONERS.
Greenwich and Chelsea Hospitals fit adornments to the two shores
of the river of England's metropolis - Description of GREENWICH HOSPITAL-The
present number of pensioners -Their ages -The yearly deaths -The infirmary for
the sick and dying - Religious and moral character of the pensioners, and
provision made for their instruction -The pensioners not allowed to marry, and
the bad effects of this rule -The Royal Hospital schools - Lay agency in a
peculiar manner important with these men -The London City Mission the only
agency of this character in the Hospital - Need of a second paid lay visitor -
Description of the meeting of pensioners daily held by the missionary of that
Society - The room paid for by the pensioners themselves, in addition to their
weekly contributions to the Society-Striking cases of usefulness among the
pensioners during the last three years by this agency - Remarkable circumstance
of such entire change of habits and life in men so aged - A case of usefulness
among the out-pensioners from an occasional paper of the Scripture-readers'
CHELSEA HOSPITAL- Nell Gwynne's grant of the building- A college for polemic discussion previously - Number of in-pensioners admitted - Their character - Out-pensioners -The pensioners' opinions of the late Duke of Wellington, and of the lying-in-state -The crowds of the public who assembled to see the spectacle - Number of out-pensioners in different years, according to the prevalence of peace or war-The immense annual cost to the nation at the present day - The Hotel des Invalides at Paris [-88-] erected before Chelsea Hospital - The French also before the English possessed a standing army - Modes in which the disabled and aged soldier was previously supported in this country - The College not completed till after the Revolution -The interest of William III. and IV. in the College - The College is for invalids only - Ages of the pensioners - Annual deaths - The burial-ground of Chelsea College - Remarkable epitaphs and burial registries - The funeral of a pensioner described - Flags and trophies recently removed from St. Paul's Cathedral to Chelsea hospital - Specimens of certificates of service given to pensioners on their admission to the College by their Commanding Officers -The clasps worn by pensioners to denote the number of battles in which they have engaged - Guard kept at the College in military style - Foreigners and different creeds among the pensioners -The heavy manner in which time hangs on their hands - Cards introduced by the authorities of the Hospital to remedy this, and reflections on this - Library, and its defects - Gardening introduced by Lord John Russell - The gardens were the former Ranelagh, and reflections on their different use in the past and present generations - Great abuses in the management of Chelsea Hospital abolished by Lord John Russell - Regulations as to marriage more favourable to morals at Chelsea than at Greenwich -The favourable opportunity presented by the leisure of the pensioners for imparting to them religious instruction in an interesting form -The Royal Military Asylum for boys - The Wellington Fund now raising for the children of officers - Gratitude of pensioners for religious instruction -Their visit to City missionaries, when the latter have been ill - Their interest in religious tracts -Their desire of further instruction - Number of out-pensioners resident in the metropolis, without the walls of the College - Facilities for benefiting them - Importance of this-Extracts from reports of a missionary of the London City Mission - The pensioners present a claim on the nation, and not on the inhabitants of London only -The especial claims which they present on Christian benevolence - Thankfulness for peace - Immense cost of war as compared with the insignificant amount which would now greatly add to their comfort and promote their best interests - Danger of delay with men so aged.
Greenwich and Chelsea Hospitals fit Adornments to the two Shores of England's Metropolis.
"The opposite banks of the noble river
which flows through the British metropolis could not be more fitly adorned than
they are by those 2 great monuments of the public beneficence, the
Hospitals of Greenwich and Chelsea.
"Both these retreats are splendid places; the former, especially, is one of the most magnificent palaces in the country, and yet their inmates are, for the most part, merely private soldiers and sailors. It may be said that they are, after all, but the abodes of persons of poor and low degree, and that there is an unsuitableness in giving those a palace to dwell in, whose mode of life in other respects is about on a level with that of the inhabitants of cottages. Thus might those argue who looked to the matter with a reference only to physical considerations, and could not, or would not, view it in its moral bearings. But we should not, we confess, be satisfied to see the institutions founded by the bounty of the nation for the shelter of its veteran defenders, consist merely of so many ranges of hovels. The economy, we apprehend, would neither be appropriate nor profitable. Every time one of our gallant seamen now casts his eye upon Greenwich - every time he has the gorgeous pile before him in fancy, it is an inspiration to him of the same character with that which is derived from the anticipation of public honours in any other profession in which they may be gained. He feels proudly that in his old age he will not be accounted a burden by his country, but that he shall receive from her, and be held worthy of, something more than mere bread."* (* Magazine of Society for Diffusing Useful Knowledge, 1832, p. 92.)
Greenwich Hospital, in particular, is thus described in the "London City Mission Magazine," for December, 1846:-
A Description of the Building.
"'The edifice was founded, not on the ruins of a Royal palace, but has by gradual steps grown out of one, till it has eclipsed, both in extent and actual magnificence, many of those at present existing, and which are now occupied by Royal or Imperial tenants.' * (* Hunter's "History of London and its Environs," 4to., vol. ii., p. 156.) No fewer than four of our English sovereigns were born in the palace which stood on its site - viz., Henry VIII., Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth. It was the favourite abode of the first and last of these monarchs. From about the year 1300, for nearly 400 years, it was the scene of Royal magnificence and courtly splendour. The last of our kings who inhabited Greenwich was Charles I. It was subsequently occasionally visited by the Protector, and after him by Charles II., who resolved to restore it from the decay into which it had then fallen with superior grandeur, and who completed the restoration of one wing of the palace. No further progress was made in its restoration till the reign of William III., whose Queen, Mary, is said to have suggested to him the idea of making it an asylum for the aged and disabled seamen of the Royal Navy; and it was at length determined, upon the recommendation of Sir Christopher Wren, that the unfinished palace should be enlarged and adapted to this charitable purpose. The property was forthwith vested in the hands of trustees, and commissioners appointed. The King contributed the sum of 2,000l., the commissioners nearly 8,000l., and Sir Christopher engaged to superintend the work without pecuniary emolument. The foundation of the present Hospital was laid A.D. 1696, and an Act of Parliament was [-91-] passed in the same year, by which 6d. per month of the wages of all seamen belonging to the Royal Navy is appropriated to the benefit of the Institution. Since that time large sums have been contributed to the Hospital by benevolent individuals, and forfeited estates transferred to it, of which the estate of the unfortunate Earl of Derwentwater is the most considerable. The buildings have been successively enlarged and improved, and the present annual income of the Hospital is about 90,000l. Hunter has well observed, 'The idea of lodging the veterans of the British Navy in a palace seems worthy of the dignity of the first maritime power in the world; and the whole establishment, by the rank and number of its officers and directors, fills the mind with an appropriate greatness of character.' To this, however, he was led to add, probably with some measure of truth, 'Yet it may be questioned whether the real comfort of the persons to whose use it is devoted might not have been better consulted by a greater attention to convenience and accommodation, and a less regard to splendour.'"
"The pensioners who are the
objects of this charity must be seamen or marines, disabled by age, or maimed in
the Queen's service. Foreigners, who have served two years in the British Navy,
are also admitted; as also merchant-seamen, who have received wounds in
defending or taking any ship, or in fight against a pirate. The widows of seamen
are also provided for in the establishment, and enjoy exclusively the privilege
of being appointed nurses.
"Probably few of our readers will be prepared to hear of the large number of pensioners who are now in Greenwich Hospital. Every Saturday night all are expected to sleep within the building, and the gates then close on very nearly 4,000 individuals, 'as many (as an officer remarked to one [-92-] of our missionaries) as would people a town, and yet enclosed, as you see, as it were, in a nut-shell.' There are about 2,700 pensioners, 800 boys, 103 nurses, 100 officers, and wives, families, and servants of officers, nearly make up the remaining 297."
"A large number of the pensioners have been hard drinkers, and lived irregular lives; but nevertheless, many of them live to a great age. They are all of them old men. None are admitted under 60, except they are maimed, and obtain a special order from the Board. A lieutenant of the Institution was writing down the age of one man when our missionary entered. It was 70 years. On our missionary remarking that it was a good old age, he remarked, 'We do not consider that old here.' A man of 70 is almost a junior. Most of the pensioners are older than this; many are between 80 and 90; and one has arrived at the astonishing age of 103. Between Feb. 14 and Nov. 19 of this year, 202 pensioners have died, of whom 100 were above 70 and under 80 years of age, 23 above 80 and under 85, 5 above 85 and under 90, 1 above 90 and under 95, and 2 above 95 and under 100."
Their Present Number.
Since that period the number of in-pensioners has somewhat decreased. In January, 1853, there were 2,350 pensioners within the Hospital. Of these, the oldest man then was 98.
The Yearly Deaths.
The magazine just quoted from stated
"About 300 of the pensioners die annually. During the last 19 years, 5,755 have died, being an average of 302 each year. At particularly trying seasons the mortality is [-93-] especially great. All who die are interred within 48 hours.
"Whether, therefore, we consider the age and physical condition of these men, or the national debt we owe them, as having exposed their lives for the safety of their country, they have, we had almost said, a stronger claim on our Christian sympathy than any other body of individuals.- Very soon they will ALL be in eternity."
Last year was a year of less mortality than usual in the Hospital. Yet 291 pensioners died at Greenwich in 1852, and the average of deaths there for the last 10 years is 308, which exceeds the previous average by 6. The following is the exact record:-
Died in 1843 ... 316
Died in 1844 ... 307
Died in 1845 ... 277
Died in 1846 ... 286
Died in 1847 ... 369
Died in 1848 ... 270
Died in 1849 ... 355
Died in 1850 ... 301
Died in 1851 ... 311
Died in 1852 ... 291
Total ... 3,083
In one of these years (1847), therefore, it will be seen there was actually more than one death of a pensioner occurring every day throughout the year.
The Infirmary for the Sick and Dying.
The Infirmary is connected with the Hospital. It was
erected A.D. 1763, and it contains 64 rooms, each capable of [-94-]
accommodating 4 patients. It will, therefore, accommodate 256 patients.
Adjoining the infirmary there is also a flat-roofed building, called the Helpless Ward, for the accommodation of 117 helpless pensioners and their nurses.
Religious and moral Character of the Pensioners, and Provision made for their Instruction.
An additional extract from the
"London City Mission Magazine" will complete the information which it
is desirable to give of the arrangements of the Hospital, and of the practices
of the pensioners:-
"The pensioners have 2 chaplains, and there is a chapel in the Hospital, which accommodates 1,400 persons, and which is always quite filled with them on Sundays, as they are under obligation to attend there, or at their own place of worship, except ill. Other persons are not admitted to the service at this chapel. There are about 200 Roman Catholics among the pensioners, for whose benefit there is a priest, to whom the Hospital pays a certain amount per annum, and who attends to those of his own persuasion in the different wards. Besides the 1,400 pensioners who attend their own chapel, there are about 350 who attend elsewhere. The rest are prevented attending by old age, infirmity, or sickness. Bibles are placed in the wards, but there is too much reason to fear that they are not much read. The pensioners have also an excellent library. It contains, at the present time, 1,584 volumes of a standard character, and consists of biography, naval history, &c., &c., some of the better class of novels and tales, and many excellent works on divinity. Our missionary especially happened to observe Scott's Commentary. The books are not allowed to be taken out, but the pensioners come into the library to read them - 18 were present when our [-95-] missionary visited it. Periodical literature, and three daily newspapers are taken in for their use. Prayers are said in the Hospital chapel every morning during the week, except Monday and Saturday. From 40 to 50 pensioners attend, and on Sacrament Sundays, about 60 of the pensioners receive the holy communion. Eighty-three pensioners (so far as we could learn) are communicants at Dissenting chapels in the town. In one of the churches, seats have also been appropriated to the pensioners. Immoralities are punished with some strictness of discipline, when discovered, by the College authorities.
"In spite, however, of all these efforts for their good, the pensioners are generally discontented and unhappy, probably for want of employment, and through the great change in their circumstances; and a large proportion of them are depraved in their characters, associations, and habits. To the extent of their means, they lead lives of drunkenness and profligacy. Only twelve of the pensioners belong to the Greenwich Teetotal Society. While our missionaries were in Greenwich, a pensioner, aged 95, was confined for drunkenness. They beheld many sad scenes of drunkenness in the streets. As an example, in passing a public-house, they saw a grey-headed pensioner come out in a state of intoxication, and without provocation begin to strike a woman about her head with his stick. Such cases are sadly frequent."
The Pensioners not allowed to marry, and the bad Effects of this Rule.
"About 250 of the pensioners have
entered the Hospital as married men. They are allowed to sleep out of the
building every night but Saturday, and are to be found living with their wives
in different parts of the town. But after entering the Hospital, the pensioners
are not allowed to marry. [-96-] We are sorry to
have to add, that many of them, however, live without marriage with women, as
they call it, 'on the sly.' These women are too often, as may be supposed, women
of very bad character. To support these women, they have frequently much
difficulty. Some of them are obliged to carry on trades, such as shoemaking,
tailoring, &c., and others manage secretly to carry out of the Hospital part
of the provisions, and half starve themselves. The pensioners are prohibited
from marrying, because they brought so very heavy a burden on the parish by
their wives and children. But the prohibition has by no means remedied this
evil, for the children of unmarried pensioners cost the parish a considerable
sum. All such cases are marked in the parish books 'G. H.' It is truly
disgraceful to see so many of these hoary-headed men in such constant company
with young fallen females, in every part of the town. The tobacco-money, we
fear, of a large number of them, is spent on such worthless characters, or at
low public-houses. Many young unsuspecting girls are ruined by these old
"The pensioners mess in common; and, in addition to their lodging, clothing, and maintenance, the boatswains are allowed 2s. 6d., mates 1s. 6d., and privates 1s. per week for pocket- money. Each private has a further allowance of three pints of beer a-day, and half-a-gallon on festival days. Much drinking and wickedness are carried on upon these latter occasions."
The Royal Hospital Schools.
"The Royal Hospital Schools at the present time contain 800 boys, 400 of whom are the children of seamen in the navy, or of non-commissioned officers and privates of the marines, and 400 the sons of officers, seamen, and marines in the Queen's service, &c. They are supported from the general funds of the Hospital. The boys leave the schools [-97-] at the age of 14 or 15. Till a few years since, there was also a girls' school, which contained 200 girls. But this was done away about the year 1840, partly through cases of disgrace to the Hospital, which resulted from the admission of females within the edifice.
Lay Agency in a peculiar manner important with these Men.
Some of the foregoing circumstances
are exceedingly painful to allude to. But they show the importance of every
effort for the religious benefit of these veterans.
The allowance of beer referred to in the previous extract, as existing in December, 1846, has been since reduced from 3 to 2 pints a-day.
It is probably with men of the stamp of these pensioners that the importance of lay agency in imparting religious instruction has been remarkably shown. The importance of 2 chaplains is great, but it by no means suffices, without subordinate helps. These old men require very plain and familiar treatment. They are extremely fond of social meetings for prayer and exposition of the Scriptures, and will attend them with great frequency and in large numbers, when they will not attend daily prayers in the chapel of the Hospital. having nothing to do also, it is really agreeable to them to have some one constantly among them, with whom they can converse without restraint. They will bear a much larger amount of religious visiting than other classes, and it is most important that they should have it.
The London City Mission the only Agency of this Character in the Hospital.
We are not aware of any other agency within Greenwich Hospital for the religious welfare of the inmates, the chaplains of course excepted, than that of the London City [-98-] Mission, which has one missionary, who devotes his entire time to the visitation of the different wards. He has been now thus employed for the last 7 years. His appointment has been the means of great good, and he has a most important field of labour. He appears also to work harmoniously with the chaplains and other authorities. His support is derived from the pensioners themselves, and from the contributions of children.
Need of a Second Paid Lay Visitor.
There is, however, employment for a second missionary to visit the pensioners who are found without the Hospital every day, perambulating all parts of the town and park, where they may be freely conversed with on their eternal interests. At present one missionary is unable to attend to all which is required. The interior of the building is full employment for one lay agent, and the pensioners out of. doors would be full employment for a second. On wet days, they would be to be met with too numerously by far in public-houses, where, with judgment, they might be followed and conversed with.
Description of the Meeting of Pensioners held daily by the Missionary.
The "London City Mission
"The missionaries we sent down to Greenwich to explore its condition met with frequent testimonies of the value in which the Royal Hospital Missionary is held, especially among the pensioners. One person said,' What we want are such meetings as Mr. C-'s,' mentioning his name. And another said, 'We want six such men as Mr. C- here, instead of one.' These missionaries, when down at Greenwich, attended one of the meetings of Mr. C-, at which 3 pious old pensioners in rotation engaged in prayer. It was [-99-] truly delightful to them to witness how near their hearts lay the welfare of the College and its inmates. Their devotion was warm, and their petitions evangelical. They prayed with especial earnestness for all their fellow-pensioners. The first of them in his prayer said, 'We know, O Lord, scores in the College who are Infidels, drunkards, and everything that is contrary to God and his Word.' The second prayed, 'Answer, oh answer, O Lord, our cries for the College;' and the third, in his prayer, prayed for his fellow-believers there, that their faith, holiness, &c., might be increased; and then he added, 'And may all believers be united in praying for the College;' to which, throughout the pensioners present, there was a loud and hearty 'Amen.' The new room (accommodating 200 persons) had not then been engaged, and the room in which they were assembled was so crowded, that a considerable number of those who desired to get in were obliged, for want of room, to stand outside, and hear as well as they could. The scene was very animating, and full of encouragement."
Striking Cases of Usefulness among the Pensioners by this Agency.
The following cases of usefulness are taken from the last 3 years' Annual Reports of the Greenwich Pensioners' Missionary of the London City Mission, and no one of the cases has ever before been brought before the public. They tend to show how very varied and extensive the usefulness effected has been.
In A.D. 1851.
The Report for 1851 commences with the
following general statement :-"I have free access to every part of the
Hospital. No obstacle whatever is thrown in my way. My visits are thankfully
received, with a very few exceptions. If there is [-100-] one
class of individuals more than another who demand our sympathy, they are the
Greenwich pensioners, who are tottering on the verge of eternity, and who are
daily passing away into an eternal world. The vast majority, I have reason to
fear, are unprepared for the solemn change. There are many, however, who are
truly pious, of whom some owe the change to God's blessing on the efforts of the
London City Mission. A portion of these were once sunk deep in depravity, but
they are now living exemplarily, and giving very practical evidence of the
reality of the change which has been effected in them.
Then follows a narration of particular cases of usefulness which had occurred during the year.
First, an old pensioner is referred to, who during the year had become a communicant at the College Chapel. He had been long entirely ignorant of spiritual things. An attendance at the missionary's meeting, 3 years before, had first opened his understanding. The consistency of his conduct in the interim testifies to the impression made on his mind.
Then comes the case of a man who had been at sea 7 years, and in several skirmishes, although in no general engagement. At New Orleans he had been laid up with yellow fever, which carried off thousands. To use his own words, "If I had died then, I should have gone direct to hell, for a greater drunkard could not have been." He had been in the Hospital 10 years, and had then attended the meetings of the missionary a year and a-half. Up to that time his habits of drinking had been continued; and he had generally a heavy score against him at the public-house. He is now a sober man, and the old scores have been long since cleared off. Nor is evidence wanting of the heart as well as the life having experienced a great change.
A narrative succeeds of a man of colour from America, who had been 35 years at sea, and was in the battle of [-101-] Navarino, as well as in other engagements, but had never thought of the mercy of God in preserving him in the midst of so many and imminent dangers, both in the days of battle and while crossing the mighty deep. At China, shortly after an engagement, although he escaped the enemy's hand, he was smitten by an unseen power with a paralytic stroke, which deprived him of the use of one side. He was then sent home as unfit for further service, and after entering the Hospital, although so afflicted, he remained a rebel against God for nearly 6 months, and was frequently the worse for liquor. At length one of his cabin mates invited him to attend the meeting, when what he heard came home with Divine power to his heart. He at once abandoned his former companions, and for 2 years at that time he had been an altered man. He was to be constantly seen in the ward with his Bible before him, which before he never thought of reading. He subscribed his penny a-week towards the support of the missionary. He would put his hand on his breast, and say, in his own peculiar and characteristic phraseology, " The promises come in here with sweetness. It was the best day's work I ever did, when I came into Greenwich. I had been overboard all my life before, but now, thank God, He has taken me into the life-boat."
Next comes the case of a very aged pensioner of 84, who, until he attended the meetings two and a-half years before, considered that he was a very good man, who had never injured any one, and against whose character no one could bring a charge. He always attended his church, when able, and was wrapt up in his own self-righteousness. He has now long been convinced that he is a very wicked sinner. For some period he was quite cast down with the conviction, and could scarcely be brought to entertain the belief that there was hope in the Gospel even for him. Having, however, first deeply humbled him, God in his mercy has now filled [-102-] him with "joy and peace in believing." Confinement in the Infirmary had at length prevented his attendance at the meeting, but he had for a long time sent his shilling a-month for the benefit of the London City Mission, in gratitude for its efforts on his behalf.
Passing over the next two cases, that the reader may not be wearied, although they possess interest, we come to the case of a pensioner, who had been a marine for about 17 years, and had, on his discharge, worked on different railways as a navvy, but had at length entered the Hospital. The very day after his admission, the missionary met him by the Thames and presented him with a tract, entitled, "Religious Conversation." He received it with almost the expression of a fiend, and began to pour forth a volley of abuse on the bishops, the clergy, and all ministers of the Gospel, calling them "a set of villains," "oppressors of the poor," &c., &c. All that the missionary said was treated with contempt. Eight months passed on before the missionary again spoke to him. He was then seated by the fire in his ward, with about 20 of his cabin mates. He was equally abusive as before, and told the missionary that he would not thus go about if he was not well paid for it. "The parsons," said he, "are all alike in this. It is nothing more than a money-getting system." The missionary immediately admitted that he was paid; appealed to him, if he would work without being paid for it; and asked him how it was possible for a missionary or a minister to live without food any more than himself. The missionary then proceeded to expose to him the folly of his course, and to assure him that, if he continued in it, it would certainly end in his eternal ruin. He only sneered at these remarks. On the following morning the missionary, while on his way to the meeting, happened, however, to meet him again, and invited the old man to accompany him, telling him, that it was the best thing he could [-103-] do with himself. He refused, but without abuse; and, to the missionary's surprise, he saw him enter the room soon after he had himself arrived. He listened with apparent attention to the Word of God and its exposition. And, notwithstanding the great ridicule to which an attendance at these meetings exposes the pensioners from their comrades, he has ever since daily attended them with regularity, both morning and evening. He stands firm against the laugh which is directed to him. He also daily studies the Bible for himself. He has left off both drunkenness and swearing, to both of which he was previously greatly addicted; and he has himself become a subscriber to the missionary's support. This case, as well as several others here referred to, has been carefully inquired into by parties well competent to form a judgment, and it appears most genuine and unmistakeable.
Again, passing over a case which, from the grossness of the sins described, would render it scarcely suitable to be here recorded, although this very circumstance renders the alteration effected the more remarkable, the Report concludes with the case of a pensioner, much younger than usual. He went to sea very young, and had been in the service only a year and a-half when he lost his leg. He was then discharged with a pension of 12l. a-year, and worked at his trade as a tailor. After having been foreman in a tailoring establishment for some time, he was taken ill, and admitted into the infirmary of the Hospital. here he had been 3 years, and it is not likely that he will ever leave. He is to be seen now with the Bible continually before him. How different this is to what it was, will appear from his own observation to the missionary: "Before I came here, I would as soon have taken a serpent into my hand as the Word of God, but now it is all my delight. I can now say, with David, 'Lord, how love I thy law; therein do I meditate [-104-] day and night.' "He is in the habit of receiving the Lord's Supper monthly from one of the College clergy, and appears to understand the nature of that sacrament, and to be a suitable person to partake of it. The missionary's instructions have been especially useful to him.
In A.D. 1852.
This Report commences with the general
"The field of my labour consists of' old sailors and marines. The vast majority of them have sunk deep in depravity. This is not to be wondered at when the temptations to which they were exposed during the war, both abroad and at home, are considered. They would almost invariably spend all their money among the worst of women, and in a few weeks what had taken them years to earn was gone. These practices have grown with their growth and strengthened with their strength. Drunkenness and swearing have become so habitual to them that they scarcely regard them as crimes. When I have remonstrated with them on account of these sins, the frequent reply has been,-' We hope God will make allowance for sailors. We have always been used to it, and cannot give it up very easy.' But, notwithstanding the depth of depravity into which many of these old men have fallen, there are among them many living monuments of the power of Divine grace, showing that there is nothing impossible with God, but that he can soften the hardest heart and subdue the most perverse will.
As illustrations of that year's usefulness of the missionary among this class, a case is first of all related of an old pensioner who had been 19 years in Her Majesty's service and seen several engagements. Five years since the missionary found him most ignorant and unconcerned as to all matters of religion. He was also a great swearer. His wife was induced to attend the familiar meetings for prayer and exposition of [-105-] the Scriptures, which were made useful to her. She then endeavoured to prevail on her husband to attend, but to no purpose. He only jeered at her, and cursed and swore most awfully. "Do you think," he would say, "I am such a fool as to leave this comfortable fire to go to hear that fellow ?" At length he was, however, induced to accompany his wife for once. The subject was, true Christians being the temples of the Holy Ghost,- "As the Lord bath said, I will walk in them and dwell in them; they shall be my people, and I will be their God." On his return home he fell into a fit of passion, and said, "He wondered the people did not turn the fellow out of the desk, for he actually told them that God Almighty would come down and dwell in a sinner's heart. He must take us to be a set of fools to believe such nonsense as that." After a while he came, however, a second time to the meeting. On that occasion the subject was the new birth, from St. John iii. The words, "Ye must be born again, came home to his heart;" and he returned home, no more to curse and swear, but to express true concern and sorrow for his past course. He became, from that time, a regular attendant on the means of grace, gave up his old companions, and, after careful examination, was admitted a communicant, with his wife, at one of' the chapels of the town, he regularly since subscribes his penny a-week to the Mission.
A second case reported, as having occurred that year, is that of an aged pensioner who had been 15 years in the Hospital, and who had been also 15 years in active service; but who on his discharge, in 1815, had turned coachman, when he sunk deeper into sin than ever. He at length got into prison for theft. When first met with by the missionary, in the Hospital, he was actually as ignorant of spiritual things as an Hottentot. He could not even read. Now, to employ his own nautical image, "the Saviour has hauled down the devil's colours and hoisted up his own." His [-106-] mind has become enlightened, he has felt the evil of sin, and he is resting his hopes only on Christ. His life is altogether changed. He has become a communicant at the College Chapel. To testify his gratitude to the missionary, he subscribes his penny a-week towards his support, and keeps the room in which the meeting is held clean, free of charge. He is never absent from his post there.
Then comes the case of a sick pensioner, visited in the Infirmary. He appeared impressed, by frequent visits to his bed-side; but, knowing the deceitfulness of professions at such times, little account was made of it by the missionary. At length the man recovers. The impression remained. Two years have passed away, and have not erased it. He has, since his recovery, become a communicant, and in all things he adorns the Gospel by his life. His language is that of constant thankfulness that God, in his mercy, afflicted him.
Then comes a case of a different order. A very old pensioner, who had lived beyond the three score years and ten allotted to man, had in his youth been the subject of religious impressions. But when his desires to go to sea were gratified, these were all forgotten, and departed, like the early cloud and the morning dew. He soon became, like seafaring men in general, careless and indifferent about religion, and this was not disturbed, even by the imminent perils of warfare, when others around him were cut down in quick succession. Five years since the missionary met with him. He is now the subject of the same religious impressions as at first, in his early life. For the past five years he has evidenced the change which has occurred to him. This year he has become a communicant at the chapel. He is most indefatigable in his efforts to benefit his cabin-mates, and never allows sin in them without reproof. He also subscribes to the Mission, like the others.
Passing over the two next cases, in both of which the [-107-] pensioners visited became communicants, a case is next recorded of an aged pensioner, whose life had previously been of a more moral character than is usual with that class. For four years he had attended the Meetings of the missionary, seldom missing any of them, although they are nine each week. The change in this man does not appear so great, but his own testimony is that it is as entire as marvellous. During the year he was received as a communicant at the Independent chapel of the town. How interesting is it to observe such changes effected at a period of life so very advanced, when habits ordinarily become fixed, and the mind of those who during a long life have continued irreligious, become callous!
Another poor old man, on the borders of the grave, is next referred to, apparently plucked that year as a brand from the burning. He had been altogether, in the Merchant and in Her Majesty's Service, 41 years at sea, and had been shipwrecked several times, yet mercifully preserved from a watery grave. It would be tedious to descend to particulars in all these individual cases. Suffice it to say, that from being ignorant and careless, he is now in earnest to secure the salvation of his soul. His life is exemplary, and the testimony of those around him is, "We wish we were like him." His pittance is very small, but out of it twopence a week is cheerfully and voluntarily paid to the Mission, by whose instrumentality he considers he has been so richly benefited.
Three other cases follow of an equally important and satisfactory character; and two very happy deaths of pensioners are also recorded, as having occurred during the year, in both of which the dying men most fervently blessed God that ever a missionary was sent to visit the Hospital. The average attendance of the pensioners at the nine weekly Meetings is 22 in the morning, and 80 in the [-108-] evening. The old men themselves pay the rent of the room, amounting to 7l. a-year. The morning Meetings are held from nine to ten o'clock, except on Sundays; and the evening Meetings on three evenings in the week, from seven to eight.
About a thousand tracts are given away by the missionary every month among the pensioners. These are very gratefully received by the vast majority of them. There is also every reason to believe that they are read. In some cases they may be made a blessing, where the word spoken would fail. The following case, which occurred during that year will serve as an illustration:-
One tobacco day, as it is called, that is, one day when the men receive their allowance of tobacco, an old pensioner put into the missionary's hands, while he was distributing tracts, a paper, to be read by him when he got home. On opening it, a shilling was found within it, and the following sentences were written, "Sir, I am much obliged to you for your most noble and generous acts, and for your kind tracts to teach us the way of God. I am truly sensible that I am a sinner before him. I cannot go, however, to hear his Word, as I am very deaf. But, thanks to God, I can read the tracts; and if you please to accept of this trifle, you will oblige your humble servant."
In A.D. 1853.
The Report for 1853 states, that there are
at this time about 200 Roman Catholics in Greenwich hospital, 3 Mormonites, and
3 Jews, one of whom occasionally attends the Meeting; that the missionary has
free access to every part of the Hospital; that the authorities place no
obstacle in his way, and some of them countenance him, and appear glad to hear
of the improvement of any of the men; that the pensioners generally receive him
well, and even the [-109-] most depraved
acknowledge that he means well to them, and that (to use their own words),
"it would be a good job if they were to take his advice."
This Report relates to the happy death, during the year, of six of the pensioners, the change effected in whom had been referred to in the previous years. Is it not a matter for joy that these brave men are now, through such instrumentality, as it may be not only hoped but believed, safe in glory for eternal ages? They all gave good evidence to the last that the change effected in them during health was genuine and Divine.
Who shall say that the following case of benefit was not the fruit of a mother's prayers? A pensioner, who had lived 70 years, and who had been to sea during the war 12 years, having been pressed on board a man of war from the Isle of Man, of which he was a native,· was thus taken away from an aged mother, who was entirely dependent upon him for support. He gave her half his pay, as long as she hived. He wears a silver medal given him for services in the battle of Trafalgar. Both his parents were religious persons, members of the Wesleyan Methodist Society; and he was the subject of many prayers on the part of both of them. At sea he appeared to have lost all his own early impressions of religion, under careful and pious training, and soon run into excesses of sin and folly. He was received into the Hospital eight months since, a sad drunkard at the verge of a long life. The missionary talked to him faithfully. He attended the daily meetings with regularity, and now, at this eleventh hour, his mother's prayers are answered. He has begun to lead a new life, at 70 years of age, and has been just admitted a communicant.
The next case recorded is that of a pensioner, who had been very many years at sea. For three years and a-half he had been on board one ship, and during that time [-110-] he had never seen a Bible, or heard one read. He had sunk very deep into depravity. For five years he had been in the Hospital, and had been often warned, but to no purpose. Drunkenness was his especial sin, and he used to say he could not help it, because he had so bad a wife; but was reminded that that made bad worse, and was adding fuel to the flame. For the last year he has been prevailed on regularly to attend the daily meetings, and he now gives every evidence of being a changed man. He long wanted to subscribe to the Society which sent the missionary, but he determined to give whatever he could spare to his wife, because, as he said, she was his wife, although a bad one. Lately, however, he has begun to spare his penny a-week. And it may be observed that both in his and in the other cases referred to, these contributions are, in the strictest sense of the term, free-will offerings, no one being ever asked to contribute.
The three next cases being passed over, a case is recorded of a pensioner who had been altogether forty years at sea. For eleven years he had been in the Hospital, and during the six years that the missionary had been there, he had scarcely on any occasion seen him sober. But now he no longer drinks. His very countenance declares the change which has taken place in his habits. Putting his hand on his cheek, "You see," said he recently, "what a plump face I have got now, to what I had before. My attendance at your Meetings has made the difference." He had before drunk himself almost to a skeleton. He gives his twopence a-week subscription, as a mark of gratitude to the Society. May it not be hoped that the wonderful providence of God has preserved this old man's life through many dangers, that he may be made an heir of glory? Once he was shipwrecked on a desert island, where, when he was about perishing for want of water, a ship hove in sight. At [-111-] another time he fell from the mast-head. And he had been in dangers often.
Again passing over two interesting cases, we come to an old veteran, who had been in the battle of the Nile with Lord Nelson, and in Egypt with General Abercrombie, fighting ashore to assist the troops. Like so many others, he entered the Hospital, careless and unconcerned about religion and his soul. The missionary has, however, been blessed to arouse him to a concern for the matters most important. He has even given up card-playing, of which he was before passionately fond. His attention is most marked to what he hears from the Word of God.
The last case recorded is that of a pensioner who, when first accosted, some ten months since, by the missionary, answered him, "Now, I don't want any of your coaxing. You won't get me over as you do some of them." At length, however, the missionary got from him the promise that he would come for once to the meeting. He kept his promise, and, what is more, he has ever since continued to attend, and appears to be deriving real profit from what he hears. Both he and the previous pensioner give their weekly contribution of gratitude for the efforts made on their behalf.
At so advanced a period of life, it is not, perhaps, very often the case that confirmed habits become changed; but these old pensioners present many remarkable exceptions to such a rule. How deeply interesting is it that men so old should become "new creatures in Christ Jesus" in so many instances.
Case of Usefulness among Out-pensioners, from the Scripture Readers' Association "Occasional Paper."
One case only of the benefit of visitation to
the out- pensioners of Greenwich. Hospital will here be given. It is [-112
-] taken from the ninth "Occasional Paper" of the Church of
England Scripture-readers' Association.
"The following extracts from a Reader's Journal, which have passed under the eye, and met with the approval of the clergy in whose district the reader is located, may excite some interest. They present the case of an old weatherbeaten sailor, who was brought to the knowledge of the truth, after 68 winters had passed over and whitened the old man's head. He had fought at the battle of Copenhagen, in Her Majesty's ship Clio, in 1801, and had altogether been at sea upwards of 50 years, having earned a pension of 24l. per annum
July 5, 1850.-After visiting the upper families of this house, I went into a little room on the first floor, where an old man was smoking his pipe. He wishing to know my business, I explained the purport of my visit, and entered into conversation with him. I soon introduced the subject of religion, and spoke of the love of Christ manifested toward us in so many ways, especially in the grand scheme of salvation, whereby He saved us from eternal damnation. I then referred to man's ingratitude in return, and took out my Bible and read John xvii. 1-3, when suddenly the old man's countenance changed, and he became greatly agitated. 'Oh!' said he, 'believe me, sir, for that Saviour I'd be torn to pieces, limb from limb, and yet I feel my heart as hard as iron. What shall I do? What shall I do?' I replied, 'The heart of man is, indeed, naturally hard; we can do nothing ourselves; we must go to Christ, and pray for his Holy Spirit to purify and soften it. Do you ever pray?' 'No, never! I have given my blood for my country, and fought its battles, but never prayed to my God.' 'Then,' said I, 'believe me, you are in a very dangerous condition.' 'I know what you mean,' said he, as he arose from his seat, [-113-] and shook his fist in my face; 'you mean to say, that, if I don't pray, I shall go to hell. I know I shall - I shall go to hell.' 'Be not terrified,' I said; 'the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sins: ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find. Ask his pardon, and you will not ask in vain. Seek his love, and tis already found.' The old man stood in the centre of the room and shook violently. At last he burst into a flood of tears, and wept like a child. I myself felt quite overcome by the scene. I could only lift up my silent petitions for him. When he was a little more composed, I offered to engage in prayer for him. 'Will you,' said he, as he took my hand, 'will you pray for me?' 'God Almighty bless you!' The old man sunk on the floor, and I knelt down and engaged in prayer. As soon as I had concluded, he grasped my hand with every token of gratitude, and earnestly begged of me to call again as soon as I could, and whenever I could. 'Do you ever go to church?' said I. 'Never,' he returned, 'never.' 'Will you come on Sunday?' His eyes appeared to sparkle as he answered, 'I will, I will.' 'I shall look for you, mind.' 'Believe me, you will find me there. And now tell me when you will come again. Pray come soon. Come whenever you can, and you shall find me, though an old man, yet one who will listen to your every word. I will be your scholar - anything. And now, good-bye,' said he, grasping my hand till the pressure was painful, 'God Almighty bless you.'
"' July 6.-I called on the old man to-day, and found him at his breakfast, which consisted of bread and water. On inquiring how he felt, he replied, 'Very miserable.' He felt so guilty before God, he knew not what to do. 'What is worse,' said he, 'in my youthful days I had every instruction in religious affairs, and have read the Bible and Prayer-book through and through, so that I have sinned against light and knowledge.' I told him, that in the eleventh hour Christ [-114-] casts out none who come to Him, and that his blood can wash away the vilest sins. 'Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden.' 'Will you,' said I, 'refuse the invitation? Tomorrow is his holy day; let me see you at church.' 'You shall,' said he, 'if I go naked.' I then read 1 John iii., haying particular stress on the verse, 'Ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins.' I then engaged in prayer, which appeared much to comfort the old man; and, as I heft the room, I had the gratification of seeing him prepare for the enjoyment of the same privilege.
" 'July 12.-As I approached the house, I heard the old man joyfully exclaim, 'He's coming! he's coming!' Directly afterwards he came to meet me. When I went into his room, he said, last evening he went to Islington to his family, who lately left him, to beg a Bible, which they let him have; and since then, he told me, he had been reading it for hours,- he found the promises so sweet and precious to him. 'Oh,' said he, 'I feel so happy; God has removed from my heart that oppressive weight of sin! I find from this, his blessed Word, that the very vilest are received by Him, and I find it to be so with myself.' He pressed the Bible to his lips with every demonstration of joy, and, as he wept, said, 'These are not tears such as those you first witnessed. I felt then I must go to hell; now I feel that Christ died for me. What reason have I to bless you for calling on me ! Had you never seen me, I might still be as I was. Oh, how gracious, how loving is God! Never have I experienced such sensations as those which now fill my heart. These are the happiest days of my life.' Read Isaiah liii.-lv., and John iii., which I endeavoured to simplify as much as possible. Closed with prayer.
"' July 19.-He appeared delighted to see me, and immediately procured his Bible, that I might tell him something about the things of Christ. (I am happy to remark, that I [-115-] had the gratification of seeing him both morning and evening at our church last Sunday.) He told me that on Sunday last, while in church, he felt as if each word had been addressed personally to himself and that the comfort and instruction derived from that source hind been very great. 'Did it want,' said he, 'a hundred miles to the house of God, I would go.' I discovered this morning that his family had lately left him in consequence of his daughter having stolen two sovereigns from him, on which occasion he punished her. He now thought, he said, of going to see her, in order to forgive her; for, as he felt that Christ had forgiven him so great a load of sin, he could no longer retain an ill-feeling towards any one, however unworthy, but would rather pray for her. Read Romans viii. 31-39. He appears very humble.
"'July 30.-He was very much pleased to see me, and appears in every respect humble and meek, as a Christian ought to be; and I feel gratified to say, that every visit finds him more and more improved in spiritual things. I see him regular at the house of God, and most attentive when there; in his own room I find the Bible and Prayer-book his constant companions. He told me that all his friends had left him,-I was the only exception; but he was well compensated, as he would rather see me than any other individual in the world. No one, he added, could for a moment conceive the change of mind that had passed over him since he had known me: he would not exchange his feelings and condition for a coronet or the greatest nobleman's wealth in England. Read 2 Cor. v. 13-21. He appeared very attentive. I explained several passages of Scripture, and closed with prayer. I have now no doubt of his being a sincere Christian.
"'August 12.- I am happy to say that this poor man is going on in the most satisfactory way. He told me he felt [-116-] the great necessity of watchfulness and prayer. 'Directly,' said he, 'an improper thought or feeling enters my mind, I betake myself to prayer and God's holy Word, and the temptation is soon vanquished; and now I wish to make a full profession of my faith, by being a recipient of the Lord's Supper.' I encouraged him in this wish; and having read a portion of Scripture (Rev. xxi. 22-27), closed with prayer.
"' August 17.- I found him rather in a distressed state. He thought himself scarcely prepared yet to be a partaker of the Lord's Supper, at the same time he earnestly desired to be there. After a long conversation with him, I overcame his objections, and, his doubts being removed, I read Psalm xxiii., and advised him to spend the afternoon in prayer and meditation.
"' August 24.- This poor man received the Lord's Supper last Sunday. He thought it the happiest day he ever spent. I had removed his doubts, he said, and he determined to go; but it was with fear and trembling he approached the table, yet he returned filled, enriched with God's presence and love. 'Oh, the happiness of that moment,' he observed, 'words cannot express it! and now, by God's grace, there shall I go till death prevents me.' This poor man appears, as it were, to mount the third heaven. He cannot think of God but tears of joy and gratitude bedew his cheeks; his soul appears to drink in with increasing joy the showers of God's Spirit. In his very countenance hove and humility appear concentrated, and his respectful deportment is that which no Christian need fear to imitate. He sees the past in all its deformity,-the future in all its blissfulness; and daily, at the throne of grace, he zealously advocates the cause of those instrumental to his good.'
Chelsea Hospital provides the same refuge for the army as Greenwich Hospital does for the navy. It has recently had much public attention directed to it, from its selection as the place in which it was considered most fitting that the remains of the late Duke of Wellington should lee in state.
The following sketch of its foundation, and of the recent
spectacle within it, is taken from the Report of a valuable missionary of the
London City Mission, in whose district the Hospital is situated:-
"The plot of ground on which Albion has erected this noble asylum for the disabled veterans of her island soldiery, was, at the close of the I 6th century, called 'Thame Shot,' and was in the possession of Charles, Earl of Nottingham. The then newly-established Church of England being greatly harassed by the controversial attacks of Papists on the one hand, and of Nonconformists on the other, it occurred to Dr. Matthew Sutcliffe, that it would be a great advantage to the Church, if a College were established, in which divines should be trained in a skilful knowledge of polemical theology. This suggestion having been expressed to James I., who was himself fond of controversy, and having received his approval, Thame Shot was purchased, and, on May 8, 1610, the King, in person, laid the foundation-stone, and a charter was bestowed, fixing the number of its fellows at a provost, and 19 fellows. The continuance of this noble institution was short, for in 20 years it hind almost ceased to exist. But it had enrolled many names amongst its fellows that are yet illustrious. Amongst others were Camden, Spelman, Overall, Spencer, Lilly, Prideaux, and Bargreave. During the unhappy wars of the Commonwealth, the new [-118-] College was degraded by the Roundheads from the dignity of a seat of learning to be a stable for horses and a depot for prisoners. After the Restoration, it was given to the Royal Society, but, being found unfit for their purposes, was purchased again by the Crown, and was afterwards given by the licentious Charles to his favourite and kind-hearted paramour, 'Nell Gwynne.' In 1670, Louis XIV. had founded the Hotel Royal des Invalides, at Paris; and this act no doubt suggested to Charles the desirability of establishing a similar refuge for those numerous disabled soldiers who had fought for his father's cause. Certain it is, that, about this time, Charles seriously contemplated such a project, and the following anecdote relates the manner in which its site was determined.
Nell Gwynne's Grant of the Building.
"Nell Gwynne was sitting one
day with the King in her summer-house, whose windows overlooked the adjacent
meadows of King James's College, when the Paymaster of the Forces entered, and
the conversation turned on the difficulty of finding a suitable site for the
projected Hospital. 'Your Majesty could not do better,' said Sir Stephen Fox,
'than give up for the purpose your recent purchase from the Royal Society.' 'It
is well thought of,' replied the King, casting his eye over the plot of ground;
you shall have it.' But, recollecting himself, he instantly added, 'Odso! I
forgot. I have already given this land to Nell here.' 'Have you so, Charles?'
exclaimed Nell gaily; then I will return it to you again for so good a purpose.'
The generous offer was accepted, and Nell being transferred to a mansion which
the King built for her in Pall-mall, Thame Shot, with the meadows and closes
adjacent, were set apart for the use of the Hospital. (Gleig.)
"The King agreed to build to the value of 20,000l., and [-119-] endowed it with a further sum of 5,000l. per annum. The work was committed to Sir John Denham and Sir Christopher Wren, and in the latter part of the reign of James II. the disabled veterans were in quiet possession of their new abode. The Hospital has continued to this day, unaffected by the succession of kings and the changes of governments, and is supported partly by bequests, and partly by assistance from Government."
Number of In-pensioners admitted.
"The number of pensioners inhabiting the Hospital is 538. This is the full complement which the building will contain, and any deficiencies in this number which occur are supplied quarterly from the out-pensioners."
"As a class, they are peculiarly open to religious instruction. Sitting in groups around the grounds and in the wards, they love to talk, and to be talked to. Having arrived at that stage of life when, as Paley says, ease is positive enjoyment, their minds are far more active than their bodies, and anything that affords them food for thought is generally welcome. The respectful habits which they have been accustomed to observe towards their superior officers, they manifest towards every respectable person. So far, the work of a religious teacher would be peculiarly open and easy amongst them. Still the teacher would not be without his difficulties. The habit of intemperance which they have very generally formed in the army, and which mostly clings to them still, is a sad feature in their character. Their habit of swearing (sometimes as a soldier or sailor only can swear) is very deplorable; and their habit of grumbling and expressing dissatisfaction with the arrangements made for their welfare (perhaps the result of old age and infirmity), one could wish [-120-] to see corrected. These things show the necessity that still exists amongst them for Christian instruction, notwithstanding the zealous labours of their excellent Chaplain to impart it."
"But, beside the pensioners who
reside in the Hospital, there are upwards of 50,000, who reside throughout the
world, and receive so much per diem, according to their length of service, their
position in the army, and their former enterprises. Large numbers of these
reside in the immediate vicinity of the Hospital. Nearly one-half of the people
on my district are out-pensioners. Several lodging- houses are filled with them.
I am therefore able to speak of them from a large acquaintance with them. As
a class, they are much worse in moral character than those who dwell in the
Hospital, who are subject to several restraints on open wickedness. Drunkenness
is their besetting sin. Their pension is generally paid at the beginning of each
month, and for 4 or 5 days afterwards drunkenness is so prevalent on my
district, that my labours are considerably impeded. Drink they will have, if
they starve for it afterwards. It is my privilege to labour in connexion with a
clergyman, whose indefatigable zeal and activity has brought him acquainted with
nearly every family on my district, and I believe the above statement agrees
with our common experience. Some of the pensioners live in a very improper state
with women; and it is said of some women on my district, that they receive old
men from the College. When they are sober, I am able at all times to read or
explain to them the Holy Scripture. They are, in all cases, most civil and
friendly. Not unfrequenthy will they repay my teaching with a recital of their
wanderings and battles, and, like the parson's guest in the village of sweet
"Shoulder a crutch, and show how fields were won."
[-121-] They love to talk over their victories, and to discuss the merits of the various commanders under whom they served. They are also generally fond of reading newspapers. Like their brethren in the Hospital, they manifest the same discontent with their portion. Some of them are able to follow an occupation, but the far greater number live entirely on their pensions.
The Pensioners' Opinions of the late Duke of Wellington, and of the Lying-in-State.
"It has been evident, I
suppose, to every one who has had much intercourse with these men, that they
entertained no affection for the late Duke of Wellington. The unbending
sternness of his character, the severity with which he enforced discipline in
the Peninsula, and the strict regard to justice and the public purse with which
he awarded pensions at home, acting upon ill-informed and not over-scrupulous
minds, created a feeling amongst them that he was not a soldier's friend. This
unhappy impression obtained to such a degree, that his name was seldom mentioned
by them with respect. 'Ah!' said one to me, 'he was not like Lord Hill: Lord
Hill was a Christian, and had a feeling for his soldiers ; but nobody liked
Wellington.' 'Well,' said another, 'he's got great honours and great riches, but
it's all through the bravery of his troops, and now he does not care if they
starve. He tried to bring a Bill into Parliament to lessen our pensions, but the
Duke of Richmond said, "Let us begin at the top of the tree, if we begin at
all to diminish pensions ;" but Wellington did not like to have his own
pension lessened.' 'Why, bless your heart!' said another, 'he would hang up his
men like dogs, if they only took a penny loaf out of a baker's shop, when they
were on a hard march and almost starving.' Such remarks were very common in
Wellington's lifetime, but when the news got abroad that [-122-]
he was dead, they were more common still. As a faithful chronicler I am
bound to report them, though I by no means sympathize with them. They are
interesting, as showing the perversity of human nature. The man who fought for
his country from motives of duty died unlamented by his soldiery, whilst the man
who fought for mere personal aggrandizement, from motives of vain-glory, was
almost deified by his army after his death.
"The lying-in-state at Chelsea Hospital was regarded by many of the pensioners, and by the poor in general, as impious, and as a relic of Romish superstition. One woman observed to a brother missionary, after having seen the sight, 'Well! if that isn't the best Irish wake I ever saw!' Another, in the crowd, observed, 'If his soul is in heaven, how he must look down with pity upon such a ceremony! and if he is in hell, what a mockery it is to his suffering!'
The Crowds of the Public who assembled to see the Spectacle.
"But, whatever might be the
private opinion of the people respecting the Duke and his lying-in-state, they
manifested a universal desire to witness what would probably be the last
specimen of the funereal pageantry of kings in a bygone age. Many of the higher
and more intelligent classes of society came, no doubt, to pay a tribute of
respect to departed worth, but the overwhelming majority were mere sightseers.
The train of carriages which conveyed the elite of the country to the
hall of state was truly surprising. At one hour of the day there could not have
been less than one mile and a-half's length of carriages waiting to set down
their passengers, and the day was exceedingly rainy. Ladies, dressed in the most
costly manner, might have been seen bespattered with mud, and wading through
dirt with their slender shoes, because, when they had seen the sight, their
carriages were unable to get sufficiently near to take them
[-123-] up at the point of egress. To many of the coachmen and footmen I
"The first day of public admission commenced, and at an early hour entrance into the hall was easy; but the full tide of human beings had set in towards the Hospital, and the mass soon became enormous. The lady of my respected local superintendent, whose house overlooks the entrance of the Hospital, thus describes the scene, as it appeared from their windows :- 'At about 11 o'clock, the Queen's-road, between the College and the green opposite, was one dense, black line of innumerable people and carriages. It soon became apparent that the police were under some measure of alarm. We could distinguish them, mounted on the iron rails and cabs, and exhorting the people to keep back. There was much screaming and evident suffering in the crowd, and the steam from them rose, as a cloud of smoke, the whole length of the road. A few minutes more, and 2 bodies were carried past, the way for them being made through the crowd by mounted police. About noon a new arrangement was adopted by opening the green, which relieved the pressure, by allowing the crowd to return another way. The returning crowds pressed under our windows, and we saw many women fainting with exhaustion, some with their clothes torn from them, and some who had lost one or both shoes.'
"At night men were set to work to erect barriers, to lay down gas, and to make entirely new arrangements for Monday. The whole of Sunday was occupied with these preparations.
"Monday morning opened with crowds greater than ever, surrounding the Hospital, but owing to the barriers erected, to prevent the crowds pressing too densely on one another, no very serious accident occurred. One woman who had been pressed in the crowd I saw vomiting blood in Smith-street. Another had the skirts of her gown torn completely [-124-] away, and the soles of her shoes trodden off the upper parts. The mud had been worked up around the Hospital by the rain and the large concourse of pedestrians, so that every person was greatly bespattered by it. This almost emptied my district of men and youths. Providing themselves with a stool each, and brushes and blacking, they lined the pavements around the Hospital for many score of yards, and allured the returning visitors to expend a penny on the polishing of their miry shoes, each one assuring the public that theirs was the true Wellington polish, or that theirs was the genuine Victoria blacking. So on, however, the Ragged School Brigade were in the field, and secured to themselves a full share in the rich harvest my people had been reaping. Nor were these the only persons who turned a public loss into a private advantage. Correct portrait sellers and medal vendors were very numerous; and men and children earned a good large sum by holding horses, and finding carriages for those who had been in the hail. Many people opened their houses as tea and coffee-houses, and touted at the doors for customers. The public-houses in the neighbourhood were also filled to overflowing.
"Tuesday brought greater crowds than ever to witness the splendid ceremonial. It was with the greatest difficulty that I could get from my home to my district. The broad mass of persons waiting for admission at one part of the day reached about 600 yards. So densely were they packed, that the lady of the clergyman, to whom I have before referred, saw a gentleman who had the seals of his letters melted in his pocket by the heat of the crowd. Fainting females were very numerous. My kind superintendent's house being very convenient, he generously opened it as an asylum in such cases. In the evening he was not able to count up the number of cases which had been brought in and nursed during the day.
[-125-] "On Wednesday the people seemed to have gathered together more numerously than ever. Many who had been disappointed several times on previous days in trying to reach the hall of death, were determined to make a last effort to-day. So great was the crowd, that it reached from the College, through the Green, through Avenue-terrace, and a long distance up and down King's-road, besides those who were admitted through St. Leonard's-terrace and the Queen's-road. At the close of the day, many who had come hundreds of miles to see the sight went away disappointed.
"Having described in some measure the masses who came to witness the lying-in-state, I will now relate some of the Christian efforts made to turn this solemnity to the furtherance of the Gospel. Finding it impossible to pursue my work on my district, I gathered up a large number of tracts which had remained to me out of former months' distribution, and went amongst the crowd, giving them to such persons as seemed likely to profit by them. There were few cases in which they were not kindly and eagerly received. Seven hundred tracts were distributed by me in a few hours, and I went home for more. I continued it each day, and had the satisfaction of seeing many to whom I had given tracts stand in the crowd reading them. The police also were most willing to receive tracts, and to many I gave them. Several of my brother missionaries were similarly employed. Nor were some of the clergy and Christian people in the neighbourhood unmindful of this excellent opportunity of making known their Lord's will. My respected local superintendent gave away a large number of tracts; and such was the rush of the people and policemen to receive them, that his wife was compelled on Wednesday to leave the door, and go into the balcony to distribute them. Indeed, nothing could exceed the [-126-] thankfulness with which the people in general received tracts.
"How the people behaved on the occasion, when they were assembled in such vast masses, it must be interesting and important to know. Of this there can be but one opinion, and that is in their favour. Nothing could exceed the quietness and patience with which they waited for their turn of admission to the Hospital, nor the orderly manner in which they moved forward in subjection to the police, nor the regard and ready assistance which they bestowed on females fainting in the crowd from heat and pressure. The tedium of delay was beguiled by lively sallies of wit, and a continuous current of cheerful conversation. In such a crowd pressure was to be expected, but no serious accident occurred after the first day. Very large numbers of females had put on some articles of mourning, but it was to be gathered from the conversation, that this was partly owing to the impression that no one would be admitted to the hall without it. If the gatherings of a nation be any index of its sense of decency and propriety, England has reason to congratulate herself, and take courage. Even vice on this occasion was content to wear the appearance of virtue, or to hide itself in the recesses of the neighbouring beer-shops.
"But I must not forget to notice the praiseworthy conduct of the police in keeping order. Time was when the people and the police could by no means agree, but during the lying-in-state they appeared on the most friendly terms. The police joked with the people, and the people with the police, so that it was frequently very amusing to hear them. To distressed females the police were particularly attentive. Wherever there was danger they used the utmost exertions to avert it. Their arrangements were most complete and satisfactory, after the first day's admission, from which time no serious accident occurred.
[-127-] "In conclusion, I would suggest to all men to consider whether so much orderly and peaceful behaviour, manifested by all classes of society on so exciting an occasion, and contrasting so strikingly with popular gatherings in days gone by, may not be traceable to the socializing influence of religion, as applied to the masses through the agency of City missionaries and Scripture-readers, and a regular ministry more alive to the requirements of the people."
Numbers of Out-pensioners in different Years, according to the Prevalence of Peace or War.
The number of the out-pensioners.of Chelsea Hospital has much varied at different times. It has been least during war, and has been most in the early years of peace. In 1743 it was but 3,820. Then came the battle of Culloden, and the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which, in 1750, raised the number to 9,087. It then somewhat decreased again, until the Treaty of Fontainebleau, which, in 1765, increased the number to 15,229. For the next 10 years the numbers varied little, but the commencement of the wars with America, France, and Spain, by 1780 had reduced the number to 10,961. The termination of the American war again increased the number, in 1785, to 20,273. The war with France, subsequent on the French Revolution, had again, in 1795, reduced the number to 16,955. The Treaty of Amiens once more increased it, in 1803, to 25,307; and on the war being very shortly afterwards renewed, the number was again lessened. But after the abdication of ]3uonaparte and the general peace, the numbers rapidly rose. In 1814 the number of the out-pensioners of Chelsea Hospital was 26,568. In 1815 they were increased to 86,757. In 1816 they amounted to 39,217. In 1817 they rose to 54,068; in 1818, to 57,792; and in 1819, to 61,397. In 1823 the numbers had still further increased to 81,189, [-128-] and by 1828 they were 85,834. Through the blessings of long-continued peace, they have since somewhat lessened. But they are considerably more than the estimate given by the missionary in the foregoing Report.
The immense Cost of the Pensioners to the Nation, even at the Present Day.
The large body of men still alive who have been as privates in our wars, and the great cost which the nation has yet to incur in their pensions, is shown by the following extract from the "Times," of February 22, 1853, on the army estimates of the year :- "There are (still) 63,000 out-pensioners from the Line and the Ordnance corps, of whom about 10,000 receive 6d., and 16,000, 1s. per diem, the pensions of the others varying from 5d. to 2s. 6d. For the 'military organization' of these men a demand is made of 44,650l. Altogether, the total expenditure upon out- pensioners, their payment, superintendence, and military organization, amounts to no less than 1,235,800l.-a sum equivalent to one-third of the whole charge for the land forces. During the present year, the cost of out-pensioners was 8,997l. above the cost of the preceding year.
The Hotel des Invalides in Paris established before Chelsea Hospital in London, and a Standing Army established in France before its Establishment in England.
We were long after our neighbour, France, before we had a standing army in England. From her we learned, that if battles were to be fought at all by a country, it is best to fight them with our own trained forces, rather than to depend on hired allies in times of especial need and danger. But when at length we determined on resting the protection of our country on the bravery of our own citizens, at a far later period than 1444, when, under the seventh Charles, [-129-] France had established a standing army, it became more important than ever to make provision for the wounded, the aged, and the infirm, as also to confer reward on long and faithful service at the imminent risk of life. In this benevolent design, also, we were but imitators of our continental neighbours, and it would have been more to our honour if we had not delayed so long what was an act almost as much of justice as of mercy.
How the Disabled and Aged Soldier was previously supported in this Country.
It may be interesting to the reader
that we should briefly glance at the mode in which the heavy payment now imposed
upon us was dispensed with before Chelsea Hospital had its foundation. We quote
from a volume entitled, "Chelsea Hospital and its Traditions,"*
(*pp.8-18) by the Rev. G. R. Gleig, a former chaplain of the hospital, but
now Chaplain General of the Forces:-
"In ancient times the recompense of military merit was everywhere the same, - namely, donations of money or land, or both, proportionate in extent and value to the rank and services of the meritorious warrior. Under free Governments, or such as had once been free, soldiers of every class partook in the State's bounty. The Athenians, besides maintaining out of the public fund all disabled and wounded soldiers, took care of the parents and children of such as fell in battle; while the Romans settled their discharged legionaries in villages, called colonies, where each man occupied a farm on a sort of military tenure, perfectly independent of all the world besides. In like manner, the followers of those barbarous chiefs before whose might the colossal power of Rome gave way, received, as the recompense of their valour, glebes or fields, which they cultivated for their own use, and [-130-] bequeathed to their children, subject only to such conditions as a regard to the welfare of the community might impose. But the Northern barbarians came, as the Romans had done before them, into lands where equal rights were unknown, and practices, often loosely attributed to the feudal system, prevailed. . . . There grew up everywhere arrangements in social life, which in due time cut off the common soldier from all participation in the rewards which had heretofore been bestowed equally upon him and upon his leader.
"Under the feudal system, as it showed itself in the days of William the Conqueror, the possession of land continued to be the great object of ambition; and William was very liberal in his grants of lordships and manors to the chiefs who aided him in his contest with Harold. It was on knights and barons, however, and on them alone, that these rich prizes were bestowed; for of the private soldiers no heed was taken, except, indeed, that each baron, attaching a certain portion of these to his own fortunes, carried them down to his estate, and used them there, as soon as the army broke up, as instruments for oppressing and plundering his neighbours. In like manner, during the unsettled and turbulent reigns of many of the succeeding monarchs, though estates continually changed their owners, they passed only from one great chief to another; for the spirit of feudalism was entirely opposed to the subdivision of land; and in that species of spoil, as it came day by day to be disposed of, the leaders of armies or the heads of factions alone took part. Yet were the followers of these rapacious barons far from suffering neglect. The supreme government, indeed, knew them not,- for the supreme government dealt only with persons who were in a condition to bring certain proportions of horse and foot into the field; but the baron himself was induced, both by honour and self-interest, [-131-] to provide for the old age of such as had served him faithfully. Many common soldiers became, therefore, hangers-on about the castle, - foresters, dog-feeders, hawk-trainers, seneschals, &c.; while others fell back into the station of serfs, and, cultivating the soil for their lord's benefit, received out of its produce the sort of sustenance to which in early life they had been accustomed. . . . In exact proportion to the decay of the feeling of mutual protection and allegiance which originally bound the lord to his tenant and the tenant to his lord, was the worn-out soldier cut off from the sources of established support which had been accessible to his ancestors. It is true that the convent door still stood open, and there, especially if he had served against the Infidels, an alms was freely given. But casual charity, however frequent, could furnish no compensation for the loss of a maintenance which every change in the manners of society rendered more and more insecure; for not only the effects of a growing commerce, which diffused wealth more and more equally through the different classes, but the spirit of chivalry itself, strange as the assertion may sound, was all against the private soldier. . . .
"Of any systematic plan for the relief of wounded or discharged soldiers, from the downfall of the feudal system up to Elizabeth's reign, I cannot discover a trace. Occasional instances of Royal bounty are indeed recorded; as, for example, in the reign of Edward IV., when grants were made to private soldiers,-one to John Sclatter, being an annuity of four marks as a compensation for the loss of his hand at the battle of Wakefield,-the other to Rauf Vestynden, a pension of ten pounds, by letters patent under the great seal, till he should obtain some permanent office. The latter, which, considering the value of money at the time, was a very handsome provision, is stated in the patent as having been bestowed 'for the good and agreeable service [-132-] which he did unto us in berying and holdyng our standard of the black bull at the battle of Sherborne.' But such occurrences were probably rare; at all events, chroniclers take no notice of them.
"With the reign of Elizabeth we open out, as it were, a new era in the history of this country. In the first place, England then began to play a more conspicuous part in the game of European politics than she had yet done since the days of her Edwards; and her armaments, both by sea and land, were consequently on a larger scale. In the next place, the work of the Reformation being completed, amid the unsparing plunder of the property of the Church, some evils were felt to accompany the benefits thence arising. The suppression of the monasteries, and the transference of a large portion of the tithes to lay impropriators, placed the clergy and the great body of the people in a new relation one towards another. The former were no longer in a condition to bestow those abundant alms, on which the latter had, doubtless, too much depended; and the latter, unable either to find employment or to subsist without it, suffered severe privations. For great changes had for some time been carried forward in the system of culture and general management of the soil, which consolidating occupations and enclosing commons, had reduced multitudes of the peasantry to a state of absolute pauperism. These being cut off from their last resource, the priests' bounty, became desperate; insomuch that Parliament found it necessary to institute a system of compulsory relief, out of which, however humanely it might have been intended, enormous evils unquestionably arose. With the country in such a state, it would have been both impolitic and cruel to exclude the discharged soldier from the same kind of assistance which was awarded to the destitute peasant. Accordingly, by statute 43 of this reign, 'the majority of the justices of [-133-] the peace in their Easter sessions had power to charge every parish towards a weekly relief of maimed soldiers and mariners, so that no parish should pay weekly above ten- pence, or below twopence; nor any county which consisted of above fifty parishes to pay more than sixpence, one parish with another; which sums so taxed were to be assessed in every parish by the parishioners,-or, in default, by the churchwardens and constables,-or, in their default, by the next justice or justices of peace.' * (* Grose's Military Antiquities.) . . . Such is the substance of the Act of Parliament which first gave to the wounded and war-worn soldier a legal claim upon the bounty of his countrymen. It will be seen, however, that the footing on which it placed him was not of a nature to raise him in his own estimation, or in that of the people generally. He was treated as a pauper - not as one who had served his king, or shed his blood in defence of the land which doled out its unwilling alms to keep him from starving. Yet were the provisions thus made very imperfectly applied. With Elizabeth, indeed, expired for a time the martial feeling both of the court and the people; and old soldiers, like things out of date, were cast aside and forgotten.
"The reign of James was a peaceable one, and its duration - two-and-twenty years - sufficed to thin the numbers, at all times inconsiderable, of decayed soldiers in England. With the accession of Charles the First, a different prospect opened. First, his foreign wars,-if indeed such expeditions as those to Cadiz and Rochelle deserve the name, - and latterly, the terrible struggle in which he engaged with his Parliament, put arms into the hands of a large portion of the male population throughout the kingdom. Yet the Royal exchequer was from the beginning to the end of the contest so thoroughly impoverished, that not only was the king unable to provide for his wounded and disabled adherents, [-134-] but the means of paying the troops actually in the field were generally wanting. It was not so with the Parliament. Wielding a large share of the authority, and having complete command over the resources of the nation, that body was enabled to act in a more liberal spirit. Accordingly, on the 6th of March, 1643, an Act was passed for the relief of maimed soldiers, as well as of the widows and orphans of men slain in battle, by imposing upon the parishes from which such soldiers might have enlisted a tax or assessment adequate to the necessity of each case. Such tax was to be levied by the same process and under the same authority as a poor-rate; and care was of course to be taken that none should derive benefit from it except those who, in their own persons, or by their husbands or fathers, had served the cause of the people against the Sovereign.
"Whatever might be the situation of the Parliamentary invalids, Charles the Second found, on reascending the throne of his ancestors, that the men who had followed his father's fortunes and suffered wounds in his cause were everywhere turned loose to beg their bread. Careless, but not wholly destitute of heart, the King early adopted measures with a view of bettering their condition as far as his limited means would allow, and passed, in the twelfth year of his reign, an Act which secured to discharged soldiers certain immunities. Such of them as had been apprentices were permitted to exercise the trades to which they were bound, even if they had failed to serve out their time; while others were authorized to follow, in any town or place within their native counties, any occupations for which they might be fitted. But to give a starving man leave to follow a regular calling, without at the same time furnishing him with means to begin business, is to contribute in a very slender degree to the amelioration of his fortunes. In spite of this well-intended law, and of the old [-135-] statute of Elizabeth, which still continued in force, both town and country swarmed with mendicants, almost all of whom, many doubtless unfairly, represented themselves as decayed loyalists. It was at this juncture that the circumstance is said to have befallen, [which led to the formation of Chelsea Hospital].
The College was not completed till the Revolution.
But although Chelsea Hospital was
founded by Charles the Second, it was not till shortly before the Revolution
that the edifice was completed, and occupied by pensioners. Mr. Gleig thus
sketches the events of the interim:-
"No appeal seems to have been made . . . to the public at large; but while the voluntary contributions of the charitable were received with gratitude, the troops were, in some sort, burthened with the expenses of the asylum from which they were themselves to derive the sole benefit. I need scarcely observe, that during the reign of Charles the Second, the standing army of England was very inconsiderable, its numbers scarcely amounting at one period to five thousand men, and never exceeding eight thousand. From the pay issued to these, a deduction was ordered to be made of one shilling in the pound; which being divided into 3 equal parts, was devoted, 1 to defray the expenses of the Paymaster's office, 1 to the general uses of the soldiers, and 1 to the accumulation of a fund, first for the building, and ultimately for the maintenance of the hospital. By giving to tlmis regulaiion a retrospective effect, so as to include the whole of the year 1680, and strengthened by donations of 1,300l. from Sir Stephen Fox, of 1,000l. from Tobias Rustas, Esq., of 1,000l. from Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, and of nearly 7,000l. from the Secret Service Fund, the projectors of the establishment had at their disposal a sum of 17,012l. 14s. 7d., with which they [-136-] determined to make a beginning. The consequence was, that on the 12th of March, 1682, the foundation-stone of Chelsea Hospital was laid, Charles himself taking the lead in a ceremony which was witnessed by all the principal nobility and gentry of the kingdom.
"Begun on a scale of great magnificence by its gifted architect, Sir Christopher Wren, the building of the Hospital went on so slowly, that neither Charles nor James enjoyed the satisfaction of beholding it complete. In 1687 it had indeed advanced so far, that Lord Ranelagh, then Paymaster-General of the forces, made a report to his Majesty, in which he represented the edifice as capable of accommodating 416 men, with a governor, chaplain, curate, physician, secretary, treasurer, housekeeper, and 16 matrons. But the views of the King's Government extended much beyond this. . . . . .
"I have never been able to ascertain the exact date at which the veterans took possession of their new abode. That some of them were domiciled in Chelsea during the latter part of the reign of James II. seems, however, to be proved by the fact, that the covering for the altar, pulpit, and desk in the chapel, as well as the magnificent communion plate and black-letter Prayer-books which belong to it, were the gift of that monarch. Nor are traditions wanting relative to the efforts made by the King to bring back his decayed soldiers within the pale of the Church of Rome. He is said to have paid frequent visits to the Hospital, appealing first to one and then to another of the inmates, till a fine old warrior on a certain occasion cut him short in a manner which he could neither forgive nor resent. 'Why should not you adopt the religion of your Prince?' said James. 'Please your Majesty,' was the reply, 'I was once a Catholic; I then became a Protestant; and I should be very happy to go back to your Majesty's religion again, only [-137-] when I was at Tangier, I entered into an agreement, that the next time I changed my creed, I should become a Turk.'
-James was mortally offended at this reply, and ceased to importune the pensioners farther.
"While the hospital was in progress,- that is, from 1682 till the admission of the invalids, - provision seems to have been made for their support by pensions granted out of the fund set apart for the purposes of the building. Of these, all, considering the value of money at the time, were liberal, while some may be accounted magnificent.
The Interest of William the Third and Fourth in the College.
"The expulsion of the house of
Stuart produced no injurious effect upon the fortunes of Chelsea hospital. The
project had been from the first approved of by the country, and William, himself
a soldier, was not disposed to stop short in an undertaking which had for its
object the comfort of his soldiers' latter days. On the contrary, he sanctioned
a still farther increase to the building, pressed it forward till it was
completed, issued an order for the filling up of all vacancies in the
establishment, and signed a warrant in favour of Lord Ranelagh, Sir Stephen Fox,
and Sir Christopher Wren, giving them authority 'to settle and ascertain the
proportions and kinds of victuals they should judge most convenient for the said
persons; to make contracts for the same and for clothing; to nominate and put in
such under-officers as are wanting ; and to propose rules, orders, and
regulations.' This was followed by a new grant of 'one day's pay yearly out of the
payments to be made to the guards, garrisons, and land forces, to be applied
towards the building and furnishing the Royal Hospital near Chelsea, and towards
the better maintenance of such superannuated and disabled officers and soldiers
as should be provided therein;' while the original donation was put upon a more [-138-]
certain footing, 12,000l. a-year being allotted in lieu of the
fraction of the poundage of army-pay which Charles the Second had secured to the
Hospital. * (* Gleig's "Chelsea Hospital, pp. 25-29.)
The three-cornered hat of the time of William III. is still worn by the in-pensioners. The very colour of the red coat which is the Sunday livery of the old men, and the cut of the blue coat which is reserved for every day wear, remind us also of the same age. The inscription in the front of the College shows that it was completed in that reign. It runs thus,-
"IN SUBSIDUUM ET LEVAMEN, EMERITORUM SENIO,
BELLOQUE FRACTORUM, CONDIDIT CAROLUS
SECUNDUS, AUXIT JACOBUS SECUNDUS, PERFECERE
GULIELMUS ET MARIA REX ET REGINA, MDCXC."
The decorations of the chapel, presented by James II., were, on the accession of William IV., superseded by new decorations, presented on that occasion by his late Majesty, and which still continue in use.
The College is for Invalids also.
Chelsea Hospital is much smaller than Greenwich, and accommodates far fewer pensioners. It is, therefore, reserved for the invalid. "It is designed to furnish an asylum for those members of the regular army alone, whom wounds, or sickness, or old age, may have totally disabled. Its inmates are, therefore, from the first to the last, invalids; that is to say, men affected by some infirmity or other, which, though not visible to the eye of the common spectator, is by the patient himself abundantly felt. Even in the 'depths' of Chelsea Hospital, however, there is a deeper still; so that out of the 550 individuals that make up the weakness of the garrison, there are generally from 60 to 100 cases of extreme debility. For their reception an infirmary has been erected. Fitted up for the accommoda-[-139-]tion of 80 patients, it is divided into two departments, one of which, under charge of the physician, contains sufferers from such maladies as do not arise from external violence, while, within the other, the surgeon dresses old hurts, or deals as he best can with sores and recent injuries. * (* Gleig's "Chelsea Hospital, p. 322.)
Ages of the Pensioners.
As at Greenwich, the pensioners at
Chelsea are very aged. The following is an exact list of the ages of the men in
Above 60 and under 65 years . . 122
Above 65 and under 70 years . . 152
Above 70 and under 75 years . · 124
Above 75 and under 80 years . . 46
Above 80 and under 85 years . . 29
Above 85 and under 90 years . . 8
Above 90 and under 95years . . 0
Above 95 and under 98 years . . 2
The oldest men are the most difficult to be wrought upon. They appear indisposed to talk on any other subject than the wars in which they have been. Still, nothing is too hard for the Lord. Very few of these very aged men have passed through the fatigues of the Peninsular campaigns.
For some years there were at Chelsea, as at Greenwich, two chaplains; and it was a part of the original design that there should be this religious staff. But for a very long period there has been one chaplain only.
Number of Deaths annually.
Here, as at Greenwich, as it may be supposed, the deaths are numerous. An old pensioner, whose accuracy is well [-140-] known, has kept a record of the number of the deaths for the last six years. They amount to 353. This is an immense number out of about 500 men, to have ended their probation in the short period of six years. How forcibly does it show the importance of prompt efforts on behalf of the religious welfare of these veterans. Even by a short delay, how many are fast hurried into eternity. The number of deaths in 1852 was from 50 to 54. The statements of the pensioners varied between these limits.
The Burial-ground of Chelsea hospital, and its Remarkable Epitaphs.
In one respect Chelsea Hospital has an advantage over Greenwich. It has a burial-ground of its own, in which only those connected with the hospital are interred. The graves of the pensioners are only in a very few instances distinguished by any tablet, but here and there one exists, ordinarily characteristic in its epitaph. The following is an example:-
" Here rests William Hiseland,
A veteran, if ever soldier was,
Who merited well a pension
If long service be a merit,
Having served upwards of the days of man.
Ancient but not superannuated,
Engaged in a series of wars,
Civil as well as foreign;
Yet not maimed or worn out by neither;
His complexion was florid and fresh,
His health hale and hearty;
His memory exact and ready
In stature he excelled the military size;
In strength surpassed the prime of youth;
And what made his age still more patriarchal,
When above one hundred years old,
He took unto him a wife.
[-141-] Read, fellow-soldiers, and reflect
That there is a spiritual warfare
As well as a warfare temporal.
Born VI of August, 1620 Aged 112.
Died VII of Feb. 1732.
This veteran, who was a native of
Wiltshire, is said to have been married three times after he had attained the
age of 100 years. His last marriage was on the year before his death, on August
9, 1731. He served in the army for 80 years. He was in all the wars of Ireland,
under King William, and likewise served under the Duke of Marlborough, in
Flanders. He was admitted an in-pensioner at Chelsea, in the year of the peace
of Utrecht. The Duke of Richmond and Sir Robert Walpole each allowed him a crown
a-week for some years before his death, in consideration of the services he hind
rendered his country. A picture of him when 110 is still extant.* (* Faulkner's
"Chelsea, vol. ii., pp. 265-6.)
The following is an exact copy of the tomb of the first pensioner buried in the ground:-
"Here lyeth Body of Sirmion Box, who in capacity of a Souldier served King Charles the First, King Charles the Second, King James ; Second, and their present Majts. King William and Queen Mary, whose pensioner he was, belonging to this their Majests. Royal hospital, and the first that was interred in this Burying place, who deceased, 6th of April, in ye 63d yeare of his age, and of our Lord, 1692."
Hannah Snell is here buried, who only discovered her sex when she was discharged and sent to England, after being severely wounded at Pondicherry. She had her pension from Chelsea Hospital, as if she had been a man, and even continued to wear her uniform. The late King of Hanover [-142-] allowed her a pension of 30l. a-year. She died in 1792, in Bethlehem Hospital.
A somewhat similar case had occurred some 50 years before. Mrs. Christiana Davis had served as a Dragoon, undiscovered; and her sex was only discovered on her receiving a wound in her body in King William's wars in Ireland. She afterwards behaved with great valour in Flanders. For her courageous behaviour, she obtained, through George I., an allowance from Chelsea Hospital of one shilling a-day. She was buried, according to her desire, amongst the old pensioners, and three volleys were fired over her grave. Her third husband was himself a pensioner, and resided at Chelsea.* (* " Political State of Europe," vol. lviii., p. 90, referred to by Faulkner.)
The celebrated Dr. Burney, was buried here in 1814, in the part of the ground devoted to officers, &c. of the Hospital. He was organist of the chapel, and attained the age of 88.
In the Burial Registry occur some remarkable instances
of longevity. The following are specimens
Thomas Asbey, buried June 8,1737, aged 112.
John Rogers, 1764, aged 103.
Robert Cumming, 1767, aged 116.
Peter Dowling, 1768, aged 102.
Peter Burnet, 1773, aged 107.
Joshua Cuerman, 1794, aged 123.
Richard Swifield, 1805, aged 105.
Abraham Moss, 1805, aged 106.
John Wolf, 1821, aged 107.
John Salter, 1827, aged 104.
The Funeral of a Pensioner described.
Mr. Gleig thus describes the funeral
of a Chelsea pensioner:-
"It rarely happens that, out of a body of 500 invalids, one or two are not committed every week to the dust; and Wednesday and Friday being here the canonical days for interments, you may chance to be present at the ceremony. Let me, then, assume that we have traversed the intermediate space together, and are standing at this moment at the extremity of Jew's-row, though prepared, by the simple operation of throwing our right shoulders forward, to make good our entrance into the Hospital. See, there is some operation in progress more important than usual. The gates are closed, the guard is turned out, and the sentry holds the postern in his hand, that he may admit well-dressed and respectable-looking people, at the same time that he shuts out the mob. Examine the bearing of these men closely, and having done so, retain the indifference which on ordinary occasions may pervade you, if you can. There are just twelve of them, with a sergeant and a corporal, of whom three, including the sergeant, have severally lost a leg ; two present each an empty sleeve; and the remainder are furrowed over by age, and heavily laden with infirmities. Yet, how erect and steady is their port! There they are, with the three-cornered hint of William the Third's day, surmounting the red frock of a similar date-noble specimens of what soldiers once were, gallant ruins of men who never knew in youth what fear was, and are not now likely to forget what is due to their well-earned reputation. And observe the sentry at the gate ;-how good-humouredly he repulses the crowd, chiefly of boys, that press upon him, though his sole weapon be now the staff which is used indifferently to command attention, and to support the steps [-144-] of him who wields it. But, as I have just said, he has no orders to exclude well-dressed people, and will not, therefore, resist our effort to establish ourselves within the barricade, if such be your desire. Move forward, then, and place yourself just beyond the guard-house, till the procession, of which the approach is announced by the roll of the muffled drum and the shrill notes of the fife, shall have passed. We can then fall in with the rear, and be witnesses to the ceremonies, whatever they may be, that attend the funeral of a pensioner.
"The drum will have been heard some time, and the well-known air, the 149th Psalm, recognised, ere the procession comes in sight, winding round the angle of the court. It appears, however, at last, headed by the firing party, 12 veterans, accoutred for the occasion in old black waist- belts, from which, in the rear, depend old bayonets, and to which, in front, are fastened old cartouche-boxes. Their muskets, somewhat the worse for wear, and stripped of the slings which formerly attached to them, are reversed, not perhaps with the nicety which a firing party from the Grenadier Guards might display, but after a fashion which sufficiently indicates that the old men have not forgotten the lessons learned in early youth. The tread of the men themselves, likewise, is orderly; and they are commanded by a sergeant, who marches behind the rearmost file, with his partisan or halbert reversed. Next to the firing party move the drummer and fifer, 2 feeble grey-headed men, in whom it would be difficult to recognise the relics of the lighthearted lads whose merry music has startled many a maiden from liner broken slumbers, and called her to the window that she might look her last at some favourite partner in the dance, or, it may be, at one who had established still stronger claims upon her memory. And now come the chaplain and his clerk, of whom it would be unbecoming in [-145-] me to say more than that both have seen some service, and that both carry about in their own persons sensible proofs that where there is service there is usually danger. These, again, are succeeded by the coffin, which being covered with a black pall, and surmounted by the hat of the deceased,- the single military trophy of which his latter days could boast,-is borne on the shoulders of six of his comrades. His relatives, if he have any, now fall into their places; the nurses who attended him in his last illness succeed, and the whole procession is closed by the inmates of his ward, among whom it rarely occurs that he had not one or more intimate and familiar friends.
"As the closing files pass the grave-yard doorway, we attach ourselves to the little column, and are introduced into an open area, oblong in shape, totally devoid of ornament, and fenced about with lofty brick-built walls. Not yet, however, have we leisure to look round; for the procession having advanced about half way towards its further extremity, defiles somewhat to the right, and halts beside a mound of fresh earth. Here, at the foot of the grave, the clergyman takes his station; while the firing party form line along its edge, leaving, however, space enough between for those whose business it may be to lower the coffin into the dust. Meanwhile the mourners, including nurses and pensioners, in attendance, arrange themselves in a sort of half-circle about the grave. And now the chaplain, raising his hat, begins the service, during the progress of which you cannot better employ yourself than by looking round upon the countenances of his audience. But the service is not of long continuance. The chaplain has ceased to speak. The coffin is lowered into the grave, earth is consigned to earth, dust to dust, ashes to ashes. And now, the sergeant, taking a pace to the front, gives the word of command, and his party come to attention, shoulder their arms, and present. [-146-] Their volley may be less exact than it used to be - but no matter. It tells the neighbourhood that a gallant spirit has gone back to Him who gave it; after which the men half- cock their firelocks, face to the left, and the yard is soon emptied."* (* "Records of Chelsea Hospital," pp. 334-8.)
A missionary of the London City Mission, who visits this Hospital, was anxious to know what effect a funeral had on the old men. His statement is a painful one. It is as follows,- "One or two of the old men failing to fire in an orderly manner, it so much incensed their comrades, that before they could get out of the burying-ground, there was such swearing at each other that my feelings were shocked, and I never again went to witness a funeral."
The average attendance at the College Chapel on Wednesdays and Fridays is only about 15, but on days of funerals it is much larger. The very small attendance at other times evidences that services of a different order are what are wanted by the old men.
Flags and Trophies recently removed from St. Paul's Cathedral to Chelsea hospital.
"In the chapel are deposited the
standards of Tippoo Saib, the whole of the eagles, 13 in number, that were
wrested from Napoleon's legions, flags taken from the Americans, from the
French, from the Prussians, from the Spaniards, from the Rajah of Bhurtpore,
from the King of Ava, from every Power, in short, with which, in every quarter
of the world, during the last half-century, England has been at war."* (*
"Records of Chelsea Hospital," pp. 345.)
The half of the College in which the remains of the late Duke of Wellington lay in state, has also in recent years been similarly enriched. "The flags and other trophies, [-147-] captured from the enemy in war, had heretofore been conveyed to the Cathedral of St. Paul's, there to rot and waste away, unvalued by the body to whose keeping they were intrusted, and unseen by all the world besides. To such a height, indeed, was this indifference to the monuments of England's former glories carried, that out of the many flags taken by Marlborough, only 3 or 4 shreds survive, the streamers of the rest having mouldered away in some damp recess, while the staves were used by the vergers as poles wherewith to hunt rats and other vermin out of the vestry rooms. William the Fourth, not unaware of the great moral lesson which the display of such trophies is calculated to teach, as well to the young soldier as to the old, caused the wrecks to be rescued from their hiding-places, and committed to the charge of his veterans for ever, as the legitimate representatives of those whose valour won them. Accordingly there are suspended round the hail the ensigns of Regal and Republican France, of Spain, Holland, and other European nations; besides many for which the establishment stands indebted to the liberality of the Honourable Court of Directors, whom their Sovereign's example induced to send hither trophies of our achievements in the East. These occupy, in a double row, the spaces that intervene between the windows, while in front of the music gallery, elevated above a bundle of spear handles, waves the Union Jack." *( *Gleig's "Chelsea Hospital," p. 343.) All these were removed on the occasion of the late lying-in-state, to make room for the black hangings of the walls of the Hall.
Specimens of Certificates of Service given to Pensioners on their Admission to the College by their Commanding Officers.
Some of the pensioners have
themselves been present at [-148-] the capture of
these flags, and each one on his admission to the College, brings with him from
his commanding officer a certificate of service and character. The following are
specimens of these certificates, given by Mr. Gleig, which might easily be
"John Jones, Colour-Sergeant, 48th Regiment:
"Served 31 years and 1 month, of which 3 years in Portugal, Spain, and France, 4 years and 8 months in New South Wales, 10 years and 10 months in India; was present at the sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, and the battles of Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Orthes, and Toulouse; also at the taking of the Coong country, East Indies. -Character: unexceptionable.
"Robert McKay, Sergeant-Major, Grenadier Guards:
"Served 32 years and 2 months, of which in Walcheren, 1809, Holland and Belgium, 1814; 5 times under the enemy's fire during that time; was at the battle of Waterloo, where he was wounded. In Portugal, 1827 and 1828; saved the life of Private H. Warrington when bathing in the river Tagus, 1828.-Character: most exemplary and meritorious.
"Angus Ross, Sergeant-Major, 79th Regiment:
"Served 34 years and 5 months, of which 3 years in Portugal and Spain,. 3 years and 5 months in Flanders and France; was present at the battles of Salamanca, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Toulouse, Quatre Bras, and Waterloo; was wounded in the left cheek and right leg at Waterloo slightly; distinguished himself at the battle of Waterloo by voluntarily proceeding in search of, and procuring a waggon-load of musket-ball cartridges, for that part of the line occupied by the 79th Highlanders, when the ammunition carried in the men's pouches was by the whole nearly, and by many individuals totally expended, after several attempts having been made by others without success.- Character: a most excel-[-149-]lent and efficient soldier, seldom in Hospital, trustworthy and sober."
The Clasps worn by Pensioners to denote the Number of Battles in which they have engaged.
A further evidence of the service of these veterans is always to be obtained in the number of clasps which they wear, each clasp denoting a battle in which the wearer served. Several of the Chelsea pensioners have from 3 to 7 clasps, a few have 8 and 9, and one or two have 11. Scarcely one man of the whole body considers, moreover, that line has his right number of clasps, but reckons that line is short one, two, or three. The majority are those with 3 clasps and under, and some have none at all, their service having been in the early Indian war, for whelm no medals were given to the survivors. At the Duke's funeral, as far as it was practicable, none of the 83 chosen to follow his remains had less than 3 clasps, although great regard was obliged to be had to the likelihood of their being able to bear the fatigue of the day.
Guard kept at the College in Military Style.
The custom of keeping guard is still retained in this retreat of peace. Those who are able, with their three- cornered hats, each in his turn mounts guard at the eastern and western entrances. They used to be provided with bayonets - 500 stand of which were kept for their use, - but handling them only as infirm men, this has been discontinued of late.
Foreigners and different Creeds among the Pensioners.
It adds again to the interest with which these old men should be regarded, that there are foreigners among them, [-150-] and all shades of religious opinions. All who have served in the British infantry or cavalry 21 or 24 years, if regularly discharged with a pension at the end of that service, or half that time if disabled in active service, are eligible for the Hospital, no matter what their country or religion may be. Not many years ago an Egyptian occupied a berth in the College. Germans have been common. There was, only a short time ago, a native of Italy. Natives of Africa and America have also been inmates. There are, as at Greenwich, very many Roman Catholics.
The heavy Manner in which Time hangs on their Hands.
The very heavy manner in which time hangs on their hands should also be a great inducement to Christian persons to seek to interest them profitably. They really often scarcely know what to do with themselves, and almost anything in the way of conversation is a relief. How powerful for good impression is such a circumstance! In visiting other classes of the population the difficulty is to get at them, and to find tlmem at leisure, so that religious instruction may be seasonably given. There is no difficulty in this respect with pensioners.
Cards, &c. introduced by the Authorities of the College to remedy this.
As a resource against ennui, and as a restraint from a too frequent visit to the public-house, card-tables were introduced some years since by those in authority at the Hospital, in a separate room, well furnished with benches, stove, &c. Dominoes, and similar games, to while away the time, are also encouraged, although the stakes played for are of course small. Christian efforts might surely be made also to interest them, and with far better results, than games first [-151-] invented to amuse an insane French monarch. They only need to be of a somewhat popular character, adapted to their habits of thinking and tastes.
Library, and its Defects.
For the same purpose a library is provided, the exclusive property of the pensioners. A ticket of admission from the chaplain is required, and no book may be taken out of the room, except in cases of severe illness. Travels, voyages, and military narratives are favourite books. The better novels are also popular with them. Here, also, it is seen how much of benefit, with good counsel from a Christian friend, with whom they can make familiar, their love of reading may be directed to their profit, and to the furtherance of their best interests. But an old-fashioned arrangement tends very greatly to interfere within the benefit which the library might otherwise more fully confer. It contains many excellent books, but the pensioners are old and infirm, and their sight is weak. In the long winter evenings, so favourable for reading, the library would be much more resorted to, but it has no gas, nor is even a candle permitted. The old oil lamps give so dim and misty a light, that the library is quite useless to them practically when it would be most serviceable. It certainly would greatly add to their comfort, and, it may be hoped, to their profit too, if they received the advantage of modern invention, and had the benefit of gas, considered by practical men as even less dangerous to the safety of buildings than oil.
Gardening introduced by Lord John Russell.
The same benevolent object which led to the new smoking-room, with its games of chance, and the library, has also recently given to the pensioners separate small plots of ground to cultivate. If Adam in a state of innocence had [-152-] employment found him in Eden, and was put in that garden "to dress it and to keep it," it is still more important that for man in his fallen state, after long, active service, some similar employment should be found. For this valuable arrangement the pensioners are indebted to Lord John Russell, who introduced it when he held the office of Paymaster-General, about 20 years since.
These Gardens were the former famed Ranelagh.
It is a circumstance also not to be passed over without a thought, that these very gardens now so devoted were the celebrated Ranelagh - the resort of fashion, gaiety, and wit - in the last century. Not more remarkable is the change in the gardens than in the hospital itself, when it became a college of peace to soldiers after the use of the material sword, instead of a college for polemic warfare to divines. To these gardens resorted the gay world of the eighteenth century for dancing and music, and too frequently for display of person and dress, and, it is to be feared, in many cases for still worse purposes of folly and sin. Here, appropriately enough, Fielding makes his "Amelia" to hare been ruined, and here "The Connoisseur," among our essayists, and Bloomfield, among our poets, found subjects for their satire. Nature and art combining their powers here caused Dr. Johnson to represent the spot as "presenting the finest coup d'oeuil he had ever seen." But the purposes to which Ranelagh is now devoted, to the benevolent mind presents still more attractive features of beauty, although the elegant and the young from high life have given place to the aged and the sturdy pensioner from the ranks of privates.
Great Abuses in the Management of Chelsea hospital abolished by Lord John Russell.
It may also be observed, that even the other inmates of Chelsea Hospital are almost, without exception, connected in some way or other with pensioners, so that all efforts made for their improvement are but a part of efforts for this particular class. Formerly great abuses existed in this respect. Almost every post in the Hospital was filled within superannuated servants or other less respectable hangers-on about the families of paymasters-general. These posts were also often rewards for election favours. Lord John Russell was the first paymaster-general who put a stop to this corrupt system. The nurses now are wives of in-pensioners, or widows of soldiers, and in almost every other office, - clerk, organ-blower, &c., - are pensioners themselves.
Regulations as to Marriage more favourable to Morals at Chelsea than at Greenwich.
One arrangement at Chelsea is more favourable to morals than at Greenwich. The old men here may marry after their admission into College; and, although their wives cannot be received within the building, they may yet live close around it, and the old men are not forbidden from taking home a portion of their generous allowance of food, that their wives may share it within them; for the system of dining in mess, as at Greenwich, is not pursued at Chelsea. Each pensioner at Chelsea has a separate berth, in which he takes his meals. Nor are the old men forbidden, at times, at least, from sleeping out of the College, when married. There is, nevertheless, a large - it is feared a very large - amount of immorality, even at Chelsea, in the old men's connexion within women. Their previous habits, as soldiers, in this respect, have been bad.
The Royal Military Asylum for Boys.
At Chelsea, as at Greenwich, there is a large school for boys; but we believe no parties, except the officials, have access into either of these institutions for the purpose of imparting religious instruction. The Chelsea school is called "The Royal Military Asylum." Its first stone was laid by the late Duke of York, in 1801. It is "for the children of soldiers of the regular army." There are about 350 boys in the institution at the present time. Here are trained drummers, fifers, and lads for the several bands of the line and household troops.
The Wellington Fund now raising for the Children of Officers.
A fund is new being raised, as a memorial to the hate Duke of Wellington, for the erection and endowment of a school or college "for the gratuitous, or nearly gratuitous, education of orphan children of indigent and meritorious officers of the army." The subscriptions promised at this time (April, 1853) exceed 70,000l., but no subscriptions are received until the sum amounts to 100,000l.
Gratitude of the Pensioners for Religious Instruction, and their Visit to City Missionaries, when the latter had been ill.
At one period it used to be said,
"the greater the rogue, the better is he fitted for the ranks of the
British army." But great improvements have taken place. It is to be hoped
that the old saying was never strictly correct. At all events, there are now
many privates who are men very respectable in their own station.
The testimony of Mr. Gleig, with reference to Chelsea hospital, is,- "He who writes can testify, that nowhere are [-155-] the visits of one who comes with a message of peace more thankfully received or more gratefully acknowledged."
The same testimony is borne by those who have, as lay agents, sought to supplement the efforts of the chaplain. One gentleman is employed in the hospital for two days in the week, and meets everywhere with a ready acceptance. A City missionary, who is in the habit of visiting the Hospital periodically, also states,- "Several times, when I have been ill, some of these old men, in their best red coats, have found their way to my house, to try, in rather a clumsy way, to comfort me. Only last week, being unwell, a friend took for me my meeting. An old pensioner, whom I met afterwards, said to me, 'I began to think you were ill, and I was just coming off to see you.' Nothing can exceed the kind manner in which some of them inquire after my poor sickly wife, when she is too ill to attend the meetings. And a few weeks before this, one of the old men sent for me to ask me whether I could give him my card, that he might apply to me if he was taken ill, as line had a little money which he had saved, and he would like me to convey it to the London City Mission, not being able to trust it, as he said, with others." The soldiers' missionary of this Society, visiting occasionally the Hospital, when unwell some time since, although living many miles off, was visited by some of the pensioners on a bleak, cold day, with snow, several inches deep, on the ground, for the purpose of inquiring after him.
Their Interest in Religious Tracts.
So, with reference to religious tracts, the same missionary states, that he now scarcely ever has a refusal, while he is often "complimented by them on his anxiety to do such reprobates as themselves good." The word, "reprobates," is a favourite one with them, to characterize their own dispositions and habits. The other missionary states,- " In the [-156-] spring of the year, between 300 and 400 pensioners assemble in the College grounds for parade, from 6 to 12 days, when opportunities occur to converse with them and distribute tracts among them. I have often observed how readily they have received the tracts, and, when mounted on an omnibus, on my return home, I have often observed the old men reading the tracts I have given them." He adds, "I have often felt sorry that the claims of my own district would not allow me to make greater efforts to benefit these men.
Their Desire of Further Instruction.
The old men themselves would exceedingly like to have a missionary of their own, as do the Greenwich pensioners. "No heathens in the world," said one of them recently, "need a missionary more than the men in Chelsea Hospital." Two of the missionaries of that Society spend about 3 hours a week in the building, and the soldiers' missionary also occasionally gives a call. But this is quite insufficient. One of these faithful visitors states,- "Sometimes I meet enfeebled old men, who appear very anxious to be instructed; and these will sometimes say, 'Can a man who has shed the blood of others ever be forgiven?' and when I tell them that Christ is able to save to the very utmost, the big tear will run down their furrowed cheeks, and they will grasp my hand with considerable earnestness. Sometimes more than a month passes before I visit a second time in a ward, and then I find some poor man has passed into eternity who, when I visited him last, entreated of me to come more frequently, as he had no one to whom he could freely speak.
Number of Out-pensioners resident in the Metropolis.
Although the number of in-pensioners at Chelsea is much less than at Greenwich, yet the out-pensioners are, as has [-157-] been stated, most numerous. The following was the number resident in the metropolis towards the conclusion of 1852, as obtained at the Paymaster's Office, Whitehall :-
Tower-hill District . . 1,327
Chelsea Hospital District . . 1,330
Regent's Park District . . 1,577
Kennington-common District . . 870
Deptford District . . 650
Woolwich District . . 1,390
Facilities for, and Importance of, Benefitting these Men.
These are scattered throughout London. Great numbers live near the Hospital. As stated on a previous page, a city missionary, whose district is in that immediate locality, considers that one-half of the residents in the district are out- pensioners. As these wear no peculiar dress, like the in-pensioners, they are not so distinguishable, and many of them follow trades in addition to their small pension. They generally live in very low parts of London, for the sake of cheapness, and they change about their residences even more than the working classes in general. They receive religious instruction, when it happens that they live where this is given from house to house, but they live very often in localities to which it has not extended. As they wait about long in receiving their pay, they may then be met with very advantageously with this design, and a faithful friend may often drop a word which will prevent the money, when received, being taken direct to the public-house, instead of being more profitably employed. It is truly painful to behold the number of loose women and idle men, waiting outside the pay-office, to make a prey of one after another of the [-158-] men, as they come out, and to entrap them into places where much of the money is at once spent in drunkenness and debauchery.
Extracts from the Reports of a Missionary of the London City Mission.
The following brief extracts from
the Reports of one of the missionaries of the London City Mission will
illustrate both the benefit of very partial visitation of the hospital, and the
great importance of more systematic and extensive visitation. The statements
were written, as the genuine sentiments of the missionary's mind at the time,
and without the least idea of publicity being given to the extracts:-
Report, 1850. "It is as painful to contemplate the hardened indifference of many of these old men, as it is encouraging to observe the workings of Divine grace in others. Several of them, on their death-beds, in my hearing, have blessed the Lord that they were visited by a missionary. The College is, in fact, a most important sphere of Christian labour, but the visiting it once a-week is not often enough. An old man on one visit appears impressed; and on my next visit, when I inquire for him, I am told, 'He is dead, Sir.' This has happened to me on several occasions."
1851. "I still continue to visit the old pensioners in the College. Several have been led by these visits to attend the meetings in my district, as that is not very far distant, and from that they have been induced by me to attend public worship. Some few, I hope, have died with a hope of heaven ; while others, who still survive, welcome me as 'their old friend.' One of the pensioners leads the singing at the meeting, and I sometimes call on another of them to pray. It is pleasing to hear him thank the Lord for preserving him in the dangers of war, and implore that he may now be preserved from still worse dangers from spiritual foes [-159-] at home. It is utterly impossible to visit between 500 and 600 persons in 3 hours each week, so as to give attention to any extent to individual cases. This prevents my following out cases, so as to draw any such sketch of them as demands continuous observation and watching. The College itself would furnish sufficient work for two missionaries. At least, one ought to be employed among so important a class of persons, who are also so very accessible to religious instruction."
1852. "Chelsea College continues to be a most interesting sphere of labour, but the little time I spend there prevents my becoming sufficiently familiar with mammy of the old men to trace my labours. I hope I shall some day see a missionary stationed among them. They are sad drunkards. I have seen more than 20 drunk together on Saturday evening. Still, evidences of good effected are continually met with."
Several cases in proof of the latter observation are given in detail. But so many such illustrations were given in connexion with Greenwich Hospital, that they are here passed over. The two fields of labour are very similar in their character.
The especial Claims which Pensioners present on the Christian Benevolence of the Nation, and not of the Inhabitants of London only.
The pensioners of both Greenwich and
Chelsea, although domiciled in the metropolis, have been the defenders of
the country at large. On the country at large, therefore, they have a
most legitimate claim for efforts on behalf of~ their further religious
instruction, and not on London exclusively. They belong to varied towns in the
United Kingdom, and are the nation's veterans. They are one, out of many
classes of London's population, respecting whom [-160-] London
is most legitimately entitled to ask the aid of country towns on behalf of her
There are very few classes of persons, however, to the religious comfort and instruction of whom, in their old age, Christian persons can provide, with an equal measure of delightful satisfaction that they are doing what is preeminently an act of justice no less than mercy. How much does the nation owe to them, and every individual person as a part of the nation! Have they not fought our battles? They kept off our foes-they preserved our homes, our property, and our lives-we owe to them the liberty which is still retained to us, and the peace which is so great a blessing.
Thankfulness for Peace.
We hope that the love of war which was once so common in this country has now generally ceased, that a better state of feeling has become prevalent, and that the true genius of our holy religion has in this respect more entirely pervaded the national mind. We believe such is the case, and we thank God for it. The horrors of war are fearful in the extreme. But one especial means by which we may testify our thankfulness for peace, and improve its existence and long continuance, is by being mindful of the best interests of those who are collected within our metropolis as objects of national gratitude, now that they have laid down their weapons of war through the feebleness of their arms by age. Shall we not seek to render the national refuge provided for them in a season of peace and security, a blessing to them in the best of senses, and to avail ourselves of the leisure granted to them, to point their attention, now that they are tottering on the grave, to a better world?
Immense Cost of War as compared with the Insignificant Amount which would now add greatly to their Comfort, and promote their Best Interests.
There is an open door to us to do this, and it may be done at a very small cost. What millions have been spent on wars, ofttimes sinful and injurious! Yet these have been given willingly for the emptiness of worldly glory, not always obtained. Two or three lay visitors of a right order would be incalculable comforts and blessings to these veterans. And their annual support would scarcely be the cost of a single hour's bloody warfare. It is even what they themselves, irreligious as they often are, desire, with few exceptions.
Danger of Delay with Men so Aged.
Each day's delay cuts down some one of their number, and further opportunity with him is for ever gone. Is it not fearful to see men so aged cursing and drinking and revelling? To a rightly informed mind it is even more fearful than to see them facing the cannon s mouth in the field of battle. Let our readers but walk into Greenwich Park, or into the ancient Ranelagh, and observe and converse with any number of these men, and it will be impossible to arrive at any other conclusion than that, whatever honourable exceptions may exist, and whatever most praiseworthy exertions may be made by the chaplains, FURTHER EFFORTS ARE MOST URGENTLY REQUIRED.