ABSTRACT

This chapter discusses the utilitarian programme for poor relief with the agenda of religiously-inspired radicals who had a very different approach to helping the indigent. While the question of whether or not the New Poor Law was based upon Scriptural teachings was to become a great matter of contention, everyone agreed that the new legislation represented the practical implementation and fulfillment of political economic theory. The stark pessimism of Thomas Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population constituted one of the most serious challenges to the Christian ethic. The development of a Christian political economy is particularly interesting as its originality emphasizes the degree to which political economy itself represented a discontinuity with traditional Christian teaching. The chapter concludes with a few remarks on the ways in which the utilitarians and radicals constructed their cases, and their successes in presenting them.