The other day, a British magistrate placidly proposed, apparently in so many words, that not only beggars should be punished, but also anyone who gives to beggars. Legally, this may be stated in the following two judgments: (1) that every poor man may be presumed to be deceiving; (2) that every rich man may be presumed to be wilfully deceived. The first opinion, if not quite logically clear, is quite legally established. The second is new, and seems even slightly improbable. Does he mean that it is a crime to give help where it is needed? Or does he mean that it is a crime to make a mistake about where it is needed? On either line of thought, I should enjoy watching him draft the Act of Parliament.
This is a moral matter, on which we must get our ideas clear; and I propose to clear my own ideas and yours, whether you like it or not. What is a beggar? A beggar is a man who asks help from another man solely in the name of something extraneous but common — as kinship or charity, the Fatherhood of God, or the brotherhood of man. He does not ask for the bread because he can at once give you the money, as in commerce. He does not ask for the bread because he will soon be able to pass you the mustard, as in Society. He asks you for the bread because you are supposed to be under an ancient law of pity, by which (as it is written) if a man asks you for bread you will not give him a stone. That is what a beggar is. He is a man who begs — that is, he is a man who asks without any clear power of return, except the opportunity he offers you to fulfill your own ideals.
— The Illustrated London News, 25 February 1911.