“Do not tell me of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations. Are they my poor? I tell thee, thou foolish philanthropist, that I grudge the dollar, the dime, the cent, I give to such men as do not belong to me and to whom I do not belong” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
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In this quote, Ralph Waldo Emerson seems to be criticizing a notion of unconditional charity towards all people in need. By stating he “grudges” money given to “poor men” who are not his own and to whom he does not belong, Emerson appears to be arguing against an open-ended obligation to assist any and all individuals simply due to their impoverished state.
The quote conveys Emerson’s view that philanthropic responsibility is bounded within closer community ties and relationships, rather than extending to all humanity in an abstract sense. Overall, Emerson seems to be advocating for a more selective, discriminating approach to charity based on personal connections and associations, rather than an unqualified duty to aid all poor people everywhere without distinction.