I am reading Pride and Prejudice, annotated by David M. Stoppard. It’s the part of the novel where Elizabeth is starting to figure out that Darcy might be an all right bloke after all. Mrs Gardiner and Darcy’s housekeeper are discussing him:
“His father was an excellent man,” said Mrs Gardiner.
“Yes Ma’am, that he was indeed; and his son will be just like him — just as affable to the poor.” 
Note 34 reads:
Helping the poor was an important function for one in Darcy’s position. The large numbers of people in this society with meager incomes, and the fairly limited means of public support available, meant that the need for such assistance was often great, especially in years of poor harvests.
Shortly after, and related:
“He is the best landlord, and the best master,” said she, “that ever lived. Not like the wild young men now-a-days, who think of nothing but themselves. There is not one of his tenants or servants but what will give him a good name. 
Note 37 reads:
The tenants would be those renting land on the estate and farming it; they could have frequent reason to deal with the owner, especially since owners could help fund improvements to the land that would raise productivity and benefit both owner and tenant.
So it turns out that it is not the case that the state is the only thing standing in the way of the rich laughing as the poor starve. And poor harvests? Thanks to globalisation, the “poor” have it easy now-a-days.