Front Page Titles (by Subject) [Part II] REMEDIAL MEASURES. - Poor Law Commissioners' Report of 1834
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[Part II] REMEDIAL MEASURES. - Nassau William Senior, Poor Law Commissioners’ Report of 1834 
Poor Law Commissioners’ Report of 1834. Copy of the Report made in 1834 by the Commissioners for Inquiring into the Administration and Practical Operation of the Poor Laws. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty (London: Printed for H.M. Stationery Off. by Darling and Son, 1905).
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|11.  App. (A.) Part I. pp. 611, 612.|
|"1816 to 17||...||...||£1231||1823 to 24||...||...||£365|
|1817 to 18||...||...||1206||1824 to 25||...||...||431|
|1818 to 19||...||...||984*||1825 to 26||...||...||356|
|* New system began this year.||1826 to 27||...||...||345|
|1827 to 28||...||...||360|
|1819 to 20||...||...||711||1828 to 29||...||...||334|
|1820 to 21||...||...||510||1829 to 30||...||...||388|
|1821 to 22||...||...||338||1830 to 31||...||...||370|
|1822 to 23||...||...||228||1831 to 32||...||...||44911."|
In Turton, near Bolton, Lancashire, where a well-managed workhouse was introduced—
"No sooner had this system been put into full operation in the house, than the able-bodied, hereditary paupers began to disappear; the discipline was new to them—they disliked the restraint; they soon found that by persevering industry and a little management, they could live above pauperism; and they left us with their habits improved, to make their way in the world without parochial assistance.
"Our poor-rates in 1790 were, upon a full valuation, nearly equal to nine per cent., and at some subsequent periods, viz., in 1816 and 1817, have been even more. After the establishment of our workhouse they began to decrease; for many years preceding the last, they have been very little more than five per cent., and last year they were less, although the population has become nearly double12 ."
In Ilfracombe the overseer found that when 2d. a day less was given by the parish than by private persons, applications were no longer made to him by the able-bodied paupers. Not a single able-bodied man has been relieved since that time, and they are all in the employment of the farmers; the rate of wages being 1s. 4d. per diem, with an allowance for beer or cider13 .
In Uley, the burthens of the rate-payers were reduced more than one-half; and Mr. Baker, in speaking of the subsequent conversion of paupers into labourers, states,—
"That it is not so difficult for them to find work for themselves as it is generally believed to be, is proved from the shortness of the time that, with not above two or three exceptions, any able-bodied person has remained in the house; and by a list which has been made of more than 1000 persons who were on the parish books, and who now can be proved to be otherwise maintained, chiefly by their own exertions. The list shows what they used to receive, and for whom they now work. All who received parish pay before the workhouse was open are accounted for, excepting about eight or ten. Some few have left the parish, but not many. About 500 are now on the books, and most of those on reduced pay. I did not advise the introduction of the plan till I had read much and thought much; and till I had removed many doubts by private correspondence with those who had witnessed its beneficial effects for several years. Among these doubts the most important was, 'how, in the present scarcity of work, can those employ or support themselves who are now receiving parish pay?' The answer was, 'You will be surprised to find how soon the impossibility will dwindle down to an improbability, the improbability to a distant hope, and that again to complete success.' I was also told that industry and frugality would increase, and that crime would become less; but I never was told, nor had I the most distant hope, that the success would have been so complete. When it began the poor were idle, insolent, and in a state bordering upon riot; they openly acknowledged that they would rather live on the parish pay in idleness, than work for full labourer's wages, and when hired, their behaviour was such that they could not be continued in work. Now all are glad to get work. I employed many of them in the winter of 1830, and in the spring I let them go; but I promised them work again in the next winter, for which they expressed more gratitude than I expected; but when the winter came very few claimed my promise, they were in work which they had found for themselves; and in this winter, up to this time (December 5th, 1832) only one person has asked me for work. There is one man at Uley whose character is, and ever has been, exceedingly bad, and his feet being inverted he is lame. He was allowed parish pay till very lately; he applied for an increase of it; he asserted no one would employ him, and I believed him. At a vestry meeting, however, his pay was entirely taken off; he instantly found work for himself, and has lived by his labour ever since14 ."
In no instance does the actual population of a parish appear to have been disturbed by these changes; no complaint has been made by adjacent parishes of the labourers of the dispauperized parishes having been driven in amongst them. The reason assigned by the witness at Hatfield for the labourers continuing in their own parish, is applicable to most of the agricultural districts. Non-parishioners may gradually introduce themselves without exciting a murmur; but it appears that the law of settlement, and the present general administration of the Poor Laws, render the transference of bodies of the labouring population from parish to parish a matter of considerable difficulty. It is found less difficult to drive them into other parishes for residences, and even for settlements, than for labour; which last object arouses the immediate opposition of the settled labourers. It appears, however, that they had no need to seek labour in other parishes, as they found it on the best terms in their own parishes, as soon as motives to steady industry were re-imposed upon them. In some large town parishes the same principle of administration, with relation to able-bodied paupers, has been tried, and, as will appear from our subsequent quotations, found equally efficient in rendering them independent of parochial aid; but from the want of knowledge of the individual circumstances of the paupers, or the means of tracing them amidst a crowded population, the witnesses can seldom speak otherwise than on conjecture as to any further effects.
The evidence, however, which we have been able to obtain from towns resembles that afforded by the rural districts. Mr. Gordon, a parish officer of All Saints, Poplar, one of the parishes in the metropolis where stricter management of the able-bodied paupers has been established, states,—
"I have lived 30 years in the parish, and being a cooper and shipowner, employing in my own business between 40 and 50 men, I am conversant with the condition of the labouring classes, and can state that the effect upon them in our district has been very beneficial. It has been beneficial in inducing them to rely more on their own resources than they did formerly. It has long struck me, that they contribute more regularly and largely to savings' banks and benefit societies; in fact, I know this to be the case, as I am one of the trustees of the Poplar Savings' Bank. Now I have only one man working in my yard who does not contribute to a benefit society established amongst the men some years ago, at the instance of my brother; formerly, there were a great number of the men who did not contribute to it. Speaking of my own men, I can state that they are much more steady in their work, and more careful than formerly in not throwing themselves out of work."
The absorption of the able-bodied paupers, or, in other words, their conversion into independent labourers employed within the parish, and the reduction of the poor's-rates, were immediately followed by an improvement in wages, so far as the amount of wages in a pauperized parish, confounded as they are with partial relief under the roundsman or billet or allowance or labour-rate system, can be compared with the amount of wages in the same parish after it has been dispauperized and the labourers paid by their employers.
At White Waltham, where the same system had been adopted, the wages of the labourers are stated to be "rather better," although there were one hundred or one-ninth more labourers in the parish in 1831 than in 1821, the year before the change took place.
In Cookham, the wages of the great body of the labourers were improved.
In Hatfield, the permanent overseer was asked, with respect to the independent labourers in the parish,—
"What effect has been produced on their wages?—The wages have improved somewhat; I cannot state exactly how much, but I believe the wages have improved by 1s. a week; they formerly got 9s. and 10s. a week, now they get about 11s. This, I think, is about the average of their wages here15 ."
The Rev. F. J. Faithful, rector of Hatfield, J. P., examined.
"Have the wages of the independent labourers been improved since the change of system of administration of the Poor-Laws?—Decidedly so; and the wages are higher here than in any parish in the neighbourhood where a similar system has not been adopted16 ."
In the adjacent parish of Welwyn, where the same system has been adopted, the wages of the independent labourers were improved.
In Swallowfield one of the first results of the change was, that single independent labourers received better wages. One of the witnesses stated at the time of the visit of the Commissioner, that he had that day been seeking for a young man to hire, but that he had been obliged to go out of the parish for one; an event which he had never before known.
In Bingham, Southwell, and St. Mary's Nottingham, Mr. Cowell made special inquiries as to the effect of the change upon the wages of labourers belonging to the classes receiving parochial relief, and found that in every instance there had been a striking improvement.
In Thurgarton, where wages have never been tampered with, and where no partial relief has been given during the last forty years, wages have remained steady in money, and advanced when estimated in kind. In the surrounding parishes which are pauperized, wages have been subject to mischievous fluctuations during the same period.
R. P. Garratt, the overseer of Downham Market, Norfolk, states, that—
"We began a change of system by invariably refusing relief in aid of wages. If the farmer would not give the labourers fair wages we took them wholly away and employed them for the parish, and we found very soon that, although it cost us much more at first, it soon had the effect of making the farmer pay his labourers fairly17 ."
It must be added, that the mere amount in money does not accurately represent the increase in wages. Beer, milk, potatoes, meat, flour, and other provisions, or the use of land, are so often allowed to the labourer, or furnished to him under the market price, as to form an important part of his means of subsistence: and these advantages are of course given to the best and steadiest workmen. The Marquis of Salisbury states that at Cranborne, where he has successfully opposed the allowance system, the rate of wages is higher, if not in money, yet in value, if these privileges are to be taken into account, than in the neighbouring pauperized parishes.
Before the experiment was made, it might fairly have been anticipated that the discontinuance of parochial allowance would effect little or no improvement in wages unless a similar change were made in the neighbouring parishes. When a considerable proportion of the labourers who had been entirely dependent upon the parish were driven to rely on their own industry, it might have been anticipated that the wages of the entire body of labourers within the parish would have been injuriously affected by their competition. And this certainly would have been the case if they had added nothing to the fund out of which their wages came. That fund is, in fact, periodically consumed and reproduced by the labourer, assisted by the land and the farmer's capital, and, all other things remaining the same, the amount of that fund, and consequently his share of it, or, in other words, the amount of his wages, depends on his industry and skill. If all the labourers in a parish cease to work, they no longer produce any fund for their own subsistence, and must either starve or be supported, as they were at Cholesbury, by rates in aid. A single person who has no property and is supported without working, bears the same relation to the labourers who do work as the parishioners of Cholesbury bore to the neighbouring parishes. He is supported by a sort of rate in aid on their industry. His conversion from a pauper, wholly or partially supported by the labour of others, into an independent labourer producing his own subsistence, and in addition to that, a profit to his employer, so far from injuring his fellow workmen, produces on them the same effects as the enabling the inhabitants of Cholesbury to support themselves has produced on the parishes which had to supply them with rates in aid. This has been perceived by some of our witnesses. A farmer of considerable intelligence, who had resided in Cookham, and observed the effects of the change in that parish, declared his conviction that if such a change could be generally introduced, the money saved in poor's-rates would almost immediately be paid in wages. The withdrawal of relief in aid of wages appears to be succeeded by effects in the following order:—First, the labourer becomes more steady and diligent; next, the more efficient labour makes the return to the farmers capital larger, and the consequent increase of the fund for the employment of labour enables and induces the capitalist to give better wages.
The instances of the application of the same principle of administration in those of the manufacturing districts which are pauperized are comparatively scanty; but where they have occurred the effects are in general similar. The following answer to one of our queries from the parish of St. Werburgh, Derby, by Mr. Henry Mozley, affords an example of the operation of the discontinuance of allowances in aid of wages in a manufacturing district.
"When I was overseer I refused to relieve able-bodied men working for other people, considering that, by relieving them I was injuring the respectable part of the poor (I mean those just above pauperism), by running down their wages. I found that some of the children in the workhouse were put out to the cotton and silk mills, and because they were workhouse children, the manufacturers paid them less wages than were given to the children of independent work people, who, on applying for employment for their children at 2s. a week, were told, 'I only give that girl, who is older and bigger, 1s. 6d.;' I determined therefore to take them away from the mills, and that they should do something, or even nothing in the house rather than injure the deserving poor. I am certain that for every 5s. loss that the parish sustained by this conduct is gained 5l. by assisting the respectable poor, and by preventing them from requiring parish relief18 ."
The next class of specific effects which have followed the application of the principle of keeping the condition of the pauper inferior to that of the independent labourer, is, that it has arrested the increase of population, which the evidence shows to be produced by the present state of the law and of its administration.
In the parish of Burghfield, Mr. Samuel Cliff, the assistant overseer, states that he was—
"Convinced that the discontinuance of the allowance system had saved the parish from destruction; it did this by the immediate check which it gave to population. Whilst the allowance system went on, it was a common thing for young people to come to me for parish relief two or three days after they were married; nay, I have had them come to me just as they came out of church and apply to me for a loaf of bread to eat, and for a bed to lie on that night, and, moreover, for a house for them to live in. But this sort of marriages is now checked, and in a few years the parish will probably be brought about. If the former system had gone on, we should have been swallowed up in a short time."
"Is your knowledge of the individuals resident in your parish such that you can state without doubt that there are persons in it, now single, who would, under the influence of the system of allowing rates in aid of wages, have married had that system been continued?—I have no doubt whatever that several of them would have married; I know them so well that I am sure of it19 ."
In the Report from Cookham, it is stated, that "some very striking consequences have resulted from the operation of the present system. In the eight years preceding the operation of the new system, the increase of population was very rapid; for the eight years subsequent there was, as compared with the eight years preceding, a positive diminution. Improvident marriages are less frequent." In the Report from Swallowfield, it is stated, that, "the number of improvident marriages is diminished about one-half." In Bingham, the diminution of improvident marriages was about one-half; and yet, in all these three parishes, illegitimate births, instead of having been promoted by the diminution of marriages, have been repressed still more effectually, and in the last, almost extinguished.
The master of the workhouse at Hatfield was asked—
"What has been the effect, as regards marriages, of altering the system, and paying according to the value of each man as a labourer, so far as that has been done?—I believe they think more before marriage. They would often formerly, as I have been informed, marry without having provided a home or a bed, or any thing, leaving all to the parish. I am not aware of any such marriages having taken place recently20 ."
In the course of the examination of the manager of the poor in the parish of Great Farringdon (Berks), to which we have already referred, in answer to the question—.
"What has been the effect in respect of marriages?"—He answered, "It has been remarked that there are fewer marriages than in previous years; but the change has not, perhaps, been in operation a sufficient length of time to produce the full effect. During the last twelve months, however, we had only two cases of bastardy; whereas, the average, for the previous years, has been about six or seven. This alteration has been remarked as the result of the change of system21 ."
The population of some of the dispauperized parishes has increased since the change of system; but generally in a diminished ratio as compared with the preceding rate of increase. The diminution was in the class of improvident and wretched marriages described by the witnesses above cited.
Whatever impels any class into courses of sustained industry must necessarily diminish crime; and we find that one characteristic of the dispauperized parishes is the comparative absence of crime. In Bingham, before the change of system took place, scarcely a night passed without mischief; and during the two years preceding 1818, seven men of the parish were transported for felonies; now there is scarcely any disorder in the place. In Uley and Southwell parishes crime has similarly ceased.
In almost every instance the content of the labourers increased with their industry.
The evidence on this subject, collected by the Commission, is confirmed by that taken in the last session by the House of Commons' Committee on the state of Agriculture. We refer particularly to the following extracts from the evidence of Mr. Smith Woolley, a land-agent and an occupier of land in the incorporation, so ably superintended by the Rev. Mr. Becher.
"How much have the poor-rates in your parish fallen?—Including the roads, I think about one-third, that is, from about 600l. to 400l.
"What is the condition of the poor in your parish with the 400l. a year expended upon them, compared with their condition when 600l. was expended upon them?—Vastly improved in comfort and usefulness, as well as character.
"Are they more happy and comfortable now?—Much more so; we endeavour to remove cause for complaint, and generally they are satisfied.
"Has the gross produce in your parish, or in those fifty parishes to which you have referred, diminished or increased since your poor-rate fell?—As far as I can judge, increased; the employment of the labourers in draining and other improvements, has produced much effect, and the advantage is felt by the farmers more every year.
"Even in these bad times the land has been permanently improved, and the gross produce increased under this system?—Most decidedly; in the last three seasons, indeed, our cold wet soils have suffered so much from continued rains that they have been very unproductive; but this has shown the advantage to be derived from draining, and more is done.
"Have you any emigration?—Not to such an extent as to produce any effect22 .
"Do all classes join in estimating the benefit of this system,—the tenants and the labourers?—In the first instance there was strong prejudice in both parties, quite as much in the employer as the labourer; but they generally begin to see their mutual interest in it.
"They were willing to incur the expense of the erection of the poorhouse?—There were objections, but not in many instances.
"With respect to the introduction of the anti-pauper system of Mr. Becher, not taking into consideration merely the expense of raising a workhouse, are there not other outgoings to be submitted to on the part of the farmer?—Yes; but they are more than repaid in the current year. The reduction in the poor-rates, of which I spoke, was when we paid fifty guineas to an overseer, and the instalments of the money borrowed to build the workhouse23 .
"When in your parishes you (what you call) force people upon their own resources, to find the means of providing for themselves, you are in a country at no great distance from manufacturing towns, where there is considerable resource for persons so forced upon their own resources?—Not in ordinary times. I do not think we derive any benefit from them. In the very excited state of the lace trade, a few years ago, even labourers accustomed only to agricultural employment were engaged, but it was only temporary, and produced much more harm than good24 .
"Do you think, from considering the poverty of the farmers, that they can afford paying those [i.e. high] wages for labour?—The question is, in what shape it shall be paid; certainly he can afford better to pay for labour for which he may expect a return, than in poor-rates, for which he can expect nothing but ruin25 ."
General Effects Displayed in the Case of Non-Settled Parishioners
The general effects on the labouring population viewed collectively, as contrasted with their condition previous to their change, appear from the evidence to have been equally striking and important.
Mr. Whately describes in the following passage the antecedent condition of his flock:—
"While the weekly wages of an agricultural labourer were still kept so very low that an industrious man could not subsist himself upon his earnings, this allowance of bread-money adapted itself to the circumstances of each particular family, without any reference at all to their moral qualities. The consequence was, that all distinction between the frugal and the prodigal, the industrious and the idle, the prudent and the thoughtless, was destroyed at once. All were paupers alike. The most worthless were sure of something, while the prudent, the industrious, and the sober, with all their care and pains, obtained ONLY something; and even that scanty pittance was doled out to them by the overseer. Like the Israelites in the Wilderness, 'They gathered some more, some less; yet he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they only gathered every man according to his eating.'Wages were no longer a matter of contract between the master and the workmen, but a right in the one, and a tax on the other; and by removing the motives for exertion, the labourer was rendered by this mischievous system, as far as was possible, totally unworthy of his hire. The moral and intellectual character of the good old English labourer (who in former times had boasted with honest pride that he never was beholden to a parish officer) was destroyed altogether; all habits of prudence, of self-respect, and of self-restraint, vanished; and since a family was a sure passport to a parish allowance, it is not to be wondered at that the most improvident marriages were the consequence of this most pernicious and most demoralizing system. Indeed, we have seen three generations of paupers (the father, the son, and the grandson), with their respective families at their heels, trooping to the overseer every Saturday for their weekly allowances; boys and girls marrying without having provided a bed to sleep upon or a roof to cover them: the parish was to provide everything. The most wretched hovels were converted into houses, the rents of which were charged to the parish account. In this village a carpenter's workshed has been divided into four tenements, for which the parish was charged five pounds a year apiece26 ."
The following extracts from the examination of Mr. Whately, and from Mr. Chadwick's Report, show the subsequent condition of the parish.
"Is it observed that the personal condition of the labourers has in any respect changed since the change of system of administering the poor-rates?—Decidedly. A labourer, formerly a pauper, came to the vestry not long since, to make inquiries respecting a house, in order to rent; when he had retired, one of the farmers exclaimed how neatly he was dressed, and how good his coat was; to which I answered, 'I can explain the reason of the change; it is, that there is no longer a bonus offered by the vestry for rags and dirt. You all remember when ragged clothes were kept by the poor for the express purpose of coming to the vestry in them; whereas the articles of clothing which we sell to the poor at prime cost, have every year, since the establishment of a select vestry, been required to be of an improved quality.'
"Do you mean to state that they purchase more expensive articles? I do; the blankets I send for from Witney are required to be larger and of a better quality; and so of all other articles.
"Do the labourers care to acknowledge to you that they wish to have the articles they purchase of a better quality?—Yes; and I find them less jealous of acknowledging their real condition than formerly; they now rather value themselves upon their respectability, than, as formerly, attempt to impose and extort money by pretended destitution.
"Is their food better or worse than formerly?—I think better. The labourers have a meal of meat once a day, and there is hardly a cottage that has not a supply of bacon on the rack.
"Has their general moral conduct improved, so far as you, as a minister, have observed?—It decidedly has: and I state this as a magistrate as well as a minister27 ."
Mr. Chadwick mentions that
Mr. Russell, the magistrate of Swallowfield, stated—
"That in riding through Cookham, he was so much struck with the appearance of comfort observable in the persons and residences of some of the labouring classes of that village, that he was led to make inquiries into the cause. The answers he received determined him to exert his influence to procure a similar change of system in Swallowfield.
"I visited," says Mr. Chadwick, "a large proportion of the cottages in the village of Cookham and some in Cookham Dean. Their internal cleanliness and comfort certainly corresponded with the condition of the exteriors, which had attracted the attention of Mr. Russell. In company with Mr. Whately I visited several of the residences of the labourers at their dinner-time, and I observed that in every instance meat formed part of the meal, which appeared to be ample, and was set forth in a very cleanly manner. One cottage in the village of Cookham, and the wife and family of the cottager, were most repulsively filthy and wretched in their appearance; and it was somewhat singular that this family was a pauper family, the head of which received an allowance in aid of his wages from an adjacent parish.
"I noticed some very trim hedges and ornaments in the gardens of the labourers, and it was stated to me that nothing of that sort had been seen in those places before the parishes had been dispauperized. Mr. Knapp, the assistant overseer, stated that the labourers were no longer afraid of having a good garden with vegetables, and fruit in it; they were no longer 'afraid of having a pig,' and no longer 'afraid of being tidy.' Before the changes took place he had been in public-houses, and had seen paupers drunk there, and heard them declare in the presence of the rate-payers, that they (the paupers) had had more strong drink than the rate-payers had; and would have it, and that the rate-payers could not help themselves.
"During the agricultural riots there was no fire, no riots, no threatening letters in the parish. In the midst of a district which was peculiarly disturbed, Cookham and White Waltham, where a similar system of poor-law administration was adopted, entirely escaped, although in Cookham there are several thrashing machines, and the only paper-mill had, at the time of the riots, been newly fitted with machinery.
"At the time of my visit the deposits in the savings' bank from the parishioners of Cookham amounted to about 7000l. A considerable number of the present contributors had been paupers chargeable to the parish at the time of the old system being discontinued. Mr. Sawyer, the treasurer and constant attendant of the savings' bank, told me that the deposits from Cookham were greater than from any other part of the district comprehended by that bank. The average annual deposits from Cookham had risen from 310l. to 682l., and 39l. 3s. 8d. was collected in eight months from the children of the village. Three new schools had been opened at the instance of Mr. Whately, and were maintained partly by the labourers themselves.28 "
Mr. Whately was asked—
"Do you believe that the reduction of the poor's-rates by the application of the new system would be as great throughout the country as it has been in your parish?—I have no reason to doubt it. I think one-half or two-thirds of the poor's-rates might be saved; but judging from my experience in my own parish, I should say, that even if no money were saved, the moral improvements and increased comforts of the community to be derived from such a system would more than compensate the trouble of the legislature. I have often declared, both in public and private, that if all the money we have saved (which was upwards of 15,000l. in the first eight years) had been thrown into the Thames, the parish at large would have been enriched by the acquisition of wealth by the improved nature of the labour of the late rate-receivers, independently of the moral improvement which has accompanied their improved frugality and industry29 ."
Although the change in Hatfield was not so general, similar effects were perceived.
"The Rev. F. J. Faithful, examined.
"I am decidedly of opinion that the moral benefits obtained are much greater, much more important than the pecuniary saving. Though as a minister I have every day much to lament, I am sure that I should have infinitely more to lament had the old system of mal-administration continued. The most important effect of the new system is, first, in calling forth domestic sympathies and filial and paternal affections; and next, in creating provident habits (which is shown in the increase of deposits in the savings' banks). Under the old system, when a child was left an orphan, it became, as of right, a pensioner to the parish, and owed gratitude to no one. I constantly see children left orphans; and now, under the influence of our law, that no one shall receive a pension out of the house, relations and friends come forward and support an orphan child, whom they would, without hesitation, throw upon the parish if they could do so. They do not like the idea of seeing in the workhouse a relation whom they would not mind having on the parish pension list, and they exert themselves to maintain the person. A child who owes its subsistence to relations, owes a moral debt of gratitude to particular individuals, and is under moral securities for good character; but there is little gratitude to an abstract entity, the parish. What is singular is, that we have scarcely any persons come to the workhouse now who are not persons of bad character.
"Have the personal habits of your parishioners improved since the new system of parochial management has been introduced?—There has certainly been a very general improvement, and the advance was very considerable, until that most mischievous measure of licensing beer-shops came into operation30 ."
Mr. Paul Borser, who settled in the parish of Southwell in 1812, and became assistant overseer in 1813, gave the following evidence to Mr. Cowell, with relation to the effects of the allowance system, and of its discontinuance:—
"At the time of his settling in the parish, the character of the labouring population was very bad, and it continued deteriorating till 1822; their habits grew more and more dissolute, and the average quality of their industry lower, while their demeanour got more and more turbulent and disorderly. Mr. Borser gave me a great number of instances in proof of these general assertions, but I do not think it necessary to detail them; I was completely satisfied of the fact. The parish weekly pay-room, Mr. Borser declares, was a constant scene of disorder and violence; he, as overseer, was constantly threatened, and, on three occasions, was personally assaulted, for which the offenders were committed to the house of correction. The women were equally violent with the men; remembers a woman seizing a sum of money (5s.) on the pay-table, saying she would have it, and getting clear off with it. In general, the day following the weekly pay there were from 8 to 12 cases before the petty sessions between paupers and himself; sometimes there might be only 3, but has known as many as 20. The behaviour of the paupers was frequently very violent in the justice-room. Has heard his predecessor say that he was constantly treated in a similar manner; and in general Mr. Borser declares, that the labouring population of the parish was a terror to the authorities, and that the burdens and troubles caused by them were annually increasing. Various plans and expedients were tried from 1813 to 1821, for remedying these evils, but nothing produced any benefit till the adoption of the new system. Since that time the character of the population, and their habits, have entirely changed, and their former state has graduly passed into one of order, happiness, and prudence.
"The prudence and economy, the desire of having comfortable homes, exhibits itself in great variety of ways; for instance, many now keep pigs who did not and would not have done so before, because the fact of their being known to possess them would have precluded them from any claim on the parish; they are more anxious now to hire bits of garden ground for cultivation at odd hours; their cottages are better furnished; the men keep more at home, and are less at alehouses; are more independent in their characters altogether. He knows that they bring up their children with a scorn of pauperism; does not believe that they would wish to change to their former state if they could; believes so because many of those who use to hate and revile him as overseer, are now quite changed, have saved money, and placed it in the savings' bank, of which they know he is secretary, and never show any jealousy of his being acquainted with the amount of their savings31 ."
It is noticed by Mr. Faithful, that scarcely any persons but those of bad character came into the workhouse. A similar result was also very strikingly exhibited at Cookham. Mr. Baker, of Uley states,—
"It has been said that many respectable poor persons are now starving in Uley from a dread of the workhouse.—I know no such persons, but I have very lately heard of one woman who is in distress, and who said that if she took her family to it, they should all live much better than they now do, but the character of the inmates was so exceedingly bad, that she did not choose to be among them with her family32 ."
These general statements are supported by many detailed examples.
Mr. Cowell states, that when the relief, though adequate, has been rendered ineligible—
"New life, new energy is infused into the constitution of the pauper; he is aroused like one from sleep, his relation with all his neighbours, high and low, is changed; he surveys his former employers with new eyes. He begs a job—he will not take a denial—he discovers that every one wants something to be done. He desires to make up this man's hedges, to clear out another man's ditches, to grub stumps out of hedgerows for a third; nothing can escape his eye, and he is ready to turn his hand to anything33 .
In fact, the speed with which this method produces its ameliorating effects, is one of its most remarkable characteristics. Mr. Baker told me, that one man, after having been in Uley workhouse but a few hours, was so disgusted that he begged permission to leave it instantly; and upon being told that the rules did not permit any one to quit the workhouse who did not make application before twelve o'clock in the day, displayed the greatest anxiety at the prospect of being kept in till that hour the next day, and pestered the governor with repeated requests to be permitted to depart in the interval. Yet this was a man pretending that he was starving for want of employment; and though he knew that he was secure of enjoying in the workhouse excellent food, lodging, and clothing, yet the prospect of restraint spurred him instantly to quit it, and seek to maintain himself. But still more remarkable is the fact, that the instant the system was put in action at Uley, the workhouse changed the whole of its inmates three times in one week34 ."
In Southwell, the workhouse-keeper
"Only had occasion to try two with the bone plan. One said immediately, with sulky violence, that he would never break bones for the parish when he could go out and get something for breaking stones for others, and he went out next day. The other said it hurt his back to bend so much, and he would start the next day, which he did. A third had a hole to dig, which he liked so little, that he went off the third day. He had been, for nine or ten years before, one of the most troublesome men in the parish, but he went off very quietly, saying, that he did not complain of the victuals or accommodation, but if he was to work, would work for himself; he has never troubled the parish since, and now he gets his own living in a brick-yard, and by thrashing and other jobs, and has done so ever since35 ."
In the report from Cookham, the following instance is given in respect to the change of system in discontinuing out-door relief by money payments:—
"The following case will serve as an example of the effects of the change of system, in respect to out-door relief by money payments: A man, who went by the name of Webb, was hanged for horse-stealing. He left a widow and several small children. The widow applied to the select vestry for relief the week after his execution. It was suspected they possessed resources which would enable them to provide for their own wants without parochial relief; and, in consequence of this suspicion, the vestry ordered them to come to the workhouse three times a week for such relief in kind as was deemed necessary. The woman begged to be allowed the money, or less money than the value of the bread, which was refused. The result was that she never applied, and she never received any relief whatever. In this case, as in almost all others, it would have been utterly impossible for the parish officers to have ascertained whether the pauper did or did not possess the suspected resources. Had relief, such as was requested, been readily granted, as it generally would, under the influence of the feelings of pity, and from the impulse of blind benevolence, or from the love of popularity in appearing to yield to the demand for assistance in a case so deeply affecting the sympathies, or from a dread of unpopularity from the imputation of hard-heartedness 'towards poor children who could not be supposed to participate in their father's crime,' or from the love of ease and the want of firmness to refuse, a WHOLE FAMILY would have been placed as paupers or consumers of the labour of the industrious; the children of the woman would have been further demoralised, and rendered as miserable themselves as they were worthless and mischievous to others. The course of blind benevolence, but real cruelty, would have been productive of pain to this family, and the extra indulgence applied for would moreover have been injustice towards the children of the meritorious, to whom the rule was applied without relaxation. All the members of the family are well known to Mr. Whately, in whose parish they reside, and they are in a satisfactory and thriving condition. So that in this case, which will apply to all others, the pauper would have had the relief of the exact kind and suitable (i.e., bread, not gin), had it been absolutely necessary, but would be driven to her own resources, if she possessed any36 ."
In a communication, dated in January last, Mr. Whately states—
"Nothing can be more prosperous than we are here. I am this moment returned from the vestry, which meets every fortnight, and where we talk of the state of Portugal, having nothing else to do there. I carried 15l. to the savings' bank at Maidenhead a fortnight ago, for a poor man who earns 12s. a week, and yesterday delivered 93 tons of coals to the poor, for the purchase of which they had subscribed last summer; I am to have for the use of the poor 14 tons more. But that which gives me the greatest satisfaction is, that the wife of a poor man (who was insane, and was about to be sent to St. Luke's) told the overseer, that if he would advance the money for her husband's expenses of admission, carriage to London, 8c., she would repay him, for that she did not wish to trouble the parish. Pleased with this account, I went to the woman and gave her a guinea: it happened that before the man could be admitted at St. Luke's he partially recovered the use of his reason, upon which his wife, with her duty, returned to me my guinea."
The following letter from Mr. Russell, of Swallowfield, in answer to one requesting from him a detailed account of the subsequent fortunes of those who in that parish had been refused outdoor relief, is so curious and instructive, that we venture to insert it notwithstanding its great length:—
"Swallowfield, November 5th, 1833.
"A LIST of those men who, before we had a select vestry, were dependent principally upon parochial relief, and who, since the establishment of the vestry, have supported themselves, would comprehend almost every labourer in the parish, except those who were in constant employment as carters, gardeners, or any other permanent capacity, and who consist, of course, of the men of the best character and steadiest habits. On examining the books, I have detected the following fifteen persons as instances of the improvement that has taken place under our new system, in the conduct and condition of the labourers. The whole population of the parish, according to the last return, is only 390; and of that number 68 are agricultural labourers above the age of 14. The persons here mentioned, therefore, are nearly one-fourth of the whole; and, taking into account only the married men, to whom the inquiry principally relates, the proportion is still larger. It is necessary, however, to premise, that in considering all statements upon this subject having reference to the county of Berks, it must be remembered that the system called 'make up,' or 'bread money,'prevails I believe universally, and that a man is not regarded as being 'upon the parish,' if he only has his weekly earnings made up to the price of two gallon loaves for himself, and one for every other member of his family.
|Elijah Wheeler.||James Cordery.||James David.|
|John King.||Charles Cordery.||Richard Read.|
|William Oakley.||James Deane.||David Read.|
|Joseph Oakley.||George Cooper.||Richard Dance.|
|John Oakley.||James Davis.||Thomas Davis.|
"It is several years since Elijah Wheeler had any relief from the parish. I meet him frequently with his cart, and have reason to believe that his habits and condition are perfectly respectable. The house occupied by John King, and now used as a beer-house, with an acre and a half of ground adjoining it, belong to himself for a term, of which 38 years are still unexpired; and he is, perhaps, on that account, the strongest instance in the parish how much the facility of procuring relief has the effect of making men dependent upon it. But for the pernicious practice under the old system, of giving relief to almost everybody that asked for it, there is no reason why this man should have been more in want of assistance formerly than he is now. Until some sort of control was introduced into the parish by the select vestry, William Oakley was in the lowest possible state of idleness and misery. He never did any work at all; he was covered with rags and vermin; he had no fixed home, but slept under a hedge, or in any out-house to which he could get access. The clothes with which the parish occasionally supplied him were made away with for food or liquor; and, for some time, every attempt of the vestry to reclaim him was unavailing; by degrees, however, an amendment was wrought; and, although it would be too much to say that his reformation is complete, it is still greater than, under such circumstances, I could have expected. He now works steadily; he has no money but what he earns; he buys his own clothes, and keeps them; he sleeps at least with a roof over his head, and he has lost those reckless habits, and that squalid appearance which before distinguished him from every other man in the parish. And for this change there is no other reason than the necessity of the case; he shifts for himself, because he is obliged to do so.
"Joseph and John Oakley are the brothers of William, and though not so abject in their personal habits, they were hardly more respectable in character or conduct. Joseph is the only one of the three that is married. He has three children under eight years old. Formerly he lived upon the parish, and was always in want and idleness. John was, some years ago, in constant employ in my garden, but he absconded to avoid a warrant which was issued against him for theft, and was absent for some time. On his return he threw himself on the parish, and lived chiefly on the relief he obtained. Since the establishment of our vestry, a great improvement has taken place in both these brothers. Joseph has, for the last three years, been almost in constant employ with the same farmer. John works with different employers, and occasionally for the surveyor; and neither of them receive any relief out of the rates.
"James Cordery is an instance of the dissolute habits into which ingenuity too often betrays persons in low life. By trade he is a hurdle-maker; he is also a carpenter, chair-mender, and tinker, and used to play the violoncello in church, and to teach the parish children to sing. But the more money he was able to earn, the more he was given to squander; he wasted his time at the alehouse and among prostitutes, and was never off the parish. Since the vestry refused to maintain him, he has had no difficulty in maintaining himself. He provided himself with a set of implements, and now lives in Reading, and earns an ample livelihood in grinding knives, and mending pots and pans. With the exception of a fortnight last summer, when he was taken into the poor-house, in consequence of an attack of rheumatic gout, he has had no relief for the last four years; and instead of bringing up his children in their former idle habits, he is now endeavouring to apprentice one of his sons to a shoemaker.
"Charles Cordery, no relation of the foregoing, is a married man with four children, of whom the eldest is under fifteen. He is so skilful and diligent a workman, that it must be his own fault if he is ever out of employ. Yet, under the former system, he was almost always dependent upon the parish; his wife and children were as idle and ragged as himself; and so bad was their character for pilfering and depredation, that they were successively turned out of every cottage that was occupied by them. At last they were absolutely without a roof to shelter them, and the vestry refused to support them any longer out of the rates. I was always disposed to think the man better than he appeared to be; and on his promise of amendment, I consented to place his family in a cottage belonging to my father, not-withstanding the remonstrance of the farmer on whose land it stood. Except in one instance, just after they had taken possession, I have had no complaint from their neighbours. The man is in constant work; his family seems to be in comfort; his rent is regularly paid; and his garden has been so well cultivated, that I am now enlarging it to such an extent as, I hope, will enable him to grow vegetables enough for his consumption.
"James Deane is married, and has three infant children. He has never borne a good character, and was, some time ago, imprisoned for robbing his master's garden. He was formerly always idle, and a constant burden on the parish; but since the change of system introduced by the select vestry compelled him to depend on his own exertions, he has found work and supported his family. He occupies a cottage under the same roof as Charles Cordery; he is employed by the farmer, on whose land it is situated; and at his request I have consented to make an addition to his garden, similar to that described in the case of his neighbour.
"George Cooper, though he had advantages superior to most other men in the parish, was always as much in want of relief as any of them. Until 1830 he had a cottage, with an acre of land, rent-free; he kept bees; he had an allowance from a gentleman in the parish, which produced him about 5l. a year, for clearing and trimming a range of young hedges, which he did at unemployed intervals; and he was capable of draining, ditching, planting, and all the most profitable kinds of work; yet he seemed to be always in need, and was constantly applying to the parish for assistance. Since relief has been refused to him by the vestry, his cottage has been sold to a new landlord, and he has no facilities in procuring work that he had not before; yet he now not only supports himself, but pays his rent without complaint, and his children seem as much improved in their industry as he is himself.
"James Davis has three children under ten years old. He is a good labourer, and understands draining, ditching, and all the better sorts of agricultural work; but before the affairs of the parish were under the management of a select vestry, he was constantly dependent upon relief. He is of a sullen, discontented temper, owing to which he lost a good place in a gentleman's garden; but he now supports himself and his family, and appears to have his full share of ordinary work.
"James David is an elderly man with a grown-up family. By trade he is a thatcher; but he is also a carpenter, sawyer, and shoe-maker, and can turn his hand to various jobs requiring dexterity. In his own trade alone he might always have found ample employment. There is but one other thatcher in the parish, and the work is more than he can get through; but David's dishonesty keeps pace with his skill, and nobody will trust him out of sight with their straw. He was always in want, and always on the parish; but since the vestry have peremptorily refused him relief, he has contrived to do without it. His condition is apparently better that it was, and, for nearly four years, we have had neither complaint nor application from him.
"Richard and David Read are father and son. Richard is about 56 years old, and has seven children, of whom the youngest four still live with him. David's age is about 34, and he has five children, of whom the oldest is under 12. The loose character and habits of the whole of this family, of both sexes, have always been such as to exclude them from permanent, and therefore from the most advantageous and respectable, employment. But both the father and the son are remarkable for their skill and diligence as workmen, and the son is the strongest man in the parish. I happened to be one of the visiting justices of the gaol when he was committed for deserting his family; and, on the occasion of a disturbance among the prisoners, I found that he had been chosen, by common consent, as the most powerful man within the walls. They both understand draining, ditching, planting, making roads and walks, levelling and laying out grounds, and every sort of agricultural and ornamental work requiring dexterity and neatness. They have both worked a good deal, and still are working for me, to my entire satisfaction in every respect; Richard as superintendent, and David in the same capacity, when his father has found an advantageous job elsewhere. Under the old system they both lived in habitual reliance on the parish, though Richard has a cottage rent-free for his life. David, by his own loose habits, actually reduced himself and his family to take shelter under a hedge, when he was put into a cottage taken for him by the parish, the overseers becoming responsible for the rent, which, however, he now pays regularly; and both the father and the son, though no essential amendment can be said to have taken place, either in their own propensities or those of their families, now support themselves and their children; and no application for relief has been made by either of them for a considerable time past. Richard Read's wife was the first person from whom I had a complaint of the distress occasioned to herself and her children by her husband's frequenting the new beer-houses. With him, and with most others in his condition, this evil is and must continue to be unabated, in spite of all that the local authorities can do to prevent it. The more I see of the effect of these houses, the more I am convinced that they have done and still are doing more to impoverish and corrupt the English labourer, than all the mal-administration of the Poor Laws for the last 50 years put together.
"Richard Dance is a widower, with four children, of whom the eldest is about 16. He was a soldier, and has a pension of ls. a week. Neither his habits, nor his skill as an agricultural labourer, were improved by his being in the army, and notwithstanding his pension, and the advantage of occupying a cottage belonging to the parish, for which he pays no rent, he used to be in constant want and the constant receipt of relief. Since the establishment of the vestry, he has been independent of the parish and is now free from those indications of distress which his appearance used to exhibit.
"Thomas Davis is one of the most active young men and best labourers in the parish. He is able to perform every sort of agricultural work; but he has never borne a good character. He is a loose, blustering fellow, a loud and specious talker, and acts, upon occasion, as the spokesman for his brethren. At the time of the riots, in the winter of 1830, he was the only man in the parish who offered any objection to being sworn in as a special constable. He endeavoured to make terms for the compliance of the labourers, and was beginning to advocate the alleged grievances, but he was soon put down by the spirited interposition of a gentleman who was present. If his courage kept pace with his wishes, he might be a dangerous man; as it is, he is rather the instigator than the perpetrator of mischief. He has seven children, of whom the eldest is under 14, and, until the establishment of the vestry, was constantly dependent upon parochial relief. Since the change of the system, I have heard no complaint from him of his being in want, though he does not apply so much of his earnings as he ought to the support of his family. This is the man to whom I referred in one of my answers to the circular queries, as having, in November last year, been earning 15s. a week at thrashing. Some years ago he was allowed by the parish officers to build a cottage upon a piece of parish land, for which he was to pay a yearly rent of 1l.; but he seldom has paid it. He is as well able to do so as any other man in the parish; but having the parish for his landlord, he reckons upon their forbearance.
"I referred the foregoing list to our assistant overseer, and this is the note with which he returned it to me: 'These men were working principally on the parish from April 1829, (the date of the assistant overseer's appointment,) to December of the same year, when they were employed by———; and from that time till the present we have never had any one on the parish for more than a month at a time, except in case of illness.'
"The sum of this is, that the labourers generally have the means of independent support within their reach, but that, except in a few instances of rare sobriety and providence, they will not of their own accord make the efforts necessary to command them. Of most of the men here described, I have said that they are good and diligent workmen. A want of ability and willingness to work, when work is given to them, is not among the faults of English labourers; and it cannot be expected that they will be at the trouble of finding work, if they can find support without it. They will not go in search of the meat of industry, if they can sit down and eat the bread of idleness. If you maintain them in doing nothing, and put the key of the beer-house into their hand, what right have you to complain that they are idle and dissolute? A gentleman who has for many years farmed largely in this parish, told me that before the select vestry was established, he frequently saw the labourers, in parties of 12 or 14, sauntering along the streams, in pursuit of moorhens, and, of course, poaching fish, when it was not the season to poach game. Their time, and the money they obtained from the overseer, were necessarily spent in drunkenness, dissipation, and pilfering.
"The effect of the system to which this statement refers has been materially to reduce the amount of the poor's rate. In the year in which we established a select vestry (1829-30) our expenses were increased by various charges arising out of the change of system. In that year the rate was 6s. 8d. in the pound on the rack rent. The average rate of the three years preceding the change was 6s. 1d., but that of the three years subsequent to it has been only 4s. 5d.; nor has the benefit been confined to the payers. The condition of the poor has undergone a visible amendment. They are better fed and better clothed; they bear an appearance of greater ease and comfort, and they are more healthy than they were. When some exceptions were taken to our new regulations in 1829, I referred to the gentleman who contracts for the medical treatment of our poor, to know what effect the change had had upon their health. He told me that, under the old system, disease had become so prevalent in the parish, that he had made up his mind to relinquish the contract as no longer worth his holding; but that so great an improvement had taken place under the new system, that he abandoned his intention, and he has continued to attend the parish ever since. I repeated the same question to him yesterday, and his reply was, that although the parish had partaken of such disorders as had at various times been prevalent in the country, the improvement in the general health of the poor still continued relatively to what it had been before our change of system.
"Even among the labourers themselves the change was productive of little discontent. What alarm they did show was when the select vestry was first talked of, and when they had an indistinct apprehension of unknown and indefinite changes, rather than when the new system had been actually put in force. One man only, James David, who is mentioned in the foregoing list, attempted any resistance. We proceeded against him, by complaint before the Bench, and he was sent to the tread-mill. Before the expiration of his sentence the parish officers solicited a remission of the remainder, and we have never since had occasion to resort to coercive measures. Our vestry was established in 1829. The agricultural disturbances took place in the following year. We were in the midst of the disorder, surrounded by the devastation committed by machine-breakers and incendiaries, yet there was neither a riot nor a fire in the parish, nor any single instance of malicious injury to property."
The important changes produced in the habits of the able-bodied paupers by means such as those displayed in the preceding extracts, were in some instances aided by a measure which at first sight might appear calculated to become an obstacle and a means of producing permanent discontent and opposition amongst the whole of the labouring classes. It was determined to rate the whole of the cottages, and make the occupiers (or ultimately the owners) contribute towards the payment of the poor's rates.
"The measure which excited the most tumult was the rating of the cottages, and the refusal to contribute to the payment of rents; finding many of this class most tumultuous, it was thought by the vestry prudent to take a few from each division of the parish as examples. One of the ringleaders (William Sexton), who had never paid rent or rates, and who had behaved very insolently in consequence of his son (a lad of sixteen, who was out of work) being refused relief, was selected to be made an example of; and the demand for rates was enforced upon him. He has since constantly paid his rates and rent, and though his family has much increased since that time, he has never received any parochial relief. He has become an orderly and respectable person, and shows great attachment to Mr. Whately, to whom formerly he behaved in a dogged and ungracious manner. I saw the account of this person in the savings' bank, and for his station the money was considerable. The lad above alluded to is now a respectable shopman in London. He came to see Mr. Whately, and thank him for all past favours, the greatest of which was the refusing him relief. Had the old system of relief been continued, this boy and his brothers would probably have been paupers for life37 ."
"The parish paid as much as 184l. per annum for rents of cottages. After Captain Nicholls had succeeded in abolishing this custom, his next step was to assess all the cottages to the rates. When he had succeeded in carrying this measure, he directed the permanent overseer to give formal receipts to all the payers, though for sums no greater than 2½d. or 3d.
The poor looked upon these receipts in the light of testimonials of their independence, and proud of showing that they, as well as their richer neighbours, contributed to the parish burdens, they hung them up in the windows of their cottages. Captain Nicholls had ordered the overseer to treat them, when he was receiving their contributions, with respect, but he was surprised at this unexpected result, and at finding that they were loth to be in arrear, and generally brought their money without solicitation on the day it was due38 ."
Mr. Borser states, with relation to the improved condition of the labouring classes in that parish, that,—
"They have themselves told him they are better off, and it is notoriously the fact. Though he collects money for the poor-rates, and all their cottages are now assessed, none of the labouring class now are ever uncivil to him. Has observed, since cottages were rated, that the tenants become very jealous of those who receive relief; they give him such information as they think will prevent his granting relief where it is not merited; will often come to his house and tell him when they think he has been imposed upon by any one pretending to be ill. Since cottages were rated, such as apply for relief without real necessity are looked upon very shily by others; they call it 'attempting to impose on one another.' They are very jealons of those who receive relief, thinking and saying it is given out of their earnings.39 "
In Bingham it is stated—
"Great good resulted from refusing to pay rents for cottages and from rating all cottages, and strictly enforcing payment; thinks more good came from this than almost from anything else; it made all those who paid rates jealous of any one receiving relief. Only last week a woman, to whom he went for her rate, said, 'I say, I sha'n't pay any more rates if my money is thrown away. I hear that idle fellow, Jack———, had 5s. from the parish some weeks ago, because he said his child was ill; I sha'n't pay my money to such like.' He has seen many instances of the jealousy of the poor in this respect; if they pay rates, they say, they don't like to be giving their earnings to their neighbours, who are only idle; and now they abuse those who want to get help from the parish40 ."
It might be conceived, à priori, that the standard of comparison, i.e., the condition of the lowest class of independent labourers, is indefinite; but when examined, it is found sufficiently definite for the purpose: their hours of labour in any neighbourhood are sufficiently uniform: the average of piecework which able-bodied labourers will perform may be correctly ascertained, and so may the diet on which they actually sustain health.
In several instances opposition to the enforcement of labour, on the ground that it was too severe, was defeated by a direct comparison between the work exacted from the paupers and that cheerfully performed by the independent labourers.
"Mr. Knapp, the assistant-overseer, stated, that when the able-bodied paupers were first set to work at trenching, they pretended that they could not do so much work as would enable them to get a living at the prices fixed. Knowing this to be false, I paid an independent labourer, an old man of seventy, to work, and as he did a great deal more than two of the stoutest young men amongst the paupers pretended they were incapable of doing, they declared 'We must cut this; this work won't suit us;' and they took their departure to search out regular employment41 ."
Mr. Barnett, the permanent overseer of the parish of St. Mary, Nottingham,—
"Began by offering piece-work to every applicant for relief, and employed an intelligent labourer to fix the price. Forthwith sixty or seventy paupers would appeal to the magistrates every week, complaining that they were not strong enough to perform the quantity of work which, at his rate of pay, would entitle them to receive a sum adequate to the maintenance of their families. Anticipating this manœuvre, he had provided himself with men of less than the average physical strength, whom he produced before the mayor, and who deposed to their ability to perform a greater quantity of work than that allotted by Mr. Barnett. By expedients of this nature he baffled the complaints of the paupers, their opposition grew gradually weaker and weaker, and now there are, speaking generally, no applications to the magistrates42 ."
The circumstance of a rural parish being, to a considerable degree, an independent community, separated by the barriers of the law of settlement from other parochial communities, and the general knowledge possessed by the witnesses of the principal circumstances of all or most of the individuals of its labouring population, give a very high value to the results of the experiment made in each of the rural parishes which we have mentioned. The uniform success of the principle, and the remarkable similarity of its incidents, in different parishes, in different parts of the country, and under different circumstances, appear to us to prove its correctness, and to leave no doubt that it would be productive of similar effects throughout the country.
Further evidence of the beneficial operation of the principle on which the improvements described in the preceding statements were founded, is afforded in almost every pauperized district: first, by the comparative character of those resident labourers who, having a distant settlement, can only claim temporary relief, and that subject to an order of removal to their own parishes; and, secondly, by the condition of that part of the labouring population which still remains independent of parochial aid. We have already stated, that in every district the condition of this class is found to be strikingly distinguishable from that of the pauper, and superior to it, though the independent labourers are commonly maintained upon less money.
"I found," says Mr. Chadwick, "the witnesses in all the parishes, town or country, agreed as to the superior value of non-parishioners as labourers. Mr. J. W. Cockerell, the assistant-overseer of Putney, stated, that many of the paupers who had applied for relief from his parish had withdrawn their claims when they were told that they would be removed to their parishes in the country; and in answer to further questions as to what became of these persons who so refused, he stated (in common with all the other witnesses with similar opportunities of observation) that these persons remained, and afterwards attained a much better condition than they had ever before attained while they considered that parochial resources were available to them on the failure of their own. He cited the cases of nine persons who had applied for relief, but had refused it when they were told that they would be removed. Six of these families had not only been saved from pauperism, but they were now in a better situation than any in which he had ever before known them. In two instances particularly, the withdrawal of dependence on parochial relief had been the means of withdrawing the fathers from the public-houses and beer-shops, and making them steady and good workmen. 'Indeed,' said he, 'it is a common remark amongst the employers of labourers in our parish, that the non-parishioners are worth three or four shillings a week more than the parishioners. This is because they have not the poor's rate to fly to. The employers also remark, that the non-parishioners are more civil and obliging than the others.' In this parish the usual wages of the single labourer are about 12s. per week; and the deterioration of the labourer by the influence of the present system of administering the Poor-Laws, may therefore, according to the witness's statement, be set down as from five-and-twenty to more than thirty per cent. Other witnesses declare that the deterioration is much more considerable43 ."
This superiority, indeed, is so notorious as to be the argument most frequently employed against facilitating the acquisition of settlements. The Rev. Henry Pepys, a magistrate and clergyman of extensive experience, in a letter deprecating the facilitation of settlement, states—
"That the objections to the operation of a poor's-rate do not apply to the unsettled labourer, as the latter knows full well, that should he neglect to provide against sickness, should he be unable to support his family upon the wages of his labour, or should he fail to get employment, his only resource would be, an application to the overseer, who, as a matter of course, would immediately take him before the nearest magistrate for the purpose of having him removed to his place of legal settlement, where he is perhaps a stranger, with all the inconvenience of having to quit the house in which he may have been born, to remove with him at a considerable expense, or sell at a probable loss, his house-hold furniture, and separate from the companions with whom he has associated from infancy. That a poor man should be subject to such a distressing alternative, may perhaps appear harsh; but the consequences are most beneficial, even to himself, for from it he derives that inducement (which we have been all seeking as the only remedy for the present evils of the Poor-Laws) to depend upon his own industrious exertions and not upon parish relief, to belong to a savings' bank or benefit-society, that he may not become chargeable, and thereby removable in the event of sickness, to abstain from wasting his wages at a public-house, and thus, by frugality and industry, to render himself capable of maintaining his family, however large, upon his own resources; in short, with regard to him the Poor-Laws are perfectly harmless, he still remains a sample of the industrious, sober, honest, and independent labourer, such as we are taught to believe constituted the peasantry of England before the statute of Elizabeth was passed.
"Should we not pause then before, by facilitating the acquisition of settlements, we reduce all to the same level of idleness and intemperance? It is true that when the unsettled inhabitants of a parish are residing in the neighbourhood of their own parishes, they will sometimes apply for assistance to their own overseer, who is occasionally disposed to accord it without requiring them to be previously removed home by an order of removal. But the relief which under such circumstances is administered, will be administered with a much more sparing hand than in the case of settled inhabitants, and only because the overseer is himself satisfied that it is really required. The unsettled poor are well aware they have no legal claim upon their overseer; the magistrates have no right to interfere between them, and hence the relief which is given, though probably much more scanty than in the case of settled inhabitants, is thankfully received as a boon instead of being claimed as a right."
If, while the general administration of the Poor-Laws were allowed to remain on its present footing, such occasional or partial relief as that which is available to the settled labourers of a parish were rendered equally available to the unsettled labourers, we cannot doubt that such a proceeding would demoralize and depress this respectable and valuable class to the level of the settled and pauperized labourers. This is ample reason against assimilating the condition of the unsettled to that of the settled labourers, but none against placing the settled on the same footing as the unsettled. The present practice, as to unsettled labourers, is almost exactly that which we propose to make the rule for all classes, both settled and unsettled.
The non-parishioner has no right to partial relief; to occasional relief; to relief in aid of wages, or to any out-door relief whatever from the parish in which he resides; and yet the assurance which we propose to preserve to every one, that he shall not perish on the failure of his ability to procure subsistence, is preserved to him. If that ability actually fail him, he is assured that he can immediately obtain food until he can be passed home to his own parish, where he will be saved from perishing, and be maintained at the public charge. By this course, however, he would be taken wholly out of employment, and reduced to the condition of a permanent pauper; and that condition being less eligible to him than the condition of an independent labourer, he struggles with all the occasional difficulties from which, if he were a parishioner and improvident, the usual administration of the Poor-Laws would relieve him. Relief is accessible to him whenever a case of necessity occurs; it is indeed accessible to him whenever he chooses to avail himself of it; it is simply ineligible to him so long as he can subsist by his own industry. The ordinary workhouse of his own distant parish, with the inconveniences of removal superadded, produces on him effects of the same description as those which we find produced on parishioners by a well-regulated workhouse.
We attach much importance to the general superiority of the conduct and condition of the non-parishioners, the unsettled labourers. Although the evidence afforded from the dispauperized parishes oppears to us to be conclusive as to the effects which may be anticipated from a similar change of system throughout the country, it is still liable to the objection, however unreasonable, that these parishes are individual and scattered instances, too few to establish a general conclusion; but the evidence afforded by the character and condition of the unsettled labourers pervades the whole country. Every body of labourers resident and labouring within a parish of which they are not parishioners, and where the distance of their own parishes, and the administration of the poor's rates does not render partial relief available, may be referred to in proof of the general effects which would follow an improved system of administering relief. These labourers make no complaints of their having no right to partial relief, and we have not met with an instance of their having suffered from the want of it. The fact of the non-settled labourers maintaining an independent condition, whilst they have a right by law to return at the public expense to their own parishes, and claim parochial aid, proves that they themselves consider their present condition more advantageous than that of paupers, and that so considering it they are anxious to retain it.
From the above evidence it appears, that wherever the principle which we have thus stated has been carried into effect, either wholly or partially, its introduction has been beneficial to the class for whose benefit Poor-Laws exist. We have seen that in every instance in which the able-bodied labourers have been rendered independent of partial relief, or of relief otherwise than in a well-regulated workhouse—
- 1. Their industry has been restored and improved.
- 2. Frugal habits have been created or strengthened.
- 3. The permanent demand for their labour has increased.
- 4. And the increase has been such, that their wages, so far from being depressed by the increased amount of labour in the market, have in general advanced.
- 5. The number of improvident and wretched marriages has diminished.
- 6. Their discontent has been abated, and their moral and social condition in every way improved.
[Part II, Section 2]
PRINCIPLE OF LEGISLATION
Results so important would, even with a view to the interest of that class exclusively, afford sufficient ground for the general introduction of the principle of administration under which those results have been produced. Considering the extensive benefits to be anticipated from the adoption of measures, founded on principles already tried and found beneficial, and warned at every part of the inquiry by the failure of previous legislation, we shall, in the suggestion of specific remedies, endeavour not to depart from the firm ground of actual experience.
We therefore submit, as the general principle of legislation on this subject, in the present condition of the country:—
That those modes of administering relief which have been tried wholly or partially, and have produced beneficial effects in some districts, be introduced, with modifications according to local circumstances, and carried into complete execution in all.
The chief specific measures which we recommend for effecting these purposes, are—
FIRST, THAT EXCEPT AS TO MEDICAL ATTENDANCE, AND SUBJECT TO THE EXCEPTION RESPECTING APPRENTICESHIP HEREIN AFTER STATED, ALL RELIEF WHATEVER TO ABLE-BODIED PERSONS OR TO THEIR FAMILIES, OTHERWISE THAN IN WELL-REGULATED WORKHOUSES (i.e., PLACES WHERE THEY MAY BE SET TO WORK ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT AND INTENTION OF THE 43d OF ELIZABETH) SHALL BE DECLARED UNLAWFUL, AND SHALL CEASE, IN MANNER AND AT PERIODS HEREAFTER SPECIFIED44 ; AND THAT ALL RELIEF AFFORDED IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 16, SHALL BE CONSIDERED AS AFFORDED TO THEIR PARENTS.
It is true, that nothing is necessary to arrest the progress of pauperism, except that all who receive relief from the parish should work for the parish exclusively, as hard and for less wages than independent labourers work for individual employers, and we believe that in most districts useful work, which will not interfere with the ordinary demand for labour, may be obtained in greater quantity than is usually conceived. Cases, however, will occur where such work cannot be obtained in sufficient quantity to meet an immediate demand; and when obtained, the labour, by negligence, connivance, or otherwise, may be made merely formal, and thus the provisions of the legislature may be evaded more easily than in a workhouse. A well-regulated workhouse meets all cases, and appears to be the only means by which the intention of the statute of Elizabeth, that all the able-bodied shall be set to work, can be carried into execution.
The out-door relief of which we have recommended the abolition, is in general partial relief, which, as we have intimated, is at variance with the spirit of the 43d of Elizabeth, for the framers of that act could scarcely have intended that the overseers should "take order for setting to work" those who have work, and are engaged in work: nor could they by the words "all persons using no ordinary and daily trade of life to get their living by," have intended to describe persons "who do use an ordinary and daily trade of life."
Wherever the language of the legislature is uncertain, the principle of administration, as well as of legal construction, is to select the course which will aid the remedy; and with regard to the able-bodied, the remedy set forth in the statute is to make the indolent industrious. In proposing further remedial measures we shall keep that object steadily in view.
And although we admit that able-bodied persons in the receipt of out-door allowances and partial relief, may be, and in some cases are, placed in a condition less eligible than that of the independent labourer of the lowest class; yet to persons so situated, relief in a well-regulated workhouse would not be a hardship: and even if it be, in some rare cases, a hardship, it appears from the evidence that it is a hardship to which the good of society requires the applicant to submit. The express or implied ground of his application is, that he is in danger of perishing from want. Requesting to be rescued from that danger out of the property of others, he must accept assistance on the terms, whatever they may be, which the common welfare requires. The bane of all pauper legislation has been the legislating for extreme cases. Every exception, every violation of the general rule to meet a real case of unusual hardship, lets in a whole class of fraudulent cases, by which that rule must in time be destroyed. Where cases of real hardship occur, the remedy must be applied by individual charity, a virtue for which no system of compulsory relief can be or ought to be a substitute.
Further Effects of the Application of the Above-Mentioned Principle of Administering Relief
The preceding evidence, as to the actual operation of remedial measures, relates principally to rural parishes. We shall now show, from portions of the evidence as to the administration of relief upon a correct principle in towns, that by an uniform application of the principle which we recommend, or, in other words, by a recurrence to the original intention of the poor-laws, other evils produced by the present system of partial relief to the ablebodied will be remedied. The principal of the further evils which it would extirpate is, the tendency of that system to constant and indefinite increase, independently of any legitimate causes, a tendency which we have shown to arise from the irresistible temptations to fraud on the part of the claimants. These temptations we have seen are afforded—
First. By the want of adequate means, or of diligence and ability, even where the means exist, to ascertain the truth of the statements on which claims to relief are founded45 :
Secondly. By the absence of the check of shame, owing to the want of a broad line of distinction between the class of independent labourers and the class of paupers, and the degradation of the former by confounding them with the latter:
Thirdly. By the personal situation, connexions, interests, and want of appropriate knowledge on the part of the rate distributors, which render the exercise of discretion in the administration of all relief, and especially of out-door relief, obnoxious to the influence of intimidation, of local partialities, and of local fears, and to corrupt profusion, for the sake of popularity or of pecuniary gain.
1. The offer of relief on the principle suggested by us would be a self-acting test of the claim of the applicant.
It is shown throughout the evidence, that it is demoralizing and ruinous to offer to the able-bodied of the best characters more than a simple subsistance. The person of bad character, if he be allowed anything, could not be allowed less. By the means which we propose, the line between those who do, and those who do not, need relief is drawn, and drawn perfectly. If the claimant does not comply with the terms on which relief is given to the destitute, he gets nothing; and if he does comply, the compliance proves the truth of the claim—namely, his, destitution. If, then, regulations were established and enforced with the degree of strictness that has been attained in the dispauperized parishes, the workhouse doors might be thrown open to all who would enter them, and conform to the regulations. Not only would no agency for contending against fraudulent rapacity and perjury, no stages of appeals, (vexatious to the appellants and painful to the magistrates,) be requisite to keep the able-bodied from the parish; but the intentions of the statute of Elizabeth, in setting the idle to work, might be accomplished, and vagrants and mendicants actually forced on the parish; that is, forced into a condition of salutary restriction and labour. It would be found that they might be supported much cheaper under proper regulations, than when living at large by mendicity or depredation.
Wherever inquiries have been made as to the previous condition of the able-bodied individuals who live in such numbers on the town parishes, it has been found that the pauperism of the greater number has originated in indolence, improvidence, or vice, and might have been averted by ordinary care and industry. The smaller number consisted of cases where the cause of pauperism could not be ascertained rather than of cases where it was apparent that destitution had arisen from blameless want. This evidence as to the causes of the pauperism of the great mass of the able-bodied paupers, is corroborated by the best evidence with relation to their subsequent conduct, which has corresponded in a remarkable manner with the effects produced in the dispauperized parishes of the rural districts. Ill-informed persons, whose prepossessions as to the characters of paupers are at variance with the statements of witnesses practically engaged in the distribution of relief, commonly assume that those witnesses form their general conclusions from exceptions, and that their statements are made from some small proportion of cases of imposture; but wherever those statements have been put to a satisfactory test, it has appeared that they were greatly below the truth. The usual statements of the permanent overseers in towns are, that more than one-half or two-thirds of the cases of able-bodied paupers are cases of indolence or imposture; but it rarely appears that more than five or six in a hundred claimants sustain the test of relief given upon a correct principle. We select the following instances in illustration of these statements.
"Mr. Thomas Langley, Examined.
"I have been in office fourteen years, principally as out-door inspector of the parish of Mary-le-bone.
"When you were here before, you stated that the result of your having offered work in the stone-yard to 900 able-bodied paupers at piece-work, at which they might have earned from 10s. to 18s. a week, was, that only 85 out of the 900 remained to work. If, instead of paying the men in the stone-yard such wages as those from 10s. to 18s. a week, you had given them piece-work at about 1s. a day for a full day's work, and that 1s. had been given, not all in money, but chiefly in kind, that is to say, if you had given them at the end of each day's work a three pound loaf of brown bread, and cheese, or other food, and 3d. to pay for the night's lodging, how many out of 85, who remained to work at the full wages first mentioned, would have remained to work for the remuneration of the latter description?—I do not think that 10 of them would have remained.
"Would less than six have remained to work?—Never having seen such an experiment tried, I could not undertake to speak confidently; but there might, out of so large a number, be half a dozen who are so peculiarly situated as to accept work on such terms for a time.
"Then you consider that it would in any case only be for a time, meaning, I presume, for a short time?—Yes, some of them might stay one day, others three or four, but none of them, I conceive, more than a week or so.
"Would you consider the fact of a man accepting such work on such terms a sure test of his condition?—Yes, it would certainly be an infallible test of his being in a state of distress, and disposed to work, and unable to get work any where.
"If I were to open a stone-yard in your parish, and offer to give to all comers such work on such terms, how many square yards of stone do you think I should get broken?—I think none, or if any, very few, although three pounds of bread is a good allowance of food, and far above a starving point.
"What evasions do you think could be resorted to?—The only evasion I can see is in the cases where a man evaded the work by pretending to be ill, which is a trick now resorted to where men say, 'they have a pain in their insides,' and the doctor is not able to say positively that they have not; but these cases, judging from our present experience, would be very few.
"Might not these cases be met by workhouse regulations, confining a man as a sick patient, and on a low diet?—Yes, that I think would fully meet the case I have supposed.
"Do you see any cases in which such regulations (making the condition of the pauper on the whole less eligible than that of the independent labourer of the lowest class) do not constitute a self-acting test?—I certainly conceive it is a test which would go to the root of pauperism, if it were carried into full execution. I can see no mode of evasion but pretended sickness.
"Do you see any difficulty in the way of the execution of those regulations?—None whatever46 ."
"Mr. Leonard, Overseer of St. Giles, Middlesex, Examined.
"IN the year 1831, we tried the application of labour at stone-breaking in 260 cases of able-bodied labourers at piece-work, at 2s. per ton, at which work they might have earned about 2s. per day with tolerable application. That was in the summer; but during the winter we gave them 2s. 6d. per ton. The labour performed from amongst the whole number only amounted to 9l. 18s. 2d. during six weeks. There were never more than five or six at work at the same time. The effect of the introduction of the stone-yard, and of the work in the house, and generally for the able-bodied, was to produce such peace and order as had not existed before. I am sure that where there is no work there will certainly be disorder. Where I have heard of disorder in workhouses, and riots of paupers, I conclude, from the mere mention of such occurrences, that labour is not there properly applied, or the workhouses properly regulated.
"I am certainly of opinion that if regulations could be enforced which would place the pauper in every case below the condition of the lowest class of independent labourers, that these regulations would supersede investigations of officers with relation to able-bodied paupers. This, in fact, is the principle of our employment for able-bodied paupers at the stone-yard, and has produced the effects anticipated, so far as it has been carried into operation47 ."
"Mr. W. Hickson, jun., of the Firm of Hickson 8 Sons, Wholesale Shoe Warehouse, Smithfield, Examined.
"WE once engaged to supply the workhouse of St. Giles's with shoes, on condition that we should give work to all the journeymen shoemakers who were then receiving relief from the board. This was about four years back. We expected a great number to apply, and make preparations for upwards of a hundred; the number of applicants were however under twenty. Of these some endeavoured to spoil the work, that they might be dismissed and have an excuse for returning to the board; others ran away with the materials; and, finally, but one man remained, who was steady and industrious, and is working for us to this day48 ."
Mr. Teather, of Lambeth, examined—
"If you could get hard work for your able-bodied out-door poor, so as to make their condition on the whole less eligible than that of the independent labourer, what proportion of those who are now chargeable to the parish do you think would remain so?—On a rough guess, I do not think that more than one out of five would remain.
"Have you any facts which you can adduce to justify that conclusion?—From the instances of the proportions who have left on the occasions of their having had work given them. Some time ago, for instance, we had a lot of granite broken: there were not above 20 per cent. of the men who began who remained to work at all; there were not above two per cent. who remained the whole of the time during which the work lasted. Many of them, however, were not idle men, but they found other jobs: they were doubtless more stimulated to seek work by the stone-breaking. I think it would save much money if the parish officers were to advertise to break stones for the roads for nothing, for all persons who chose to bring the granite and take it away again.49 "
"Mr. Richard Spooner, who resides near Worcester, mentioned to me," says Mr. Villiers, "the following instance, illustrative of the calculation made by paupers with respect to parish work. A bridge was to be built in his neighbourhood, and it was determined to employ all the able men who applied for relief. While the bridge was building, not a single pauper who was able to work applied to the overseer for relief. A short time afterwards, and when the work was completed, the overseer had frequent applications for relief, and having no work to give them, he was compelled, as usual, to relieve them in money50 ."
"John Hooper, Assistant Guardian, Poole, St. James's, Dorset.
"No allowance is ever given to any able-bodied man, nor are we ever applied to by such for elief, unless he is ill or cannot get work; we then give him piece-work as before stated, and it is seldom he remains in such work many days before he finds employment at his trade or calling. This number is very small, and generally consists of shoemakers, bricklayers, and such as are not so fully employed in winter; but previously to our purchasing twenty acres of land for the purpose of giving them employment, we had many such applications during the winter, and all the idle and lazy were a great pest to us almost continually; but this is now at an end, as they say they may as well work for other parties as for the parish51 ."
Mr. Butt, the Secretary of the Surrey Asylum for discharged prisoners, states—
"In the year 1824, I availed myself of a hint which I got from the Mendicity Society, and with the sanction of our committee, entered into an agreement with Messrs. Thorington and Roberts, who at that time kept a stone wharf on the Regent's Canal, and who undertook to furnish employment to as many able-bodied men as we chose to send them, at breaking stones for the roads, finding them in tools and paying them at the rate of 8d. per ton for flints, and 1s. 8d. for granite. After some discussion and difficulty, I prevailed on the Committee of the Refuge for the Destitute at Hoxton, of which I was then a member, to adopt the same plan. Both institutions were, however, soon obliged to discontinue it, because they found that the orders for work were scarcely ever presented, though the price paid was notoriously sufficient to enable any man with common industry to support himself. The men to whom orders were given by the Surrey Asylum, were almost exclusively taken from the five worst classes in the house of correction at Brixton, which from its proximity to London, contains perhaps as bad a description of people as could possibly be found, and we soon ascertained that about three and three-quarters per cent. of the orders given were presented, i.e., about one man out of twenty-seven went to work. I soon afterwards learnt from an active member of the Mendicity Society, that of the working tickets issued to beggars by the subscribers to that institution, about one in twenty-three was used, or about four and a quarter per cent52 .
When witnesses have answered that they have tried the application of labour in the case of the able-bodied paupers, and that it has failed, it has appeared on further examination that the failure was merely a failure to yield pecuniary profit, or to meet their expectations of immediate results. Considerable sagacity and patience are requisite to conduct such proceedings without being misled by false appearances of failure. It is found that paupers are in general well aware that the enforcing labour is an experiment, and therefore resist. They view the contest as one in which it is worth while to hazard the labour of a week or a month, or a much longer period, for a year or a life of comparative ease, and the inexperience or the ignorance of the person superintending the experiment sometimes gives them the victory.
The most efficient application of the principle is usually by means of a workhouse. The following extracts from the evidence and communications from different parts of the kingdom, show at once the uniformity of its effects, and the general nature of the evil to be contended against.
"Mr. Oldershaw, the vestry clerk of Islington, states:—'It sometimes costs us more—(the grinding corn by a mill)—than the wheat ground; but then it keeps numbers away, and in that way we save. When in consequence of the stoppage of the mill it became known that we could not get work for the whole of our able-bodied, we had, in two or three days, one-third more of this class of applicants, and unless we had been able to provide work of some sort, so as to keep the great body of the able-bodied employed, we should have been inundated with them53 .'"
Mr. Henderson states, in his report from Liverpool, that—
"The proceedings of the select vestry show, that the workhouse is frequently used as a test of the real necessities of applicants for relief; and that while some, who pretend to be starving, refuse, others, really in want, solicit admission.
"The introduction of labour thinned the house very much: it was sometimes difficult to procure a sufficient supply of junk, which was generally obtained from Plymouth; when the supply was known to be scanty, paupers flocked in; but the sight of a load of junk before the door would deter them for a length of time54 ."
Mr. Atkinson, Comptroller of the Accounts for the township of Salford, states, that—
"Finding work for those who apply for relief, in consequence of being short or out of work, has had a very good effect, especially when the work has been of a different kind from that which they have been accustomed to. In Salford, employment to break stones on the highways has saved the township several hundred pounds within the last two years; for very few indeed will remain at work more than a few days, while the bare mention of it is quite sufficient for others. They all manage to find employment for themselves, and cease for a time to be troublesome; although it is a singular fact, that when the stock of stones on hand has been completely worked up before the arrival of others, they have, almost to a man, applied again for relief, and the overseers have been obliged to give them relief; but so soon as an arrival of stones is announced they find work for themselves again. This fact is in itself sufficient to show the nature and effects of pauperism. I sincerely believe, that if, instead of giving relief in money, all persons were taken into workhouses, and there made to work, and have no other benefit than a bare maintenance, that would almost immediately reduce pauperism one-third, and in less than twenty years nearly annihilate it55 ."
Mr. Huish, the assistant overseer of St. George's, Southwark, examined—
"What do you think would be the effect of putting an end altogether to the system of out-door relief, and enacting that all persons should either be wholly on or wholly off the parish, and that those who are on should be relieved in a strict workhouse?—I am convinced that in the first year of any attempt to take all the poor into the workhouse, no more than one in ten of the out-door paupers will remain in the parish, and that this tenth person would, in a great proportion of the cases, do so to tease them.
"I am convinced that in the second year not one out of twenty of the out-door poor would remain chargeable to the parish.
"Do you assume that the workhouses are to be conducted much as at present?—Nearly the same: but all the workhouses should be managed alike, which can only be done by Government; for whilst the world lasts, parishes will not unite to do anything.
"On what grounds do you form your opinion that the reduction of pauperism would be at the rate you mention?—As a practical man, I form my opinion on the proportion who have always, since I have been in office, refused to go into the workhouse when it has been offered them, and the instances where they have continued to get their living without parochial relief56 ."
Mr. Osler, in an account of the introduction of the improved workhouse system at Falmouth, states that, in the first instance—
"A select vestry was appointed, and a good house built, but the improvement effected was not so considerable as it might have been, because the house was inefficient. There was a total want of discipline; the dormitories were the common sitting rooms of their inmates, who cooked their own food, and the whole house was, in consequence, dirty and disorderly: finally, it was regulated upon principles agreeing with those explained in my former Report, and all proper cases were ordered in. The effect was, not only to cut off a great number of out-paupers, but also actually to diminish the numbers in the house.
|57.  "The casual list for 1829 is enormous, owing to a cargo of distressed German emigrants who remained for several months, their vessel being unseaworthy. The extraordinary charge thus incurred, included a rate of 122l. 7s. raised expressly for contributing to the hire of a vessel to carry them to their destination."|
|"Last year before the use of the new workhouse—|
|Year ending 1820||£2,321||13||0½|
|"Select vestry and workhouse, but without discipline—|
|"Introduction of moderate regularity into the house with increased strictness in ordering paupers—|
|"Introduction of efficient domestic discipline; no relief given out of the house except in casual or peculiar cases—|
"Profit is not to be expected from workhouse labour. If it were practicable to convert workhouses into manufactories, which it is not, the measure would be most impolitic; for every shilling thus earned in the house would be at the expense of a labourer out of doors.
"The true profit of parish labour is to form industrious habits in the young, and to deter the indolent; and the perfection of a parish establishment is for its inmates to be scarcely equal to its own work. Into such a house none will enter voluntarily; work, confinement, and discipline, will deter the indolent and vicious; and nothing but extreme necessity will induce any to accept the comfort which must be obtained by the surrender of their free agency, and the sacrifice of their accustomed habits and gratifications. Thus the parish officer, being furnished with an unerring test of the necessity of applicants, is relieved from his painful and difficult responsibility; while all have the gratification of knowing that while the necessitous are abundantly relieved, the funds of charity are not wasted upon idleness and fraud58 ."
Under the present system it is found, that wherever relief is permitted to remain eligible to any except those who are absolutely destitute, the cumbrous and expensive barriers of investigations and appeals erected to protect the rates serve only as partial impediments, and every day offer a more feeble resistance to the strong interests set against them. To permit this system to continue, to retain the existing permanent officers, and yearly to subject a larger and larger proportion of those who are pressed into the public service as annual officers, to a painful and inefficient struggle, in which they must suffer much personal inconvenience and loss, a loss which is not the less a public loss, because borne by only a few individuals, must excite great animosity against themselves, and ultimately be borne down in a conflict in which the ingenuity and pressing interests of a multitude of paupers, each having his peculiar case or his peculiar means of fraud, are pitted against the limited means of detection, and the feeble interests in the prevention of fraud of one of a few public officers.
In the absence of fixed rules and tests that can be depended upon, the officers in large towns have often no alternative between indiscriminately granting or indiscriminately refusing relief. The means of distinguishing the really destitute from the crowd of indolent imposters being practically wanting, they are driven to admit or reject the able-bodied in classes. Now, however true it may be that the real proportion of cases which are found to have the semblance of being well founded may not exceed three or four per cent. of the whole amount of claims, yet since each individual thus rejected may possibly be one of that apparently deserving minority, such a rejection, accompanied by such a possibility, is at variance with the popular sentiment; and it is found that the great body of the distributors of relief do prefer, and may be expected to continue to prefer, the admission of any number of undeserving claims, to encountering a remote chance of the rejection of what may be considered a deserving case.
On the other hand, the belief which prevails that under the existing system some claims to relief are absolutely rejected, operates extensively and mischievously. It appears that this belief, which alone renders plausible the plea of every mendicant (that he applied for parochial relief, and was refused), is the chief cause of the prevalence of mendicity and vagrancy, notwithstanding the existence of a system of compulsory relief; a system which, if well administered, must immediately reduce and enable a police ultimately to extirpate all mendicity. If merit is to be the condition on which relief is to be given; if such a duty as that of rejecting the claims of the undeserving is to be performed, we see no possibility of finding an adequate number of officers whose character and decisions would obtain sufficient popular confidence to remove the impression of the possible rejection of some deserving cases; we believe, indeed, that a closer investigation of the claims of the able-bodied paupers, and a more extensive rejection of the claims of the undeserving, would, for a considerable time, be accompanied by an increase of the popular opinion to which we have alluded, and consequently by an increase of the disposition to give to mendicants.
We see no remedy against this, in common with other existing evils, except the general application of the principle of relief which has been so extensively tried and found so efficient in the dispauperized parishes. When that principle has been introduced, the able-bodied claimant should be entitled to immediate relief on the terms prescribed, wherever he might happen to be; and should be received without objection or inquiry; the fact of his compliance with the prescribed discipline constituting his title to a sufficient, though simple diet. The question as to the locality or place of settlement, which should be charged with the expense of his maintenance, might be left for subsequent determination.
On this point, as on many others, the independent labourers may be our best teachers. We have seen, that in the administration of the funds of their friendly societies, they have long acted on the principle of rendering the condition of a person receiving their relief less eligible than that of an independent labourer. We have now to add, that they also adopt and enforce most unrelentingly the principle, that under no circumstances, and with no exceptions, shall any member of their societies receive relief while earning anything for himself. Mr. Tidd Pratt was asked whether, in the rules for the management of friendly societies, framed by the labouring classes themselves, he had ever found any for the allowance of partial relief; such as relief in aid of wages, or relief on account of the number of a family?—He answers—
"No, I never met with an instance.
"Then do the labouring classes themselves, in the rules submitted to you, reject all partial relief or relief on any other ground than the utter inability to work?—Invariably.
"By what penalties do they usually endeavour to secure themselves from fraud, on the part of persons continuing on the sick list after they have become able to work?—In all cases by utter expulsion and enforcement of the repayment of the money from the period at which it was proved the party was able to work.
"Does that utter expulsion take place whatever may have been the period at which the party had contributed towards the society?—Yes; and all his contributions are forfeited to the society; and so strict are they in the enforcement of these regulations, that I have known them expel a party for stirring the fire, or putting up the shutters of his window, these acts being considered by them evidence of the party being capable of going to work. A small shopkeeper has been expelled for going into his shop; and the only exception I have found in favour of such a rule is, that of a party being allowed to sign a receipt, or to give orders to his servant. They are perfectly well aware, from experience, that to give relief in an apparently hard case, would open the door to a whole class of cases which would ruin them. The other day the steward of a friendly society came to consult me as to the reinstatement of a member who had been expelled for having neglected to pay his quarter's subscription on the regular quarter night half an hour after the books were closed. The party had been a member 32 years, and during that time had received little or no relief. The case struck me as an extremely hard one, and I endeavoured to prevail on the steward to reinstate the member, but the steward stated to me so many facts, showing that if they yielded to this one case, that it would determine a whole class of cases, and let in so much abuse, that I was ultimately forced to agree in the necessity of the decision of the society. These rules may appear to be capricious and arbitrary, but my observation leads me to believe that they are necessary to protect the society. Although there is an extremely severe enforcement of them, societies are seriously injured, and frequently ruined, by the frauds committed under this mode of relief, notwithstanding the incessant vigilance exercised against them.
"What description of vigilance is that?—It is generally provided by the rules that a domiciliary visit shall be paid by the stewards, or by a member, generally every day; these visits are to be paid at uncertain times, that they may increase the chances of detection. It is also usually provided that a sick member shall not leave his house before or after such an hour, and that on his leaving home at other times he shall leave word in writing where he has gone, by what line of road he has gone, and by what line he intends to return, in order that the stewards or members may track him. In some instances the members follow up these precautions by requiring a member, when he 'declares off' the box, to swear that he was unable to work during the whole time that he has been receiving relief of the society.
"Are these precautions effectual?—No; notwithstanding the utmost vigilance, serious frauds are committed, especially by the members of those trades who can work at piece-work within doors; such, for example, as tailors, shoemakers, watchmakers, and weavers. An operative of these trades keeps his door shut and works, and when the visitor comes, the work is put under the bed clothes or otherwise concealed, and he is found in bed apparently sick. I find that in those societies where the members' work is of a nature to render fraud liable to detection, such as painters, plumbers, glaziers, stonemasons, carpenters, and any other occupation that takes a man out of his own room, the money paid for sickness in the course of a year is less than in societies composed of equal numbers of the class of members before mentioned. From the opportunities of fraud, I always judge of the certainty of fraud, and from those opportunities the certainty of the ruin of societies may be predicted."
This vigilance in the administration of out-door relief to the sick, a vigilance to which we have never found any parallel in the administration of the poor's rates, would, à fortiori, be requisite in the case of the administration of out-door relief to the able-bodied. But this is obviously impossible. No salaried officer could have the zeal or the knowledge of an inspector of a friendly society, who is always of the same class, and usually of the same trade as the claimant. And if it were possible, we believe that it would not be effectual. The labouring classes themselves find these daily visits and strict regulations inadequate substitutes for the means of supervision and prevention, which well-regulated workhouses afford, and which those classes, if their circumstances permitted, would doubtless adopt. In fact, the experiment has long and often been tried, and always with the same ill-success. Visits are made to the claimants, their residences are inspected, and it appears that at these visits and inspections, false and fraudulent scenes are prepared with little more difficulty and much more effect than fraudulent stories, and that those who disregard all statements and trust only to what they call the evidence of their senses, are often the most completely deceived. The testimony of the most experienced and intelligent of our witnesses shows the extensive opportunities for fraud which the most rigid inspection leaves; and in the case of paupers, much more than in the case of the sick members of friendly societies, from the extent of the opportunities, may the extent of fraud be predicted. Mr. Pratt is asked—
"Have you as a barrister had much poor-law practice?—Yes, I have practised 10 years at sessions, I have also edited Bott's Poor Laws, and other works connected with the subject.
"Would you apply to the progress of out-door relief by parishes the same rules as are founded on the experience of the labouring classes in benefit societies?—Certainly; and considering a parish as a large friendly society (the members being mostly honorary, or persons who contribute without the intention of partaking of the benefits of the contribution, as the majority in most parishes are), I should look to them much more rigidly.
"If the regulations of a parish, or of a friendly society consisting of a parish, were brought to you to authorize under the statute of Elizabeth, would you certify them if you found in them rules for granting partial relief of any sort, or relief in aid of wages, or relief according to a bread-money scale, or relief in proportion to the number of a family, or out-door relief of any description?—As a lawyer I should undoubtedly consider all such allowances entirely at variance with the spirit and intention of the statute of Elizabeth, and I should without hesitation reject them. My experience, also derived from the observation of less dangerous regulations in friendly societies, would enable me to pronounce them to be mischievous and ruinous to whatever community adopted them. I am sure that no members of any benefit society, incomplete as their knowledge is, would ever frame rules upon such ruinous principles. The only definite ground of relief, as it appears to me, is utter inability to work, and so it appears to the labouring classes themselves, for whose benefit, and with whom I act, for their allowances are always made upon that ground.
"In what way do the members generally regard parochial assistance? As discreditable?—'In their rules it is generally provided, that in the case of the death of a member, notice be given to the treasurer, who summonses two of the stewards;' and, says the rule, 'They both shall attend such funeral, and see that the corpse is decently interred, and free from parish grants;' or it is expressed, as in the following rule: 'That the president and vice-president shall attend funerals of members and their wives, see they be decent, and free from parochial assistance; and if either of them neglect so to do, he shall be fined 5s.; but for such attendance each of them shall receive 2s. 6d. from the fund.' "
We believe that the following evidence expresses the sentiments of a large proportion of the most respectable mechanics:—
Launcelot Snowdon examined,—
"Are you acquainted with the operative classes?—Yes, having been a journeyman printer 20 years, and one-half of the time foreman, and having been in different situations in our own societies, as well as connected with various other societies of operatives, I believe I am well acquainted with them.
"In what way do they regard the fact of any one of their body receiving parochial relief?—I know that none but the worst characters would ever think of applying for parish relief; and that the respectable workmen consider it disgraceful. The other day, a list of those who received out-door parish relief was brought to a printing-office to be printed. One of the men saw on the list the name and address of one of the journeymen in the same office. This man was challenged with the fact which he did not attempt to deny. He had been receiving as much as 6s. or 8s. a week out-door relief, during two years, for four children, although he had been in receipt of 36s. a week steady wages during the same time. The men stated the circumstance to the employer, and he was discharged.
"Did they request that he might be discharged?—The proceeding was tantamount to that, and of course the master acceded.
"Suppose the whole of the relief were regulated by an independent, or, say a Government authority, on a fixed rule, that of not rendering the condition of the pauper within the workhouse so good as that of the lowest class of workmen living by his labour out of the house?—That of course. No reasonable man would, I should conceive, expect to have his condition in the workhouse bettered. I think a Government authority would be much the best, as the parish officers are now in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, interested parties."
2. Little need be said on the next effect of the abolition of partial relief (even independently of workhouse regulations) in drawing a broad line of distinction between the paupers and the independent labourers. Experience has shown, that it will induce many of those whose wants arise from their idleness, to earn the means of subsistence; repress the fraudulent claims of those who have now adequate means of independent support, and obtain for others assistance from their friends, who are willing to see their relations pensioners, but would exert themselves to prevent their being inmates of a workhouse.
3. It will also remove much of the evil arising from the situation of the distributors of relief.
It has been shown that destitution, not merit, is the only safe ground of relief. In order to enable the distributors to ascertain the indigence of the applicant, it has been proposed to subdivide parishes, and appoint to the subdivisions officers who, it is supposed, might ascertain the circumstances of those under their care. But when instances are now of frequent occurrence where a pauper is found to have saved large sums of money, without the fact having been known or suspected by the members of the same family, living under the same roof, how should a neighbour, much less a parish officer, be expected to have a better knowledge of the real means of the individual? We are not aware that our communications display one instance of outdoor pauperism having been permanently repressed by the mere exercise of individual knowledge acting on a limited area. What our evidence does show is, that where the administration of relief is brought nearer to the door of the pauper, little advantage arises from increased knowledge on the part of the distributors, and great evil from their increased liability to every sort of pernicious influence. It brings tradesmen within the influence of their customers, small farmers within that of their relations and connexions, and not unfrequently of those who have been their fellow workmen, and exposes the wealthier classes to solicitations from their own dependants for extra allowances, which might be meritoriously and usefully given as private charity, but are abuses when forced from the public. Under such circumstances, to continue out-door relief is to continue a relief which will generally be given ignorantly or corruptly, frequently procured by fraud, and in a large and rapidly increasing proportion of cases extorted by intimidation—an intimidation which is not more powerful as a source of profusion than as an obstacle to improvement. We shall recur to this subject when we submit the grounds for withdrawing all local discretionary power, and appointing a new agency to superintend the administration of relief.
Many apparent difficulties in the proposed plan will be considered, and we hope removed, in a subsequent part of this Report. One objection, however, we will answer immediately; and that is, that it implies that the whole, or a large proportion, of the present paupers must become inmates of the workhouse. One of the most encouraging of the results of our inquiry is the degree in which the existing pauperism arises, from fraud, indolence, or improvidence. If it had been principally the result of unavoidable distress, we must have inferred the existence of an organic disease, which, without rendering the remedy less necessary, would have fearfully augmented its difficulty. But when we consider how strong are the motives to claim public assistance, and how ready are the means of obtaining it, independently of real necessity, we are surprised, not at the number of paupers, but at the number of those who have escaped the contagion. A person who attributes pauperism to the inability to procure employment, will doubt the efficiency of the means by which we propose to remove it, tried as they have been, and successful as they have always proved. If such a person had been present when the 900 able-bodied paupers applied to the Maryle-bone officers, on the ground that they could find no work, he would have treated lightly the proposal of getting rid of them by the offer of wages and the stone-yard. He would have supposed that work must have been provided for the 900, not for the 85, who actually accepted it. If a workhouse had been offered, he would have anticipated the reception of the 900, not the 85, or rather, according to the opinion of the officer, the 10, who would probably have entered it. He would have come to the same conclusion respecting the 20 shoemakers, to whom relief was offered by Mr. Hickson. We have seen that the test showed that among the 20 there was one deserving person: if the test had not been applied, and to meet the chance of there being one such person, the whole 20 had received out-door relief, even that person would have received relief instead of wages, and 19 persons, really capable of earning their support, would have been converted into permanent paupers, besides those whom the example would have attracted. Before the experiment had been tried, the 63 heads of pauper families at Cookham might have been confidently pronounced to be a surplus population, and emigration have been urged as the only remedy. "The low rate of wages," it might have been said, "proves the redundancy, and the certain effect of throwing upon the depreciated labour-market nearly one-third more of competitors (rendered desperate by their privations) will be to increase the prevalent misery; the proposal to take them into the workhouse, which will require expensive preparations for the whole of them, is impolitic, and indeed impracticable." Such, in fact, were the anticipations of persons deemed competent judges, as to the number of the pauperized labourers who would remain permanently chargeable. It is stated in the Report from Cookham, that "The work provided was trenching; an acre of hard gravelly ground was hired for the purpose. Some of the vestry, at the outset, considered that this quantity of land would be utterly inadequate. Many of the farmers thought the parish officers would have to trench the whole parish; but it turned out that not more than a quarter of an acre was wanted for the purpose." In several others of the dispauperized parishes, the erection of workhouses, and other remedial measures, were strongly and sincerely opposed on similar grounds. In answer to all objections founded on the supposition that the present number of able-bodied paupers will remain permanently chargeable, we refer to the evidence which shows the general causes of pauperism, and to the effects produced by administration on a correct principle, as guaranteeing the effects to be anticipated from the general application of measures which have been tried by so many experiments. But we cannot expect that such evidence will satisfy the minds of those who sincerely disbelieve the possibility of a class of labourers subsisting without rates in aid of wages; and we have found numbers who have sincerely disbelieved that possibility, notwithstanding they have had daily presented to their observation the fact, that labourers of the same class, and otherwise no better circumstanced, do live well without such allowances; still less can we expect that such evidence will abate the clamours of those who have a direct interest in the abuses which they defend under the mask of benevolence.
Such persons will, no doubt, avail themselves of the mischievous ambiguity of the word poor, and treat all diminution of the expenditure for the relief of the poor as so much taken from the labouring classes, as if those classes were naturally pensioners on the charity of their superiors, and relief, not wages, were the proper fund for their support: as if the independent labourers themselves were not, directly or indirectly, losers by all expenditure on paupers; as if those who would be raised from pauperism to independence would not be the greatest gainers by the change; as if, to use the expression of one of the witnesses whom we have quoted, the meat of industry were worse than the bread of idleness.
We have dwelt at so much length on the necessity of abolishing out-door relief to the able-bodied, because we are convinced that it is the master evil of the present system. The heads of settlement may be reduced and simplified; the expense of litigation may be diminished; the procedure before the magistrates may be improved; uniformity in parochial accounts may be introduced; less vexatious and irregular modes of rating may be established; systematic peculation and jobbing on the parts of the parish officers may be prevented: the fraudulent impositions of undue burthens by one class upon another class—the tampering with the labour-market by the employers of labour—the abuse of the public trust for private or factious purposes, may be corrected; all the other collateral and incidental evils may be remedied;—but, if the vital evil of the system, relief to the able-bodied, on terms more eligible than regular industry, be allowed to continue, we are convinced that pauperism, with its train of evils, must steadily advance; as we find it advancing in parishes where all or most of its collateral and incidental evils are, by incessant vigilance and exertion, avoided or mitigated.
It has been strongly, and we think conclusively, urged, that all local discretionary power as to relief should be withdrawn. Mr. Mott, when he was examined on the subject of workhouse management, was asked, whether, under a well-regulated system, he thought that the local officers might be entrusted with the power of modifying the dietaries? He answers,—
"I am decidedly of opinion that no such authority can be beneficially exercised, even by the local manager and superintendent of any place; whatever deviation there is in the way of extra indulgence has a tendency to extend and perpetuate itself which cannot be resisted. If you give to particular people an extra allowance on special grounds, all the rest will exclaim, 'Why should not we have it as well as they?' and too often they get it. That which was only intended to be the comfort of the few, and as an exception, at last, one by one being added to the list, becomes the general rule; and, when once established, there are few annual officers who will interfere to abridge the accustomed allowance."
Thus uniformity of excess is produced; and then again it is often deemed necessary to make distinctions is the way of increase, which increase is again diffused, and the whole is again equalized to the profuse standard. Uniformity in the administration of relief we deem essential as a means, first of reducing the perpetual shifting from parish to parish, and fraudulent removals to parishes where profuse management prevails, from parishes where the management is less profuse; secondly, of preventing the discontents which arise among the paupers maintained under the less profuse management, from comparing it with the more profuse management of adjacent districts; and, thirdly, of bringing the management, which consists in details, more closely within the public control. The importance of the last object will appear more clearly in our subsequent statement. The importance of uniformity in reducing removals appears throughout our evidence. We have found that the confirmed paupers usually have a close knowledge of the detailed management of various parishes (although the managers rarely have), and act upon that knowledge in their choice of workhouses. Many of the out-door paupers, when they have the means, avoid those parishes in which there are workhouses. The Rev. Rowland Williams, Vicar of Myfod, Montgomery, states in his communication,—
"It is notorious, that when paupers come to swear their settlements, they show a strong inclination to be removed to parishes where there are no workhouses. Those magistrates who are experienced in such removals exercise great caution in believing testimony given under such influence."
[Part II, Section 3]
AGENCY FOR CARRYING INTO EFFECT THE INTENTIONS OF THE LEGISLATURE—A CENTRAL BOARD OF CONTROL
The next subject for consideration is the agency by which partial relief to the able-bodied may be abolished, and a continued administration of relief, on the principle suggested by us, maintained.
The simplicity of that principle, and the effects which it has produced, and apparently with ease, in the dispauperized parishes, naturally suggest to those who have observed only these striking instances, that the change may be effected by a single enactment. That there would be much able and correct administration of any law which the legislature might pass we entertain no doubt, since we find much ability, and often eminent ability, displayed in the administration of the existing system; neither do we doubt that the number of cases of voluntary improvement would greatly increase; for we have been informed of some instances where improvements have actually been commenced in consequence of the light thrown upon the subject by the published extracts from the Reports of our Assistant Commissioners; but the evidence collected under this Commission proves, that whilst the good example of one parish is rarely followed in the surrounding parishes, bad examples are contagious, and possess the elements of indefinite extension. The instances presented to us throughout the present inquiry of the defeat of former legislation by unforeseen obstacles, and often by an administration directly at variance with the plainly expressed will of the legislature, have forced us to distrust the operation of the clearest enactments, and even to apprehend unforeseen mischiefs from them, unless an especial agency be appointed and empowered to superintend and control their execution.
Grounds for Its Establishment
While we find, on the one hand, that there is scarcely one statute connected with the administration of public relief which has produced the effect designed by the legislature, and that the majority of them have created new evils, and aggravated those which they were intended to prevent, we find, on the other hand, that the obstacles to the due execution by the existing functionaries of any new legislative measure, are greater than they have ever been. The interests of individuals in mal-administration are stronger, the interests in checking abuses are proportionately weaker; and the dangers to person and property from any attempts to effect the intention of the statute of Elizabeth are greater than any penalties by which the law might be attempted to be enforced. That the existing law admits of a beneficial administration of the provisions of that statute is proved by the instances of the dispauperized parishes; but those instances were produced by the circumstance of there being found within each of those parishes, an individual of remarkable firmness and ability, often joined with a strong interest in good administration, great influence to overcome opposition, and leisure to establish good management. In the majority of instances the change originated with the clergyman, or some of the largest holders of land within the parish. In the absence of these fortunate accidents the example has not been followed. In Cookham and White Waltham the benefits of the improved administration have been manifested since the year 1822, but manifested without imitation.
In Faringdon, Berks, which we have already cited as an instance of improvement, the governor of the workhouse was asked,—
"Are the surrounding parishes aware of the effects produced in your parish by the change of system?—They are quite aware of them.
"If legislative measures were taken for the adoption of such a system as that adverted to by you, do you think that obstacles would be found to prevent their execution?—If the adoption of the measures were not enforced by some strong means, I do not believe they would be extensively carried into effect voluntarily.
"Are those parishes heavily or lightly burthened?—Most heavily burthened. Property is a great deal deteriorated in value in consequence of the progress of pauperism. One gentleman, the other day, mentioned to me that lately, in consequence of the heavy burthen of the poor's rates, by which, for the last two or three years, he had lost upwards of a hundred a year upon the farm his family had held for upwards of two centuries, he had thrown up that farm and gone to another parish, which was not yet so heavily burthened with poor's rates. I know that in the surrounding parishes capital is fearfully diminishing and property deteriorating.
"Are you aware of any steps being taken in those parishes to follow the example of your parish?—I am not aware of any steps being taken to follow the example. I have indeed heard some persons say they should be very glad to see the same system followed.
"What are the obstacles which stand in the way of their following it?—Partly fear, and partly the want of persons of influence and energy to come forward to take the first steps."
"The Commissioner who examined Cookham visited Bray, and made enquiries of persons connected with that and other adjacent parishes, why they did not adopt the means of reducing their heavy rates, which (as they were well aware) had been found so efficient and salutary in Cookham. The answers were usually to this effect:—"The farmers are so disunited and unwilling to stir." "The members of the vestry are so jealous of each other, that they can do nothing." "We have no one to take the lead." "We have no one who will take upon himself the responsibility." "It never can be done, unless we have among us a man of the talent and influence of Mr. Whately."
Mr. Whately himself was asked—
"Do you think your example would be followed if extensively known?—I very much doubt it. I believe it is pretty extensively known, but it has been followed only in one or two solitary cases, so far as I am aware of.
"Are you aware that any pains have been taken by the neighbouring parishes to ascertain the nature of your system?—Yes; many have made themselves fully acquainted with it by personal application to me; but either through indolence or want of firmness, or some other cause, have not availed themselves of the information they have received; nor have I any reason to hope that a great national benefit can be effected by the personal exertions of individuals, who must necessarily expose themselves to considerable obloquy, if not to great loss of property, and who, in many cases, have no immediate personal interest.
"If you were to withdraw your exertions, do you think that the present system would be carried on in your parish?—Many of the principal rate-payers, with whom I act, are of opinion that it would not.59 "
In the communication of Messrs. Cameron and Wrottesley will be found an account of the ignorance and apathy prevalent amongst the rate distributors of the adjacent parishes, with relation even to the important pecuniary results of the change of system at Cookham. Mr. Whately having been prevented, by a severe illness, from attending the vestry, the effects of his absence soon exhibited themselves in the management of the poor; and some of the members of the select vestry were convinced that the safety of the reformed system depended upon his restoration to health. It appears from Major Wilde's Report, that when the master of the workhouse at Southwell, who had long been accustomed to manage that establishment, under the admirable superintendence of Mr. Becher, went to another parish, he soon relapsed into the common habits. In Hatfield the management fell back during the short illness of the permanent overseer, who is a person excellently qualified; and it appears from various other instances, that the voluntary adoption and continuance of an improved system is dependent on obtaining, within each parish, an individual of great firmness, ability, and disinterestedness, to originate it and carry it on; or, in other words, that the good general administration of the existing system is dependent on a perpetual succession of upwards of fifteen thousand men of firmness and ability agreeing upon a system and conducting it voluntarily.
We must again state, that while there is no province of administration for which more peculiar knowledge is requisite than the relief to the indigent, there is no province from which such knowledge is more effectually excluded. The earlier part of our Report shows the consequences of acting upon immediate impressions, or upon conclusions derived from a limited field of observation. At present, the experience which guides the administration of relief is limited to the narrow bounds of a parish, and to a year of compulsory service. The common administration is founded on blind impulse or on impressions derived from a few individual cases; when the only safe action must be regulated by extensive inductions or general rules derived from large classes of cases, which the annual officer has no means of observing. Capacity for such duties comes by intuition even to persons of good general intelligence as little as an intuitive capacity to navigate a ship or manage a steam engine. The influence of the information and skill which any officer may acquire, may be destroyed by other officers with whom his authority is divided, and even though he may prevail, it usually departs with him when he surrenders his office. The improvements which he may have introduced are not appreciated by his successor. In petty and obscure districts, good measures rarely excite imitation, and bad measures seldom yield warning. "I have seen," says Mr. Mott, "sets of officers succeed sets; I have seen a great many plans and systems suggested and tried; I have seen them tried by officers of the highest respectability and intelligence, and the little good derived from the practical operation of their plans utterly defeated by their successors, who, though equally honest, come into office with different opinions and views. Here and there an extraordinary man will come into office, and succeed very satisfactorily. But when he goes, there is generally an immediate relapse into the old system. His example works no permanent change in his own parish, still less is it attended to in the adjacent parishes. In short, I am quite convinced, from all my experience, that no uniform system can be carried into execution, however ably it may be devised; nor can any hopes of permanent improvement be held out, unless some central and powerful control is established."
Such being the qualifications essential to the performance of parochial offices, our evidence abounds with indications, that in devising any new legislative measures it would be necessary to guard not only against adverse interests, but against the actual incapacity of the persons usually filling parochial offices. The following are instances from our communications:—
The Rev. Robert Ellison, the rector of Slaugham, in Sussex,—
"The accounts of eight or ten surrounding parishes should be audited by a person with a proper salary, resident in an adjoining town. It is difficult to get a proper person in villages to audit accounts. My vestry clerk is a pauper, and not a good character; the two last over-seers could neither read nor write. Need I say more? The rates rose last year 9s. in the pound, which amounted to near 700l. additional. The poor cost upwards of 1,600l.; the population not 800."
Major General Marriott, an acting magistrate of the Pershore division, containing sixty-six parishes, of Worcester, states that some of the overseers (small farmers)—
"Can scarcely write their names, and few can keep accounts (witness the Returns made to Parliament), and are so ignorant or inattentive to the magistrates' orders, wishing to slip through their half year with as little trouble as possible, that many appeals against removals and other expenses are very unnecessarily incurred, which would have been saved to the parish by a regular assistant, and at a trifling expense. In the above sixty-six parishes there may be twelve or fifteen where gentlemen or clergymen reside, and take part in parish affairs; in most of the rest, I fear, I might draw too exact a picture by saying, their affairs are managed by some few principal farmers and landholders, generally at open variance, and formed into two inveterate parties; the poor parishioners are obliged to take one side or the other, and are favoured or oppressed as their party prevails. Such are the persons for whom it is necessary to legislate (as well as for inhabitants of large towns) in making or altering laws for the poor."
Although clear and often able replies to our queries have been received from the officers of the town parishes, some of the answers, even from the metropolis, were evidently written by illiterate and ignorant men. One of the population returns from Middlesex, to which we had occasion to refer, was attested by the mark of the returning officer. The revision of the lists of votes under the Reform Act, however, brought to view, in some respects much more completely than the present inquiry, the qualifications of the general body of overseers; and it appears from the information of the revising barristers, that the inability of a large proportion of them was not confined to the comprehension of legal distinctions, but extended to the execution of the most simple directions.
"The class of persons," says Mr. Moylan, "whom I have seen in the office of overseer are generally men who, far from being able to fulfil the duties imposed upon them, seem unable to comprehend those duties. The general ignorance and stupidity of the overseers in country parishes with whom I came acquainted as Revising Barrister, in Cheshire and Nottinghamshire, surpassed anything which I could have previously conceived. In some of the agricultural parishes we found a x substituted for the overseer's signature to the list of voters. Many lists were made out and signed by the village schoolmaster, or some other person who accompanied the overseer in attendance upon our court, and was alone competent to answer on his behalf any inquiries we deemed it requisite to make. In some cases where the overseer had not had recourse to the aid of others, his blunders were ludicrous. Instead of making the list a fair transcript of the claims, he would perhaps undertake to insert what he thought a more accurate description of the qualification, which would prove, in point of fact, no qualification at all60 ."
"In 1832," says Mr. Maclean, "I revised the list of voters for the Western Division of the county of Sussex, and in the present year I have revised the lists of the Northern Division of the county of Essex. In both counties I met with many overseers apparently perfectly unable to comprehend, from reading the Reform Act, what they were required to do. Many were unable to write at all, and others could with difficulty affix their names to the lists. Some appeared unable to copy accurately the schedule of the Act according to the form there given, Those lists which had any pretension to correction had been invariably written out by the parish schoolmaster, or under the advice and direction of some resident gentleman. Few were capable of furnishing any information, or of understanding that any distinction existed between a freehold and a leasehold qualification. Through ignorance or obstinacy, many had neglected several of the duties distinctly pointed out in the Act; such as to publish the names which were upon the register of the preceding year, or to sign the lists previous to affixing them on the church door. I met with few lists which did not require considerable alteration. Attempts at an alphabetical arrangement seemed to have completely failed. Several had omitted to make out lists at all. In one instance I was attended by a female overseer, and it is due to her to state, that the list furnished by her, and in her own handwriting, was one of the most correct I met with."
Mr. Flood, Revising Barrister for the Northern Division of the county of Leicester, states,—
"I found very great difficulty in revising the list of voters, owing to the illiterate character of the overseers of many of the parishes. In one instance, where there were two overseers, one had not acted, and did not sign the list, though he was able to write; and a mark × was substituted for the signature of the other. There were, I think, three or four lists unsigned, none of the overseers being able to write, and about the same number only signed by one overseer. In about 16 or 18 lists the overseers had resorted to the assistance of the parish schoolmaster or some other person to assist them. In not more than 10 parishes did the overseers appear in the least to comprehend the duties they were required to perform. I found, however, the overseers of the parishes of Loughborough, Castle Donington, Melton Mowbray and Ashby-de-la-Zouch exceedingly intelligent men, while in the eastern side of the county, where the population is exclusively agricultural, I met with a degree of ignorance I was utterly unprepared to find in a civilized country."
Mr. Villiers, when acting as a Revising Barrister in North Devon, found that not less than one-fourth of the overseers were unable to read, and he mentions one overseer who had not that qualification, and yet was intrusted with the distribution of rates to the amount of 7000l. per annum.
Such being the capacity of a large proportion of the distributors, we shall find the state of their motives to either the commencement or the support of improvement equally unpromising. Persons engaged in trade have represented the management of parochial affairs to be analogous to the management of a bankrupt's estate by creditors, where, although each creditor has an interest in the good management of the estate, yet, as the particular creditors who were appointed assignees had not an interest sufficient to incite them to exertions which necessarily interfered with their other and stronger interests, no estates were ever so extensively mismanaged, or so frequently abandoned to plunder, until a special and responsible agency was appointed for their protection. The common fallacy in which the management by overseers, that is, by two or three persons, is treated as a management by the people of the "people's own affairs," and an "attention to their own interests," meaning the affairs and interests of some hundreds or thousands of other persons may be exposed by a slight examination of the evidence. It will be found that the private interests of the distributors of the rates are commonly at variance with their public duties, and that the few pounds, often the few shillings, which any parish officer could save to himself by the rigid performance of his duty, cannot turn the scale against the severe labour, the certain ill-will, and now, in a large proportion of cases, the danger to person and property, all of which act on the side of profusion. And it must be recollected, that the consequences of a large proportion of the existing mismanagement do not fall on the parishes in which they have originated, but upon those against whom, under the present system of parochial warfare, they are aimed, and that much of that mismanagement is, consequently, mismanagement by the officers and by the vestries, not of their own affairs, but of the affairs of other parishes, or of the public at large. Even if the whole power were left to the vestry, and the vestry were composed of the proprietors as well as of the occupiers, it could not be said, except in very small parishes, that the governing body were the managers of their own affairs. Numerous bodies are incapable of managing details. They are always left to a minority, and usually, to a small minority; and the smaller that minority, the greater, of course, is the preponderance of private and interested motives.
It must be added, as indeed might have been expected, that as parochial duties become more arduous, as they require more leisure and ability, those who have that leisure and ability appear less and less inclined to undertake them. This is shown in the great falling off in the number of representative vestries, in consequence of the difficulty of obtaining the attendance of those who were the best qualified; although such vestries are amongst the best existing instruments for systematic management, with the least annoyance to those who perform the duties. It has been stated to us, that in one district where the income of the proprietors was reduced nearly one half, chiefly by the progressive increase of the rates, several of them declared that they would abandon the remainder rather than encounter the annoyance of having to contend against the system. The property of the whole parish of Cholesbury was abandoned to pauperism, apparently without a struggle.
We need only revert to the evidence, quoted in the earlier part of our Report, to mark the extent to which interests adverse to a correct administration prevail amongst those who are entrusted with the duties of distributing the fund for relief.
We must anticipate that the existing interests, passions, and local habits of the parish officers will, unless some further control be established, continue to sway and to vary the administration of the funds for the relief of the indigent; and that whatever extent of discretion is left to the local officers, will be used in conformity to those existing interests and habits. Wherever the allowance system is now retained, we may be sure that statutory provisions for its abolition will be met by every possible evasion. To permit out-door relief as an exception would be to permit it as a rule. The construction which has been put on the 59th Geo. III. shows that every case would be considered "a case of emergency;" and under provisions directing that the able-bodied shall be relieved only in the workhouse, but allowing relief in money to be continued to the sick, we must be prepared to find allowances continued to many of the able-bodied, as belonging to the excepted class. We have had instances where, after the use of fermented liquors in workhouses had been forbidden, they were found in use in extraordinary quantities as medicines.
In addition to these strong elements for the perversion of any legislative measures, we cannot omit to notice again the comparatively new and still more powerful element of intimidation now openly avowed in the most pauperized districts.
The labouring men in a large proportion of the districts, where the allowance system prevails, must have seen and felt, what indeed the labourers who have been examined explicitly declare, that the discretion and irresponsible power allowed to the distributors of relief are often used prejudicially to them. We believe, however, that the acts of injustice properly imputed to those who have so exercised that power, bear no proportion to the injustice imagined, and erroneously attributed to them by the receivers, under the notion generated by the indefiniteness of the existing system of relief, that the poor's-rates are an inexhaustible fund, from which all who call themselves poor are prevented drawing to the extent of their desires, only by the cupidity or partiality of parish officers.
However groundless this suspicion may be, its existence appears to us a sufficient reason for endeavouring to remove its pretext. Every man ought, in fact, to distrust his own judgment and his own actions in the affairs of others in proportion as his interests and affections are concerned. Our law, in its jealousy of the influence of similar interests, has rendered the taint of pecuniary interest a ground for incompetency in the case of a witness, and for exclusion from the execution of trusts, and in both cases to a degree which is very inconvenient. The powers vested in the overseers by the statutes of Elizabeth can only be accounted for on the supposition that the distribution of the poor's-rates was little more than an occasional distribution of alms from the poor's box, too small in its amount and influence to be regarded. Not a century had elapsed, however, before the evils of the "unlimited power of the overseers" and their "giving relief upon frivolous pretences, but chiefly for their own private ends, to what persons and number they thought fit," had been stated and attempted to be remedied. The remedy however was, as we have seen, unsuccessful, indeed worse than unsuccessful. It gave, or was construed as giving, powers to the justices, of which we have described the effects, and it does not, in practice, appear to check the powers of the overseers, powers which enable them to reduce the value of the labour, of which they themselves are the purchasers, and even to throw on others a part of its price, to increase the productiveness of their own property, and depreciate that of their neighbours, and generally to gratify their own feelings and promote their own interests at the expense of every other portion of the community.
Whatever may have been the various causes of the agricultural riots in various districts, whether the object was to force an increase of wages or a reduction of tithes or rent, the one effect has been to prove, that the discretion exercised in the distribution of the poor's-rates can be effected by intimidation, and the rate-receivers every week show themselves more completely aware that intimidation may be made as efficient a means of producing mal-administration as the corrupt interests of the distributors. Various communications, made to us in 1833, correctly anticipated the continuance of incendiarism during the present winter. Intimidation is not unfrequently exercised in the town parishes, and the police called in for the protection of the distributors. To such an extent has it been carried in a large parish in the metropolis, that the officers thought it necessary for their safety to go armed to the vestry.
Under these circumstances, any discretionary power left to the local officers must be a source of suspicion, and so far as their persons or properties are obnoxious to injury, a bounty on intimidation. The ignorant rarely estimate, or even take into account, the motives which lead men to pursue any line of conduct except the narrow tract pointed out by their own immediate interest, and are prone to exaggerate any power that may be used against them, and to fear and hate those who exercise it. It is matter of common observation, that acts of incendiarism have been most frequently committed against persons who had done "nothing to excite animosity," or who were "distinguished for their kindness," or were "the last persons who would have been expected to become the victims of such revenge." We see no ground for expecting that any purity in act or intention in the distribution of rates will render the distributors less obnoxious to hatred, which is always the stronger as they are the more closely connected with the rate-receivers. A refusal by a person who is nearly an equal, excites more animosity than one by a person who is comparatively a stranger and has greater authority. Can a farmer at a vestry be expected to refuse relief, and endanger his own property and person, to save funds to which he is only one of many contributors, when, in proportion to his belief that the applicant is undeserving, must be his conviction of the capability of that applicant to resort to any criminal means of obtaining compliance with his demands, or of gratifying his revenge? But the immediate distributors of relief are not the only persons obnoxious to such motives. Mr. Villiers states, that a magistrate declared to him, that in his neighbourhood, if a gentleman living upon his own property were strictly to perform his duty in a large proportion of the cases where paupers appealed from their overseers, he would be in danger of having his property destroyed. Such dangers, it is to be observed, are generally incurred by refusals to increase allowances, which are now wholly illegal; and, therefore, to expect the voluntary execution of new and strict regulations by persons placed under such circumstances appears unreasonable. Mr. Day, the magistrate at Maresfield, to whose communication we have before referred, in the following passage forcibly expresses opinions which we have reason to believe are entertained by a numerous class.
"I must here guard against an impression that may be conveyed by these remarks, which might lead to a fatal disappointment. The workhouse system is at present legal, and funds for emigration may, in many instances, be raised by voluntary contributions. But were the plan advocated by me attempted to be put in execution at the mere instigation of an individual, or by a vote of vestry, it would probably induce an irritation that would lead to disastrous consequences. When in the parish of Mayfield it was rumoured that I intended interfering to reduce the rates, it was immediately suspected by the paupers that I was opposed to their interest. On the door of the first vestry I attended, I found affixed a notice, 'that they intended washing their hands in my blood.' In 1826, a threat of that kind was readily disregarded; at present it would be consummated in a riot or fire. But if the alteration be the act of the legislature, it assumes a different aspect. It comes with the sanction of the law, and however it may be murmured at, the odium is removed from the obnoxious vestryman, or the individual magistrate. The complaining pauper looks round to the adjacent parishes and the neighbouring benches. He sees his lot the lot of all; and is told that however he may meet with sympathy, there is no power of redress. He may hope to intimidate a vestry, but he cannot dare to oppose a government61 ."
We believe, however, that general regulations made under the immediate control of the executive would meet with comparatively ready obedience; not from despair of the success of resistance, but from confidence in the disinterestedness of the source from which the regulations emanated. We are happy in having found no distrust of the Government amongst the labouring classes in the pauperized districts: we rather apprehend that they entertain extravagant expectations of what can be accomplished by legislative interference. In the instructive letters from emigrants of the labouring classes to their friends in England, we see few traces of discontent with the political institutions, or the general government of their former country; few expressions of satisfaction that they now live under other institutions; but we do find, in those letters, felicitations that they are no longer under local control or parochial management: "Here" say the labourers, in speaking of their new abodes, "there are no overseers to tread us under foot." Wherever in the course of this inquiry it has been deemed requisite to communicate directly with the labouring classes, the Commission appears to have been regarded with entire confidence. Our written communications from labouring men on the subject of the labour-rate are abundant; our Assistant Commissioners found their inquiries answered with alacrity by all the labourers who were examined. Under the conception that the Commissioners were invested with extraordinary powers, the labourers have appealed to us for interference against local malversations. One of the Sussex labourers was asked in the course of his examination—
"What alterations of the Poor-Laws are talked about by the labourers?—They have hopes that Government will take it in hand, as they would then be contented with what was allotted to them; they would be sure that they would have what was right, and would not be driven about by the overseers.
"Are you sure that the labourers would be pleased to see the overseers deprived of their power?—Yes, that they would, for they often fail, and take the parishes in; and besides, all parish business now goes by favour. Many people do now say that they talk about reform in the Government, but there wants reform in the parish.
"Suppose that the workmen were deprived of the allowance in aid of wages, but deprived in such numbers that the farmers would be compelled to pay wages to the same amount, how do you think such a measure would be received by the workmen?—That would give a great deal more content, and I am sure that they would do the farmer more work. The parish money is now chucked to us like as to a dog62 ."
The jealousy felt by the labourers towards the local authorities, from a suspicion of their being under the influence of adverse interests, combined with distrust of their possession of knowledge qualifying them to interfere with advantage, was strongly displayed in framing the present Act for the Regulation of Friendly Societies.
Dr. James Mitchell, Examined.
"We are informed that you have paid great attention to the formation of friendly societies, and the legislative proceedings with relation to them?—I have lectured and published works on the subject of benefit societies, and took an active part in assisting the delegates of the working men of the benefit societies in London in framing the present Act of Parliament under which benefit societies are regulated, and, as an actuary, I am very often consulted on the subject.
"Was the appointment of a central authority or control, under the authority of the Government, to revise the regulations of the benefit societies, and enforce conformity to the will of the Legislature, popular with the representatives of the working classes?—Yes; in order to prevent the capricious control of the various local authorities, each of whom had his own notions, which probably differed from the notions of every body else, and were formed from very limited experience and observation, and often from no observation whatever, the working men thought it would be very beneficial to get one person appointed to revise the rules of all the societies throughout the country, in order that their administration might be rendered uniform, and that the detailed regulations might be the result of more extended information. The chief object of the labouring men was to prevent capricious local interference, which might often be the interference of employers. The clause for the purpose was framed by the delegates themselves."
In the various dispauperized parishes, the enforcement of one inflexible rule of administering relief prevented the exercise of any discretionary power by the employers of labour. The contentment which followed is, to a considerable extent, attributable to this circumstance.
The circumstances which tend gradually to drive discreet and trustworthy persons from voluntarily undertaking the management of the poor's-rates, leave it in fact either to compulsory service, performed by officers whose authority is transient, who have no appropriate knowledge, and whose only interest is to get through their service with the least personal inconvenience to themselves, or to voluntary service by persons who have either a strong private interest, or who are actuated by ardent feelings. If those feelings are well directed they produce indeed the effects which have followed at Southwell, Bingham, Cookham, and Farthinghoe, but in ill-disciplined minds they may be more injurious than the basest self-interest. On these grounds many of the most respectable parochial officers who have been examined under this commission have urged the necessity of withdrawing from themselves and from their associates and successors, all discretionary power in the distribution of relief. They implore, even as a mere protection, that they may be released from that discretion, and declare that while it lasts they dare not pursue the course which they deem the most beneficial even to the paupers by whom the intimidation is exercised.
The following Extracts exhibit the tenor of the independent Communications to the Board, as well as of the Reports of our Assistant Commissioners as to the state of opinion on this subject in the most pauperized districts.
Mr. Okeden's Report, Appendix (A.) p. 4.—"The magistrates of that county (Oxfordshire) are so fully aware of this [the evils produced by the scale and head-money system] that they are ready to concur in and support any measures proposed by Government for averting the increasing curse."
Mr. Majendie, Appendix (A.) p. 188.—"The vestries held every fortnight for determining relief are very ill-attended, the parishioners seeming to despair of any improvements; and anxious hopes are expressed of the interference of Government."
Ibid. Appendix (A.) p. 198, Disturbed Districts.—"The allowance system is represented to be so established, that without some legislative enactment, neither overseers, vestries, nor magistrates can make any effectual change."
Ibid. Appendix (A.) p. 216.—"It was observed to me at Maidstone, that the management of the poor is beyond the power of parish officers, and requires the superintendence of Government."
Mr. Power, Appendix (A.) p. 240, Cambridge.—"I have reason to think that opinion points rather to a total change of the system than to partial and palliative amendments."
Ibid. p. 249, Bottisham.—"They have no workhouse there at present; an assistant commissioner 10 years hence would probably find them with double rates, and no workhouse still; so little chance is there of the mere propagation of opinion on the subject of that system inducing its general adoption, without some active interference by the legislature to that effect."
The conclusion of most examinations of witnesses in the deeply-pauperized districts is usually of the following tenor:—
(The parish officers of the parish of Bethnal Green, London, examined:)
Mr. Hooker,—"My trade is declining; so is the trade of my neighbours. From year to year my returns are less; so are theirs; and respectable people are leaving the place, which makes it still worse.
"The condition of your parish being such as you describe, sunk deep in debt, if not absolutely bankrupt; houses deserted in consequence of the pressure of the rates; the pressure increasing; rents declining, and ruin impending; what remedies have presented themselves to the minds of those who govern the parish; what new courses are they prepared to take?—I do not know; I have not heard of anything; we cannot do anything; we must depend on Providence; I do not see what is to save us from ruin, if government does not do something for us."
Mr. Brushfield, of Spitalfields—
"The outcry for the establishment of some strict regulations is very generally increasing throughout our parish. They ask, what remedy is there for the increasing evil? I have said I see no way but by some superior and central control being established. Since I was here before the subject has been the topic of conversation at our Board of Governors, and it is agreed on all hands that some powerful central control ought to be established."
Mr. Thomas Single, of Mile End Old Town, says—
"I hear it very frequently said in the parish, that it would be a very excellent thing if the government would take the parish affairs in their own hands, for the inhabitants see no chance of the present rates being reduced under the present system. Some regulating power should be established.
"I consider it a very necessary interference for the protection of the good order of society, against the worst misgovernment. I think it necessary for the protection of property, which is now giving way, and must continue to give way, under the pressure of pauperism. Rents are now much reduced in consequence of the heaviness of the rates. We have 800 empty houses in our parish, and persons are constantly leaving it to go to other parishes where the rates are lower. As the owner of houses, I can speak to these effects from my own knowledge."
The Rev. Thomas Pitman, vicar of Eastbourne, Sussex—
"I have no hope void of the interference of Government. If Government take up the administration, we may be relieved, and the present laws, upon revision, may effect this; but as long as the system which is at present adopted here and in the neighbourhood is permitted to continue (and we have no means void of the interference of Government of having it discontinued), we have no prospect but the destruction of our property, the corruption of our people, and the distress of all."
A recommendation that the legislature should divest the local authorities of all discretionary power in the administration of relief, appears to us to follow as a necessary consequence from the mass of evidence to which we have adverted.
Instances of the Regulations which the Central Board Only Can Transfer from District to District and Enforce
Witnesses when speaking of the necessity of withdrawing all discretionary power from the distributors, in their own parishes, usually express a hope that the relief may be fixed, and to the "smallest detail unalterably prescribed by the legislature." The evidence, however, proves that little more reliance can be placed on the voluntary execution by the present agency of any regulations, than on their correct execution of any general principle of management prescribed to them.
It appears, too, that the actual condition of the pauperized districts does not admit of legislation in detail. The differences in the modes of administering the law in different districts have produced habits and conditions of the population equally different. The best-informed witnesses have represented that the measures applicable to adjacent districts are totally inapplicable to their own; and it appears to us, that measures which might be safely and beneficially introduced into the majority of parishes in a district might, if immediately introduced, be productive of suffering and disorder to the remainder. Even if the simultaneous and complete execution of so great a change of system throughout the country were practicable, we consider it desirable to avoid it.
It must be remembered that the pauperized labourers were not the authors of the abusive system, and ought not to be made responsible for its consequences. We cannot, therefore, recommend that they should be otherwise than gradually subjected to regulations which, though undoubtedly beneficial to themselves, may, by any sudden application, inflict unnecessary severity. The abuses have grown up in detail, and it appears from our evidence that the most safe course will be to remove them in detail. We deem uniformity essential; but, in the first instance, it is only an approximation to uniformity that can be expected, and it appears that it must be obtained by gradations in detail, according to local circumstances. And although uniformity in the amount of relief may be requisite, it may not be requisite that the relief should be invariably the same in kind. In Cumberland, and some others of the northern counties, milk is generally used where beer is used in the southern counties. The requisite equality in diet would probably be obtainable without forcing any class of the inmates of the workhouses in the northern counties to take beer, or those of the southern counties to take milk.
The most practical witnesses concur with Mr. Mott in representing the voluntary adoption of detailed regulations hopeless, and legislation on details ineligible, if not impracticable. He is asked—
"Do you think it practicable to bring parishes to the voluntary adoption of any uniform regulation when their importance is proved to them?—He answers, I certainly do not think it practicable. I think it utterly impossible to bring the 14,000 or 15,000 parishes in England and Wales to one mind upon any one subject, however clear the evidence may be; much less so to act with uniformity in any one point. The Commissioners must be well aware that great frauds are committed by paupers in the metropolis receiving relief from different boards on different board days. I have known instances of paupers receiving pensions from three or four different parishes. It was proposed some years ago, and it has been proposed from time to time, to remedy this evil, which all the parishes are aware is very great, by one simple but effectual expedient, which it would be very easy to adopt—namely, by all the parishes paying on the same day; but they never could be got to do this. Individual conveniences prevented the remedy being applied, and the system of fraud still prevails, and will continue to prevail, so long as the present management prevails. Now, if the parishes in the metropolis cannot be got to act in concert for the suppression of an evil which affects only one part of the system, I think it will be seen that I am justified in my opinion, that any reform or co-operation in the country is quite hopeless without the establishment of a strong central management; nothing else will check the system.
"Might not such general rgulations as those to which you have alluded be prescribed by Act of Parliament?—No, certainly not. The regulations of any system must be very numerous; and though they may be uniform, it would be necessary to vary them from time to time and unless Parliament was to do nothing but occupy itself with discussions on details of workhouse management, it would be impossible to effect any great alteration in that way. Many regulations, however ably devised, must be experimental. Unforeseen and apparently unimportant details might baffle the best plans, if there were not the means of making immediate alteration. Suppose a general regulation were prescribed by Act of Parliament, and it was found to want alteration; you must wait a whole year or more for an Act of Parliament to amend it, or the law must be broken. A central authority might make the alteration, or supply unforeseen omissions in a day or two. Besides, a central board or authority might get information immediately on the matters of detail. If they had, for instance, to settle some uniform diet, they could at once avail themselves of the assistance of men of science, physicians, or chemists; but you would find that Parliament, if it could really attend to the matter, and would do anything efficient, must have almost as many committees as there are different details. If there was a central board established, and it were easily accessible, as it ought to be, persons in local districts would consult them or make suggestions, who would never think of applying to Parliament. Who would think of applying to Parliament to determine whether four or five ounces of butter should be used as a ration in particular cases, and whether the butter should be Irish or Dutch? or, if Irish, whether Cork or Limerick; or to determine whether the old women's under-petticoats should be flannel or baize, and how wide or how long? Yet on details of this sort, beneath the dignity of grave legislators, good or bad management would depend63 ."
By many it is considered that the only means by which the system can be effectually amended, is the management of the whole poor-law administration as a branch of the general government. The advocates of a national rate, and those who are willing and desirous that the Government should take upon itself the whole distribution of the funds for the relief of the poor, do not appear to have considered the expense and difficulties in the way of obtaining such an agency throughout the country.
We have received no definite plan for the purpose, and have prepared none. We trust that immediate measures for the correction of the evils in question may be carried into effect by a comparatively small and cheap agency, which may assist the parochial or district officers, wherever their management is in conformity to the intention of the legislature; and control them wherever their management is at variance with it. Subject also to this control, we propose that the management, the collection of the rates, and the entire supervision of the expenditure, under increased securities against profusion and malversation, shall continue in the officers appointed immediately by the rate-payers. This course, we believe, will be the most easily practicable, and will best accord with the recommendations of the majority of the witnesses, and with the prevalent expectation of the country.
The course of proceeding which we recommend for adoption, is in principle that which the legislature adopted for the management of the savings' banks, the friendly societies, and the annuity societies throughout the country. Having prescribed the outline and general principles on which those institutions should be conducted, a special agency (which, in this instance, was constituted by one barrister only) was appointed to see that their rules and detailed regulations conformed to the intention of the law. This agency, we believe, has accomplished the object effectually. From magistrates and clergymen, who act as trustees and managers of savings' banks, we have learned, that it is found to work satisfactorily to them and to the members at large, because they are aware that the decision by which any regulation is established or disallowed is made on extended information derived from all similar institutions throughout the kingdom, instead of being made only on such as the neighbourhood might chance to afford. We believe that the control has also been found beneficial by the members of friendly societies, and has put a stop to many which were founded, either ignorantly or dishonestly, on principles fraught with ruin to the contributors. Since the adoption of this measure, there has been only one appeal against the barrister's decision, and that appeal was disallowed.
WE RECOMMEND, THEREFORE, THE APPOINTMENT OF A CENTRAL BOARD TO CONTROL THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE POOR-LAWS, WITH SUCH ASSISTANT COMMISSIONERS AS MAY BE FOUND REQUISITE; AND THAT THE COMMISSIONERS BE EMPOWERED AND DIRECTED TO FRAME AND ENFORCE REGULATIONS FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF WORKHOUSES, AND AS TO THE NATURE AND AMOUNT OF THE RELIEF TO BE GIVEN AND THE LABOUR TO BE EXACTED IN THEM, AND THAT SUCH REGULATIONS SHALL, AS FAR AS MAY BE PRACTICABLE, BE UNIFORM THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY.
We have already recommended the abolition of partial relief to the able-bodied, and particularly of money payments. It appears to us that this prohibition should come into universal operation at the end of two years, and as respects new applicants, at an earlier period, and that the Board should have power, after due inquiry and arrangements, to shorten these periods in any district: one of their first proceedings should probably be the gradual substitution of relief in kind for relief in money.
With such powers the Central Board might discontinue abusive practices, and introduce improvements gradually, detail after detail, in district after district, and proceed with the aid of accumulating experience.
Another advantage of this course, as compared with that of a simultaneous change is, that trouble and expense may be spared to all those parishes where abusive modes of administration do not exist.
The Commissioners would assist those who were willing to exert themselves in bringing about the change, and would exonerate from responsibility those who found it too heavy, or who could not sustain it beneficially. Since the Commissioners would have no local interests or affections, they would enforce the law without ill-temper on their parts, and without exciting animosity. Unless those measures which has hitherto caused a decrease of pauperism, and diminished its peculiar burthen, the only measures which it would be the duty of the Commissioners to enforce, should produce bad effects instead of good, the benefits of the change in the first districts in which it will be effected, must be such as to remove from the minds of the ill-informed or the timid all the undefined apprehensions which beset the subject, and suppress the interested opposition with which every such change will be assailed.
As one barrier to increase of expense in the detailed management, the Commissioners should be empowered to fix a maximum of the consumption per head within the workhouses, leaving to the local officers the liberty of reducing it below the maximum if they can safely do so.
The following are exemplifications of the regulations which might be transferred from district to district, when found applicable by the Commissioners. An officer of Whitechapel parish, in London, was asked,—
"What sort of work have they in the workhouse?—They have various sorts of work in the workhouse. Out of the workhouse we employ them as general scavengers for cleansing the parish, contracting for carting only, and making the paupers cleanse all the lanes, alleys, and streets, and fill the carts, giving them a small allowance.
"What has been the effect of this regulation?—It had been in operation some years before I came into office, and has been found very beneficial. The parish is much better cleansed, and is more healthy than if left to contractors only. The contractors generally shuffle off cleansing the alleys as they cannot get the cart up them, but we make our men take the wheelbarrows up the avenues. The paupers are by this system made spies to prevent any nuisances that may occasion them trouble. If they see any one throwing down filth, they fetch the superintendent and the party is made to take it up again. For this purpose we find that the paupers are better than the police. The efficiency of this system depends mainly on the superintendent, who is paid to attend the labour of the paupers. The parish was fortunate in making choice of a proper officer."
In Mr. Codd's Report, there is a similar instance. In the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden, the able-bodied paupers were employed to cleanse the streets:—
"Our parishioners," the witness states, "say that the streets were never kept so clean as they have been since the new system prevailed. The fact is, that it is the interest of the contractors to employ as few labourers in the work as possible and to leave the streets until they are so dirty that large portions may be removed at once."
In the answer from Penrith, it is stated by the assistant overseer.—
"We have at present about ten acres of land, two of which are planted with potatoes every year by the paupers, with the spade; the remainder is sown with corn and hay-grass. We also collect manure from the streets, which we farm of the Duke of Devonshire for that purpose, and for the sake of cleanliness and employment for the poor. The streets are kept clean by those in the workhouse; and at times, when able-bodied out-door paupers apply for relief, we offer them work in the streets, which they invariably refuse. By this means, and that of spade husbandry, we get rid of both our male and female applicants."
Mr. Tweedy states, that at Huddersfield—
"Two years ago a number of men (15) applied for relief as out of work, and were ordered to come next morning, and have employment in cleansing the streets. Out of the 15, but one came the next morning, who said the others had got jobs elsewhere64 ."
The same results may always be expected where the applicant cannot plead actual inability; and the labour of cleansing the streets can be offered in every town. The Reports of the various Local Boards of Health on the state of the densely-peopled neighbourhoods, show how grievously this source of employment has been neglected. Even where it has been introduced, it has seldom been enforced with regularity and upon principle: even the success of the experiment does not ensure its repetition, still less its imitation.
Another instance is the mode in which the out-door paupers are paid in some of the large parishes in the metropolis. The vestry clerk of the parish of St. Luke, Middlesex, states that,—
"For several years past a new system of paying the pensioners has been adopted in our parish. Formerly they came in crowds, the regular pensioners being then about 800, and were paid promiscuously on the presentation of their cards. It was found that some persons obtained payment twice over by getting other persons to present their cards after they had been once paid. The whole coming together, a large proportion of them was kept waiting a considerable time, and in addition to the time lost by the paupers, there was much mischief done by an extension of the opportunities ot communication, and the formation of vicious acquaintances. The mothers of bastard children might form acquaintances with others still more depraved. The children of more creditable people became familiar with the confirmed paupers.
"The improvement consisted in the pensioners being paid in sets of 100 each; each 100 is paid, and each payment entered within a quarter of an hour. Any person within the same 100 may be paid within the same quarter of an hour; the quarter of an hour, it may be observed, is printed on each ticket. If the party does not attend at the proper time their pension is suspended during the ensuing week. An hour and a half of the pauper's time is thus saved; and on an average, the crowd is reduced from 800 to 50, and the commission of fraud by repeated payments on the same ticket is rendered impossible."
The regulation might probably be made much more efficient, but such as it is, it appears to have been little imitated. The overseer of the adjacent parish of St. Matthew, Bethnal Green, states in his evidence—
"There were 400 people with new faces for me to pay the first night I sat. I had no one to assist me or inform me, and I gave money away on the mere statements made to me; I am confident I paid some of the people twice over that night."
These crowds are kept often the whole day, and usually during several hours congregated together in the most corrupting state of idleness around the workhouse door. The conduct of these crowds is thus described by the governor of St. Pancras workhouse—
"Even this course has not entirely got rid of the evil; for while they are congregated round the workhouse doors, their language and conduct are so degrading and obscene as to be a subject of heavy complaint with the neighbours and passengers; no decent female can approach them without being insulted; and I grieve to say, that the young women especially seem to have entirely lost all sense of propriety, or rather of common decency; it is no unusual sight to see them upon these occasions in situations of indecency that are most revolting."
"These very shameful practices have not subsisted for more than five or six years; but they have increased in force and frequency within that time, and we have tried every means of prevention within our reach, without success. We have called in the aid of the police, have taken the parties before the magistrates, 8c., but all to no purpose."
Other witnesses, whose own parishes are the boundaries of their knowledge, as well as of their experience on the subject, assert that such evils are incurable. One parish evinces perfect ignorance of regulations which have long been in force as efficient remedies in adjacent parishes. The instance mentioned at St. Pancras relates to a form of relief which we hope to see abolished; but during the period of its unavoidable continuance, provision should be made for the introduction of regulations by which its evils may be abated. Some valuable practical improvements of the existing system are found in the voluminous codes and by-laws under which incorporations are managed.
If the sum of the good regulations which are found in single and separate, and therefore partial operation, scattered amidst a multitude of parishes, were carried into complete execution in every parish or district to which they were found applicable, the improvement would probably be greater than can be hoped for from untried enactments. We recommend, therefore, that the same powers of making rules and regulations that are now exercised by upwards of 15,000 unskilled and (practically) irresponsible authorities, liable to be biassed by sinister interests, should be confined to the Central Board of Control, on which responsibility is strongly concentrated, and which will have the most extensive information. Even if the Board were to frame bad regulations (and worse regulations than those now in practice they could scarcely devise), it would be a less mischievous arrangement than the present, inasmuch as the chances of opposition to a pernicious measure would be increased in proportion to the extension of the jurisdiction, and success in such opposition would be success throughout the jurisdiction. Those who are now maintainers of their own errors would be vigilant and unsparing censors of the errors of a distant authority. Under the existing system, when opposition is made to the continuance of a bad practice, and the opposition is successful, the success is limited to one parish, or to one fifteen-thousandth part of the whole field in which the practice may prevail. In the next parish, and in other parishes, the form of the abuse is generally varied, and requires a varied as well as a renewed opposition. These variations elude legislative enactments, and divide and weaken the force with which the opinion of the intelligent part of the community would act against them. But if a bad practice is rendered uniform, it becomes obnoxious in proportion to its extent, to the full force of public opinion; the aggregate of its effects, immediate or collateral, which may appear insignificant, and unworthy of attention, in the single and obscure parish, or in any group of parishes, may be correctly estimated, and brought completely within the cognizance of the Legislature. For this purpose, therefore, in addition to the others which we have already laid down, we consider that uniformity of management would, in many cases, be essential to improvement, and to the permanency of any improved system. To the accomplishment of these objects, other measures, to which we shall shortly advert, appear to us to be requisite. By means, however, of the agency which we have proposed, by alterations of detail after detail, with which the Legislature could not occupy itself, bad practices may be weeded out of every district, good practices may be planted in every district. The precedent which we have adduced with relation to the control of savings' banks and friendly societies illustrates this course of operations. Mr. Tidd Pratt states—
"I invariably forward to all the institutions suggestions of the expediency of adopting rules which have been found to work beneficially; and I also warn them of mischievous results experienced from particular rules in other places. For example, with regard to the former, I found in one of the savings' banks (the Exeter) a rule which allowed the trustees to apply to the member's benefit any portion of the deposits in case of insanity or imbecility; and not one of the other savings' banks possessed such a rule. The consequence was, that when a member became insane, they would have had no other mode to enable them to apply the member's money to his use than an application to the Lord Chancellor. Sometimes the sums to be applied were only 10l.: this rule I communicated by circular to the members of every savings' bank, with a recommendation that it should be adopted: many of them have already adopted it; and I believe that in a short time it will be generally adopted. Where I find a good rule, I send it to all; and when I find a bad rule, I stop it in all, and the chances of finding good rules are just in proportion to the extent of the jurisdiction."
The central agency instituted by the Legislature for the control of the administration of the Poor Laws, would form a depository of comprehensive information to guide the local officers in cases which, from their comparatively limited experience and knowledge, might appear to them to be, or which really were, anomalous. Applications in cases of this nature have already been made to the Commissioners. Their information would be received with the conviction of its being the best existing upon the subject. The last witness cited was asked, with reference to this point,
"Are you often consulted in cases of difficulty experienced by magistrates and others who are managers of the several societies within your supervision?—Yes; and by chairmen of quarter sessions, by Members of both Houses, under the supposition, as I conceive, that I am paid by salary, and that, being a servant of the Crown, they are entitled to apply to me in cases where they themselves feel difficulty. I invariably give the assistance asked, although it takes up a great deal of a professional man's time."
The chief remedy for the principal evil of the system, the increase of the number of the able-bodied paupers, having been shown to be their reception in a well-managed workhouse; we shall next consider by what means by which such workhouses can be provided, and the requisite management enforced.
The first difficulty arises from the small population of a large proportion of the parishes. Of the 15,535 parishes (including under that name townships maintaining their own poor) of England and Wales, there are 737 in which the population does not exceed 50 persons; 1907 in which it does not exceed 100; and 6681 in which it does not exceed 300. Few such parishes could support a workhouse, though they may have a poorhouse, a miserable abode, occupied rent-free by three or four dissolute families, mutually corrupting each other. Even the parishes which are somewhat more populous, those containing from 300 to 800 inhabitants, and which amount to 5353, in the few cases in which they possess an efficient management, obtain it at a disproportionate expense.
In such parishes, when overburthened with poor, we usually find the building, called a workhouse, occupied by 60 or 80 paupers, made up of a dozen or more neglected children (under the care, perhaps, of a pauper), about twenty or thirty able-bodied adult paupers of both sexes, and probably an equal number of aged and impotent persons, proper objects of relief. Amidst these the mothers of bastard children and prostitutes live without shame, and associate freely with the youth, who have also the examples and conversation of the frequent inmates of the county gaol, the poacher, the vagrant, the decayed beggar, and other characters of the worst description. To these may often be added a solitary blind person, one or two idiots, and not unfrequently are heard, from among the rest, the incessant ravings of some neglected lunatic. In such receptacles the sick poor are often immured.
In the former part of the Report we have given instances of the condition of the larger workhouses in the metropolis. The statements with respect to those in the provincial towns and in the rural districts are equally unfavourable: we annex a very few instances.
Captain Pringle states that, in
"Portsea Workhouse—In the women's yard all characters mix together, excepting that the very old have small rooms, in each room three or four; in these, and in the large day-room, in which were nurses with bastards, they had fires in August, and were cooking, making tea, 8c. The general character of the house, both as to the persons of the paupers, their day-rooms and bed-rooms, is slovenly and dirty. The space so limited also, that in rooms containing from twenty to thirty beds, they were so close as merely to allow a person to pass between them."65
"In that at Rumsey, in which the inmates amount to forty-eight, they are farmed at the price of 3s. weekly, children included. There is no scale of diet, that being left to the farmer or contractor, who also employs the paupers where and how he pleases. The house was dirty, the old men particularly so; the younger men and boys were out at work. On inquiring for the boys' dormitory, I found they slept each with one of the men; the mistress said this was done to keep them quiet. The overseer, who accompanied me, and whose duty it was to inspect the house, stated that he was not aware of the placing men and boys to sleep together; that he never had any complaints either as to diet or beds, and he believed all were comfortable. And as a further proof of the little attention paid by these constituted authorities to the duties confided to them, one of the girls, it appeared, had a child by the brother of the contractor. The overseer did not consider this as a circumstance of any importance. Nothing was said to the contractor, and his brother was still allowed to be about the house.66 "
"With regard to classification it may be observed, that in the small poor-houses, with the exception of Millbrook, I never found it more than nominal; and even in the larger poor-houses, classification and other regulations appeared never to be carried into effect in an efficient manner, for which the master was probably often less to blame than those under whose control he held his situation. The children are the sufferers from this neglect, as may be inferred from so large a portion turning out badly."67
"In the small agricultural parish of Tandridge, with a population of 478, a double tenement has been hired as a poor-house: in one of the rooms, in one bed, sleep the master with two boys, aged 15 and 12; in the other bed, a girl of 15 with a boy of 11; in another very small room, a man and wife, and two children, lie in one bed, and two children on the floor. The parish cage, the interior of which is about eight feet square, is used as the habitation of four persons,—a man, his wife, and two children; a grated opening in the wall admits light and air."
"In Dover workhouse the number of inmates is 250; the average expense of diet 2s. 7¾d.; seven lunatics are confined here, two of whom are very dangerous, and are chained to their beds; one of them was lately at large in the yard, and had very nearly put one of the paupers to death, who was saved by the master coming in time to rescue him. In many workhouses in this county there are idiots and insane persons who are a great annoyance to the inmates in general; probably this nuisance will not exist much longer, as the asylum near Maidstone is nearly completed."68
Mr. Osler, in his communication, gives the following instances of the condition of the workhouses in the vicinity of Falmouth:
"Mabe House, a ruinous hovel, utterly unfit for the residence of a human being, two men, four women, three children; of whom four receive 8s. 9d. weekly, and a man, his wife, and three children, have only shelter. A married couple occupy the same room with two women69 ."
"Mylor.—Eight men, seventeen women, seven children, who are placed in the different rooms, supporting themselves either by an allowance of money from the parish, or by their own labour. A barber, who carries on business in the house, has his pole hung out at the door. No governor, or domestic authority of any description70 ."
In such places, when questions of the following tenor are put—Why is no labour found for the able-bodied? Why are not the children placed under proper tuition? Why is not proper care taken of the lunatic?—the usual answers are, "The parish is too poor to pay for a keeper;" "We cannot keep a school-master for so few children;" "To provide a superintendent to keep half a dozen or a dozen men at work would be too heavy a charge." Even the superintendence of the whole of these various classes, and the management of the house, is often found a pecuniary burthen disproportionately heavy; and the parish officers attempt to diminish it by confiding the whole to one who is in reality, and sometimes avowedly, a pauper.
"Constantine House.—Ten men, nineteen women, two children. The governor has been dismissed for the sake of economy, and an infirm old pauper regulates the diet and keeps the accounts. All rooms, except the kitchen, close, dirty, and offensive. Bedsteads, clumsy wooden ones. Men's dormitory, their sitting-room, very low, with windows too small for ventilation; excessively dirty, and an abominable musty smell. The fish dinners are cooked here. House appeared not to have been whitewashed from time immemorial. Two men slept in the women's rooms, but the new overseer expressed an intention to correct these evils71 ."
The Rev. Peyton Blackiston, the curate of Lymington, Hants, states—
"It appears to me that parochial workhouses are in most places very inefficient, owing to their want of a proper and extensive subdivision, so that the bad may be completely separated from the good. All the parish officers with whom I have conversed upon the subject have at once acknowledged the evil; but they say that the parishes could not afford the expense of such subdivisions.
"The result of my inquiries and observations respecting the moral and religious education of the children in the parochial workhouses is, that it is greatly neglected. Even in the workhouse of Lymington there was no such instruction previous to the year 1831, with the exception of about an hour a day, in which the girl who cooked taught the children to read. This has also contributed to make them turn out badly. At this moment the generality of parochial workhouses in Hampshire do not supply any effective religious and moral instruction; the children cannot do even the coarsest needlework in a creditable manner, nor are they practised in that kind of work which, as domestic servants, they would be required to perform. I dare say the parish officers will endeavour to gloss over the matter, and from shame would make it appear that the moral and religious instruction of the parish children was well attended to; but as an eye-witness of many parochial workhouses, and having conversed with many of my brother clergy on the subject, I can state that such is not the case. In the workhouse of Lymington parish, which is one certainly of the most improved provincial towns I know, a school was established in 1831, when an able woman was appointed to give instructions in reading and religious duties, and to teach and superintend needlework. The advantages were most striking. It is almost past belief, that about two months ago the vestry discontinued the schoolmistress, although her salary was only 10l. per annum and her dinner72 ."
Even in the larger workhouses internal subdivisions do not afford the means of classification, where the inmates dine in the same rooms, or meet or see each other in the ordinary business of the place. In the largest houses, containing from eight hundred to a thousand inmates, where there is comparatively good order, and, in many respects, superior management, it is almost impossible to prevent the formation and extension of vicious connexions. Inmates who see each other, though prevented from communicating in the house, often become associates when they meet out of it. It is found almost impracticable to subject all the various classes within the same house to an appropriate treatment. One part of a class of adults often so closely resembles a part of another class, as to make any distinction in treatment appear arbitrary and capricious to those who are placed in the inferior class, and to create discontents, which the existing authority is too feeble to suppress, and so much complexity as to render the object attainable only by great additional expense and remarkable skill. Much, however, has been accomplished in some of the existing houses, but much more it appears to us, may be effected, and at a less expense by the measures which we proceed to suggest.
At least four classes are necessary:—1. The aged and really impotent; 2. The children; 3. The able-bodied females; 4. The able-bodied males. Of whom we trust that the two latter will be the least numerous classes. It appears to us that both the requisite classification and the requisite superintendence may be better obtained in separate buildings than under a single roof. If effected in the latter mode, large buildings must be erected. since few of the existing buildings are of the requisite size or arrangement, and as very different qualities, both moral and intellectual, are required for the management of such dissimilar classes, each class must have its separate superintendent. Nothing would be saved, therefore, in superintendence, and much expense must be incurred in buildings.
If, however, a separate building is assigned to each class, the existing workhouse might, in most cases, be made use of. For this purpose the parishes possessing these houses must, for certain purposes, be incorporated. By these means four parishes, each of which has at present no means of classification, might at once obtain the means of the most effectual classification; and though so small a number of parishes as four might be sufficient for an incorporation, it is obvious that a much larger number might unite, and obtain the advantages of wholesale management and good superintendence, not only without any increase, but with a great diminution of expense.
The salary of the masters of separate workhouses in towns does not usually exceed fifty or sixty guineas per annum; the aggregate expenses of management of four such workhouses may be stated to be two hundred or two hundred and forty guineas, and yet no special provision is usually made for the superintendence of the labour of the able-bodied, nor for the education of the children. Under a system of combined management a less salary would probably suffice for the person who superintended the poor-house or receptacle for the old, whilst a larger salary might be given to a person of appropriate qualifications to act as task-master or superintendent of the workhouse, properly so called, for the reception of the able-bodied, and also to a person properly qualified to act as a schoolmaster. Each class might thus receive an appropriate treatment; the old might enjoy their indulgences without torment from the boisterous; the children be educated, and the able-bodied subjected to such courses of labour and discipline as will repel the indolent and vicious. The principle of separate and appropriate management has been carried into imperfect execution, in the cases of lunatics, by means of lunatic asylums; and we have no doubt that, with relation to these objects, the blind and similar cases, it might be carried into more complete execution under extended incorporations acting with the aid of the Central Board.
Apprehensions are frequently expressed of the evil consequences from congregrating "large bodies of sturdy paupers together in workhouses." Such consequences have not ensued in the instances of the dispauperised parishes, and we believe that the most effectual means of preventing them is the classification which we propose. It is natural, indeed, for those who judge from the conduct of the able-bodied paupers in small classes under the existing system to anticipate that in larger classes their conduct will be proportionably worse, and that the difficulty of controlling them will be increased, and could be overcome only in edifices constructed for the purpose. We should admit this opinion to have weight, if the able-bodied paupers were brought together in larger classes, without being placed under better management; the probable mischief of an ill-regulated and idle class being proportionate to the chances of there being found within the class persons able to give it a mischievous direction, and all other things remaining the same, these chances are of course increased by the increase of the class; but by good management, those chances are almost annihilated. The evidence which we have received appears to establish that continued tumult on the part of able-bodied paupers, is conclusive proof of inexperience or incapacity on the parts of those charged with their management. The testimony upon the subject of Mr. Mott, a witness of the most extensive practical experience of any witness examined under this Commission, is corroborated by that of others.
"The refractory poor," he states, "occasion great mischief and confusion in all workhouses; but the mischief arises more from the bad example of the few, than from the many, for all my experience has shown that the number of refractory paupers is not great, as compared with the gross number of paupers in any parish or district, perhaps not much above five per cent., certainly not ten per cent.; and the conduct even of persons of this class must be attributed to the inducements offered by the present defective system, rather than to any innate disposition to act unlawfully. They know that their customary allowances and the rules of management are discretionary in the breasts of the parish officers; they have daily proof that the most refractory frequently obtain their ends, and get their condition 'bettered,' partly through the fear or dislike of the officers to come in contact with such characters, and partly from a desire of the stipendiary manager to save himself trouble, well knowing that a complaint to the magistrates is only a waste of time, because the punishment awarded is in fact no punishment whatever. These refractory characters are generally the most expert work-people (of those who apply for relief) under proper guidance. If I had a given quantity of work to get done in a certain time, by paupers, I should say to the parish officers, 'Let me have your most refractory characters;' as I find that, with mildness and persuasion, but with a determined conduct, constant superintendence, and suitable encouragement, they may be brought to do much more work than other paupers. They are not to be calculated upon as permanent paupers under a good system, and I do believe that to a man they would run to steady industry, if compelled by superior authority to conform to regulations rendering such industry preferable."
The success of the management of various institutions in the metropolis, which give no partial relief, such as the Philanthropic Society, where the children of criminals are educated and brought up to useful trades; the Refuge for the Destitute, in which young persons who have been discharged from prison are supplied with the means of instruction and reformation; and the Guardian Society, in which females who have become outcasts from society are provided with a temporary asylum and suitable employment until their conduct affords assurances of their amendment, are instances of what might be done by the good management of separate classes of the existing paupers.
These societies take for their subjects persons trained up in vice, and are stated, in a large proportion of cases, to reclaim them. The children who enter an ordinary workhouse, quit it, if they ever quit it, corrupted where they were well disposed, and hardened where they were vicious.
The circumstances which appear to conduce to the success of the excellent institutions to which we have referred (and to which we might add the Asylums for the Indigent Blind, the Schools for the Deaf and Dumb, the Marine Society's Schools), appear to be, first, that by classification of the objects of relief, the appropriate course of treatment is better ascertained, and its application and the general management rendered less difficult; secondly, that the co-operation of persons of leisure and information is obtained. The institutions for females are generally superintended by ladies' committees.
The following extracts from some evidence given by Mrs. Park, wife of Mr. Adam Park, surgeon, Gravesend, the brother of the celebrated traveller, will serve to show, that under good arrangements much voluntary service might be made available in a great proportion of the workhouses throughout the country.
"About two years ago the state of our workhouse attracted my attention, from the condition in which I learned that it was during my inquiries respecting Mr. Park's patients, he being then the surgeon of the parish. There were then fifty females in the workhouse. Of these, twenty-seven were young, stout, active women, who were never employed in doing anything whatever. There were five of these young and able women who were accustomed to go to bed in the forenoon, solely to pass off the time. There was no separation of the sexes during the day, and the most frightful demoralization was the consequence. Four old females did the whole of the work of cooking and cleaning the house.
"The younger females, the children, were brought up much in the same way; they were educated by an exceedingly ignorant, ill-conducted man, a pauper, who acted as the parish schoolmaster. These females were brought up in the same school with the boys, and very great disorders prevailed.
"The old females were also very ill regulated. I found that they made it a practice to send the children to the public-house for spirits. How they obtained the money was a mystery which I have never been able to penetrate. On the whole, the workhouse appeared to me, from all I saw and all I could learn, a frightful and increasing source of demoralization to the labouring classes, and of burthens to them in common with the higher classes.
"Seeing this I got several ladies to form a committee, and we tendered our services to the church wardens and the parish officers to educate the children, and to make the young and able-bodied paupers of our own sex work a certain number of hours a day, and conform to industrious and religious habits.
"The first object was to bring all the inmates to more industrious habits. Instead of four old persons always doing all the work in the house, our intention was, that the requisite number of persons should perform the cooking and other work in turn, so that these young women might learn household work, and form useful domestic habits, instead of bad habits and immorality."
The exertions of these ladies were greatly impeded by the parish officers; much good was nevertheless accomplished. The witness states, that—
"The elder paupers were taught knitting stockings, and the younger females needlework. Before we went to the workhouse they were badly clothed, and some of them were almost in a state of rags and nakedness. We wished to have the whole clothed in one way, with gowns of blue linsey-woolsey, check aprons, dark handkerchiefs, and close white caps. After violent opposition from the mistress of the house and the females themselves, this was acceded to. Hitherto they had purchased the most gaudy prints for the females, and ready-made slop shirts for the men in the house, whilst the young women were lying in bed idle. One of the paupers, a girl of eighteen years of age, who refused to work, was dressed in a dashing print-dress of red and green, with gigot sleeves, a silk band, a large golden or gilt buckle, long gilt earrings, and a lace-cap, turned up in front with bright ribbons, in the fashion of the day, and a high comb under the cap, and abundance of curls. A general order was given that the hair of the females should be braided, and put under their caps, and no curls or curl-papers seen. We got the whole of the young females clothed in the manner we designed in two months during the first year. This was done by their own labour, under the instructions we gave them. The benefit of this dress was, that whenever they went out of the work-house they were known and liable to observation, and could not act as they had been accustomed to act when they could not be distinguished. In the next place the parish saved money. They were thus clothed comfortably for 10s. each; the clothing consisting of one chemise, one apron, one cap, gown, and petticoat, stockings, handkerchief, and all for 10s.
"After that we procured them needle-work, in which we had no difficulty, though we were opposed, in the first instance, under the notion that we should injure the National School, where work is taken in. It was supposed also that it would injure industrious poor people in the neighbourhood. But, according to the statement of the National School Society, the amount of the labour done was not diminished. Neither could we ascertain that any industrious people out of the house had been injured by it; we never had any complaint, nor ever heard of one from any industrious people. I believe the fact to be, that a great part of the work we procured was work created, or which would not have been done had it not been taken in at the workhouse. But it would have been much better that the work which might be done in wealthy families should be done in the workhouse, that these paupers should be occupied usefully, and instructed. The ladies paid great attention to the work, and employed one of the most intelligent and active of the inmates of the house as the general superintendent. The work was remarked for its neatness; no slovenly or indifferent work was permitted to go out; and the committee were so particular, that the instruction they received was necessarily much better than that which they would have obtained in the houses of their own parents. One effect of this partial discipline in the house was, that in almost two months about one-half of the workers left. Some of them called themselves widows; others said that they did not come in to work; they merely came in until they could accommodate themselves, until they could get themselves another situation; but they would not remain to work, indeed, that they would not; they would take a room and keep themselves when they were out of place, sooner than put on a dress, and be made to work! One refractory person said, 'The poor were not going to be oppressed by work.'
"If you had been seconded in your exertions, and been allowed to carry into effect the alterations which you thought desirable, what further effects do you believe, judging from your experience, would have been practicable?—In the first place, we should have had the hours of work at least doubled. I am well convinced that the work-house might, as regards females, be made a school of industry, and a place of wholesome restraint, instead of a school of vice. Whilst no one would come to it under the influence of the inducements afforded by indolence, those who must necessarily come there, orphans, and the great numbers of young people who have been born on the parish, might be so instructed as to be made superior servants and good nurses, and superior wives of working men. In the first place, the workhouse affords the means of giving to females instruction in household work and in domestic economy, which at present is their great want, and which so frequently occasions the ruin and misery of labouring men when they take wives from this class. That which is done by the Guardian Society in London, might be done in every workhouse throughout the kingdom. If matrons, with proper qualifications, were appointed, they might conduct the system, and might obtain the assistance of the ladies of the vicinity. I was told at the outset that ladies could not be got to form a committee, but I found no difficulty whatever in getting a committee of the age and qualifications to command respect. The household work, scouring, cleaning, washing, plain cooking, needlework, knitting, mending and making up carpets, and economical industry might under such a system be taught in a much higher degree than they could be learned in a cottage, or even in the house of a person of the middle classes. They might also receive superior instruction in another respect; they might be well qualified to act as nurses when sickness occurred in the families of their employers or in their own families. There are always poor people sick in the workhouse, and they might be usefully taught to wait upon the sick people. There are very few females capable of acting as nurses; in fact, it requires good instruction of a nature which might be given by the physician who attends the workhouse. The ladies' committee might maintain a very high order of domestic instruction in these places; and the children of misfortune, who are now a prey to every vice, might be good servants, and in every respect good members of society. This is, in fact, accomplished by the ladies of the Guardian Society in London.
"Did you attempt to make any classification in the house?—In such a house classification was nearly impossible. We did on some occasions separate the very old from the young, which was deemed by the old a very great blessing. Some attempt was made to separate the very bad females from the others who were less depraved, but we never could effect it. In short, it appears to me that the only classification which could be made, would be by placing them in separate houses, which might be effected, I am sure, without any addition to the present number of houses. When I look at the parishes around here and their houses, I see no difficulty whatever in making a good classification of the inmates, provided they were under one general management. The persons who are placed as superintendents should have no local interests, and therefore should not be locally appointed. So surely as they are, so surely will there be disorder. The rules will not be so rigidly applied as they ought to be from the numbers in the house who are connected with them or known to them. The mischief which we find to result from this exercise of partiality goes beyond the violation of some rules, and the weakening of all others, in the ferment and discontent and disorder excited in the minds of the other paupers by the injustice done by the exercise of this partiality. If the class were large, as it would be for a time, from such a district, it might be worth while to employ, as the superintendent of the house for the females, a person of education and respectability. Such persons as the widows of noncommissioned officers would be extremely glad to accept such situations; and they might also be made acceptable to such persons as the widows of poor clergymen, and it would be cheap to the public in the end to obtain the services of such persons. They would be incapable of the low cunning and petty jobbing which exist at present."
The different effects of different modes of education and treatment upon the same descriptions of persons are strikingly exemplified in some portions of the evidence collected under this Commission, in which it is shown that whilst nearly the whole of the children of one parish where their education and training is neglected, become thieves or otherwise pests of society, nearly the whole of the children of another parish where better care of them is taken, are rendered industrious and valuable members of the community73 . In the latter case much of the beneficial results may be ascribed to the attention of persons of education who visited and superintended the schools. One great advantage of the classification obtainable by means of a combination of workhouses would be, that the aid of voluntary associations or local committees, of the class of persons who have conducted useful public institutions, might be more extensively obtained, to superintend the education of the workhouse children, as well as of the other classes of paupers adverted to by the lady whose testimony we have cited.
Although our evidence does not countenance the apprehension that, under a good system of management, a large proportion of the existing able-bodied paupers would continue permanently dependant on the poor-rates, it appears that in the first instance the chief arrangements must be made with reference to this class of paupers. But we do not apprehend that in many instances new workhouses would be requisite for their reception. It is another of the advantages held out by the aggregation of paupers from a district for the purpose of classification, that the separate classes of the proper objects of relief might be accommodated temporarily in ordinary dwelling-houses, and it is a fortunate district in which there are no empty tenements available for their reception. The tenements belonging to the parish might be rendered available for the separate accommodation of one class of paupers, and the poor-house itself for that of the able-bodied; and on the whole it appears from the evidence, that although a considerable proportion of the parishes are without workhouses, there are a few districts in which, by combined management, and under good regulations, the existing workhouse-room would not suffice.
By assigning one class of paupers to each of the houses comprehended in an incorporation, a greater number of persons might be received within each house. In small districts there are considerable fluctuations of the numbers of persons in each class; in the workhouse of a single parish the rooms appropriated for the reception of the sick must often be empty; in a house for the reception of the sick from a number of parishes, the absence of patients from one parish would be met by an influx from another, and a more steady average number maintained, and so with the other classes of inmates. The rooms left empty by these fluctuations or reserved for emergencies under the existing management, cannot, without great inconvenience, be immediately appropriated to the use of the redundant class. If any rooms on the female side of the house be left unoccupied, they cannot be readily appropriated to the use of an extra number of male paupers. The witness last cited states—
"In Lambeth, under the present arrangement, 800 is as great a number as we can reasonably calculate upon accommodating; whereas, if the whole workhouse was appropriated to the reception of only one class of persons, from 900 to 1,000 might be fairly accommodated. If you add to this the room that would be obtained by the discharge of those of the present inmates who would not submit to the restraint of strict workhouse regulations, I think ample accommodation might be made for all those who would avail themselves of the workhouse dietary and accommodation, when their money allowance was discontinued."
Powers and Duties of the Central Board
Although such is the general tenor of the evidence, we cannot state that there may not be some districts where new workhouses would be found requisite, but we have no doubt that where this does occur, the erection of appropriate edifices, though apparently expensive, would ultimately be found economical. Under a system of district management the workhouses might be supplied under one contract at wholesale prices. Mr. Mott states, that if 500 persons cost 10l. per head, or 5,000l.; 1,000 persons would cost only 9l. per head, or 9,000l.; He also states, that there would be no more difficulty in managing five or six combined workhouses than five or six separate wards or rooms in one house. Considerable economy would also be practicable in combined workhouses, by varying the nature of the supplies. In the smaller workhouses the children receive nearly the same diet as the adults; if they were separated they might receive a diet both cheaper and more wholesome.
TO EFFECT THESE PURPOSES WE RECOMMEND THAT THE CENTRAL BOARD BE EMPOWERED TO CAUSE ANY NUMBER OF PARISHES WHICH THEY MAY THINK CONVENIENT TO BE INCORPORATED FOR THE PURPOSE OF WORKHOUSE MANAGEMENT, AND FOR PROVIDING NEW WORKHOUSE WHERE NECESSARY, TO DECLARE THEIR WORKHOUSES TO BE THE COMMON WORKHOUSES OF THE INCORPORATED DISTRICT, AND TO ASSIGN TO THOSE WORKHOUSES SEPARATE CLASSES OF POOR, THOUGH COMPOSED OF THE POOR OF DISTINCT PARISHES, EACH DISTINCT PARISH PAYING TO THE SUPPORT OF THE PERMANENT WORKHOUSE ESTABLISHMENT, IN PROPORTION TO THE AVERAGE AMOUNT OF THE EXPENSE INCURRED FOR THE RELIEF OF ITS POOR, FOR THE THREE PREVIOUS YEARS, AND PAYING SEPARATELY FOR THE FOOD AND CLOTHING OF ITS OWN PAUPERS.
The power of incorporation for workhouse purposes appears to us to be absolutely necessary. It also appears to us that parishes may be beneficially incorporated for some other purposes. As this opinion depends in some measure on a further opinion that extended management is in certain points and withen certain limits economical, and as this opinion is at variance with a prevalent impression in favour of the general economy of small districts, we shall support it at some length. In the minds of many, management on a large scale, and large establishments, are associated with large expenses and general profusion: where every thing is magnified, abuses, which, though greater in proportion, would have been imperceptible on a smaller scale, become visible and striking; but we find that in the small parishes the expense per head of the persons entitled to relief is generally the greatest, and that, although the actual burthen per pound on the rental is often small, that is effected, not by diminishing but by shifting and often aggravating the real burthen, by destroying cottages, preventing settlements, and driving the labourers into the adjoining district. The following answer by Mr. Mott both states the comparative economy of the larger parishes, and accounts for it. He was asked,—
"What would be the effect of dividing Lambeth into as many independent parishes as there are in the city of London?"
"The chief effects which appear to me to be likely to ensue are, that we should have ninety-six imperfect establishments instead of one; ninety-six sources of peculation instead of one; ninety-six sets of officers to be imposed upon by paupers instead of one set; ninety-six sources of litigation and of expense for removals and disputed settlements instead of one; and ninety-six modes of rating instead of one.
"It appears that the 96 city parishes, (many of which are extremely wealthy, and lightly burthened with poor) with a population of 55,000, expended for the relief of the poor, in the year 1831, 64,000l. Lambeth, with 32,000 more people, and many densely-peopled districts containing very poor people, expended on the relief of the poor only 37,000l. during the same year. In the wealthy parishes of the city of London, the money annually paid as poor's-rates amounted to 1l. 3s. 3 1/4d. per head; whilst in Lambeth the amount annually paid is 8s. 6d. and a fraction per head. The adults of Lambeth parish are now supported in the workhouse at 3s. 11d. a week per head; whilst in the city of London, the greater proportion of all classes of poor, including children, are farmed out at an expense of from 4s. 6d. to 7s. each, and the expense of those maintained in the small city workhouses varies from 5s. to 8s. per head per week for all classes."
The following is a recapitulation of an examination of the comparative expense of the poor's-rates per head, in the largest, the least, and the intermediate sized parishes; comprehending all the parishes from which we have received returns, belonging to the first seven counties, taken in alphabetical order, referred to in our Supplement.
|Population.||Rate per Head.|
|30 Parishes||40, 971||0||14||7½|
|Of these 7 Counties,||s||d|
|The 67 largest parishes give||9||0¾||per head on the population.|
|The 66 intermediate parishes||14||4||ditto.|
|The 67 least parishes||14||11¾||ditto.|
Of all England,—
The 100 absolutely largest parishes, containing a population of 3,196,064, give 6d. 7s. per head.
The 100 intermediate parishes, containing a population of 19,841, give 15s. per head.
The 100 least parishes, from which Poor Rates Returns are made, with a population of 1,708, give 1l. 11s. 11 1/2d. per head.
The 100 intermediate parishes are of the size of which there is the greatest number, and where the population is not too large, to allow the parish officers to obtain a personal knowledge of the individuals relieved.
We have no recent returns of proportions of paupers in the parishes referred to in the preceding statement; but on referring to the Parliamentary Returns of the number of paupers in each parish in the years 1803 and 1813, it appears that the number of persons relieved in the large and small parishes bears some proportion to their relative amount of rates. In the three hundred parishes of which the comparative amount of the poor's-rates on the population has been stated, the
The economy of extended management in the rural districts, is also proved by the evidence derived from the incorporated hundreds. These hundreds are, on the whole, distinguished by the economy and general superiority of their administration, as compared with the unincorporated hundreds. From a comparison of the expense of the eight unincorporated hundreds of Suffolk with the expense of the nine incorporated hundreds of the same county, making the calculation on the basis of the real property assessment of 1815, it appears that the expense of maintaining the poor, during the years from 1824 to 1831, was 53 per cent. in favour of the incorporated hundreds.
Captain Pringle, who appears to have examined carefully the administration of the poor's-rate in the Isle of Wight, the whole of which is incorporated, shows that notwithstanding much general ill management, the result, after a trial of 60 years, is greatly in favour of incorporation. On a comparison of the amount of property assessed in the year 1815, with the amount of rates raised in the year 1829, it appears that the rate per pound for the whole county was 3s. 6d.; for the county exclusive of the island 3s. 8d.; for the island exclusive of the rest of the county, 1s. 10d. In this incorporation, however, litigation about settlements and the expense of removals are almost entirely avoided74 .
Much of the saving is attributable to the efficiency of the officers of the incorporations, and to the more methodical transaction of their business. Mr. Meadows White, a solicitor of great experience in the management of incorporated hundreds, states that each of the parishes incorporated in Blything hundred for less than 10l. per annum. obtains for the management of the in-door poor the services of a
|Chaplain||at a Salary of||50||0||0|
|Governor and a Matron||ditto||100||0||0|
|Superintendent of the Labour (a weaver)||ditto||20||0||0|
|TOTAL for 46 parishes||£422||0||0|
If it were possible that the several functions performed by each of these officers could be performed by any one person, at least five times the amount of money paid by each of the parishes incorporated would be requisite to obtain the services of such a person. But it is obviously impossible that one officer could execute these functions: the performance of the duties of the school-master or matron of the workhouse imply a neglect of the duties of the school, in which it appears that there are rarely less than 100 or 120 children; neither could the business of the superintendent of the pauper labour, nor the business of the clerk (an attorney, whose salary includes the remuneration for all his attendances, journeys and law business in the county) be performed unless at the expense of other duties.
In the establishments of the larger parishes, whilst there is great gain in efficiency by the division of labour, there is also frequently gain by the concentration of labour where it may be concentrated without interfering with the performance of other equally important duties. One of the assistant-overseers of Lambeth parish, in reciting his duties, states,—
"Besides inquiring into the cases of applicants for relief, I inquire into the cases of the non-payment of poor's-rate, and whether the neglect or refusal proceeds from inability to pay, or from any other causes, and I report the same to the overseers. It is also my duty to inform the vestry-clerk of all houses newly erected in the parish, and of all houses, noted in the rate-book as empty, which have become inhabited; I report them in order that they may be assessed to the rate; I enter this in a book kept for the purpose, and called the Draught-book. This serves as a check on the collectors and on overseers, who, from favouritism or other causes, might be disposed to overlook the houses of friends. The overseers or parish officers may be persons in business who are desirous of favouring friends. By imposing these duties on the assistant-overseers, who have to traverse districts for purposes relating to the paupers, they are performed at a very little additional expense, as it is all done under one head. I find frequently that when I am inquiring of a person about a house, he can also give me information with relation to a pauper."
To these advantages may be added the greater facility of obtaining securities against embezzlement.
One of the most prominent suggestions of those who have written on Poor-Law amendment, is compelling the adoption of a uniform and well-arranged system of accounts, a provision which they often appear to consider a sufficient check on peculation. There can be no doubt that arrangements to insure completeness, clearness, uniformity and publicity of parochial accounts are as requisite in this as in any other department of public administration. WE RECOMMEND, THEREFORE, THAT THE CENTRAL BOARD BE EMPOWERED AND REQUIRED TO TAKE MEASURES FOR THE GENERAL ADOPTION OF A COMPLETE, CLEAR, AND, AS FAR AS MAY BE PRACTICABLE, UNIFORM SYSTEM OF ACCOUNTS. But it appears to us that new arrangements as to the mode of transacting the business in question and the establishment of self-acting checks (which are partly independent of accounts) are equally requisite. It is one advantage of management on a large scale, that it admits of these arrangements and securities, without any increase of expense. Thus, in the incorporated hundreds, there are six distinct functionaries for the collection and the expenditure of the rates. 1. The assessments are fixed by the Board of Guardians. They are collected by, 2, the Overseers of the several parishes incorporated, who are compelled under a penalty to pay within a certain time to, 3, the Treasurer, the money collected. The latter gives security. 4. The Clerk of the incorporation receives the commodities supplied, and enters an account of them into the stock-book. 5. The Governor of the workhouse attends to the distribution of the goods supplied, and is answerable for it. 6. It is the duty of the Visiting Guardian to see that the goods received are in conformity to the contracts, and, in fact, to act as a check on the two last-mentioned officers. In the parishes of the unincorporated districts, one person, the overseer, is usually assessor, collector, treasurer and distributor, and the checks derived from the performance of the business by separate individuals are lost.
Similar advantages to those of the incorporations are possessed by the larger parishes.
Here then the parish being large, the business of collecting and distributing the fund is managed by five different hands, exclusive of the workhouse-keeper and other assistant officers. The following is the account which the vestry-clerk gives of one simple expedient by which a check is obtained against peculation in the distribution of the casual relief.
Mr. Watmore, Vestry Clerk of Lambeth; Examined.
"Each overseer relieves the casual poor in cases within his district, which are cases of necessity; and this relief is by a little printed ticket on the clerk of the workhouse. The overseer relieving signs his name and the amount on the ticket, and this serves as a voucher for every one, the smallest item.
"Before the establishment of the checks, I have known casual poor obtain relief from the whole eight overseers. Frauds have been committed with the tickets; one woman was prosecuted for increasing the amount of the ticket, but frauds in this way cannot be very extensive. I see every day the benefits of this check as regards officers as well as the applicants, and I can see no reason why it should not be adopted in other parishes. In our parish the overseers neither receive nor pay any money; the collectors are bound to pay in every week to the bankers the money collected; we have eight collectors, with securities of 1000l. each."
Some large parishes, however, neglect these precautions, and commit to one person the whole distribution of the rates. In one case the overseer draws from the treasurer a sum of money which he distributes at his discretion; in another, the money is paid into the hands of several overseers who severally distribute it as they think proper, and account for it at the end of the year; the only check being their honour. It appears, however, that this check is not always sufficient, and that cases occur in which the officers mix fictitious names in the crowd of items, and overcharge the sums paid to real characters; thus, where 1s. 3d. has been given, 1s. 9d. is charged; where 1s. 6d. has been given, 2s. or 2s. 6d. is often charged. The following portions of the examination of the parish officers of Bethnal Green show the danger of omitting proper checks.
The Parish Officers of Bethnal Green; Examined.
"Mr. Bunn.—The overseers do not pay by ticket, but pay money out of their own pockets, which they charge to the parish, and account for the money at the end of the quarter; my last weekly account of the casual relief for one division was 27l. odd; this was paid away in shillings and sixpences. It is paid in advance for the quarter, and we receive no interest for the outlay.
"Has this been the usual course of proceeding for years past?—I believe it is; there has been no alteration.
"Is this expenditure discretional with the annual overseer?—Yes, the casual relief is.
"Does he frequently sit alone, or is he assisted by other parish officers?—On Thursdays and Saturdays we sit alone, unless some governor by chance drops in in the course of the day, but generally we sit alone.
"And are you not regularly assisted by any permanent officer?—No, we are not assisted by any one.
"Do you not find that you are frequently imposed upon?—In spite of all an annual officer can do, we are frequently imposed upon. There were 400 new faces for me to pay the first night I sat. I had no one to assist me or to inform me, and I gave money away on the mere statements made to me. I am confident that I paid some of the people twice over that night.
"Have you had overseers serving more than one year?—Mr. Davis.—Yes. Since I have been in office, two have served three years, and one two years.
"Have you had others who have been desirous of serving?—Mr. Davis.—Those who last served were known to have been desirous of serving again.
"What reason did they allege for being desirous of serving again?—Mr. Davis.—I do not know.
"Mr. Bunn.—For my own part I would have gladly paid to have been excused. I have offered 60l. to be excused from serving after I was in office; I also offered to put down 50l. as a subscription to extricate the parish from its difficulties, but not a soul followed my example. I was offered by my predecessors, when I entered into office, to have my duties performed for me, but this offer I declined, as I must have been responsible for all monies.
"Can you judge or state what you suppose to have been the object of the parties in again serving so burdensome an office?—I know their object, Sir, but that I must, if you please, decline stating.
"Have there been any cases of malversation in your parish?—Never, that I am aware of.
"Nor any suspicions or rumours of malversation prevalent in the parish?—There have been such rumours.
"Have there been no grounds for such rumours?—I do not know of any of my knowledge, and cannot speak to them.
"Are you ready to swear that you know of no grounds?—All that I can say is, that the expenditure this year is less than it was last year; I cannot say how that was.
"But in a parish like yours, where there are a number of small tradesmen, whose credit is not very good, and where large sums pass through the hands of parish officers, with considerable opportunities for malversation on the part of any one who has the inclination, is not the parish exposed to very considerable danger unless a prudent choice be made?—Certainly. I have heard such persons boast that if they were in office they would take care of themselves."
Mr. Masterman, another parish officer of Bethnal Green; Examined.
"What other opportunities has the system afforded for considerable malversation?—The payment of the casual poor, and the out-door relief, affords very great opportunities for fraud on the parts of the overseers, as well as the paupers, but I cannot say that I know of any instances. I suggested the payment by tickets, but the suggestion was not adopted.
"What is the popular opinion on this subject?—That to be an overseer and take care of the poor is a very good thing.
"On what grounds has that opinion been founded?—They have seen a person's condition greatly improved after having served the office of overseer; they have seen this take place without seeing any increase in his business, and without having heard or known of any money having been left to him; having, in short, no ostensible reason except that he has been in office.
"Is the remark common?—Yes, it is."
In the smaller parishes the state of things is still worse. There one officer collects and distributes, and unless he have some personal adversary who inspects the accounts, and objects to them, this officer really accounts to no one, for the audit by the magistrates is confessedly a form.
Many parishes have been agitated by contests to obtain publicity of accounts; these accounts have accordingly been published, and peace has ensued; but the statements published leave the satisfied rate-payers almost as much in the dark as ever.
The items are usually published in the following form:—
|Beer and Ale||...||...||440||0||6|
|Bread and Flour||...||...||1779||7||6|
|Butter, Cheese, and Bacon||...||...||691||13||6|
|Candles and Soap||...||...||120||15||6|
|Clothing for Paupers||...||...||175||9||0|
The parishioner knows not from such items what was the character of the purchases; whether 3s. or 7s. per pair was paid for shoes, if any were included in the general item Clothing. If the account were made out in detail, the other shoemakers or the other bakers of the parish might judge of the reasonableness of the charges; but even these details would still leave room for fraud in the misstatement of the quantity of goods supplied, and as to the actual consumption of the whole quantity supplied.
We consider, therefore, that any uniform and good system of accounts would not of itself suffice, unless the operations or the mode of doing business were clearly arranged. One system of accounts might be prescribed to the two parishes, Lambeth and Bethnal Green: it might be required in both, that every item of casual relief given should be entered in the accounts; but whilst in Lambeth the security against fraud, derived from the checks arising from the method of doing business, would, perhaps, be found nearly complete, in Bethnal Green the accounts would afford little or no security whatever; the names of the parties alleged to have been relieved may be fictitious; the amount of the payments may be misstated; and yet the accounts may, primâ facie, afford to the auditor no means of detection. Clearness does not ensure truth. Captain Pringle, who has had much experience in the examination of the accounts of commissaries, states that he generally found that the greatest peculators had the clearest accounts. Clear accounts, then, must be based on good arrangements of the modes of transacting business. Uniformity as to some points in the modes of keeping accounts would be of great service for the purpose of comparing the detailed expenditure of one district with another, and would form a necessary means of any general system of management, but the same forms in every point cannot suit every parish. The forms requisite in Mary-le-bone, containing 122,206 inhabitants, would be unsuited to the 1657 parishes, containing, collectively, only 122,170 inhabitants, and managed by 1657 different sets of officers.
The sources of peculation will be to a great extent extirpated by the abolition of money-payments; by the supply of goods on public contract, under proper securities, and by the adoption of the checks rendered practicable by more extended management. In a large proportion of the smaller parishes, it would be requisite to obtain in each the services of a good book-keeper. In the larger establishments this is accomplished without difficulty, and at a comparatively trivial expense; one set of books serves instead of forty or fifty sets; and the officers of the establishment are usually competent to the task of keeping them.
A further advantage of extended districts arises from the comparative facility of providing for the paupers' useful employment. Opportunities for such employment are wanting in many parishes; in others, exist in forms too large to be undertaken; and in still more numerous instances exist uselessly, in consequence of the jealousies which always act most powerfully in small neighbourhoods. It appears that one of the first preliminary measures must be the preparing for the able-bodied more of this employment than we believe that they will accept.
Employment of some kind can, indeed, be always provided, but it appears to us that it ought to be useful employment. Parish officers, whilst they have had sufficient labour of this description before their doors, in their unwillingness or their inability to take upon themselves the trouble of superintendence, or to make any immediate pecuniary sacrifice for the purpose of enforcing the performance of that labour, have resorted to the expedient of sending paupers on fictitious errands, with baskets full of stones, or blank paper directed as letters, and other devices of the same nature, obviously intended to torment them. Such contrivances are pernicious in the revengeful feelings which they generate in the minds of the paupers themselves, and they are also pernicious in exciting sympathy in behalf of the indolent and vicious, and in the obstacles which they create to the use of legitimate labour and salutary discipline. We believe that they ought to be carefully prevented. The association of the utility of labour to both parties, the employer as well as the employed, is one which we consider it most important to preserve and strengthen; and we deem everything mischievous which unnecessarily gives to it a repulsive aspect. At the same time we believe that in extended districts the requisite sources of employment will be easily found. The supply of the articles consumed in workhouses and prisons would afford a large outlet for the manufactures carried on in the house; and, with respect to out-door employment, it is probable that there are few districts to which such evidence as that contained in the following extracts would not be applicable. Mr. William Winkworth, overseer of the parish of St. Mary's, Reading, whilst advocating the necessity of the incorporation of the parishes in that town, states,—
"The town, for example, wants draining. We have brickmakers, and carpenters, and other labourers on the parish receiving relief; and the whole town might be well drained by the labour of these paupers, at the expense of materials only; bricks, wood, mortar, and sand. This, however, is a work which the parishes cannot, or will not, undertake separately; it is prevented by petty jealousies and dissensions, and the want of able officers to direct the work of the paupers. The owners of premises well situated and well drained, say. 'Drainage is a benefit to the owners of the property, and we do not see why we should be called upon to contribute money for their benefit.' The owners of the houses where the drainage is most wanted, say, 'We can get no rents to pay for the work, and the nuisances which are caused by the want of it must therefore continue.' No account is taken of the necessity of finding work of any sort for the able-bodied paupers; nothing can be done with the separate parishes governed by open vestries, no cordial co-operation can be got, and the benefit of considerable labour is lost. As the surveyor of the road from this town to Basingstoke, and also of the road from hence to Shillingford, I can state, from my observation of the several parishes (nineteen in number) through which these roads pass, that very considerable labour might be found, under good direction, in improving their private roads. This is an instance of the sort of work which might frequently be found for paupers. In some of the parishes the roads are kept in very good order, but this is mere accident; whilst in the immediately adjoining parishes more money will be expended, and the roads will nevertheless be in so bad a state that the parish is indictable for them. The farmers steadily adhere to their old practices, and never willingly conform to any improvements; they employ waggons where carts would serve much better; they throw down on the roads materials totally inapplicable, and think they can mend them with big loose stones, which stones would really be useful if they were broken up."
The Rev. James Randall, rector of Binfield, Berks, states—
"In this parish I think the poor might be beneficially employed in making roads; the parish having been lately inclosed, many cottages and many fields are only approachable by drift ways, which are mere green lanes, almost impassable in winter, the soil being a stiff clay. The inhabitants of these houses are consequently cut off from the village, and remain in a very uncivilized state. It would be a public benefit to turn these lanes into good roads; but the vestry will never agree to such a measure, unless under legislative compulsion, because it would require an immediate outlay, from which temporary occupiers would derive no advantage, and also because the chief benefit, after all, would be to the cottagers, not to the large rate-payers."
Mr. Villiers states that an opinion was expressed to him—
"By many different persons, that from the present state of the communication in many parts of the county of Worcester, that if the roads were placed under any general system of superintendence, and properly attended to, assuming that the same number of paupers as at present should remain dependent upon their parishes, that employment for the five next years at least might be found for them, and with the greatest advantage to the county, a fact which is worth considering, if an immediate change in the system of maintaining the poor is contemplated."
WE FURTHER RECOMMEND, THEREFORE, THAT THE CENTRAL BOARD BE EMPOWERED TO INCORPORATE PARISHES FOR THE PURPOSE OF APPOINTING AND PAYING PERMANENT OFFICERS, AND FOR THE EXECUTION OF WORKS OF PUBLIC LABOUR.
We must not, however, conceal our fear, that the appointment of efficient permanent officers will be difficult.
Those only who have a full knowledge of the peculiar nature of the duties to be performed would be qualified to judge of the fitness of the agents to perform them; a knowledge which, as it does not influence the daily practice, can scarcely be presumed to exist in the districts where abusive systems prevail. In the dispauperized parishes the appointment of fitting officers was found to be attended with great difficulty, and was rarely accomplished without opposition. The person appointed as the permanent overseer and master of the workhouse at Hatfield had been a drill-serjeant and paymaster-serjeant in the Coldstream Guards. One of the witnesses states,—
"That the parish was entirely indebted for the change to the talents and personal energy applied to the work by the Marquis of Salisbury, and to the peculiar personal qualifications of the person appointed by him to serve the office of permanent overseer. This appointment would never have been made had the matter been left in the hands of the ratepayers at large. Many of them openly said that a stranger ought not to be brought into the parish; that they ought to appoint a person from amongst themselves, some poor person, who wanted a comfortable home; when the duties of the office required a person of peculiar firmness and habits of command, and were such as ninety-nine out of a hundred in the parish would have been unable to execute75 ."
The success of this appointment occasioned similar appointments to be made in some adjacent parishes where the larger proprietors attempted to amend the administration. The Hon. and Rev. Robert Eden states, that in Hertingfordbury.
"A permanent overseer was appointed, who was also to collect the rates in the adjoining parishes of Bayford and Little Berkhampstead, and to keep the accounts, and superintend the men employed at parish work. He had been a pay-serjeant in the Guards; his appointment was opposed chiefly on the ground of his being a stranger76 ."
The Rev. Ralph Clutton, curate of Welwyn, states,—
"A permanent overseer has been appointed, who is also the governor of the poor-house; he was serjeant in the Coldstream Guards, a married man, and not a parishioner. It is to the efficiency of himself and his wife that the success of the undertaking thus far must in a great measure be attributed. His chief qualifications are firmness, order, clearness and accuracy in his accounts, unconquerable resolution and integrity; and on the part of his wife, extraordinary cleanliness, and a sincere desire to better the condition of those (especially the young) under her care77 ."
The wife herself stated "that the selection of her husband had excited great displeasure, because it was considered that none but a parishioner ought to have been appointed." In Waltham, where some improvements were carried into effect,—
"A permanent overseer has been appointed, who is also governor of the workhouse, but is not a parishioner: having been in the army, his qualifications for the discipline and management of the workhouse, by the aid of that order, regularity, and system in which he had been there initiated, together with a perfect ability as to the arrangement and keeping of the accounts, are his merits. Dissatisfaction was manifested to this appointment: the principal objections were his being a stranger, and not a parishioner78 ."
The statement of Mr. Richard Gregory, of Spitalfields, is characteristic of the circumstances under which the permanent officers are frequently appointed in the town parishes:—
"Might not paid and responsible officers be elected by the parishioners?—He answers, No; I think you would never get such offices well filled, unless it was by accident. The people have no conception of what sort of men are requisite to perform properly the duties of a parish officer. If such a situation were vacant, what sort of a man would apply for it? Why, some decayed tradesman; some man who had got a very large family, and had been 'unfortunate in business,' which, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, means a man who has not had prudence or capacity to manage his own affairs; and this circumstance is usually successful in any canvass for a parish situation to manage the affairs of the public. Men who have before been in office for the parish would obtain a preference. And what sort of men are those who would be likely to be at liberty to accept a vacant situation? The situations of overseer and churchwarden are by some considered situations of dignity, and dignity always attracts fools. I have known numbers of small tradesmen who were attracted by 'the dignity of the office,' and succeeded in getting made overseers and churchwardens. Their elevation was their downfall. They have not given their minds to their own business as before. The consequence of this was that they have lost their business and have been ruined. Now and then a good man of business will be desirous of taking office when he thinks he is slighted, or has had an affront put upon him by being overlooked; but in general, any man in decent business must know, if he has the brains of a goose, that it will be much better for him, in a pecuniary point of view, to pay the fine than serve. I could name from fifteen to twenty people in our parish, who have been entirely ruined by being made churchwardens. These would be the people who would succeed best in parochial or district elections; for the people would say of any one of them, 'Poor man, he has ruined himself by serving a parish office, and the only recompense we can give him is to put him in a paid office.' This always has been the general course of parish elections, and I have no doubt would always continue to be so. There is infinitely more favouritism in parish appointments than in government appointments. In appointments by the government there is frequently some notion of fitness; but in the case of parish appointments, fitness is out of the question. When I was the treasurer of the watch department of the parish, I took great interest in the management of the police of the district, and determined to make it efficient. You would conceive that the inhabitants would have been so guided by their own apparent interests, as to get active men appointed, but I had solicitations from some of the first and most respectable houses in the parish to take their old and decayed servants and put them on the watch. I had also applications from the parish officers to put men up on the watch who were in the workhouse. As I was determined to make the police efficient, I resolutely resisted all these applications.79 ."
It is also clear that such officers should be selected as would not be biassed by local interests or partialities. The most fitting persons must often, as in the instances we have cited, be sought for in distant districts, and, cæteris paribus, would be preferable to persons within the same districts.
These premises appear to lead to a conclusion that the Central Board ought to be empowered to appoint the permanent and salaried officers in all parishes, or at least in those which they should incorporate. But we do not venture such a recommendation. In the first place, because we doubt the power of a single Board to select a sufficient number of well-qualified persons; secondly, because such a duty would occupy too much of their time and attention; and, thirdly, because the patronage, though really a painful incumbrance to them, would be a source of public jealousy. But believing that, after all, more will depend, as more always has depended, on the administration of the law than on the words of its enactments, and that the good or bad administration will mainly rest on the selection of the inferior administration will mainly rest on the selection of the inferior administrators, we think that no security for good appointments should be neglected, and no means of preventing the effects of bad appointmentsomitted. We think that the first object might be aided, if the Commissioners were directed to prescribe some general qualifications, in the absence of which no person should be eligible as a salaried officer, and we think that the number of competent persons who must in time come under their observation would enable them frequently to assist parishes and incorporations by recommending proper candidates; we also think that they might, to a great degree, both aid and support the well-disposed, and prevent the continuance in office of improper persons, if they were invested with the power of removing them. Some of the ablest of the permanent officers who have been examined under the authority of this Commission, have urged that they ought to be immediately responsible to the authority whose regulations they are to enforce; that it ought to be obvious that they really have no discretion, that the rule of duty is inflexible, and that, if they violate or neglect it, suspension or dismissal must be the consequence. If the permanent officers continue responsible only to the annual officers or to the vestry, a screen will be interposed between the Central Board and the actual administrators of relief, which will encourage and protect every form of malversation.
WE RECOMMEND, THEREFORE, THAT THE CENTRAL BOARD BE DIRECTED TO STATE THE GENERAL QUALIFICATIONS WHICH SHALL BE NECESSARY TO CANDIDATES FOR PAID OFFICES CONNECTED WITH THE RELIEF OF THE POOR, TO RECOMMEND TO PARISHES AND INCORPORATIONS PROPER PERSONS TO ACT AS PAID OFFICERS, AND TO REMOVE ANY PAID OFFICERS WHOM THEY SHALL THINK UNFIT FOR THEIR SITUATIONS.
The alteration of some portions of the existing law with respect to contracts for the supply of food and other necessaries to the workhouses will be requisite to protect the public from continued jobbing, fraud and mismanagement. The extensive prevalence of these evils is indicated not only by the direct testimony contained in our Appendix, but by the recurrence in the answers to our circulated Query as to the propriety of giving relief in kind, of apprehensions of peculation. Such an alteration is necessary also in order to facilitate a change, which in many districts will be more strenuously opposed by the few who will lose, than supported by the many who will gain by more rigid management. Private interest, often apparently inconsiderable, has always created the strongest and the most successful opposition to improvement. The Hon. and Rev. Robert Eden states,—
"In the year 1827 I endeavoured to unite, under Sturges Bourne's Act, the parishes of Hertingfordbury, Essendon, Little Berkhampstead and Bayford. Could I have succeeded, we should have built a central workhouse, and have had under superintendence a population of 2000 persons, and been able to pay a really efficient officer. My plan failed, partly from the lukewarmness of the landowners, from the unwillingness of the occupiers (being tenants at will) to contribute to the formation of a new building, and from the opposition of the tradesmen of the various parishes, who were employed occasionally in the old repairs of the old workhouses, but had no chance of getting the tender for building the new."
In Cookham and other parishes, as soon as the general benefits of improved management had become apparent, a renewed opposition was organized by publicans and beer-shop keepers, who found that they were losers by the frugality created among their customers. In many instances, the profusion which prevails in the workhouse management has been directly traced to the tradesmen who took the most active part in the parochial business.
Mr. Richmond, one of the guardians of the poor in St. Luke's parish, Middlesex, states,—
"When I came into office it was a recognized principle, that the purchase of commodities for parochial consumption should be confined to the tradesmen of the parish. The effects of the patronage incident to the purchase of goods to the amount of upwards of 20,000l. per annum from shopkeepers within the parish, patronage exercised by a board who are themselves shopkeepers or connected with shopkeepers, may well be conceived. For several years I have contended, but unsuccessfully, for the universal application of the principle, that contracts should be taken from those who made the lowest tenders, wherever they resided, provided they gave the requisite securities for the due performance of the contract. On investigating the purchases of goods within the parish, I found that some of the charges were upwards of forty per cent. above the market prices. Whatever opposition may be made against an extensive or efficient reform or generalization of the management of the funds for the relief of the poor, will be based on the retention of the parochial patronage and power, although such a motive will never be ostensibly avowed. I have no doubt they will even assume that extended management will be more profuse than their own."
What may be expected is also indicated in the following extract from the evidence collected by Mr. Codd:—
"Before we had a select vestry, it was not unusual for our overseers to be quite willing to take the office, and even to continue in it for more than one year; and it was well understood, that this was because they had the means of spending money on behalf of the parish with their neighbours, or with whom they pleased. Since the establishment of the select vestry, however, we purchase every thing by open contracts, and the consequence has been, that our rates are 25 per cent. at least below what they were prior to the formation of the select vestry. Our tradesmen now cry out against being exclusively called upon to serve as overseers, and they have said, that they will insist upon having the gentry included with themselves."
WE RECOMMEND, THAT THE CENTRAL BOARD BE EMPOWERED TO DIRECT THE PAROCHIAL CONSUMPTION TO BE SUPPLIED BY TENDER AND CONTRACT, AND TO PROVIDE THAT THE COMPETITION BE PERFECTLY FREE.
This will prevent much indirect fraud. Direct embezzlement must also be guarded against more effectually than while left to voluntary prosecution. It is vain to expect men to proceed, on public grounds, against their own neighbours, friends, or connexions. It is to local influence, not to the absence of peculation, that we ascribe the rarity of prosecutions against parochial defaulters; and the prosecutions which do take place are often attributed, truly or falsely, to private motives, and public sympathy becomes enlisted in favour of the criminal.
WE RECOMMEND, THAT THE CENTRAL BOARD BE EMPOWERED AND REQUIRED TO ACT IN SUCH CASES AS PUBLIC PROSECUTORS.
The pecuniary loss by bad management, or the pecuniary gain from good management, are of course insignificant when weighed against the moral evils of the existing system. It will be necessary, however, to guard sedulously against pecuniary mismanagement, as it is usually a primary cause of the extension of pauperism, and we trust that it will be found that the measures which we have proposed, though recommended by us chiefly as beneficial to the labouring classes, will also be found the means of pecuniary saving.
Not one instance has been met with where a permanent increase of expenditure has followed any moderately well directed efforts to repress abusive modes of administration. Where select vestries have been established, and a strict management has been introduced, even under the existing law, the expenses have been reduced by an amount seldom less than one-third. In the dis-pauperized parishes, the real reduction has seldom been less than half the expense. In Durham and Cumberland, paupers are kept well and contented, at a weekly expense of 1s. 6d. per head for food. In most of the southern counties the expense varies from 3s. 6d. to 4s. 6d., 5s., and 6s. per head. The average is probably not less than 4s. per head; the expense may in all probability be reduced to 2s. per head, the common expenditure of a labourer's family, and the legitimate objects of relief be much better provided for. The whole evidence proves that if a Central Board be appointed, consisting of fit persons, and armed with powers to carry into general effect the measures which have been so successful wherever they have been tried, the expenditure for the relief of the poor will in a very short period be reduced by more than one-third.
From the metropolis, from the provincial towns, and indeed from nearly every district, complaints have been received that large classes of persons, who obtain, during particular seasons, such wages as would enable them to maintain themselves and their families until the return of the season of work, and provide by insurance against sickness and other casualties, spend the whole of their earnings as fast as they receive them, and, when out of work, throw themselves and their families on the parish, and remain chargeable until the period of high wages returns. The alternations of dissipation and of privation to which such persons have become habituated, render it probable that even under an improved system of administration, many of them would endure the most rigid workhouse discipline during the winter, to gain freedom from self-restraint during the spring, summer, and autumn.
The following extracts from the Evidence describe the nature of the evil, and suggest the remedy:—
Mr. John Coste, relieving overseer of St. Leonard, Shore-ditch—
"We have frequently amongst our paupers mechanics who obtain very high wages during particular periods, and when work fails, immediately come upon the parish. These men are, generally speaking, the greatest drunkards. I formerly carried on the business of a willow-square maker, and have paid as much as 4l. or 5l. a-week to particular men for months together. I do not believe that one of these men ever saved a pound; several of them are now in the workhouse, and receiving relief, who might have provided for themselves by means of savings' banks, until they got some other description of profitable labour. The sawyers are another set of men of the same description. It would be of great advantage to parishes, if relief were given to all these classes in the way of loan, and power were conferred to attach a portion of their wages for repayment80 ."
Mr. Teather, an assistant overseer of Lambeth, when examined as to the condition of some of the paupers, stated,—
"We have had many bootmakers and shoemakers who might have saved enough money when in work to keep them from the parish when they are out of work. Amongst the barbers there are several who have been master barbers, who might have saved enough money to keep them from the parish; one man I know could not have got less than 3l. or 4l. a week; he boasted that he made 30s. on a Sunday. Amongst the tailors are many who might save money. Some of them on the parish are very good workmen, who could earn about 6s. a day, and when they chose to work over-work, about 7s. One of them now on the parish, a man named M'Innis, is said by persons in the trade to be one of the best workmen in London. He is now just out of the tread-mill for neglecting his family. The greater part of sawyers could save enough to keep them from the parish during the intervals of work. The greater part of them, that is, all the able men, before the saw-mills came up, could have put by at least 1l. Before the saw-mills were established, a pair of sawyers have, during the whole year, earned 5l. a week; they have acknowledged to me, in blaming their own improvidence, that there have been times when they have earned as much as 10l. a-week; they have acknowledged also that when they have been earning money they have never taken their families more than 1l. a-week regularly; they have paid rent and bought coals besides; but they have themselves lived at the public-house with the rest of their money. Barge-builders are men who could save money; they have 6s. a-day standing wages. The coal-porters earn a great deal; they have been known to get as much as 9s. or 10s. a-day, but they are very rarely known to save anything81 ."
Mr. Robert Oldershaw, vestry clerk of Islington,—
"Amongst the able-bodied labourers are many brick-makers, men who, during seven or eight months in the year, work hard and obtain very high wages. They sometimes earn 6l., 8l., or 10l. a-week per gang. Some of these gangs are children. The adults will, I have been informed, earn from 2l. to 3l., 4l., or 5l. a-week. The head of the gang, I am informed, often earns as much as 5l. per week. They drink much beer, and perhaps their labour requires it; but they might, out of their wages, wholly, or in part, make provision for the winter, if they were so inclined; but they spend all; they make no provision whatever for the winter, and when the weather sets in, they throw themselves upon the parish as a customary thing. We have tried to make savings' banks available against this course of improvidence, but without effect. Formerly, however, their wives have made small deposits in the savings' banks to provide for their confinement, or the payment of their rent in the winter, unknown to their husbands. If their husbands knew they had the money, they would beat them to force it from them, and would then spend it improvidently. I was a member of the savings' bank, and have seen the poor women bring their little pittances there. They have besought me to keep it secret from their husbands82 ."
Mr. Money, builder and master brick-maker, Shaw-cum-Donnington, Berkshire, was asked with respect to the men in his own employment, of the class adverted to by the last witness,—
"What do you think would be the effect of an enactment enabling the parish to order the employers of men of this class to receive a portion of their wages to repay the parochial expenditure of the winter?—This would be of great advantage, and I believe would be entirely practicable.
"You would perhaps say that if the deduction were too great, he would abscond?—There is certainly that danger.
"What deduction do you think might be made from a brick-maker's wages without material danger of his absconding?—I think, in the instance of any labourer in my employment, a deduction might be made, from Lady-day to Michaelmas, of about 5s. a-week.
"I should recommend that no relief whatever be given to able-bodied single men or women, but let the officers have authority to advance small sums of money by way of loan, upon receiving some acknowledgment or security for the repayment of the same. With regard to applicants for relief who may have families, or where there is sickness, the local board should have discretionary power either to relieve them under the same conditions, or otherwise, according to the circumstances of the case, and when the parties get into work, the overseer should have the same power of recovering the sum advanced from their employers, either by instalments or otherwise, as they now have of claiming seamen's wages in the merchants' service, or the pension for past services in the navy or army, for money advanced either to the parties themselves, or to their families. There is a provision already made to authorize overseers to advance small sums of money in this way; but there is no power to enable the overseers to enforce a repayment of the money so advanced from the employers83 ."
Mr. Hollands, some time vestry clerk of Bermondsey, examined,—
"When in office I found that the provisions of the 59th Geo. III. c. 12, enabling parish officers to stop the wages of merchant seamen, and to receive those of men in the king's service, were provisions of the greatest utility. They were satisfactory to the well-disposed poor, and the parishes were greatly benefited. I have had deserted wives express the highest gratitude for wages saved from vagabond and unprincipled husbands. I have no doubt that these provisions might be profitably extended to all classes of workmen. Parish officers would not make the deduction from wages too heavy84 ."
In the returns of the occupations of the depositors of the savings' banks, we have found a number of mechanics of each of the large classes, whose unworthy members we see in the condition of paupers. These habits detract extensively from the support of savings' banks and friendly societies, so meritoriously sustained by a large proportion of the working classes. Eleemosynary aid, even in cases of sickness, to those who, from their condition, will probably have wherewithal to repay it, is a bounty on improvidence. Statements to the following effect have been made to us from various quarters:—
"We are of opinion," say the trustees of the Mary-le-bone Savings' Banks, "that, if the facilities given to the able-bodied of obtaining parochial relief or public charity (and we are induced to lay much stress upon the latter) were removed, the number of members of such institutions as ours would be increased.
"We are unable to state in what proportion the increase would take place; but we think that, wherever any considerable number of a class of labourers and others are found to be depositors in banks for savings, almost all such persons might follow their example, and probably would do so, were they not encouraged in their thoughtless and improvident habits by the expectation of obtaining relief from some established public charity in almost every circumstance of difficulty or distress to which they can be exposed85 ."
The Rev. William Otter, vicar of Kinlet, Salop, states,—
"When I first came to this living, the landlord and myself persuaded the farmers to join in the establishment of an institution which was intended to combine the advantages of a sick club and a savings' bank. In the former capacity, after doing some good, it has gradually declined, because it was found difficult to make the members contribute steadily and regularly; and there seemed, besides, to be a notion prevalent that, in case of sickness, the parish doctor might always be had recourse to for nothing."86
On this subject, as well as the general question of the poor-laws, we have had ample evidence tendered by some of the most respectable of the workpeople themselves. Launcelot Snowdon, the witness whose evidence we have before cited, was asked,—
"Do you find any effect produced by men obtaining parochial relief readily, when they are out of work, or have anything the matter with them?—I have always seen that men who have had parish relief have been very careless of work and of their money ever afterwards. It has also acted very mischievously on the benefit societies, as these men would never contribute to them. We had a large and very good society of our own, which failed some time ago, and I have known the societies of other trades fail: and it has been a common complaint amongst us, that, but for the parish, they would have stood firm. I am myself confident, that, but for the parish, they would have stood firm.
"Do you think that rendering a workman's wages attachable, when in work, as repayment for any relief which he may have had from the parish, would be serviceable as a remedy for the evil you have mentioned?—Yes, I think it would be highly useful in every point of view. I have no great hopes of the old ones who have had parish relief, but I have no doubt that it would make many of the young ones subscribe, and keep themselves from the parish.
"Do you think the body of operatives with whom you are acquainted would agree with you in this view?—Of course those who have been paupers would not agree; but all the respectable workmen would decidedly agree. I think that, in instances of real misfortune, which I have known occur, it would be thought better of, if the relief was given as a loan, and not as a charity. But the workmen would generally object to any compulsory payment to guard against future liabilities.
"Do you think the process of collecting this sort of repayment would be difficult?—I think not."
A large proportion of those who become in any way chargeable to the parish, are incapable of self-control, or of altering their habits and making any reservation of money when once it is in their possession, although they acknowledge their obligations, and are satisfied to perform them.
It appears that, from the Chelsea pensioners, there are about 3500 quarterly assignments, or 14,000 annual assignments, of pensions to parish officers, and 1480 pensions annually claimed by virtue of magistrates' orders, in cases in which pensioners have allowed their wives or families to become chargeable to the parish; and that from the Greenwich out-pensioners, 1200 pensions, amounting to 12,530l., were attached and recovered last year. The parish officers examined upon this subject agree, that, but for the provisions of the Act, the whole amount of these pensions would be lost to the parish, and would be injuriously wasted by the pensioners, from their incapacity to take care of large sums of money.
Any collection from the labourer himself must be weekly, and the labour of collecting these small instalments would often prevent its being undertaken; but if wages were attached in the hands of the master, the payments might be at longer intervals, or in liquidation at once of the whole demand.
Tradesmen declare that they should feel it no grievance to be compelled to make reservation of wages to satisfy such demands, and that whatever money was recovered, would be recovered from the ginshop. The more important object of the measure is the reimposing motives to frugality on those who possess the means of being frugal; on this account we consider that it would be deserving of adoption, though the greater number of labourers defeated the claims upon them by absconding. By a tolerably vigilant administration of the proposed law, however, much money might be recovered from them. A large proportion of the labour of the classes in question is of a nature not to be found everywhere. A tailor may run away, but a brickmaker can only get work in the brick-fields, where he may be found. During the period when the labourer is in the receipt of full wages, if he spend them he will have in prospect the necessity of absconding in search of work at the commencement of another season; and if subjection during the interval to strict workhouse regulation be comprehended in the view, there can be little doubt that he will often be impelled to have recourse to the savings' banks to avoid the inconvenience.
It appears, then, that if power were given to parish officers of attaching wages, or of ordering the reservation of such instalments as they deemed expedient for the liquidation of debts due to the parish, a proportion of those debts would be recovered.
We are further of opinion that such a measure might be made still more useful, if the principle on which the 29th, 30th, 31st, and 32nd clauses of the 59th Geo. III., cap. 12, are founded, were acted on more extensively. The 29th clause enables the officer to whom it appears that the applicant for relief might, but for his extravagance, neglect, or willful misconduct, have been able to maintain himself, or to support his family, to advance money to him weekly, or otherwise, by way of loan. It appears from our evidence that in some places this clause has been acted upon beneficially, but that in general little use is made of it, partly because a person who has not been guilty of extravagance, neglect, or wilful misconduct, is excluded from its operation, and partly because the existence of the clause is not notorious. It appears to us advisable that, under regulations to be framed by the Central Board, parishes should be empowered to treat any relief afforded to the able-bodied, or to their families, and any expenditure in the workhouse, or otherwise incurred on their account, as a loan, and recoverable, not only in the mode pointed out by the clause to which we have referred, but also by attachment of their wages, in a way resembling that in which the 30th, 31st, and 32d clauses of the same Act direct the attachment of pensions and seamen's wages.
WE THEREFORE RECOMMEND, THAT UNDER REGULATIONS TO BE FRAMED BY THE CENTRAL BOARD, PARISHES BE EMPOWERED TO TREAT ANY RELIEF AFFORDED TO THE ABLE-BODIED, OR TO THEIR FAMILIES, AND ANY EXPENDITURE IN THE WORKHOUSES, OR OTHERWISE INCURRED ON THEIR ACCOUNT, AS A LOAN, AND RECOVERABLE NOT ONLY BY THE MEANS GIVEN BY THE 29TH SECTION OF THE 59TH GEO. III., C. 12, BUT ALSO BY ATTACHMENT OF THEIR SUBSEQUENT WAGES, IN A MODE RESEMBLING THAT POINTED OUT IN THE 30TH, 31ST, AND 32D SECTIONS OF THAT ACT.
In our recommendation of the prohibition of partial relief to the families of the able-bodied, we proposed that relief by apprenticing should, to a certain extent, be excepted from that prohibition. In the instructions given by us to our Assistant-Commissioners, we directed them to ascertain "the practice in the different parishes as to the apprenticing of poor children, inquiring to what class of persons they are apprenticed, and whether such persons take them voluntarily or by compulsion, and if the latter, according to what principle they are distributed; whether any and what care is taken to see that they are well treated and taught; and whether there are any grounds for supposing that a power to bind for less than seven years would be expedient."
But we regret to say that we have received less information on this subject than on any other. The most important is that collected by Captain Chapman87 and Mr. Villiers88 , but even that is contradictory; and if it were consistent, too meagre to afford grounds for legislation. It is a mode of relief expressly pointed out by the 43d of Elizabeth, and so much interwoven with the habits of the people in many districts, that we should hesitate, even if its evils were much more clearly ascertained, and even if we believed that those evils will not be much diminished by the alteration which we shall propose respecting settlement, to recommend its abolition until it has been made the subject of further inquiry, and until the effects of the measures now likely to be introduced have been ascertained by experience.
At the same time we think it probable, perhaps we might say certain, that further inquiry will show that the laws respecting the relief to be afforded by means of apprenticeship are capable of improvement, particularly those portions of them which render the reception of a parish apprentice compulsory.
WE RECOMMEND, THEREFORE, THAT THE CENTRAL BOARD BE EMPOWERED TO MAKE SUCH REGULATIONS AS THEY SHALL THINK FIT RESPECTING THE RELIEF TO BE AFFORDED BY APPRENTICING CHILDREN, AND THAT AT A FUTURE PERIOD, WHEN THE EFFECT OF THE PROPOSED ALTERATIONS SHALL HAVE BEEN SEEN, THE CENTRAL BOARD BE REQUIRED TO MAKE A SPECIAL INQUIRY INTO THE OPERATION OF THE LAWS RESPECTING THE APPRENTICING CHILDREN AT THE EXPENSE OF PARISHES, AND INTO THE OPERATION OF THE REGULATIONS IN THAT RESPECT WHICH THE BOARD SHALL HAVE ENFORCED.
On the subject of vagrancy, a large mass of evidence is contained in the Appendix, particularly in the Reports of Mr. Bishop89 , Mr. Codd90 , Captain Chapman91 , and Mr. Henderson92 . It appears from this evidence, that vagrancy has actually been converted into a trade, and not an unprofitable one; and it also appears, that the severe and increasing burden arises from the vagrants by trade, not from those on account of destitution. We state, in proof of this, and the statement is more valuable, as it points out the remedy as well as the cause of the evil, that in those few districts in which the relief has been such as only the really destitute will accept, the resort of vagrants has ceased, or been so much diminished as to become only a trifling inconvenience. But it appears vain to expect the remedy from detailed statutory provisions. The tendency of legislation respecting the poor to aggravate the evils which it was intended to cure, a tendency which we have so often remarked, is strikingly exemplified in that portion of it which respects vagrancy. The early statutes attempted to repress it by severity. "This part of our history," says Dr. Burn, "looks like the history of the savages in America. Almost all severities have been exercised against vagrants except scalping; and as one severity fell short, it seemed naturally to follow that a greater was necessary." But such was their effect, that every successive preamble admits the inefficiency of the former law down to the 1st and 2d Geo. IV., c. 64, which recites, "that the provisions theretofore made, and then in force, relative to the apprehending and passing of vagrants, were productive of great expense, and that great frauds and abuses were committed in the execution thereof;" and to the 5th Geo. IV., c. 83, which declares that it is expedient to make further provision for the suppression of vagrancy. Nor has the last-mentioned Act been more successful than those which preceded it. As one among many instances in which its provisions have been perverted, we will mention the effect of the 15th clause, which allows the visiting justice of prisons to grant a certificate, or other instrument, enabling any person discharged from prison to receive relief on his route to his place of settlement. The intention of the clause was to enable prisoners, after having undergone their punishment or trial, to go from prison to their own homes without temptation to further crime. The effect has been "for the benefit of the pass" to convey into prisons paupers, and families of paupers, as if the legislature intended that they and their children should have all the terrors of a prison obliterated from their minds, and receive instruction in the worst schools of vice; as if provision ought to be made to increase the stock of juvenile delinquents, already more numerous in England than in any other European country. By what foresight could the benevolent author of this clause have guarded against such an administration of the enactment as that of which one of the witnesses, a gaoler, thus describes? "It is a melancholy thing that poor people are sent into prison as vagrants that they may be passed home. There is now a mother, a widow with five children, under my care; the boys are from five to fifteen years of age. The mother was committed, not for any crime, but having been found sitting in the open air. Now what, I beg to ask, can be the effect of sending these children with their mother to a gaol? What can they not learn? In general, vagrants are told that they are sent to prison, not for their punishment, but for their benefit. Prisons should not, in any case, as I humbly conceive, be held out as places where people are to be benefited. They are now looked upon as a places of relief, and the large class of vagrants are told that they are sent to prison avowedly for their advantage93 ."
"When the law," says another witness, "was made restricting pauper passes to Scotch and Irish, very few for a time came to Westmoreland or Cumberland; but the vagrants soon found that they might easily resume their trade by swearing they belonged to those countries; and the expense became as large as ever. When this again was checked by making the contract for a fixed sum annually, to convey all paupers with passes by cart through the country, the number of vagrants calling themselves discharged prisoners (and therefore not subject to these regulations) began to increase, and has continued to do so progressively94 ."
Feeling convinced that vagrancy will cease to be a burthen, if the relief given to vagrants is such as only the really destitute will accept; feeling convinced that this cannot be effected unless the system is general; and also convinced that no exactments to be executed by parochial officers will in all parishes be rigidly adhered to, unless under the influence of strict superintendence and control,—WE RECOMMEND THAT THE CENTRAL BOARD BE EMPOWERED AND DIRECTED TO FRAME AND ENFORCE REGULATIONS AS TO THE RELIEF TO BE AFFORDED TO VAGRANTS AND DISCHARGED PRISONERS.
We have now given a brief outline of the functions, for the due performance of which we deem a new agency, or Central Board of Control, to be requisite; and we have inserted none which the evidence would warrant us in believing attainable by any existing agency. The length of this Report precludes the statement, in further detail, of the powers and duties of the proposed board. The extent of those powers and duties must be measured by the extent and inveteracy of the existing evils, and by the failure, or worse than failure, of the measures by which their removal has been attempted. If for that purpose the powers which we have recommended are necessary, to withhold those powers is to decree the continuance of the evil. The powers with which we recommend that they should be invested are in fact the powers now exercised by 15,000 sets of annual officers. By far the majority of those officers are ignorant of their duties, influenced by their affections, interests and fears, and restrained by scarcely any real responsibility. The Commissioners would act upon the widest information, under the direct control of the legislature and the supervision of the public, and under no liability to pecuniary or private bias, partiality or intimidation. They would have the immediate advantage of having well-defined objects assigned to them, powerful means at their disposal, and clear rules for their guidance; and they would soon have the aid of varied and extensive experience; and it appears to us, that the best means of preventing their negligent or improper use of the discretion with which it appears to be necessary to invest them will be, not to restrict that discretion, but to render their interest coincident with their duty, and to let them be removable at Your Majesty's pleasure.
We entertain, however, no hope, that the complicated evils with which we have to contend, will all be eradicated by the measures which we now propose. The mischiefs which have arisen during a legislation of more than 300 years, must require the legislation of more than one Session for their correction. In order to secure the progressive improvement from which alone we hope for an ultimate cure; and in order to bring the proceedings of the Commissioners more constantly and completely within the superintendence of the executive and the legislature, we propose that the Commissioners should be charged with the duty, similar to that which we now endeavour to perform, of periodically reporting their proceedings, and suggesting any further legislation which may appear to them to be desirable.
WE RECOMMEND, THEREFORE, THAT THE BOARD BE REQUIRED TO SUBMIT A REPORT ANNUALLY, TO ONE OF YOUR MAJESTY'S PRINCIPAL SECRETARIES OF STATE, CONTAINING—1. AN ACCOUNT OF THEIR PROCEEDINGS; 2. ANY FURTHER AMENDMENTS WHICH THEY MAY THINK IT ADVISABLE TO SUGGEST; 3. THE EVIDENCE ON WHICH THE SUGGESTIONS ARE FOUNDED; 4. BILLS CARRYING THOSE AMENDMENTS (IF ANY) INTO EFFECT, WHICH BILLS THE BOARD SHALL BE EMPOWERED TO PREPARE WITH PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE.
We consider that three Commissioners might transact the business of the Central Board. The number of the Commissioners should be small, as they should habitually act with promptitude, as responsibility for efficiency should not be weakened by discredit being divided amongst a larger number, and as the Board, whenever the labour pressed too severely, might avail themselves of the aid of their assistants. The Central Board would probably require eight or ten Assistant Commissioners, to examine the administration of relief in different districts, and aid the preparations for local changes. As the Central Board would be responsible for the performance of the duties imposed upon them by the legislature,—
WE RECOMMEND THAT THE CENTRAL BOARD BE EMPOWERED TO APPOINT AND REMOVE THEIR ASSISTANTS AND ALL THEIR SUBORDINATE OFFICERS.
[Part II, Section 4]
FURTHER LEGISLATIVE AMENDMENT
We now proceed to two of the most difficult and most important of the questions submitted to us: the Laws respecting Settlement and Bastardy.
We have seen that the liability to a change of settlement by hiring and service, apprenticeship, purchasing or renting a tenement, and estate, are productive of great inconvenience and fraud; and it does not appear that those frauds and inconveniences are compensated by any advantage whatsoever. We have seen that these heads of settlement were introduced as qualifications of an arbitrary power of removal, and then indeed they were necessary. If they had not been created, the parish officers would have been empowered to confine almost every man to the place of his birth. Now that power is at an end. No man can be removed until he himself, by applying for relief, gives jurisdiction to the magistrates. The slightest evil arising from enactments, the motive for which has ceased, would be a sufficient ground for their repeal. It has been shown, however, that the evils are very great. We recommend, therefore, the immediate but prospective abolition of all these heads of settlement. For this recommendation we have the sanction of the great majority of those whose opinions we have taken. It is true that those opinions advocate most strongly the repeal of settlement by hiring and service, apprenticeship and renting a tenement, and with respect to the last, rather recommend raising the rent necessary to give a settlement from 10l. a year to 20l., or some larger sum, than the abrogation of the law. It appears, that the witnesses are led thus to restrict their recommendations chiefly from the circumstance that these are the most common modes of settlement, and therefore those of which the evil is most apparent, and that all the grounds which exist for making a change of settlement by renting a tenement more difficult, are also grounds for making it impossible. And we believe that if these modes of settlement are destroyed, and settlement by purchase and estate are allowed to continue, we shall be holding out temptation to perjury and fraud, not only without an adequate motive on our part, if any motive could be adequate, but with no motive whatever.
WE RECOMMEND, THEREFORE, THAT SETTLEMENT BY HIRING AND SERVICE, APPRENTICESHIP, PURCHASING OR RENTING A TENEMENT, ESTATE, PAYING RATES, OR SERVING AN OFFICE, BE ABOLISHED.
There will remain parentage, birth, and marriage; with respect to parentage, however, there is this difficulty. If while the modes by which a male can lose his settlement are abolished, settlement by parentage is continued unaltered, and every male child is to acquire his father's settlement, to have no means of changing it, and to transmit it, equally unchangeable, to his children and his children's children, settlement will in time be reduced to a question of pedigree, and the expense of ascertaining it become intolerable. On the other hand, if settlement by parentage is totally abolished, the parents and their infant children will often be settled in different parishes.
It appears to us that the best mode of meeting these difficulties is to continue settlement by parentage during that period of a child's life during which it is dependent on its parents, and to put an end to it at the age at which that dependence has so nearly ceased as to render their separation comparatively unimportant. This age may be said, in general, to commence at fifteen or sixteen years. At fifteen or sixteen a child can generally earn his own maintenance, and if his parents cannot maintain him, it cannot be advisable that he should continue a member of their family.
WE RECOMMEND, THEREFORE, THAT (SUBJECT TO THE OBVIOUS EXCEPTIONS OF PERSONS BORN IN PRISONS, HOSPITALS, AND WORKHOUSES) THE SETTLEMENT OF EVERY LEGITIMATE CHILD BORN AFTER THE PASSING OF THE INTENDED ACT, FOLLOW THAT OF THE PARENTS OR SURVIVING PARENT OF SUCH CHILD, UNTIL SUCH CHILD SHALL ATTAIN THE AGE OF SIXTEEN YEARS, OR THE DEATH OF ITS SURVIVING PARENT; AND THAT AT THE AGE OF SIXTEEN, OR ON THE DEATH OF ITS SURVIVING PARENT, SUCH CHILD SHALL BE CONSIDERED SETTLED IN THE PLACE IN WHICH IT WAS BORN.
It will be seen that we do not recommend the introduction of settlement by residence. We are aware of the advantages of that mode of settlement; it is the most natural and the most obvious, and its adoption would often prevent inconvenience to particular parishes, from the return, in age or infirmity, of those who have left them in youth and vigour, and inconvenience to the paupers themselves, from being removed from friends and residences to which they have become attached, to places in which they have become strangers.
But these advantages, great as they are, appear to us to be over-balanced by objections still more powerful. It appears from the evidence, that the existing modes by which a settlement can be changed are productive of perjury and fraud, and that they tend to injure the employers of labour by restricting them in the choice of their servants,—the owners of property, by distributing the labouring families according to rules not depending on the demand for their services, or the fund for their support,—and above all, the labourers themselves, by depriving them of the power of selling all that they have, their labour, to the best advantage. We fear that settlement by residence would aggravate all these evils. At present, a labourer may be steadily employed for years in a place in which he is not settled, by means of successive hirings, each hiring being for less than a year. But if settlement by residence were adopted, this would be impossible. We should have the constant occurrence of one of the worst consequences of the existing law, the separation of master and man notwithstanding their mutual utility, and their mutual attachment, to the injury of both, but to the greater injury of the most numerous and the most helpless class,—the labourers. Again, the demolition of cottages, and the forcing the agricultural population into the towns and the parishes in which property is much divided, though we fear that they must, to a certain degree, arise under any law of settlement whatever, would be much promoted by a law which would fix on a parish every labourer who should have been allowed to reside there for any given period, unless the period were so long as to render the law almost inoperative. Another objection to settlement by residence, which has been dwelt on by many of our most intelligent witnesses, arises from its effect on the unsettled labourers. At present they are confessedly superior, both in morals and in industry, to those who are settled in the parishes in which they reside. Make that residence give a settlement, and they will fall back into the general mass. With respect to the hardship on those who may be removed, we must repeat, 1st, that a person who applies to be maintained out of the produce of the industry or frugality of others, must accept that relief on the terms which the public good requires; and 2ndly, that in the small proportion of cases in which his claim is not founded on his own indolence, or improvidence, or misconduct, the duty of rescuing him from the hardship of a removal, falls peculiarly within the province of private and uncompulsory charity; a virtue so deeply implanted by providence in human nature, that even the existing system has rather misdirected than destroyed, or even materially diminished it.
We further recommend that, instead of the present mode of first removing a pauper, and then inquiring whether the removal was lawful, the inquiry should precede the removal. We find this measure in a Bill brought into the House of Commons in 1819, and printed in the Parliamentary Papers of that year, Number 211. That Bill empowers the Justice who shall order a removal to suspend its execution, and to forward (which might be effected through the Post-Office) a copy of the examination of the pauper, and of the order of removal, to the overseers of the parish in which the pauper has been adjudged to be settled. It then enables the parties who think themselves aggrieved by the order to appeal to the quarter-sessions within twenty-eight days, and the sessions to decide on the question as if the removal had actually taken place. In the absence of appeal, the order is to be conclusive. The expediency of this measure is so obvious, that it is difficult to account for its rejection in 1819, unless we are to believe a tradition, that it was defeated by a combination of persons interested in creating litigation and expense.
It will be observed, that in our exposition of the evils arising from the law of settlement, we have not dwelt on the expense of litigation and removals; we have passed it over slightly, not because we doubt its magnitude, but because we believe that in this, as in every other branch of the evils connected with the administration of the Poor-Laws, the pecuniary loss, great as it may be, is utterly unimportant when compared with the moral mischief. The collection, burthensome as it is, is far less ruinous than the expenditure. If twice the number of millions were annually thrown into the sea, we might still be a moral, industrious, and flourishing nation. But if the whole of our poor-rates could be raised without inconvenience; if they were paid to us, for instance, as a tribute by foreigners, and were still applied as they are now applied, no excellence in our laws and institutions in other respects could save us from ultimate ruin. And we must add, that we think it would be rash to expect, from the alterations which we have recommended in the law of settlement, much diminution of expense.
Some diminution, however, we anticipate from them, particularly with respect to litigation. The simplicity of the rule which we propose will exclude all questions of law, and in all cases reduce the question to a matter of fact; and when a general registration of births shall have been established, a measure which cannot be long delayed, the proof of the fact of birth will be much easier. We anticipate, however, a much further diminution, both of litigation and removals, from the operation of our general measures. In proportion as there is an approximation to uniformity of management, the motives on the part of paupers, to shift from a parish where there may be rigid management or "a bad parish," to a parish where there is profuse management or "a good parish," will decrease. In proportion as there is an approximation to our main object, that of rendering the condition of the able-bodied pauper less eligible on the whole than that of the independent labourer, it is proved by all experience, that the able-bodied will cease to avail themselves of any settlement whatever, whether immediate or distant.
Mr. Thomas Langley, out-door inspector of the parish of Marylebone, a witness whose evidence has already been cited, was asked, What effect regulations upon the principle last mentioned would have upon removals, and upon the general operation of the law of settlement? He answers—
"I think the law of settlement would then be of very little consequence. Where a pauper has a doubtful settlement, it is now our practice to offer him labour, or to take him into the workhouse, as an experiment. We even take families in, and we now, under all our disadvantages, get rid of three out of four of such cases. If we were under such regulations as would make a pauper's condition, whether in or out of the workhouse, not so good as the condition of a hardworking labourer of the lowest class, the experiment being much cheaper, we should naturally resort to it more frequently. In fact, if such regulations were established, I think we should very seldom incur the expense and trouble, or the risks, of a removal in any case.
"Would the law of settlement remain then of any consequence in any case?—I do not know that it would; I cannot see that it would95 ."
And in order to afford further facilities to the proof of a birth settlement,—WE RECOMMEND THAT WHENEVER THERE SHALL BE ANY QUESTION REGARDING THE SETTLEMENT BY BIRTH OF A PERSON, WHETHER LEGITIMATE OR ILLEGITIMATE, AND WHETHER BORN BEFORE OR AFTER THE PASSING OF THE INTENDED ACT, THE PLACE WHERE SUCH PERSON SHALL HAVE BEEN FIRST KNOWN BY THE EVIDENCE OF SUCH PERSON, BY THE REGISTER OF HIS OR HER BIRTH OR BAPTISM OR OTHERWISE TO HAVE EXISTED, SHALL BE PRESUMED TO HAVE BEEN THE PLACE OF HIS OR HER BIRTH, UNTIL THE CONTRARY SHALL BE PROVED.
With respect to the BASTARDY laws, the evidence shows, that, as a general rule, they increase the expense which they were intended to compensate, and offer temptations to the crime which they were intended to punish, and that their working is frequently accompanied by perjury and extortion, disgrace to the innocent, and reward to the shameless and unprincipled, and all the domestic misery and vice which are the necessary consequence of premature and ill-assorted marriage. We advise, therefore, their entire abolition.
What we propose in their room is intended to restore things, as far as it is possible, to the state in which they would have been if no such laws had ever existed; to trust to those checks, and to those checks only, which Providence has imposed on licentiousness, under the conviction that all attempts of the Legislature to increase their force, or to substitute for them artificial sanctions, have tended only to weaken or pervert them.
FIRST, with respect to the Child.—In the natural state of things, a child, until emancipated, depends on its parents. Their legal domicile, or, as it is technically called, place of settlement, is also the settlement of their offspring. And such is the existing law with respect to legitimate children. Only one of the parents of an illegitimate child can be ascertained. WE RECOMMEND THAT THE GENERAL RULE SHALL BE FOLLOWED, AS FAR AS IT IS POSSIBLE, AND THAT EVERY ILLEGITIMATE CHILD BORN AFTER THE PASSING OF THE ACT, SHALL, UNTIL IT ATTAIN THE AGE OF SIXTEEN, FOLLOW ITS MOTHER'S SETTLEMENT. The immediate effect will be to prevent a great amount of waste, suffering, and demoralization. At present an unmarried pregnant female, though asking for no relief, is hunted from parish to parish, her feelings deadened by exposure, and her means of supporting herself and her child destroyed, and all this evil is incurred merely to save expense to the parish in which she is resident, at the much greater expense of the parish to which she is removed. We feel confident that if the woman were allowed to remain unmolested until she asked relief, she would, in many cases, by her own exertions, and the assistance of her friends, succeed in maintaining herself and her infant; but, as the law now stands, she has not power and inducement to do this. If she is settled in the parish in which her pregnancy took place, she has no inducement. The parish offers her a pension, generally equaling often exceeding, her incumbrance, to be obtain without any additional disgrace. If she is unsettled, she has no power. However willing or anxious she may be to toil for her own and her child's subsistence, rather than to be dragged in shame to the scene of her youth, she is not allowed the choice. The officers know, that if the child is born in their parish, they are responsible for its support throughout life, and for the support of its posterity. The consequences which her removal will produce to the child, to the mother, and to her parish, are no concern of theirs. They remove her as a matter of course.
SECONDLY, with respect to the Mother.—AS A FURTHER STEP TOWARDS THE NATURAL STATE OF THINGS, WE RECOMMEND THAT THE MOTHER OF AN ILLEGITIMATE CHILD BORN AFTER THE PASSING OF THE ACT, BE REQUIRED TO SUPPORT IT, AND THAT ANY RELIEF OCCASIONED BY THE WANTS OF THE CHILD BE CONSIDERED RELIEF AFFORDED TO THE PARENT. This is now the law with respect to a widow; and an unmarried mother has voluntarily put herself into the situation of a widow: she has voluntarily become a mother, without procuring to herself and her child the assistance of a husband and a father. There can be no reason for giving to vice privileges which we deny to misfortune.
This course, or a course as nearly resembling it as the existing law will allow, has been tried, and with uniform success. "In Swallowfield, Berks," says Mr. Russell, "a few years ago we adopted the practice of paying to the mother as much only of the allowance from the father as was absolutely necessary for the immediate support of the child. The effect upon the mother was precisely what we expected and desired it to be; and, if we could have persevered in the practice, I have no doubt it would have been productive of very salutary consequences; but a question having arisen as to its legality, we were compelled reluctantly to abandon it. At present a bastard child, instead of being an incumbrance, is a source of profit to the mother96 ."
In Cookham, Berks, the same plan was adopted and persevered in by Mr. Whately. The result has been, that in a population of 3337 persons, but one bastard has been christened during each of the last five years. In 1822 there were twenty-six bastards; now ten years after, notwithstanding the increase of population, there are but five97 .
It appears, from Mr. Cowell's Report, that at Bingham, in Nottinghamshire, as soon as the parish adopted measures which prevented the mothers from recurring to the parish, bastardy, which had been previously prevalent, almost ceased. For the first three years there was not one illegitimate birth in the parish, except in the case of a woman who was an idiot, and for the last twelve there appears to have been only one woman who has had a second98 . The same principle has been acted on, and for a longer period, with equal success, in the United States. An instructive article on the Poor Laws, in the twenty-seventh number of the American Quarterly Review, the part of which relating to America we have inserted in Appendix (F.) states, that—
"In Boston, Baltimore, and Salem, the principle has long been acted upon, that the public will not undertake to bring up illegitimate children, without expense to the mother. The consequence is, that in 1826, but ten cases came under the notice of the public officers at Boston, and but two at Salem; while in Baltimore the public was put to no expense whatever in regard to them. In the same year, in Philadelphia, the number of bastards under the care of the guardians of the poor was two hundred and seventy-two99 ."
Further evidence in favour of this plan is afforded by the conduct of those whom it would principally affect, the labouring classes themselves. Mr. Tidd Pratt, to whose evidence we have so often referred, was asked,—
"What is the course adopted by the labouring classes in their friendly societies, with regard to illegitimate children?—He answered, In female societies, which are numerous and increasing, they utterly deprive the parties of relief, and expel them. In male societies they allow no benefit on the birth of a child, unless such child is born in wedlock. In those societies which allow an annuity or other payment to a widow on the death of a member, such benefit is forfeited by her having lived apart from her husband during his lifetime, or having had an illegitimate child after his death. Their Rules are usually of the tenor of the following:
"We do also agree to and with each other, that if any widow pensioner of this society, who shall be proved to be with child, or be delivered of a child, either alive or still-born, at any time after she has been a widow eleven months, that then and from thenceforth every such widow shall forfeit all her right and title to the pension of ten pounds per annum, and to be for ever debarred from every part thereof100 ."
"No benefit will be allowed for the birth or death of a child that is not born in wedlock."101
"Then in all cases they utterly disallow relief to a woman who has a bastard child?—Yes, both male and female societies."
In those classes of society which are above the labouring classes, the burthen of supporting an illegitimate child, in the first instance, falls of course on the mother. The labouring classes throw it upon her when they frame regulations for themselves. It appears, therefore, that the plan of exempting her has been rejected wherever there has been the power of rejecting it, and has been adopted only where one class has legislated for another.
One great advantage which will follow from giving an unmarried mother no advantage over a widow with a legitimate child, will be, that her parents will be forced, if it is necessary, to contribute to her support and to that of her infant. In a natural state of things they must do so, whether the child be legitimate or not; and when we consider that, in the vast majority of cases, the neglect or ill example, and in many cases the actual furtherance of those parents has occasioned their daughter's misconduct, it appears not only just, but most useful, that they should be answerable for it.
WE RECOMMEND THAT THE SAME LIABILITY BE EXTENDED TO HER HUSBAND. The general law of the country throws on the husband all his wife's liabilities; he is bound to pay her debts, he is answerable for her engagements, even though he may not have been aware of them, though they may have been carefully concealed from him; and there seems no reason why this peculiar liability, a liability which must almost always be notorious to him, should be excepted. We certainly consider it no objection that this will make it more difficult for a woman who has misconducted herself to obtain a husband: and we must add, that if this plan be not adopted, it will be difficult to follow out the system of giving no relief to the child independently of the mother, and of giving that relief in the workhouse.
ON THE OTHER HAND, WE RECOMMEND THE REPEAL OF THAT PART OF THE 35 GEO. III., C. 101, s. 6, WHICH MAKES AN UNMARRIED PREGNANT WOMAN REMOVABLE, AND THE 50 GEO. III. c. 51, s. 2, WHICH AUTHORIZES THE COMMITTAL OF THE MOTHER OF A CHARGEABLE BASTARD TO THE HOUSE OF CORRECTION. The first of these enactments will cease to be applicable as soon as the child follows the mother's settlement. The second appears, by the evidence, to produce on the whole much more harm than good, and we object to them both as unnecessary interferences. If our previous recommendations are adopted, a bastard will be, what Providence appears to have ordained that it should be, a burthen on its mother, and, where she cannot maintain it, on her parents. The shame of the offence will not be destroyed by its being the means of income and marriage, and we trust that as soon as it has become both burthensome and disgraceful, it will become as rare as it is among those classes in this country who are above parish relief, or as it is among all classes in Ireland. If we are right in believing the penalties inflicted by nature to be sufficient, it is needless to urge further objections to any legal punishment. We may add, however, that the effect of any such punishment would probably be mischievous, not only by imposing unnecessary suffering on the offender, but by making her an object of sympathy.
THIRDLY, as to the Father.—In affirming the inefficiency of human legislation to enforce the restraints placed on licentiousness by Providence, we have implied our belief, that all punishment of the supposed father is useless. We believe that it is worse than useless. Without considering the numerous cases in which that punishment falls upon the innocent, without dwelling upon the perjury by which that injustice is accomplished, we will confine ourselves to the effect produced on the woman's mind by her power of calling for that punishment. That power is the security to which the woman looks at present; she expects that the parish will right her. If she is ill disposed, this adds to the force of her temptation; if she is well disposed, this removes the prop which should support her self-control. Marriage will always be preferred by the woman if she can attain it, and she ought not to be placed in circumstances in which marriage shall be most easily attainable by previous concession.
"One day," says a witness examined by Mr. Chadwick, "I went into the house of one of the people who work at the chalk quarries at North-fleet, to buy fossils, and a young woman came in for a few minutes whose appearance clearly showed approach to maternity. When she went out, I said to the woman of the house, 'Poor girl, she has been unfortunate.' She replied, 'Indeed she has, poor girl, and a virtuous, good girl she is too. The fellow has betrayed her, and gone to sea.' I said, 'She should not have trusted him till she had been at church.' To this observation the woman replied, and let me observe her own children were all about her, 'What could she do, poor girl? if she did not do as other girls do, she would never get a husband. Girls are often deceived, and how can they help it102 ?'"
WE RECOMMEND THEREFORE THAT THE SECOND SECTION OF THE 18 ELIZ. CAP. 3, AND ALL OTHER ACTS WHICH PUNISH OR CHARGE THE PUTATIVE FATHER OF A BASTARD, SHALL, AS TO ALL BASTARDS BORN AFTER THE PASSING OF THE INTENDED ACT, BE REPEALED
Cases will no doubt occur of much hardship and cruelty, and it will often be regretted that these are not punishable, at least by fine upon the offender. But the object of law is not to punish, but to prevent: and if the existing law does not prevent, as is too clear, it must not be maintained against its proper design, with a view to punishment, still less must it be maintained if it acts as an incentive. It must be remembered, too, that we do not propose to deprive either the woman or her parents of their direct means of redress: she may still bring her action for breach of promise of marriage, and her parents may still bring theirs for the loss of their daughter's service.
One objection, however, may be made to our plan, which deserves an answer in deference, not to its force, but to the religious and moral feelings in which it originates. It may be said, that throwing on the woman the expense of maintaining the child, will promote infanticide. It appears, from Mr. Walcott's Report, that infanticide, and in one of its worst forms, is promoted by the existing law; but we do not, in fact, believe that we have to choose between the two dangers: we do not believe that infanticide arises from any calculation as to expense. We believe that in no civilized country, and scarcely in any barbarous country, has such a thing ever been heard of as a mother's killing her child in order to save the expense of feeding it.
We have still to consider a subject which, though not expressly mentioned in our Commission, appears to us within its spirit, and that is,—
Before we examine the expediency of resorting to measures for facilitating emigration, as principal or auxiliary remedies for the evils which we have described, it is necessary to consider the questions, whether there exists in any part of England a population which materially exceeds the actual demand for labour; and whether such an excess is likely to exist, after the measures which we have already recommended shall have been put in force.
After a system of administration, one of the most unquestionable effects of which is the encouragement and increase of improvident marriages among the labouring class, has prevailed in full vigour for nearly forty years, it is a remarkable proof of the advance of the wealth of this part of the kingdom, that a question should arise as to the existence of a Surplus Population; and a mere inspection of the comparative account of the numbers of the people, especially in the Agricultural Districts, at the times of the three last enumerations, would seem to remove any doubt which may have arisen on such a question. Not only has an increase of population, which would have been heretofore deemed extraordinary in a long-settled country, taken place in the Manufacturing Counties, but the increase has been nearly as rapid in those purely Agricultural Districts from which we have received general complaints of a decrease of the Capital of the Farmer. In the County of Bedford, for instance, the increase of Population has been, in the years ending 1821, 19 per cent; in the ten years ending 1831, 14 per cent.; in Buckinghamshire, 14 and 19 per cent.; in Northamptonshire, 15 per cent. and 10 per cent.; in Essex, after similar rates for the same periods; and in Cambridgeshire, 20 per cent., and 18 per cent103 . In the communication so often referred to, Mr. Day has given the following statement:—
"Our division of petty sessions comprehends the following eleven parishes, the population of which is almost exclusively agricultural, and the censuses of which I subjoin:"—
|Increase in 30 years||...||...||...||50 per cent.|
|Ditto in last 20 years||...||...||...||33 —|
|Ditto in last 10 years||...||...||...||6.8 —|
"Note.—The increase in the whole county (exclusive of the towns of Brighton, Chichester, Hastings and Lewes), in the last 20 years, is from 161,577 to 204,707, or 26 + per cent. This population I apprehend to be purely agricultural. It gives an average increase of about 158 souls in each parish, the average present population being 752."
"The accuracy of the census of 1801 has been generally disputed; assuming then the census of 1811 for the purpose of my argument, we find that there are now 133 labourers to do the same work that was then done by 100. I say the same work, but I should be justified in saying less; for as the profits of agriculture have declined, and the capital of the farmer deteriorated, so has the state of tillage and the general cultivation of the land. As I consider this point of the argument to be of vital importance to a just view of the subject, I beg to explain that I mean, that the same physical force which effectuated a certain state of cultivation in 1811, (without reference to what was left undone,) would effect the same in 1831; and if that is now done by the application of a greater number of labourers, it must be by assigning less work to the share of each."
In the Answers to the Questions addressed by us to individuals in agricultural districts of the Middle, Southern and Eastern Counties, we find frequent cases stated of a great excess of labourers above the means of employment in the respective parishes. And we find the statement confirmed by the fact of multitudes of able-bodied young men wasting their time on the roads and in gravel-pits at the expense of the rate-payers, who deem it cheaper to pay them for their idleness than for their labour. The excess in some districts of labourers beyond the actual demand must be taken to be established beyond dispute.
But in the case of labour, as of commodities, the extent of the demand, as compared with the supply, will depend in some degree on the quality of the article offered. The present state of the administration of the Poor-Laws does not allow us to ascertain, in the great majority of parishes we have referred to, what the demand for labour would be, if work were sought for with energy, and performed with diligence. It is to be observed, too, that although not employed, all the population in the parishes which complain of its excess, is at any rate clothed and fed, and that the income which maintains an able-bodied puaper in idleness would, if not so expended, be applied directly or indirectly to the employment of labour. It does not necessarily follow, indeed, that the demand for labour which would arise from the saving of the farmer through the diminution of rates would be felt within the same parish or district within which the poor-rates are now expended, and we have therefore looked with some anxiety to the effect on the demand for labour in those parishes where a reform in the administration of the Poor-Laws has been effected. We have already had to state, among the most gratifying results of this reform, that the dispauperized labourers have found employment to a greater extent than the most sanguine friend of the change could have anticipated in the parishes where they were previously relieved as paupers.
One of the parishes which we have mentioned among those in which an improved administration of the law has been introduced (Uley), was the seat of an apparently large surplus population, and of a declining manufacture. No circumstances could be conceived apparently less favourable to the absorption of surplus labour. Yet of 1000 persons who, before the introduction of the reform, were on the parish books, (out of a population of 2641,) and who are now chiefly maintained by their own exertions, few have left the parish; and this statement is supported by a list, showing the actual occupations and present means of support of all who received parish pay before the workhouse was opened104 . No evidence can be more satisfactory or complete.
These results lead us to a conviction, that even in the parishes where the greatest surplus above the actual demand exists, it would be rapidly reduced and ultimately disappear, if relief were no longer granted, except in return for actual labour, and subject to the restraints of a workhouse.
But no expedient by which the reduction of the surplus labour can be accelerated, and the suffering of the labourer during the progress of the change diminished, should be disregarded; and we are of opinion, that emigration, which has been one of the most innocent palliatives of the evils of the present system, could be advantageously made available to facilitate the application of the remedies which we have already suggested.
Numerous instances are stated in our evidence, of emigration at the expense of parishes, and the results have generally been satisfactory105 ; we believe they have been uniformly so wherever the experiment has been made on a considerable scale. In the case of Benenden, in Kent, where the effects of emigration, unconnected with other remedies, have been carefully detailed by Mr. Law Hodges, the result has been, that the annual parochial expenditure, exclusive of the emigration expenses, has been reduced in four years by one-third; that within the same time the debt incurred on account of emigration has been nearly liquidated; that the whole expense of the poor, including the sums applied to this liquidation, has been considerably reduced from the very year the emigration commenced, while the moral condition of the labourers has been decidedly improved. But emigration has hitherto been resorted to under many discouragements and difficulties. The same causes which make those who are dependent on the poor-rates listless in seeking employment at home, render them unwilling to undergo the temporary privations and inconvenience which must attend their settlement in another country. Those persons are generally most forward to emigrate who are least corrupted by the abuses of the system of relief. Those are most willing to remain a burthen to their parishes who are most thoroughly profligate and useless.
Mr. Stuart, speaking of the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, where emigration to a greater or less extent has taken place in many of the parishes, observes,—
"It is, however, vain to hope that emigration can be carried to an extent equal to effect any diminution on the expenditure on the poor, so long as the parish funds are open to all comers. It is a matter of complaint by the farmers, that emigration only carries off the industrious and well-behaved, and leaves them encumbered with the idle and profligate; and it cannot be otherwise while everyone is sure of a liberal maintenance whether they are idle or industrious. Mr. Turner has taken the trouble to extract from the overseer's books the parish allowances paid to those who removed from Kettleburgh, from which it will be seen that men with seven children were in receipt of 14s. a week, and others in proportion. It is surprising that any inducement could be discovered sufficiently strong to influence any person to forego the certainty of so liberal a pension, to encounter the violent change of feelings and habits which must accompany emigration under any circumstances. It is universally known that those who are in receipt of parish relief, leagued together, for the purpose of keeping it up and augmenting it for their own benefit, or extending it to others; and as they are less scrupulous in the means they resort to, they are better able to carry through their designs of encroachment than the rate-payers are their endeavours to resist them. The progressive increase of the expenditure on the poor would seem to prove this. In such a state of things, it cannot be expected that the expenditure on paupers can be diminished by lessening the numbers of the population, unless it be carried to a greater extent than seems to be possible, so long as compulsory relief exists; the chances being, that whatever diminution of expense might take place from that cause, would be no saving to the rate-payers, as fresh candidates for relief would immediately start up. Where the parochial fund is considered as a property on which all have a claim, there is little difficulty in contriving pretences to make the claim good; and as long as the fund exists for the purposes to which it is now directed, it is not by the diminution of the numbers of the population which could be effected by emigration, that it can be brought within reasonable bounds106 ."
"If chargeable paupers would go," says Mr. Maclean, speaking of Dorking, "the parish would be willing to raise a large sum; but this class of persons naturally prefer an idle but certain dependence on the parish at home, to an uncertain independence abroad, to be procured by industry and good conduct107 ."
The following extract from Mr. Majendie's Report shows the pecuniary saving which has been effected by emigration. It is valuable, also, as showing that emigration alone is an inadequate, and must be a transient remedy. We have seen in the cases of Cookham, Swallowfield, and other parishes, that the evils of the Poor Laws disappear under the influence of the system we have recommended, notwithstanding an apparent surplus of population. We see in the evidence we are about to quote, that although the supernumerary labourers be removed by emigration, yet, in the absence of other changes, the abuses of the allowance system may continue to abound, and that the charge for the poor may be 27s. per head on a population, where no pretence of a surplus continues to exist;
"In the year ending March, 1822, the total expenditure was 3371l. The reduction of rates in the parish of Ewhurst has been effected partly by adopting money payment, but principally by emigration. Since the year 1818, 100 persons have emigrated, so that there are now no supernumerary labourers. In a parish which has incurred the expense of emigration to such an extent as to leave no more labourers than are requisite for the cultivation of the soil, in which 400 acres of hops afford employment to women and children, winter and summer, and where the rate of weekly wages is 13s. 6d., the allowance for children must be considered as compulsory, and to that must it be ascribed that rates are still 27s. per head on the population, and 11s. in the pound on a two-thirds value.
"The rector, from benevolent motives, has offered small allotments to the labourers, at a low rent: he has been able to let three acres only, and his offer of nine acres more has been rejected108 ."
Even in Benenden, where emigration has been so well managed, the expenditure on the poor is still above 20s. per head on the whole population. The abolition of partial relief will remove the main discouragement to emigration, while it will ascertain the extent to which emigration may be useful; it will increase the disposition to emigrate on the part of those whose emigration is to be desired. We believe, therefore, that in proportion as our other remedies are applied, there will be an increased disposition on the part of parishes to supply the means to paupers desirous of emigrating, if they be enabled by law so to do. WE RECOMMEND, THEREFORE, THAT THE VESTRY OF EACH PARISH BE EMPOWERED TO ORDER THE PAYMENT OUT OF THE RATES RAISED FOR THE RELIEF OF THE POOR, OF THE EXPENSES OF THE EMIGRATION OF ANY PERSONS HAVING SETTLEMENTS WITHIN SUCH PARISH, WHO MAY BE WILLING TO EMIGRATE; PROVIDED, THAT THE EXPENSE OF EACH EMIGRATION BE RAISED AND PAID, WITHIN A PERIOD TO BE MENTIONED IN THE ACT. We think it also would be expedient to adopt the measures for facilitating and regulating emigration contained in the Bill introduced into the House of Commons in 1831, and to be found (as amended by a committee) in the Parliamentary Papers of that Session, (No. 358.)
It has occasionally happened that emigrants have returned to burthen the parishes at the expense of which they have been removed; and to remedy this evil, it has been proposed that every person who should, with his own consent, be removed to the Colonies at the expense of his parish, should lose his settlement. But we do not think it expedient that this proposal should be adopted. We do not believe the instances of the return of emigrants are now frequent enough to affect the profit to a parish of an emigration judiciously conducted, and we believe that the instances would be still more rare if it were known that the emigrant on his return would not be entitled to relief otherwise than in a well-managed workhouse. But the chief objection is, that to deprive the emigrant of his settlement,—while it might operate to prevent the pauper from emigrating by the threat of an imaginary forfeiture,—would only enable returned emigrants to be relieved as casual poor in any places, not excluding their own parishes, where they might be pleased to fix themselves.
We should propose rather, that the expenses which any parish shall have defrayed, or contracted to pay for the removal of any voluntary emigrant, shall, upon the return to England of the emigrant, become a debt due to the overseers for the time being, and shall be recovered by an attachment of any wages to which the debtor may become entitled, as we have before recommended in the case of other expenses incurred on account of a pauper or his family.
We forbear to enter upon a consideration of the modes in which emigration may be most beneficially conducted, because it has already formed the subject of minute inquiries by Parliamentary Committees, and because, if the Emigration Bill which we have referred to be passed into a law, the Commission to be appointed under its provisions must soon be able to avail itself of information much more ample and detailed than we have had access to. But there is one suggestion of which we feel the value, from all the evidence we have received as to the state of feeling of the pauper emigrants. Under the influence of the system, which at once confines the labourer to a narrow neighbourhood, and relieves him from the care of providing for his subsistence, he has acquired, or retained, with the moral helplessness, some of the other peculiarities of a child. He is often disgusted to a degree which other classes scarcely conceive possible, by slight differences in diet; and is annoyed by any thing which appears to him strange and new. We believe the novelty of food and manners in the Colonies, and the longing for old associates and old associations, have concurred, with a retrospect of the ease and security of pauperism, to bring back to their parishes some of the least energetic emigrants, who, to justify themselves, spread discouraging accounts of the Colonies from which they have returned. In Mr. Stuart's Report will be found a letter from an emigrant at Montreal, who, being able to save money enough from his wages to pay his passage back, declared his intention to return to the parish in which he had been a troublesome pauper; apparently moved to that determination, as much by the want of well-tasted beer in Canada and a longing for old associations, as by the fact that he was obliged punctually to pay rent for his lodgings, instead of being provided with a cottage at the parish expense. We suggest, that to diminish distaste to the Colonies on imaginary grounds, the emigrants from particular parishes and neighbourhoods in England should be directed, as far as possible, to the same townships or districts, in which the new comers would thus find old acquaintances, and manners with which they would be familiar. We believe that this precaution would commonly lessen their aversion to a new country, and that, if any returned, their misrepresentations would be more effectually checked by the accounts continually received from their colonial neighbours.
There are some other matters connected with the objects of our inquiry, on which we do not propose the immediate adoption of any specific measures, because we should be unwilling to embarass the progress of the remedies we deem of paramount importance by any change not necessarily connected with them. The following subjects appear to us, however, to deserve the consideration of the Legislature.
The first is the present method of rating the property chargeable with the relief of the poor. The mode of rating is now, like many other parts of the administration of the Poor-Laws, in the highest degree uncertain and capricious. "It will be seen," says one of our Assistant Commissioners, "by a reference to the Return recently made to Parliament, that in the first ten parishes named, viz. Abingdon, Andover, Arundel, Ashburton, Aylesbury, Banbury, Barnstable, and the parishes of St. Michael, St. Peter and St. Paul and Walcot, in the City of Bath, nine different rates of assessment are now in operation, and these vary in the proportion of one-fifth of the rent or actual value, as assessed at Ashburton, to the full or actual value as assessed at Bath; while at Bridgnorth, a little further on in the Return, it appears that, in the seven parishes of the same town, five different modes of assessment are adopted109 "
Nor is the fractional part of the value on which the rate is professedly made always fixed or ascertainable within each parish.
The Commissioner whom we have quoted says, "Appeals are frequently made to me (as a magistrate) upon this subject, and although it has been my duty as well as my desire to ascertain the fractional part of the real value (for we do not rate on the rack-rent) upon which the assessment professes to be made, in Kensington, where I reside, I have been unable to do so, because I could not find any man in the parish who could state it with accuracy; and my conviction is, that, when once the simple rule of real value is departed from, a door is opened to much partiality and much abuse110 ."
In the town of Southampton, according to Captain Pringle, the assessment for the poor-rates is on a valuation made 60 years since. New buildings are assessed by the guardians, and at a much higher rate; many of the old being rated at about one-third of the rack-rent, whilst the new are nearly two-thirds.
That the mode of rating should be uniform; that it should be according to the actual value, and not any alleged, much less any uncertain or variable fractional part, is too obvious to be doubted; and we may observe, that besides affording a temptation and a cover to partiality and abuse, the present system, or want of system of rating, enables parishes at their discretion to render nugatory the salutary provisions of the 58th Geo. III. c. 69, as to the manner of voting in vestries.
It would be unjust, however, to assume the actual value of rateable property to be identical with the rack-rent. The value according to which property should be rated, appears to us to be the rent which a tenant, taking upon himself the burthen of repairs, could afford to pay under a 21 years' lease.
We have incidentally observed, in a former part of our Report, on the evils which arise from the exemption from rates enjoyed by the cottages or apartments inhabited by the poor, and of the payment of their rents by the parish. The enactment of the 59 Geo. III. c. 12, s. 19, was directed against these evils; but it has been found defective, inasmuch as it empowers, and does not enjoin parishes to rate the owners instead of the occupiers, and because dwellings let at a rent of less than 6l. a year, or for three months, or any longer term, are exempted from the operation of this power. The remedies we have already recommended will lessen the interest of the owners of the dwellings of the poor in the mal-administration of the parochial fund; but we think that for effecting an improvement in the composition and conduct of vestries, and for securing the more full and punctual payment of the rates, it is desirable that the owner of every dwelling or apartment let to the occupier at any rent not exceeding 15l. for any less term than seven years, should be rated instead of the occupiers.
Militia Men's Families
The Act of the 43d Geo. III. c. 47, (for consolidating the laws for the relief of the families of militia-men,) to which we have already referred, appears to us to be within the range of the inquiries which we have been directed to make, and it deserves to be reconsidered by the Legislature. It enacts in substance, that if a militia-man be called into actual service, leaving a family unable to support themselves, an allowance, after a rate not exceeding the price of one day's labour, nor less than 1s. per head, for the wife and each of the children under ten years of age, shall be paid, upon the order of one justice, to such family, by the overseers of the parish where they dwell.
The justices in quarter-sessions may settle the rate of allowance for such county, and the allowance so settled is binding on the individual justices. The payment made by the overseers of the place where the family dwell, to be reimbursed by other parishes and places in a manner immaterial to our purpose.
These payments are open to many of the objections to the "allowance system." They are made not in reward of the services of the father, or in proportion to those services, but in proportion to the assumed necessity of the family, and this necessity is assumed to be in proportion to their numbers; for although, perhaps, the words of the Act would authorize a justice to refuse to make an order, where the mother was manifestly able to maintain all her children, yet it is clear that, if he give anything, the magistrate must give the full allowance for all the members of the family; and we believe the Act is commonly construed (as without violence it may be) as not even leaving the justice satisfied of the fact of marriage, and the number and age of family, any discretion to withhold the allowance. We have already stated that this Act, or rather the Acts which it consolidates and amends, largely contributed, in many parts of the kingdom, to familiarize both magistrates and parish officers with the allowance system, and it diminished the shame of applications for parochial assistance, because it exhibited, as receivers of relief by the hands of the overseers, numerous families to whom no moral blame could be justly attributed. We feel great difficulty, however, in proposing the abolition of the provisions in question, depending as it does on the method established by law of recruiting for the militia by lot. It is not within the province of our commission to pronounce an opinion on this mode of recruiting; but whatever may be its advantages, we may be permitted to state our belief, that it has tended—it must tend when it is no longer dormant—to discourage the course of steady industry, and to increase the excuses for improvidence. It adds a factitious chance of ruin to those inevitable accidents of health and fortune which make the reward of steady industry in some degree precarious, and must render the strict administration of the poor-laws more difficult, by multiplying the cases of blameless destitution.
Closely connected with the relief provided by the Poor-Laws is the relief provided by charitable foundations. As to the Administration and effect of those charities which are distributed among the classes who are also receivers of the poor-rate, much evidence is scattered throughout our Appendix, and it has forced on us the conviction that, as now administered, such charities are often wasted, and often mischievous. In many instances being distributed on the same principle as the rates of the worst managed parishes, they are only less pernicious than the abuse in the application of the poor-rates, because they are visibly limited in amount. In some cases they have a quality of evil peculiar to themselves. The majority of them are distributed among the poor inhabitants of particular parishes or towns. The places intended to be favoured by large charities attract, therefore, an undue proportion of the poorer classes, who, in the hope of trifling benefits to be obtained without labour, often linger on in spots most unfavourable to the exercise of their industry. Poverty is thus not only collected, but created, in the very neighbourhood whence the benevolent founders have manifestly expected to make it disappear.
These charities, in the districts where they abound, may interfere with the efficacy of the measures we have recommended, and on this ground, though aware that we should not be justified in offering any specific recommendation with respect to them, we beg to suggest that they call for the attention of the Legislature.
WE have now recommended to YOUR MAJESTY the measures by which we hope that the enormous evils resulting from the present mal-administration of the Poor-Laws may be gradually remedied. It will be observed, that the measures which we have suggested are intended to produce rather negative than positive effects; rather to remove the debasing influences to which a large portion of the Labouring Population is now subject, than to afford new means of prosperity and virtue. We are perfectly aware, that for the general diffusion of right principles and habits we are to look, not so much to any economic arrangements and regulations as to the influence of a moral and religious education; and important evidence on the subject will be found throughout our Appendix. But one great advantage of any measure which shall remove or diminish the evils of the present system, is, that it will in the same degree remove the obstacles which now impede the progress of instruction, and intercept its results; and will afford a freer scope to the operation of every instrument which may be employed for elevating the intellectual and moral condition of the poorer classes. We believe, that if the funds now destined to the purposes of education, many of which are applied in a manner unsuited to the present wants of society, were wisely and economically employed, they would be sufficient to give all the assistance which can be prudently afforded by the State. As the subject is not within our Commission, we will not dwell on it further, and we have ventured on these few remarks only for the purpose of recording our conviction, that as soon as a good administration of the Poor-Laws shall have rendered further improvement possible, the most important duty of the Legislature is to take measures to promote the religious and moral education of the labouring classes.
|All which We humbly Certify to YOUR MAJESTY.|
|C. J. LONDON.||(L. S.)|
|J. B. CHESTER.||(L. S.)|
|W. STURGES BOURNE.||(L. S.)|
|NASSAU W. SENIOR.||(L. S.)|
|HENRY BISHOP.||(L. S.)|
|HENRY GAWLER.||(L. S.)|
|W. COULSON.||(L. S.)|
|JAMES TRAILL.||(L. S.)|
|EDWIN CHADWICK.||(L. S.)|
|20th February, 1834.|
[16.] Mr. Maclean, App. (A.) Part I. p. 547
[1.] App. (A.) Part II.
[2.] App. (A.) Part II.
[3.] App. (A.) Part II.
[4.] App (A.) Part I. p. 600.
[5.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 623.
[6.] App. (A.) p. 617.
[7.] App. (A.) Part II.
[8.] App. (A.) Part II.
[9.] App. (A.) Part II.
[10.] App. (A.) Part II.
[12.] App. (A.) Part I. pp. 635, 636.
[13.] Mr. Villiers' Report, App. (A.) Part II. p. 44.
[14.] App. (A.) p. 623.
[15.] App. (A.) Part II.
[16.] App. (A.) Part II.
[17.] App. (B.) Ques. 39, p. 312d.
[18.] Appendix (B.) Quest. 44, p. 31 d.
[19.] App. (A.) Part II.
[20.] App. (A.) Part II.
[21.] App. (A.) Part II.
[22.] Agricultural Report, p. 575.
[23.] Ibid. p. 574.
[24.] Ibid. p. 576.
[25.] Agricultural Report, p. 575.
[26.] App. (A.) Part II. Report from Cookham.
[27.] App. (A.) Part. II. Report from Cookham.
[28.] App. (A.) Part II.
[29.] App. (A.) Part II. Report from Cookham.
[30.] App. (A.) Part II.
[31.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 615.
[32.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 622.
[33.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 621.
[34.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 638.
[35.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 617.
[36.] App. (A.) Part II.
[37.] App. (A.) Part. II.
[38.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 618.
[39.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 616.
[40.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 613.
[41.] App. (A.) Part. II.
[42.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 601.
[43.] App. (A.) Part II.
[44.] See post 298.
[45.] See pp. 44, 45.
[46.] App. (A.) Part II.
[47.] App. (A.) Part II.
[48.] App. (A.) Part II.
[49.] App. (A.) Part II.
[50.] App. (A.) Part II. p.11.
[51.] App. (B.) Question 30, p.38.
[52.] App. (A.) Part II.
[53.] App. (A.) Part II.
[54.] App. (A.) Part II.
[55.] App. (C.)
[56.] App. (A.) Part II.
[58.] App. (C.) pp. 164 and 173-4
[59.] App. (A.) Part II.
[60.] App. (A.) Part I. Report of D. C. Moylan, Esq. p. 280 a.
[61.] Appendix (C.) p. 152.
[62.] Appendix (A.)
[63.] App. (A.) Part II.
[64.] Tweedy, App. (A.) Part I. p. 808.
[65.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 292.
[66.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 296.
[67.] Mr. Majendie, App. (A.) Part I. pp. 173, 174.
[68.] App. (A.) Part I. pp. 217, 218.
[69.] App. (C.) p. 167.
[70.] App. (C.) p. 166.
[71.] App. (C.) p. 167.
[72.] App. (C.) pp. 1, 2.
[73.] App. (A.) Part II.
[74.] Capt. Pringle, App. (A.) Part I. p. 309.
[75.] App. (A.) part II.
[76.] App. (A.) part II.
[77.] App. (A.) Part II.
[78.] App. (A.) Part II.
[79.] App. (A.) Part II.
[80.] App. (A.) Part II.
[81.] App. (A.) Part II.
[82.] App. (A.) Part II.
[83.] App. (A.) Part II.
[84.] App. (A.) Part II.
[85.] App. (A.) Part II.
[86.] App. (C.) [The reference to this footnote is missing.—Econlib Ed.]
[87.] App. (A.) pp. 431, 432, 433, 434, 435.
[88.] App. (A.) Part II. pp. 6-8.
[89.] App. (A.) p. 894.
[90.] App. (E.)
[91.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 456.
[92.] App. (E.)
[93.] App. (A.) Part II. Ex.
[94.] App. (A.) Part I. 317.
[95.] App. (A.) Part II.
[96.] App. (A.) Mr. Chadwick's Report.
[97.] App. (A.) Part II.
[98.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 649.
[99.] App. (F).
[100.] 21st Article of Agreement for regulating the Friendly Society formed at Eltham, Kent.
[101.] 8th Article for regulating the TRIPLE FRIENDSHIP SOCIETY, Blackfriars, London.
[102.] App. (A.) Part II.
[103.] Some allowance must be made in this case for the rapid increase of the town of Cambridge.
[104.] Mr. Cowell's Rpep. Ap. (A.) Part I. p. 619 et seq.
[105.] Mr. Majendie's Rep. App. (A.) Part I. p. 170; Mr. Stuart (A.) Part I. p. 375; Capt. Pringle (A.) Part I. p. 320; Mr. Maclean (A.) Part I. p. 573, 8c.
[106.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 377.
[107.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 574.
[108.] Mr. Majendie's Rep., App. (A.) Part I. p. 203.
[109.] Mr. Codd's Rep., App. (A.) Part I. p. 50.
[110.] Mr. Codd's Rep., App. (A.) Part I. p. 50.