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Settlement - 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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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.
[95.] App. (A.) Part II.