Front Page Titles (by Subject) 48.: The Metropolitan Poor Bill  11 MARCH, 1867 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868
Return to Title Page for The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
48.: The Metropolitan Poor Bill  11 MARCH, 1867 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868, ed. John M. Robson and Bruce L. Kinzer (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The online edition of the Collected Works is published under licence from the copyright holder, The University of Toronto Press. ©2006 The University of Toronto Press. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of The University of Toronto Press.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The Metropolitan Poor Bill 
PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 185, cols. 1678–9, 1680, 1685, and 1696. Reported in The Times, 12 March, p. 7, from which the variant and response are taken. Mill wrote to Chadwick on the 12th to say that his remarks were “better reported this time than last [see No. 47], though briefly” (LL, CW, Vol. XVI, p. 1256). The Committee consideration of the Metropolitan Poor Bill (see No. 45) continued, with Mill speaking on Clause 45, which provided that the District Medical Officers for the Unions and Parishes should be appointed by the Dispensary Committee, subject to the rules and orders of the Poor Law Board, except that those in employment when the Dispensary Committee was first set up should continue in office under such modifications of their duties and remuneration as should be made by the Poor Law Board.
mr. j. stuart mill said, he had ventured on a former clause to make some suggestions which had been received very courteously,1 and he was now going to make two other suggestions, which were not new, but had been frequently made by, perhaps, the highest authority on the subject, Mr. Chadwick, the only surviving member of the Royal Commission which drew up the Poor Law.2 That Commission was one of the most enlightened and able that ever sat, and so long ago as 1834 proposed principles on the subject of education, which, Parliament being afraid of doing too many good deeds at once, left for adoption by generations to come. He regretted Mr. Chadwick was not himself a Member of that House; there was scarcely any one whose services would be more valuable on many points of administrative improvement. (Hear.) The first suggestion he had to offer was this—if they wished the poor to be effectually taken care of, the medical officers appointed should not be in private practice.3 It was not to be expected in the ordinary run of human affairs that public duty would not be neglected for private practice. It was eminently honourable to the profession that public duties were so well attended to as they were; but medical officers should be under no temptation to postpone their public duties to private practice. Could any one suppose that in a time of epidemic and disorder, when their services would be most required by the poor, that they would not be under the temptation of postponing their public duties for their private practice? One had heard of people advertising for perfection in a schoolmaster for £40 a year, which they were just as likely to get as a Board of Guardians were likely to get a competent medical officer for £100 a year. The other point was as to the mode of the appointment of the medical officers. He thought we might well adopt the practice of the hospitals of Paris, which were the best managed in Europe, where the medical officers were appointed by a medical board after examination; and he would suggest whether it would not be in the power of the College of Physicians and the College of Surgeons, in combination with the Civil Service Commissioners, to have a system of competitive examinations in order to test the capacity of those medical officers who were appointed.4 It was clear that the House was not at present prepared to adopt this suggestion; but he laid it before the House and the right honourable Gentleman, in the hope that it might be taken into consideration on some future occasion.
Mr. Mill saida He did not move any Amendment on the subject.
[Gathorne-Hardy replied (cols. 1679–80) that it would not be possible to employ officers if they were prohibited from engaging also in private practice. As to Mill’s suggestion of competitive examinations, he had no experience of them in such cases, and thought that such a system would lessen the responsibility of those appointing the officers. In fact, the present checks were sufficient. Gathorne-Hardy was followed by John Brady, F.R.S., M.P. for Leitrim, who expressed surprise that Mill, “so well informed on subjects in general,” should argue a case on which he knew nothing. Were he to visit the hospitals, he would find eminent men attending without any salary; if private practice were denied, the officers would be drawn from inexperienced men who would give up the post for private practice as soon as they were qualified. Further, the present examinations for physicians and even more for surgeons were sufficiently severe.]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill said, that as the suggestion which he ventured to make was an administrative, not a medical, suggestion, he did not see why he should be prevented from making it, though he was not a medical man. As to the question of remuneration, he had said before what he now repeated, that if his suggestions were agreed to, the remuneration to medical officers must be considerably raised. Whatever money was spent in this direction was most usefully employed, because they ought to have the best medical assistance that could be obtained for the poor.
[Clause 45 was agreed.]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill said, the clause,5 as he understood it, would empower the Poor Law Board to dismiss the officers of any Poor Law district, on grant of compensation at their discretion, though those gentlemen had hitherto held office for life, except in case of misconduct. Whatever the confidence which those officers felt in the right honourable Gentleman (Mr. Gathorne-Hardy), they did not like to be in the power absolutely of an unlimited line of his successors. They would accordingly be very glad if the right honourable Gentleman would either sanction an appeal or a reference to arbitration, so that they might not be at the mercy or discretion of a single officer.
[Gathorne-Hardy responded negatively (cols. 1685–6). The Clause was agreed.]
Mr. J. Stuart Mill said, he wished to ask if it were worth while risking the popularity of the measure for the sake of the clause.6 Boards of Guardians, who had hardly any power left, except in relation to the outdoor poor, would be quite as fit to inspect asylums, etc., without nominee guardians as with them.
[The Clause was approved, amended to limit such nominees to one-third of the total number.]
[1 ]For Mill’s speech, see No. 47; it was received courteously by Gathorne-Hardy, Speech on the Metropolitan Poor Bill (8 Mar.), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 185, cols. 1610–11.
[2 ]“Report from His Majesty’s Commissioners for Inquiring into the Administration and Practical Operation of the Poor Laws” (21 Feb., 1834), PP, 1834, XXVII, 1–263; the brief reference to education is on p. 209. The Report resulted in 4 & 5 William IV, c. 76 (1834) See also No. 147, n8.
[3 ]“Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain,” PP, 1843, XII, 602.
[4 ]Ibid., pp. 590, 592.
[5 ]Clause 59, which provided for the Poor Law Board’s determining and varying as necessary existing contracts with resident workhouse medical officers.
[6 ]Clause 79, which provided for the addition of nominated members to the Boards of Guardians.