§ Mr. Whitbread
rose and spoke as follows:—Mr. Speaker; I rise to submit to the consideration of this house, one of the most interesting propositions which even occupied the attention of any deliberative assembly upon earth. I wish to engage you in an attempt at the solution of the most difficult of all political problems; namely, how to reduce the sum of human vice and misery, and how to augment that of human happiness and virtue amongst the subjects of this realm.—Sir, this attempt has been often and fruitlessly made; nevertheless I do not think the success of it impossible. However great the difficulty, it is our duty to endeavour at least to overcome it.—Sir, I will not now detain the house by an investigation of the original constitution of society; or enter into the abstract right of man to the succour and support of his fellow creatures. Whether that right exist or not; as individuals, we could never refuse relief to innocence, or even to guilt in distress; neither, as part of a legislature, could we ever be brought to say that such assistance shall not be attainable through the medium of the law. More than two centuries have elapsed, since after a succession of efforts, tending to the same end, there was embodied upon your statute-book, the great Christian principle, "that you should do unto others as you would that others should do unto you." What theory could be more delightful? As a state, you undertook to feed the hungry—to clothe the naked—to visit the sick—to protect the fatherless—to assist the widow—to find employment for the healthy and necessitous—and to compel work from the dissolute and the idle.—Sir, these plans were devised during the reign of Elizabeth; the glories of which are still vivid in the annals of our history. They were projected and carried into execution under the auspices of some of the wisest statesmen that ever presided in the councils of any country. They were not the sudden production of one particular period. They had occupied the attention of the legislature during the whole of that long and prosperous reign. From the 5th to the 14th—to the 18th—to the 39th down to the 43d of the queen, we find a constant succession of statutes, bearing testimony to the constant direction of the care of the government towards that object: till, at last, the work was complete.—But, sir, as if it were to confound the speculations of human wisdom, 866 and to humble the pride of man, these schemes, reared upon a foundation apparently so solid, by workmen so able, have been inadequate to the object they had in view. It is an assertion now pretty generally made, that the system of our poor-laws has served to degrade those whom it was intended to exalt, to destroy the spirit of independence, throughout our land; to hold out hopes which cannot be realized; to encourage idleness and vice; and to produce a superfluous population, the offspring of improvidence, and the early victim of misery and want. That which in speculation ought to have been our glory, has been turned to our reproach, A committee of this house, appointed to enquire into the state of the poor of Ireland (where great wretchedness is said to prevail) and to suggest some remedy, have solemnly rejected the system of your poor-laws, as likely, not only to be exceedingly oppressive to the land-owner, but to aggravate the distress of those for whose relief they would be enacted.—Sir, there has been a great revolution in the public mind. Till within a very few years of the period in which I am speaking, the 43d of Elizabeth was, if I may be allowed the expression, considered as the bible on this subject. Many persons observing the rapid increase of the burthens imposed by that statute, have projected plans of reform, and the legislature has adopted many new acts: but they have all proceeded upon the same principle. No one ever ventured to surmise that the system itself was radically defective and vicious: and even the last projector, Mr. Pitt, to whose benevolent intention I wish to bear sincere testimony; proceeded upon the supposition that the base upon which we had so long stood was stable and sound. His plan proved abortive, and indeed in most of its parts it was, I am confident, absolutely impracticable. I might presume to mention myself as having, about the same time, and before, at a still earlier date, proposed to the house the adoption of some regulations, which I then thought would be beneficial. The house did not, in either instance, think proper to pass them: and, sir, having now in view objects of a much more extensive nature, it is not my intention again to revive those regulations. But, sir, the period is arrived, in which I think it seems, by common consent, to be admitted, that some steps must be taken. You have lately had severe visitations from the hand 867 of Providence, which have roused your attention to the state of your community. It has been said, that those calamities have been greatly increased by the depression they have occasioned of the character of your labouring poor. It has been said, that necessity having overcome the honest pride which formerly withheld a man from resorting to parochial relief, he no longer cares to recover his independence, but now voluntarily resorts to that assistance which he would before have indignantly avoided.—That such was the effect during the continuance of scarcity (and even since it has ceased) no man can deny: but, sir, I am willing to believe, and not without ground, that that effect is gradually wearing off; that the mind of the labouring class is recovering its elasticity, and that the proper pride of independence has, in a degree at least, resumed its place.—Sir, by the accurate returns which have of late years been laid before parliament, your situation is exposed to your view. The spectacle is indeed fearful, but it must be contemplated. In order to cure any wound, we must know its exact situation and depth.—By the abstracts then upon your table, which were made up in the year 1803, it will appear, that upon a population in England and Wales, (exclusive of your army and navy) of 8,870,000 souls; not less than 1,234,000 are partakers of parochial relief. That is, that nearly one seventh part of your population is indebted to the rest wholly, or in part, for their support: and by far the larger part of that number is wholly subsisted without any exertion of their own. Sir, it is also proved that, exclusively of all collateral expence, such as army, militia, &c. which is raised at the same time with the rate for the relief of the poor, and paid out of it; there had been raised, in the year ending at Easter, 1803, for the maintenance and relief of the poor alone, the sum of 4,267,000l.; being almost double the sum raised for the same purpose, on the average of the years 1783, 1784, 1785, and nearly treble the sum raised in 1776.—Sir, that a remedy for an evil so great and so rapidly increasing, ought immediately to be sought, all will be ready to agree: and I stand up before you, under the persuasion that I shall be able to propose to you improvements, regulations, and modifications to effect that end, which will not be found wholly unworthy of your attention.—However small my personal claims to consideration may be, I am sure 868 in the contemplation of my task, I shall meet with the favour of this house. I desire no support from my best friends, but that which the merits of my plan may seem to deserve. I am sure I shall encounter no opposition but that which its demerits extort; and I am equally sure that at this moment there does not exist an individual throughout the nation, who does not wish me success.—Sir, I desire here to put in a rational claim to your attention, by assuring both you and the house, that I am no visionary enthusiast, seeking after universal plenty and comfort, and imaginary perfection. I know the laws of God to be immutable, and bow to their uncontroulable force. I believe man to be born to labour as the sparks fly upwards; that a certain portion of misery is inseparable from mortality; and that all plans for the lodging, clothing, and feeding of all mankind, with what may be called comfort, are quite impossible in practice.—Sir, there is a saying upon record, of one of the most amiable monarchs that ever filled a throne, (I mean Henry IV. of France) which from its benevolence is so captivating, that it has spread through all languages, and passed through every mouth. He is said to have expressed a wish, that he might live to see the day when every peasant in his kingdom should have a pullet in his kettle. Sir, I will not indulge in such a wish with regard to the subjects of this kingdom, because I know that physically it cannot be accomplished. The earth does not produce wherewithal to gratify such a desire; and whatever may be the first impulses of our feeling, in order to do good, we must chastise and reduce them within the sphere of action.—Sir, I have read in an account of the settlements in New South Wales, that some of the unhappy convicts who were transported to that distant clime, laboured under an unaccountable delusion, that adjoining to the land in which they were destined to dwell, there existed a region wherein the earth brought forth her fruits spontaneously, and her productions could be enjoyed without toil, in luxurious and sensual indolence. So strong was the impression, that they actually set out in quest of this fancied spot. Their fate need not be told. Some, after incredible toils and hardships, returned exhausted with hunger and fatigue; the rest perished in the wilderness, and their carcases became a prey to the beasts of the desert and the birds of the 869 air.—Thus, sir, if any politician under a similar species of delusion, were to profess that he could lead mankind by any path to the attainment of universal plenty and comfort, he and his followers would immediately be overwhelmed in the wilderness of error.—But here, I must stop to say, that after the most anxious and patient research into the state of society in these kingdoms, during a long period, I believe the situation of the lower and more useful classes to be better in every respect than at any former time: and he who shall attempt to persuade them to the contrary, must be either weak, misinformed, or wicked.—Sir, I have in view the practical benefit of mankind. In order to form myself for this day, I have had recourse to principles and unerring experience. Sir, I have been undoubtedly assisted by data upon your table, furnishing grounds of action, such as none of my predecessors had the good fortune to possess; and the subject has lately been submitted to an investigation much more accurate than any it had ever before undergone. One philosopher in particular has arisen amongst us, who has gone deeply into the causes of our present situation. I mean Mr. Malthus. His work upon Population has, I believe, been very generally read; and it has completed that change of opinion with regard to the poor-laws, which had before been in some measure begun. Sir, I have studied the works of this author with as much attention as I am capable of bestowing upon any subject. I am desirous of doing the most ample justice to his patient and profound research; to the inimitable clearness of his demonstration, and to the soundness of the principles on which he proceeds. I believe them to be incontrovertible. But in many of the conclusions to which he comes, I materially differ from him. Although I believe the design and intention of the author to be most benevolent, and that so much is to be collected from his writings, I think any man who reads them, ought to place a strict guard over his heart, lest it become hardened against the distresses of his fellow creatures; lest in learning that misery and vice must of necessity maintain a footing in the world, he give up all attempt at their subjugation.—Sir, this philosopher has delivered it as his opinion, that the poor-laws have not only failed in their object, but that they have been productive of much more wretchedness 870 than would have existed without them: that "though they may have alleviated a little the intensity of individual misfortune, they have spread the evil over a larger surface." [Malthus, v. ii. p. 149.] Many persons agreeing in this position, have wished that the whole system was well expunged from our statute book; and perhaps I should not go too far in saying that such is the prevailing sentiment.—But, sir, I think no one has been bold enough to propose a total and immediate abrogation of the poor-laws. Sir, I need hardly say, that no man could be bold enough to propose that, which must in its operation generate a most formidable political convulsion, when the good to be obtained would be at best problematical and uncertain. But supposing the ultimate good to be certain: could we, to obtain it, give our consent to a measure which, in its dreadful execution, would be more widely fatal than any edict which ever proceeded from the hand of any tyrant conqueror upon earth; which would spread desolation, famine, and death throughout your land; and consign to a premature grave, infirmity, age, infancy, and innocence. Sir, the immediate abrogation of these laws is absolutely out of the question. I will dwell no longer upon it.—But their gradual abolition has been suggested as practicable: and I recollect two plans only which have been laid before the public fur that purpose. The one bears the name of Mr. Arthur Young, and was also patronized, as I have been told, by an hon. baronet, formerly a member of this house, sir William Pulteney; one whose opinion must always carry with it great weight. The other is suggested by Mr. Malthus himself. Mr. Young's plan is to take the amount of the rate raised for the relief of the poor at a given time, and to enact that it should not on any account be increased. Ultimately, I suppose the intention to be (or else it would not tend to an extinction of the rate, however it might confine it) to draw the line more and more narrow, until at last the rate should be totally done away. I confess, sir, that I can by no means concur in the wisdom, or even the practicability of this scheme. But it has been so ably discussed by Mr. Malthus, in the appendix to the second volume of his work, that I will thank the house to attend to me whilst I read the passage; and it is remarkable enough, that in a 871 note upon this passage, Mr. Malthus gives us a quotation from a work of Mr. Young's wherein Mr. Young completely refutes himself. Mr. Malthus says, "under such a law, if the distresses of the poor were to be aggravated tenfold, either by the increase of numbers or the recurrence of a scarcity, the same sum would be invariably appropriated to their relief. If the statute which gives the poor a right to support were to remain unexpunged, we should add to the cruelty of starving, them, the extreme injustice of still professing to relieve them. If this statute were expunged or altered, we should virtually deny the right of the poor to support, and only retain the absurdity of saying, that they had a right to a certain sum; an absurdity which Mr. Young justly corrects with much severity in the case of France." [Malthus, vol. ii. p. 529.]—Then, sir, comes a note, which contains an extract from Mr. Young's travels in France, and it is as follows:—"The national assembly of France, though they disapproved of the English poor-laws, still adopted their principle, and declared, that the poor had a right to pecuniary assistance; that the assembly ought to consider such a provision as one of its first and most sacred duties; and that with this view, an expence ought to be, incurred of 50 millions a year. Mr. Young justly observes, that he does not comprehend how it is possible to regard the expenditure of 50 millions a year as a sacred duty, and not extend that 50 to 100, if necesity should demand it; the 100 to 200, the 200 to 300, and so on in the same miserable progression which has taken place in England."—Sir, I think I need not detain the house by adding much to the argument here so conclusively stated; but supposing an act to have passed, which should direct that in each parish or district no more should be raised for the relief of its poor than what had been raised in the year preceding; that that sum should have been necessarily and unavoidably expended in ten months, or upon a certain given number of paupers; all other cases of distress which might arise after that period, must be totally neglected; and yet it would be difficult to distinguish between the right to relief possessed by those who should have received it before the fund was exhausted, and those who might make application for relief after it was gone.—Besides, sir, instances might occur wherein the obedience 872 to such a statute might be productive of the most terrible mischief. I have myself witnessed such an instance. It was the case of a parish afflicted with a contagious fever; wherein, if it had not been possible to have raised a sum of money equal to the exigency of the case; not only the inhabitants of that parish would have been almost exterminated, but the scourge itself must have spread throughout the whole of the adjacent district. In short, sir, if legal relief be allowed at all, it appears to me, as well as to both the writers quoted, that it must be made co-extensive with the necessity to which it is to be applied.—The next plan we have to consider is Mr. Malthus's own: "He proposes a regulation to be made, declaring that no child born from any marriage taking place after the expiration of a year from the date of the law; and no illegitimate child born two years from the same date, should ever be entitled to parish assistance." [vol. ii. p. 396.] It is unnecessary to state the details wherein he gives an account of the method whereby he would have such a law promulgated. By this measure the poor-laws would absolutely cease, after the expiration of a very short period, as to the rising generation, But putting all other considerations aside, what a scene of confusion would ensue during the interval which must elapse, till the present generation should have all passed away, and the condition of all your people should have become the same. Divided as they would be into two distinct classes, the one possessing a claim upon you, the other none; what end would there be to their discontent, jealousies, and quarrel! what jarring, wrangling, and conflict! what difficulties of proof and discrimination in the first instance, and what harshness and severity in the second after proof should have been obtained!—Sir, I am perfectly certain, that if the legislature could be induced to pass a law pregnant with such cruelty, within two years after the commencement of its operation it must be repealed. Neither of these plans then, in my estimation, hold out any rational prospect of success towards the gradual abolition of the poor-laws.—But, sir, supposing any plan for that purpose to be adopted, we must, before we venture upon it, anticipate its consequences; and in order to enable us to do so, we must look a little back into our history, and see what was the condition of society before the 873 enactment of any law at all for the relief of the poor. Sir, we shall find that as the feudal system passed away, and the villein ceased to look up to, and depend upon his lord for support, poor began to be known: and there being no legal provision for their support, they obtained alms in the character of beggars. Mendicity was known and licensed by act of parliament under particular restrictions. But it became, as we may collect from our statute-book, a very formidable evil; so formidable, that laws of great severity were enacted against unlicensed mendicants under the description of vagabonds and sturdy beggars. During the prevalence of the Roman Catholic religion, the monasteries afforded great relief to the evil. After their dissolution, it must have increased with great rapidity, and raged with great violence; for in the first year of Edward VI. a statute was passed, containing enactments of such atrocious cruelty, that those who have not read it, will hardly believe in its existence. It is thereby enacted, "that if any person shall be found idle for the space of 3 days, he may be seized upon as a slave, and having been branded in the breast with a red-hot iron, with the letter S, he shall be fed upon bread and water, and compelled to work for the person so seizing him, however vile the work may be, by beating, chaining, or otherwise. Further, that if he absent himself from his said master for the space of 14 days, he shall be branded on the forehead, and adjudged a slave for ever."—True it is, this statute was not long suffered to disgrace your book, for it was repealed in the 3d and 4th year of the same king; but it sufficiently serves to shew how dreadful the state of the lower orders of the community must have been, to induce a legislature to think of such horrible remedies. The laws, however, against beggars and vagrants, were still very severe and cruel. Notwithstanding the very statute I have above recited, and divers others before that time, contained provisions for the relief of the poor, by encouraging the distribution of alms, and at last by compelling the gift of them, it was not until the enactment of that system of laws, during the reign of Elizabeth, on which we now act, that these severities all disappeared. A right hon. gent. over the way, (Mr. Rose) who has paid great and commendable attention to this subject, in a very useful pamphlet on the Poor-Laws, has justly ob- 874 served, that every expedient had been tried before recourse was had to the present plan. We ought, therefore, to consider, Before we consent to its destruction, what the probable consequences would be. If you were to say to men, that they had no right to any assistance or support from you under any circumstances, you could not impose any restraint upon them as to their habitations or settlement. You could not condemn them to starve, and therefore you must allow those in need to beg. Are you prepared to encounter that host of sturdy and valiant beggars, who under the cloak of the distresses of those who were compelled to beg in order to preserve life, would extort from you wherewithal to indulge their profligate idleness? If you should absolutely deny their right to support out of your property, they might have recourse to the original right of occupancy. For each man born has surely a right to occupy a spot of ground, which may have been left unoccupied by those who had come into the world before him; although he may not possess any right to the ground occupied by another, or to any part of the fruit of his labours. But if all the land be occupied, so that those who are born can settle no where in order to maintain themselves, and you deny their right to assistance, your metaphysical positions may be unquestionable, but you would create a set of dangerous enemies. Might they not become a most formidable body? and what step could you take to cure or correct the evil you thus improvidently created?—Sir, I cannot look forward to such a situation without great dread and apprehension, nor can I consent to break that chain, which, with all its imperfections and disadvantages, binds the different classes of society indissolubly together, and which I hope to preserve undissolved, and to be able to render light.—If then, sir, a total and immediate abrogation of your poor-laws is out of the question, and if no practicable plan presents itself for their gradual abolition, what remains to be done? Why, sir, "thinking it unadvisable to abolish the poor-laws, I have endeavoured to obtain a general knowledge of those principles which render them inefficient in their humane intentions, and to apply it so far as to modify them, and regulate their execution, so as to remove many of the evils with which they are accompanied, and make them less objectionable." [Malthus, vol. ii. p. 552.] In proposing to the house my ideas on the sub 875 ject, I am happy that I have it in my power previously to inform them, that I shall urge nothing which has not the sanction of the highest authority to recommend it, or the support of long-tried experience and practice to justify its adoption. Sir, my wish is not to get rid of the poor-laws, but, I think, by taking proper steps, they may hereafter become almost obsolete. And I am sanguine enough to hope that if what I have to propose should meet with the concurrence of parliament, in the lapse of half a century they would be little used; but I would have such a code always remain upon your statute book, in order that there might be a sure and legal refuge under any change of circumstances, or society, for indigence and distress.—The principles on which I would proceed, to effect this most desireable object, are these: to exalt the character of the labouring classes of your community, To give the labourer consequence in his own eyes, and in those of his fellows, to make him a fit companion for himself, and fit to associate with civilized men. To excite him to acquire property, that he may taste its sweets; and to give him inviolable security for that property, when it is acquired. To mitigate those restraints which now confine and cramp his sphere of action. To hold out a hope of reward to his patient industry. To render dependent poverty, in all cases, degradation in his eyes, and at all times less desirable than independent industry.—Having accomplished this first grand object, I would endeavour to lighten the burthens which must inevitably be borne, by making their distribution more equal. I would propose some material alterations in the mode of affording relief; to put some of your present institutions on a more orderly footing, and to enable you to distinguish between your criminal, and innocently necessitous poor.—In pursuing these objects, it has been my wish, and I hope I have succeeded, to steer clear of all new sources of litigation; not to disturb any of those decisions of the courts of justice which have formed the guide for the conduct of magistrates, and those intrusted to their care; and not, in the smallest degree, to alter or vary the ancient boundaries and divisions of the kingdom. I should further add, that I do not intend to regulate for any of those places whose concerns are provided for by special acts of parliament.—Sir, there is another principle upon which I wish to proceed, and in which I hope I shall ob- 876 tain the universal concurrence of this house; I mean that of non-interference with the concerns of the poor, until necessity calls for it.—Sir, I hold that I have no more right to meddle with the private concerns of the labourer, to tell him how he shall be lodged, or fed, or clothed, than he has to interfere with mine, until he applies to me for relief. Then the right begins, and again it terminates when he is again able to provide for himself. I am as sure of the sound policy of the doctrine of leaving the poor to their own management, as I am sure of the right they have to be so left: and notwithstanding the instances of unthriftiness and dissolute selfishness which we witness in some characters, generally speaking, they manage for themselves much better than we could manage for them.—Having, sir, however unwillingly, felt myself under the necessity of detaining the house with this preliminary matter, I shall now proceed to open to you the details of the plan I would propose. Sir, I think the house must anticipate that in the front of my plan for the exaltation of the character of the labourer, must appear a scheme for general national education. So it is; and upon its effects I mainly rely for the consummation of my wishes. Sir, it would be needless, in speaking before an assembly so enlightened as that which I have now the honour to address, to dwell upon the beneficial effects of the general diffusion of knowledge. I have of late heard it magnificently said from the chair in which you preside, that this house would at all times open its doors wide to receive the petitions of the people. Sir, I would borrow that expression, and bid you throw open wide the portals of the human understanding to the introduction of light and knowledge, in order that virtue and happiness might follow in their train. If there could exist a doubt about it in the mind of any man who hears me, I would refer him to the contemplation of the character of savage, uncivilized man. More helpless than the brutes amongst which he obtains a precarious subsistence, but more dangerous than them to his fellow creatures, because under the influence of malignant passions by which they are not excited or tormented. Look into the pages of that writer whom I have so often quoted; see, and shudder at the description of a totally uncivilized human being in every quarter of the world, from the northern to the southern extremity of the globe. Trace man from that rude state, 877 step by step, till he arrives at the highest polish of refinement in a civilized society, such as that in which we have the good fortune to live, and I think you will be compelled to confess that every step towards civilization, notwithstanding the adventitious vices which undoubtedly attend its progress, is a step towards morality and order.—Sir, in a political point of view, nothing can possibly afford greater stability to a popular government than the education of your people. Contemplate ignorance in the hand of craft; what a desperate weapon does it afford! How impotent does craft become before an instructed and enlightened multitude.—Sir, view the injustice and cruelty of ignorance; the violence and horrors of a deluded and infuriate mob; destroying its victims without selection or remorse, itself ultimately the victim of its own infatuation and guilt.—I would fain illustrate to you what I feel, by calling your attention to a story of remote antiquity; and I would ask whether the great Aristides could have suffered the injustice he met with from the Athenian people, had the ungrateful crowd whom he had so faithfully served, been sufficiently instructed to appreciate those services? Could any but a wretch as ignorant as the one who asked him to engrave his own name on the shell which was to condemn him to banishment, have been weary of hearing him called "the Just?"—Sir, to come nearer to our own times, could the great pensioner De Witt and his unhappy brother have met with their cruel and ignominious death from the hands of an enlightened populace? To bring it immediately home, could the disgraceful scenes of 1780, have taken place in this metropolis, had
§ *As much misapprehension prevails in this country on the subject of the Poor-Laws in Scotland, many persons not believing in the existence of the laws themselves, and others better informed as to that fact, having erroneously asserted that they are not now in force, I have thought it advisable to give the following brief but very perspicuous statement of the law, and the facts upon it, for which I am greatly indebted to Mr. Horner and the Rev. Sir Henry Moncrieff.
§ Note on the Scotch Poor-Laws, by Mr. Horner; Feb. 17, 1807.—"STATUTE LAW. The most ancient "enactments in the Scotch statute book on the subject of the poor, are of these dates; act 1424, c. 25.—1503, c. and 1535, c. 22. Their object is to check the increase of vagrants, by suffering none to beg but those who were licensed to wear a badge.—After the dissolution of the catholic establishment, some of the leaders of the reformation tried to obtain, under the new system, a plan for the regular support of the poor. In the parliament held in 1560, it was proposed, that the revenues of the abolished church should be applied towards the maintenance of ministers, the education of youth, and the support of the poor. But this proposal was not listened to. The first general assembly of the kirk was held in Dec. the same year, 1560; they drew up the first book of discipline, which they presented to the convention of estates, held 15th Jan. 1561, and the same plan for a distribution of the church revenues was hinted at. But the nobles, we are told by John Knox, rejected the scheme as 'a devout imagination.'—The act of the year 1579, with a few amendments subsequently made, forms the Scotch code of poor-laws. It is almost a literal transcript of an English statute, pasted seven years before, the 14th of Eliz. c. 5, which, though not printed in the modern editions of the statutes at large, may be found in the older collections; as in the second volume of Rastell. Sir F, Eden, in consequence of having overlooked this original of Elizabeth,878
§ there prevailed amongst you a general system of national education? Sir, I think none of these things could have happened, where the light of knowledge and of truth had universally beamed. Sir, I have contended for parliamentary reform in this house, and I am still a sincere and decided friend to the reformation of parliament: but I do not believe that any scheme could be devised, so totally unobjectionable in its means, and so entirely efficacious to its object of increasing the purity of this house, as the general instruction of your people. Nothing could so tend to diffuse the principles and practice of Christianity. You translate the Scriptures into the vulgar tongue, that all may have an opportunity of knowing, weighing, and following the divine precepts they contain. Open the eyes of your people, that they may read what you have so written, and your work is done.—Sir, I have the greatest authorities of the living and the dead, to recommend what I propose. Adam Smith, Mr. Malthus, the right hon. gent. opposite to me (Mr. Rose), the benevolent editor of the tracts which come from the Society for bettering the Condition of the Poor, all agree in recommending national education as the first step towards the alleviation of your burthens, and the amelioration of the condition of your people. Added to this, we have example and experience before our eyes. Look at Scotland. See her enviable state with regard to her poor. That country is the theme of panegyric amongst all who have visited her, on account of the situation of her labouring classes; and yet she has your system of poor-laws*; the enactments are the same; they are still in force, they have been in 879 general use, they may be and are still often resorted to, and time was when the state of the poor on the other side of the Tweed, as I shall presently shew you, was more wretched, and their violence greater, than was almost ever known in the southern part of the island. Now, the poor-laws are almost totally in disuse, and all is regularity and order. What was the day-star then which shone forth and calmed these troubles? Education. To borrow a quotation from the beautiful speeches of the late Mr. Burke, wherein he describes education to have calmed the disorders of some parts of this island:
§ Simul Alba nautis Stella refulsit, Defluit saxis agitatus humor; Concidunt venti, fugiuntque nubes: Et minax (sic Dî voluêre) ponto Unda recumbit.
§ Such was the effect of education upon
§ has fallen into a very remarkable mistake, when he intimates his opinion, that the English system of assessment was borrowed from the Scotch act of 1579. On the contrary, the latter is so closely copied from the English statute, that the execution of the act in country parishes is committed 'to 'them that sall be constitute justices be the king is commissioners;' and justices of the peace were not introduced into Scotland till 1689. It is also worthy of being remarked, that the only general regulation, which the Scotch legislature in 1579, did not copy from the 14th of Eliz. is that which directs the surplus of the poor's fund, to be employed in providing work for able-bodied vagrants.—We learn from the preamble of an act of the year 1592, cap. 149, that the system of the act 1579, for the maintenance of the poor had already been carried partially into execution. The act 1597, c. 272, to obviate the want of justices, committed the execution of the act 1579, in country parishes upon the kirk sessions.—In the three next acts, 1617, c. 10, 1663, c. 16, and 1672, c. 18, there are various provisions for a scheme of erecting workhouses for vagrants; which fortunately proved abortive. The second of those statutes, however, contains a most important enactment, with respect to the mode of assessing the heritors and their tenants; one half of the rate being ordained to be paid by the heritors of the parish, and the other half by the tenants and possessors.—The last period of Scotch enactments relating to the poor, is the reign of king William. During the severe dearth, which lasted from 1692 to 1699, (the seven ill years as they are still called by the common people), there were four proclamations of council, and three acts of parliament, enforcing the execution of former acts for the relief of the poor. They are merely declaratory of those acts."
§ Decisions of the Court of Session.—"There are in the books of Scotch law, for the last hundred years, down to the present day, many cases upon the construction of the foregoing statutes, with respect to the mode of their execution. There is no doubt of their being in full force; though in point of fact, the rate is assessed only in some districts of Scotland. A short notice of two or three leading cases, will sufficiently prove the actual existence of a statutory assessment in that part of the kingdom.—By a decision of the 6th of June, 1745, the court of session, decreed, in a question between two parishes in Berwickshire, and upon construction of the acts of Charles II. that a residence of 3 years in a parish, gives the pauper a right to relief. The decree of the court directed, that the heritors of the parish of Dunse should meet, and assess themselves accordingly.—In the case of the parish of Humbie, which was decided on the 15th of Feb. 1751, with regard to the joint administration by the heritors and the kirk session, the whole system of the Scotch poor-laws was investigated very minutely; and not only the decree, but all the arguments on both sides, proceed upon the supposition that the act 1579, with the subsequent amendments, was folly in force.—Since the last scarcity, a case had been determined in the court of session, which turned upon this question; viz. whether, under the Scotch poor-laws, those persons are entitled to relief, who, without any personal infirmity, are rendered unable by the high price of provisions to maintain themselves in time of dearth? And, whether an assessment for the relief of such persons was legal? The court decreed, on the 17th of Jan. 1804, that such relief and assessment were legal under the statutes: and the arguments used to obtain a contrary decree were, not that the statutes were not in force, but that they did not strictly include this particular case. This came likewise from the parish of Dunse in Berwickshire."
Note on the Scotch Poor-Laws, by the Rev. Sir Henry Moncrieff—"Assessments are made by law in many parishes of Scotland, for the relief of the poor. They have been regularly made in some parishes for 40 years past; and become from obvious causes, more frequent every year.—In many parishes they have been hitherto unnecessary; the collections at the churches every Sunday, and in many instances, other funds, in the hands of the kirk sessions, being sufficient without assessments to provide for the parochial poor; this is the ease still in the greatest number of parishes.—In small country parishes, or in parishes where there are no considerable towns or villages, the assessments
Scotland, and I will prove to you that that effect was produced by education alone. Sir, the system of our poor-laws was introduced into Scotland by an act passed in the year 1579, which was almost a literal transcript from the act passed in the 14th of Elizabeth: a variety of other statutes followed, shewing by their preambles that the provisions of the first act had been executed. Some of these acts were passed in the time of Charles II. Late decisions of the court of session shew these laws to be now in full force. Most of the information I have obtained on the subject of the Scottish law relating to the poor, I owe to an hon. member of this house (Mr. Horner), who has been well known in the republic of letters, and at the bar of Scotland; and who is sure to become an ornament of this assembly.—Now, sir, I will trouble you to direct your attention to a
passage which I shall take the liberty of reading from the second discourse of Mr. Andrew Fletcher, on the affairs of Scotland, written in 1698. The system of national education had been enacted in the year 1696; but of course its operation could not have been felt in so short a period. Mr. Fletcher says—"That there are at this day in Scotland (besides a great many poor families very meanly provided for the church-boxes, and others who, by living upon bad food, fall into various diseases) 200,000 people begging from door to door. These are not only no way advantageous, but a very great burthen to so poor a country. And though the number of them be perhaps double to what it was formerly, by reason of this present great distress, yet in all times there have been about 100,000 of these vagabonds, who have
are levied according to the valued rent of the lands, the one half being paid by the heritors, and the other half by the tenants, The cess-books of the county ascertain the valued rent.—But the practice in large parishes, where there are towns and villages, is different. The assessments are there made according to the real annual rents of lands and houses, a fourth part being deducted to the proprietors of houses for reparations; the half of the assessment is paid by the proprietors or landlords, and the other half by the tenants or possessors.—The assessments are made annually, by a joint meeting of the heritors and kirk session of the parish, held, by act of parliament, on the 1st Tuesday of August, or 1st Tuesday of February, who appoint a collector who makes a new rental each year of lands and houses.—The kirk sessions are, by law, the legal guardians of the poor, and have authority to manage and distribute the funds provided for their maintenance; but the heritors of each parish have a controul over their management; are entitled to inspect their accounts, and sometimes up point committees of their own number to act along with them. In general, however, the kirk sessions manage alone, and have the confidence of the country, and in all cases they do their duty, without any remuneration whatsoever.—Where there are parish workhouses, the management is commonly entrusted to the kirk session and heritors jointly: and in some of the great towns, to the magistrates, ministers, and others connected with the town councils or corporations.—The necessitous have a legal claim to relief, according to a rule, sanctioned by repeated decisions of the court of session, which gives a pauper a title to the charity of any parish in which he has resided 3 years, supporting himself during that period by his own industry.—There is a law relating to the settlement of paupers, which entitles the managers for the poor, in each parish, to send to the next parish any pauper who has not acquired the residence which entitles him to their charity; and he can be legally conveyed from parish to parish till he reaches the place of his nativity, or the parish in which he has acquired a title. This is sometimes done: but the practice is not general, or even frequent. As a pauper being a pauper when he comes into a parish, or before he has resided on Isis industry years, never acquires a title, he is commonly left to find his way to his own parish, or to depend on private charity.—The master of a parochial school is not bound to teach the children gratis. Sometimes the children of paupers are sent to him, at the expence of the kirk sessions; but he is always entitled to his fee. There are many charity schools, supported by public societies or private benefactions, which the children attend gratis: but fees are always due to parochial schools.—By an act of parliament lately passed, 1803, the heritors of each parish, who have property to the extent of 100l. Scots of valued rent, in conjunction with the minister, have a right to fix the, salary and fees to be paid to the schoolmaster. They are authorized to augment the salaries at the end of every 25 years, and may at all times regulate the fees; there is of course, some variation in the fees, as well as in the salaries of different parishes. But the most common fees may be as follows: for teaching to read, 18d. per quarter; for writing and arithmetic, 2s. or 2s. 6d. per quarter; for Latin, 2s. or 2s. 6d.*—The parents very generally avail themselves of the parochial schools; and in the law country especially, would be held as infamous if they neglected them.—The children are all, without exception, taught to read; and in particular, to read the Scriptures. They are minutely instructed in the catechisms which contain the general principles of religion; they are very generally taught to write, and to understand the common rules of arithmetic, and all may be so. In most parishes, a few who desire it are taught Latin; and if they prosecute it, may, by means of the parish school, be qualified to attend the Universities.—The males and females attend the parish schools together; but the females an the lowest ranks generally confine themselves to reading, catechetical instructions and sometimes go no further. Many even of them, however, are taught both writing and figures.
§ *The highest salary is 400, and the lowest 300 marks. The schoolmaster has, besides, a house, a school-house, and a small garden, 882 lived without any regard or subjection either to the laws of the land or even to those of God and nature. Fathers incestuously accompanying with their own daughters, the son with the mother, and the brother with the sister. No magistrate could ever discover which way one in a hundred of these wretches died, or that ever they were baptised. Many murders have been discovered among them; and they are not only an unspeakable oppression to poor tenants (who if they give not bread or some kind of provision to perhaps forty such villains in one day, are sure to be insulted by them), but they rob many poor people who live in houses distant from any neighbourhood. In years of plenty, many thousands of them meet together in the mountains, where they feast and riot for many days, and at 883 country weddings, markets, burials, and other like public occasions, they are to be seen, both men and women, perpetually drunk, cursing, blaspheming, and fighting together.—These are such outrageous disorders, that it were better for the nation they were sold to the gallies or West Indies, than that they should continue any longer a burthen upon us. But numbers of people bring great riches. Every government is to blame that makes not a right use of them. The wholesomeness of our air, and healthfulness of our climate, affords us great numbers of people which in so poor a country can never be all maintained by manufactures or public workhouses, or any other way but that which I have menioned." In another part of the same discourse, Mr. Fletcher says, "The better education of our youth would be very necessary."—Now, sir, I beg to call your attention to another description of Scotland, given in the year 1803, by the lord advocate of Scotland, when persuading this house to the adoption of a bill for the more liberally providing for the schoolmasters of that country; which bill was afterwards passed into a law, And in its preamble recites, "that the school-masters of Scotland are a most useful body of men, and essential to the public welfare."—Sir, the lord advocate, Hope, is upon that occasion reported to have said—" He ascribed to the establishment of those schools all that intelligence which was so observable in that part of the United Kingdom, and which so much attracted the attention of strangers who visited it. To it also was to be ascribed the good morals, the social order, the loyalty, the paucity of crimes, the proper attendance on divine worship and the increasing wealth of that part of the country. The paucity of crimes was so remarkable, that there were more convicts transported in one quarter sessions from Manchester, than from all Scotland in the course of the year. He also observed, that the executions it Scotland, on an average, did not amount to more than 6 in the year. He therefore thought an establishment, productive of such good, deserving of the greatest encouragement, and that without it the institution would sink into disrepute and become a nuisance instead of a benefit. The low salary of the school-masters had within the last 20 years, 884 caused several schools to be without masters."—Sir, can there be a greater contrast than is exhibited in these two descriptions? and is not all the improvement observable in the latter, when compared with the former, traced, by one who was the most competent judge that could have been selected, entirely to the system of national education? Sir, to bring the matter still nearer to a point, I am induced, and not without foundation, to believe that the necessity for the compulsory relief, which has been had recourse to of late years in Scotland, more frequently than before, has been owing to the circumstance of many schools having been abandoned on account of the lowness of the salaries of the masters. Sir, I trust the act of 18O3, which has made a more liberal provision for the schoolmasters, will re-produce all the original and beneficial effects.—I propose then, sir, a general system of national education, by the establishment of parochial schools; not compulsory upon the poor, for that would destroy its object: but voluntary, and I am confident that it will soon so work its way, that every man in England and Wales will, as in Scotland, feel it a disgrace not to have his children instructed. Sir, the details of this plan will be found in the bill which I shall ask permission of the house to introduce: and I say nothing of the expence, for I am sure no statesman, who views the importance of the establishment as I do, will hesitate on that score alone to adopt it, for in the saving of poor's rate it will repay itself an hundred, and in order, morality, and virtue, ten thousand fold.—Sir, I cannot help noticing to the house, that this is a period particularly favourable for the institution of a national system of education; because within a few years there has been discovered a plan for the instruction of youth, which is now brought to a state of great perfection; happily combining rules, by which the object of learning must be infallibly attained with expedition and cheapness, and holding out the fairest prospect of eminent utility to mankind. Sir, the meritorious person with whom parts of the plan of education, to which I have alluded, have had their rise, who has also had the good sense unostentatiously to add the acknowledged discoveries of others to his own, is well known to many members of this house, and to a large part of the nation; and he is patronized by persons of the first distinction, in this and a neigh- 885 bouring kingdom; he has further obtained the high honour of the royal sanction and support. The gentleman whom I mean to point out to you, is Mr. Joseph Lancaster*. Sir, I know that he has been the object of much opposition from bigotry and prejudice, but I believe him to be on every account, deserving of encouragement and protection; and I am happy to find that the unfounded clamour which has been raised against him, has in no degree prevailed; that he still enjoys that distinguished and discriminating support I have before mentioned, and as it frequently happens, that what was intended to overturn, has tended only to strengthen and support him.—The principles upon which be proceeds at the free school in the Borough, are, upon examination, so obviously founded in utility and economy, that they must prevail, and will finally, I have no doubt, furnish a mode of instruction, not only for this country, but for all nations advanced in any degree in civilization.—Sir, I by no means intend to introduce any enactments into the bill which I shall propose to you, compelling any particular mechanical mode of instruction; but I have thought this a proper opportunity of stating my opinions relative to what I think must prove a great practical benefit to this country and the world.—Sir, when the bill itself shall come into the hands of gentlemen, it will be found that the main spring of all that is good on earth, I mean religious instruction, is attended to; and that the interests of the establishment are strictly guarded.
§ *"Dr. Bell, late of the establishment of Fort St. George in the East Indies, and rector of Swannage, claims the original invention of the system of education practised by Mr. Lancaster. So early as the year 1789, he opened a school at Madras, in which that system was first reduced to practice, with the greatest success, and the most beneficial effects. In the year 1797, he published an outline of his method of instruction, in a small pamphlet, intitled, 'An Experiment on Education made at the Male Asylum of Madras.' That pamphlet has been extended, and very valuable details given to the public by Dr. Bell, in two subsequent publications of the years 1805 and 1807. Mr. Lancaster's free school in the Borough, was not opened till the year 1800. So that Dr. Bell unquestionably preceded Mr. Lancaster, and to him the world are first indebted for one of the most useful discoveries which has ever been submitted to society.—Dr. Bell and Mr. Lancaster have heretofore had much communication with each other; and Mr. Lancaster, in acknowledging the obligation he has to Dr. Bell, wishes not to detract from his honour or merit; nor to arrogate to himself any thing to which Dr. Bell is entitled;' † at the same time he asserts that many of the very useful methods practised in his school are exclusively his own. On the other hand Dr. Bell, with the feeling worthy of so great a benefactor to mankind, allows, that to the zeal, perseverance, and address of Mr. Lancaster, the mechanical parts of the system are under the greatest obligations.'†—The system itself is what I wish to recommend to public notice, and at the same time to do justice to the two persons who in its invention, improvement, and propagation, have rendered such distinguished services to the world. Under the patronage which each so liberally enjoys, their plan of education, founded on the basis of utility and truth, must prevail: and the union of all parties in the unprejudiced acknowledgement of the respective merits of Dr. Bell and Mr. Lancaster, cannot fail materially to advance the period of its universal adoption."
§ † Extract of a letter from Mr. Lancaster to Mr. Whitbread, March 2, 1807.
§ ‡ Extract of a letter from Dr. Bell to Mr. Whitbread, Feb. 26, 1807.886
§ Sir, I might here dismiss the subject of education altogether; and indeed, I reluctantly call your attention to one illustration of the advantages to be derived from it, and the great disadvantages attending its total absence from any country when I mention the state of the poor in Ireland; there are in that country no poor-laws, to which the misery and wretchedness of the lower orders of society can be traced. But they have no instruction. In Scotland they have instruction, and therefore they are contented and happy, and do not use the poor-laws which they have. Sir, I perfectly well know, that my noble friend, who is, fortunately for her interests, at the head of the goverment of that country, is a decided friend to general instruction, and that he is a patron of the improved plan I have discussed, as well as of the person who carries it into effect. I know that the other members of his majesty's councils for the more immediate government of that country, are doing their endeavours towards the instruction of that brave, patient, and generous people. I have also learnt with the greatest pleasure, that the people themselves are eagerly desirous of availing themselves of the light which I hope will speedily and abundantly shine upon them. With a combination of circumstances so fortunate, we are entitled to expect the happiest results. Sir, the next step which I would recommend to the house to take towards the desireable end of exalting the character of the labourer, is to encourage him to become possessed of property, that he 887 may taste its sweets; and to give him full security for the possession of what he shah acquire. All persons who have thought deeply on the subject of the poor, have felt the force and justice of this principle; but some have differed as to the species of property of which it is most desirable they should become possessed. Some have thought a property in live stock most beneficial; and in that has originated in some parts of England what is called the Cow System, whereby a labouring man is enabled either to purchase or acquire a certain property in a cow. The services of that useful animal to the family of the labourer, are esteemed of greater importance than any other possession. This system may locally be exceedingly beneficial; but there are some obvious objections to it: such as the precariousness of the life of the animal, and the great loss which must arise from any accident to it, in most cases irreparable, which put it altogether out of the question, as to general adoption; and flings great doubt upon its application to those parts of the kingdom even most adapted to it. Money, sir, I apprehend to be the only sort of property which it is worth our while to give encouragement to the labourer to acquire; which is convertible into whatever other species of property he may think fit to purchase. The consideration then is, that of a plan by which the savings of the poor may be safely and profitably invested. If a labourer spends the whole of his earnings, he necessarily becomes a charge to the parish, upon the first accident he meets with, or the first attack of sickness; and if he is fortunate enough to escape both, the burthen is only suspended till age renders him incapable of work. A great proportion of the labouring poor thus become in succession claimants upon the parish; and this must in some degree continue until the poor can be induced to lay by something in health, as a provision for sickness or age. Such of them as make the experiment, and have once felt the satisfaction of possessing something of their own, ordinarily succeed beyond all expectation. Advanced one step towards independence, they go on to improve their condition; and in this class are found some of the most industrious, frugal, and meritorious members of society. That so few are found to make any saving may in a great degree be accounted for, by the difficulty of putting out the little they can raise at a time. A poor man would 888 often be glad to put out small sums to interest, who cannot make up enough to induce a man of property to take it: and in the length of time necessary to raise a larger sum, so many temptations occur for spending the little fund, that it requires a degree of forbearance and self-denial which few possess, to resist them. Thus, the poor man not knowing where to place the money he has saved, spends it unnecessarily, or trusts it with some plausible neighbour, and loses it, or puts it in his drawer, and is robbed of it; or places it in the hands of his master, who in some instances has iniquitously defrauded his industrious and confiding servant. Thus men are discouraged from the renewal of an unsuccessful attempt: and others are deterred by such examples. The obvious remedy for this evil, is to find out a method adapted to the situation of the poor, by which they may put out their savings with security, at a fair interest, for this purpose. The establishment of friendly societies opens a very general and useful resource: and I am glad of this public opportunity of expressing my decided approbation of those excellent institutions; and my sense of the obligation due to the right hon. gent. opposite to me (Mr. Rose), under whose auspices an act has been passed for the regulation, support, and encouragement of those societies, which by increasing the number of subscribers to them has proved highly beneficial to the country; I mean the act of the 33d of the king, c. 54: but, sir, it is to be observed, that some institution, such as I shall venture presently to suggest, are wanted in aid of the operations of those societies. Sir, the lower orders of the people, are jealous, and naturally so, of any interference or controul over their property; and many who from motives of jealousy are prevented from placing their savings in societies of this description, would place it out to profit, or upon contingencies, when the whole of the management would remain exclusively to themselves. Sir, to shew how much this sort of jealousy operates, one might remark, that although the advantages held out by the act in question are very great, and that the effect has been, as I believe, greatly to increase the number of members in those societies, still the interference of the law has certainly alarmed some others; and I have heard of instances where clubs have been broken up in consequence of it; the balance, however, I am sure, is in favour of the 889 act. These prejudices would certainly operate most, when the act was new. They will gradually wear away, and the country will receive the full measure of its benevolent provisions. Sir, no man can be a greater friend than I am to the institution of friendly societies; and in the county in which I live, I do all in my power to encourage and support them. I know only of one objection to them, and that is inseparably attendant upon them; it is I believe without remedy, and is by no means of such magnitude as to counteract their general value. I mean the frequent meetings they demand; the loss of time, and expenditure of money at the public houses. I am no enemy to relaxation and social meetings amongst the lower classes; they have a right to their enjoyments when confined within the bounds of sobriety and moderation; but I do not wish that the temptations to indulgences, in which the head of the family alone can partake, should be multiplied.—Some persons, struck with the benefit of these friendly societies, have carried their love for them so far, as to propose a general national club, to which every healthy labourer should be compelled to contribute. Sir, I need hardly say, that such a scheme is quite impracticable; and that by compulsion we should entirely destroy that which is the effect of, and can be supported only by, free will. The impossibility of watching the members of such a club, with the vigilance necessary to guard against fraud, and all the numerous difficulties attending the scheme, are too obvious to be dwelt upon: but I have mentioned the matter, in order to shew that it has not escaped my observation. Sir, what I shall propose, is to assist the intention of the benevolent societies, but not to put them aside or interfere with them.—Mr. Malthus has proposed the establishment of county banks. I confess I see many objections to that plan also, arising out of its complexity, and the difficulty there would be in making any general and perfect responsibility for so many different and dispersed establishments; but I approve his principle, and would extend it.—I beg gentlemen not to start at what I am about to suggest, which to many who hear me may be quite new, but to afford it their cool and deliberate consideration. I would propose the establishment of one great national institution, in the nature of a bank, for the use and advantage of the labouring classes alone; that it should be placed, in 890 the metropolis, and be under the controul and management of proper persons, to be appointed according to the provisions contained in the bill I shall move for leave to introduce; that every man who shall be certified by one justice, to his own knowledge, or on proof, to subsist principally or alone by the wages of his labour, shall be at liberty to remit to the accountant of the Poor's Fund (as I would designate it) in notes or cash, any sum from 20s. upwards; but not exceeding 20l. in any one year, nor more in the whole than 200l. That once in every week the remittances of the preceding week be laid out in the 3 per cent. consolidated bank annuities, or in some other of the government stocks, in the name of commissioners to be appointed; to avoid all minute payments, no dividend to be remitted till it shall amount to 10s., and that all fractional sums, under 10s. be from time to time re-invested, in order to be rendered productive towards the expences of the office. The plan will be more amply detailed in the bill itself, and such regulations are provided as will, with the intervention of the post-office, give ample facilities to its execution. Gentlemen need not be told, that the perfection attained in the management of that great machine is such, as to give the most easy and rapid means of communication with the metropolis, much greater indeed than usually subsists between the remote parts of any county and its capital town. Sir, the advantage of such a plan as that which I have just sketched out, would be very much increased, if in addition, an opportunity were given to those who might wish by an annual payment up to a given age, to purchase an annuity for the remainder of their lives: or to insure the payment of a gross sum to their families upon their death; or upon any of those calculable events, which are the usual objects of insurance.—There are offices in which the higher and middle classes, may by proportional annual payments, make a provision for themselves or families; but the lowest of the requisite payments, are above the reach of the labourer; to whom such a provision is still more necessary. I would therefore propose, that at the same place, there should be established, under the same direction, an insurance office for the poor: that tables should be calculated for the assurance, in consideration of annual payments of gross sums upon the death of the assured, of an annuity for the remain 891 der of a life after a given age; or of an annuity to a wife surviving a husband; or of payments upon a child's attaining a certain age. The same description of persons to be entitled to the benefit of this part of the plan, and upon similar certificates. No annual payment to be less than 10s. or more than 5l. That the calculations be at such rates of interest, and probabilities of the duration of life, as to be likely to give such an advantage only to the insurers, as would cover the expence of the establishment. That the receipts be invested in stock. That no insurance be made upon any life without the testimony upon oath of a medical man, that such person is in good health; nor without proof on oath of the age, and the certificate of a justice, that he is satisfied of the facts. On proof of fraud or misrepresentation, the insurance to be forfeited.—I should also propose, that all remittances to and by the accountant of both these offices, and all necessary correspondence, should be free of postage; and that no bill, certificate, or policy, should be subject to any stamp duty; nor probates of wills in respect of this fund only; and that all dividends and annual payments, should be wholly exempt from the property tax. It this part of the plan, I have followed up the principle laid down in the act relating to the friendly societies; and it is obvious, that the revenue would lose nothing by such exemptions; because, without such offices, no such correspondence or instruments would exist as are here proposed to be exempted from postage and duty: and the annual payments would all be below those sums which it has been in the contemptation of parliament to subject to the operation of the property tax.—Such, sir is the general outline of the plan I would propose to encourage the labourer to acquire property; and to secure to him the certain and profitable possession of it when acquired.—I beg the patient attention of the house and the country to the consideration of it; and I have the greatest hope of a happy effect from its being put in practice. If the poor should be found to avail themselves of it to any extent; the advantages to them and to the country, would be incalculable, and the expence attending it would speedily be covered: if it should not succeed, the trial can cost but little.—The next point which I wish to urge to the consideration of the house, is the law of settlement. Sir, I believe it to be now 892 universally admitted, that the code of laws which exist upon that subject is grievously oppressive to the poor, and injurious to the common wealth. Here again all eminent writers concur with me in reprobating the system of settlement as carried into practice, and in wishing that it should be much relaxed. Mr. Rose in his pamphlet on the poor-laws, justly prides himself on having first shaken this obnoxious fabric; and the bill passed in the year 1796, commonly known by the name of its learned author, Mr. East, gave it another material, shock. Sir, I am glad to perceive the feelings of the house to go along with me so cordially in the opening of this part of my plan, it will be the less necessary for me to occupy their time in the demonstration of a point which seems so evident. I at the same time anticipate the decision of the house, that the law of settlement could not be entirely done away with safety or convenience. Sir, an erroneous opinion pretty generally prevails, that the law of settlement had its origin in the famous statute of the 13th and 14th of Charles II. which did indeed modify it, and in such a manner, as to open the door to more acrimonious disputes than are to be traced to any number of laws, however great, upon your table: wherein the substance of those who have contributed, has been wasted for the purpose of harassing and vexing those for whose relief it was intended. But, sir, the custom of settlement had its origin in very remote times, and we find very early traces of it in the statute law. So early as the 12th year of Richard II. cap. 7. the place of a man's birth is declared to be the place of his settlement. By the 11th of Henry VII. c. 2. the settlement of a man is deemed to be where he was best known or born; and by the horrible statute before cited, of the 1st of Edw. VI. cap. 3, a man's settlement is declared to be in the place of his birth, or where be has last resided for 3 years. At length came the act of the 13th and 14th Car. II. cap. 12. which conferred a settlement by a residence of 40 days. But, sir, it at the same time gave the power of removing persons likely to become chargeable, and thereby became the inexhaustible source of legal vexation. It is curious, and may be instructive to those who would wish to get rid of settlements altogether, to look at the state of the country at the time this act was passed, which is depicted in the preamble to the act itself. It is there said, 893 "That whereas, by reason of some defects in the law, poor people are not restrained from going from one parish to another, and therefore do endeavour to settle themselves in those parishes where is the best stock, the largest commons or wastes to build cottages, and the most woods for them to burn and destroy; and when they have consumed it, then to another parish; and at last become rogues and vagabonds, to the great discouragement of parishes to provide stock where it might be destroyed by strangers:—be therefore enacted, &c."—Now, sir, this uncontrolled power to the labouring poor, of planting themselves indiscriminately in any place, is not what I should think it wise for the legislature to give, as long as you hold forth the hand of the nation to relieve their wants. By the 1st of James II. cap. 17. the 40 days were to be accounted from notice given to the overseer; and by the 3d and 4th of Will. & Mar. cap. 11, it was further required, that the notice should be read in the church. This power of gaining a settlement by a residence of 40 days was thus rendered quite nugatory, because the delivery of the notice would at all times operate as a warning to the overseer, to obtain the removal of the pauper, as likely to become chargeable. The 8th and 9th of Will. & Mar. cap. 30, introduced the machinery of certificates, which went but a very little way towards the cure of the evil; and by a statute which passed in the 35th of the king, which I shall presently name, the use of certificates is quite done away.—By the law therefore as it now stands, no length of residence will of itself gain a settlement. Vexatious removals are indeed greatly diminished, by the humane provisions of 35 Geo. III. cap. 101. whereby it is enacted, that no person shall be removed till he shall become actually chargeable. But no settlement, by any length of residence can be gained.—It frequently happens therefore that a man settled by birth, or who has a derivative settlement from his parents, or who has acquired a settlement by apprenticeship, or service early in life, is fixed in a distant part of the kingdom, till age renders him incapable of any longer getting his living; and he is then removed from a parish which has had all the benefit of his labour in active life, and from every neighbourly connection, to linger and die, where he knows and is known to no one; and there are not 894 wanting instances of such removals after 50 years residence in a parish.—I propose therefore, that in addition to the means by which a settlement may now be acquired, that a residence, as a householder, for 5 years in any parish without being chargeable to that or any other parish, shall confer a settlement on any householder. But I would add, that such right to settlement should be forfeited by the person claiming it, if he should be proved to have been convicted of any crime, or to have incurred any infamous punishment during the period. By this restriction, I have in view the preservation of the morals of the country, to which I think it would very greatly conduce. The period of residence by which I would confer a settlement corresponds with that introduced by Mr. Pitt into his proposed bill, and I think it will appear to the house, to be a more reasonable limitation of time, than 3 years, as prescribed by the old customs and statute for England and Wales; and by the law of Scotland, as has been determined by very recent decisions of the court of session.—Under the head of settlements, there is another case for which it is extremely desirable to provide. The act of 35th Geo. III. cap. 101, having taken away the oppressive power of removing a pauper upon the ground of his being likely to become chargeable, there is no way of obtaining a judicial decision on his settlement, or even taking an examination upon it, till he becomes actually chargeable: and it is not perhaps till the distress occasioned by his last illness, or that of his family in consequence of his death, has produced an application to the parish officers, that it is in their power to put the question, however disputable, in a course of trial; when from the length of time the facts have become more difficult of proof, and the testimony of the pauper, who is usually the best witness of his own settlement, will often have been lost.—The remedy I propose is, to authorize two justices upon the application of the overseer, to enquire into and on sufficient evidence to make an order of adjudication of the settlement of any person likely to become chargeable, in the same way that orders of removal are now made, leaving out the clause of removal; that a duplicate of the order of adjudication should within a month be delivered to the overseers of the parish in which the settlement is adjudged to be; that such parish be at liberty to appeal against the order to 895 the quarter sessions, upon the usual legal notice; and that the order of sessions upon the appeal, or the order of the justices, if not appealed from, be conclusive on the settlement, as in the case of orders of removal. I propose, if the order is made within 20 days of the sessions, to allow an appeal to the second sessions, that the parish in which the settlement is adjudged to be, may have sufficient time to make enquiry into the case, and that the parish obtaining the order should be bound to produce the pauper who is the subject of the order. I would also propose that an order, not appealed from, should be recorded at the second session by the parish obtaining it, on proof of the delivery of a duplicate to the other parish.—Sir, it will be perceived that by this proposition I would alter nothing of the old law of settlement, but merely superadd the power of obtaining a settlement which I have described, to those already in existence. That I therefore interfere with none of the decisions of the courts of justice in that long string of settlement cases which have come before them for their opinion. By the provision for the previous adjudication of settlement I hope to take away the ground of much expensive litigation, under circumstances which render proof difficult and sometimes. impossible.—The principle of the previous adjudication of settlement, will be found in the Friendly Society act, and I have almost copied the provisions of the clause which it contains relative to this matter, adding only a further guard against vexation to the labourer; by ordering that in all cases where he is compellable to appear as a witness for the purpose of having his settlement adjudged, the expence accruing from his loss of time shall be paid to him. From all these provisions I expect the best effects, in the additional freedom it will give to the person, together with increased independence to the mind of the labourer, and the greater equality which it will create between the demand for labour and its supply.—The next matter in order, in which I would wish parliament to make some alteration, is the constitution and power of vestries. By the act of 43d Eliz. cap. 2, the churchwardens and overseers are required once in every month after divine service, to meet in the church, there to consider of the course to be taken for fulfilling the purposes of the act. By the 3d and 4th Will. & Mar. cap. 11, s. 11, "the parishioners are to meet in the vestry 896 yearly, in Easter weeek; or as often as it shall be thought convenient, and the lists of those receiving relief are to be called over, the reasons for relief examined, and new lists made of such persons as, they shall think fit, and allow to receive collection; and no other to receive any collection without the order of a justice, except in cases of pestilence, or small-pox." The yearly meeting appears to me to be much too distant, and the words "as often as it shall "be thought convenient" much too loose, and to leave too much in the discretion of the, parish officer. I believe the custom still to prevail in some parishes of assembling once in the month, or at some stated periods; but such meetings are not now deemed necessary, are not regularly summoned, and are frequently conducted without regularity or decorum. I shall propose, therefore, to restore the monthly meeting, directed by the 43d of Elizabeth; and as the interests of the inhabitants are so deeply affected by the administration of the poor laws; to give them a more effectual controul over the raising and expenditure of their money. I propose, that vestries shall meet monthly, and on notice, at intermediate times; that the church wardens and overseers be required to take their opinion, and observe their direction upon the assessments to be made, the persons to be relieved, and the relief to be given, in all cases which do not require immediate attention. But to prevent an abuse of this power by undue influence, or popular clamour, it will, I think, be proper to do something as to the constitution of the vestries, as far as regards the execution of the poor-laws. Gentlemen very well know, that the meetings of vestries are too frequently disorderly and tumultuous; and that the more respectable part of the inhabitants of a parish often withdraw themselves from all attendance on parochial business, from the disgust they experience at such assemblies. At present every person rated to the poor's rate, in the smallest sum, has an equal voice in the vestry with the proprietor who pays the highest proportion to the rate; and a few very inconsiderable renters sometimes have it in their power to dispose of the parish money against the opinion of the more substantial and better informed inhabitants. In order therefore to give to those who contribute most to the fund, a due weight in the application of the money, I would propose, 897 that a person assessed in a certain sum, should have two votes, and in a certain other larger sum, three votes, and the largest four. The act passed in the present reign, 22d Geo. III. c. 3. commonly called Mr. Gilbert's act, directs, that in parishes adopting the provisions of that statute, no persons shall be entitled to vote in vestry, who are not assessed to the relief of the poor, in the annual amount of 5l, I would not wish to see that regulation generally adopted. I think that all who contribute ought to have their proportionate controul over the distribution of the money. In order to ensure decency and order in the meetings themselves, I would propose, that the officiating clergyman of the parish should in all cases, when present, preside: in his absence, the senior churchwarden; then the junior churchwarden; after that the overseers in succession; and failing the attendance of all I have named, the person present paying the highest sum to the rate; and in all cases of equality of opinion, that the chairman should have the casting vote. By such provisions as I have described, and which will of course be more accurately and amply set forth in the bill, I should hope to secure a more perfect controul over the expenditure of the money; more care in the method of raising it; and to convert an ineffectual, noisy, and tumultuous meeting, into a decent, effectual, and orderly scene of business, to the great comfort of the poor, and the great saving of the parties assessed.—Sir, the next matter which I would submit to the consideration of the house, is one of the very first importance, I mean that of the rate itself, out of which the relief is given. Sir, I think I have shewn in the earlier part of my speech, that enormous as is the present amount of the rate raised for the relief of the poor, and rapid as the increase of it has been, it is not practicable to restrain it within any precise boundary. The reduction to be hoped for, must depend upon the success of the measures which may be enacted for reforming the habits, and improving the resources of the poor, such as I have already proposed, and to which I have still some to add. Sir, the law for a compulsory rate grew out of very ancient statutes, which recommended the giving of alms. By the 27th of Henry VIII. cap. 25, collectors were appointed to receive the alms given; and persons were forbid to give, except to those collectors. By the 5th and 6th of Ed- 898 ward VI. cap. 2, the bishop was directed, to exhort those who should refuse to give alms. By the 5th of Eliz. cap. 3, the bishop was directed to bind over such as should refuse to give alms, and they were to be imprisoned. By the 14th of Eliz. cap. 5, justices were directed to assess in every place. By the 39th of the same queen, cap. 3, overseers were, appointed for the management of the rate; and at length by the celebrated statute, so often mentioned, the rate was directed to be assessed after the manner which continues in force to this day. The only statutes, I believe, which have been passed since that period on the subject of the rate, are the 17th of Geo II. cap. 3, which directs, that notice shall be given of the allowance of a rate, without which notice, it shall not be valid; and also gives power to the inhabitants, to inspect the rate: the 17th of Geo. II. cap. 38, which directs overseers to deliver over the books to their successors, and gives power of appeal against the rate, to parties aggrieved by it; and the 41st of the king, cap. 23, which makes some further provisions about appeals. But the rate itself is or ought to be raised at this day, according to the intentions and enactments of the 43d Eliz. cap. 2: I say, ought to be, because the intention of that statute has evidently been departed from in practice, whereby a very gross inequality has been created, in the distribution of burthen necessarily imposed for the relief of the poor. Sir, the words directing the levy of the rate are as explicit as to the persons on whom the, levy is to be made, as can well be devised. They are the following: "to raise weekly, or otherwise, by taxation of every inhabitant, parson, vicar, or other, and of every occupier of lands, houses, tithes impropriate, propriations of tithes, coalmines, or saleable underwoods in such parish," &c. By these words I think it was clearly designed that every person having personal property in a parish should be assessed in regard of that personal property; and indeed that such is the true interpretation of the law, may be collected from the repeated decisions of the court of King's Bench. The rating of personal property had long fallen into disuse, but the law was not altered, and upon a case which came before the court on an appeal, although the rate appealed against was quashed for informality, Mr. Justice Aston said, "if it be the law that personal pro- 899 perty is rateable, it must be rated although it was never rated before." Lord Kenyon in another case said, "There is no doubt that personal property is rateable." In another case, of the King against White, it was decided, that "ships are rateable property like stock in trade, and confirmed a rate made upon White in respect of such ships, to the amount of 13,500l." But, sir, the practice of rating personal property has been so little resorted to, that the land has borne almost the whole of the burthen, and very unjustly. For certainly nothing can be more unjust, than that a person carrying on a lucrative concern within a parish should contribute only in proportion of the value of the land he holds, and nothing in respect of his productive capital; whilst his neighbour must pay in the same proportion for his occupation, although his resource for income should be in the land alone. I am perfectly aware that by the enforcing of this provision of the statute of Elizabeth there will be some difficulties to encounter; and I would by no means vest in any hands the sort of inquisitorial power necessary to ascertain the income of persons as is done for the purpose of levying those large taxes which perhaps must be raised during a war. But all productive capital must, in its operation, be to a certain degree visible; Such estimate must be made of it as can be best collected from circumstances; and the power of appeal affords the remedy to the party assessed. I would propose then to declare that, with the exception of farming stock, all local and productive personal property is rateable. Few persons, perhaps, will be more touched by such a declaration of the law than myself, in more than one instance; but, sir, in this house in order to do their duty, men must divest themselves of all personal and selfish considerations; and although I do not pretend to greater disinterestedness than other men, and should, perhaps, be as eager as others to relieve myself from any unusual payment, when called upon in my individual capacity, I have now objects of far greater magnitude in my view, and wish at my own expence, as well as at that of others, to procure a more equal and general distribution of inevitable burthens, in order that they may sit lightly on all. The great bulk of personal property will still be out of the reach of legal taxation; but the opulent are seldom found deficient inhumane attention to the wants of the poor. Sir, there is another grievance 900 under the head of rating, which ought long since to have been redressed. As the law now stands, every occupier is rateable to the poor-rate; and, till a late statute, upon proof on any appeal against the rate, of the omission of the smallest tenement, the court was bound to quash the rate. The act alluded to allows the rate to be amended, but the property still remains liable to be rated; and the cottage of an industrious labourer or workman, struggling to support himself and his family, is still often assessed and compelled to pay, what to him is a considerable sum, to be bestowed on less deserving objects. In some parishes it is the practice to leave out all persons below a certain yearly value; in others they exempt by name such as they think too poor to pay. I would propose to you, sir, to legalize the exemption, by authorizing the vestry to order such occupiers of cottages as they shall think too poor to pay, to be left out of the rate; to declare that such omission shall not be a ground of appeal against the rate; and also to give power to the justices upon application to strike out of the rate the name of any person who shall occupy a cottage not exceeding five pounds in yearly value, and that such exemption shall not in any case be considered as parochial relief. To prevent abuse also, in cities and boroughs, I would provide that no person should ever be exempted except upon his own application expressed in writing. By such enactments, sir, I entertain great hopes that we shall impose upon the rich such a proper share of the burthen, as they cannot severely feel, and will most cheerfully bear; and take from the poor a load, which, however inadequate to general assistance, is to him, grievous and oppressive.—Sir, I must detain you still longer on the subject of the parochial rate: and I mean to suggest some remedy to the extreme inequality of burthen now subsisting between one parish and another. In doing this, we should only restore the spirit of the 43d of Elizabeth. Sir, by that statute, although the assessments for the expences of the poor are to be raised in every parish; yet a discretion is given to two justices, if they shall find the inhabitants of any parish not able to pay sufficient sums within themselves, to tax "any other of other parishes within the hundred." And if the hundred shall not be thought fit and able to relieve the several parishes unable to provide for themselves; the justices in their general 901 quarter sessions are required "to rate and assess any other within the county." The inability here spoken of could not mean that the whole parish, in the first place, or hundred in the second, should be reduced to poverty before the rest of the county should be resorted to; the intention must have been to guard against gross or oppressive inequality in the charges; but the terms of the act are so vague, and the means of judging of the comparative inability so defective, that notwithstanding some parishes have been subjected to rates equal to their whole rental, the power of taxing others in aid, has very seldom been exercised. Why, sir, there are many gentlemen who hear me (and I particularly call upon one of the hon. members for the borough [Mr. Henry Thornton] who, during the great scarcity experienced a few years ago, was most humanely active, to attest the truth of my assertion) who know that within the precincts of this metropolis, and immediately adjoining, there are parishes at this moment labouring under the most grievous affliction because they cannot raise the money necessary for the relief of the indigent. Sir, I mean to allude more particularly to the parish of Spitalfields. A description of the sufferings of that parish has lately been given to the public by a deserving gentleman of the name of Hale, who has long officiated in the parish to the advantage of the inhabitants and his own credit. That district is unfortunately inhabited by none but the poorest classes of the people; manufacturers who resort there for the cheapness of lodging, and who, in the event of sickness, or stoppage of trade, or any other casualty, are instantly obliged to have recourse to the parochial fund. That fund is to be raised from persons of their own condition, so that the relief which is to prevent the starvation of one family, is, of necessity, wrung from another, to whom the loss of the pittance paid produces a state almost approaching to famine. The opulent employers of these manufacturers, all live in other parishes. Is it not fit, sir, that some remedy should be applied to this evil, and evils like this? If what I shall propose to you shall not be enacted, or, if enacted, shall not reach the case, some special parliamentary provision must be made for it.—Sir, that the intention and letter of the statute of the 43d of Eliz. are what I have represented them to be, I can prove in this case also, by deci- 902 sions of the court of king's bench. In the case of "the king against Boroughfen," "a taxation had been made of several persons in a parish, in aid of another parish. It was objected, that it should have been of all the persons in a parish. The court thought it unreasonable that several persons in a parish should be charged, and not all. But the words of the statute are very strong, and did not quash the order for that objection." In the cases of the "king against the tithing of Milland," the "king and Knightly," and the "king and the parish of St. Peter and Paul, in Marlbro';" in similar assessments, the orders were all affirmed by the court.—Now, sir, I hope to have devised a means of remedying this inequality generally, and by the same expedient, to produce a competition in economy amongst all the parishes of a county. I should therefore propose to empower the court of quarter sessions, at the second session which may take place after the passing of the act, and at the expiration of the seventh and every succeeding seventh year from that period, to require from the overseers of the poor within their respective jurisdiction, returns of the rental and other profits upon which the poor-rate is charged; and the charge per pound. In the first place, sir, I apprehend that the publicity of the proceedings of every parish, would create a desire, that those proceedings should be such as to bear the light. The comparative state of the rate in each parish would, at one view, be before all the land-owners: and those whose property was most burthened, would naturally enquire into the circumstances and management of those whose rates were the lowest, and from the example of others, might correct the improvidence of their own parishioners. Sir, it is by no means my intention to propose, that each Parish and district throughout the kingdom, should not, as at present, maintain its own poor out of its own rate. I know that it has been a favourite project with some, to make the divisions of the kingdom larger, for the purpose of assessment and relief; and some have even gone so far, as to declare an opinion, that as the object is national, the fund and the management of it should be national also. Sir, I confess that in speculation, I Should be wholly against such a change: and experience amply proves to me that such a change would be unwise. The gentleman who so accurately and laboriously arranged the 903 returns made in the year 1803, Mr. Poole of Somersetshire, and whose information on the subject of the poor-laws is extensive, and his willingness to communicate it, most praiseworthy, has furnished me with data, which I will shortly state. In districts so small, as that the whole of the poor's rate collected in one year, does not exceed 100l., the average of the rate is 3s. 4d.; from 100 to 200, 4s. 7d.; from 200 to 300, 5s. 1d.; and so on in regular progression till you come to districts, where from 2 to 3 thousand pounds are collected, and then the average of the rate collected, amounts to 8s. 2d. in the pound. Sir, the reason of this is manifest, that in the smaller districts the concerns of the whole are much more under the eye and management of each contributor, than they can be when more extensive; and this I think furnishes an irrefragable argument against the alteration or extension of the established boundaries of the kingdom, as well as against a general national, or even county fund, for the relief of the poor.—But, sir, an object of great importance may be obtained, by the plan I have suggested of the periodical returns of assessable property within a county, I mean the general equalization of the county rate throughout England and Wales. Sir, it is universally known, with what inequality that rate falls upon the public; the proportions in which it is at this day collected, are those which were established in the time of king William, and whatever alterations may have taken place in the value of land, there is no power any where to correct the great injustice arising out of the change of circumstances on the one hand, and the adherence to ancient rules on the other. This has been so strongly felt in some counties, that application has been made to parliament for redress. Some of these applications have been successful; and it the counties of Middlesex and Leicester, the county rates are equalized by special acts of parliament. With the provisions of those acts I would not interfere; but I would propose, that the county rate throughout the kingdom should be equalized, by directing that it should be charged on every parish, in proportion to the assessed property stated by the overseers, according to the returns proposed to be mad by them at the expiration of every 7th year. Having put this fund derived from the county rate, on an improved and more equitable footing; I would propose out of it 904 to relieve such parishes within the county, as shall be most burthened with the poor-rate. Not to establish an equality throughout the county; for that would destroy the motives to economy: but that any parish, whose charges upon an average of 3 years, shall have been more than double the average of the parish rates throughout the county, shall have liberty to apply to the court of quarter session, and that upon proof that the expenditure has been necessary and unavoidable, the justices shall be empowered to grant out of the county stock, such relief as they shall thick reasonable; so as not to reduce the charge from the parish applying, to less than double the average of the rate raised for the relief of the poor, in the different parishes throughout the county. By this provision it seems to me, that an easy method would be found for relieving extreme pressure, and at the same time, that the burthen left upon the parish making the application would be so heavy, as to afford an undiminished stimulus to economy and good management.—I am well aware that opposition to the equalization of county rates, may arise from interested motives in various quarters; but I think the general feeling must be, that the levying them in the present mode is improper, and that that feeling is founded in justice, and that the good sense of parliament will prevail over all selfish considerations, which may operate to impede the progress of the great work the house of commons will, on this day, take in hand.—Sir, I believe I have stated to you all that I have to propose, with regard to the rate, and I am now naturally led to mention the power I would wish to be given to magistrates, to apply a part of the county rate towards the exaltation of the character of the labourer. No one, sir, is so little conversant with the nature of man, as not to know that the passions of the human mind may be influenced to the greatest possible advantage.—That hope, however remote, will console him, from whom it is not entirely cut off; and cheer the gloom of the most difficult and laborious existence; and that the love of distinction is so deeply implanted in the human breast, that it may be used to excite him to the performance of the most severe and meritorious duty, as well as tempt him to acts of the most atrocious and deadly cruelty.—Sir, these passions are as much alive in the heart of the labourer, as in that of the man of the most eminent rank, 905 I would therefore encourage him to hope for reward from extraordinary patience and virtue, and I would awaken his laudable ambition to be distinguished above his associates. In Mr. Pitt's bill he introduced provisions, allowing the claim of the labourer to parochial relief, under certain circumstances of heavy pressure, arising from the largeness of family. Sir, I totally object to the principle of any such claim, which he had extended to a degree which it would have been impossible to have provided funds to satisfy. Mr. Malthus, who is certainly no friend to the claim of right, on the part of the poor, has gone the length of saying, that if a man shall have 6 or more children, he ought to be entitled to some aid towards their support. I would not give any such right, nor allow of general relief, on those grounds; but I would propose to parliament, to impower the justices in quarter sessions, to bestow a reward upon the labouring man, who shall upon the earnings of his labour, have brought up 6 or more children to a certain age without parochial relief. It is certain that the claimants for such prizes would not be very numerous, but the merit of such claimants must inevitably be very great, and ought to be at least within the possibility of being rewarded. I would also limit the reward to be given to the most deserving, to a sum so moderate, that it could not be any where felt as a burthen, and I would give a power to the magistrates to add some token of distinction, in cases of pre-eminent merit, to the pecuniary reward that a man might be known to have obtained the approbation of the court. This might be done by the gift of a coat or a hat; or if that was not deemed advisable, a parchment certificate, with the county seal affixed to it, might be given to the labourer to be hung up in his cottage, as a gratification to himself during his life, and an incentive to his children after his decease. The expense attending the execution of this part of my plan would throw upon the county rate. The discretion of exercising the power entrusted to them, would rest entirely with the magistrates, and if the claimants in crease in number, the advantage would be extraordinarily great. But, sir, I anticipate an objection. That considering the severe seasons which have taken place, and the almost universal necessity they have occasioned for parochial relief, your law would be in this respect nugatory, for the 906 you could not expect any claimants at all. To that I would reply, first, that if you had no claimants, no expence could be incurred, and therefore your enactment could do no harm; and secondly, that experience justifies me in asserting, that claimants would appear. Sir, we all know that agricultural societies have been established in many parts of the kingdom with the most beneficial effects; and that amongst other of their praiseworthy objects, has been that of rewarding meritorious labourers. Premiums have been generally offered by those societies, for such men as shall have brought up the largest families upon the wages of labour, without parochial relief. Such a society was instituted in the county in which I live, under the peculiar direction and patronage of that great patron of all that was wise, patriotic, benevolent, and good, the late duke of Bedford; it is still patronized and effectually supported by his worthy successor. The Bedfordshire Agricultural Society was formed immediately after the pressure of the scarce years, and I confess that at the time I assented to the proposition for premiums of the sort I have described, I did not entertain any expectation that they would ever be adjudged. How astonished and delighted then must I have been, as I truly was, to find swarms of candidates for the inspection of their certificates those certificates having been required in a way to preclude the possibility of fraud. What heartfelt joy was experienced by the great and ever-to-be-lamented personage, who at our first meeting distributed the rewards to the successful candidates, and by all who assisted at this useful institution. When I saw the honest glow of self-gratification beaming on the rugged countenance of industrious labour at the sight of the unexpected boon; the tear of joy trickling down that furrowed cheek which had been often moistened with the tear of anguish and disappointment; I could not help exclaiming to the farmers assembled round me, "Do you see this sight? Could you have believed the existence of these men, if they had not been produced before your eyes? Let it be a lesson to us. The idle, the profligate, and the clamourous, are constantly obtruding themselves upon our notice. They defraud, irritate, and fatigue us, and we are apt to judge and condemn all their brethren in consequence of their misconduct. Virtue is patient, silent, and unobserved; it be 907 hoves us to bring her into notice, and reward her. May this society then flourish and be perpetual, if only for the purpose of rewarding meritorious industry, and creating in the labourers an emulation to do well; in their employers a determination to do their duty by them, and an improved opinion of human nature!" Sir, that which I then contributed to make local, I now wish to make national, and from experience of its beneficial operation on a small scale, I propose it to your adoption on a general one, and I repeat the remark I have made, that if it fails, it can cost nothing; if it succeeds, it must be of inestimable value.—Sir, I would next advert to a circumstance very materially concerning the health and comfort of the poor, and which certainly requires the interference of the legislature; I mean the building of cottages. Sir, you well know, that by the 5th section of the 43d of Eliz. c. 2, the churchwardens and over seers of the poor are empowered to build cottages for the habitation of the impotent poor, upon the wastes, with the consent of the lord of the manor. But the execution of this power has fallen almost totally into disuse, and indeed, from the altered circumstances of the country, has in most cases become totally impracticable, the division of property under acts of in-closure having become so general, and decisive, as to leave no spot of which the parish could take advantage, and there being no power to buy land for the purpose of building upon. Sir, I would propose to revive and give effect to the power formerly given to the churchwardens and overseers, of building cottages; to which I would add the power of buying land to a certain extent, not exceeding perhaps in the whole five acres. By the limitations and restrictions I shall impose upon it, I am not afraid of incurring the opposition of those who have stated that the scarcity of habitations is the only preventive check to that morbid increase of population which they assert it to be the direct tendency of the poor-laws to produce. Necessity overturns theory, and is paramount to controul, and the want of habitations for the poor is in many places so great that even in villages, two, and sometimes more than two, families are crowded into a cottage barely sufficient for one. Parents and children of both sexes and of all ages are obliged to sleep in one room, to the injury of their health and in violation of 908 all decency. This has arisen partly from the increased expence of building and repairs, and much from the increased population. I would propose to give to the parishes a power to lay out in building, sums not exceeding a limited amount, proportioned to their rates. The immediate distress for habitations might thus in some degree be lessened, and the comfort, the health, and the morals of the poor so far promoted. But, sir, I should wish parliament to direct, that all cottages built under this power, should be let at fair and full rents, and even that the overseers, in letting the cottages, shall obtain for the parishes to which they belong, the benefit of the competition arising from the scarcity of dwellings, for as the bulk of the habitations of the poor must be the property of individuals, who justly expect a reasonable profit for this part of their capital, it would be unfair towards them, and ultimately injurious to the poor, to let the houses built by the parish, at less than the private proprietor can afford to take for his. The rents of cottages are so low as to discourage any interested man from building new ones or even from repairing those already built. The scarcity however must in this as in all other instances occasion an advance in the price; and till that happens, the distress for houses must continue. This furnishes a countervailing argument to the minds of those who might apprehend that from such an enactment we should take away the preventive check on marriage which Mr. Malthus has stated to be found in that scarcity of habitations: but Mr. Malthus never intended to push his principles to extremes; and I trust his admirers will not fall into that error.—The observations I have made on the rents of cottages are not intended to restrain parishes from allowing families to occupy any of the parish houses rent-free, in cases where relief shall be needed, and that may be thought the best way of giving it; but where this is done, the parish should have a power under the authority of the magistrates of displacing those who shall not longer be in need, or worthy of this benefit: and it will be useful to give a summary power of ejecting for sufficient cause the occupiers of all parish cottages.—Any gentleman who has acted as a magistrate in the country must know the difficulties which occur in getting rid of an idle and profligate tenant of a parish cottage; whilst those, ten times more deserving of 909 assistance and comfort, are without shelter, and the parish is unable to afford it to them.—The next and last subject on which I must detain the house is one of primary importance and comprehends a variety of details. Sir, I mean the mode of administering relief to the poor, the quantum of relief to be given, the distinction to be taken between the different applicants for relief, and the method of employment for those who are healthy and capable, of work. I must set out by declaring what I believe I have mentioned in a former part of my speech, that I deem it of most essential importance to maintain the character of independent industry, above dependent poverty; and that I think it a matter of injustice to the labourer, who is struggling by his own effort to maintain himself and a numerous family without parochial relief, to place the man who does not make such efforts in a more desirable or more favourable situation as to food, lodging, or raiment. To age, infancy, and sickness, I would hold out the hand of support, protection, and care, widely extended, filled with all the blessings the most copious charity could afford.—Sir, the impotent poor are to be considered under the two heads of the unfortunate and criminal, for the purpose of discrimination, of doing justice to misfortune, and of punishing profligacy.—And first to dispose of the criminal class. In the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, many acts were passed for the punishment of idleness in labourers and workmen, some of which I have already quoted, and they are full of horrible severity. But the only existing law for the punishment of idleness, unattended with other crime, is the 17th Geo. II. c. 5, by which "all persons who not having wherewith to maintain themselves, live idle, without employment, and refuse to work for the usual and common wages given to other labourers in the like work," are declared to be idle and disorderly persons; and are subjected, upon conviction, to imprisonment, not exceeding one month. But as long as a man can maintain himself and his family without applying to the parish, he is not, in practice or in law, liable to any penalty, and may spend as much of his time as he pleases in idleness without any legal punishment. Desirable as it is to prevent rather than to punish, it does not seem to be practicable to frame any power of restraint, without breaking in upon that freedom of action which is the right of every man in his own 910 concerns. But where a pauper applies to the parish for relief, there is fair ground to enquire whether he has abused this right; and if it appears that he has by profligate waste and extravagance become a burthen upon others, he ought to receive the punishment he has merited. I would propose therefore, that upon complaint made by the overseers by direction of the vestry to the justices of the district at the overseer sessions, or at any special sessions, that any person who shall by himself or family have applied for and received relief of the parish, has reduced himself to want by idleness or extravagance, the justices shall enquire into the case, and if, upon sufficient evidence after hearing the pauper, they shall find the charge to be true, they shall commit him to the house of correction for a time to be limited; there to be employed in such labour as he shall be capable of, and after his release, he shall, so long as he shall be a burthen to the parish, be distinguished by a badge denoting his crime with the name of the parish, in large letters on his outer garment, and that his allowance shall be no more than will provide him bread. I would empower the justices, however, upon proof of orderly behaviour for a given time, either to dispense with the criminal badge, or to put the offender on the same allowance as the unfortunate poor, or to do both. A sufficient power of appeal will of course be given.—Sir, with regard to the great class of unfortunate poor, excepting again, and always, the cases of age, infancy, and sickness, which are sacred; parochial relief should be confined to necessaries, whether in or out of the poor-house.—Sir, it is here fit I should state to the house that I am an enemy to the workhouse system. That I believe where it has been acted upon, it has almost universally increased the burthen of the poor's rate; and instead of adding to the comfort of the poor, or to the improvement of their morals, it has furnished seminaries of idleness and vice. At the same time, it is not my intention to propose to you to abolish workhouses altogether.—Sir, it is known that workhouses were first introduced in London by the 13th and 14th Ch. II. and they were authorized as a general measure by the 9th of Geo. I. by which act, "for the greater ease of parishes in the relief of the poor," churchwardens and overseers, with the consent of vestries, are empowered to purchase or hire houses for the maintenance and em- 911 ployment of all or any of the poor desiring relief; and there to entertain or employ, and take the benefit of the work of such poor, and none were to be entitled to relief who should refuse to be maintained and logded in the workhouse.—As the law long stood then, all relief was forbidden in those parishes where workhouses were established, to those who should refuse to be lodged and maintained therein: and it is only for a limited time and under particular circumstances, that relief can now be given out of the workhouse, It be well to enquire whether this measure has answered one of its objects, "the greater ease of parishes:" the answer is decidedly in the negative.—Sir, by the returns of the year 1803, it is proved, that the number of persons maintained in workhouses, and houses of industry in that year, was 83,468, and the expence of their maintenance, 1,015,445l. or 12l. 3s. 6d. each. That their earnings accounted for to the parish, were at the rate of 17s. O¼d. each. That the number of poor permanently relieved at their own habitations upon the most accurate calculation were 651,347, at an expence of rather less than 4l. 6s. 4d. each. Sir, I do not trouble the house with the very minute detail of figures, by which this indisputable fact is ascertained; they are before you, and my statements will be found correct. The inference is obvious, that as far as expence goes, the workhouse system has quite failed of its purpose. But let us compare the expence upon each individual in a workhouse, with the sum which a labouring man, living upon the wages of his labour, can afford to spend upon each head in his family; and we shall find, that upon a high average of wages, he could by no means afford to lay out upon each, any thing like the sum spent upon each head in a workhouse. This disparity ought not to exist, and we must endeavour to remove it. I believe it will be found in workhouses in general, not only that a much larger proportion of food is consumed or wasted for each individual contained in them, than the labouring man can bestow upon himself and his family, but that the consumption of bread and meat is greater than their numerical share of the consumption of the country, taking rich and poor. The fact is, that the frugal poor make their money go so much further than any other management can do for them, that they find means to live decently snd save something out of an income, which no calcula- 912 tion would make adequate to their support: a strong argument for not interfering in their concerns, wherever it can be avoided. The burthen, therefore, to the parishes has been increased, instead of being diminished, by the establishment of workhouses.—As to the poor themselves, the effect has been to break every tie, to force them from their relations and friends, to deprive the aged of their best consolation, and by exposing the young to the influence of the worst examples, to form nurseries of depravity. Sir, there are doubtless many and happy exceptions. I am speaking generally. Workhouses may in some instances have tended to ease parishes, by terrifying the most meritorious from applying for relief, and it is too true that they have been established in some parishes for that iniquitous purpose. Fortunately the humanity of the nation has generally taken a contrary direction, and has prevented the evils of workhouses from being so great as they otherwise might have been; by overlooking the law which prohibits relief out of the house: and the rigour of that law has been in some degree mitigated by 36 Geo. III. c. 23. allowing occasional relief; but the restraint ought, in my opinion, to be entirely taken away. I would propose, then to repeal so much of the act of Geo. I. as imposes that restraint. But as parish houses will be necessary for orphan children, for sick, aged, and infirm poor, who have no relations or connections to whose care they can be intrusted; and such houses may, in some cases, be necessary for the temporary lodging of those who have no home, I would propose that the provisions of 9 Geo. I. for purchasing and hiring such houses, should be continued; and to facilitate their execution, that parishes should be authorised to borrow, on the security of their rates, limited sums, to purchase, build or repair such houses, and I should wish to see enacted some regulations for their internal management. I propose that the parish shall meet in vestry on some fixed day, in every month, and that all applications for relief, and all cases requiring it shall be then considered, conformably with the spirit of 3 and 4 Will. & Mar. c, 11, that such of those entitled to assistance, as shall have settled habitations, and shall be in a situation to take care of themselves, or to be taken care of by their families, or by any relation or friend, a suitable allowance shall be made it their residence. 913 That the overseers be impowered to place sick, or infirm persons, having no connections, under proper care, and to agree for their maintenance. I would also propose to limit the rates of allowance, except in cases of sickness, and that no relief, except in urgent cases, be given by the overseer, without the consent of a vestry, or the order of a justice, would further remedy one very great grievance, which prevails as much to the disadvantage of parishes, as to the oppress on of the objects relieved. I mean the custom of depriving a man of every worldly possession before relief is administered. Sir, I would propose, in case of sickness, or other great emergency, that the possession of furniture, tools and live stuck, to the value of 30l. and a cottage, not exceeding the annual value of 5l. should not preclude the possessor from receiving relief. Thus a man, who, as the law now stands, must, by the acceptance of the most trifling assistance, be overwhelmed, will be able to get afloat again in the world, and recover his independence when the visitation shall be at an end. I would enable overseers to continue the present poor-houses, or build others, or hire them for the reception of persons such as I have before described, and to raise money for that purpose on the credit of the rates to a limited amount. I would also impose restrictions in the mode of contracting for the maintenance of the poor. I would provide, that contracts should not be valid for more than one year; and that they should not be made for a gross sum; to prevent the interest of the contractor clashing with his duty, but that every contract should be made by the head. That no contract should be valid until submitted to and approved by the justices in special session; and that a duplicate of the contract should be filed. Sir, I will not trouble the house any further, there will be ample details in the bill; I would only add, that following up the principle I originally laid down, that dependent poverty should not, as under the workhouse system it frequently happens, be supported at a greater expence than independent industry can possibly sustain, I would regulate the quantity of meat and bread to be furnished to each individual in health, maintained in a pariah house; taking care that there should be at all times an ample supply of other wholesome and nutritious food. For the purpose of these regulations, it will be necessary to give the justices in quarter session, the power of 914 enquiring into and declaring the price of bread and labour, within their jurisdiction, at certain periods, but by no means of interfering with either. Such a declaration would also be useful towards the execution of some acts already in existence, such as the act for the relief of the wives of militiamen, &c. Sir, I had almost forgot to mention the employment of the able bodied poor; a provision which I am sure will be looked for by many gentlemen of this house. But I must here premise, that I do not think, upon the most mature consideration which I have been able to give the subject, that that part of the 43d of Eliz. which enjoins "the churchwardens and overseers to take order for setting to work, all persons, having no means to maintain themselves, and to provide for that purpose a proper stock of hemp, wool, and other materials," ever was or ever could be, generally executed. This enactment appears to me to rest altogether upon the false supposition that the nation could, in the character of a great capitalist, employ all its labourers. We are now sufficiently enlightened to know, that individual capitalists alone can employ their capital to advantage in commerce; and that all attempts to establish manufactures for the purpose of making the poor support themselves out of their compulsory labour, (excepting very few cases) have either failed, or been kept alive by extraordinary exertion, and pecuniary aid. Sir, I agree with Mr. Malthus. in his position that the general execution of that part of the statute of Elizabeth, is a physical impossibility; and I refer gentlemen to his reasoning as conclusive on the subject. (See Vol. ii. p. 184.) But, there are now, comparatively, very few places in this country, where fair wages may not be obtained for labour, and wherever from particular circumstances there is not sufficient employment the parish officers are not likely to be able to create it. If that want of employment should be likely to continue, the further relaxation which I have proposed, in the law of settlement, would enable persons with the greater facility to transport themselves to those places where these workmen were the most scarce. In many agricultural parishes, labourers who cannot get work, are sent by the overseer to the different farms in the parish by turns. The employer usually pays something less than the ordinary wages of labour within the district; and the over 915 seer, where necessary, makes an addition from the rates. This practice however is not authorised by any law, it could not be generally adopted, and there are material objections to enforcing it. Do not let gentlemen imagine from what I have said, that I would by supporting persons in health, without work, give a bounty upon idleness. It is the furthest from my intention. In the case of a pauper making application to the overseer for work, I would propose to authorize such overseer, to contract with any other person for the labour of the applicant, in his own or any other parish within a limited distance; or to employ him in repairing the highways, or cleaning the streets, or any other public work of the parish, and where his earning should not exceed a certain sum, the difference to be made up out of the rates; always, however, keeping the wages of a person so employed, below the rate of wages in the parish, by way of creating a stimulus to the pauper to obtain work for himself. An extension of course to be given in proportion to the size of the family of the labourer: the applicant, upon refusal to do the work assigned, to be punishable for such refusal. These provisions, sir, are principally taken from the 32d section of the 22d of Geo. III. cap. 83; Mr. Gilbert's act. But notwithstanding my conviction, that the provisions of the act of the 43d Eliz. to which I have last referred "for setting the poor to work" can very seldom be applied to advantage, I propose to leave that part of the act untouched, that where it can be advantageously resorted to, the power may remain. I have contented myself with proposing powers which may be used where the provisions of that act are not found to succeed. Sir, I believe that I have gone through all the matters which have suggested themselves to me in the wide range of the poor-laws, as fit to be regulated, amended, or enacted by parliament, and I have advanced so far in digesting them that I hope, in the course of a very few days, to be able with the permission of the house, to present them at your bar, in the shape of a bill. In this, and every part of my task, I am under the greatest obligation to a very valuable friend, [Mr. Wilshere of Hitchen), in the county of Hertford] well known, and highly respected by several members of the house who now hear me; who has contributed his talents and experience to the furtherance of this great work: and, I am glad of the opportunity afforded 916 me to express, how much I owe to his friendly assistance. I am sure, therefore, that my intentions will at least be perspicuously stated. Sir, I am conscious that none of the plans I have opened are wholly new, and that more than one person, perhaps, may claim to himself the merit (if it be one) of having made the discovery of each that I suggest, either by way of original enactment on your statute book, or of remedy to some subsisting grievance. I do not aim at novelty but utility, and I do not wish to take from any of the persons who may have written on the different subjects, either publicly or privately, their claims to invention. To different minds reflecting deeply on the same practical evils, the same practical remedies will suggest themselves, and the more general the concurrence of sentiment, the more likely it is that those remedies should be applicable. If I have brought together in one view, the most striking of these evils, and suggested such provisions as are not altogether without the chance of affording relief, I shall consider my pains as amply repaid.—I would, however, ask one favour of the house and the country, which is, not to pass a hasty or premature judgment upon me. I would also intreat of those gentlemen who may, in their own particular districts, have been exerting themselves for the benevolent purpose of bettering the condition of their labourers, not to argue from the success of the particular experiments carried on under their own eye, to the general practicability of such schemes. There are particular local advantages belonging to every part of the kingdom, which, if skilfully improved by the land-owner, may contribute abundantly to the comfort and prosperity of the labourer; but which, if attempted generally, would utterly fail. To such laudable efforts, and to all local institutions adapted to particular situations, all I can say is, floreant! they will add to the general stock of comfort amongst the most useful of our countrymen; they do not interfere with, nor are they in any degree cramped by the plans I have opened. I would also request of gentlemen not to be led away by the pictures some may have in their minds of parishes where the poor-laws in their present form, have produced comfort, industry, and order. That picture cannot be made general. Sir, I have had the good fortune, with the assistance of able hands, to produce, by the operation of the poor 917 laws alone, in the parish where I reside, a situation of things, than which none can be presented more agreeable. Where there is not one wretched being, nor one well founded cause of complaint; and where the workhouse exhibits regularity, industry, economy, cleanliness, and health, testified by the countenances of all who inhabit it. But this could not be effected with machinery so complicated and imperfect, without great assiduity and exertion; neither could it be maintained without continued vigilance, and a combination of circumstances, which cannot be generally expected to take place. If it could be universal, I should nothing more; but I am not misled by the success of my own experiment. There are some matters collateral to the poor-laws which I hope will hereafter arrest the attention of the legislature, such as the laws respecting vagrancy, apprenticeship, &c. but they form no part of the poor-laws properly so called; and to meddle with them in this scheme, would only be to embarrass myself, with what may be better taken up separately. I submit the whole with the most perfect deference to the wisdom of parliament, to be adopted, rejected, curtailed, or amended as shall seem most expedient. I am open to conviction, and shall be glad to learn the opinion of the house of commons and the country, for which purpose I should wish that the bill, when introduced, should be read as first and second time, and committed pro formâ, that it should then be printed, and generally circulated, and that after the quarter sessions it should be taken into further consideration. I cannot, however, refrain front saying, that till better instructed, these are all favourite projects with me. During the hours of anxious thought and laborious investigation which I have passed, I have been charmed with the pleasing vision of the general amelioration of the state of society, and the eventual and rapid diminution of its burthens. In the adoption of the system of education I foresee an enlightened peasantry, frugal, industrious, sober orderly, and contented, because they are acquainted with the true value of frugality, sobriety, industry, and order. Crimes diminishing, because the enlightened understanding abhors crime. The practice of Christianity prevailing, because the mass of your population can read, comprehend, and feel its divine origin and the beauty of the doctrines which it inculcates. Your kingdom safe from the 918 insult of the enemy, because every man knows the worth of that which he is called upon to defend. In the provision for the security of the savings of the poor I see encouragement to frugality, security to property, and the large mass of the people connected with the state and indissolubly bound to its preservation. In the enlarged power of acquiring settlements the labour directed to those spots where labour is most wanted. Man, happy in his increased independence, and exempted from the dread of being driven in age from the spot where his dearest connexions exist, and where he has used the best exertions, and passed the best days of his life. Litigation excluded from our courts, and harmony reigning in our different parochial districts. In the power of bestowing rewards I contemplate patience and industry remunerated, and virtue held up to distinction and honour. In the various detailed alterations in the mode of rating, and the equalization of the county rate, I perceive the more equitable distribution of a necessary, but henceforth I trust decreasing burthen. In the constitution of vestries, the benefit universally resulting from arrangement, order, and economy, derived from the more attentive inspection by each of the general concern. From the power to exempt cottagers from the rate, a great relief to individuals at a very trifling expense to the public. In the power to build habitations for the poor, their comfort and health. Lastly, in the reform of the workhouse system, and the power of discrimination in administering relief, an abandonment of filth, slothfulness, and vice, and a desirable and marked distinction between the profligate and the innocent. If it were possible that all this should be only an allusion, at least it is one that has charmed me through the labours I have undergone for my country's good. But, sir, if the opinions of the wisest of mankind are not altogether ill founded, if the test of practice and experience does not in this single instance fail us, what I have proposed, corrected and improved by the wisdom of parliament, will give ease to those who contribute to the necessities of their fellow subjects, and diffuse happiness over those who are the immediate objects of its care. Sir, I move for leave to bring in a bill "for promoting and encouraging industry amongst the labouring classes of the community, and the relief and regulation of the criminal and necessitous poor."919
thought the hon. gent. entitled to the highest degree of gratitude for his able view of a subject of this magnitude; but he feared the object of the hon. gent. would not be effected, without a general plan for the employment of the poor.
§ Mr. Whitbread
feared that labour was not practicable on the plan alluded to by the right hon. gent.; but he wished the overseers to have a power of contracting for such labour as could be made productive, and to carry it towards the fund for their maintenance. National employment would be a losing and indeed impracticable scheme.
stated, that till within these few years the poor had been employed in a very useful manner in Lincolnshire, where the employment failed at length from the deficiency of that private attention which alone could keep it alive. He recommended to the hon. gent. to divide his bill into two or more bills. It might go to the quarter sessions in its present shape, but the division ought to take place before putting the matters to the final sense of the house. Mr. Pitt's bill had failed chiefly by being too comprehensive.
Mr. Lee Keck
stated, that in Leicestershire there was much extraparochial land, the holders of which had voluntarily subjugated themselves to the county rates not wishing to be exempt from their fail share of the burthens borne by their neighbours.
thought the hon. gent. entitled to the gratitude of the country for his able consideration of a subject of such magnitude. He saw much good in the hon gent.'s plan, and little that was not beneficially practicable.
§ Mr. Ellison
maintained, that no blame was due to the gentlemen of Lincoln, for the failure of the plan for the employment of the poor. The plan was impracticable and it was a delusion to expect much from it. The hon. gent. had taken an able view of this very extensive subject, but he feared the complexity of the hon. gent.'s plan would lead to more difficulty than what he wanted to get rid of. The act of Elizabeth contained the great principles of every good system; and all that was required was to simplify and improve the system established upon those principles. The great man whose loss the house deplored, and would deplore for ever (Mr. Pitt), had failed in an attempt to introduce such a 920 bill as that proposed by the hon. gentleman. If the hon. gentleman should, however, succeed in remedying the present evils, he would confer a lasting benefit on the country.
Mr. Spencer Stanhope
allowed the existence of every grievance which the hon. gent. ascribed to the present poor-laws. He was not prepared to say, how far the present plan contained adequate remedies. The opinion of the justices could not be collected at the next quarter session, and it would be material to the facility of collecting that opinion, to divide the bill into three or four parts.
said, there could be but one feeling with respect to the ability with which his hon, friend had recommended this great subject to the house, and the zeal which he had bestowed in making himself perfectly master of it. However, his hon. friend, had no intention to press the business forward precipitately, but it was desirable to apply a remedy to the existing evils as soon as possible. He would express no opinion of its merits farther, than that there was much in it that he approved, and if there was any thing in respect to which he differed, he would be ready to yield to his hon. friend who had considered the subject with much greater attention. In every discussion the measure would be amended. On the whole, much benefit was to be derived from the plan; and he hoped, that if not the whole, at least, it would be executed in the principal parts during the present session.
§ Mr. Sturges Bourne
wished the bill to be in the hands of the country gentlemen at the assizes, as well as the quarter sessions. It would thus meet a superior consideration. Without meaning to hurry the hon. gent., he hoped that before the next month it would be ready to be transmitted.
§ Mr. Whitbread
said, that before Monday, he meant to present the bill, which he would expedite to the hands of the magistrates by all means in his power.
§ Sir J. Newport
thanked the hon. gent. for so essential an improvement of the poor-laws, an improvement which rendered those laws more nearly applicable to Ireland, where the condition of the poor was such as to requite immediate relief; though the poor-laws, as they stood at present, had been universally rejected by the gentlemen of Ireland. The houses of industry in Ireland were cheaply and well administered, and had afforded a comfort- 921 able refuge to many. The annual expence in one of those houses which he was particularly acquainted with, was 7l. for each individual, though there were many idiots and lunatics in it.
recommended to have a great number of copies of the bill printed, and to have them circulated through the country, with every facility of conveyance that government could give. The bill would be better considered altogether, in the first instance; it might afterwards be divided; and if the whole of it should not pass this session, he hoped some parts of it at least would, as many parts of it would be highly beneficial.
§ Mr. Whitbread
said he should be pleased if any part of the labour he had bestowed on the subject, should meet the approbation of the house; but he would not lose sight of any amendment he thought requisite, till he should have effected it.—Leave was given to bring in a bill, and Mr. Whitbread, Mr. Pym, Mr. Brand, Mr. Lee Antoine, and Mr. Horner, were ordered to prepare and bring in the same.