§ The House (on the Motion of Lord Althorp) went into Committee on the Poor laws' Amendment Bill.
§ The 69th Clause was read.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, he had given notice that this clause and the following clauses, to the 73rd inclusive, should be omitted from the Bill. These clauses made a radical change in the law of the country relating to bastardy, to which he strongly objected. In saying this, he wished not to be under- 521 stood as holding that the law as it now stood relating to bastardy was one which did not require amendment; he thought it did require amendment, but he did not think that the amendment now proposed, ought to meet the approbation of the House. The 69th clause removed the liability of the putative father. He did not object to the latter part of the clause which repealed certain acts affecting the mother of a bastard child, but he did decidedly object to the part which removed the liability from the father. He objected to the 70th clause, which had an ex-post facto operation, as it relieved all putative fathers who were now under recognizances or in custody for not giving security for the support of any child already sworn to them, but not yet born, from all such recognizances, and directed their discharge on application to a visiting Magistrate. In the 71st clause he found, to his astonishment as a man and a Christian, that the liability which was removed from the father was placed on the mother of an illegitimate child, and that she was bound to support it. In the 72nd clause the same principle was adopted, but carried much further. It proposed, that in case the woman should be unable to support her bastard child, the liability should rest on her father, or if he were not alive, or being alive was unable to support it, then the liability was to fall on the grandfather or grandmother. Could the House seriously entertain propositions of that nature? Could they consent to pass enactments so contrary to every principle of justice and humanity? The only excuse for such an enactment was this—that it was calculated to compel parents to attend more closely to the morals of their children. Still, even with that excuse, he could not refrain from considering it as an enactment fraught with gross injustice. He must also complain of the mode in which the forfeitures created under this Bill were to be raised. He had on former occasions objected to the Bill, that it would not lessen the amount of charges incurred at present on account of the poor. If the fathers of bastard children were to be relieved from the burthen of contributing to the support of their children, on whom was that burthen to fall? On the mother, said the supporters of the Bill. What would the situation of the unfortunate mother then be? In going in this manner from one extreme to another, he thought that the noble Lord was not acting wisely. He maintained that, in nineteen out of 522 twenty cases, in which a female gave birth for the first time to a bastard child, it would be found that she was not able to maintain herself and child. This clause, and those which depended on it, had been framed by men who had looked at life only through the medium of books, and who had no practical knowledge of human nature. If they had possessed the latter species of knowledge, they never would have proposed anything so monstrous. It had been said, that if you threw upon the woman the burthen of maintaining her bastard child, you would lessen her disposition to indulge in licentious passion. That man, however, knew little of human character, who fancied that it would lessen the offence of seduction. He believed, that if you were to hold out to persons who were seduced under promise of marriage, that they should not receive any support from the fathers of their children for those children, but that they should find it for them themselves, it would not prevent licentiousness among the lower classes of society. Prudential considerations might suspend for short periods, but they never could annihilate the natural desires of woman; nor would it stop the career of licentious men, to inform them that they might commit seduction with perfect impunity, and that they might gratify their inclinations at the sole expense of the softer sex. In whatever point of view he considered these clauses, they appeared to him framed upon erroneous calculations. He was anxious to learn, from the supporters of the Bill, on what principle they proposed to relieve the man, who was the most guilty party, from the consequences of his misconduct, and to charge them all upon the unfortunate woman? It had been said, and not without justice, that, from the power possessed by the woman to charge the man upon oath with having gotten her with child, cases of injustice to the injury of innocent men were not of rare occurrence. He believed, however, that cases of this kind seldom took place, where the man had not been guilty of some imprudence or other with respect to the woman. He believed that this clause would not afford any relief to the parishes; on the contrary, it would inflict a greater expense upon them for the maintenance of future bastards. He wished to know whether any clauses of this kind either would operate or could operate as impediments on the impulses of our common nature? If the noble Lord meant to 523 charge the licentiousness of our lower Orders on the operation of the Poor-laws, he laboured under a great mistake; for in France there were no Poor-laws, and yet the number of illegitimate children born there, was much greater than the number of illegitimate children born here. The knowledge of that fact induced him to maintain, that the increase of bastardy was not in any material degree effected by the Poor-laws. The only increase effected by the Poor-laws was in the case of women who, having had one bastard child, and having no hope of recovering the respect of society, made a trade of bastardy, and gave themselves up to licentious indulgences, in the hope that the allowance made to them for the number of their bastards would induce some individual at some future period to marry them. He was afraid that the enactment of these bastardy clauses would lead to the concealment of the birth of children, and to infanticide—offences which were already too rife among us. If the restraint which this clause contemplated should be found to fail in practice, and if females should still listen and yield to the solicitations of vicious men, it was impossible to conceive that, with all the shame which they must undergo, and with all the struggles which they must encounter to support their offspring, they would not often be driven to commit infanticide. Admitting, as he did, that the bastardy laws required amendment, he was still inclined to move for the omission of the clause. It was not matter of imperative necessity that it should be passed in this Session of Parliament. The other clauses in the Bill might be proceeded with, and, in the next Session, when the House had had time for consideration, a distinct Bill for the amendment of the Bastardy laws might be brought into Parliament. As females were excluded not only from all seats in the Legislature, but also from all suffrage at elections, he thought that the House ought not, without mature deliberation to sanction clauses which pressed so partially and severely upon them. Until he heard it from the lips of the noble Lord himself, he never could believe that either the noble Lord would advocate the justice of these clauses, or that the House of Commons would adopt them. With these impressions on his mind, he felt himself bound to move the omission of the 69th clause.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that in regard to the conclusion of the hon. Member's speech, if the question were to be discussed as a 524 question of feeling, its consideration would certainly be exceedingly easy and simple; but if they were to discuss it, in their legislative capacity, as a question of reason, if they were to consider it as one in which the benefit of the community in general was concerned, then, indeed, it was not quite so simple as the hon. Member had stated it to be, nor was it a question of justice morely affecting the sex to whose situation the hon. Member had called their attention. It was incumbent upon them to consider what was the state of the labouring classes under the existing bastardy laws; it was necessary to consider whether those laws had had the effect of deteriorating the morals of those classes; and whether, by the proposed alteration, they might not anticipate some correction of the evils of the existing system, and some improvement both in the morals and the conduct of the classes to which he had referred. These were very important considerations. They were to reflect whether they would discuss the subject as a question of feeling, and as a question morely in accordance to the existing feelings of females in the lower ranks of life, or whether they would inquire how far it bore on the ultimate and more important interests of the community. With respect to the clauses as they stood in the Bill, he was prepared, notwithstanding what the hon. Gentleman had said—looking as he did at the question in the point of view in which he had already placed it—looking at the question as far as it related to the benefit not only of the females, but of the community in general —he was prepared to argue, that the Bill, as it at present stood, was calculated to benefit the female population. What were the evils, to correct which they were called upon to legislate? As the law at present stood, was it not undeniable—and he did not refer for his proofs to the evidence which had been collected by the Poor-law Commissioners, but to the experience of every man in that House—that the effect of the Bastardy-laws was, to produce the greatest evils, to diminish all inducements to chastity to the greatest possible degree, and to bring about a general demoralization? There was no doubt that the effect of the present laws was, to shelter, and even to hold out advantages to females of an abandoned character, and consequently to counteract that moral feeling which otherwise might preserve their chastity—that moral feeling on which they must depend in considering this question. As 525 the Bastardy-laws were at present administered, a woman received an allowance for her children, whether she wanted or not the whole of that allowance. This was a direct inducement to increase the number of her children. The hon. Member said, that such cases were very rare, that they seldom heard of women being so abandoned; but unfortunately the contrary was the fact, and that such cases, so far from being few in number, were one of the greatest stains of the present system. Again, the woman had a direct inducement to affiliate her child to a person against whom she thought the Magistrate would enforce the largest allowance. That went completely to destroy all moral feeling. The hon. Member had proposed that those only who had two or three children, and were of bad character, should be severely treated, and that women who conducted themselves properly should be placed in a better situation. When the hon. Member spoke of women who had the misfortune of having a child for the first time, being placed in a position of disgrace, he inferred that there was an inducement to chastity and morality in the females of the labouring classes of society, which really did not exist. This was, in a great measure, the effect of the present bastardy laws; for they took away that inducement, and counteracted the moral feeling of the female sex. The course which the law had hitherto taken had been, instead of strengthening the inducement, which was in general more powerful and natural to females, in order to apply a feeble check to the strong passions of the other sex, they applied the check to men who had the least feeling of chastity, and who must, therefore, be the least affected by it, instead of applying it to the other sex, who, according to the principles of nature, must have a strong moral feeling, however that might be afterwards corrupted. That was the state of the law, and it was on that ground, and not on the Report of the Commissioners —for, many years ago, he had been satisfied that the existing law was most detrimental—that he supported the principle of the present clause. He was aware that the arguments founded upon feeling, justice, and charity to human kind, which the hon. Member had used, might have great effect. He was aware of that, and he was ready to admit, that, in the making of any law, it would not be a wise course to pay no regard to those general principles. If, in considering what measures 526 were necessary to correct the evils of the Bastardy-laws, he had found it possible to adopt a course by which he would not have in any way acted against those general principles, he should have been most happy to do so. It was, however, extremely difficult to effect this—he might almost say it was impossible. Let it be remembered, that the man to whom a child was affiliated could be compelled to pay any amount the Magistrate thought fit, and any sum, however small, was a serious tax upon a labouring man, which, in consequence, gave the woman the advantage of forcing the man to marry her, to which he might consent rather than be committed to prison in default of non-payment. Now he did not see any course by which they could avoid that evil, when they laid a tax upon a man under such circumstances. They could not avoid the imprisonment of the man. If he were not capable of paying the money which was charged upon him, he must be committed, and the effect of that would be to take him from his labour. This was a great evil. With regard to this point, there was an Amendment by the hon. member for Somersetshire among the notices of Motion. It provided that the maintenance of the illegitimate child should be continued upon the putative father, in cases where the mother was unable to support her offspring. He should certainly be for the adoption of the Amendment in substance, because it entirely deprived the woman of a principal inducement to select one person from another as the putative father, and because it was provided, that no part of the money charged should go to the mother, and that no affiliation should take place until she became chargeable to the parish. One of the great evils of the Bastardy-laws was, the system of swearing the child before the child was born; the effect of which was, that the man was generally bound over to give security to appear at the Quarter Sessions, and the alternative was his committal to gaol. That was nothing more or less than an absolute committal without giving him the power to show cause against the deposition of the woman. He certainly was more disposed to agree to this Amendment than to the proposition of the hon. member for Worcester; and it was for the House either to agree to the Bill as it at present stood, or to the Amendment of the hon. member for Somersetshire, or resolve to postpone the subject to next Session. If the Amendment of the hon. member for 527 Somersetshire were adopted, there would be no necessity to alter other clauses, but merely to alter the 69th clause. When he introduced the question he certainly stated, that the settlement and bastardy clauses were not absolutely necessary parts of the Bill, and he left it for the House to take either of the three courses to which he had already adverted. He had thought it right to state the grounds upon which he supported the Bill as it at present stood, without making any strong objections to the Amendment of the hon. Member.
thought, it would be desirable to postpone the clause for the present, though he felt confident, that the object and the principle of it were most beneficial. He was, however, disposed to postpone it, lest it might be laid hold of as a means of throwing out a bill which, however objectionable in parts, contained many good things. The sooner it became law the better, and, to remove impediments, he hoped the noble Lord would accede to the proposition of the hon. member for Worcester. The public mind could not readily be brought up to the point at which it would tolerate so great a change in the Law of Bastardy. Vestries would oppose it, misrepresentations would go abroad, and, as great mischief was often done by attributing false motives, the success of the whole measure might be endangered for the present.
§ Mr. Estcourt
considered, there ought to be some moral punishment inflicted on the father of an illegitimate child. Hitherto the father was not punished for his immorality. It was true he might be incarcerated, but that was not for the crime of immorality, but because he was looked upon in the light of a debtor. He was anxious, that the whole of the laws relating to bastardy should be reviewed and consolidated. He thought that, as the subject did not press for an immediate decision, it would be advantageous to postpone the clauses under discussion until the next Session or another, and combine them in one Bill.
§ Lord Ebrington
thought, though he was not particularly favourable to the clauses at they at present stood, there would be a lesser evil in passing them now than in deferring them. He was glad to hear from his noble friend, that he was inclined to adopt the Amendment proposed by the hon. member for Somersetshire. With the prospect of the Amendment he should be extremely sorry to see the clauses rejected; 528 but he should prefer voting for them to postponing the whole question till next Session.
§ Mr. Edward Buller
said, that the present Bastardy-laws were productive of a great amount of perjury, and something should be done to prevent it. That might be effected by making the allowance to women as small as possible. With regard to the alteration proposed by the present clauses, he thought it too great. It would leave women without any protection, and would award no punishment to the men. It would not have the effect of preventing incontinence, and would drive women to acts of violence and revenge. He had great doubts as to the propriety of removing all liability from the men. Though the present mode of punishment had little or no effect on the lower classes, it had a considerable effect on the middling classes, and the class just above the lowest, which class was most important as far as regarded the morality of the country at large. He certainly should wish the clause to be postponed.
§ Mr. Miles
read a document to show that the money, at present paid by the putative fathers of illegitimate children was nearly sufficient to cover the expense of bringing them up. According to his conception the 69th, 70th, and 71st clauses might stand as they were, and his Amendment be placed as a clause after the 71st; or, if the noble Lord thought it necessary, his Amendment might come after the 69th clause of the Bill. He would suggest another mode. Those three clauses might be deferred to another stage of the proceedings, but he earnestly hoped that they would not be postponed to another Session. He hoped that the Bill would go through the Committee with but few alterations; and he was persuaded that, with a few alterations, it would give general satisfaction.
§ Mr. Bulteel
should be sorry to see the Bill in any way mutilated. Whatever aspersions might be cast on the harshness and cruelty of country gentlemen, the present Bill, if it passed, would owe its ultimate success to the co-operation of those Gentlemen. If the principle contained in these clauses came into operation it would be attended with general good.
§ Mr. Charles Buller
considered the present Bastardy-laws a great evil, for they promoted perjury, incontinence, and immorality. He thought some measure of punishment ought to be directed towards the father, but that was rather a secondary consideration. Great advantages would re- 529 sult from directing measures of punishment against the woman. The best way to prevent the crime of infanticide would be to put an end to the system that gave a premium for the production of children.
§ Mr. Aglionby
agreed with his hon. and learned friend, the member for Stockport, whose object was to render the passing of the Bill certain. The discussion of those clauses would much impede the progress of the Bill. They were not an essential part of the measure, and they would render it objectionable in the eyes of the country, since it would be seen that it was not necessary that they should form part of it. He considered it more advisable to adopt the suggestion of his hon. and learned friend, and separate those clauses from the present measure, and make of them a distinct Bill.
Mr. Wolryche Whitmore
said, that, as he had always thought the clause under discussion a most important one, he would trouble the House with a few words upon it. Hon. Gentlemen who objected to it said, that it had been concocted by men in their closets. Now, there was no one principle in the Poor-laws of England, worse than that which this clause sought to remedy. If it were wished to make the clause effectual, it should not be separated from the Bill. The practice of giving public support to illegitimate children was a cause of their increase. He would quote America as a proof of that assertion. In the towns of Boston, Salem, and Baltimore, illegitimate children were not supported at the expense of the public; in the town of Philadelphia they were. What was the consequence? The illegitimate children, in one year, in Philadelphia, amounted to 272; in Salem there were none, and only two in Boston, and two in Baltimore. It was clear, therefore, that the practice of publicly bringing up illegitimate children tended to increase immorality and incontinence. He hoped, that the clauses would be persevered in, as great good would result from passing it. He would support the clauses, and, if they should be lost, he trusted, that Government would not allow them to drop altogether, but defer them for future legislation.
§ Mr. Grote
requested the noble Lord not to postpone the clause. He should prefer it as it now stood; but, at any rate, let it be passed with the modification proposed. The evils of the system which had hitherto prevailed, were acknowledged by all, and certainly they were as great as any that 530 could result from the measure that was proposed. It was perfectly clear, that the present Bastardy-laws not only were destructive of chastity and other female virtues, but also tended, in an alarming degree, to encourage perjury.
§ Mr. Benett
said, that those clauses proceeded on the principle, that women would perjure themselves for the small premium of 1s. per week; for Magistrates in the country districts usually allowed from 1s. to 1s. 3d. a-week for the support of a child. ["No, no!—2s., and 2s. 6d."] Gentlemen might say "no" to that statement; but he spoke from his own experience as a Magistrate, which had been pretty long. He now heard it stated, that 2s. and 2s. 6d. a-week were allowed to women for the support of a child. Were they, then, to assume, that these poor women would perjure themselves for half-a-crown? Were they to assume, that these poor, unfortunate, and he would say honest, women, would universally and publicly commit the crime of perjury for 2s. 6d. a-week. If a Magistrate, in a country district, should make an order for 2s. 6d. a-week, which was more than was necessary there for the maintenance of a child, he in doing so acted contrary to law; for the object of the law was, to secure a sum sufficient for the maintenance of the child, and to protect the parish from being burthened with its support. Magistrates were also in the habit of taking into account the circumstances of persons to whom children were sworn, in awarding the amount which they should pay. Now, in doing so, they acted contrary to law. The law merely intended, that no child, however valueless it might appear to some gentlemen in that House, and to some persons in the country, should perish. In the whole course of thirty years' practice as a Magistrate, he had never reason to suspect, that any woman who had sworn her child before him acting as a Magistrate had perjured herself. He spoke of what was his own experience; it might be different from that of other Gentlemen, but he felt, that he was called upon to state the result of it. He never knew this class of women, however immoral they might be, however ready they might have been to fall into errors, into which all those whom he was now addressing had been liable to in early life—he never knew them, he 531 repeated, to commit perjury for the purpose of obtaining support for their bastard children. It was true, he regretted to say, that under the present system these poor women were sometimes guilty of other crimes; they were guilty of procuring abortion, of concealing the birth of their children, and sometimes, too, of destroying them. What, then, would be the consequence of the proposed alteration in the law, as far as those crimes were concerned? Was it not plain that the effect of that alteration would be, to increase tenfold the inducements to the commission of child-murder? He did not think, as some Gentlemen seemed to think, that those children were a nuisance to the country—he thought the preservation of their lives should be an object of consideration with a wise, enlightened, and humane Legislature. It appeared to him that, if they believed that a single child would be put to death in consequence of the passing of that law, they should not pass it. He did not see why the punishment, in the shape of being burthened with the maintenance of the child, should be thrown upon one party, and that party the most defenceless, and the most exposed to the seductive influence and power of the other. He did not see why the man should be allowed to go "scot free" — why the man, who possessed so much power and influence over the female, should be exempted from all cost, which would entirely fall upon her. Such a punishment, cruel as it was to throw it entirely on the female, would not prevent the propagation of bastard children. All restraint would be removed from the men; and once a woman had a child, and that she went to the workhouse, it would be a matter of no consequence to her how many more she might have. He was ready to admit, that this was a difficult question, and he wished that it had been brought forward in the shape of a separate Bill. He believed, that the manner in which it was proposed by the clauses in the Bill to legislate upon it would lead to still greater immorality, and to an increase in the number of bastard children throughout the country.
§ Mr. Cobbett
agreed with the hon. member for South Wiltshire. They heard much of late of the great increase of bastards, and of the great increase of immorality throughout the country. He remembered the time when the production of one bastard in a year in a parish, and that a large parish, too, was looked upon as a wonder; and the unfortunate woman who had so erred, even 532 though she should get married, was afterwards shunned by all her neighbours. It now appeared, from the evidence that had been given before one of the Committees of that House, that it was the universal practice for the girls throughout the country to fall with child before they were married. That was known and admitted on the examination before the Committee to be a trick, so to "manœuvre it," that the parish should pay the expense of the marriage; the parties being, in truth, oo poor to incur the expense themselves, though they were all along willing enough to contract matrimony, but could not, for want of money to pay the charges. In this way, then, the parishes paid them. Poverty was here the cause of all the crime, as it were in direct exemplification of Dr. Franklin's maxim, that "it is very difficult to make an empty sack stand upright." To adopt a proper remedy, it should be applied to the cause of the evils complained of, and not to the effects. The 72nd clause of this Bill, would it be credited, required the grandfather or grandmother of an illegitimate child, if it became chargeable to the parish, to provide for its maintenance? Here was an enactment! By the old Bourbon law, if the child smuggled salt to avoid the tax, the parent was sent to the gallows. That was mercy, in comparison with this tyrannical and iniquitous clause. A girl who had been hired out to service fifty miles away, suppose from her parents, might have a bastard child, and for having it she, and not the man who seduced her, was to be punished by being made liable to support it; and should she happen to die, its support was thrown, not upon its father, but upon the old grandfather and grandmother of the child's mother, who might in no respect be justly answerable for her misconduct. It was the custom in the country for the farmers to send their children out to service as soon as they were fit for it. A girl thus sent out to service, at suppose fifty miles' distance, might happen to have a bastard child, and in case of her death it was provided, that the expense of maintaining that child should be defrayed by the girl's father and mother, out of perhaps the small earnings that they might have collected in their old days for their own support. He was sure that, if the noble Lord would look at that clause, he would, at any rate, withdraw it from the Bill. The removal of it would not certainly reconcile him to the rest of the Bill; but he trusted, that it would 533 not remain there as characteristic of the House. It was the custom to speak of the poor as immoral, and profligate, and guilty of all sorts of crimes for having bastards; and it was gravely proposed, that punishment should be inflicted on them for such a heinous offence. Now, he begged leave to ask, was the crime of bastardy confined to the poor? Were there no bastards to be found in high and elevated places? Were there no other bastards but the bastards of the poor, which the nation was called upon to support? Were there no bastards on the Pension-list? Would the noble Lord say, there were no bastards upon it? The noble Lord had said, upon a former occasion, that the Pension-list was a charity-list. Why should they have placed upon this charity-list the bastards, not of poor people, but of rich persons—of persons in high situations, and who should be made to support their illegitimate offspring, instead of thus quartering them upon the people? Before this Bill passed, he would allude to those bastards, and he would bring the question relating to them more particularly before the House. It was always considered, that example did a great deal, either in the way of evil or of good. Would it be said, that such an example as that he had alluded to, set by men in high life, effected no evil? Did it redound to their honour or credit to breed bastards, and whole troops of bastards, and afterwards to quarter them on the public? Would it be said, that the money which was extracted from the labouring people of this country should go to keep those bastards in splendour and magnificence, while the people themselves were threatened with such a cruel clause as this for having any bastards at all? He had called the clause a cruel one, but he might have spared the epithet, for he knew that such a clause never could be executed. A clause like that might, indeed, pass the House; but did they think, that it would be executed while they had bastards in high life supported in splendid style out of the public purse?
§ Sir John Wrottesley,
though not contented with the clause as it stood, yet would vote for it rather than for the Amendment moved by the hon. member for Worcester. If the hon. Member should go to a division, he would find that, while a great many who would vote against him were in favour of the original clause, there were others who, like himself, were favourable to the Amendment proposed by the hon. member for Somersetshire. He looked 534 upon that hon. Member's proposition as nearly unobjectionable.
§ Mr. Hawes
supported the original clauses. He trusted the noble Lord would not withdraw them. It had been said, that they were legislating upon this subject in haste, and without sufficient consideration. Now, he would venture to say, that never had there been a measure brought before the country for which the public mind was so prepared as this. The Report of the Commissioners, which contained all the principles of the Bill, was laid on the Table of the House on the 20th of February, and it was now the 20th of June. It could not be said, therefore, that they were legislating in a hurry. All persons acknowledged the evils arising from the present bastardy system. Was that system to be without a remedy? It was said, that the feeling of the country was against this part of the Bill. He did not find that any petitions had been presented against it; and he knew, that it was in some places approved of. The hon. Member read an extract from a letter of a clergyman, stating that he, and all the clergymen in his part of the country especially, approved of this part of the Bill, as likely to increase the purity, and consequently the happiness, of the female sex. With the facts before them which were detailed in the Report of the Commissioners, he hoped they would have the courage to apply this remedy to a great and crying evil.
§ Mr. George Wood
said, that an objection taken to this clause among his constituents —an objection in which he concurred—was, that it might tend to render the parish liable for the support of those bastard children. He, therefore, thought that all liability should not be removed from the father, though he, in other respects, approved of the principle of the clause.
Sir George Strickland
thought, that this was the most important part of the Bill, and he would certainly give it his support. The hon. member for Oldham had told them, that he remembered the time when there was but one bastard in a parish for one hundred that were in it now. If he looked back to the time he referred to, he would find, that the Poor-law system had not then arrived at that acme of demoralization to which it had been since proceeding with such rapid strides. The greatest honour was, in his opinion, due to his Majesty's Ministers for fearlessly grappling with such a subject. Gentlemen who had acted as Magistrates at Petty Sessions must have 535 been shocked at the horrid scenes of perjury which they witnessed there on the part of women swearing bastards. He was surprised to hear the observation of the hon. member for Wiltshire, and could only say, that his experience on this point was directly contrary to that of the hon. Member. He would ask the House, too, whether there was no cruelty in the present system, under which young women were dragged before Magistrates at Petty Sessions for a fault they would naturally wish to conceal in their cottages? That was done, too, upon a fiction of law that, because a female was with child, she was deemed to be chargeable to the parish. Was it not cruelty to send such females, as was sometimes the case, to the county gaol to suffer imprisonment for a year, a punishment awarded to serious crimes? It was not fair to say, that the woman under this clause was compelled to support her child under any circumstances. If she could not support it, she could resort to the workhouse for relief. He regretted that he did not see the means of fairly and honestly throwing a portion of the punishment and of the burthen on the father. He would adopt the Bill as it stood, and felt bound to oppose the Amendment now under consideration.
would support the Amendment of the hon. member for Worcester, because he could not think it desirable to mix up the question of the Bastardy-laws with that of a Reform of the Poor-laws. In reply to the observation that the number of petitions which had been presented against these clauses were few, he begged to state, on the contrary, that they were numerous and strong in the tone of their objections. With every wish that the Bill should be made popular, and being so, should work consistently with the feelings of the people, he hoped the Committee would see the necessity of acquiescing in the Amendment.
Mr. Mark Philips
said, that while he admitted the great importance of an alteration in the Bastardy-laws, yet he must maintain the propriety of still holding the father responsible to the parish for the maintenance of his illegitimate child, for otherwise the charges on the parishes in large manufacturing towns and districts would be much increased. Even as the law at present stood, the average deficiency for the last few years in the contribution to the parish of Manchester by the fathers of bastard children exceeded 700l. per an- 536 num; and this deficiency would, by the proposed change in the law be greatly enhanced. He therefore, thought, that the fathers ought still to be held liable for the support of their bastard children, or otherwise an injustice would be done to the parish as well as to the unfortunate mother.
§ Mr. Hardy
with every desire on his part for the success of this Bill, must state, that his experience in the courts of quarter Sessions of the operation of the Bastardy-laws enabled him to say, that it would be inexpedient to relieve the fathers of illegitimate children from the burthen of contributing to their support and maintenance; for the father was, at all events, in cases of a first child, the criminal and not the woman. With respect to the incentive to perjury, his experience had shown him that many of the cases supported by perjury were got up by the fathers against the unfortunate mothers of the children. The noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would do well to add some provision in this measure to enable parishes to enforce some contributions from the fathers, for otherwise the consequence would be that the young woman who might unhappily be the mother of a bastard child, and who might not be capable of maintaining herself, would be entirely thrown upon the parish or upon the resources of her own parents, who, under circumstances such as had already been mentioned, could not in any degree be blamed for the misfortune or misconduct of their daughter. Under these circumstances he hoped, in the event of the present clause passing the Committee that the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would acquiesce in the addition contemplated by the Amendment of the hon. member for East-Somerset, and that thereby some security would be afforded to the parishes for contributions from the fathers. At the same time he (Mr. Hardy) was disposed to vote with the hon. member for Worcester for a postponement of the consideration of these clauses.
§ Mr. Peter
was convinced, from the magisterial experience he had had, that if the oath of the mother was admitted to fix a party, the mass of perjuries which had been complained of would continue. The hon. member for Wiltshire (Mr. Benett) had asked if it could be believed that a woman would perjure herself for the weekly stipend or allowance of 2s. He begged to state, that such was not the object in many numerous instances; but, on the contrary, 537 the child was threatened to be sworn to a party, and, by the threat, money was extorted from the individual sought to be charged. He knew instances where 10l. and 20l. had been so obtained, in sums of 5s., 10s. and pounds, from the young men resident in the neighbourhood of the pregnant woman, who eventually swore the child against a poor and perfectly innocent man, from whom nothing could be recovered by the parish. Such a method of proceeding was stated in the Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of the Poor-laws. It was there also pointed out, that the practice was not unfrequent in garrisons for the females to swear the children to soldiers from whom nothing could be recovered, but who were nevertheless liable to punishment. This went completely to the encouragement of immorality in the females of this country, and as a proof he would instance a case where a family of five sisters were the mothers of between twenty and thirty bastard children, and all of whom had gone round to the young men in their parish, and extorted money from them in the manner he had already stated. So long as the oath of the mother was sufficient to fasten the charge on an individual, all these evils would continue.
§ Viscount Howick
was most anxious to have avoided taking any part in the present discussion, but there was one single point of extreme importance in the consideration of the present question, which as yet had not been mentioned. He alluded to the consequences which arose from making the birth of a bastard child penal in one way as against the father. In point of feeling the father was, he admitted, a more blamable party in the transaction than the female, but the Legislature ought not to be guided by feeling, but by practical effects. He contended that a much greater mischief arose from compulsory marriages, which necessarily must take place if by any modification of the present Bill the father was exposed to punishment, than from the adoption of the plan proposed by this Bill. Under the Amendment which was contemplated by the hon. member for East Somerset, a poor labouring man who might be charged with a bastard child would have the option of either going to prison, or marrying the mother. He feared that the latter alternative would be but too generally chosen; and he put it to the Committee whether any pecuniary advantage to the parish could for a moment be put in com- 538 petition with the extreme mischiefs consequent upon teaching the lower orders of the people to disregard the sacred tie of marriage. There was an instance which served to illustrate the evils of this system, and which when he mentioned it would, he was sure, be remembered by every Member present. About five or six years ago the public had been horrified and disgusted by the perpetration of a most dreadful offence in the neighbourhood of Brighton. That offence was the murder of a woman, whose body was cut up into different parts and buried in divers situations in the vicinity of that town. On investigation it turned out that the woman was of notoriously profligate character, whom a labouring man had been compelled either to marry or to go to prison on her oath that he was the father of her bastard child. Though the labouring man at the time contemplated a marriage with another woman, he chose the last alternative, and the result was, after a wretched and miserable cohabitation, that he in concert with the other female, perpetrated the horrible crime for which his life was forfeited to the law. Such was one of the effects of compulsory marriages, and such marriages would continue to be effected if labouring men remained so circumstanced as under the existing laws relating to bastardy. The instance he had alluded to showed what might be expected from compulsory and ill-assorted marriages of this kind, which he contended would do much more mischief than could arise from any increase of payment or charge upon parishes themselves. He contended, that those great towns by which objections had been raised to this part of the Bill would judge most unwisely, in a pecuniary point of view, if they persisted in seeking an alteration, because another effect of the Bastardy-laws, every man was aware, was to lead to those early and improvident marriages, which tended greatly to increase the burthen of parochial rates. Nineteen out of twenty of those marriages took place, because labouring men entertained the notion that it was better to marry than be committed to prison for the maintenance of the bastard; and early compulsory marriages would be continued by the adoption of the Amendment of the hon. member for East Somersetshire. In reference to another objection which had been raised to the Bill as it stood, he was anxious to mention one extraordinary fact, which he had from unquestionable authority. In the town of Maestricht a foundling hospital, formerly 539 existed, into which illegitimate children were received without inquiry. Notwithstanding great doubts were entertained and expressed as to infanticide and all those other evils which had been dwelt upon by the hon. member for Worcester and others, that hospital had recently been closed. The result was, on subsequent examination, that instead of infanticide having increased, a diminution had taken place in the number of births of illegitimate children, in the ratio of 100 to six. With these facts before him, he could not think that the large towns of this country would find from the operation of the Bill as it now stood those inconveniences which had been anticipated by some hon. Members.
§ Mr. Pease
would not shrink from the responsibility he incurred by stating, that after deliberate consideration he was impressed with the opinion that the clause as it stood was calculated to effect important good to the community. He was satisfied, from personal observation, that the present system was pernicious, and that if many young women had been allowed, as in many instances they were willing, to volunteer the support of their own illegitimate children, their shame would have been screened by their friends, and the probability in such cases was, that they would have returned to a respectable course of life. The Bill as it stood would, he was convinced, do good, and therefore should have his support.
considered, that the better course would be to take these clauses out of the present Bill, and submit them in a distinct measure for the Amendment of the Bastardy-laws. At the same time the present Bill ought not, in his opinion, to be stopped, so far as it related to the alteration of the Poor-laws. He scarcely knew what was the proposition of the hon. member for East Somerset, but he understood that it went to overturn the whole existing Bastardy-laws, and to set up a system quite at variance with the Report of the Commissioners and the measure brought forward by his Majesty's Government. These sudden alterations must lead to hasty and improvident legislation, and in this respect he could not but complain that the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) had consented, on a previous evening, to strike out an important clause from the Bill without any previous notice having been given of such intention. There were several classes of cases of daily occurrence which were not at all provided for in the present Bill, or 540 in the Amendment intended to be proposed; and he must especially allude to the case pointed out in the 99th page of the Report of the Poor-laws Commissioners. He meant the cases of Irish labourers seeking employment in this country, who got the marriage ceremony performed by Roman Catholic priests in a manner that is illegal under the present law, and who, on seeking parochial relief, declared that they were not married legally, and thus their families, consisting of eight, ten, or twelve children, became chargeable on the parish, while the fathers were allowed to go scot free. This was an evil which prevailed to a very great extent, and which called for a remedy. He contended that the alteration of the Bastardy-laws ought to form the subject matter of a distinct and separate Bill, and that as even the present Bill was not contemplated to be brought into force until the next summer, there was ample time for the deliberation, instead of making so important a change after about an hour and a half's debate.
§ Lord Althorp
denied, that he had taken the House by surprise by consenting to any alteration in the Bill; on the contrary, he had not assented to any alteration whatever. He had certainly stated, that if the House objected to the Bill, he thought the least objectionable alteration in it would be that proposed by the hon. member for East Somerset. The hon. member for Dover seemed to think, that neither, he (Lord Althorp) nor the hon. member for East Somerset had kept faith with the House. He denied the imputation; and with respect to the hon. member for East Somerset, he begged to say, that that hon. Member had actually printed and circulated the Amendment he intended to propose, and had therefore taken the very course which, of all others, justified the present discussion. He had before stated, that there were three courses for the Committee to pursue, and he thought that one of them, namely, that relating to the postponement of those clauses, had been disposed of. If he collected rightly the sense of the matter, it was, that they should go on with the clauses. Of course they would have an opportunity of discussing whether or not it would be proper to adopt the Amendment of the hon. member for Somersetshire. That proposition would not alter the clause, but morely add to it.
§ Mr. Robinson
in reply, said, that there was no pressing or immediate necessity for altering the law relating to bastardy, and 541 therefore, as the delay which he sought would be productive of no injury, he should press the Committee to a division. They might afterwards take up the Amendment of his hon. friend, the member for Somersetshire; but he could not help observing upon the caution with which the noble Lord had abstained from saying whether or not he would support that Amendment. It was quite evident, that the noble Lord, the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, was opposed to it; but surely that noble Lord might have spared them the recital of the horrid story of the murder at Brighton, knowing as he must that such a transaction could not operate to influence the deliberation of that House.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment—Ayes 33; Noes 114: Majority 81.
|List of the AYES.|
|Brotherton, J.||Lloyd, J. H.|
|Buckingham, J. S.||O'Connor, F.|
|Buller, C.||O'Dwyer, A. C.|
|Cobbett, W.||Rider, Thos.|
|Davenport, John||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Fenton, John||Ruthven L.|
|Fielden, John||Scholefield, J.|
|Finn, W. S.||Shaw, R. N.|
|Gully, J.||Steward, Ld. D.|
|Halcombe, J.||Strutt, E.|
|Handley, H.||Tennyson, Rt. Hon.C.|
|Hardy, John||Torrens, Col.|
|Heathcote, John||Tyrell, C.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Hughes, H.||Walter, J.|
|Jacob, E.||Young, G. F.|
§ The Clause was agreed to.
§ On Clause 72 being read,
§ Mr. Robinson
said, he would put it to the Committee to say whether they were prepared, after having thrown the whole liability of supporting her offspring upon the mother, to throw it also upon the grandfather and grandmother on her side, in case of the mother not being able, from sickness or death, to do so? It was impossible that the grandfather and grandmother could be held criminal in the act committed by their daughter, and in many cases it would be a dreadful aggravation of sufferings already sufficiently great. Supposing the case of a labourer with a large family, which he had with difficulty supported and brought up. He would be obliged to send out his daughters to service or perhaps to a factory, and if they should be seduced would it be fair to send back their children to be supported by the grand parents? He 542 feared that such a law would have the effect of demoralizing and brutalizing the people, and tend to pauperize those who would otherwise be industrious and independent.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that this would be no departure from the principle of the Act of Elizabeth. By a former clause they had decided, that all relief to the child should be considered as relief to the mother. In that case the mother's parents were justly chargeable with the relief because the relief was to their own child.
Mr. Hughes Hughes
said, that such a clause as this would create a difference in the law between the poor and the rich. If such a provision were adopted in this Bill, it should also be applied to the Pension-list, by which the latter would be materially shortened.
Mr. Fysche Palmer
said, that the relationship of the parties gave them a legal liability, and he did not see why they were not to be bound to support the offspring of their children if the latter were unable to do it.
§ Mr. Miles
was surprised to hear the assertion of the hon. member for Reading. If the hon. Member inquired, he would find, that the law recognized no relationship in the grandfather and grandmother for their advantage, and it would be most unjust to make them relations only for the purpose of sharing the penalties of their children's misconduct. Upon this topic, however, he begged to caution hon. Gentlemen against indulging in statements that differences were made between the poor and the rich, or that the former were treated with harshness or injustice. He was confident, that they all desired to benefit the poor, and he therefore regretted to hear the imputations which were so freely cast out. This being his opinion, he did not think the House, after reflection, would adopt such a provision as that now under discussion. It was manifestly unjust to the poor. In the classes above them the law gave protection to parents against the seduction of their children; but any one acquainted with the habits of the lower orders of society would know, that when parents were deprived of their children by seduction they had no means of appealing to the law for redress. It would be therefore cruel and unjust to add to their privations the charge of maintaining the offspring of their daughters, and he did hope the clause would not be persevered in.
§ The clause was struck out.
§ On Clause 73 having been moved,
§ Mr. Cobbett
said, he had to move a proviso, which would make the law for those who had become rich by the labour of the poor the same as for the poor. It was certainly right that grandfathers or any other relations, if they had substance and means, should provide for their destitute kindred, and the law ought to compel them to do so; and so ought all children for their parents in like manner. There could be no objection to this, and this was what the clause provided for. But it did not provide for another thing. They ought to have a trifling addition to the clause; and he meant to move it. It ran thus:—"Provided always, and in manner aforesaid, that the father and grandfather, the mother and grandmother, child or children, of any person on the Pension-list, the Sinecure-list, the List of Retired Allowances, the Widows' Pension-list, the Compensation-list, or upon all or any other list of pensions received without services rendered to the public, or in any other way receiving money out of the taxes raised upon the poor, shall, if such father or grandfather, mother or grandmother, child or children, be persons of substance, be liable and compellable to yield relief to their relations under all the penalties and forfeitures provided by the Act of Elizabeth, and that all such pensions and allowances shall cease to be paid." That was his proposition. They talked of the degradation and sense of shame which the unhappy paupers ought to feel; but had the pensioners, the sinecurists, any sense of shame? If they had any, would not their aristocratic relatives keep them from preying, like paupers, on the hard-wrung taxes? He might be accused of ungentlemanly conduct in talking in this manner, but he did not care for fine language and nice distinctions. When he saw so manifest a determination on the part of the House and the Whig Ministers to reduce the labouring classes to salt and potatoes, he looked upon them to be the aggressors, and they must abide by the consequences.
§ Lord Althorp
would not enter into any discussion of the principles upon which the hon. Member's observations against the Pension-list were based. He should simply content himself with reminding the House, that even those who objected to that Pen- 544 sion-list were not doing any thing to support or countenance it by voting against the hon. Member's Amendment.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment—Ayes 17; Noes 112; Majority 95.
§ The Clause agreed to.
|List of the AYES.|
|Blake, M. J.||Hodges, W. L.|
|Buckingham, J. S.||Maxwell, J.|
|Butler, Colonel||O'Brien, C.|
|Cobbett, W.||O'Connell, D.|
|Fielden, J.||O'Connell, M.|
|Finn, W. F.||O'Connell, J.|
|Gaskell, D.||O'Connor, F.|
|Gully, J.||Ruthven, E.|
|Heathcote, J.||Thompson, Ald.|
§ On Clause 91 being proposed,
§ Mr. Jervis moved, as an Amendment, that the Commissioners should not, in the case of a prosecution, be privileged to plead the general issue.
The Attorney General
thought the privilege should be given to them. It was quite true, that inconvenience had resulted from the privilege being possessed by Dock Companies, and other Companies of a similar nature; but that was no argument against its being conceded to the Commissioners, who had certain duties imposed upon them, and were in many respects differently circumstanced.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment—Ayes 28; Noes 112; Majority 84.
§ The Clause was agreed to.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H.||O'Connell, J.|
|Attwood, T.||O'Connell, M.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Petre, W.|
|Blamire, W.||Potter, R.|
|Bethell, R.||Pryme, G.|
|Briscoe, J.||Robinson, G.|
|Ewart, W.||Scholefield, J.|
|Finn, W. F.||Stanley, E.|
|Halcombe, J.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Hughes, H.||Tower, C. T.|
|Jacob, E.||Vigors, N.|
|Ingham, R.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Irton, S.||Young, G. F.|
|Lloyd, J. H.||TELLERS.|
|O'Brien, C.||Jervis, J.|
§ On the 93rd Clause being put,
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that it would be in the recollection of the House, that the debate on three or four clauses of the Bill had been postponed; but he thought it would be the more convenient course to bring up the new clauses which he had to propose, before the Committee proceeded to deal with the old ones. The clauses which he had to suggest, too, were such as he be- 545 lieved were not likely to provoke discussion, and he would therefore at once state their purport. The first clause which he proposed to bring up was, to prevent persons, being Poor-law Commissioners, and Assistant-Commissioners, from sitting in Parliament: the second was, to limit the operation of the appointment of the Commissioners to a period of five years: the next provided, that the rules, regulations, &c., should be laid every year before Parliament—that the rules and regulations of the Assistant-Commissioners must be prepared and sealed by the Central Board: the next clause provided, that all bonds and securities and assignments connected with the jurisdiction of the Poor-law Commissioners, should be exempt from the payment of Stamp-duty.
§ The Clauses having been put,
§ Mr. Grote
rose, and said, he, for one, could not help thinking that the noble Lord, by introducing the limitation of five years to the operation of the appointment of the Commissioners, would not improve the character of the Bill. He certainly entertained the fullest and firmest conviction, that when the period of the termination of the present Act should arrive, the working of the measure would be found to have been so beneficial, that the powers of the Commissioners must be renewed. Whereas, in the event of carrying this limitation, it would make the measure appear in the light of a temporary experiment morely, and they could not divest it of that character if they sanctioned this clause. The effect of such limitation would necessarily be to excite a spirit of resistance, and a degree of hope in parishes where the mal-administration of the Poor-laws might prevail; that in such cases the parishes would, if they could, retard the progress of the improved system; and they would make head against the Amendment in the laws which were proposed. The powers of the Commissioners must be diminished by this limitation. There was always a chapter of accidents in these matters, and it might fall out that when the five years should expire, the Parliament of that day might not think fit to renew the Act.
§ Lord Althorp
was not prepared to say, that the clause he had to propose was an improvement—he perhaps did not think it was; but he thought it was, at least, no detriment to the Bill. The only practical objection which he could see in the observations which had fallen from his hon. friend, the member for London was, that 546 by enacting, that the powers of the Commissioners should expire in five years, their powers would in effect be diminished. He could not see, that such a result was likely to occur. The reason which had induced him to limit the duration of their powers was, the fact of great objections having been made to them, as at first proposed. Those objections had been urged from various quarters. Now, he thought, that if he disarmed the objections which had been urged in that House (and he meant nothing disrespectful to the House), more especially by the country, he gained a great advantage. It was most certainly his wish, that the Bill should be passed by as large a majority as possible, and that it, should be met by the concurrence of not only those within the walls, but of those beyond them on whose concurrence the success of the measure must in part rest.
§ Mr. Robinson
thought, that this measure was to be regarded as a great experiment, and that the noble Lord was quite right in proposing this limitation, because he thereby disarmed many objections.
Mr. Wolryche Whitmore
concurred in the opinion of his hon. friend, the member for the city of London. He believed, that the limitation of five years might prevent the formation of those unions which the Act sought to establish, and the erection of workhouses, as proposed by this measure.
§ Clause added.
§ The other proposed Clauses agreed to.
§ The Earl of Darlington moved the clause of which he had given notice: "To make all tenements of the lowest description rateable property, and to be assessed to the relief of the poor; but that, in all cases, where the annual rent does not exceed 10l. the owners, and not the occupiers, shall become chargeable for the said assessment." To this the noble Lord added a proviso, to the effect that the proportion should not be as to the actual rent paid by the occupier, but upon the rack rent, as assessed by the surveyors of the respective districts.
Mr. Charles Russell
opposed the clause. It would be unjust to expose one particular description of property to the effects of an ex-post-facto law; or a law which could never have been contemplated by persons who had purchased such property. Hard, however, as such a clause must operate on the owners of property, it would be sure to operate still worse upon the poor themselves. The consequence would be, that the poor would immediately flock to towns, 547 where they would be huddled together in small rooms of large houses, to the injury of their health.
§ Mr. Warburton
did not think, that this clause was one which should be allowed to pass in its present shape; and he objected to such a clause being introduced into this Bill.
The Earl of Darlington
said, in reply, that instead of this description of property being the only one which was hardly dealt with, it was the only description of property which was exempt at present from the payment of parochial rates. It paid no rates, partly on account of the difficulty of collecting rents, and the expense of collection. The owners of this kind of property would reap advantages from the adoption of this clause.
§ Lord Althorp
said, he had been long of opinion, that the principle embraced in this clause was good; but he could not see why the noble Lord had introduced the proviso respecting the rates being taken on the rack-rent. He objected to this, and thought the clause should stop at the words "chargeable for the said assessment." He was also of opinion, that great advantage would accrue to the occupiers in these cases by relieving them from a certain extent of pressure to which they were now liable.
§ Viscount Sandon
was opposed to this clause, and maintained, that it drew an arbitrary line in respect to the proprietors of a certain description of property.
§ Mr. George F. Young
differed altogether from the statements made by the noble Lord (Lord Sandon). He knew some parishes in which the system worked well, and he was therefore determined to support the clause.
§ Mr. George W. Wood
thought, that all property of this description ought to contribute to the general fund, or if not all, then all ought to be exempted. If this were not the case, improvident persons would have an advantage over the industrious portion of the population. He thought, however, that it would be of advantage to all parties if in certain cases the landlord was to pay the rate at a reduced valuation.
was opposed to this clause, as it would have the effect of doing away with small cottages, and thus the poor man would be compelled to pay rent for a higher house, or else to migrate to a smaller or still more wretched dwelling. So much 548 for towns. Now for the country. He would say, that three pounds, the usual rent paid for a cottage in the country, did not pay the farmer the interest of his money, and he erected cottages only because he had occasion for the labour of their occupants. But let him be called upon to pay the rate, and the cottages would disappear, to the injury of the industrious labourer, who would be compelled to seek a tenement where he must pay more money.
§ The Attorney General moved an Amendment to the following effect:—"And be it further provided, that where any house rated to the relief of the poor shall be under 10l. the owner and not the occupier shall be rateable." He moved it in this form because there were in many boroughs numbers of scot-and-lot voters who would be altogether disfranchised by this Clause, if no proviso against it were introduced. Such proviso must, however, be introduced with great care; but if for the present the Clause were allowed to pass as he had worded it, he pledged himself to introduce such a proviso.
Mr. Bonham Carter
considered this a matter of such importance as to call for a separate legislative enactment. It was to be regretted that the whole measure should be thus impeded, if not endangered, by the introduction of matter altogether foreign to the Bill.
§ Mr. Robert Palmer
agreed with the last speaker in thinking this a matter which called for separate legislation, instead of being introduced so as to interfere with the Bill itself. He thought all property of this description ought to be rated, leaving the Magistrates to afford relief where the parties were not able to pay.
Mr. Fysche Palmer
was authorised to state, that in Reading and its neighbourhood persons did not receive more than three or four per cent, for the money expended in the erection of houses of the description in question. It would be a severe hardship if a retired servant, who had expended his or her little savings in such a way, should be ruined (as in many cases they must be) by the enactment of such a clause. In the country it was a different question, but there he would say, that if the landlord consulted morely his own interest, he would not have one of those cottages erected. He opposed the clause.
§ Mr. Estcourt
supported the Clause. Difficulties such as those described might perhaps arise to old servants, but was it 549 not, he would ask, a hardship to the community, that those who had laid out large sums in this way did not contribute a single farthing to the poor-rate? It appeared from the inquiry of 1817, that many individuals received hundreds a year; that one, in fact, received 2,000l. a-year from such houses, without paying anything whatever to the poor-rate. Why, he asked, was such injustice to be tolerated?
§ The Earl of Darlington withdrew his Clause in favour of that of the Attorney General.
§ Mr. Warburton
objected to both, and thought, that any proposition of so important a nature ought to undergo full and ample discussion, and ought not to be proposed at all, without affording the parishes an opportunity of entering into their details.
§ Lord Althorp
was favourable to the principle of the Clause; but he doubted whether, in the present stage, it could be rendered operative. He put it to the noble Lord whether he felt it necessary to press any such Clause at present.
The Earl of Darlington
said, he certainly did; and if on being enforced it was found inoperative, he pledged himself to introduce a separate Bill upon the subject.
§ The Committee divided on the Clause as amended by the Attorney General: Ayes, 69; Noes, 55—Majority, 14.
§ The Committee again divided on a proviso proposed by Mr. G. Wood, to enable the landlord to compound for small houses for one half the value: Ayes 35; Noes 89—Majority, 54.
|List of the AYES.|
|Attwood, T.||Philips, C. M.|
|Benett, J.||Pryme, G.|
|Bolling, W.||Russell, Lord C. J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Ruthven, E.|
|Crawley, S.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Dillwyn, L. W.||Sandon, Lord|
|Egerton, W. T.||Scrope, P.|
|Forster, C. S.||Sullivan, R.|
|Handley, H.||Thicknesse, R.|
|Hughes, H. H.||Torrens, Col.|
|Jacob, E.||Tower, C. T.|
|O'Connell, M.||Vigors, N. A.|
|O'Connell, J.||Wason, R.|
|Palmer, C. F.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Plumptre, J. P.||Wood, G. W.|
§ The House resumed, the Committee to sit again.