§ Mr. Scarlett,
in rising move the second reading of 762 this bill, observed, that he was prepared for considerable opposition to the measure, in consequence of the great number of petitions which had been presented against it. He had not had an opportunity when he first brought the subject before parliament, to open the general grounds on which he approached the question. It was his wish, as it also was his intention, to state to the House that he considered the present as only one of a series of measures. If he succeeded in carrying this, he would then venture to press others on the attention of parliament. And he thought it was probable, that many persons who supposed their interests would be affected by this bill might have been induced to soften their tone of observation, if they been aware that he meant to follow up the present measure by the introduction of others equally important. The House would recollect, that in last session he had proposed a measure which embraced three great principles. He then conceived, and nothing had since occurred to alter his opinion, that the great vice of the whole administration of our poor laws might be traced to three causes: 1st, the restraint on the circulation of labour; 2nd, the unlimited provision for the poor; and 3rd, the indiscriminate application of that provision, which led to profligacy, idleness, and vice. And he thought, to use the words of a great man, who had often addressed the House from the place where he then stood, that "defective amendments, grafted on a plan originally defective, could produce no lasting or solid benefit." Therefore it was that he wished to strike at the root of the evil. The numerous alterations in the poor-laws, and the great number of enactments on this subject, afforded sufficient proof that the system demanded serious investigation. It would be found, on examining the different plans which had been adopted for ameliorating the law, that when each project was first introduced, it had haply produced some temporary relief; but, in the course of time, the principle itself, which was pernicious in its basis, overcame every palliative, and increased in power till it had acquired strength sufficient to defeat all the efforts that could be made to correct it. He need not occupy the House in stating the prodigious increase of the poor-rates, and the constantly increasing numbers of the poor. Although it was 763 his intention last session to have called for the adoption of the three principles to which he had alluded, every one of which was of great importance, yet he knew the extreme difficulty of bringing into one bill three measures founded on those principles, each of which had its advocates as well as its opponents. On the present occasion, he bad confined himself to one of those principles; and nothing which had occurred since last session, had induced him to alter the opinion he had deliberately formed, that it was necessary to found some particular measure on each of those principles. He firmly adhered to that opinion; and he thought that the measure now before the House would not be effectual, unless it was followed up by enactments calculated to bring the other two principles into Operation.
But, leaving untouched the Unlimited provision for the poor, and forbearing to legislate on the indiscriminate application of that provision to poverty, however occasioned, he would proceed to inquire into the necessity of the measure now before the House, which had for its object to prevent the removal of the poor, as the system at present stood. The House would, he hoped, permit him to enter into some short history of this subject, before he proceeded to discuss the principle of the measure. He supposed that gentlemen were perfectly acquainted with the present situation of the poor of England. From papers that had been laid before the House, it appeared that the poor amounted to about one-ninth of the whole population. Now, in what situation was that large portion of the people placed under the existing law? If any poor man demanded relief for himself and family, whether his poverty arose from crime, misfortune, or idleness, he was subject to be removed by the justices or overseers, if he bad not obtained a settlement in the parish where he applied, to some other parish or township in which he appeared to have a legal settlement no, matter how distant—no matter whether there was any demand for his labour—no matter whether be knew a human being, in the place: there he must go—there he must remain under the present law, and he was liable to punishment if he quitted the place. Perhaps he might find it impossible to support his family in the district to which he was removed; still it was no matter—there he and they must continue, as they 764 generally, were burthens to the parish from generation to generation. This was the case at present; and how had country arrived ht such a state of the law? Such a system must be illegal in its principle, since it was contrary to justice to use extreme severity towards the poor. The 43rd of Elizabeth placed the poor-laws on a basis on which Mr. Justice Blackstone lamented they had not been allowed to continue. By that law the poor were placed in this situation.—None were entitled to relief except those who could not work; but for those who could work, but were destitute of employment, the overseer was directed to provide a stock, out of which they might be supplied with employment. This statute set the question at rest for the space of above 60 years; for, from the passing of that act down to the time of Charles 2nd, there were only two acts of the legislature respecting the poor, and neither of these had any reference to the increase of the poor-rates or the multiplication of the poor. There was an act of James 1st, to punish those who abandoned their families; and a second to punish the parents of illegitimate children. But soon afterwards, in the reign of Charles 1st, this country was thrown into a state of civil commotion; armies were raised, and marched from one part of the country to another. An army recruited, in Lancashire was, perhaps, employed in Cornwall, and thus much confusion wrote with respect to settlement. An order, published by Cromwell, in 1656, would, afford some evidence of the effect the civil war had produced on the population. The order stated, "Whereas the number of wandering, idle, loose, dissolute, and disorderly persons, is of late much increased, by reason of some defects in the statute heretofore made for the punishment of rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars." Now he (Mr. S.) believed, that the increased number of those idle persons was occasioned by the peculiar stated of the country. This was some years before the restoration of Charles 2nd; but, in the second year after his restoration, as the evil still continued, that statute was passed which enacted the compulsory removal of the poor. He therefore was correct in stating, that, for 60 years, until this statute passed, no law was made to confine the poor to any particular place. The moment that statute was passed, and from that period down to the 765 present hour, the removal of the poor had been the subject of excessive complaint and of constant litigation. The consequence was, that the Statute book was crowded with laws on this subject, until an artificial code had been formed. The statute of Charles 2nd enacted, "that if any person was likely to become chargeable on any parish or place, he might be removed by order oldie magistrates to the last place where he was resident for forty days." The House must see what an extraordinary alteration this statute made in the situation of the poor who were not able to support themselves. It gave a most extensive power to the overseer, who was impowered not only to remove those who were chargeable, but persons who appeared likely to become chargeable to the parish. The legislature saw the harshness of this measure, and numerous statutes were passed to multiply the modes of obtaining settlement. By one statute a man could not be removed who was hired as a servant for a year; a second exempted, him from removal if he had served a parish office; a third if he bad served an apprenticeship; a fourth if he had purchased a tenement. There were a variety of other statutes, all of which related to settlements. But this was not all. The courts of justice, acting on the principle of the common law, which in this country ever had been, and he hoped ever would be, favourable to the liberty of the subject, had grafted on those statutes a great number of exceptions, to limit the power of removal. In the reign of king William, in 1696, a remarkable circumstance took place with respect to the poor-laws at that period. An application was made to the House of Commons to inquire into the state of the poor-laws. The subject was referred to the board of trade, of which Mr. Locke was then a member; and they had the report of that board which was drawn up by Mr. Locke, and Which showed what effect had been produced by the act of Charles 2nd during his reign and the reign of his brother James 2nd while that statute was in full operation. The report said—"the multiplicity of the poor, and the increase of the taxes for their maintenance, is so general a fact that it cannot be doubted of; since the last war it came on us, it has been a growing burthen for many years, and the two last reigns have felt that burthen as well as the present. If the cause be looked to, it will be found to have pro- 766 ceeded, not from the scarcity of provisions, nor for want of employment from the poor, since the goodness of Providence, has blessed this country with abundance, and the long peace, during the last two reigns, has wonderfully increased our trade and commerce. There must, therefore, be some other cause. Perhaps it arises from laxity of discipline and corruption; because virtue and industry are as constant companions on the one side, as idleness, poverty, and vice, on the other." This report was followed up by an act to remove the grievances that were felt from the operation of the statute of Charles 2nd. The 8th and 9th of William was the act by which persons were allowed to come into any parish or township, on producing a certificate of previous settlement. The effect of it was to do away the mischievous operation of the act of Charles 2nd, by allowing people, on stating that they were settled in particular places, to proceed to others, and to reside and work there without the liability of being removed.
Having thus stated the history of the law, he would next call the attention of the House to the effects of that part of it, which obliged persons as soon as they became chargeable to the parish, to remove to another parish where they had got a settlement. And here he would advert for a moment to the 26th of the late king, which introduced some mitigation of the previous state of the law; and it was some consolation to him in his present attempt, to reflect upon the number of petitions which had been on that occasion presented from all parts of the country against sir Edward Hyde East's bill. In consequence of those petitions, and the opposition made to the bill, it had been found necessary to except from its provisions those who might become chargeable to the parish; and a chase been introduced declaring women pregnant with bastard children Chargeable, which was in effect one of the most of poor-laws. One of the advantages of the measure which he now proposed would be, that it would greatly diminish the whole expenses and charges of maintaining the poor. The first of these expenses were those arising form litigation. Dr. Burn, one of the wisest writers upon the subject, had stated it to be his conviction, that more litigation had arisen from the law of removals than from any other source. The doctor had alluded 767 only to litigation respecting settlements in the Court of King's Bench, which formed, however, but a small part; for the litigation on the subject at quarter sessions was more enormous than the history of litigation could parallel. On an average of three years up to 1815, this expense was 327,000l. a year; and when to this was added the expense incurred at the quarter sessions four times a year, and in the making of inquiries as to the power of removal—of which no regular return bad been or could be made—the amount would be found to be very considerable indeed, and would go a great way in actually providing for the poor. According to the existing law, if a man received the smallest sum for his support under a casual or temporary calamity, then that was made a ground for removing not only that man, but the whole of his family, unless the parish to which they had originally belonged became bound for their removal. By this means, the parish from which the family was ejected for the purpose of saving half a crown, not only subjected the parish to which the pauper was to be sent to very heavy expenses, but also compelled the whole family to remove from a place where many or all of them could find work, to a place where no work was to be found. He was fully convinced that many families were to be found subsisting entirely on the parish funds in one place, who but for the law of removal would have been maintaining themselves by their own industry in another. If under such circumstances the poor man should wander out of his own parish in quest of work, the overseers had it in their power to force him back. That the sum of 327,000l. was annually expended upon appeals in disputed cases of removal was in his opinion a clear proof of the vast mischief of which the system was productive; and he would remark in particular, that the expense of removals from large manufacturing towns to small country parishes was very great. One of the most striking effects upon the poor themselves was, that they were driven from where they could find labour, and accumulated where there was no labour to be found. Honourable gentlemen would be pleased to notice how this operated. Let them just imagine for a moment that a law was proposed for preventing the circulation of wheat, of wool, or of any other commodity beyond the parish in which it was produced—would not the man advocating 768 such a measure be considered as something worse than absurd? Now, he would be glad to know upon what better ground the labour of the poor man should be restricted to the parish in which it was produced? Why, when they would spurn at the application of such a doctrine to other commodities, they should act upon it when the labour of the poor was under consideration? Let them mark the effects of this—they were, a total derangement of the wages of labour, especially of agricultural labour all over the country. If the law were such that it made the price of wheat, or of any other article of produce, high in one county and low in another, they would be disposed to think the law bad; but surely that law was no better which made the price of labour high in one county and low in another. Now, the weekly wages of the poor man varied exceedingly in the different Counties of England. In some it was from seven shillings to nine shillings; in others, it was from fifteen shillings to eighteen shillings; and in one parish of Oxfordshire, it was stated to be as low as 3s. The sum paid in poor-rates, too, bore no proportion to the wealth and population of the counties. From the returns it appeared, that Sussex, with an inferior population and a taxable income of 915,318l. paid 275,000l. of poor-rates; while Lancashire, with a superior population and a taxable income of 3,087,777l. paid 261,730l. which was less by more than 14,000l. It might, indeed, be stated as perfectly general, that in populous districts where there were large manufacturing towns, the poor-rates were always lower than in thinly inhabited agricultural districts. The cause of this, as well as of the disparity or wages to which he had alluded, was obviously the removal of the poor. To the great towns the poor man naturally directed his steps, because there he lad the best chance of finding employment and protection, and to prevent him from going there was an act of injustice; fro if he was not allowed to find employment for himself in the parish where it was to be found, then they were bound to find it for him, or subsist him without it, in the parish to which he was restricted. He had heard of one parish in which there were twenty-five able bodied labourers out of employment, while in almost the very next parish there was a deficiency of labourers. These labourers were prevented, by the law of removal, from going to find work, 769 and they naturally said to those who prevented them, "you must support us." One of the worst effects of this practice was, a strong foundation it supplied for a most fatal persuasion, which was increasing of late years—he meant the notion of right to parish support. When the poor man was restrained from the free use of his labour, he had a right to return upon those who restrained him, and to convert their oppression into his title to support. Gentlemen expressed alarm at giving facility to the poor for moving from place to place. He would say that they could not give them facility enough. Let them give greater facility to the poor man to transfer his labour according as there might be a demand for it, and they would do him and the public a service. Instead of feeling jealousy and alarm, they ought to aid and assist the, poor in moving from place to place.
He would now advert to some objections which had been urged against his plan. It had been said, that by doing away with the present law of removals, they would set gentlemen on pulling down cottages. But, before the act of Charles 2nd which introduced the present law of removals, so far from cottages having been exposed to destruction, the 37th of Elizabeth had been passed expressly to prohibit the building of cottages. Here again he referred to the authority of Dr. Burn, who stated that the great business of an overseer of the poor was to prevent a poor person from acquiring a settlement—to quarrel with the pretensions and claims of those settled—to pull down cottages—to depopulate the parish in order to keep down the rates, and to pay no attention to the religious habits or the education of the poor. The pulling down of cottages was thus imputed to the law of removal, instead of being prevented by it. The moral effects of this law deserved particular consideration. Their own poor were kept employed by overseers, and their moral habits were attended to; but with respect to the great part of the poor who had no settlement in the parish, they cared not what their habits might be, tan the neglect of moral instruction was consequently prevalent throughout England, to a degree which excited the astonishment of every on who contemplated the subject. He had received a letter from the overseer of a parish in Cumberland, who had been overseer at intervals for a period of 23 years. This overseer stated, that 770 those who had not a settlement in a parish were totally neglected, and that young women were left unprotected against seduction, because they could be removed to other parishes. If one half the attention which was now applied to the prevention of litigation of settlements were given to learning the wants of the poor, and bestowing religious and moral instruction upon them, it would be a great saving of expense and a great accession to public virtue. An objection had bee made last year in the House, and had since been adopted in many petitions—it was to this effect:—"If you abolish the law of settlement, you will take away a wholesome restraint upon idleness and vice by removing the fear of becoming a burthen to the parish." He was ready to admit that the terror of removal operated in some cases to induce men to exercise greater attention and industry. In this view the law operated as a penal law. But, if the law ought to be extended further, and abolish settlements altogether. The poor ought to be removed 100 or 150 miles as a punishment. They ought to be sent from Lancashire to Sussex, and from Sussex to Lancashire. But this punishment wanted the great essential of justice—equality. It might operate as a restraint upon idleness and vice, but it was the very worst punishment which could be applied. When removed from the parish, they ought to be fed on bread and water in the place to which they were removed, if the law was penal; because privation and want were the natural punishment of idleness and vice. But if they were removed from one place only to flourish in idleness in another place, where was the justice of the punishment? Again, the inequality of the law as a punishment was still more increased by the circumstance that it inflicted the greatest severity on those least deserving of severity. Local attachments were stronger in the more virtuous and amiable. To them a removal was the bitterest affliction: but to the idle and profligate, who felt not the attachments arising from industrious and virtuous habits, a removal was no punishment. Admitting, then that moral restraint ought to be imposed upon idleness and vice, he denied that banishment was the proper means of such restraint. The evils arising from the rigour with which pregnant women were sough tout and removed, were particularly mischievous. The parish officers 771 were suffered to drag women in those fortunate circumstances to public shame, and to fasten that shame upon them for life. It had been stated to the House, that 69 women were in this way removed from Nottingham. He regarded manufacturing towns and agricultural counties with equal favour, but he could not admit the right, of manufacturers to send young women whom they had seduced back again to be a burthen upon the country. There could exist no moral obligation to support such spurious issue. Such cases ought to be treated as in Scotland. Let the woman complain if she thought fit; and then an order of maintenance would be made. But if she did not complain, let her be left alone. This was the course pursued in Scotland, and the moral habits of the lower classes there had very much the advantage over those of the same in England. The inconvenience of removals were in many cases so great, that a compromise was entered into. The effect was, that a parish A, where a settlement had been secured, was paying to a parish where a poor man became chargeable, the amount of his allowance of relief. It was quite manifest that more expenses were incurred by that means. No objection was made to a liberal allowance where another paid it.
The general effect of this measure, would, he doubted not, be in every town throughout the kingdom, to increase the disposition and necessity on the part of those who had the government of the poor in their hands, to look into their moral habits, to discriminate between the industrious and the undeserving, and to proportion in some degree the aid and relief to the merits of the applicant. If this bill should pass into a law, they would find it their interest to confer education on the poor, and to superintend their moral habits. The tendency of so improved a system must be, to diminish rather than increase the amount of the present rates. He would admit that the saving would be relatively greater on the part of the agriculturist, but to the manufacturer the bill would produce no additional burthens. In many districts funds were already established among the poor, which rendered unnecessary all application to or dependence on the parish. It was so in the town of Salford, where, by means of subscriptions of one penny a week, a fund of 200l. was established; the efficacy of which had been such, that for a consider- 772 able period not above 5l. had been drawn from the parochial assessment. The managers of this fund did not allow it to exceed 200l. When it arrived at that amount, they stopped short; and when it sunk below, they re-opened the contributions. This example would in all probability, be widely imitated, as it became more genera ally known. For all these reasons, he was satisfied, that the measure, if adopted, would become a public benefit. That the poor were oppressed by the law as it noon stood, and the practices to which it gave birth, was indisputable. The present bill might serve as a first step on the return to a better system. They could not expect to get into a right state until means were devised for lessening that mass of contrivance, ingenuity, and artifice, which at present existed, and for no good or beneficial purpose. Let the experiment be fairly tried of creating employment by less artificial means. In submitting to the House his views upon this most important question, he hoped he had betrayed no ill-placed vanity, nor treated with any improper levity a subject so material in its consequences. In bringing it forward he was animated by one motive only—a desire to promote the true, permanent, and substantial good of his country. If it was not acceptable to the House, he was ready to abandon it. His conviction that, if reduced to practice, it would prove generally useful was deeply founded; but, if it was pleasure of the House, that it should go no further, or if they were disposed to send it to a committee, there to remain till theensuing session, he, in either case, bowed to their decision. He certainly did wish to inspire all parties with his own feelings on this subject, and induce them to contemplate in the same light the present state of the labouring poor in this country—a state of slavery and degradation which, he believed, did not exist in any other nation of Europe. He should conclude by moving, "That the bill be now read a second time."
§ Mr. Mansfield
said, that his constituents were strongly opposed to the measure, and in that opposition he concurred with them. He believed, that if curried into effect, it would operate with a multiplied pressure, not only on those who were relieved. He therefore felt it his duty to move as an amendment, "That the bill be read a second time this day six months."
§ Mr. Monck
declared his conviction, that the present measure was brought forward with the purest and best intentions, and with the hope of redressing the many evils which flowed from the system of poor-laws. Indeed, so long as these laws existed, great abuses would prevail, and the lamentable truth was, that in every discussion on the subject the House was reduced to a choice of evils. But he must be allowed to say, that the evils of the present system were comparatively small, when contrasted with that mass of abuse which would be engendered by the operation of the present bill, if carried into effect. The principle of the measure was not new—it had been tried in this country before; but the inconveniencies and abuses it produced made its repeal imperative. It was first introduced in the reign of Elizabeth, and continued until the 13th of Charles the second, when the inconveniencies felt, in consequence of the overflow of paupers from country parishes into towns and rich districts, where there was plenty of stock, were so abandon the system. If such were the abuses in the simple state of society in those times, how much more aggravated much they be if that system was renewed under our present complex condition? The present average amount of the poor-rate, was 15s. and 20s. in the pound, in the country, and from two to three shillings in town. Now the effect of the bill would be to send every idler from the country parishes into the towns, with a view of their being; better supported, and the ultimate result would be, that those towns would be filled with paupers. The hon. member contended, that it was the uniform policy of the legislator rather to restrict than to extend the facility obtaining settlements. Under the present system every device was practised to throw the paupers in country parishes on the towns for maintenance. He instanced the county of Berks. It became now a complete system with the farmers to depopulate their parishes, to pull down cottages, and indeed to leave only sufficient habitations to meet the ordinary conduct of the farm. The farmers drew labourers for the harvest from the workhouses of Reading, Abingdon, and, Newbury. For six weeks they were well fed by the farmers; got beer and large wages; but afterwards they were cast out, and for the rest of the year were to be maintained by the towns. Much stress had been laid by the learned 774 member on the great oppression of removing a pauper from the place which had the advantage of his labour, to his place of settlement. He could not assent to that description of oppression. That labour was the consequence of an understood compact, and was as valuable to the individual as to the place. But he denied it to be oppressive to remove an individual incapable of earning his own bread to that place, where be was to be secured from what the Irish were now unhappily suffering—scarcity and famine. The evils of the present system were numerous enough, without risking their aggravation. How was it that an English manufacturer was able to sell in a foreign market, an article that cost 1,000l. in its manufacture, for 900l., and at the same time to draw a profit of 100l. from the sale It was because the English manufacturer possessed that power which the manufacturer of no other country possessed; namely, of putting, his hand into the pockets of others for the support of his labourers. The Irish manufacturer had, if any manufacturer had; great natural advantages; yet still he could not compete with the English manufacturer, because as no poor-laws existed in Ireland, he could not pay for his labourers out of the pockets of other people. It had been said, that towns had no right to complain againt the bill, as they had the manufactories to afford relief. It would be the greatest benefit that could be conferred on towns, to be rid of manufactories altogether. Wherever they existed, they were the source of misery, disease and vice to the working people—of embarrassment and extortion to the other inhabitants. As to the expence attending the removal, and that was the only gain held out by the present bill, he should only say, that he believed it cost the town of Reading 30l. a-year; and sure he was that the inhabitants would gladly pay 300l. a-year to be relieved from the evils, which the measure, if carried into operation would entail upon them.
§ Mr. T. Courtenay
felt considerable apprehensions in rising to oppose a measure introduced under the authority of the hon. and learned gentleman, in speech so well calculated to make a considerable impression. That speech appeared to him, however, more particularly to apply to a bill which some sessions back had been brought forward by a right hon. friend of his, the chairman of the poor-laws committee (Mr. S. Bourne), which was 775 negatived by considerable majority, rather than to the immediate proposition before the House. For that bill he had voted; thought he confessed, he had since altered his opinion, chiefly because he was persuaded that the nearer a man is to the fund on which he has a claim, under the poor-laws, the less industrious and hide pendent he is. In his bill of last year the hon. and learned gentleman had limited the application of the poor-rates. Then, the provision by which he abolished settlements was of less importance; but the present bill left the claim to relief on the extended footing on which it now stood, and allowed the pauper to select the parish to which he might choose to apply for relief; and when relieved by one parish on, one day, there was nothing to prevent him making a similar application to another, on the next. He agreed with the hon. member who spoke last, that the parish in which the pauper last worked might or might not have been specially benefited by his labours. In every view which he took of the question, since the hon. and learned gentleman's first introduction of a measure relative to the poor-laws, he (Mr. C.) felt more and more convinced that the principle of those laws was a just one; and whenever the hon. and learned gentleman should again introduce the subject fully to the House, he would be ready to meet it. He implored the hon. and learned gentleman to bring forward the whole measure which he had in contemplation, that the sense of the House might be taken; and that those who were for modifications rather than for abolition might have an opportunity of proposing them.
§ Mr. J. Shelley
said, he was afraid that, in the present state of the country, the land itself would not long be able to keep the poor along with the payment of rent and taxes. Some remedy should be applied, and therefore he would support the measure.
opposed the bill, as producing too violent an alteration in the poor laws. Though the system of removal might be sometimes oppressive to the poor, yet the proposed alteration would he exceedingly oppressive to the rich. The comparatively light pressure in sonic places did not proceed froth any restraint on the free circulation of labour, but from the vigilance of those who superintended the poor, and the prevalence of industrious and frugal habits.
§ Sir M. W. Ridley
said, that great in- 776 convenience and expense were incurred by the present system of removal. He would throw it out as a suggestion, that magistrates should be empowered to suspend the order for removal, as in case of sickness, in cases where disputes might be likely to arise as to the parish of the pauper. This suspension might continue until the parishes consulted upon the matter. By this means a great deal of expense and trouble might be saved. As to the bill, he should oppose it, because it would make that alteration all at once which ought to be effected gradually.
§ Mr. Nolan
began by alluding to a remark that had been made, that the poor had no representatives in that House. He could not suffer such an observation to pass without maintaining that there was no class of his majesty's subjects whose interests were not represented there—and there was no class to whom greater attention had at all times been paid than to the poor. Great acknowledgments were due to his hon. and learned friend for the very able, candid, and ingenious manner in which he bad introduced the subject; and though he might differ from him as to the remedy proposed, yet he thought this advantage, at least, would result from the discussion of the question—that it would set the public mind to work upon it, and that no inconsiderable benefit might be derived from that source. It had been said, that the subject was one which ought to have been taken up by his majesty's ministers. Now, he did not think they were bound to take it up. As a measure interesting to all classes, it was open to the consideration of, and might be introduced by, any member who felt himself competent to the task. One general objection to the measure which he had was this—even if he thought favourably of it, he should hesitate to estabish it as a law when he found so many petitions against it from every part of the country, and so general an opinion against its practical effects. Another objection was, that the measure was partial, and left wholly out, of consideration the general system of the poor-laws with all its defects. When his hon. and learned friend introduced his former bill, he observed that it was complicated, but that every part of it depended on the other; but now he abandoned all the parts except that which referred to the removal of paupers, without any reference to how they wore to be supported. It had been 777 objected, that the unsettled poor were irregular in the habits. Now he, on the contrary, was prepared to maintain, that the fear of removal from friends and connexions operated as a great stimulus to industry amongst that class, which stimulus would be lost by the present bill. He contended that this bill was likely to produce one of the effects that his hon. and learned friend had most strongly deprecated, namely, to make the poor look upon that as a matter of right, which in point of fact was a mere matter of charitable relief. Instead of checking, it would likewise considerably promote the expenses of litigation.
The Marquis of Londonderry
complimented the hon. and learned gentleman, who had just sat down, on the ability and knowledge which he had displayed on this interesting subject, and congratulated the House on the fact, that it was a subject which had never been discussed with any thing like party feeling. On the contrary, there had never been but one object in view, which was, to resolve the difficult problem of relieving the country from the evils attendant on the existing system. The present discussion tended to show how unfair it was to call on his majesty's government to embark in a measure of this kind when it appeared that even the hon. and learned author of the bill, with all his legal knowledge and research, found himself compelled to abandon two out of the three propositions originally embraced in his bill, and experienced great difficulty with respect to the details of the third. To the principle or the bill, every man must be favourable. The only doubt was as to the mode in which that principle could best be carried into effect. In the present state of the bill it appeared to him that bands of paupers might traverse the country, and obtain what would be very like a right of settlement wherever they might find themselves in especial want of aid. That was an evil which, in his opinion, ought not to be permitted. Without going further into the details of the new bill, he would simply state that it appeared to him to be calculated to promote litigation to an unexampled extent, and to create great additional expense, instead of furthering the cause of economy. He wished the hon. and learned gentleman to find out sonic plan to disarm his bill or the evils which it was certain to create, if the principle of it was pushed 778 to its full extremity. He could assure the hon. and learned gentleman that if he did so, he would give him every assistance in his power. Indeed, the House was bound to give every assistance in its power to any gentleman who took the difficult subject of the poor-laws into his consideration, and ought to encourage in the outset any measure that was introduced to amend them. If he were compelled to give a vote upon this measure as it stood at present, he should certainly vote against it; but as he was favourable to the principle of the bill, and thought that the objections which he had against its details might be remedied in a committee, he had no wish to object to the reading of it a second time.
§ Sir C. Burrell
defended the habits of the poor in Sussex, and the disposition of the farmers of that county, to do all in their power to relieve their wants. The poor-laws required extensive amendment; and he thought the hon. and learned member entitled to great thanks for having bestowed so much attention on the subject.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
said, that as the present system of poor-laws was one of the greatest curses under which the country laboured, its gratitude was due to every gentleman who suggested the means of amending them. After complimenting his hon. and learned friend on the exertions he had made upon this subject, he proceeded to say, that though he would not go the whole length of abolishing the law of settlement, he was still aware that some alteration in it was absolutely necessary. After pointing out several inconveniencies which accrued from it, not only to parishes but individuals, he proceeded to attack the present system of bastardy laws; and contended, that that system was calculated to promote vice and immorality, inasmuch as a women with three of four bastards was enabled to live in ease and idleness form the allowance she drew from the father of her children for their maintenance; whilst a married woman, with the same family, use obliged to work hard before she could obtain a similar relief from the parish in which she had a settlement. He should vote for the second reading of the bill, as all the objections he had to it might be removed in the committee.
said, he should cordially vote for the second reading, and heartily thanked the learned gentleman for bring- 779 ing forward a measure of so much importance. He was quite persuaded, that when the details of the bill came to be known in the country, the hon. and, learned author of it would be hailed as a friend by every poor man in the country.
§ Mr. P. Moore
said, he concurred in the unanimous sentiments of his constituents in opposition to the bill.
§ Sir R. Wilson
approved of the principle of the bill, but hoped it would receive some modifications in the committee.
§ Mr. Alderman Bridges
opposed the bill, though he was in favour of some alteration in the system of the poor-laws.
§ Mr. Scarlett
expressed, his readiness tot make such alterations in the committee, as he hoped would do away the different objections that had been urged against it.
§ Mr. Denman
objected to the principle altogether, and cautioned the House against favouring it so far as to permit it to be read a second time.
§ The House divided: For the second reading, 66. Against if 82. The second reading was consequently put off for six months.