§ Lord Althorp
rose for the purpose of shortly calling the attention of the House to the general nature of those Amendments which in its passage through the Lords had been made in this Bill, and at the same time of stating the impression which they had produced on his own mind with respect to the provisions and efficiency of the measure itself. A considerable number of Amendments had been introduced, and 1208 some of them of no small importance; but looking at the Bill altogether, and comparing its present state with that in which it passed the House of Commons, he must fairly say, he certainly did not think it was at all the worse for the alterations which had been made. He would state what the principal and most important Amendments were, in order that the House might better understand them previous to any discussion which might by possibility arise. The first Amendment was not one of very material importance, namely, with respect to cumulative votes, that ratepayers under 200l. should have only one vote, under 400l. but above 200l. two votes, and of 400l. or more three votes. That, as he had stated, was not of much importance: he believed the reason why it had been introduced was with the view of forming a sort of counterpoise to the cumulative votes given by the Bill to the owners of property, and which had been withheld from the occupiers. He did not anticipate any objection to the Amendment in that House. The next alteration came under the very important branch of outdoor relief. The alteration made was, that two Justices may order out-door relief in unions, but not in separate parishes, to persons who shall by one of the Justices be certified to be, of his own knowledge, totally incapable of work. This gave, no doubt, a power to Justices of ordering relief which had not formerly been enjoyed; but as it extended only to cases where the individuals were certified by one of the Justices to be unable to work, he did not think it would lead to any abuse, and, therefore, he was not unwilling to concur in it. The Justices were also to have the power of ordering medicine and relief to out-door poor in certain other cases, the principal object of which was to meet the exigencies of seafaring shipwrecked persons, in order to prevent the mischief which might otherwise, in such circumstances, probably occur. If he (Lord Althorp) had had his choice, he should certainly have been better pleased if such a power had not been given to the Justices; but he did not think it was liable to be abused, and it was not, therefore, worth while for that House to object to it. The next Amendment to which he should refer was one apparently of great importance. The clause abolishing the allowance system, and prohibiting, after the 1st of June, 1835, any allowance being made to 1209 those wholly or partially in the employment of any person, had been altogether omitted. He had said, this alteration was apparently of great importance, but it was not really so, because the effect of a provision which had been introduced in lieu of it left it to the discretion of the Overseers or Guardians to make any statement to the Board of Commissioners of the special circumstances which, in their opinion, might render such relief expedient in any particular case. On that account the alteration would not be of much importance. There were other alterations which might have a different effect. The House would recollect, when the Bill was first introduced, the age at which children were considered capable of providing for themselves, and no longer to be included in relief granted to their parents, was sixteen; but an alteration subsequently took place in its passage through the Committee, which substituted the age of twelve; but the House of Lords had changed it to its original state, and retained sixteen. Now, it did certainly appear that a young person could hardly be considered able to support himself at twelve years of age, or sooner than somewhere about sixteen; but in the midland districts, with which he was particularly acquainted, only children under ten were considered part of the parents' family. He did not know whether by this alteration some difficulty might not arise in some of those districts, as the effect of it might be to impose a burthen on the labourers, by being obliged to include in their own parochial relief what might be required for supporting their children up to the age of sixteen. But, on the other hand, as they would have the advantage of the labour of their children up to that age, he hoped that circumstance would counterbalance any inconvenience which might be experienced. Another alteration, which he did not think of much weight, referred to the power of giving relief by way of loan; the power of imprisonment being taken away, and only attachment of wages left for its recovery, the Lords had introduced an alteration which extended the power of making advances by way of loan, not only to the able-bodied, but also to persons in sickness. He did not think this objectionable. Another Amendment had reference to persons serving as substitutes in the Militia; they were not entitled under the Bill as it formerly stood to the allowance hitherto given to balloted 1210 Militia men, and the Lords had altered the Bill so as to exclude balloted Militia men as well as substitutes from that allowance. By another of the Amendments, settlement by estate was limited to the period during which the person inhabited within ten miles of the parish. He did not know the precise reason for this alteration, but he did not think it would have any very material effect. Settlement by apprenticeship had been abolished before the Bill passed through that House; it was now, however, retained, except in the case of sea-apprentices. With regard to the settlement of illegitimate children, the bastard was to follow the settlement of the mother till the age of sixteen. The House would recollect, that as the Bill originally stood, the Bastardy-laws were entirely done away with; the parish could no longer come on the putative father for support, and the child was to be maintained by the mother. A clause, however, had been introduced by the hon. member for Somersetshire, by which in certain cases an order might be had upon the putative father to recompense the parish for any relief given to the child. Instead of this several other clauses had been introduced. The punishment of the mother in the first instance was left untouched; and the order on the putative father was only to be obtained at the Quarter Sessions, additional evidence, however, to that of the mother being in all such cases required. Another Amendment was, that when a woman had one bastard she could obtain no order in any subsequent case; and that order, when it was obtained, became inoperative when the child attained the age of seven years. The sum, too, was only recoverable under the order by attachment or distress, the man could not be committed to prison at all for costs. He had always objected to imprisonment in such cases, and he thought the Bill in this respect now approached pretty nearly the form in which it had been at first introduced. He could not, therefore, be supposed to disapprove of the Amendment. He now came to an Amendment which he thought was likely to produce considerable discussion in that House—he alluded to the omission of the clause which had been proposed by the hon. member for Beverley, which might have interfered considerably with the discipline of the workhouses. The effect of the omission would be, undoubtedly, that Dissenting 1211 ministers would not have the power of claiming admission to the workhouses for the purpose of instructing those who belonged to their own body. Though he wished it had been otherwise, yet he must say, that the omission of that part of the Bill which authorized the attendance of Dissenting ministers in workhouses would not be an omission of any practical importance. He admitted, that the legal right of such ministers was taken away by the alterations which their Lordships had made in the Bill, but he felt quite assured, that there would be no interference with the visits of Dissenting ministers to the workhouses. Besides that, if it should be hereafter found to be a grievance, the House, he had no doubt, would very readily pass a Bill for the purpose of remedying it, but for his part he must repeat that, he did not apprehend there would arise any ground of complaint on that subject. He should be sorry to find the House of Commons differing from the Lords with respect to Amendments which did not practically tend to produce evil results, and the rejection might put to hazard the eventual success of a measure of such great importance as that to which those Amendments related. Having referred to the principal Amendments which came down from the other House, he should, in conclusion, recommend that they be agreed to, and accordingly he moved that those Amendments be read a second time.
Mr. Hughes Hughes
rose to move as an Amendment, that the Lords' Amendments be taken into further consideration upon that day three months.
§ The Speaker
suggested that, as the Amendments were numerous and, as he conceived, important, it would be most advisable, and the hon. Member would best conform to the usages of the House, if he were to take them one by one, rather than object to them altogether.
Mr. Hughes Hughes
said, that, having been opposed to the whole Bill from its first introduction, and his aversion to the measure having increased in its progress, his objections attached equally to the whole of the Amendments, and he, therefore, intended to take the sense of the House upon them, in the first instance, collectively. He trusted, that the House would concur with him in their rejection; but if, on the contrary, they should determine to take them into consideration, he should then offer objections to them 1212 seriatim. And, first, he begged to read to the House a note he had received that afternoon, and which went strongly to show the reasonableness of his present proposition:—"Your attention is most earnestly requested in the House of Commons to-day, at five o'clock, to put the Speaker in the Chair, it being very material to make a House." Surely, then, a period of the Session at which it was so doubtful whether even forty Members could be mustered "to make a House," was not the fitting time to decide upon a measure of such overwhelming magnitude and importance. He begged to call the attention of the House to the fact, that the Corporation of Guardians of the Poor of eleven of the eighteen parishes within the city of Oxford had unanimously adopted a petition against the Bill, which his hon. Colleague had presented shortly after its introduction; and here he could not help adverting to the unfairness with which the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had adverted to the number of petitioners against the measure. The petition was under the Corporation or Common Seal of the Board; but, having been unanimously voted by the Guardians, it was virtually signed by the 18,000 inhabitants whom they represented; and there were numerous instances of petitions of a similar kind. He would read two extracts from the petition in question, the objections alluded to in which the Lords' Amendments were calculated to confirm, if not increase. The petitioners "objected altogether to that part of the Bill which gave to irresponsible Commissioners a power over property and persons, as being contrary to the British Constitution and the best principles of legislation."
§ The Speaker
reminded the hon. Member that he was travelling out of the question; what he was advancing did not apply to the subject matter of any one of the Amendments before the House. The hon. Member might move seriatim that each of the Amendments be taken into consideration that day three months.
Mr. Hughes Hughes
meant his Motion to apply to the whole of the Amendments; and, in the remarks he was making, was only laying some ground for his Motion, which he submitted it was his undoubted right to do.
§ The Speaker
said, that it not being now within the power of the House to amend the Bill, but only to adopt, or reject the 1213 Amendments made by the other House, it was not within the reach of any hon. Member to advert to any point not included within the Amendments.
Mr. Hughes Hughes
had frequently pursued, without interruption, the course he was then taking, and could not conceive it necessary that he should abstain from all comment or observation and confine himself simply to making his Motion, but, if so, he was willing to adopt that course, and, foregoing all argument, submit his Motion, his object being, as he avowed, to get rid of the Bill altogether for the present Session.
§ The Speaker
said, the hon. Member was certainly at full liberty to make any statement he pleased in support of his Motion, provided it had reference to the question before the House, which related exclusively to the Lords' Amendments in the Bill.
Mr. Hughes Hughes
would, then, read a passage from the petition of his constituents on the subject of out-door relief, on which subject he had thought the Bill was far too harsh, before it left that House, but it was rendered still more severe by the Amendments made elsewhere. The petitioners stated, "that to refuse relief to able-bodied persons in all cases without setting them on work would, in many instances, be found not only impolitic but impracticable, especially in large towns where great numbers of industrious workmen were suddenly thrown out of employment from temporary causes; and nothing could more tend to degrade the industrious artisan to the level of the indolent and dissolute, than were he to be compelled, when standing in need of temporary assistance from the failure of employment, to sell off all his little furniture, the produce of his early industry, and become, with his family, the inmate of a workhouse." His next allusion must be to the Amendments in what were called the Bastardy Clauses, by which the parishes of Oxford were likely to be most seriously affected, for, as might be supposed, the number of seductions in that city was unavoidably great—[laughter]. Hon. Members might laugh, but he could assure them it would be no joke, but a very grave matter to the inhabit ants of that city, if the burthen of supporting all the illegitimate children born there were to fall, without assistance, upon the rate-payers; they felt that the weight upon the parishes would be most enorm- 1214 ous if the father were to be exempted from all liability. He held in his hand a letter from the Clerk to the Board of Guardians, in which he said, "The Bastardy Clause as it now stands will be attended with very ruinous consequences to this city, where the number of servant girls who are seduced by the young men of the University is very considerable, if the maintenance of them and their offspring is to fall entirely upon the rate-payers; in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, he added, it is only poor ignorant girls who get into the scrape. The Bill, as it appeared to him; not only offered encouragement for the future, but indemnity for the past, for it not merely repealed all the Acts relating to the liability and punishment of the putative father, and also the punishment of the mother, of an illegitimate child, but made void all existing securities and re-cognizances for indemnity of parishes, and discharged all persons in custody for not giving indemnity, while it made the mother, or rather the parish to which she should belong, liable to the maintenance of such child. He thought he had said sufficient to justify him in suggesting that the present title of the Bill should be expunged, and the measure called, "An Act for the promotion and encouragement of pauperism, prostitution, and infanticide." He would not, at that time, enter further into the details of the Bill, but would earnestly implore the House, by agreeing to his Motion, to defer the further consideration of this most important subject to the next Session of Parliament. To this proposition he could positively see no reasonable objection. The Bill, in its present shape, presented the result of the deliberations of both Houses of Parliament; both Houses had discussed it and printed and re-printed it; let it now go forth to the public, be circulated through every parish in the country as the result of their united wisdom, and the opinion of the people taken upon it, with a view to a better digested enactment in the next Session; such a course was necessary, was highly requisite for securing the public confidence before they adopted such a sweeping measure.—[An Hon. Member: "but the Bill has passed; it has been adopted by both Houses."] He was fully aware the Bill had passed that House, and with certain Amendments, had also passed the other House, but he, nevertheless, thought it ought not to pass into a law, but that at 1215 least the time between now and the next Session ought to be given for a due consideration of the measure by the public. And what possible evil could result from the delay? The present Poor-laws, which had endured for so long a period, might surely be allowed to operate for six months further; indeed it so happened, or might be gathered from one of the original clauses, that its authors did not intend to call the Bill into operation until the 1st of June next, so that, if the public voice should sanction its enactment, it might pass before that day in the next Session of Parliament. He knew it might, and probably would, be said that, if not now, it never would be passed, but surely that argument was rather in favour of his proposition than against it, since it should be borne in mind that, if passed, this measure could only be beneficially carried into execution with the concurrence of the public. Upon all these grounds, he felt it his duty to move, that the Amendments be taken into further consideration upon that day three months.
§ Major Beauclerk
said, that when he came into that House, he undertook to protect the property of the constituency of the great county which returned him to Parliament, and having resolved to redeem that pledge, he should vote against the Bill. The Amendments then before them were an insult to that small portion of good feeling towards the Dissenters which existed in that House. It was degrading and insulting towards the Dissenting minister to deny him the right which had been created under the Bill in its original form; he should, therefore, very cordially second the proposition for throwing out the Amendments altogether. Not that he much objected to the Amendments themselves—one or two of them he thought wise and well conceived, but he desired to see them all got rid of, for the sake of getting rid of the measure itself. The people of England had no notion of the blow which it struck at their property, and he felt it a duty he owed to his constituents to oppose the Bill in every form—considering it, as he did, destructive of the institutions of the country and the rights of property.
§ Mr. Cobbett
agreed with the Amendment, and defied the noble Lord opposite to show any one argument why the postponement ought not to take place. The Bill since it had gone to the other House 1216 had received such alterations, that it was in fact a new Bill. The putative father of the Bill must be the best acquainted with the working of the Bill, with its nature and objects; and that putative father had told the country, that he meant the Bill as a stepping-stone to a total abolition of all relief for the poor. The putative father of the Bill had told the country, that the Act of Elizabeth had been an Act of false humanity, of false philosophy, and false legislation, and yet the noble Lord opposite had told the House, that the Bill was not meant to alter the law of Elizabeth. The putative father had told the country, that it had fallen into an error when it had conceived that there had been a threefold distribution of tithes, and that one-third had been devoted to the poor. If he had the putative father of the Bill before him, no doubt his (Mr. Cobbett's) knees would knock with fear; but still he would tell that putative father, that he was wrong. He would show him Baron Gilbert's work, and he would there find that one-third part of the tithes was due to the poor. Such had been the law from the time of introducing Christianity into England. What, therefore, the putative father of the Bill had laid down as law in the other House, was not law as laid down by writers of authority. The noble Lord had said, that the Bill did not call into dispute the rights of the poor to parochial relief, whilst the putative father of the Bill had declared to the other House, that the poor had no right at all. The great object of the Bill was, to teach the poor to live as man and wife without having any children. This was a base and filthy philosophy, and yet a book had been published showing the means of carrying the principles of Malthus into effect. Every farmer knew that the effect of the Bill was to take away the poor-rates from the poor, and to put them into the pockets of the landlord. What harm, he asked the noble Lord, could postponing the Bill do? Oh yes, it could do great harm; it would give the country time to reflect upon the Bill and to understand it, and this was a Treat harm in the eyes of Ministers. The House would not pass the Bill if it had to be brought before them in the next Session. He should support the Amendments of the hon. member for Oxford.
§ Sir Samuel Whalley
supported the Amendment of the hon. member for 1217 Oxford. He said, that the noble Lord had violated the pledge given by him in that House, when he declared, that the Commissioners were not to possess the power of altering laws, whereas, as the Bill now stood, they might issue orders in contravention of one general, and many local Acts. The noble Lord could not count on the co-operation of the parochial authorities, for they were throughout the country, averse from the measure, and he believed that it would not have the effect which its supporters expected it to produce with respect to the reduction of the poor-rates, it was likely to excite a spirit of insubordination among the labouring population. For all these reasons, he felt bound to vote for the postponement of the consideration of the Lords' Amendments. It was rumoured that the Commissioners under the Bill were to receive 2,000l. a-year each. If they were to be appointed at all, he did not think that amount of salary too high; and he confessed, that though unwilling to trust any persons with the extraordinary power created by this Bill, he derived some consolation when he recollected the names of the highly-respectable gentlemen who, it was rumoured, were nominated Commissioners.
§ Mr. Langdale
said, that in voting for the original Motion, that the Amendments of the Lords be taken into consideration, he wished it to be understood that he did not mean thereby to pledge himself to approve of them all. There was one clause which had been omitted by the Lords, with respect to which it was his intention to divide the House.
§ Mr. Richards
observed, that the Bill was originally introduced with the professed object of remedying the abuses which it was admitted on all hands existed in the administration of the Poor-laws; and though the measure proposed to vest the Commissioners with extraordinary powers, he had felt it his duty to vote for it, because he believed the case to be one which called for the application of extraordinary powers. Still he desired it to be understood, that he had supported the measure in the perfect confidence, that it was the intention of Government solely to correct the mal-administration of the Poor-laws. But after the statement which was reported (and he believed correctly reported) to have been made in another place by a person high in his Majesty's Government, who went the full length of 1218 condemning the principles of the Poor-laws, and of the 43rd of Elizabeth, and who spoke not of the Government addressing themselves to the correction of existing abuses, but of finally abolishing the Poor-laws altogether, he was induced to think either that the present measure was not introduced with that good faith for which he had given the Government credit, or else that there existed such disunion and division of sentiment among his Majesty's Ministers on the subject as to destroy that confidence in their discretion and wisdom which had induced him to give them his support in carrying the Bill through that House. He felt it his duty to protest against the sentiments which were reported to have been uttered by a person holding a high and influential situation in his Majesty's Government, and to declare that those sentiments had awakened his jealousy, and induced him to believe that some of the Ministers intended to attack the rights of the people in a way which would create anarchy, and endanger the best interests of the community. He therefore took this opportunity of declaring himself completely hostile to a Bill introduced and intended to be carried into execution with such a spirit.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the hon. Gentleman totally misrepresented the object which he (Lord Althorp) had in view in introducing the present measure, when he said, that it had been brought in with the intention of ultimately abolishing the Poor-laws. He did not know what ground the hon. Gentleman had to justify such a statement, for he was sure that a casual observation which might have dropped from a noble and learned Lord, when speaking generally on the subject of the Poor-laws, would not be considered as a justification for any one saying, that the present Bill had been brought in with the intention of getting rid of the Poor-laws.
§ Mr. Benett
had always opposed the principle of the present Bill, but he should regret to be obliged to vote again on the question; for the measure having been carried by large majorities in both Houses of Parliament, he had not the vanity to suppose that he was right, and that the majorities of both Houses were wrong. He was, however, so strongly convinced of the unconstitutional nature of the Bill, that he should feel bound to vote for its postponement. He did not see what reasonable objection could be urged even 1219 by the supporters of the measure to a little more delay; and, for his own part, he felt confident that the deferring to pass the Bill into law at the present moment must be attended with beneficial effects. If the Amendment proposed by the hon. member for Oxford were acceded to, the people would have time afforded them to become acquainted with its various and complicated provisions; and the Members of that House would then have the benefit of hearing the opinions of their constituents fully expressed on the subject. Besides, there were many parts of the Bill which in his mind bore too hardly on the poor, and he expected that the consequence of mature reflection would be to demonstrate the propriety of somewhat tempering their severity. He trusted that the natural right which the poor undoubtedly possessed to be maintained out of the produce of the soil would never be violated by the Legislature of this country. In another point of view the postponement of the Bill till next Session was highly desirable. It was well known that considerable improvement had lately taken place in the administration of the Poor-laws throughout the country, and it could not be doubted that the parochial authorities would be most anxious to put into practice every useful suggestion embodied in the Bill before the House. By delaying, then, to pass the Bill in the present Session, the Members of that House would be enabled to come to its discussion at a future period with the advantage of experience, and would be better able to decide than they were at present how far it was necessary to vest the Commissioners with all the extraordinary powers created by the Bill.
§ Mr. Robert Palmer
had never given a vote in the House on any question having reference to the present Bill, because he had always entertained very great doubts as to the practicability of carrying it beneficially into effect. He had at different times expressed his opinion with respect to some of the details in the Committee; yet as the Bill was introduced by his Majesty's Ministers after an inquiry of two years on the part of a Royal Commission, he thought it desirable that the Bill should go up to the other House, in order that it might undergo further investigation there. Looking at the Bill as it had been returned to that House, he felt bound to say, that in his opinion the Amendments made by the Lords, although he admitted that some 1220 of them were useful, had on the whole rendered the Bill worse. He entirely disapproved of the Amendment which had been made with respect to illegitimate children. After the best consideration he had been able to give the subject, he thought that the postponement of this measure was desirable. The Bill was imperfectly understood in the country; it had not been discussed by the Gentlemen who met at Quarter Sessions; and he knew that many persons looked at it with apprehension and distrust.
§ Mr. Hodges
saw nothing in the Lords' Amendments to induce him to alter his opinion with respect to the Bill, and he should therefore support the Amendment of the hon. member for Oxford. In his opinion Parliament would be guilty of a great and enormous error in passing the Bill without due consideration, and he thought it was desirable to postpone it till next Session, in order that the opinion of the public on the subject might be known, and an opportunity afforded to Gentlemen to refer to the large mass of evidence which had been collected by the Poor-Law Commissioners. For these reasons, he should vote for the postponement of the measure to another Session, and he believed that a short and unostentatious Bill, very unlike the present Bill, would be found sufficient to remedy the evils complained of in the administration of the Poor-laws.
§ Mr. Hardy
said, that instead of either negativing the Lords' Amendments, or taking them into consideration, he should propose a middle course—namely, that the Bill should be allowed to stand over till next Session. What he meant was, that the proposition for postponement should come from the noble Lord (Lord Althorp), and that it should not appear to be forced upon him. He had lately been in the West Riding of Yorkshire for a fortnight or three weeks, and he was informed by several persons, whom he consulted on the subject, that they did not understand the provisions of the Bill; and they added, that they had power enough without the intervention of the Legislature to carry any regulation into effect for the diminution of the poor-rates. Under these circumstances, he saw no great evil in postponing the Bill for a few months, especially as an opportunity would thereby be afforded to the country of duly considering the Amendments of the Lords. 1221 He should therefore vote for the Amendment of the hon. member for Oxford.
§ Lord Althorp
was surprised to hear hon. Members speak of the postponement of the Bill, as if they thought that nothing would be more easy than to introduce and pass such a measure in the next Session of Parliament. He was sure, however, that unless the majority of that House had greatly altered their opinion with respect to the measure, the proposition for delay would not be acceded to. He trusted that they would not lose the opportunity they now possessed of passing the Bill; for if it were postponed to another Session, he must be a bold man who would then undertake any amendment of the Poor-laws. The hon. member for Oldham had spoken of one person being the putative father of the present measure, but he must claim as much concern in it as any other person, and he certainly must say, that it appeared to him to be as beneficial a measure as had ever been passed. It had been observed, that the Amendments of the Lords materially altered the principle of the Bill. He should be sorry if this statement were correct, because he believed that the measure had been maturely considered in that House, and he begged hon. Gentlemen, who said that the Bill had not received due consideration, to recollect that every clause had been fully discussed in Committee, on the Report, and on the third reading; therefore, if any hon. Gentleman had not made up his mind as to whether the Bill should pass or not, he did not think that further consideration would at all enable him to come to a satisfactory conclusion. He was surprised at the statement made by the hon. member for Berkshire, to the effect that the Bill was not understood in the country. He thought that the Bill was not only well known, but generally approved of in the country. He knew that the Bill, and he personally, had been very much attacked, but he did not believe that those attacks were at all in accordance with the feeling of the country. When hon. Gentlemen spoke of postponing and not rejecting the Bill, he begged to observe, that a Motion for postponing the reading of a Bill for six months had always been considered as equivalent to a Motion for its rejection. At any rate, he could see no distinction between them.
§ Lord Granville Somerset
was ready openly to avow, that his reason for sup- 1222 porting the Amendment proposed by the hon. member for Oxford was, because he wished the Bill not to pass. The more he considered the subject, the more he was convinced that the measure, even if it were good in itself, was quite uncalled for at the present time. He saw no use in pressing forward the Bill against the wishes both of the rate-payers, and the persons who received relief from the rates. As to the Amendments made by the Lords, there were some in which he agreed; but his reason for supporting the Amendment of the hon. member for Oxford was, that he thought the subject would be better considered if it were postponed till next Session.
§ Mr. George F. Young
said, that as he read the Bill as it came from the Lords, he considered that the rejection of the clause which authorized the refusal of relief to able-bodied paupers after 1835 would have the effect of justifying such a refusal from the present time. At least he so understood it, and would therefore vote for the postponement of the Bill to the next Session.
§ Mr. Harvey
contended, that the alteration made in clause 48, by which the relief of able-bodied paupers was let in, would destroy that principle of the Bill for which its framers had originally contended. That principle was a sound one—namely, that all men who were in health should look for support to their own industry and correct habits. The principle was, that there should not be any poor pensioners, any more than rich ones, preying upon the labour of the industrious classes. It now appeared, however, that the Commissioners would have the power to defeat that principle. If these able-bodied paupers called on the Overseer or on the Magistrates, as might command relief, then the Commissioners were to have the power to relieve them; but in large districts where the population was scattered, and where the poor could assemble only in small numbers, then relief might be withheld. There was another Amendment to which he strongly objected, which was the omission of clause 18th as it stood in the Bill when it passed that House; and he was surprised that the noble Lord, who had all his life been the advocate of religious liberty, should sanction such an Amendment as the omission of a clause which secured to the inmates of the workhouse the privilege of religious worship 1223 according to his conscience. Surely, if ever there was a condition in life which more than another required the comfort and consolation of religion, it was that where the poor man, deprived of all means of self-support, and probably deserted by his former friends, looked to the grave as a relief from his sufferings. By the rejection of the 18th clause the unfortunate person placed in those circumstances would be deprived of the spiritual consolation which he might otherwise derive from the advice of the minister of that form of worship to which he was conscientiously attached. The noble Lord seemed to think that sufficient guarantee would be given for the admission of such instruction by the power of the Commissioners; but he must say, that no set of men ought to have the power of rejecting, or admitting, at their pleasure, the visits of the ministers of religion to the inmates of workhouses. By the Bill as it now stood, the Dissenters who might be in workhouses would be placed in a state of mere toleration, a state which he was sure the country would not sanction. He had heard of the weakness of the present Administration, but it was not seen in the progress of this Bill. They were bold and persevering in it, and he gave them credit for going on with it rather than deferring it to another Session. Why should they defer this measure to another Session? To deter it would be to defer everything else of the many measures which had hitherto been delayed, but which were promised for the next Session. What was it which they had not been promised for the next Session? It was to be the golden year of the Reformed Parliament, the jubilee of legislation, when all the important measures which had hitherto been delayed were to be brought forward and completed. To delay this Bill, therefore, would be to postpone indefinitely those promised reforms of which they had heard so much. He, under these circumstances, hoped that the Bill would not be postponed; but he also hoped that the amendments to which he had referred would not be retained in it. It was said that this Bill was not understood in the country. It was well understood, and particularly so by that class to which it so much applied—he meant the landlords. In the discussion with their tenants about the arrears of rent, they would hear about the pressure of taxation, and of course of 1224 the 8,000,000l. paid for poor-rates. It would then be said, that the able-bodied labourers were not to obtain relief; that he would be more independent if he relied upon his own industry, than upon the chance of parochial relief. The labourer would say, "Well, then, I am content, but let me lay out the produce of my labour in that way which will bring me the largest quantity of food;" and when he found daily in the city article of The Times, that in most of the towns on the Continent, the labourer could purchase his bread for half the price at which it could be obtained in England, he would naturally look for the means of being enabled to make his purchase of the cheaper article. This would, in the result, lead to the repeal of the Corn-laws; and even on this ground he hoped this Bill would pass, but without the amendment relating to the refusal of the admission of Dissenting ministers to persons confined in workhouses.
§ Mr. Thomas Attwood
agreed with the noble Lord that he must be a bold man who would attempt to introduce an amendment of the Poor-laws if this Bill were not carried, but he hoped this Bill would not be carried. He was sure it would be found impossible to carry it into effect. The people had a right to claim relief if they could not obtain employment—as good a right as the noble Lord had to the hat on his head. If the people were prevented from living honestly, they would be justified in living dishonestly. He would repeat it. It was according to law. For the law said, and it was a principle of our Constitution, that obedience was to be contingent upon protection, and that where no protection was given no obedience could be exacted.
§ The House divided on the Amendment. Ayes 24; Noes 79;—Majority 55.
|List of the AYES.|
|Attwood, T.||Oswald, R. A.|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Palmer, R.|
|Beauclerk, Major||Potter, R.|
|Benett, J.||Richards, J.|
|Buckingham, J. S.||Rider, T.|
|Cobbett, W.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Evans, Colonel||Vigors, N. A.|
|Forester, Hn. G.C.W.||Walter, J.|
|Hardy, J.||Whalley, Sir S.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Willoughby, Sir H. P.|
|Hughes, W. H.||Wilks, J.|
|Kennedy, J.||Young, G. F.|
§ The amendments of the Lords were taken into consideration and agreed to up to Clause 18.
§ On the amendment by which Clause 18 was rejected being read.
§ Mr. Langdale
objected to that Amendment. By the 18th Clause it had been enacted that no rule or regulation of the Commissioners, nor any by-laws at present in force, should oblige any inmate of any workhouse to attend divine service in any mode contrary to his religious principles; nor should any such rule, &c. By the omission of this Clause the inmates of workhouses would be forced to attend divine worship though against their own conscientious conviction, and their children might, against their consent, be reared up in a form of worship to which they could not conscientiously adhere. The omission of the Clause was a violation of the principle of religious liberty, and one in which he could not concur. He had supported the Bill all through, as thinking that it would be productive of much good, but he could not concur in this Amendment. He concluded by moving that the House do not agree to the Amendment of the Lords upon this Clause.
§ Lord Althorp
thought that it was a matter of great importance that persons of every religious denomination should have religious instruction from their own pastors, either at their own places of worship, or in the workhouses in which they were unfortunately placed. He could not construe this Amendment of the Lords into a prohibition of the entrance of Dissenting ministers into workhouses. He viewed the restoration of this Clause as unnecessary, for, as the law stood at present, dissenting clergymen had a right to enter all workhouses. The only mode in which dissenting clergymen could he excluded would be by a rule or order of the central Commissioners. Now as such order must be approved by the Secretary of State, and afterwards by the House of Commons, was it likely that any such order would ever be made? After the discussion which had just taken place, it was quite evident that an order would be made by the Commissioners to admit clergymen of all denominations into the workhouses. Unless there was something decidedly objectionable in the Amendment of their Lordships, that House ought not to differ from it. And as there ap- 1226 peared to him nothing objectionable in it he trusted the House would agree to it. If it should be the opinion of the House that the Clause should be re-inserted, he certainly would make no objection to it, though it might, perhaps, lead to some difficulty. But if hon. Gentlemen should be of opinion that the omission of this Clause would not be productive of any practical grievances, he hoped that they would withdraw their objections to the Amendment of their Lordships. If they would not, he should not be inclined to press his own opinions.
§ Mr. Buckingham
supported the Motion as the omission of this Clause would press heavily on the religious rights and liberties of the poor.
§ Mr. Ewart
said, when they had firm grounds to stand on as in this case, the House of Commons ought not to yield any point of importance out of mere deference to the other House of Parliament. The Opposition to this Amendment of their Lordships was just and proper, and he hoped that it would be persisted in.
Mr. Secretary Rice
said, that if it were the law that the clergyman of a parish had the power to prevent persons in the workhouse from receiving from their own pastors religions consolation, unquestionably this Clause would deserve to be reinserted in the Bill, but he did not believe that the clergyman had any such power. No one questioned that in the workhouse, there would be ample means of religious instruction. There was no real difference of opinion—no difference, at least, on principle. The re-insertion of the Clause would not be productive of any inconvenience, and therefore let the House decide the point, if possible, without a division, and not make the point a matter of dispute.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that as it appeared to be the wish of the House, that the Clause should be re-inserted, he would make no objection.
§ Motion agreed to, and the Lords' Amendment (omitting the Clause) negatived.
§ Lord Granville Somerset
protested against the Bastardy Clause, and asserted that in ninety-nine cases out of 100 it was impossible to get at the putative father. Now, he would say, that under the Bill in its former shape the putative father could at once have been reached, whilst under their Lordships' Bill it would 1227 be next to impossible to reach him in any instance. He feared that the alterations made in the Lords' Bill were of a most oppressive nature. He would mention an instance which occurred in his own family. A young woman was proposed as a servant in his house, and several questions were asked of her as to what she could do; at length she was asked why it was, that she had left her last service, and she at once became affected. "I took my hat and left the room (said the hon. Member) and it was found upon inquiry that the poor girl, trusting to the fond promises of a faithful, or, as he had proved, a faithless man-servant, had allowed herself to be taken advantage of, and the natural consequence ensued. But the girl's statement having been found to be correct, and there being nothing else against her, she was taken into his family, and she was now, he was happy to say so, the prudent and virtuous wile of an honest and honourable man."
§ Lord Althorp
said, that of course he preferred the Clause as it stood, though, after all, the effect of the change would be to bring matters back nearly to what they were at first. For the reasons which in the early part of the evening he stated to the House, he certainly was of opinion that it would be best to adopt the alteration; and under all the circumstances he did think, that the Clause as altered was calculated to promote the morality of both sexes in the humbler classes. He feared, however, that the effect of the measure would be to increase the difficulty of fixing the charge upon the putative father; and he feared also that such father would not be pursued unless he proved to be a man in good circumstances; while formerly he was pursued whatever might be his circumstances, the more especially if he happened to belong to another parish.
§ The House divided on the Question that the Lords' Amendment to the Bastardy part of the Bill be agreed to. Ayes 50; Noes 19;—Majority 31.
|List of the NOES.|
|Benett, J.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Briggs, J. R.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Dick, Q.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Forester, Hn. G. C. W.||Walter, J.|
|Hanmer, Col.||Wilks, J.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Wood, G. W.|
|Hughes, H.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Palmer, R.||Young, G. F.|
|Richards, J.||Cripps, J.|
|Rider, T.||Hardy, J.|
§ Mr. Aglionby moved an Amendment, having for its object to give Magistrates, previous to making an order of affiliation, the option either to require or dispense with evidence corroborative of the testimony of the mother of the bastard.
§ Lord Althorp
thought it desirable that the production of corroborative evidence should in ail cases be required.
§ The House divided on Mr. Aglionby's Amendment. Ayes 4; Noes 44;—Majority 40.
§ A Committee was appointed to draw up a statement of the grounds on which the House dissented from the Amendments of the Lords, to be laid before the Lords in a conference.