§ Mr. Fielden
rose to bring before the House the painful occurrence that had given rise to the motion of which he had given notice—the collision between her Majesty's troops and her Majesty's subjects in the town of Bradford, in Yorkshire. He regretted that neither the Members of the borough nor the Members for the West Riding of Yorkshire, in which the borough was situate, had thought it their duty to bring this grave subject before the House. This being the case, he had been requested to do so, and from that duty he should not shrink, but he had to lament that the affair had not been brought forward in the House by some Gentleman more competent to do justice to the subject. Before this House was reformed an unfortunate collision like the one at Bradford would have been noticed in the House without any delay, and if the reformed House neglected to inquire into the circumstances attending the disturbances at Bradford, it would, in his opinion, be guilty of a dereliction of duty. The cause of the disturbance arose out of an attempt now making to introduce the New Poor-law Bill into the Bradford Union. The facts were these:—A preliminary meeting of the guardians was held in the town on October 30, at which meeting Mr. Power, one of the assistant-commissioners attended. Some manifestations of dislike to the New Poor-law were shown by 200 or 300 persons assembled on this occasion, and Mr. Power, on his way from where the meeting was held to the inn, had some marks of personal disrespect shown to him, and appeared to be the object of attack by the crowd. The whole, however, was nothing more than a schoolboy's affray, and might have been prevented by timely interference by constables of the town. This meeting 949 was adjourned to the 13th of November, and in the interval a police force from London, out of the A division arrived in Bradford. It was said these men laid aside their uniform dress, and were noticed in plain clothes acting as spies on the people of Bradford. On the 12th (Sunday), Mr. Power entered the town with some of the Leeds police. On his arrival the magistrates and some of the guardians waited on Mr. Power, and stated that they entertained fears lest the peace of the town might be endangered if the meeting of the guardians was held the day following. They recommended that the guardians should only meet to adjourn, and to this suggestion it appears Mr. Power somewhat reluctantly consented. The guardians met on the 13th accordingly, and adjourned the meeting to Monday, the 20th of November, the day the collision took place. But on Saturday, the 18th, in the evening a troop of the 15th Hussars, from Leeds, arrived in Bradford, and were quartered at the different inns in the town. This created great alarm, and caused many inquiries by the people. "What!" said they, "are we to have the New Poor-law forced upon us by the military at the point of the bayonet?" Dismay and dissatisfaction spread through the town and the surrounding district. Yet, notwithstanding the strong excitement that prevailed, it does not appear that more than some 200 or 300 persons attended before the court-house at ten o'clock on Monday, when the guardians met to transact business. The crowd wished the meeting to be held openly, but this was refused, and the avenue to the court was barricaded to prevent the people entering. The crowd showed their disapproval of this course by shouts and expressions of dissatisfaction. At twelve o'clock, when the workers in the factories, of which there a great number in the town, came out for dinner, the crowd increased to about 5,000 persons. This increase of numbers heightened the clamour, and one daring man in the crowd set to work to remove the barricade, and make a passage to the guardians. The military were in readiness, and, headed by a magistrate, galloped to the court-house. The Riot Act, it is said, was read; many people went away, but many remained. Soon the military were directed to charge, which they did; this roused the indignation of the people, who now, with stones, assailed 950 the soldiers. Charges and countercharges followed—swords against stones and stones against swords, until the people were dispersed. The troops were ordered to their quarters, and it was hoped no more disturbance would be witnessed; but on the guardians retiring from the court, after the business was over, the crowd again collected, and showed their displeasure at having been denied access to the meeting. The guardians, consequently, became alarmed, and the military were again called out, and directed to charge, which they did repeatedly, and it is said were at last obliged to fire in self-defence. No lives were lost, but many persons narrowly escaped, and several were wounded. A young man who had taken no part in this affair had his arm shot through, and has since suffered amputation. In commenting on the proceedings of this unhappy day, the Bradford Observer, a Whig paper published in the town, denies that this was a demonstration against the New Poor-law; but it says much ill blood has been stirred, and it is as likely to vent itself against the New Poor-Law as anything else. And it adds, to which he (Mr. Fielden) begged the attention of hon. Members, "the sending of the military into the town was a most ill-judged act. There was no ground for it. We have great pleasure in stating, by authority, that the magistrates neither directly nor indirectly advised it, neither did the guardians. The magistrates had no idea of their coming until they arrived in the town on Saturday night. It was known that the soldiers were sent in consequence of an order from the Home Secretary of State, but of course that order would not have issued unless plausible reasons for military interference had been stated. We know not who supplied those reasons, but we think that the public has a right to be informed. Till we know who to blame we must withhold further remarks on this point." Now, Sir, it is to obtain the information which this Whig editor seeks and which the public have a right to demand that I have given notice to move for the returns. If all this be true, a more disgraceful affair perhaps never occurred. Mark the time too, the very day and hour when her Majesty from the throne, on opening her first Parliament, was assuring us of the "domestic tranquillity which at present happily prevailed throughout the country," 951 Yes, these words were uttered by her Majesty in her speech from the throne, when it must have been known to those who had framed that speech that they had taken measures and given orders well calculated to disturb that tranquillity in the industrious town of Bradford. That supplies another reason why the public have a right to demand the returns he had given notice to move for. The public had also a right to expect some explanation from the noble Lord why the customary measure of employing the civil power, instead of a military force, was not first resorted to, as had been done on Monday last, when 250 special constables were sworn in to preserve the peace in this unfortunate town on another meeting of the guardians. Had this been done on the 20th of November last no collision would have taken place between the soldiers and the people, and the peace of the town would have been preserved without the shedding of blood; but it was clear some further design is entertained. In Bradford, which contains a population of 20,000, six constables have been all the force required to govern that town for many years; but the noble Lord was anxious for what he calls a more efficient police all over the country, and this procedure has been adopted to make out a case for this more efficient police. There was reason to believe this was the fact. Let the noble Lord deny it if it be not so. Such a police would subject the people of Bradford to an expense altogether unnecessary, and nothing but dissatisfaction would follow. The people of Bradford were an industrious, well disposed people; they required no coercion. They were willing to labour, and what they wanted was not to be overworked, and a fair remuneration for their labour. Was it unreasonable, then, on the part of these people of Bradford, that they should have shown uneasiness at the attempt to carry out a law so obnoxious as the New Poor law at the point of the bayonet—a law to shut them up in workhouses, if they were in want, before they could obtain relief, and impose restraints on the poor revolting to the feelings of every human mind? The rich as well as the poor of that town were opposed to the bill. A meeting was held there on the 6th of March last to petition the Legislature against it. It was attended by a great many thousands. At this meeting the magistrates (who on the 20th of No- 952 vember had to call out the military to make war on the same people) attended, and one of them, Mr. Thompson, addressed the meeting as follows:—Mr. M. Thompson was received with loud cheers, and said, that he felt it to be most conscientiously his duty to come forward on that occasion, in defence of the poor, the weak, and unoffending, who might be reduced by misfortune, and not by crime, to the necessity of applying for relief to the great national charity, first legally established in the latter part of Queen Elizabeth's reign. By that act (43d Elizabeth) was the foundation of the poor man's hope laid—by that was his legal claim established, to support in need., in age, in his infirmity—by that was his claim settled, to demand the aid of his wealthier neighbour in the day of his destitution and distress. This was the English law, but this claim was settled by a higher law still—that of nature, and above all, that of God [hear, hear,]; and he would assert, in direct opposition to the spirit and clauses of the present most objectionable act, that the poor man in the day of his distress had, both from reason and Scripture, a claim upon the funds of his richer neighbour, and that not to be considered as a been nor as a loan, but as a right. For 300 years this right, established by law, coevally with our Protestant Church, had remained undisputed until the present act emerged from the dark cave of its fabricators—an act which from the first he had, and to the last he should, he must, most decidedly disapprove. He would not condemn every part of it, however; the clauses relating to settlement and removal were decidedly good, and yet capable of further improvement; let them, however, approach the august assembly of the legislature with firmness, and yet with all due deference and respect; and he would hope that its obnoxious clauses would be either modified or repealed as the case required. Those relating to bastardy he considered to be among the worst of them. By them, that is, by their practical working, the seducer of the weaker sex was allowed to go unscathed; and the whole onus of the crime, as to present consequences, was laid upon the, too often, least guilty party. He would most confidently state, upon his own experience, as a magistrate, that so far from bastardy having decreased, it had most fearfully augmented. His frequent communications with the overseers and parish officers around had convinced him that this was the case. Affiliations had, indeed, nearly ceased, but illicit connexion and births had not diminished. He declared that the Commissioners were incapable of judging of the state and merits of the poor; and that this law gave the guardians no power to dispense relief except by certain arbitrary and fixed rules, made by three strangers in London; and that the rate-payers, or their responsible representatives (which the guardians were not), were far more likely to be 953 just, humane, and judicious distributors of this great national charity. He also protested against the workhouse system of the commissioners. Certainly they were prisons; and it was not to be borne, that a poor, but honest Englishman, should be immured in one of those places, before he could demand relief in his necessity. God forbid that he should sanction the system of separating man and wife, contrary to nature, and in defiance of the sacred word of God. [Tremendous cheers, in which the shrill voices of many females, who were present, were distinctly heard.] Was a poor man, reduced by misfortune to the necessity of claiming support from his country, to be treated as a felon? he would never consent to it. But he would show them some of the elevations of those great places. ['Bastiles,' and cries of 'They dare not build them here.'] Here they were appended to the first report of the Poor-law Commissioners. Mr. Thompson here exhibited the plans and elevations, observing that the masons among them would well understand them. He pointed out the order of separation, uniformly arranged for in every one of them. [During this exhibition, the exclamations of the crowd were various—'Put the Commismissioners in,' 'Put the Guardians in, let them try it,' 'Down with 'em all.'] When the excitement had subsided, Mr. Thompson proceeded—I have looked over these plans very carefully, but I cannot see any place for your bits of furniture. What is to become of your frugal cottage furniture; is it to be taken care of, or what are you to have to begin the world with again when you come out of these great workhouses? When your cottages are deserted, and the windows all broken, who is to repair them for you, when you escape from your confinement? Gentlemen and fellow-townsmen, I am daily conversant with the affairs of the working people, the situation which I hold brings me into contact with them daily: I know the character and affairs of the working people, and am convinced that they deserve no such treatment in the day of trouble as this Act contemplates. I shall not detain you with further remarks; I shall always be ready, when I feel it my duty, to assert the rights of the poor against every attempt to invade them; and I now most heartily move the adoption of the resolution put into my hands.A petition founded on the resolutions passed at this meeting was presented to this House by Mr. Hardy, the then Member for Bradford, on the 13th of March, and which is printed in the list of public petitions. Who then, were the declaimers against this Malthusian law, and who petitioned for its repeal? The whole body of the clergy, gentry, and poor people of Bradford, with the magistrates of the town at their head. Yet that House altogether disregarded the prayers and sup- 954 plications of these people; and when hey ask for protection against having this unchristian law forced upon them by the Commissioners of Somerset House, they are answered by having it forced upon them by the sword and the musket, and by an overwhelming military force. This was a dangerous experiment, and altogether unwarranted. But it was said the Bill was getting more into favour in the manufacturing districts, and that Mr. Thompson, who made the speech he had read, had become satisfied with the new law, and had acknowledged his conversion. This has been said in another Whig paper, the Leeds Mercury of the 4th of November. The editor of this Whig newspaper, in his comments on the proceedings of the meeting of Guardians and Mr. Power, held on the 30th of October says—"Mr. Matthew Thompson, a Tory magistrate, who was long and decidedly opposed to the law, but who now came forward manfully to acknowledge his change of opinion The conduct of Mr. Thompson does him infinite credit, for it is a difficult thing to confess former error, and to avow a change of opinion; but Mr. Thompson made the avowal at the very time when it exposed him to popular indignation." But what, said Mr. Thompson to the editor of the Leeds Mercury, in reply to these remarks? In a letter to the editor, dated November 11, Mr. Thompson writes thus:—I beg most distinctly to state my former objections to those parts of the Poor-law Amendment Act I have expressed as objectionable are not removed; and when an opportunity offers I shall be amongst the first to petition Parliament for an alteration of the Act. The clauses 79 to 84 I have always approved; experience has shown that great expense in litigation has been saved, and the comforts of the non-settled poor considerably increased.MATTHEW THOMPSON.Masingham-lodge, Nov. 8.That was Mr. Thompson's own statement and denial of his mind having undergone any change as to this unfeeling Act. There were only six clauses out of 110 that the Act contains of which this intelligent and practical magistrate expressed his approval. A meeting too was being held in the town of Bradford this very night, called by the constable in consequence of a requisition presented to him, signed by above 350 respectable inhabitant householders of the town, to petition this House for inquiry into the 955 cause of the recent disturbances, and for the repeal of the Act. Why, then, all this haste to force this despised law on this industrious people at the point of the bayonet? Had the same haste been shown to carry out other Acts of which the people of Bradford feel the operation? Had the Factory Act, passed one year before the Poor-law Amendment Act, and made too, to protect young children from being inhumanly overworked—had that Act been enforced? Let another new law-maker, a factory inspector, and whose duty it is to enforce this law, answer this question, Mr. Homer, the factory inspector, in a letter to Mr. Senior, dated in May last, and which correspondence had been published in a pamphlet, says, "I am persuaded that fully one-half of the children now working under the surgeon's certificates of thirteen years of age are, in fact, not more than twelve, many not more than eleven years of age." Mr. Homer might have said many not more than nine or ten years of age, and this he was prepared to prove. Protection to innocent children was denied by those who are resolved to carry out by military force the new Poor-law Act, although there is an Act made one year before the new Poor-law Act to protect these children, and a similar machinery constructed by the Factory Act to that contained in the new Poor-law Act to insure its execution. Why was not the Factory Act enforced? Why did not the noble Lord send down his spy police and the soldiers to enforce the Factory Act? Would the noble Lord give an answer to that question? That is not the only case where the Government has shown neglect of duty towards the poor people of Bradford. In that town and the surrounding district it was estimated there were 25,000 unfortunate human beings dependent for a livelihood on handloom weaving. The distress of these poor people was known to every one. The earnings of the weavers, on the average, was said to be only 4s. 6d. to 5s. per week, and in most cases there were two, three, or four individuals who have to subsist on this sum. The papers abounded with statements, that 1¾d. to 2d. per day is all these poor people can earn to support them with food and clothing. Now, it would be in the recollection of the House, that an address was voted to her Majesty in July last, imploring her Majesty to issue a commission to inquire into 956 the state of the unfortunate handloom weavers. The commission had not yet gone forth. Why had not that been done? The noble Lord should tell the House. Would it not have been more becoming a Minister of the Crown to have redressed the grievances of the people of Bradford first? And had the noble Lord done so, no necessity for military interference could have arisen. Was it possible, for these people to think otherwise than that the laws were administered leniently towards the rich and harshly towards the poor? The proceedings at Bradford must be attended with such a result. But it was said, that ignorance prevailed in the manufacturing districts of the excellent working of the new Poor-law. The answer that he would give to this charge would be found in the petitions presented to this House last Session. For repeal there were 164 petitions, signed by 201,967 persons. For amendment 152 petitions, signed by 63,796. For exemption from the Act seventeen petitions, signed by 3,269; and in support of the Act only thirty-five petitions, signed by 952 persons. So much for ignorance, if that be ignorance, it overspread the land. But amongst these petitions there was one praying for repeal from Stroud, the borough which the noble Lord represents in this House. This excellent Act was in operation there; the petition was signed by 1,837 persons, many of them of the first respectability. The petition was sent to him for presentation, and he presented it to the House in July last. The petitioners complained of the central board as being unconstitutional. They reprobated the workhouse system and the separation of husbands from their wives, and parents from children—they expressed their unqualified dissent from the principles of the bastardy clause, and they prayed the House to pass another Act, repealing the present Bill, which would recognise an extensive and liberal system of out-door relief in all cases of deserving objects. Now, it would be impossible for the noble Lord to convince the people of Bradford that the new Poor-law worked well, when his own constituents in his own borough thus condemned it. There was no necessity for this law in the manufacturing districts. Lord Althorp, when the Bill was passing through the House, doubted the propriety of introducing it there. What would he have now said, when it was 957 introduced with bullets and bayonets? The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department had better retrace his steps; he was treading on dangerous ground, and he will effect no good, but otherwise, by carrying the law into the north, even if he can succeed. In a return in the third report of the Commissioners the expenditure was given per head, according to the population of 1831, for 1834 and 1837 for all the counties in England and Wales. This return showed—that in 1834, in Sussex, the expenditure was highest, being 18s. 1d. per head; that in the West Riding of York, in which Bradford is situate, the expenditure was only 5s. 2d. per head at the same period, being the lowest expenditure of any of the counties, except Cumberland and Lancaster; and that in 1837 Essex was the highest, being 9s. 4d. per head, and the West Riding of Yorkshire was the lowest expenditure of all the counties except Lancaster, the West Riding being 3s. 6d. per head, and Lancaster 2s. 9d. per head. Those facts spoke' volumes against the unjustifiable proceedings at Bradford. They show that there was no necessity for this law to be carried there against the will of the inhabitants; and the noble Lord, if he acted wisely, would retrace his steps and recall his soldiers and his police. The hon. Member concluded by moving for the following returns: "A return of the names of any of the metropolitan policemen who may have been sent to Bradford, in Yorkshire, since the 1st of October last, and up to the 22d of November; the number of days that they have been so employed, together with the order of the Commissioners of police, and the precept of the magistrates commanding and authorising the attendance of such police constables at Bradford. Also, a similar account relative to the policemen sent from Leeds to Bradford. Also, copies of any correspondence between the Poor-law Commissioners and their Assistant Commissioner, Mr. Power, and the Board of Guardians, or between those parties and any other person or persons relative to the sending of the London police and the military into the town of Bradford, together with any correspondence that may have taken place relative to the same matters between Mr. Power and the Home-office, between the Poor-law Commissioners and the Home-office, or between any other person, or persons and the Home-office."
§ Mr. Wakley,
in seconding the motion, said, that it was not his intention to enter then into the question of the Poor-laws, as there was a Committee sitting on the subject. He hoped that any one who felt himself aggrieved under the new system, at Bradford or elsewhere, would come forward. A Committee had been sitting for now two Sessions on this subject, but their inquiries would be utterly useless, and it would be useless for individuals to complain of the new Poor-law system, unless they sent the fullest information as to the grounds of their complaints before the Committee.
§ Lord J. Russell
had already stated that he did not object to the substance of the motion. He would object, however, to the giving the names of the policemen who had been sent down to Bradford, for he supposed that the same course that was pursued at Bradford by the opponents of the new Poor-law Act might be adopted elsewhere. When the Commissioners formed a union, it had been the practice of those who were opposed to the new system to call on the people by placards, by speeches, and other means to mark those who were active in forwarding the objects of the Commissioners. Now, as he was not disposed to assist the views of such opponents of the measure, in a course which might lead to assassination, he would not consent to give the names of those men who were sent down from London to Bradford. He would observe, with respect to the course taken by the Poor-law Commissioners, that when they directed the formation of a union at Bradford and its vicinity, they did not send down any set of rules or regulations as to the manner in which relief should be given, further than that it should be by the board of guardians, instead of the overseers, as before. It was left to the guardians to direct the administration of relief according to their discretion under the Act. When he had been asked last year as to the intentions of Government in applying the new Act to the manufacturing districts, he had said that the Government would proceed with caution, that it was not intended to apply it at once to those districts, but that in those districts where a union was practicable and advisable, the Government would not allow the plan to be resisted by force, and that where such force was used, it should be at once met by force on the part of the 959 Executive. Now, it did appear that when a meeting of the guardians was announced at Bradford great excitement was created, and particularly directed against Mr. Power, the Assistant Poor-law Commissioner, and when, therefore, he was informed that it was probable that force would be used by the opponents of the act at Bradford, he gave directions that such a military force should be assembled as would enforce obedience to the laws, and directions were sent to that effect to the General commanding that district, by whom a force was sent which was sufficient to restore tranquillity. Afterwards the guardians held their meeting without disturbance. It would be admitted that when guardians appointed by law were resisted and openly prevented by force from the performance of their duty, it then became the duty of those who were intrusted with the execution of the laws to take care that they should be enforced. However strongly individuals might feel opposed to the Poor-law, it could not be permitted that they should oppose it by force. When such a disposition was known to exist, it was promptly met and opposed, and tranquillity was restored. It was not his intention at that time to enter into the question of the application of the New Poor-law to the manufacturing districts. He would admit that in many places in the north the poor-laws were much better administered than in others, but though it might not be advisable to introduce the whole law into such districts, yet guardians might meet, and where abuses were known to exist, they might be got rid of, and thus by getting rid of the worst parts of the old system might facilitate the introduction of the better system. He did not. say that the new system should be introduced into manufacturing districts, except where facilities existed for its introduction, and when introduced, and when the adjoining districts had the means of knowing how it worked, they might give facilities for its introduction amongst themselves. With respect to the motion, he would suggest that there should be added the words, "so far as it may not be injurious to the public service." He suggested this because in correspondence such as the hon. Member moved for, there occasionally occurred remarks relating to individuals and local circumstances which it would not be desirable to publish. With these remarks 960 he would now withdraw his motion for reading the order of the day for going into the Committee of supply, in order to allow the hon. Member's motion to stand as the original motion.
§ Mr. Briscoe
said, he was struck with one observation of the hon. Member for Oldham, that there were 25,000 handloom weavers in that district whose earnings did not exceed 4s. 6dto 5s. per week each. Now, with such a fact before them, could they expect anything else than discontent at Bradford at the introduction of the poor-laws? If relief could be given only in the work-house, how could that mass of beings, who must be in distress, be relieved in the workhouse? For his own part, he should be willing, in or out of that House, to contribute to the relief of those distressed parties, but certainly not to continue them in a trade which did not afford them the means of subsistence.
§ Mr. George F. Young
said, that the great objection to the New Poor-law Act was, that it attempted to apply an uniformity of system to places where such uniformity was absolutely impracticable. The system might be made to work well in agricultural districts, but it would not apply to manufacturing districts, and to large masses of the people. If he had understood one remark of the noble Lord it was, that the Poor-law Commissioners did not interfere at Bradford beyond the formation of the union, but that there was no interference with the board of guardians. If so, then what had Mr. Power, the Assistant Poor-law Commissioner to do at Bradford? He also thought it was wrong to send down any of the London police to Bradford. It was not fair to the people of London, who were so heavily taxed, to pay that force. He was aware that 60,000l. of the expense was paid by the public, because it was very properly considered that the peace of the metropolis was a matter of imperial interest. He admitted that the money was well applied, and that the metropolitan police was now a very efficient force, and that his first objections to it were altogether removed; but he must still think that it was not fair to the rate-payers in the metropolis to have any part of a force for which they were taxed sent to other parts of the country.
§ Mr. Brotherton
believed, that it had been satisfactorily proved to the House 961 that the Poor-law Amendment Act was not applicable to the manufacturing districts of the country. He thought, also, if the people were instructed how to manage their own affairs, there would be no necessity for the interference of the Poor-law Commissioners.
§ Mr. Grimsditch
knew that the present motion had been decided on from facts which had occurred. He thought it utterly impossible that the Poor-law Amendment Act could work in these districts. He would just allude to the situation of the union of Macclesfield. This union had been in operation nearly two years, and he held in his hand copies of some of the quarterly accounts, showing the number of persons who had been relieved, and the amount expended; but so great was the number of paupers that he thought it impossible to manage this union according to the new workhouse system. The guardians had purchased a quantity of land for the purpose of building a new workhouse, but this they afterwards abandoned. The union consisted of forty-one townships, extending over 60,500 acres, and with a population of 50,000. For the quarter ending 25th March, 1837, he found, exclusive of those to whom relief was afforded by the workhouse, 3,040 had received out-door relief; for the quarter ending 24th June, the number was 4,447; and for the quarter ending 29th September, 4,587. He would put it to the good sense and feeling of the House whether Government ought not to take these circumstances into consideration, and he would ask whether it was possible that any union could accommodate such a mass of people? He felt assured it was impossible, and he was anxious that the Poor-law Commissioners should take it into consideration as the first point of their inquiry. He was certain that hon. Members would be convinced by the returns he moved for that it was impossible to apply this system universally.
§ Mr. Darby
suggested that, as it seemed intended that the law should undergo some change in the manufacturing districts he hoped that an amendment could be made in it to meet the cases of those who in the agricultural parishes had large families about them, having married under the old system. He had taken part in managing a large parish for nearly three years, and he had been since chairman of a board of guardians. His experience proved 962 to him that there were many persons who had married under the old system, and now found themselves unable to maintain their families, a great part of the relief which they had formerly obtained being so suddenly cut off. The consequence was, that while the children went out to pillage, the old couple were left to suffer in poverty, or to take the alternative of breaking up their little establishment and going into the workhouse. If this rule were not relaxed he should give notice of a bill to alter the law in this respect. He did not ask for anything new, but wished that the test of the workhouse system should be continued, only leaving it to the board of guardians to say what exceptions should be made to that regulation.
§ Lord J. Russell
observed, that the hon. Gentleman who spoke last did not seem to have well considered the suggestion which he had made. The proposition which he made if acceded to, instead of being an application of the workhouse test, would prove a recurrence to the old system of making allowance to parents. He owned he was afraid of a relaxation of this rule, particularly from the effect which he apprehended it would have of lowering wages.
§ Mr. Darby
explained. He did not intend that the scale for affording relief, such as giving it to all children above five years of age, should be observed, but that when the parents who had married under the old law were not able to maintain their children, the board of guardians should have the discretion of assisting them.
§ Mr. Brocklehurst
said, he had listened with no small degree of pain to the statement, made by several hon. Members in reference to the working of the Poor-law Act in the northern manufacturing districts, and he felt himself compelled to rise when he heard the lamentable condition of 25,000 weavers so hastily disposed of by hon. Gentlemen below him. Now what did all those complaints and opposition prove, but that something was very wrong? yet, in all that he had heard to-night, no one had referred to what he believed to be the root of the evil. In all the attacks made in that House and on hustings, the remedy had been always kept out of sight, and persons had contented themselves about regulating dietary tables and the separation of the members of families; but would these regulations make the people pros- 963 perous? Formerly they measured the prosperity of the cotton trade, for instance, by the pieces of print and calico they exported; alas! now they estimated it by the millions of pounds of cotton twist; in other words, raw material after the first process; and when talking of 25,000 ruined weavers, did it not seem more becoming a Legislature to inquire what became of this twist—did it go to countries, at great cost and inconvenience, to be woven by cheaper-fed labourers? His belief was, that if they put their own artisans on anything like a fair ground to compete with their foreign rivals, they would hear no more about the hardships of the Poor-law Act. From all he saw going on, the time was approaching when necessity would drive them to inquire into that tender subject; they should, then, be right ready to give redress; but if it were long delayed, might they not find that their too restrictive laws had compelled those foreign corn-growers to resort to manufacturing, and unwilling to relinquish their vantage ground?
§ Motion agreed to as amended by Lord J. Russell.