HC Deb 16 June 1837 vol 38 cc1507-39

The Order of the Day was moved for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of Supply, and a motion made that the House go into the Committee.

Mr. Walter

said, that it was with great regret that he found himself under the necessity of bringing under the notice of the House the present state of the Poor-law inquiry, as connected with the facts stated in the petition which he had presented on a previous day from the rev. Mr. Dewdney. Whatever might have been his anticipations at the outset of the proceedings of the Committee, from its construction, and the well known opinions of the decided majority of its members upon the question, they had, as that petition in part evinced, been fully verified. But, in saying that, he hoped that it was unnecessary to guard himself against the imputation of casting any obloquy upon the characters of those hon. Gentlemen with whom he must decline acting any longer. Their longer standing in that House, and the greater experience of many of them in its forms, and in the general proceedings of Committees made it almost a fearful step in him to withdraw from any further co-operation with them. At the same time, the situation in which he had been placed, by having so many petitions and private communications conveyed to him from those who either considered themselves or their fellow-subjects aggrieved by the operation of the new law, rendered it imperative on him to tell them why he felt it no longer in his power to afford them or their cause any assistance, by acting further in a Committee in which he was powerless himself. In truth, even before the Easter recess, and long before Mr. Dewdney was subjected to examination, a proceeding so contrary to his view at least of impartiality had been countenanced, that it was in contemplation between the hon. Member for Southwark and himself at that time to retire; and had that hon. Member then executed his intention of withdrawing, he should certainly have followed his example. The proceeding to which he had adverted took place immediately after the inquiry into the Petworth Union was terminated. It had been decided at the first meeting of the Committee that he should commence with that case; and any attempt made by him even to illustrate any portion of the case by a reference to a contiguous union was at once stopped by the cry that he was travelling out of the record. The Committee was to have adjourned over the holidays when that case was closed; but to the surprise of the hon. Member for Southwark and himself, without the slightest notice, the clerk of the union over which a noble Duke, who was one of the authors of the Bill, presided, was suddenly thrust upon the Committee for examination; and when he came to inquire of him who sent him to be examined, he produced a summons, not from the chairman of the Committee, but from the Poor-law Commissioners, who, finding the case going very much against them, called up this person to disprove what had happened at Petworth, by showing that something different had taken place at West Hampnett. The hon. Member for Southwark and himself had protested in vain against this proceeding, as the hon. Member for West Kent had left town on the express understanding that no new matter should be entered upon till after the holidays. The hon. Member for Finsbury was kept away by illness, so that there only remained the hon. Member for Southwark and himself to bear up against the enormous preponderance with which the Committee was originally constituted. The clerk, as he had already stated, prevailed, and gave the Committee a long history of the management of that union. How far the evidence thus interposed would itself bear investigation, the House would judge. He should only say at present, that in that boasted union, that model farm of the poor, there had been such a mortality among the inmates of the new workhouse as was shocking to humanity. Undoubtedly the Committee acted in a manner which they thought right; but he would beg leave to ask, whether it would not have been at least equally right, if they must take a second case from the same county which lay within the purview of the Committee, not to have put themselves at the mercy of partial people like the Commissioners, but to have shown attention to a case sent to them by a reverend gentleman, with whom he had no previous communication, but whose letter he would take the liberty of reading to them. Eastbourne Vicarage, March 18, 1837. SIR,—I am sorry to trespass a second time upon your Committee, but feel that I am not at liberty to let a matter worthy of your attention pass without notice; it is the dietary of this union. The able-bodied pauper inmate has not enough to eat. The allowance is only six ounces of bread, and one ounce of cheese for breakfast and supper, daily; and for dinner, meat putting sixteen ounces once in the week, and sixteen ounces of suet-pudding twice in the week, these with potatoes; the dinner for the four remaining days being seven ounces of bread and one ounce of cheese. I beg, Sir, that your Committee will do me the favour to consider whether this is sufficient to maintain an able-bodied labourer, to enable him to resume his occupation, when an opportunity offers. I request of them to do the case the justice to call before them the medical officers of unions, to inquire into this matter. I am a great advocate for the right administration of the Poor-law, and am fully aware of the necessity there is for keeping the dietary of the able-bodied in the workhouse, below that of the able-bodied labourer out of the house; but, Sir, I am no advocate for starving the poor, and making it desirable to the man who cannot keep himself to inhabit a prison rather than a workhouse. The Lewes House of Correction dietary allows five ounces more of bread, besides one pint of soup daily, than that of our workhouse. I have made known these things to the Poor-law Commissioners, and have also superadded the (to me) astounding fact, that though, in the memory of the oldest inhabitant, fever of a malignant and fatal character has not been known in our workhouse; yet, since the introduction of the dietary now used, very many have died of typhus. To this they have replied, that they cannot alter the dietary; and as to the fever, they consider that they have sufficiently provided against any evils, by allowing the medical man to order what he pleases in case of sickness. With due deference to them, this appears like saying a man need not be afraid of the consequences of setting fire to his neighbour's house, because there is plenty of water hard by. I trust, however, to your Committee, to see that it is not better to commit crime, than to seek an honest living. I am, Sir, your obedient Servant, THOMAS PITMAN. This communication had passed utterly unheeded. Now here was a gentleman, the vicar of Eastbourne, in Sussex, whose previous testimony, when favourable to the Commissioners, was published with great parade in their second Report, while there was no corresponding alacrity in bringing forward a letter from the same person, in which he stated, that a number of people had died of typhus in the union workhouse, owing to the want of sufficient food. The House and the public would judge, therefore, whether this was not a fitter case for investigation than that which was forced upon the Committee by the Poor-law Commissioners. A gentleman of undoubted credit had assured him, that the whole of these got-up cases from Sussex, so far as he had had the opportunity of knowing, were deceptive; and as a melancholy proof of this, in addition to Mr. Pitman's statement, the House must have seen, that in another of these boasted Sussex unions, a poor woman had, within these few weeks, died of starvation, according to a coroner's inquest. Much had been said of the suspicions of the public. He had always thought them wholesome suspicions, and the fact which he was about to mention would, he conceived, confirm that opinion in others. The petitions of the people against the Bill were all referred to the Poor-law Committee; and from the formal manner in which the question was put in that House, the public were led to infer, that some important advantage was gained by such a reference. It was determined in the Committee, that an analysis should be made of these petitions during the Easter recess; and to whom did the House think that the task of making that analysis was confided? Why, to the Poor-law Commissioners—to the very parties whose measures were complained of, and who were opposed to the views and wishes of the petitioners. Their secretary was sent down to the House for that very purpose; he had admitted, that it was he who prepared the document. The sheep were given up to the wolves. The House would have seen, that as yet the Committee had gone into only two of the cases which he had brought forward. The cause of a dilatoriness so remarkable was this. Almost the whole of the statements which he had received respecting the cruel operation of this law, had been furnished from the most respectable quarters—chiefly by clergymen, like the author of the petition, resident in their several parishes, and who must have the best means of witnessing the effect of the law; but the moment he offered to the Committee a case of cruelty or mal-operation, he was overwhelmed by a host of Poor-law Commissioners, or chairmen of boards, or clerks, or guardians, or relieving officers, who poured in general documents without number, upon which It was difficult for him to enter, and of the credibility of which it. was difficult for him to take a general estimate. Nor was his complaint merely confined to what the Commissioners put in, when and where they pleased: their dominion also extended to taking out what they pleased from the evidence in its way to that House and the country. What he meant would be better understood if the House would call for the th day's proceedings. On that day the Commissioners sent in a table of prices paid for labour in the county of Sussex, and a list of the labourers, whose situation, they said, had been greatly improved. He had objected to the reception of a document so loose and unauthenticated, and coming from so suspicious a quarter. After a long dispute, the paper was accepted for the use of the Committee. The moment it was printed, he (Mr. Walter) had sent it into Sussex, to ascertain its correctness; and he soon had an offer of abundance of evidence to disprove it. This, he supposed, got wind; for the Committee afterwards thought proper to cast aside the paper in question, without listening to his offer of contradiction, and the minutes of the day's proceedings were entirely suppressed along with it. How well qualified he was to prove the misstatements of the Commissioners would appear from a document which he should now read to the House, and which he was prepared to authenticate. It was from the Petworth union, and was signed by nearly forty respectable individuals. He had a similar statement from West Hampnett, signed by nearly the same number of respectable farmers:— We, the undersigned farmers and others, having been informed that in the evidence given before the Select Committee of the hon. House of Commons on the Poor-law Amendment Act, it was stated that the day wages of agricultural labourers, and the price of task work generally, have risen in consequence of the operation of the Poor-law Amendment Act, and the condition of the poor is bettered thereby, do declare that, as refers to our own immediate neighbourhood, there is no foundation whatever for such a statement, but that, on the contrary, although the money paid for day labour and task work is in a trifling degree advanced in some instances, yet that that advance is entirely owing to the advanced price of wheat, and that the labourer cannot earn so large a portion of the necessaries of life as heretofore, which will plainly appear from the circumstance that while the price of labour has advanced only ten per cent., the price of flour has advanced full thirty per cent. He might mention other objectionable matters; but he would abstain, and would pass hastily to the proceedings of the 17th day, when the assistant Commissioner for Hants and Wilts was examined. That gentleman was questioned by several Members, and allowed to answer, as the evidence would show, general matters respecting the operation of the law; but when he came to question the Commissioners upon points arising out of his report, he was presently stopped; all the answers which he had given were expunged; and when he (Mr. Walter) demurred to the unfairness of the proceeding, he was told that he should be allowed to put his questions another time. Now he maintained that he had a right to question him with the same latitude that others had done, and that it was entirely the duty of the assistant Commissioner to answer any question connected with his report. Having now shown the temper of the Committee generally, he was the more strongly convinced that the petition of the rev. gentleman which he had presented last week was entitled to credit and attention, inasmuch as the evils he complained of were the natural results of such a temper and feeling towards those whose evidence might invalidate the assertions of the good working of the law. Besides that, the personal character of Mr. Dewdney, a gentleman of high professional at- tainments. and of strict and unimpeachable moral character, entitled him further to the respect of the House. And this argument ought to be the more effectual, as other gentlemen of his profession, and of the highest character also, who had expressed a very strong feeling against the Poor-law Bill, had, since his examination, requested to be excused attendance to give evidence, from an apprehension of the manner in which they were to be interrogated. After repeated refusals by the Committee to report evidence from day to day, that point was at last carried. This was absolutely necessary, inasmuch as the Poor-law Commissioners, being always present either by themselves or their agents, could send off for, and get up, evidence, with a view to invalidate whatever made against them. A most remarkable incident occurred, which he would take the liberty of stating to the House. On the first day of the inquiry, the clearest evidence was given of the suffering state of the labourers with large families in the Petworth Union. And what did the House think was the course adopted by the Commissioners to disprove these facts; They actually sent down to the treasurer of the Savings Bank an order to transmit to them immediately an account of all the deposits made by the agricultural labourers, with the names of the depositors. This was of course refused, with a hint that the sight of the books would not help them much in their cause. He knew not what opinion the House might form of the Commissioners from such a circumstance, but to him it appeared the most scandalous attempt at violating, not only the poor man's rights but general privacy and confidence, that was ever heard of. The House might recollect how many cases of the cruel and unnatural operation of this law he had mentioned before; and to prove them was his only inducement to enter upon the Committee. He was early told that he would not be allowed to prove more than three or four. The noble Lord at the head of the Home Department, whom, however, he was far from reproaching for any thing done in the Committee, proposed and carried the following resolution on the 21st April:— That the Committee will, when the cases of West Hampnett and Droxford are concluded, proceed to inquire into the administration of relief under the Poor-law Commissioners in the counties of Hants, Wilts, Stafford, and Kent, and the manufacturing parts of the county of Gloucester; and will then inquire into the proceedings of the Commissioners in the northern counties, both manufacturing and agricultural, and into the reasons alleged in the petitions presented to the House, and referred to this Committee, against the introduction of the Poor-law Amendment Act. The House would perceive that Hampshire stood first in the proposed scheme for the future proceedings of the Committee, and the preference of that county the noble Lord stated would, he conceived, be most agreeable to him. Now, though Suffolk and the eastern counties, where the atrocity of this law, as he had shown, was most flagrant, perhaps claimed the preference, yet he had no objection to take Hampshire, because he had evidence in his hands from that county of a most important character. Since that time, however, the Committee had entirely changed their course—had cast out Hampshire, a county in which he was prepared to meet them, and had substituted Bradford in Wiltshire, for no other reason of which he was aware than because they thought that they should be able to show a more plausible state of things in that district. Now, though he had every reason to believe that Bradford, this favoured substitute, would be found as rotten a case on their part as the Petworth, the Droxford, and the West Hampnett, yet to disprove the Commissioners' statements, he must be thrown upon the hopeless course of cross-examining their witnesses, against such an. immense majority as there was in the Committee; or must incur the expense of an inquiry on the spot, in order to contradict the statements of the witnesses brought up by the Commissioners. That Bradford would, if examined, turn out to be another Droxford or West Hampnett, he had every reason to believe, from a letter which he had received from a highly respectable gentleman in that neighbourhood. He said — None of the examinations which I have seen at all touch upon some of the greatest cruelties arising from the mode of carrying this law into effect. The unrelenting harshness with which widows are treated ought to be held up to the reprobation of all men. At the moment when they are in the deepest distress from the loss of their husbands, their misery is added to, either by submitting to have their children torn from them, or by all starving together at home. The guardians, it is true, offer to receive some of the children into the house, but they well know that the mothers will not part with them, whereas half of what would keep a child in the poor-house would place the poor mother, if given to her at home, above absolute want. I know three cases near me of persons who in the winter must starve but for private charity. The expense of the unions is enormous, and if a saving is made, it must be in these small parishes screwed out of the poor. In the Bradford union the whole management is in the hands of mere renting farmers, who, if they can save their pockets, care not how it is done; and to keep the management in the hands of these persons, the most dirty chicanery has been practised and sanctioned by those who are in the situation of gentlemen. To effect this pitiful saving the relieving officer is so cramped in his power, that where instant relief is required he is compelled to wait six or seven days before assistance can be afforded. I have lately had one most disgusting case of this sort, and two others of nearly as bad a sort. This determination to save leads the boards to positive attempts at fraud. I know a gentleman who has defeated both the Bradford and Bath boards in their attempts of this kind. One poor woman had to travel backwards and forwards to the extent of 120 miles before she obtained her right, when six miles ought to have been sufficient. Among a variety of cases which he could produce, he should only mention one; and that case he had selected because his informant was known to a member of the committee, and because it showed in a very small space the whole character of the agency of this Bill. His informant was the rev. Mr. Stewart, the rector of Ewhurst, near Guilford. The case which that rev. Gentleman had communicated to him was that of one Michael Field. The wife sickly, six children, eldest a girl under ten. The man earned during winter 8s. a-week; in spring, a fortnight before the new law was acted upon, obtained 9s. in consequence of the advance in flour; had been allowed 3s. 9d. for his children. His wife applied to the relieving officer at his first sitting, and was told she could have no relief. Mr. Stewart asked whether it would be of any use for her to go to the board of guardians. He said he believed not. Mr. Stewart mentioned this case at the Poor Law-office to Mr. Frankland Lewis, who said that 9s. a-week were good wages in his country, and consequently observed that a woman should never be listened to. Mr. Stewart pointed out to him that the man could not apply to the relieving officer without an almost certainty of losing a quarter of a day; and to the board of guardians, sitting ten miles off, without losing a whole day. The expenditure of this man's family, according to Mr. Stewart's calculation, would amount to 15s. 4d. per week, or 39l. 17s. 4d. per year; so that, making the largest allowance for earnings at harvest, he must be in debt at least 7l. 13s. 4d. at the end of the year. Mr. Stewart also mentioned the case of a man in his parish, who lived nine miles from the medical officer. He was on a Monday reported to be ill; he was subject to chronic rheumatism, and aged sixty-seven. Mr. Stewart went to him on the same day, and found him severely suffering, as Mr. Stewart conceived, from influenza. Mr. Stewart sent him in some broth and powders to assist him till the doctor came. He went then to the vestry clerk, and desired them to order the relieving officer to send the medical officer next morning. Mr. Stewart being himself ill could not see the man again till Thursday. He then found him exceedingly ill, and that the doctor had never been near him. Mr. Stewart then ordered the vestry clerk to send a man express for the doctor, and at seven o'clock next morning the man died, the doctor not having been near him. Mr. Stewart has called the attention of the board of guardians to this case, and seeing that the medical department of the union was reported by the Commissioners as adeqate and efficient, he has twice called their attention to this case, offering to show by it, and other cases, the inadequacy and inefficiency of the medical arrangements as regarded his parish, but has received no answer upon those points, though they have replied to him on others. The relieving officer has told him that he has often given money out of his own pocket to relieve cases which would have been rejected by the board. This gentleman's housekeeper has stated with tears in her eyes, that but for the assistance rendered by this gentleman many would have been starved. The accounts which he had received from Wales of the sufferings of the poor under this new law were truly appalling. The unions there were so large, that some of the distant parishes did not usually appoint guardians—not in the Carmarthen Union, for example. But to revert to the original construction of the Committee; every thing that had occurred justified what he might call the public dissatisfaction with it, for the Government, in placing upon the Committee a vast majority of hon. Gentlemen, certainly, but of Gentlemen decidedly favourable to the New Poor-law, meant nothing else than to bolster up that most oppressive and unconstitutional act. Those who were anxious for inquiry had to struggle in the Committee against the influence of two Ministers of the Crown who had been in office when the Bill was enacted, and in whose persons, therefore, the Bill might be partly said to be tried. There were, besides, upon the Committee an ex-Poor-law Commissioner, of whom he meant to speak personally with respect, and seven or eight chairmen of boards of guardians, against several of which he had received complaints, and the hon. chairman's board was among the number. He felt such a Committee grievous enough when it was but in prospect; and now he felt every day on which the Committee met, that it was in vain for him to struggle against the power of such a majority. In addition to this, he could not help feeling sensibly that he was unpractised in proceedings of this kind—in examining and cross-examining. How much he was inferior in talents generally, but more particularly in that kind of talent, to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Cumberland, would appear from a fact which he would mention. It had been suggested to him by one of the witnesses on the first day's examination, that the poor ought to have counsel employed for them as well as their antagonists—the Commissioners. "How?" replied he to the witness—"There is no counsel on either side;" and he then discovered that, deceived by the zeal and ability of the right hon. Baronet, this witness had actually supposed him to be a person professionally engaged as counsel for the Poor-law Commissioners. He must confess that he had often envied the right hon. Baronet his talent for cross-examination, and had often wished that his eminent qualities had been employed on their side. But now the Committee had refused to hear his cases any longer. One of the very small party to which he belonged in the Committee, had withdrawn from it nearly a month ago, on account of what he at least felt to be the partial conduct of the Committee. Witnesses even in gentlemanly stations of life, were unwilling to come forward. He thought therefore, that under all these circumstances he should only betray the cause which he had so sincerely at heart if he continued to act longer as a Member of the Committee. He should therefore request the House at least to discharge him from it as soon as the West Hampnett case was concluded. He had at first intended again to solicit an addition to the number of those whose previous opinions were unfavourable to the Bill; but he found on inquiry that Gentlemen were averse to serving on this Committee. That endeavour, therefore, was hopeless. Considering, then, the lateness of the Session, and that if the House was to legislate at all this year, it should lose no time, one part of his motion would certainly be that the Committee should be instructed to report their opinion upon the evidence already given as soon as the West Hampnett case should be terminated. But besides this conclusion, to which he should come on general grounds, there were some scenes, which had recently occurred in the Committee, and with which he believed the Speaker had been made acquainted, of such a character as would of themselves have induced him to take his leave of it. He consigned it, however, to the chairman to state or not, as he might think proper, what those scenes had been, certainly reserving to himself the power of making such explanations on his statement as he might deem necessary for a full understanding of what had taken place. The motion with which he should conclude his observations was, "that a copy of the ninth day's proceedings be submitted to the House, and that the Committee be me structed to report their opinion upon the evidence already given as soon as the West Hampnett case shall be closed."

Mr. Fazakerley

said, that after the appeal which had been made to him by the hon. Member for Berkshire, the House would perhaps indulge him for a few moments with its attention while he offered a few observations upon what had just been stated by the hon. Member for Berkshire. He, however, should not be induced to enter into any of those general heads of complaint which the hon. Member had now, for the first time, urged against the Committee; but he thought they would be found equally as exaggerated as the statements made by the hon. Gentleman on a former occasion. The course which it would best become him to take would be, as shortly and plainly as possible to describe to the House the general course which the Committee had taken in the discharge of the duty confided to them, and he hoped he might be permitted to say, that in any part which he had taken in the Committee, and in any question which he had thought it his duty to put to the witness under examination, it had been his most anxious wish—and he should not have discharged his duty had he acted otherwise—to put such questions as occurred to his mind, in manner and substance, so as to avoid giving any feelings of unnecessary pain. It was of course the privilege of every Member of the Committee to put questions to any witness that was called before it, and he (Mr. Fazakerley) was quite certain it was his own feeling, and he was equally certain he spoke the feelings of every Member of the Committee, that on a question of the nature that was referred to them, where the rights, the claims, and the condition of the poor were under investigation, and still more that it must be the feeling of every well-constituted mind, to approach such an investigation in a manner the least distressing to the poorer classes. He had never understood that the new Poor-law Act was expected to put an end to the existence of distress: if such, however, had been expected by anybody, he believed the attempt would be hopeless. He did not feel that it could put an end to distress, or that it was not a measure capable of alteration and amendment; but, comparing the provisions of that Bill with the old law, all he would contend for was, that the Bill as administered generally was a great improvement upon the old system; and, further, that it had an ascertained tendency to rescue the poor from the evils and the abuses of the previous system of parochial relief. Having stated thus much, he might say, that when the Committee was first appointed there was a doubt in the minds of the Committee as to what should be the course of the inquiry—in other words, towards what point the inquiry should first be directed. Some Members of the Committee thought it would be best to commence their labours by something of a more general examination into the operation of the law, by calling before them the assistant Commissioners, or other persons generally engaged in the administration of the law on this subject, and other Members of the Committee thought, that as the hon. Member for Berkshire had brought certain cases of alleged grievances and abuses before the notice of the House and of the public, it was most desirable first to ascertain the truth of those allegations and statements, and that those were the cases which demanded immediate inquiry, and, therefore, in compliance with the proposition of the hon. Member for Berkshire, acting on his suggestion, and in accordance with his expressed wishes, the Committee determined to go to those cases of grievances and abuses which had been selected and produced to the House by the hon. Member for Berkshire himself. He mentioned one union in Sussex; that was the case the hon. Member for Berk- shire selected, and the Committee accordingly entered into that inquiry. The hon. Member now complained of the great dilatoriness—of his being overwhelmed by the witnesses called by the Poor-law Commissioners, and of the ability of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Cumberland (Sir J. Graham) in examining the witnesses. Now, with regard to the dilatoriness of the proceedings of the Committee something was to be attributed to the mode of proceeding adopted by the hon. Member for Berkshire himself, and he (Mr. Fazakerley) would put it to every hon. Member of the Committee to tell fairly to the House whether a great deal of time had not been unnecessarily wasted by inquiries into matters of most inferior character—into matters of the utmost indifference as to the general working of the Bill, and whether whole days had not been consumed, not in ascertaining the real effect of the measure, but by inquiries into little inferior, subordinate matters, which if denied in one way or another would not have any effect at all on the opinion of any man of common sense. Now, as to the manner in which the hon. Member for Berkshire said he had been overwhelmed by the witnesses of the Poor-law Commissioners. The Committee had called before them in all sixty-one witnesses, and of those sixty-one, thirty-eight had been called by the hon. Member for Berkshire. Of the questions put to the witnesses, there had been in number altogether 17,187, and of those questions 3,370 had been asked by the hon. Gentleman. The whole of the evidence was before the House and the country, and both the House and the country could therefore see whether the hon. Gentleman had not been afforded a full opportunity of making out his case. That evidence had been printed daily—it was in the hands of the public, who would have no difficulty in forming a just appreciation of the value as well as the number of the questions put by the hon. Member. That was the real state of the case with regard to the investigation. Now, one word with regard to Bradford. The hon. Member for Berkshire said he could not divine—he could not imagine why the Committee would not direct their inquiry to Hampshire after the investigation as to West Hampnett was concluded. Really the hon. Member must have been less attentive to the proceedings of the Committee than he had imagined; because, after many discussions, and after strangers had been excluded, it was determined by the Committee, on more occasions than one, that when the West Hampnett concluded, it would be most desirable to go to some of the manufacturing districts, where great apprehensions had prevailed as to the applicability of the new Poor-law to those districts. It had been determined by the Committee that the best way to satisfy the public mind, and at the same time their own minds, as to the applicability of the measure there, was to inquire into a district in which the provisions of the Bill had been for some time applied; and the only reason why Bradford was selected, was because it was thought to afford an illustration of the applicability of the Bill, and its effect, in the manufacturing districts. It was very disagreeable to him to be obliged to say anything respecting the rev. gentleman alluded to by the hon. Member for Berkshire, but he could not help saying, that his appearance was by no means creditable to his character and profession. In the petition which that gentleman had thought proper to present to the House, he complained of the report of the Committee, and criticized very closely the manner in which the evidence was taken. The House of Commons was well acquainted with the competency and great skill of Mr. Gurney and his assistants, and the accuracy of their report of the proceedings could not be doubted. There was one sentence, however, in the petition to which he wished to call the attention of the House, it ran thus:—"But, inasmuch as that report, though not in the main incorrect, is however incomplete, and gives but an inadequate representation of a scene which partook of the character of a dispute as much as that of an examination, he (the petitioner) adds a statement of certain other particulars which though unreported ought to be known." All he could say was, that the minutes o the proceedings before the Committee did not profess to give the details of them. The full report was left to Mr. Gurney and his assistants, who took down the questions and answers. There was then no ground for the complaint which had been made, that the minutes of the Committee did not give an adequate representation of the scenes which were alleged to have taken place, but which the petitioner did not attempt to describe. He must affirm, that he was not conscious of any remarkable scenes in the Committee. There was certainly some expression of a difference of opinion, which must necessarily arise in a case where persons of different sentiments were assembled for the purpose of making an inquiry. Some discussions—he would not call them altercations—had occurred, but they were never carried beyond the bounds of good breeding. He was therefore at a loss to know what was meant by the scenes to which not only the petitioner but the hon. Member for Berkshire had alluded. He regretted that the hon. Member for Southwark should have come to the determination not to go into the Committee again, because he had really done much to elicit the truth in his examination of the witnesses; and he regretted that the hon. Member for Berkshire should have come to the same determination, but on different grounds.

Mr. Walter

did not know whether the House would permit him to say a few words strictly in explanation upon two or three of the points to which the hon. Chairman of the Poor-law Committee had just adverted. First, with regard to "the scenes," which the hon. Member said was an allusion which he did not clearly understand. As the hon. Chairman did not seem anxious to enter upon an explanation of them, he would not press his allusion to them further. "They were "scenes," however, which he believed had been communicated by the hon. Gentleman to the Speaker, and at which the rev. Gentleman whose petition he had presented could not have been present, as strangers were excluded from the Committee-room during the period of their occurrence. He would, not however, press the allusion further, as the hon. Gentleman appeared averse to it. As to the questions put by him to the various witnesses, which the hon. Member had said amounted to the number of 3,370, that, he asserted, was the best proof of the great hardship to which he had been exposed in conducting this inquiry. He had no account of the number of questions which had been put by the Committee up to the present time: but up to the conclusion of the Droxford and the Petworth cases, he had seen an estimate of the number of questions asked on each side; and that the House might not be led to suppose that the Commissioners and the poor had fought their battle in the Committee on equal terms, he would state, that out of 10,600 questions which had been asked in the investigation of the Petworth and the Droxford cases, the party friendly to inquiry into the actual condition of the poor—meaning thereby himself and his friends in the Committee—had only put 3,600 questions, whilst the party opposed to them had put 7,000 questions and upwards. In consequence of what the hon. Chairman bad said respecting the reasons for taking the operation of the new Poor-law at Bradford as the next subject for the investigation of the Committee, he would beg leave to refresh the hon. Gentleman's memory upon one point. The subject had certainly been mentioned in the Committee, but it had not been formally decided that Bradford was the next place to be investigated until a resolution, which was passed very recently; on the contrary, in consequence of a resolution proposed by the noble Lord at the head of the Home Department, he had conceived that the operation of the new Poor-law in some part of Hampshire would be investigated next. Again, when the Committee first met, it had called upon him to state what case he would begin with first. He had then mentioned the case of the Petworth Union, but he had only mentioned it after considerable solicitation.

Mr. Wakley

said, that it was with deep regret that he took any share in the present discussion, for it was his opinion that it was premature. He had not been aware of the intention of the hon. Member for Berkshire to bring forward his Motion. Had he been aware of it, he should have told the hon. Member that he could not concur in it. The speech of that hon. Member would lead the House and the country to conclude that a majority, a vast majority, of the Poor-law Committee were in favour of the continuance of the present Poor-law Amendment Act. He hoped the continuance of this inquiry would lead to an opposite result. His opinions were as hostile to the working of that measure as they were before he entered into the investigation; but as the Committee had only completed its inquiry into two unions, and had commenced with a third, it appeared to him that the hon. Member for Berkshire was only drawing the House into a conclusion which he would be the first to regret, in calling upon the Committee to make its Report as soon as it had closed its examination respecting the West Hampnett case. He thought the hon. Gentleman would stultify all his past proceedings by extorting from the House, at the present moment, an expression of opinion which must be favourable to the continuance of the present law. He should not go into the scenes before the Committee; he believed every Member of that Committee went into the inquiry as he did himself—with a desire to consider the matter honestly and fairly, and that each Member had his own opinion upon the subject. He must declare, that as far as the investigation had gone, he had not yet seen the necessity for instituting the law, and he had yet to learn that there were any circumstances requiring its continuance, But he was anxious to go on and labour in the investigation, and to examine into the whole of the cases of complaint, from whatever quarter they might arise, and also to discover, if possible, what reasons there were for the continuance of the present law in force. He did not despair of assisting the cause of the labouring classes as long as he saw the slightest disposition in that Committee to investigate the truth. There had been two or three circumstances connected with the proceedings of the Committee of which he disapproved. Of course, it might be concluded, that he was not the author of them, but he had been the mover of other proceedings of which others might also disapprove. He did not condemn the conduct of any Member of that Committee. He entered into the investigation, with a view to benefit two portions of the community at large—the poorer classes, and the medical attendants upon them, whose case had not yet been investigated. There were, then, two great classes of the community who demanded of him to continue the inquiry, and he could not, therefore, consent to give up his post. He confessed, that there was great difficulty in any man conducting himself so as to satisfy the conviction of his own mind on that Committee, and still more difficult was it to act with satisfaction to the country. The excitement which prevailed in the country upon this subject was excessive, and it would increase and continue until the whole of the operations of the Poor-law Amendment Act were fairly and thoroughly tested. He did not think that the value of an inquiry was to be estimated by the number of questions proposed. Certain it was, that an immense number had been proposed during this inquiry, and many of them, he must say, seemed to be rather irrelevant, because they related to matters not connected with the great principle which he thought ought to have been kept in view. From the beginning, it had been his object to prove that the present law ought not to be continued in force. He admitted, without hesitation, that he believed that law to be unconstitutional; but he would not, therefore, presume to misrepresent the proceedings and motives of other persons. Every man has his own prejudices, and while he found fault with others, he was liable to the same criticism. He must dissent from the opinions of the hon. Chairman of the Committee, who seemed to think that the small details of the Bill ought not to be touched on. Why, the operations of the Bill wholly consisted of details with regard to the treatment of poor persons, and he for one believed that able-bodied paupers had been most severely pressed on by the clauses of the Bill. He believed, that if the sense of the Committee were taken, only three would be found to give an opinion unfavourable to the law. Some, perhaps, might wish not to vote at all, but he rather thought that fifteen or sixteen would vote that the Bill was beneficial to the poor in most of its details. The hon. Member for Berkshire was more hostile to the measure now, than when he first entered into the Committee. He would then ask him would he carry the object he had in view by carrying his present motion? He was for condemning the existing law, but the success of the hon. Member's motion would terminate the proceedings of the Committee, and cause the expression of an opinion favourable to the operations and continuance of that law. He, therefore, could not agree to the motion, because he thought, on the contrary, that inquiry should still be prosecuted—that it should go on without let or hindrance, being anxious that all classes of the community should have an opportunity of expressing an opinion either for or against the measure. He must say, that the organization against his party in the Committee—that was to say, against those who opposed the Bill, was most powerful. Not only in the Committee, but throughout the country, they had a vast array of wealth, influence, and talent against them, and there was not a spot where that combined power was not brought to bear upon the subject. But what was the condition of the poor and necessitous classes in the country? What means had been taken for collecting the names of individuals who might give adverse opinions, and sending them before the Committee? A proposition of that kind had been made, but only two or three voted for it in the Committee; yet, from first to last, the assistant-commissioners had been sitting in the Committee-room watching the proceedings and despatching their messengers with all speed to acquire and furnish the most available and ingenious matter for cross-examination. Now, he thought that when such an investigation was carried on at the expense of the country, and professedly with a view to the benefit of the poorer classes, it was not fair that the aristocratic party and the wealthy alone should have an opportunity of bringing their organization to bear in favour of their own views, while the poor were shut out altogether from giving any evidence that could lead the House to form correct opinions with regard to the law, its operation, and effect. [Cries of" No."] It was very easy to cry "no" or "yes," but was it not true that their object had been to cut down the power of the Poor-law Commissioners? Was it not true, that complaints had been made against the operation of this law, and the parties implicated had been sitting in the Committee-room enjoying every facility, while the complaining parties had been altogether denied access? He did not mean to say the Chairman had refused to admit them; the conduct of that hon. Gentleman had been most impartial throughout, just such as he had expected from the organization of his head. But then the poor persons in the country had no opportunity of sending up the evidence to the Committee; because those on their side had not an opportunity of sending messengers to collect the names of persons most competent to give evidence. Of that unfairness, he had felt it his duty to complain. Whatever the House might feel, and whatever the hon. Member for Berkshire might think, he felt bound to vote against the motion. He was quite content to rest the question on the good sense and discriminating justice of the mass of the people of this kingdom. Although he might be called an agitator in a little way, he would rather agitate at all times in a tone of good humour than for the sake of promoting discord, knowing that when the mind was agitated by acrimonious humours, it was seldom able to come to correct conclusions. He would rely upon the good sense of the people of this country for the result of this question. Should the fact appear to be that the poor were shut up and immured in prison-houses, and that they were illtreated, the voice of the country would soon declare that such a system ought not to be continued. He was told, that the system tended to make men more independent, because it made them rely on their own exertions; but when he found that the payment of part of their wages out of the Poor-rate was discontinued, and that their employment did not increase, but a diminution in their incomes was the inevitable consequence, he was utterly at a loss to know how the new system tended to make them more independent. It was true, that they might become humble and submissive, anxious to retain their places and to continue under their old masters. ["Hear, hear!"] That observation was cheered by the other side of the House; he did not wonder at it, because it had always been the old Tory practice to keep the mass of the community dependent and submissive. That was the old Tory doctrine, and the Bill was founded on it. He was anxious to see the labourers of this country made an independent body of men, and carrying themselves as men of the highest birth in this country, relying on their own honest industry for the maintenance of those comforts which they were as capable of enjoying in their cottages as was the nobleman in his mansion. But when he saw a law in force which depressed the spirit of the labouring man, and cast him down under the domination of his employer, while, at the same time, his employer was enriching himself by means of that labour, he was anxious to produce a change, which if it did not destroy the arbitrary power of the master, might at least give an adequate compensation to the labourer, and secure to him those rights and privileges which he ought to enjoy. The whole subject was one of a disagreeable character, because the investigation of it must lead them to a conviction, that however they might try to relieve the distresses of the labouring classes, there were social evils contingent upon civilization which it was not in the power of the Legislature to prevent. He said that, because there were many hon. Gentlemen in that House who believed that the enactments of laws by that House would relieve every kind of distress and indigence to which the working classes were liable. He believed, that such an opinion was altogether Utopian; There always would be idleness, improvidence, and accidents. It was not to be expected that persons who were improvident could be made more prudent and consistent in their conduct by any laws which that House might pass. At the same time, it was the duty of the Legislature to provide for the relief of the poor. He would not anticipate the decision of the Committee, or the opinion of any hon. Member who might think proper to do so—he was content to rely on the humanity of the Committee, and their desire to relieve the distresses of the poor; and whatever difference of opinion they might entertain respecting this law, they were bound to make a bold and candid ex.. position of the ills that pressed upon any class, whatever they might be, and communicate them to that House, in order that a remedy might be applied. If all the evils of this measure could not be remedied, he hoped, at least, that they would immediately remove those which they had power to remove.

Sir A. Agnew

rose, for the purpose of vindicating the character of the rev. Mr. Dewdney from the attack which had been made on it by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fazakerley). In the course of last year, he had had occasion to correspond with that rev. gentleman, who was incumbent of Portsea, on the subject of a bill which he was known to have very much at heart. In the course of the correspondence, Mr. Dewdney expressed his anxiety to place the melancholy condition to which the poor were reduced by the operation of the Poor-law Amendment Act under the consideration of some active and intelligent Member of Parliament. As he (Sir A. Agnew) was aware that the hon. Member for Berkshire had bestowed great attention on the subject of the Poor-laws, he had transmitted Mr. Dewdney's letter to him, and that circumstance had led to a correspondence between the hon. Member for Berkshire and Mr. Dewdney, and to Mr. Dewdney's subsequent examination before the Committee. As he (Sir A. Agnew) had thus unwittingly been the cause of bringing Mr. Dewdney's opinions before the Committee, and of subjecting him to some very disagreeable remarks, it was only an act of justice on his part towards Mr. Dewdney to declare, that both in his private capacity, and in his professional character, he was a most amiable and respectable man.

Mr. A. Trevor

had not been disposed to take a part in this discussion, but felt bound to answer an observation made by the hon. Member for Finsbury respecting the old Tory feeling. He had said, that feeling was to keep down the lower classes of society. If the hon. Member entertained that opinion, he knew very little about the old Tory feeling, which he must tell him would contribute as much as the most Radical feelings in that House to the best interests of their fellow men. He said that, because on this particular question he differed very materially with the hon. Gentlemen, amongst whom it was his habit to sit and vote in that House. But, at the same time, he must deprecate the insinuations the hon. Member thought fit to cast on the Tory party. However much Radical contempt might be poured on his sentiments, he was not ashamed to avow them; and he must say, the conduct of the hon. Gentlemen opposite was neither creditable nor justifiable. If the hon. Member for Berkshire took the sense of the House, he should feel it his duty to vote with him, because he was confident that no hon. Gentleman had taken up this question upon purer or more philanthropic motives, or with views more conducive to the best interests of the lower classes of his Majesty's subjects than that hon. Member. He was not friendly to a total repeal of the principle, but he had the greatest possible objection to the details of this Bill, many of which were of the most oppressive, tyrannical, and unjust character. He felt himself bound to support the motion of the hon. Member for Berkshire, because, as far as he could judge from reading the evidence, it appeared to him the inquiry had been conducted not in the most impartial spirit, while that stress had not been laid upon those facts which their importance demanded, at all affecting the oppressive character of the law. He spoke strongly on this subject because in the union where he resided he had witnessed scenes from which humanity revolted; he, as an individual, and the whole of his brother magistrates, were utterly powerless, while a system of tyranny was pursued which the law itself never could have contemplated, and was a disgrace to the feelings of Englishmen. Deferring to the views and judgment of the hon. Member for Berkshire, he should support whatever course he thought it expedient upon the present occasion to adopt.

Lord John Russell

wished to say a few words on the question now before the House. He did not think the question which they were now called upon to decide had reference either to the principle or operation of the Poor-law Amendment Act. If it were so, no doubt it would lead to a much longer and more important discussion, and it would be necessary to hear the various Members fully stating their views upon the subject. The hon. Member for Berkshire had made a specific motion with respect to the inquiry now going on, and proposed that in the first place the proceedings of a certain day be reported to the House, and in the second place, that the Committee report their opinion upon the evidence after going through the West Hampnett union. Now, with respect to the first point, he did not think the hon. Member for Berkshire had made out any case for the interference of the House. With respect to the second point, if the instruction that the Committee report their opinion on the evidence after going through the West Hampnett union, had come from an advocate of the law, it would have been argued, looking to the fact that the great majority of the Committee and of the House were favourable to the law, as an improper interference with the proceeding for the purpose of obtaining a premature opinion in favour of the Bill. He was surprised this motion had been brought forward by the hon. Member for Berkshire; it was calculated to prejudice his own view of the case. It would be much better that the Committee should diligently and faithfully go through the whole of the evidence submitted to them as they were doing, before they were called upon to report their opinion to the House. With respect to the course which the Committee had pursued after the honourable testimony of the hon. Member for Finsbury, it was unnecessary for him more particularly to allude to it; because whether or not the hon. Member had ascribed it to its proper cause, he was sure his hon. Friend, the Member for Peterborough (Mr. Fazakerly), would not state any thing to the House which was not founded in the strictest truth, and would not conduct the proceedings of the Committee in any other spirit than that of perfect impartiality. The Committee had hitherto confined their inquiries to only a few unions, which had shown, in a great measure, the operation of the Bill in the agricultural districts. It was now proposed, and he thought it most expedient, that they should go very soon into an investigation with respect to the manufacturing districts and the large towns of the country. That was a subject which required investigation. He for one would be glad to hear the evidence which would be produced upon that point which was in some respects new. The result might be such, with respect to the operations of the Bill in large towns examined by the Committee, as none of them were at present prepared for. He could see no ground for interfering at present with their proceedings; above all, he should oppose the motion of the hon. Member for Berkshire, a motion far from being at all favourable to the peculiar views of that hon. Gentleman, and which called upon the Committee to come to a premature decision, while they were conducting the investigation with greater fairness and greater deliberation than his motion, if successful, would allow.

Mr. Harvey

thought he might venture to offer a suggestion to the House which it would be convenient to follow, and which might be regarded as more opportune at the present moment, inasmuch as the noble Lord (J. Russell) had given notice of his intention, whenever this matter was disposed of, to name a very important Committee on the subject of Church leases. The suggestion was this, that before any Member was appointed on a Committee, he should undergo a craniological investigation by the hon. Member for Finsbury, those only being selected who had all the requisite pretensions to the situation they should be called upon to fill. He was quite willing to subscribe to the accuracy of the lecture on the head of the hon. Chairman of the Committee, courtesy had been the prevailing characteristic of all his proceedings. He wished his hon. Friend (Mr. Wakley) had also examined the head of the hon. Member for Berkshire, for then the cause would in a great degree have been explained—possibly by the extraordinary development of caution or secretiveness why they had not been informed beforehand of the precise nature and objects of his present motion. At the same time he thought this motion both intelligible and useful. It consisted of two parts. The object of the first was that the hon. Member for Berkshire might be allowed to imitate his example by retiring from the Committee; the other was, that the Committee should be called on to report when it had finished the investigation into a union which was one of the three which had absorbed their inquiries during the three months they had been directed to that branch of the subject; Although a great number of petitions had been presented from agricultural unions and counties imploring an inquiry into the operation of the law, the Committee at an early period came to the resolution that after examining into four counties they should proceed into the manufacturing and afterwards into the metropolitan districts. From some cause or other, however, they had relaxed that resolution, and at length they had determined to stop their inquiries into the agricultural branch of the subject with the union now under consideration, and immediately proceed to the town of Bradford. Were the Committee, then, satisfied, upon their inquiries, with the working of the Bill in the agricultural districts, or were they not? If they were, why not report? If they were not, why go to Bradford? This would add to the interminable character of the inquiry, and make it altogether impossible that the Committee could ever arrive at any satisfactory result. They had consumed three months in putting 17,000 questions in the case of three unions, there being upwards of 400, of which three-fourths were agricultural. He had himself presented numerous petitions from Essex and Suffolk, urging an inquiry calling for an investigation into the operation of the law in those districts, and yet no inquiry had been instituted—none was likely to take place. Did they think they could in this way arrive at a practical and satisfactory conclusion? It was all a delusion, not designedly, perhaps., but still a delusion to which he would be no party; after seeing the mode of proceeding in the Committee, he felt that sitting there four hours a-day three days in the week would only tend to strengthen the delusion, and he therefore had retired from it. He should like to know from the Chairman why the Committee proposed to depart from the course which had been originally chalked out. The hon. Member for Finsbury had cogently and appropriately enforced the unjust working of this inquiry as affecting those parties who were undoubtedly most concerned, and least protected. Never before had there been a Committee of that House on any one subject, whether upon agriculture, commerce, the monetary system, or anything else, but there had been the promoters of the inquiry and those protesting against it,—men of capital, interested on either side, and ready to apply all their resources in aid of their particular views. But who were the parties in this instance? Those who were interested in having saved, or who said they should save, 2,000,000l. or 3,000,000l. a-year, out of the aggregate poor-rate and the industrious classes, from whom they took that money. What power, means, or agency, had the poor in that Committee, by which their interests might be protected and suitable evidence produced in their support? He knew very well that the hon. Member for Berkshire, although he might say it was fashionable to taunt him, had spent hundreds, ay, thousands of pounds; but a most unwarrantable impost had been thrown on Mm to bring together the evidence which had to be adduced. How could the hon. Member be expected to accomplish such a task? Every morning that hon. Member received, in common with himself, many more letters than the privilege of the House embraced, from persons in all parts of the country, expressing their opinions, stating facts within their own knowledge, wishing to be examined, but whose veracity they had no means of immediately ascertaining, and which would require a board of clerks with salaries equal to the Board of Commissioners for the purpose of diving into representations from so many quarters, some of them perhaps delusive, many of them exaggerated, but all entitled to examination. On the other aide there sat the organs of that highly-paid board—men obviously shrewd and intelligent, with their secretary and clerks noting down every thing stated, and sending, under the sanction of the board, to persons in the country, with whom they were in constant communication, to ascertain how far the facts stated were true, or could be contradicted by opposing statements. Never was machinery more perfect on one side, never was helplessness so complete on the other. It was therefore at an early stage of this inquiry that he had ventured to intimate to the noble Lord the leader of that House that it was only just some small grant of 200l. or 300l. should be allowed, in order that a suitable clerk might be appointed for the purpose of going into the statements that might be given, and if necessary proceeding to the country, and investigating them on the spot. Accord- ing to the mode in which the Committee were now proceeding, they might sit as long as they pleased, they might go into the inquiry with as much sincerity as was compatible with selfishness, but no good would result from it. Talk about raising the condition of the poor! When was it this refined sentimentality first came into their hearts, and they began to feel an anxiety to raise the poor in the scale of being, and give them that grandeur of character they assumed for themselves? It was not till the landlords at the audit table heard their tenants murmuring on account of the pressure of tithes, of poor-rates, and of rent, in the same breath, that they found their own helplessness, and, under the insulting pretence of an anxiety for the condition of the labouring classes, advocated this Bill, the great object being to protect themselves. This was the result of evidence, and it was curious to observe how, in that Committee, certain members, who were landlords, attempted, by confining their questions to one point, to lead the witness to own that the condition of the farmer was much improved in consequence of the saving which had been effected in the charge for poor-rates. One witness said, he formerly paid 60l. for poor-rates and now he only paid 30l., and therefore he could employ more men than before. But would 30l. off the rent not produce the same result? It appeared that the average wages of a working man was 9s. a-week, and the change it was said had given him an increase of 1s. a-week. But the plain question of arithmetic was this,—a poor man who laboured from morning to night formerly received 9s. from his master and 3s. or 4s. from the parish; how then would the taking away of the 4s. and giving him 1s. instead, add to his comfort? It was in fact taking away from him twenty-five per cent of his income. And although they listened to the hon. Member for Berkshire with indifference, and sanctioned the proceedings of the tyrants of Somerset-house, having no sympathy with the poor, how would they exclaim if a property tax were imposed upon themselves of twenty-five per cent, abstracting from their income 2,500l. out of every 10,000l.? The hon. Member concluded by repeating his conviction that the labours of the Committee, however strenuous and protracted, would end in delusion.

Mr. Sergeant Goulburn

was anxious that his vote on the present occasion should not be misunderstood, and he should confine himself to stating, in few words, the grounds on which it would be given. He was amongst those who felt that the country was deeply indebted to the hon. Member for Berkshire for having instituted an inquiry into this all important subject. He had always insisted that such an inquiry should be a full and fair one, and he there-fore could not consent to vote for a proposition which would compel the Committee to make a report upon evidence incomplete, and before both sides had been heard. Still less would he wish to stop the Committee from prosecuting their investigation just at the moment when it would seem it was about to take the direction of the manufacturing districts? for representing as he (Sergeant Goulburn) did, a large manufacturing town, he was most anxious to have the operation of this most unjust law in such districts as those fully and searchingly probed and discussed. He confidently anticipated that the result of such an inquiry would be to prove many of the details of this Bill to be, in large towns, harsh and unjust, and opposed to the spirit of the constitution, whatever might be supposed to have been its working in purely agricultural districts, where the population was less dense and of different habits and character. He must be allowed to say, that he entirely concurred in the opinion of the learned Member for Southwark, that the poorer classes—those who complained of and suffered by the operation of this Bill—were not adequately represented in the Committee. No sufficient means were afforded to them of bringing their case fully before the Committee. On the one side, and that by far the stronger and most influential, there was every sort of organization and arrangement, every facility afforded to produce and make the most of testimony favourable to those who produced it, whilst on the other, the weaker and destitute class, upon whom the Bill so pressed, no one was at hand to marshal or give effect or arrangement to their evidence. He trusted that the Committee would at all events lend every facility within their power, to the case of the poor when submitted to them, and this he felt assured they would do when they considered the serious character of the inquiry devolved upon them. He must add, that the present moment was one peculiarly fit for extending the inquiry in question into manufacturing towns, since he grieved to say that distress was at this moment sadly prevalent in them, and in consequence the working of this law was the subject of much excitement, which could only be allayed by an impartial and searching investigation which would satisfy the public mind on the one side or the other. In conclusion, the learned Sergeant entreated the hon. Member for Berkshire to withdraw that part at least of his motion which went to compel an immediate report from the Committee on evidence only in part heard before them, and to arrest their progress at the moment they were about to enter upon the most important branch of their inquiry, namely the working of this Bill in the manufacturing districts.

Mr. Walter

would have no hesitation in withdrawing the latter part of his motion, confining it to the production of the ninth day's evidence.

Mr. Villiers

was anxious to say one word with reference to what had fallen from some of the hon. Members who were on the Poor-law Committee. They had implied that the Committee could not conduct its inquiries with any advantage, because there was no adequate means provided for one party to the inquiry, namely, the poor being represented there; and that this arose, as they said, because the Committee had not assented to the proposition that was made, that some person should be appointed for that purpose. This was but a partial statement of what had occurred in the Committee. The question had been deliberately discussed, and those who purported to represent the poor had been asked to suggest any plan by which this object would be effected. And what had they proposed? He thought it was the proposition of the hon. Member for Fins-bury. Why, that a Commission should he appointed; by the Crown to go into the agricultural districts, and there to collect evidence to show the working of the law, and the opinion of the poor on this subject; and that the Home Secretary should recommend the persons who should be appointed, or as it was proposed by another, that the Home Secretary should nominate a person who should attend to the interests of the poor on the Committee. What was immediately said to this proposal? Why, that the present Commissioners were appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the Home Secretary, and that all the evidence on which the Bill proceeded was collected by persons who were named by Commis- sioncrs under the Crown, and that was the reason why they had not the confidence of the public or of the poor. How were the new Commissioners, those proposed, springing from the same authority, to have more weight or influence than the Government by whom they were appointed. And it was on this ground and no other, that this project was resisted. It was then urged in the Committee that the members wished to learn the truth with respect to the working of the Bill, and that they would attend to any suggestions that were made for that purpose; that they would send for any persons or inquire into any matter that would elucidate the truth; and that they were ready to abide by the result. The hon. Member for Berkshire came now with his vote of censure upon that Committee for not acting fairly; but what had he or the hon. Member for Finsbury done to justify the charge that they had made against that Committee? Much had been implied, and much insinuated, but what had been stated or proved? And would it not have been better to have come forward with some distinct charge or statement against some member or members of that Committee who had misconducted themselves, who had acted unfairly, or who had deviated from some rule in the conduct of similar inquiries, than merely to insinuate that the Committee was composed of a few of the exclusive friends and many of the exclusive enemies of the poor. He sat in that Committee to inquire into the truth, and cared not what was the result; and let any man bring forward his charge openly and manfully against him, if he had reason to complain of him, but do not let him insinuate that he is not as friendly to the poor as any who pretend exclusively to that merit. If anything is to be alleged against the Committee, it was what was stated by the hon. Member for Southwark, namely, that they could not constitute out of this House a Committee that would do real justice to the subject of the inquiry, because there were not hon. Members who were sufficiently acquainted with the interests and circumstances of the poor to understand the conduct of such an inquiry. This was intelligible; but this was not an attack on the Committee, but a complaint against the constitution of this House. The hon. Member means that there are not hon. Members here who really understand or represent the interests of the working classes, and he honestly points to the remedy for this evil, in extending the means to the people of having their representatives in this House. His remedy is the extension of the suffrage. He would give the working classes generally the franchise; and then, when they were really represented in this House, there would be hon. Members who would be ready to serve on Committees who understood and were ready to promote their interests, and who would require no Commissions, or no paid agents, nominated by the Crown, to support them. Now, when this was the obvious remedy for the evil for which the hon. Member for Berkshire complained, if there were ground for his complaint, let the people know with what sincerity he and the hon. Member for Durham pleaded the cause of the poor by the declarations they made tonight of their readiness to extend the suffrage, and thereby give the people the power to right themselves. This will be the test, then, of their sincerity. They condemn the conduct of Committees, and the hostile feeling of this House to the poor, who have not the franchise. Are they, or are they not, then ready to extend the franchise? Let them state this distinctly to-night, and let every man ask them, when they appear on the hustings with the Poor-laws in their mouth, what are their views on this question; and let the people judge them by their answer. Unless the hon. Member for Berkshire was prepared to advocate the extension of the suffrage, he could hardly surmise why he proposed now to retire from the Committee; unless, indeed, he (Mr. Villiers) was to follow his example, and impute motives to him which he could not prove; and suppose that he retired from the Committee because he was about to face his constituency, who were, as an agricultural body, favourable to the Bill, and dissatisfied with the course that he had pursued during the inquiry, he was as much justified in imputing to him that object as he had been in imputing to him (Mr. Villiers) an undue bias in favour of the new law, because he had collected evidence of the working of the old law, and he thought that the hon. Member for Berkshire had no right to impute to any Member of the Committee that he was not as desirous of doing his duty, or eliciting the truth without prejudice, as himself: for certainly he was as open to have his motives suspected as any man.

The House divided on the original motion: Ayes 119; Noes 30: Majority 89.

List of the AYES.
Adam, Sir C. Lister, E. C.
Angerstein, John Macleod, R.
Anson, Colonel Mactaggart, J.
Baines, Edward Mangles, J.
Barclay, D. Marshall, William
Baring, Francis T. Marsland, Henry
Beckett, Sir J. Marsland, T.
Bentinck, Lord W. Martin, J.
Beresford, Sir J. P. Melgund, Viscount
Berkeley, hon. F. Miles, W.
Bernal, R. Murray, J. A.
Bewes, T. Musgrave, Sir R.
Bowes, John O'Conor, Don
Bowring, Dr. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Brabazon, Sir W. Palmerston, Viscount
Brady, D. C. Parker, J.
Bridgman, H. Parnell, Sir H.
Brodie, W. B. Parrott, J.
Buller, Sir J. B. Yarde Parry, Sir L. P.
Bulwer, E. L. Philips, G. R.
Byng, G. S. Ponsonby, hon. J.
Clements, Viscount Potter, R.
Clive, Edw. Bolton Poulter, John Sayer
Codrington, Sir E. Price, Sir Robert
Collier, John Pryme, George
Cripps, Joseph Pusey, P.
Crompton, Samuel Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Denistoun, Alex. Rickford, W.
Dennistoun, John Robinson, G. R.
Dillwyn, L. W. Roche, W.
Dobbin, L. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Donkin, Sir R. S. Rundle, John
Duffield, Thomas Rushbrooke, Colonel
Dugdale, W. S. Russell, Lord John
Elphinstone, H. Sanford, E. A.
Estcourt, T. Scourfield, W. H.
Evans, George Sharpe, General
Fazakerley, J. N. Sheppard, Thomas
Fergus, John Smith, B.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Smyth, Sir H., bt.
Fergusson, R. C. Stuart, Lord J.
Folkes, Sir W. Stuart, V.
Fremantle, Sir T. Strutt, E.
Gordon, R. Tancred, H. W.
Goulburn, H. Thornley, T.
Graham, Sir J. Trelawny, Sir W.
Grey, Sir G. Troubridge, Sir T.
Gully, John Tulk, C. A.
Harland, W. Charles Turner, W.
Hastie, A. Verney, Sir H.
Hawkins, J. H. Vigors, N. A.
Hay, Sir And. Leith Walker, C. A.
Hillsborough, Earl of Wallace, Robert
Hobhouse, Sir J. C. Ward, Hen. George
Howick, Viscount Wilbraham, G.
Hutt, W. Williamson, Sir H.
James, William Wood, Charles
Knatchbull, Sir E. Wrottesley, Sir J.
Lambton, Hedworth TELLERS.
Lefevre, Charles S. Maule, hon. F.
Lennox, Lord G. Steuart, R.
List of the NOES.
Borthwick, Peter Hume, J.
Brocklehurst, J. Humphery, John
Brotherton, J. O'Brien, W. S.
Chichester, A. Pelham, John C.
Duncombe, T. Somerset, Lord G.
Fector, John Minet Thomas, Colonel
Fenton, John Thompson, Colonel
Fitzroy, H. Trevor, hon. A.
Forbes, Wm. Villiers, Charles P.
Goulburn, Sergeant Wakley, T.
Grote, G. Whalley, Sir S.
Guest, J. Williams, W.
Harvey, D. W. Young, G. F.
Hawes, B.
Hinde, J. H. TELLERS.
Hindley, C. Walter, J.
Hodges, T. L. Fielden, J.

The House went into a Committee of Supply. The Ordnance estimates were agreed to, and the House resumed.