HC Deb 20 June 1842 vol 64 cc233-71

Order of the Day that the House go into committee upon the Poor-law Amendment Act read.

On the question that the Speaker do now leave the chair,

Colonel Sibthorp

rose to oppose the motion. When the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had made his proposition to the Legislature that the commission should be continued for five years, he confessed he had been surprised, and had thought that it would have been more candid and more manly in the right hon. Baronet to have at once announced that it was his intention the commission and the bill should be continued indefinitely, and rendered perpetual. There was no room now to mistake the right hon. Baronet's intentions, and he could not avoid expressing his strong objections to this insidious mode of attempting to render the commission a constant burden on the country. There had been two reports of the expenses incidental to this commission laid on the Table, one in 1840 and 1841, another in 1841 and 1842. Still the House was in considerable doubt as to the actual expense of the central commission at Somerset House, which he deprecated as arbitrary, despotic, and wholly useless. The total expense of the new system had, with little variation, gone on continually increasing, notwithstanding the pledges given to the contrary at the first introduction of this highly objectionable plan of providing for the wants of the poor. In the year 1834 the total expense was 628l. only; in 1835, it suddenly rose to 25,832l.; in 1836, to 39,340l.; in 1837, to 53,176l.; in 1838, it fell to 51,521l.; in 1839, to 47,712l.; in 1840, it was reduced to 41,834l.; and it might be fair in argument to assume that if the two last years' expenses did not exceed that of 1841, the lowest of the later years, the whole affair had created an expense to the country of 641,396l. The commission was not now necessary in order to instruct the guardians and lay down rules for their conduct. The rules and orders had been sufficiently numerous to apply to all cases. When the new exercise and field manœuvres had been introduced in the army, an establishment was formed for teaching soldiers in London; and certain officers and soldiers were sent up to be instructed and drilled, who, when perfectly acquainted with the system, returned to their quarters, and taught the several regiments and detachments of the whole army throughout the kingdom. But as soon as their business was concluded the central establishment was broken up, and the whole expense saved to the nation. So it should be with respect to these central and other commissioners, who had already cost the country enough, and whose services could well be spared. As he saw it was clearly the intention of Government to entail the system upon this already-burdened country for an indefinite period, he should, to give effect, as far as lay in his power, to the general expression of dissatisfaction throughout the country, oppose their going into committee upon the bill, and move, as an amendment, that the Speaker leave the Chair, and the House resolve itself into committee upon the bill that day three months.


seconded the motion. His dislike to the Poor-law Amendment Bill had increased with its age. The more he saw of it the more inveterate was his hatred to this cruel and inhuman system. Nor were his original objections to it decreased by finding that the offspring of the Whigs had been taken up and fostered by the Tory party upon coming into power. This singular but notorious fact had a tendency to throw discredit upon the conduct and actions of Governments generally, as well as upon their assurances. The Whigs had rendered themselves sufficiently execrable in the eyes of the nation by its introduction, to have warned their successors against its adoption. The hon. and gallant Colonel had made special and individual reference to the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department. He knew the gallant Colonel was sincere in his opposition to this bill; but he must not consider that he could make a scape-goat of the right hon. Baronet— that right hon. Gentleman exhibited no inconsistency in his advocacy of the bill; the hon. and gallant Colonel, therefore, must not speak of the measure as the bill of the right hon. Baronet, when it was, in fact, the measure of the great Tory party— of that party which, when out of power, was almost unanimously loud and vociferous in its condemnation of the bill. Now there were exceptions certainly, the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government was an exception. That right hon. Gentleman had always been the consistent advocate of the Poor-law Act. There was then no inconsistency about that right hon. Baronet, and the same remark applied, in a still stronger degree, to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department, who had been a member of the Government of Lord Grey, with whom the act originated. That right hon. Baronet was one of the parties by whom the original bill was brought forward and defended, and he had always been its consistent advocate, and he now introduced the measure as a Member of the present Government. The bill was now, in fact, the measure of the Tory party and of the Tory Government, and it was most unfair to single out the right hon.

Baronet (Sir James Graham) as the only author of the bill, and as its only foster father in that House. But how would that Tory party, who had been so loud in their denunciations of the existing Poor-law when in opposition, stand with the people of the country—when they were now found to be the advocates of a measure equally obnoxious and detestable, and equally destructive of all the principles of self-government in the country, in reference to the administration of a Poor-law, as that which had been the subject of their condemnation? He entertained the same objections to the principle of this Poor-law as he had ever done; and his animosity was in no degree abated because it was brought forward by the Tory party. The question now before the House was as to whether the Speaker should leave the Chair; but the hon. and gallant Colonel had raised an incidental discussion upon that motion. He did not complain of that, for he was one of those who thought it most desirable that every possible obstacle should be thrown in the way of the progress of the bill, and of the discussion of its detail; and he went so far as to hold, that those who were like him decidedly hostile to its principles and were cognisant of its highly objectionable and unconstitutional nature, should undergo some perils and incur some responsibility before they permitted it to go further. He regretted much the vote to which the House came on Friday last! and he was sorry that he had not been able to remain in the House to state his opinions and record his vote against the second reading of the bill. He believed that this Poor-law was sowing the seeds of revolution in this country; and that a measure fraught with greater danger to the institutions of the country had never been devised or discussed. They were passing in this measure a coercive bill against all the labouring poor of England —and in his mind there was something truly startling and alarming in the vote by which the House had confirmed the second reading. There was something in that vote which lie, for one, could not comprehend, and by which they had decided by a majority of five to one, or nearly so, in favour of the bill. The electors at least knew it to be a most tyrannical, unconstitutional, and in every way a most detestable measure—still he found that they had returned to that House men who supported it in all its tyranny. There was in this something to him quite incomprehensible—something which he confessed he could not understand. How was it? Was there such a thing as a secret compact and alliance entered into between the voter and the representative against the poor? Was it the understanding that the poor should be oppressed as a matter of economy, and to save the pockets of the middle classes who were the voters? He could not but feel that there must be at least something like an implied compact of this nature, or else how could he account for the votes given in that House by those who should represent the opinions and feelings of their constituents? Hon. Gentlemen must think that they were serving the interest of the voters at the expense of the poorer classes, or they would not vote as they had done in reference to a measure of this character. The result of such a course, at the present moment especially, could not but be dangerous to the peace of the country. Were they prepared, in the present state of the country—the people starving from one end of it to the other—to say that the poor man should be coerced because he was poor? Was that the announcement they made to the poor of this country? And if so, had they considered what would be the effect of such an announcement at this time, when the distress was almost unequalled, extending to every district and to every class of labourers? He asserted that this measure was an outrage upon the public feeling of the country. They had created under this law a new institution and a new power unknown to the constitution of this country. They had given a power to the commissioners sitting at Somerset House which Parliament did not possess. And for what purpose? Not to protect the poor, but to coerce them and to grind them down to the dust. Now what was the invariable conduct of those Poor-law commissioners whenever a charge was made against any board of guardians or any of their officers? Did they protect the poor? No, their whole machinery was put in motion to protect their inculpated officer. Seeing, then, how the Poor-law commissioners have acted, I, for one, the hon. Member proceeded, am not for continuing them one day. My conviction is, they ought not to be continued one hour. Their powers determine on the 31st of July; and if I could I would prolong the discussion on this measure until after that day. If I could devise any plan or had physical strength to do it, nothing should deter me from pressing division after division until after the 31st of July, in order to get rid of that abominable institution. I speak not of the persons who compose that commission. I make no attack against them as men; I speak only of the institution itself, and to that I give my most determined and decided condemnation. We have statements from every part of the country as to the working of the Poor-law commission; but what have we of a satisfactory nature! Have you petitioners praying that the commission may be continued? and if you have, what are the allegations in the petition in support of the prayer? I have seen no such petition this Session; but I hear on all hands that there is no necessity for the continuance of the commission if you would enact a good Poor-law. That I assert. Now, if you can legislate for your own property, for your own private and individual interests, for all the great powers in this country, and all the interests of the people, why cannot you legislate for the poor, and why put the poor in commission? You put the poor without the pale of the law, for you are giving them up to be tortured at the leisure of the paid commission of Somerset-house. Yes, I say tortured; because the object of some was to hold out the workhouse as an instrument of torture to prevent them from applying for relief. There might be a benevolent object behind; for I heard it repeatedly stated in this House that the first object of the law was to raise the wages of the working man. But has your law done it? Has it not in that respect totally failed? A poor hungry man would not have a long time for considering: his children crying for food—his wife in a state of destitution. He must take one of the two. He must choose between low wages or go to gaol. But then the commissioners inform us they have a discretionary power, and that they can regulate their orders to suit the locality, and the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department, the other night discovered that that was the thing they were called upon to do. Why, I always understood you had a central commission to have an uniformity of system of practice? But; "No," said the right, hon. Baronet, "we have discovered that it is better to have a diversity of prac- tice, and that commissioners should issue their orders according to the unions in which their labours are to be employed." It was said that the primary object of the law was to raise wages, and to throw the burden on the rate-payers if they did not give good wages. What had the commissioners done on that subject? We find the dietary lowered when wages are low-and raised when wages are high. Now, if the Poor-law commissioners had known their duty to their country—if they had been competent to discharge the great duties laid upon them, they would have adopted a directly contrary rule—they would have caused a liberal diet to be given when the people were starved on a low diet by low wages, and the contrary when wages were high, and men ought to be provident. In the city of London, where the wages vary from 8s. to 40s. a-week, what has been the dietary? I will begin with bread, and I will take Cirencester as the type of a rural union:—

In London bread 112 oz.
Cirencester bread 98 oz.
London beef or mutton 21 oz.
Cirencester bacon 5 oz.
London vegetables 2lbs.
Cirencester potatoes 6 lbs.
London soup 4 pints
Cirencester soup 2 pints
London cheese 14 oz.
Cirencester cheese 7 oz.
London milk porridge 10¼pints
Cirencester gruel 7pints
London suet pudding 16 oz.
Cirencester none, and no equivalent
London beer 11 pints
Cirencester none, and no equivalent
Tea, sugar, butter, and various other articles, allowed in London—in the country unions nothing of the kind. Now, do you consider that that commission has discharged its duty to the public, and the obligation imposed on it by this House, in causing such a variation as that? But what do the commissioners themselves say? Now, remark what I have to say with reference to their dietaries. What do the commissioners allege in their last report? They say— The administration of the Poor-law, as it existed immediately before the passing of the Poor-law Amendment Act, was characterized by its causeless diversity; different systems of management were often followed in parishes whose circumstances were perfectly similar, and which were even in the same neighbourhood. It was mainly for the purpose of extinguishing these causeless diversities that the administration of the Poor-laws was placed by Parliament under the control of a central authority. To be sure—to establish uniformity. Uniformity with regard to diet—twenty-one ounces of meat in one place and five in another! And observe the extremely low dietary system for starvation pursued in that union in the neighbourhood of which wages were so low that a man could hardly subsist on them. Is that the way to raise wages? I ask the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department if he can vindicate this? I ask the House if they can say one word in favour of this? And where does this come from? From the commission at Somerset House—that commission which you are now proceeding to renew for five or six years—in fact with the view of its becoming perpetual: for that is the object the Government have in view. I believe that will not be denied. I believe that the right hon. Baronet will not deny that that is the object of the Government. But then the report goes on to say— But while Parliament placed the control of the Poor-laws in a central authority for the purpose of preventing diversities of management where circumstances are similar, it gave to that central authority a discretionary power which enabled it to establish a diversity of management where the circumstances are different. Why, we admit the difference of circumstances; but is their continuation of it a sound one? Is that the policy which this House is prepared to pursue with reference to the Poor-law? Are you prepared to say to the guardians, "Take care you don't make the dietary in the workhouse better than it is in the cottage." So that if the people are starving in one place, you are determined they shall starve in the other. Is that the system the Government of this country is prepared to pursue? But if not, it is what the commissioners are doing. I charge them with it. I have here their documents, records, and reports, and I say nothing can be more clear to the mind of any man to whom it is submitted. Is that, then, I ask, what you are prepared to do? If not, why renew the powers of that act after they have so abused it? Why give them powers so opposed to the principles of justice? A low diet when there are low wages! Good God! was ever anything more monstrous? Was ever anything so absurd? We are told some- times by the advocates of this measure, that the great primary object, the political object of it, was to raise wages, and make the labourer of England an independent man. Rare independence this! The independence of seven pints of gruel, and five ounces of animal food where wages are low, and where they are three times as high, three times as much! But what is the allegation of the commissioners? I am now reading what is the whole pith and marrow of the question with respect to their appointment. If a uniform system of Poor-law management were applicable to the entire country, or if the exceptions which must be made to that uniform system could be laid down with precision, there would be no need of a discretionary power in any subordinate authority,"— calling their own authority in this respect subordinate. Then, are we so ignorant, so utterly incapable of legislating for the poor of this country, that after the years and centuries of experience that we have had, we are not able to lay down some provision that should meet any variations that may occur in the administration of the Poor-law? Why, then, give up your functions at once. Let us acknowledge ourselves as imbecile, not capable to legislate for the English community. That is our object, and if we cannot do it, we ought to resign our seats in this assembly, and declare that we are utterly incompetent to legislate for those who sent us here. Having made that declaration to which I have alluded, the commissioners go on to say, that they do everything that is right in particular cases; so that in Somerset-house you are to have a body to suit their rules in conformity with the checkered and varied occurrences that arise in different localities; but persons living in those districts, knowing the poor, their merits and demerits, and competent to go into every question as to the Poor-law, are not allowed to exercise any discretionary power. That power is to be exercised alone by agents of the Government. I say, that there is something so utterly repugnant to common sense in this, that every one ought to rise at once against such tyrannical abuses. I do hope the House will return to its sense of duty with reference to the poor. I implore it to take into its consideration the language that has been addressed to it on this subject. But I am afraid it will be deaf to every voice that can be raised from one extremity of the kingdom to another. The poor are not so insensible to what is going on. They know the object of your law: they know that the object of it is to save the money of the rate-payer. Does any body deny it? You have raised a court of appeal in Somerset-house, where the poor man cannot go. You have raised a court of appeal for the board of guardians, but where is your court of appeal for the poor man? If the guardians refuse relief, to whom can he apply? The magistrates can give him none. Much as I condemned the conduct of the magistrates under the old law, I say, that the rate-payers were much better off then than they are now. In the first place, the poor man complains to the relieving officer, miles and miles distant from the board of guardians; then he is told, that he can have no relief, but he can go and see the board; he does see the board, and the representative of his parish says, "I believe it to be a deserving case, and I must vote for it;" and so he does, well knowing all the time that the majority will vote against him. Why is not the matter left really to the discretion of the guardians? I ask again, where is your appeal for the poor man? When any Member of the Government condescends to speak, I hope he will tell me where this appeal is? I ask it decidedly and distinctly. The guardians have their court of appeal. Where are the poor to go? The whole question is determined— by whom? By the rate-payers? No. There is not a single person to whom a poor pauper can apply for justice and redress. And this is the law, forsooth, which you substitute for the act of Elizabeth. This very law you Conservative Gentlemen condemned upon the hustings throughout England. Now you have your party in power, and among them a Whig Minister, who, with the concurrence and support of his Colleagues, brings forward a bill maintaining, upholding, and extending the principles which you professed to oppose. Do you expect that supporting this measure you will preserve your popularity with the people? Do you hope to have their greetings when next you meet them? I should like to hear those greetings. I do not think they will be at all musical to your ears. And they ought not to be. In consequence of bringing forward this New Poor-law, the Whigs became detested by the people, and justly so. They were deposed be- cause the moment they came into power they kicked away the ladder that had raised them. The masses of the people they immediately oppressed and injured. And now you are going to imitate their example. ["No, no."] Yes! You were glad enough to take advantage of their iniquities to get yourselves into place; you will not keep it long. Before this day twelve months, in consequence of what has happened in this House, there will be addresses from all parts of England, from all who have common sense or feeling, praying for the dissolution of the present Parliament. In the unions which the commissioners have formed, various are the complaints, numerous the allegations, as to the defective working of the system; and I ask the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department, and his Colleagues, whether there are any provisions in this bill to meet the objections that have been started in so many quarters? The other night the right hon. Baronet alluded in very benevolent terms to the large extent of many of the unions, and to his proposal of local boards—of district commissioners. Why, what are their functions to be? It is a mere mockery. The right hon. Baronet may not have meant it so; but so it is. The functions of this boasted board are to consist in transmitting reports to the guardians, who are to send them to the commissioners; and what in the interval are the poor to do? Why, to starve! Why did not the right hon. Baronet propose that the guardians should have the power of dissolving the unions which were too extensive, and of dividing them into more convenient and more manageable districts? Is there any such clause in this bill? No. Nay, there is no such power given even to the commissioners. Notwithstanding that the right hon. Baronet knows well all that passed in the committee—although he knows the tortures which the poor have undergone from the Poor-law administration—he has made no suggestion as to vesting even in the commissioners the power of dividing unions, however unmanageable in size. Yet it is notorious that many of the existing unions are twelve, fourteen, sixteen, eighteen, twenty—nay, positively upwards of twenty miles in extent I If the right hon. Baronet be really desirous of mitigating the asperities of the law, why not give those powers which might be usefully and beneficially exercised. [The hon. Member quoted, at some length, petitions from Almondbury and Dept-ford, complaining of the disadvantages of large unions; and then continued.] Again, there is a similar petition from Kensington—from that enormous union, in which nothing but dissatisfaction has occurred since the establishment of it—a union, including Chelsea, Fulham, Hammersmith, nay, positively, Paddington. I suppose to give the poor paupers the pleasure of a stroll across the parks and the gardens. The commissioners have had, indeed, a great deal of correspondence with the guardians on the subject; they have been in a pretty deal of hot water together. No wonder. Chelsea, a vast district of itself, with some 40,000 inhabitants, was included in the union, and Chelsea was accordingly disquieted thereat, and in consequence of application made to the House, a new act was passed, enabling that parish to separate itself from the union, which it accordingly did; and now Kensington wishes to belong no longer to the union. But their high mightinesses the commissioners will not entertain the question; and I believe they would not permit Parliament to entertain it—at least, I am sure, that if they were to forbid our entertaining it, we should obey them. [The hon. Member quoted a petition from Kensington, complaining of the size of the union.] Now, we talk in this House a good deal of our desire to protect the liberties of the people, and of our regard for popular rights; and when the late Ministers, or at least their predecessors, the Ministry of Earl Grey, were in office, we were given to imagine, that never more was such a thing to be heard of in this country as the invasion of popular rights. But one of the very first things they did was, to deprive the ratepayers of the opportunity of applying their own funds to the relief of their own poor. [" Hear, hear."] Why, of course, the very name of reform became disgusting in the ears of the people, [" Hear, hear."] To be sure it did. It was not what they expected. They were completely deceived. They had been led to anticipate totally different results. Small blame to the people for that. They had a right to believe that the party which had made such strong declarations as to love of liberty and desire to protect popular rights, —were not wholly disentitled to credit. The people were certainly justified in trusting them, though they were soon cruelly deserted, deceived, and betrayed. But having been once betrayed, the people showed their sense by trusting them no more. I am afraid they have not shown equally good sense in trusting some other parties. It is to be hoped, however, that by-and-by they will try some others. Now, I wish to hear distinctly the ground on which the continuation of this commission is rested. I am anxious to have a decided, plain, unequivocal answer on that point, first, we were told that it was uniformity of practice that was desirable. Secondly, we were told that it was diversity of practice. Now, which of the two are we to believe in or to hope for? Which are we to have in the future? You have actually given power to the commissioners of repealing at their pleasure acts of Parliament. Good God! can anything be more monstrous than to give to these men the power of suspending acts of Parliament? Were a salutary discretion to be exercised by the guardians, and a salutary control over them by the ratepayers, the poor would have some chance of justice. It is a serious thing, and worthy of observation, that whenever juries sat upon the bodies of persons who have died from (imputed) neglect, these high and mighty potentates send down subsequently their own agents, put into action their own little engines of "inquiry," in order, if possible, to falsify the verdicts of juries, and to cast imputations on the character of men who have faithfully discharged their duty according to the obligation of their oaths, and by way of recompense are insulted with virtual insinuations of perjury from men whom they pay. And here I must say, that though I have no complaint at all to make against Sir Edmund Head, believing him to be a most estimable gentleman, I yet regret, that considering what was said as to medical relief, the inquiry that was instituted, the allegations that were made, the abuses that were proved, the gross defects known to exist—I do regret, that considering the great estimation in which Dr. Kay is held by the Government—I regret that he was not appointed to fill up the vacancy which Sir Edmund was selected to supply: it was the prayer of the profession (who have the highest opinion of Dr. Kay): and it would have really resulted most materially in benefit to the poor. Now, the right hon. Baronet knows very well the whole extent of the inquiry into medical relief. But what find we in the bill on the question? The committee recommended a diminution in the size of the unions. Is there anything in the bill on that subject? Not a word! Further, as to medical relief itself, let us see what sport can be made of acts of Parliament. There are some new orders to come into operation in March, containing of course some new points of improvement; the Only wonder is how dull the commissioners must have been to have required such a hammering at them, in order to make them appreciate the absurdity of the previous regulations; but let us remark the principle they here adopt — a perfectly novel, a somewhat startling one —one which I never heard of in any business, trade, or profession, and of which I doubt very much the wisdom or the propriety. It is well known that medical attendants have been much underpaid; at the rate in some cases of 1d. or of 2d., in others, at 3d. or 6d., in a few instances as high as 1s. 3d. per case! Everybody knows that under such a system the poor must grievously suffer. The commissioners have certainly abolished the contract system— that most objectionable, reprehensible, obnoxious system which Sir A. Cooper before our committee so signally denounced. But I will read one or two of the new regulations, and leave the House to judge how far they ought to be adopted. Let hon. Gentlemen judge how far they would like their dogs or horses to be under such a system. The House will hear how cases are dealt with of the utmost delicacy and of the greatest danger:— RATES OF PAYMENT IN SURGICAL AND MIDWIFERY CASES. Art. 10. No salary of any district medical officer, or contract made by any board of guardians with a district medical officer, shall include the remuneration for the operations and services of the following classes performed by such medical officer in that capacity for any out-door pauper, but such operations and service shall be paid for by the board of guardians, according to the rules specified in this article:—
£. s. d.
1. Amputation of leg, arm, foot, or hand 5 0 0
2. The operation for strangulated hernia 5 0 0
3. The operation of trephining for fractured skull 5 0 0
4. Treatment of compound fractures of the thigh 5 0 0
5. Treatment of compound fractures or compound dislocations of the leg 5 0 0
6. Treatment of simple fractures simple dislocations of the thigh or leg 3 0 0
7. Treatment of dislocations or fractures of the arm 1 0 0
The' above rates to include the payment for the supply of all kinds of apparatus and splints. Provided that in every such case the patient survives the operation not less than thirty-six hours, and that he has required and has received several attendances after the operation by the medical officer who has performed the same. Provided also, that except in cases of sudden accident immediately threatening life, no medical officer shall be entitled to receive such remuneration for any amputation or for the operation of trephining, unless he shall before performing such amputation or operation have obtained at his own cost the advice of some member of the Royal College of Surgeons of London, or some fellow or licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of London, and shall produce to the board of guardians a certificate from such member of the Royal College of Surgeons, or such fellows or licentiate, stating that in his opinion it was right and proper that such amputation or operation should be then performed. The House would observe, that these regulations contained a provision to the effect that the remuneration should not be payable to the medical officer if the patient did not survive the operation for a period of at least six and thirty hours. Now, if the injury were severe, and that the chances were against the patient's living, the medical officer might possibly come to the conclusion that the operation had better not be performed; for if the patient underwent the operation and lived for a period short of the thirty-six hours, his trouble would all have been incurred for nothing. Hon. Members might think all this extraordinary, but he would ask, was he not discharging his duty in calling the attention of the House to the probable effects of these regulations? Was he not discharging his duty in exposing the tendency of these rules, when the House was called upon to pass a bill for renewing the commission? One of the provisos, to which he should again call attention, appeared to him to involve a monstrous, a most cruel, and most wretched principle. It was in these words:— Provided also, that except in cases of sud-den accident immediately threatening life, no medical officer shall be entitled to receive such remuneration for any amputation, or for the operation of trephining, unless he shall, before performing such amputation or operation, have obtained, at his own cost, the advice of some member of the Royal College of Surgeons of London, or some fellow or licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of London, and shall produce to the board of guardians a certificate from such member of the Royal College of Surgeons, or such fellow or licentiate, stating that in his opinion it was right and proper that such amputation or operation should be performed. This he read from the last medical order issued by the commissioners. With respect to the amount of remuneration to the medical officers, it was admitted that that remuneration was insufficient, and he believed no one would contend that the public could expect to have the duties of medical practitioners well performed if they were inadequately rewarded. But now he came to the distinctions sought to be established between the several classes of cases. Why specify payments as to obvious and evident ailments, of which people in general could observe the symptoms, the progress, and the development, and be not altogether ignorant of the usual modes of treatment? Why were the commissioners full and explicit on one, and why so remarkably silent on another class of ailments? why enlarge so freely on that which was palpable, and take no notice of those diseases the attendance on which made so large a demand upon the time and the skill of the medical man? He really felt almost afraid, to describe in the. terms which he ought the tendencies of these regulations. Let the House only reflect for a moment on the number of chronic diseases to which the poor man was subject—diseases of the lungs and of the intestines; those were diseases which required twenty times more time, care, and skill, than any class of ailments which the commissioners so carefully specified. Those of which the public see nothing and understand nothing were swamped. Cases on which neglect or want of skill might produce the most serious effects were not made the subject of any special provisions, the commissioners confining themselves to fractures, wounds, and dislocations. To him it appeared that the people on the spot were the only persons who had any means of forming a judgment as to the manner in which medical officers discharged their duties; and for that reason he should say, that the matter ought to be left, as much as possible, in the hands of the boards of guardians, rather than be confided to the hands of the commissioners sitting at Somerset-house. He should not be afraid to trust the rate-payers with the management of that which so nearly concerned them. When the bill then before the House passed into a law, those who were concerned in passing it could no longer speak of the respect which they entertained for the people—a respect which they practically denied on every occasion. If they could confide in the common feelings of humanity, they might trust to the board of guardians; if not, they were bound to devise such legislative provisions as would meet the emergency; and if they were not able to devise those, they were unfit to hold their places in that House. If they could not frame such a law, they ought to renounce their functions at once. On these grounds he should support the amendment, in the earnest hope that the opposition which had been raised against the bill would have the effect of preventing the re-appointment of the commissioners.

Viscount Courtenay

would give his cordial support to the measure, for he considered that the continuance of the commission was essential to the working of the Poor-law. It must be obvious to every Member of that House, that the main question before them was, whether the continuance of the commission was essential to the sound principles upon which the Poor-law rested. He should support this bill, because he thought its effect would be to put an end to the system of indiscriminate relief which existed under the old law; and he should also support it because he believed, that in the discharge of their difficult duties, the commissioners had exercised the power entrusted to them in a manner that demanded the public gratitude, and he must say, that in the whole of their conduct he saw evidence of anxious and successful exertions to improve the condition and character of the poor of this country. Every one must admit, that the present was a vast improvement on the gross abuses of the old system, Much had been said of the dietary system under the new law, but hon. Members seemed to lose sight of the fact, that the main object of the present measure was to promote industry, to superinduce provident habits, and not to hold out any temptations to entering the workhouse—those were the objects in view, and those were objects which he was disposed to support; and he had that night heard nothing which could lead him to an opposite conclusion. The House must, of course, be quite aware, that the object was not to save the money of the rate-payers, but to restore that habitual independence which under the old system was passing rapidly away. An hon. Gentleman on the other side had said it was essential to the welfare of the poor, as well as due to the respectability of the medical profession, that medical officers should be adequately remunerated. In that he fully concurred, but he thought on the whole, that the House would agree with him when he said, that the existing system of medical relief was based upon sound principles, and though differing from several hon. Members in that House, and even from some of his own constituents, he still should give his cordial support to the measure.


admitted, that some of the abuses imputed to the old Poor-law were not without foundation. He thought it was the duty of all who, by property or otherwise, were connected with particular districts to reside within them, and to pay some attention to the administration of the Poor-law. When it was proposed to introduce the law in his part of the country, he protested against it, nor was he now prepared to vote for the harsher provisions of the bill, for he thought they could not fail to be productive of distress and dissatisfaction to the whole body of the community. With respect to the Poor-law commissioners, he was of the same opinion as a noble Lord (Lord G. Somerset), who had declared, that the present unpopularity of the Poor-laws was mainly attributable to the manner in which they were carried into effect under the orders of the commissioners, who seemed to consider themselves infallible, and judge any who ventured to differ from them as arrogant and presumptuous.

Sir R. Peel:

Sir, I regret that hon. Gentlemen have considered it to be their duty to renew, upon the present occasion, a discussion which more properly belongs to the second reading of a bill; but as that discussion has been commenced, I should be sorry that it should terminate without my having an opportunity of expressing very briefly my opinion upon this question. The hon. Member for Finsbury has stated, and I think very justly, that Gentlemen ought not to throw the responsibility of this measure singly on that Minister by whom it was introduced, and there can be no doubt, that there has been a tendency upon the part of some hon. Gentlemen to make my right hon. Friend, the Secretary for the Home Department, peculiarly and personally responsible for this measure; but I say, that the responsibility does not singly and personally press upon him. This measure is the measure of her Majesty's Government—the measure of a Government concurring in opinion upon this subject, and believing that it is for the public interest—that it is for the permanent welfare of the industrious classes, and for the permanent welfare of the paupers of this country also—that this measure should remain in force; and, moreover, being of opinion, that there have not been any circumstances since the alteration of the law to show that it would be wise to dispense with the present Poor-law Act. My right hon. Friend was in office when this measure was proposed, but I was not in the Government then. I was opposed generally to that Government which introduced the measure, but I gave my support to its introduction from a deep sense of the gross evils which had been engendered by the old system of Poor-laws: and my opinion has been uniformly since that period the same—namely, that it is impossible to revert without danger to the old system. And when I heard the speech of the hon. Member for Finsbury, I thought that one might have easily inferred from it, that the New Poor-law had deprived the poor of some great advantages which they enjoyed under the old system; and that everything had been perfect under that system; that their situation was comfortable, that the superintendents over them were honest and vigilant, and that there were no abuses nor peculations. There are many Gentlemen in this Houss who have entered public life since the abuses of the old system were developed, who are apt to form their judgment of the alleged defects of the new system without being aware of the evils of the old one, and it is therefore absolutely necessary that they should be reminded of them. The argument of the hon. Member for Finsbury is this—that the poor were happy under the administration of the old law, and that you ought to place confidence in the people of England and in the rate-payers and the persons who are living in the various localities in which paupers are found, and that you may safely entrust the care and management of the poor to them. That is his argument. Now, it is absolutely necessary that I should state to the House some facts with regard to the treatment of the poor under the old system. What is the argument of the hon. Member for Finsbury? That the superintending authority of the Poor-law commissioners is not necessary, because we may trust to the local authorities, and to parties resident upon the spots where paupers are found. That is his argument. Well, but the old Poor-law trusted, and it operated in small districts under the guidance of parties who were cognizant of the condition of the poor; and how did they act? First of all, I will give a general account of workhouses under the old law, as furnished, not by the present Poor-law commissioners, but by such men as the Bishop of Chester, the Bishop of London, and others. I quote from a report of the commission of inquiry into the general operation of the old system in respect of workhouses:—

Even the parishes which are somewhat more populous, those containing from 300 to 800 inhabitants, and which amount to 5,353, in the few cases in which they possessed an efficient management obtained at a disproportionate expense,—in such parishes, when overburdened with poor, we usually find the building called the workhouse occupied by 60 or 80 paupers, made up of a dozen or more neglected children (under the care, perhaps, of a pauper), about 20 or 30 able-bodied adult paupers of both sexes, and probably an equal number of aged and impotent persons, proper objects of relief. Amidst these the mothers of bastard children and prostitutes live without shame, and associate freely with the youth, who have also the examples and conversation of the frequent inmates of the county gaol, the poacher, the vagrant, the decayed beggar, and other characters of the worst description. To these may often be added a solitary blind person, one or two idiots, and not unfrequently are heard from among the rest the incessant ravings of some neglected lunatic. In such receptacles the sick poor are often immured. Is not this a true account of the condition of workhouses in numerous instances in rural parishes? But you will say that is a general description, and that you want details? Well, Mr. Osler, in his communication, gives the following instances of the condition of workhouses in the vicinity of Falmouth:— Mabe-house, a ruinous hovel, utterly unfit for the residence of a human being; 2 men, 4 women, 3 children; of whom 4 receive 8s. 9d. weekly, and a man, his wife, and 3 children, have only shelter. A married couple occupy the same room with 2 women. Mylor:—8 men, 17 women, 7 children, who are placed in the different rooms, supporting themselves either by an allowance of money from the parish, or by their own labour. A barber who carries on business in the house has his pole hung out at the door. No governor or domestic authority of any description. (In such places when questions of the following tenor are put) — Why is no labour found for the able-bodied? Why are not the children placed under proper tuition? Why is not proper care taken of the lunatic?'—(the usual answers are):—' The parish is too poor to pay for a keeper. We cannot keep a schoolmaster for so few children. To provide a superintendent, to keep half a dozen or a dozen men at work, would be too heavy a charge, even if the superintendents of the whole of these various classes, and the management of the house is often found a pecuniary burden disproportionate heavy; and the parish officers attempt to diminish it by confiding the whole to one who is in reality, and sometimes avowedly, a pauper. Constantine-house: — 10 men, 19 women, 2 children; the governor has been dismissed for the sake of economy, and an infirm old pauper regulates the diet and keeps the accounts. All the rooms except the kitchen, close, dirty and offensive; the bedsteads are clumsy wooden ones; men's dormitory, their sitting-room very low, with windows too small for ventilation, excessively dirty and an abominable musty smell. The fish dinners are cooked here; house appeared cot to have been whitewashed from time immemorial. Two men slept in the women's rooms; but the new overseer expressed an intention to correct these evils, Well, these were local authorities superintending and cognizant of the state of the poor, knowing their habits and wants. What was the result of that local superintendance? Why, that in thousands of parishes these abuses existed. But you will say that this was the case in various small parishes, but not in larger ones. What is the fact with regard to the metropolis—the seat of intelligence? In 1833, no distant period, what facts were stated with regard to the operation of the old system in London? It is very easy to pass a panegyric upon the old system, but not so easy to justify it by facts. Now let us take the case of a large metropolitan parish. Mr. W. Lee, who held the office of master of the workhouse of St. Pancras, containing more than 1,000 inmates, says, It is a common remark among our paupers that they live better in the house than they ever lived before; and, looking to the cleanliness, the airiness, and roominess of the apart- ments, the goodness of the beds and the bedding, and the wholesomeness and quantity of the food, this is probably the case. This, you see, was a liberal system, maintained at the expense of many who were perhaps scarcely able to support themselves. But what was the effect of the system in a social point of view? There were 300 children; if we get them places, they throw them up or misconduct themselves, so as to lose them and return to the workhouse as a matter of course, because they prefer the security and certainty of that mode of life to the slightest exercise of forbearance or diligence. Here, then, were 300 children, supplied with means and opportunities to gain an honest livelihood, returning and throwing themselves upon the workhouse, in order that they may enjoy a life of indolence. But Mr. Lee continues— As little or no classification can take place, the younger soon acquire all the bad habits of the older, and become for the most part as vitiated; This is peculiarly the case with respect to young girls. We are obliged to have many prostitutes among our inmates; they decoy young girls with whom they have met in the house to leave it, and addict themselves to the same abandoned course. What course was to be pursued? The characters of several of the inmates were so bad that it was imposssible to retain them in the house. The example which they set was so pernicious that the governors were obliged to get rid of them. And what was the result? They were sent to farmhouses. Mr. Hall, the overseer of St. Botolph, Aldgate, says:— We send our poor to farmhouses, paying 4s. 6d. per head per week for them; but it is the interest of the farmhouse keeper to give them so much liberty, on account of the consequent saving of provisions, that their residence is not one of restraint, nor their life one of hardship. It has been repeatedly said to me by paupers nominally confined in farmhouses that they got 2d. a day from the keepers of those houses to leave them for the day, by which means the keepers save their food for the day; and I have constantly seen persons, for, whom I knew we were paying to farmhouses, wandering about the streets, sometimes in a state of intoxication, and often I have had them come to my house in such a state and insist with much violence upon getting further relief. You may call the statute of Elizabeth the charter of the poor if you like; you may say that it supports their claim as the first lien upon the landed estates of this country, if you please; but all these doctrines, if practically enforced, will end in their degradation and ruin. I ask, is it possible to read these descriptions of the miserable condition of the poor in small districts, and of the condition of those who in many cases were contributors to the poor-rates, and who supported themselves by honest industry, but were too proud to derive any support from those rates, and not admit that in 1834 the time was come when an alteration was necessary? My opinion is, that if you now abolish this commission, or prevent the commissioners from exercising any control over the poor: and, above all, if you pass that enactment which the hon. Gentleman advises, namely —again to confine the relief of the poor to small localities and districts, you have no guarantee that all the abuses which prevailed previous to the year 1834 will not return. We do not propose that this measure shall continue for five years with a fixed intention to make it permanent. What motive can we have for proposing the continuance of this law, except an honest and conscientious belief that it will be for the public good? It is not a political object that we have in view, it is not a short lived popularity that we seek; for if it were, would it not be easy to join the cry against the Poor-law, and propose some alterations of its main provisions? Would it not be possible, by some such course as that, to gain a temporary popularity? I say that the abuses of the old Poor-law were so great that the superintendence of the new authority ought to be continued. In my opinion it ought to be for five years, and I proposed that last year. I think it desirable, certainly, that the conduct of the commissioners should be subjected to Parliament; but I think that their authority ought not to be diminished or disparaged by making it shorter in duration than five years, for within that period it is not possible that we can dispense with the services of the Poor-law commissioners. I do not look upon the Poor-law commissioners as a check upon the benevolence of boards of guardians. I do not say that the commissioners should not act where there is a ground for appeal against a board of guardians. I do not say that theirs is not a proper tribunal to which to appeal. I believe that by means of this commission you conduct inquiries with regard to the poor most beneficially, and that without their aid many improvements could not be made which through their aid may be made. What has been the case with regard to the sanatory provisions made by the commissioners? Through their intervention I believe many benevolent plans have been adopted; and my opinion is, that they are actuated by benevolent feelings, although I know that it is difficult to reform and correct old and inveterate abuses without subjecting oneself to the charge of harshness or cruelty. But that is the hard condition attendant upon exertions to remove abuses in favour of which people may be prejudiced. Men must be prepared to expect imputations as to their being rigid and severe, and not influenced by those charitable motives by which, perhaps, others, taking more local views, may be actuated. But through the aid of that commission, in my opinion, you may be able to conduct the most important inquiries, and to effect the most extensive and important improvements. The hon. Member for Finsbury has said that all the medical profession had wished for the appointment of Dr. Kay. But why should they? He gave the greatest praise to Dr. Kay; but he said the medical profession were not satisfied. No; but they would have been satisfied if they could have had a Poor-law commissioner to their own mind. In that case they would have been right glad to assent to the appointment of commissioners. [Mr. Wakley: I want no commissioner at all.] The hon. Gentleman now finds out the mistake he had made. He said that if a medical practitioner had been placed in the commission the appointment would have been hailed with satisfaction; and now, because a medical commissioner is not appointed, he is for no commissioner at all. One other abuse to which this commission will present an obstacle and a check is that upon which you will find ample evidence in this volume (the report of the Commissioners of Inquiry). I mean the gross system of jobbing which existed under the old system, when a parish was committed to the superintendence of five or six tradesmen. 40 per cent, was then considered but a moderate profit upon articles supplied to the parish for the poor under that system. And it is shown in this book that when independent officers were sent from a distance into a parish to manage its affairs, there was a regular combination among the retail dealers of the place to effect the overthrow of such officers. Upon the very first appearance of any attempt at economy and saving of expense in the administration of the Poor-laws, a combination would he immediately formed against the officer who was independent enough to make the attempt, in order that he might be got rid of, and the old times restored of getting 40 or 50 per cent, upon articles supplied for the paupers. The evidence to that effect is quite conclusive; and if you choose again to commit the poor to the care of such persons, whose object it is to increase their profits in that way, upon the principle that the people of England may be safely trusted, you must also be prepared to see revived that practice of the local shopkeeper and dealer using his influence in the appointment of parochial officers suited to his purpose. Look again at the system of accounts. The existence of a superintending commission enforcing a rigid system of accounts operates as a security against profligate and corrupt expenditure. And I say again, with respect to medical superintendence, there is an increased security, as you will see more particularly if you compare the operation of the present law with the past, that the medical treatment of the poor will be conducted better under the general superintendence of a commission like that at Somerset House than if you leave it entirely to the local authorities. These are the grounds on which I support the bill; not merely as a check upon the benevolence of local guardians, but because I believe it will be for the present interest of paupers, and above all for the permanent improvement of their condition, do I think that this commission ought for a certain time to be continued; therefore I give my unhesitating, consistent, and cordial support to the bill of my right hon. Friend.

The House divided on the question that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question:—Ayes 219;,Noes 48: Majority 171.

List of the Ayes
Acland, Sir T.D. Baring, rt. hon. F. T.
Acland, T. D. Barnard, E. G.
Adare, Visct. Barneby, J.
Adderley, C. B. Barrington, Visct.
Aldam, W Bentinck, Lord G.
Allix, J. P. Beresford, Major
Antrobus, E. Bernal, R.
Ashley, Lord Bernard, Visct.
Bailey, J., jun. Blackburne, J. I.
Baillie, Col. Blake, M. J.
Baird, W. Bodkin, W. H.
Bannerman, A. Boldero, H. G.
Baring, hon. W. B. Botfield, B.
Bramston, T. W. Hayes, Sir E.
Broadley, H. Heneage, G. H. W.
Brodie, W. B. Heneage, E.
Browne, hon. \W. Hepburn, Sir T. B.
Buck, L. W. Herbert, hon. S.
Busfield, W. Hervey, Lord A.
Cardwell, E. Hogg, J. W.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Houldsworth, T.
Chetwode, Sir J. Holmes, hn. W. A'Ct.
Cholmondeley, hn. H. Hope, hon. C.
Chute, W. L. W. Howard, hon. J. K.
Clay, Sir W. Howard, hon. H.
Clayton, R. R. Howick, Visct.
Clerk, Sir G. Hughes, W. B.
Clive, E. B. Hume, J.
Clive, hon. R. H. Hussey, T.
Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G. Hutt, W.
Connolly, Col. James, W.
Courtenay, Lord Jermyn, Earl
Cresswell, B. Johnston, A.
Cripps, W. Johnstone, Sir J.
Damer, hon. Col. Johnstone, H.
Darby, G. Jones, Capt.
Dawnay, hon. W. H. Kemble, H.
Denison, J. E. Knightley, Sir C.
Dickinson, F. H. Labouchere, rt. hn. H.
Douglas, Sir H. Langston, J. H.
Dugdale, W. S. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Duncan, G. Layard, Capt.
Dundas, D. Legh, G. C.
Eaton, R. J. Leicester, Earl of
Ebrington, Visct. Lemon, Sir C.
Egerton, W. T. Lincoln, Earl of
Egerton, Sir P. Lindsay, H. H.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. Litton, E.
Ellis, W. Lockhart, W.
Eliot, Lord Long, W.
Escott, B. Lopes, Sir R.
Estcourt, T. G. B. Lowther, J.H.
Evans, W. Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B.
Fellowes, E. Mackenzie, W. F.
Fleming, J. W. Maclean, D.
Flower, Sir J. M'Geachy, F. A.
Forbes, W. Mahon, Visct.
Forster, M. Manners, Lord J.
Fuller, A. E. Marshall, W.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Marsham, Visct.
Gill, T. Martin, J.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Martin, C. W.
Gladstone, T. Miles, P. W. S.
Glynne, Sir S. R. Miles, W.
Godson, R. Mitchell, T. A.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Morris, D.
Gore, M. Morrison, J.
Goring, C. Mundy, E. M.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Murray, A.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Neville, R.
Granby, Marquess of Norreys, Sir D. J.
Granger, T. C. Northland, Visct.
Greenaway, C. O'Brien, J.
Greene, T. O'Brien, W. S.
Grogan, E. O'Connell, M. J.
Grosvenor, Lord R. Ogle, S. C. H.
Hamilton, W. J. Pakington, J. S.
Harcourt, G. G. Palmer, R.
Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H. Parker, J.
Hawes, B, Patten, J. W.
Peel, rt. ban. Sir R. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Pendarves, E. W. W. Tancred, H. W.
Philips, M. Taylor, T. E.
Pigot, Sit R. Thornhill, G.
Plumridge, Capt. Tolleroache, hon. F.J.
Pollock, Sir F. Trevor, hon. G. R.
Pringle, A. Trollope, Sir J.
Pusey, P. Tuite, H. M.
Rashleigh, W. Turner, E.
Rice, E. R. Turnor, C.
Rolleston, Col. Vane, Lord H.
Rose, rt. hon. Sir G. Vere, Sir C. B.
Rundle, J. Vivian, J. H.
Rushhrooke, Col. Waddington, H. S.
Russell. Lord J. Wall, C. B.
Russell, Lord E. Wawn, J. T.
Sanderson, R. Welby, G. E.
Sandon, Visct. White, H.
Scott, R. Whitmore, T. C.
Seymour, Lord Wilde, Sir T.
Seymour, Sir H. B. Wodehouse, E.
Shaw, rt. hon. F. Wood, B.
Sheppard, T. Wood, C.
Smith, J. A, Wood, Col. T.
Smyth, Sir H. Worsley, Lord
Sotheron, T. H. S. Wiightson, W. B.
Stanley, Lord Yorke, hon. E. T,
Stanton, W. H. Young, J.
Mr. Stock.Mr.Serjt. TELLERS.
Strutt, E. Baring, H.
Stun, H. C Fremantle, Sir T.
List of the NOES.
Ainsworth, P. Hardy, J,
Archdall, Capt. Harris, J. Q.
Baskerville, T. B. M. Henley, J. W.
Beckett, W. Hindley, C.
Bell, M. Hodgson, R.
Bernal, Capt. Hornby, J.
Bowring, Dr. James, Sir W. C.
Brocklehurst, J. Jervis, J.
Brotherton, J. Johnson, Gen.
Cochrane, A. Lawson, A
Collins, W. Lowther, hon. Col.
Colville, C. R. Mastertman, J.
Crawford, W. S. Napier, Sir C.
Denison, E. B. O'Connell, D.
Drax, J. S. W. S. E. Pechell, Capt.
Duke, Sir J. Polhill, F.
Duncombe, T. Rapton, G. W. J.
Duncombe, hon. O. Richard, R.
Etwall, R. Walker, R.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Wilbraham, hn. R. B.
Feilden, W. Williams, W.
Fielden, J. York, H. R.
Ferrand, W. B.
Grimsditch, T. TELLERS.
Hall, Sir B. Sibthorp, Col.
Hanmer, Sir J. wakley T.

Main question again proposed that the Speaker do now leave the Chair.

Mr. Ferrand

was not influenced by any factious motives in wishing to postpone the consideration of a measure of this important character for a few days. He felt as- sured that he was only performing his duty to the public and to the constituent body which he had the honour of representing in that House, in rising to move that the debate be adjourned until that day week. He very much regretted that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department had not been able, in the reply which he had made to a speech which he had the honour of addressing to the House on Friday last, to adduce stronger grounds for supporting the second reading of the Poor-law Bill. The right hon. Baronet had based the whole of his arguments in favour of the measure on the ground that in an union in the north of England, the Keighley union, with which he was connected, there had been a gross maladministration of Poor-law relief. He challenged the right hon. Baronet to place his finger on a single instance in which the magistrates had deviated from the strict path of duty. Did he do so now? The right hon. Baronet had referred to a report made by an assistant Poor-law commissioner, Mr. Mott, a gentleman who was sent down to the north of England expressly for the purpose of getting up a case in favour of the bill and against the Keighley union. In that report charges of a very serious character had been made against himself, and an hon. relative of hiss sitting an the opposite side of the House. He alluded to the hon. Member for Bradford. Imputations had also been cast, upon four magistrates acting in conjunction with himself and the hon. Member for Bradford in the Keighley union. He hoped that no difference of opinion on other questions connected with politics would ever deter him from coming forward in defence of his brother magistrates, when their characters were calumniated by unjust aspersions. He should be wanting in those generous feelings which influenced every English gentleman if he did not defend them from the foul slander cast upon them. What was the charge which Mr. assistant commissioner Mott made against himself and the other magistrates of the Keighley union? If hon. Members opposite asserted that no charge was made, let them read the speech of the right hon. Baronet, and the report to which he referred. What, he would again ask, was the charge? Mr. assistant commissioner Mott had accused the magistrates of the Keighley union of having been guilty of corrupt practices, for the purpose of raising themselves in the opinion of the working classes. With the view of making themselves popular, they were charged with having fixed the amount of relief in the Keighley union at an extravagant scale. When the right hon. Baronet sat down, he rose and denied the accuracy of the statement. He was in his place this evening to say, that the whole of that report, from beginning to end, was a tissue of falsehoods. Under these circumstances had he not a right to demand the House of Commons to adjourn the debate on this measure until the magistrates and the board of guardians, who had been so foully maligned, had an opportunity of replying to that report, and refuting the calumnies it contained? He hoped that the report would be placed on the Table by to-morrow, in order that it might be sent down with a view of having a full investigation into the allegations which it contained. He held in his hand a letter from the clerk of the magistrates and board of guardians connected with the union in question, to which he wished to direct the attention of the House. The writer of the letter was a gentleman of great respectability, and the most implicit confidence might be placed in the statements which he made. He (the clerk to the magistrates) says,— I have read with astonishment the reply of the right lion. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department to your speech on the second reading of the Poor-law Bill, in the House of Commons, on Friday last.

The Speaker

said, that the hon. Member could not read a letter in which a reference was made to anything which had taken place during a debate in that House.

Mr. Ferrand

The substance of the letter was to deny the assertions made by Mr. Mott in his report. The greatest care had been exercised in the distribution of parochial relief in the Keighley union. Every case had been inquired into before relief was afforded. The clerk flatly denied the truth of the allegations made in Mr. Mott's report of the Keighley union. There was an emphatic denial made by the clerk of the magistrates of that union to the allegations of Mr. assistant-commissioner Mott; and he (Mr. Ferrand) would ask the House, whether it was prepared to sanction the appointment of these Poor-law commissioners, and to invest them with power and authority to act throughout the country, when he was prepared to prove that an assistant Poor-law commissioner, a paid officer of the Government, had, for a special purpose, produced a report containing unfounded charges, with a view of misleading the House of Commons. He would ask whether, under these circumstances, he was not justified in asking for the delay of one week before proceeding with the bill, in order to give the magistrates and board of guardians connected with the Keighley union an opportunity of refuting the most gross report which had been made to the House? For the purpose of exposing the falsehoods contained in that report, he begged to move that the debate be adjourned until Monday week.


seconded the motion. He thought that the statement made by the hon. Member for Knaresborough was sufficient to justify the House in postponing the debate for the short period of a week. So strong was his hostility to the bill that he would take every opportunity of opposing its progress. If the bill was passed into a law, he would tell the House that they would have cause to regret the circumstance. There was not a parish in England which was not opposed to the Poor-law. The majority of the poor were also against it. He would assert that the Poor-law commissioners had never advanced the interests of the poor. He disbelieved the report altogether; and he further believed, that the object of it was an ardent desire to assimilate the wages of the labourer in the south to what they were in the north; and they had succeeded in doing so—still there was not a parish in the north but would take such measures as were in their power to obtain the entire repeal of the law. He had always voted for the total repeal of the bill—he was not one of the modifiers, of whom there were so many now in the House. He was afraid the right hon. Baronet would carry his proposition yet. Not one of his supporters, with the exception of the hon. Member for Droitwich (Mr. Pakington) and the noble Lord the Member for South Devon (Viscount Courtenay), had dared to get up in his place in support of the measure. There were Members in the House for Leeds, for the West Riding of Yorkshire, and from Lancashire—had they nothing to say for or against the bill? Nor would it be forgotten, that when the bill was introduced last year by the noble Lord the Member for London, a noble Lord opposite got up and presented a petition signed by 46,000 of the inhabitants of Manchester, praying that the New Poor-law might not continue in force for another day. Where was the noble Lord now? Why, the people of Manchester were unanimous in their detestation of the bill—there was none there in favour of the law but probably a few rich people, with the clerks, the relieving officers, and other persons who obtained their living under it. None others supported it, for every humane and upright man condemned the bill. He was of opinion that the hon. Member for Knaresborough had made out a good case for the postponement of the debate for a week, and he trusted, for the honour of the House, the motion would be agreed to. He doubted whether the House ought, under present circumstances, to take upon itself a question of such magnitude at all. After the charges which had been made by the hon. Member for Bath, some of which were admitted, he doubted whether the House had any right to enter upon the consideration of the bill. The House should be very cautious under the circumstances in which their election was stated to have taken place; but even the speed with which they proposed to proceed was enough to condemn them; the bill was only read a second time on Wednesday last, and on Monday they proposed to go into committee: the country would see what was the necessity for such a hurry in the proceeding upon a bill so all important to the people. It had been reported by several committees who had been sworn at the Table to make a true report of what came before them, that many Members had been returned by means of corrupt practices: other charges had been made and scarcely denied; therefore, he thought they had no authority to legislate upon the measure at all—at least, it would be much better were they to take another year for its consideration, and to see whether the people had such confidence in them as to allow them to discuss the bill without remonstrance. They had already passed the Corn-law, making the food of the people dear; but now they seemed determined to have the Poor-law also for the benefit of the manufacturers. It was not much for him to say so now, but he could not give his confidence to any Administration which could propose a measure so unconstitutional. Many thousands of people had been sent from the south into the northern districts, where they were now dying from want. What was to be done with them? At least, before they proceeded with that bill, surely it was their duty to make some inquiry as to what had become of them. As to the commission who had been sent down to make inquiries, he would only say, that although the work was degrading, they would get plenty of men to take it, when it was accompanied with the wages given to an assistant Poor-law commissioner. He was speaking of Dr. Kay, who was sent into the manufacturing districts for the purpose of making room there for thousands of the agricultural population; he assisted to take them to the districts which two or three years before he had condemned as the very hells of vice and sinks of iniquity. He had a perfect right to question and judge the acts of Dr.Kay now that he had become a public servant. [Cries of "Divide, divide."] They might well cry "Divide," and attempt to put him down, for he was speaking for those who were unrepresented in that House. He could assure hon. Gentlemen that he would continue to give all the opposition in his power to the bill in every one of its stages; if he could protract the discussions upon it till the 31st of July, he would do so. He had been saying that Dr. Kay had been sent into the north to make room for the surplus population of the southern counties. Dr. Kay suffered himself to be thus employed, and he recommended measures which tended to reduce the wages of the labouring classes. He had asked for the production of correspondence with reference to this matter, but it was refused. The Poor-law commissioners, however, afterwards published a garbled statement; and he now wished for the production of the correspondence to which he alluded, in order that the public might see whether those results had been produced which the commissioners intended to effect. The effect of the Poor-law was undoubtedly to lower the wages of the labouring classes. He never could forgive the framers of the measure for producing such an effect. He would ask hon. Members if they were not in a great measure indebted to the labouring classes for many of their enjoyments? Then, as to the question of the right of the poor to relief; either they had a right to it, or they had not. He would ask the right hon. Baronet if he had an absolute right to the property which he held? No man had an absolute right to property. The hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford frequently preached up the doctrine that property was subject to charges for the maintenance of the Church. He contended, also, that property was liable for the maintenance of the poor, when they were incapacitated for labour, or unable to procure employment. They would not provide the poor man with labour, and yet they denied him the right to relief. Could any thing be more inhuman than such conduct? He believed the Poor-law Amendment Act was considered as a stepping-stone to the ultimate and entire abolition of the system of affording relief. He would tell the House, however, that they were on the verge of a volcano, and he warned them to take his advice. He believed that they could not adopt any course more calculated to excite disaffection, and ultimately to produce revolt in this country, than the passing of this bill in its present form. That was his sincere opinion. He knew there were many poor persons who would absolutely prefer to die of want, rather than ask relief of the board of guardians. They had the best people in the world to govern, and yet this country was worse governed than any other. He thought the reasons assigned by the right hon. Baronet for prolonging the term of the commission, rested on no just grounds, but he would not detain the House by alluding to them particularly. He was surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite—the Conservatives—did not come boldly forward and tell the House what were the opinions of their constituents and of the poorer classes throughout the country with regard to the Poor-law. It was right that the House should have some information as to the sufferings of the poor. They were now asked to pass this bill, and to continue the Poor-law commissioners in office for five years longer, at a period when most extreme distress prevailed throughout the country to an unparalleled extent. He considered that this was a most dangerous experiment to make, and he was sure the right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government had not given due consideration to this bill, or he would not have assented (to it. He thought it would be well if the right hon. Baronet took the same time to consider the Poor-law which he had devoted to the consideration of the Corn-law and other measures. He believed, if that right hon. Baronet carefully investigated the question, he would not support the continuance in office of the commissioners for a day longer. They ought to give the poor man a court of appeal against the decisions of hard-hearted guardians, who would allow neither work nor food. Let hon. Members tell the same tale to the Ministers and to the House which they had told on the hustings respecting this law; silence, under circumstances like the present, was unjustifiable. The subject ought to be fully discussed, and the House ought to adjourn for a week, to give the hon Member for Knaresborough an opportunity of making the inquiries he wished. The Poor-law guardians had endeavoured in vain to find work for the poor. Could the Poor-law commissioners find it? If they could not find it, they must give the poor food without the labour. By the operation of the New Poor-law greater distress had been brought upon the manufacturing districts than many hon. Members were disposed to allow. He would tell them again, that they were on the verge of a volcano, and that they had better refrain from going on with this bill.


felt called upon to say a few words to the House. The hon. Member for Knaresborough had alluded to counties, the feelings of the people of which he said he represented; but he could not allow the hon. Member to represent, or rather to misrepresent, him and his constituents. The hon. Member had referred to a petition, numerously signed, which had been presented to that House from Manchester, praying against the continuance of the Poor-law commission. He had met the deputation which had brought up that petition, and he must candidly confess, that he had gone away from that conference, believing that he was a better friend of the poor man than any of those who had brought up the deputation. The grounds of their objection to the New Poor-law were, that they thought the operation of the New Poor-law Bill was more expensive than the old system; that it was not desirable to have the workhouse test; and another grievance was, that the local Poor-law guardians had to consult the Poor-law commissioners. With regard to the latter objection, he should not go out of his way to please the vanity of individuals who thought their dignity lowered by having to consult with other parties relative to their duties. He pictured to himself a man elected a guardian in an agricultural district, and who might be called on to fulfil the duties of a guardian without any previons fitness for the office. So far from thinking it a degradation that he should have to consult with men of sense and humanity, as he had always found the Poor-law commissioners to be, he (Mr. M. Philips) should think he would find it a great relief to confer with honourable and well informed men, and treat them as his standing counsel in the case. Anxious to discharge his duty to those whose property had to support the poor, as well as to the poor, he should think it would be a guardian's anxiety always to ask for advice with reference to the mode of administering relief. There had been much bold assertion on the part of the hon. Member. He had stated, that owing to the operation of that New Poor-law Bill, wages had been brought down in the manufacturing districts. He was fully alive to the present unfortunate position of the manufacturing population; but he could not ascribe it to the same causes as those stated by the hon. Member for Oldham. He saw various other causes for it, which he wished he could induce the House to alter. But he could not hear assertions of that kind made without rising in his place as the representative of a large body of the people suffering from the distress, and stating that he could not concur in them. He very much regretted, that an opportunity should be sought for now to excite the feelings of the poor, who were labouring under a degree of oppression and suffering with an endurance which he could not sufficiently admire. He was not one of those who wished to goad the poor on against this system, which was intended for their relief; he would rather ask hon. Gentlemen to endeavour to legislate for their welfare, and not represent to them that the present system was one intended to drive them into taking a coarser food. He denied that any such intention existed on the part of the Government that first introduced the bill. If he could have thought for one moment that such was the object of Lord Althorp, he should have started away from the benches on his side of the House, and deserted a party deserving of the contempt of a Christian country and of civilised society. He did not believe that this was the feeling on the part of the poorer classes of the country; he thought they had a better opinion of the sympathy of all classes with them. The hon. Member had stated his disapprobation of the removal of individuals from the agricultural to the manufacturing districts; and had imputed much blame to Dr. Kay for recommending this in his pamphlet. But he must really point out to the hon. Member the condition of the country at the time that this pamphlet was Written. It was written in 1831 or 1832, and they knew that at that time the manufacturing districts were only recovering from the depression under which they had been previously labouring. They knew that there was then a most remarkable change throughout the manufacturing districts; that a very large quantity of machinery was called into operation, and without going into details, that prosperity manifested itself at that times and there was a demand for labour; and he Could not but express his astonishment, that if a demand for labour existed in one part of the country, there should be an impediment thrown in the way of the labourer in another part of the country to get to it from the want and dearth of employment in his district. When labour had been wanted in the manufacturing districts it had been chiefly supplied by the sister kingdom; and he could not see what possible difference it could make if that labour were supplied from the agricultural districts of this country, where the labourer could not obtain employment. He admitted, that a vast number of lrish were embodied amongst the manufacturing population, and he did not think it right, that when an Irish labourer had resided forty or fifty years in this country, when times of distress like the present arrived, he should not be in a position to receive relief in this country. He confessed he did not think it was pursuing either a proper or a Christian course, on the first moment of depression in trade, to say to those men Fall back on your parishes," and that they should make no attempt to support them. He felt that it was a duty on those who bad drawn benefit from their labour to attempt to support them. But did it not occur in other places that the redundancy of the population in one district was taken to supply the wants of another. Did it not occur in London, for instance? Did they not find there, too, that the population at intervals, indeed, almost periodically, overpassed the means of employment; but could you condemn individuals in London, where there was a demand for labour, giving employment to persons coming from the agricultural districts? He must say that the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Fielden) had spoken with much injustice of those whom he had the honour to represent, when he said there was not an honest man among the people of Manchester who did not reprobate the New Poor-law. He could not at all concur in this statement; he had had communications from Manchester to a different effect; and with respect to the board of guardians, from his own knowledge he could state that they acted with great cordiality in carrying the New Poor-law into operation. He had spent last winter among them, and he was confident that they were a most worthy and humane body of men, and that they would not suffer in any respect in comparison with any board of guardians in England.

Sir J.Graham

wanted to call the attention of the House to the spirit and nature of their proceedings that evening. The object of the gallant Officer appeared to be to bring back the Poor-law to the point at which it stood before the passing of the Poor-Law Amendment Act. The hon. Member for Oldham had frankly stated that his object was to obstruct the passing of the bill now before the House until the 31st of July, the effect of which would be to throw the whole of the present arrangements for the Administration into a state of inextricable confusion. But he should pass by the consideration of both these objects, and proceed to notice the speech of the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Ferrand). The hon. Member had given as a reason for postponing the consideration of the bill for one week the ground that a certain part of the report of the assistant Poor-Jaw commissioner which he had read to the House on Friday last? was incorrect. The hon. Member, in the early part of the evening, had called for the production of that document. He at once acceded to the hon. Member's motion. Now, he would remind the House what were the circumstances under which he bad alluded to this document. The hon. Member had asked him, what reason there was to introduce the New Poor-law into the north of England, and why the rule with respect to out-door relief had been introduced into the Keighly Union. He had grounded his reply on a report which the assistant Poor-law commissioner Mr. Mott had made in the execution of his duty. But he need not delay the House with going into particulars; he had explained that it was in consequence of Mr. Mott's report that the regulation in question had been introduced; for that from that report it appeared that considerable deviations had been made by the guardians there from the provisions of the law, and that they believed that their proceedings in granting relief were subject to the control of the magistrates. The hon. Member had indulged in great laudations of the conduct and management of the Keighley Union. He thought that there must be some error in that; that at all events the hon. Member must have very different views of Poor-law management from him, and he thought fit to submit to the House his reasons for this conclusion. He now, in addition to the report of Mr. Mott of the 23rd of April, to which he then appealed, would refer to a report of Sir John Walsham, dated the 1st of June. The union of Keighley was in immediate contact with Burnley, and that part of the West Riding where there was great distress, and Sir J. Walsham having been sent down there on a special commission to inquire into the state of things there, he was also desired to go to Keighley and see whether what Mr. Mott had stated with regard to the state of that union was borne out by the facts. He would not read the report of Sir John Walsham, or any part of it; but he would content himself with stating, that if Sir John Walsham was not equally to be discredited, as the hon. Member stated Mr. Mott to be, then what the latter gentleman had stated could not be impugned. When his report was laid on the Table it would show that there Was as much mismanagement and carelessness in the conduct of the affairs of the Keighley Union previously to the report of Mr. Mott as disgraced the administration of any other Poor-law union in any part of the country. He should to-night move for the production of Sir John Walsham's report, and when that as well as Mr. Mott's report should be upon the Table the hon. Member for Knaresborough should move for a committe of inquiry into the manner in which the Poor-law had been administered in the Keighley Union; and as to the veracity of the Poor-law commissioners on that point, he promised him he should have a full, fair, and searching inquiry into this matter.

Viscount Barrington,

as the representative of a great constituency, and entertaining decided opinions on this question, would say, with every respect to his hon. Friend, that he could not conceive anything but injury could be derived to the cause he was advocating from a motion of this kind. He would, therefore, humbly press his hon. Friend to rest content with taking legitimate means of enforcing his own views, and not cause any unnecessary delay in the progress of this great measure.


said, that when he found in the bill a clause which would have the effect of abolishing the Gilbert unions, he felt that he was bound to oppose their an. nihilation, and he felt that his opposition was not a factious opposition. He must tell the House, that when the Conservatives expelled the Whigs from power, it was expected by the country that this law, the worst of all the evils that cursed it, would fall also; but in that hope the people had been painfully disappointed. He should vote for the adjournment, and if they were lucky enough to pass the bill over through another winter, the people would be able to remind their representatives of the promises which they made on the hustings.

The House divided on the question that the debate be adjourned.—Ayes 18; Noes 225:—-Majority 207.

List of the AYES.
Brotherton, J. Lawson, A.
Collins, W. O'Connell, D.
Colvile, C. R. Paget, Col.
Crawford, W. S. Pechell, Capt.
Drax, J. S. W. S. E. Wakley, T.
Duke, Sir J. Williams, W.
Duncombe, T. Yorke, H. R.
Etwall, R.
Hawkes, T. TELLERS.
Hindley, C. Ferrand, W. B.
Johnson, Gen. Fielden, J.

House in committee pro formâ.

House adjourned.