§ Mr. Walter
then rose, and spoke to the following effect. I could have wished that it had fallen to the lot of some able or more eminent Member to have brought forward the present subject, for if the abilities of him who brings it forward are to be weighed or measured by the vast consequences involved, I fear that I shall be found greatly deficient. If, indeed, I might have had my wish indulged, I should have desired that her Majesty's Ministers themselves would have taken a more 1160 humane and constitutional view of the question, for sincerely do I wish them to pursue such measures as will secure them the love of the people—I mean of the people taken in the mass; and there is no one method by which they can so essentially endear themselves to the vast body of the country at large as by demolishing, what I am sorry to say has been partially, and at second hand, their work, —namely, the New Poor-law. I am too old to court much popularity myself, and readily would I transfer whatever I may have attained to those whose general course of policy I think most calculated to appease the dissatisfaction, and restore the prosperity of this country. I will ask them this question briefly—has there been any satisfaction, any good temper, any adherence of the humbler classes to their employers since this most unfeeling law has been invented? Has there been anything, in fact, in the country but brooding discontent, ever ready to break out into open violence, or to avenge itself by secret mischief? I say none. Here we are in the ninth year since the first movement against the old Poor-law of the country, originating with one of the greatest sovereigns—a female, too—that the land ever knew; the very object of whose noble policy it was to sustain the great masses of the people against hereditary oppression, and aristocratic pride — "parcere subjectis, et debeilare superbos;" and who, by trusting herself and her throne to the support of the people—not to family influences, or herds of retainers—set the whole world at defiance. That principle of hers, the new law does not reform, does not restore, does not reinvigorate, but reverses. It protects, or affects to protect, the great landed interests first, and next the manufacturing interests, by the oppression, by the very destruction of those upon whom those elevated interests rests, and by that attempt to destroy the very basis of all human society, I can tell you that those more elevated interests must ultimately sink. Every other foundation but that of the people is a sandy one. The winds of disaffection will blow—the tempest of popular fury will begin to rage —and down will come your structure to the ground. I have called this New Poor-law an invention, and such literally it is. It is the usual effort of legislation, when, through the lapse of time, old laws begin to fail of their application, to improve and 1161 adapt them anew—to cut off excrescences, and invigorate the impaired parts—to restore, to reform, but not to convulse or destroy. But what has been the course pursued in this most ominous affair? A new invention, new to history as to the people, was struck out. Principles and details, men and machinery, were alike displaced. That class of men who acts as parochial officers of your parishes, and as jurors in your courts of law, are cast aside. A term of but modern invention is adopted, or rather filched from a more respectable institution, that of "guardians." But what are "guardians" intended to be under this new act? Mr. Sheridan has defined the office of a similar protector, appointed, as he said, to exert over the unhappy Peruvians "such guardianship as the eagle affords the lamb, covering while it devours its prey." Such, I have ever said, is the character of this New Poor-law, and I have subsequently become possessed of a document which justified us in asserting that such is the actual object of those who brought it forward. I will now read to the House a passage from that report:—That at any time after the passing of this act, the Board of Control shall have power, by an order, with such exception as shall be thought necessary, to disallow the continuance of relief to the indigent, the aged, and the impotent, in any other mode than in a workhouse, regulated in such manner as by the aforesaid Board of Control shall be determined.The power of the commissioners would be to reduce allowances, but not to enlarge them.After this has been accomplished, orders may be sent forth, directing that after such a day, all out-door relief should be given partly in kind; after another period it should be wholly in kind; that after such another period it should be gradually diminished in quantity, until that mode of relief was extinguished. From the first, the relief should be altered in quality, coarse brown bread being substituted for fine white; and, concurrently with these measures as to the out-door poor, a gradual reduction should be made in the diet of the in-door poor, and strict regulations enforced.Hoc fonte derivata clades,In patriam populumque fluxit.I have quoted the words of the earliest report placed in the hands of the late Ministers, and which the right hon. Gentleman has termed "confidential," the authors being afraid, as I verily believe them to be, of sending it forth to general cognizance with their names attached, 1162 That confidential communication was followed by a report which was laid before the House, in which there is this passage:—As one barrier to the increase of expenditure in the detailed management, the commissioners should be empowered to fix a maximum of the consumption per head within the workhouse, leaving to the local officers the liberty of reducing it below the maximum, if they could safely do so. Do it safely?Now that, I think, horrible enough; but yet not so offensively glaring as the confidential communication itself. From that dark and mysterious source sprang the first avowed report of the central board of Poor-law Commissioners, not of that existing body sometimes called the Triumvirate, but of the eightCommissioners—the Bishops of London and Chester, Mr. Sturges Bourne, Mr. Senior, and four other persons of less note or activity—who were previously set to work to concoct some fresh plan for the management of the poor. In that confidential report, besides the cruel ones which I have mentioned, there was a number of most tyrannical and unconstitutional recommendations, from which, in fact, the future Commissioners—the Triumvirate—took their cue. In these abominable suggestions, directions, and recommendations, therefore the country has the very foundation of the bill itself. Such were its origin and its objects—to inflict progressively, from bad to worse, a system of suffering upon our poorer fellow-creatures, which really out-flerods all the discoveries that have been made respecting the treatment of the negro race, in their first kidnapping and subsequent transmission to the West Indies in the floating union-houses, the slave-traders. Great stress was laid on the fabrication of the Central Commission, upon the asserted fact that it comprised men of all parties, who were perfectly unprejudiced. I could have wished that they had had some natural prejudices arising from humane considerations; but I believe that there was not a member of that commission whose mind was not made up, before a single witness was examined, to recommend or introduce something of a most severe and oppressive character. Mr. Bowen, of Bridgewater, has pronounced this law a Bill of Indictment against all the poor of the country. The Commissioners say in their first report,The duty of supporting parents and chil- 1163 dren in old age and infirmity is so strongly enforced by our natural feelings, that it is often well performed even among savages, and almost always so in a nation deserving the name of civilized. We believe that England is the only European country in which it is neglected.…. If the deficiencies of parental and filial affection are to be supplied by the parish, and the natural motives to the exercise of those virtues are thus to be withdrawn, it may be proper to endeavour to replace them, however imperfectly, by artificial stimulants, and to make fines, distress-warrants, or imprisonment, act as substitutes for gratitude or love.While the lower classes of people are thus libelled, does no recollection occur to those who libel them of a great example once afforded by both Houses of Parliament, who thought it necessary to stimulate the natural affections here spoken of, not by pains and penalties, but by the large allowance of 10,000l. a-year for the trouble of visiting an afflicted father once a week? Now, contrast this character of the people so blackly drawn by the commissioners with other descriptions of the same people, and upon this subject I have particular pleasure in quoting a passage from a letter of the Earl of Ripon to one of our colonial governors:—The name of pauper (said that noble Lord) by no means implies, as seems to have been supposed, a man unable or unwilling to work—one whose infirmity or whose idleness would disqualify him from becoming an useful settler. On the contrary, the whole of the married labourers in many of the parishes of the south of England may be correctly described as paupers, inasmuch as the want of employment has depressed wages to a rate at which it is impossible for a man, however industrious, to maintain a family without receiving parochial relief. … It has been found that the idle and worthless paupers have frequently been rendered so by the hopelessness of their situation; and when enabled to find constant employment, at fair wages, a great change has almost invariably taken place in their conduct.Contrast this too, with the picture drawn not so long since by the Member for Sheffield from his own experience of the English poor. That hon. Member told the House, thatOne-third of the working men in that town and neighbourhood were out of employ. A great proportion of the remainder were employed only three days in the week, and in consequence the greatest distress prevailed. Those at work subscribed something from their 1164 wretched pittance to relieve the distress and keep off the parish others who had no work at all.Could the hon. Member, if he had ransacked every storehouse of eloquence, have found words better calculated to damage the New Poor Law in the estimation of every man of common humanity than the plain sentence which I have just read to you. Men steeped in poverty and misery to the very lips are yet so impressed with the horrors of imprisonment in the workhouse, that rather than their starving brethren should undergo them, they make their little pittance less, by subscribing to keep them off the parish. But it is not for this purpose that I adduce this passage. I wish now to ask, have these men earned the character which the Commissioners have attempted to affix upon them? Do they deserve to be legislated against in the manner the present Bill legislates against them? And still more, ought they to be subjected to that ever-increasing scale of cruelty prescribed and laid down by the private report of the eight Commissioners—that private report from which the present Bill, with its triumvirate at Somerset-house,' originated? How the principle of successive reports have been carried out I have plenty of instances to lay before the House. Take this, for example, from Cirencester:—The late Member for that borough said, in his place in that House, thatHe was chairman of a board of guardians. Both in his own district and in others with which he was acquainted the measure had acquired an immense popularity. He thought the country was under the greatest obligation to those who had brought it forward. The bill worked well in the district with which he was connected. He hoped there would be no vital alteration of a measure which had worked to the entire satisfaction of the vast majority of the people. As to diet, the complaint was that the inmates of the workhouse lived too well.I hold in my hand the dietary of the Cirencester Union, prescribed by the Poor-law Commissioners, in which there is not one ounce of fresh animal food from year's end to year's end, but only five ounces of salt bacon for the Sunday of each week; and that dietary, be it observed, the guar dians cannot go beyond, though they are to be indulged with the odious power of reducing it, "if they can safely do so." I could add many tales of similar cruelty on the art of boards of guardians. Most 1165 persons know the difficulty of dealing with bodies of men. A body corporate, in fact, has no soul. The individuals may have their separate feelings, but the whole body has nonesuch. A man may be personally humane and charitable, but when acting with others, this Christian feeling evaporates and vanishes. I will mention one case which occurred not very long ago in ray own immediate neighborhood. I am not a frequenter of boards of guardians, having no great respect for the institution itself. I was, however, particularly requested to attend a meeting, for the purpose of endeavouring to obtain out-door relief for an unhappy and afflicted object, with a wife and five children, who was ordered into the workhouse, but after a night's trial of his abode there, went out next morning. I was desired to urge this man's title to out-door relief before the board. The alleged ground of their refusal was that his wife had practised some imposition upon a benevolent lady, and therefore the husband and whole family were to be punished. With some difficulty the husband was admitted to the board's presence, and I then ascertained by the acknowledgment of both the medical officers, that he laboured under an incurable pulmonary complaint. He produced a good character from a highly respectable master. On questioning him, a doubt arose in my mind whether the man's wife had really been guilty of the alleged impropriety, and to afford time for inquiry, a week's out-door allowance was accorded to him, and the Board were to meet again in the week following. I received a most complete and satisfactory answer from the lady whom the woman was supposed to have defrauded, assuring me that no such circumstance had taken place; and, fortified with this denial, I went to the next board meeting, in full confidence that the guardian of the parish who had brough forward the false charge would at least aid his efforts to relieve this family from the dreaded infliction of the workhouse. That guardian was, if possible, more callous than the rest. The first order must be maintained, because they had made it. Into the workhouse were the family again ordered; though ultimately, after some weeks' delay, out-door relief was afforded. ft was in vain to urge to these guardians that even if the poor man had been guilty of die offence of having an indiscreet wife, he was not to blame, and that if he 1166 went into the workhouse, there he would certainly die: if they had no consideration for the poor man himself, why should the inmates of the workhouse have their feelings harrowed up by the transportation of a dying man into the midst of them? But all my representations were in vain; the cry was, that having once given their order it should not be rescinded. The man lived only a few months afterwards, and died in his own habitation, the guardian himself being called to his account first. Is it to be borne that against such treatment as that the poor man should have no court of appeal, save only that of the triumvirate of Somerset-house, in which the harshest principles of the whole system are represented and concentrated? It would be endless to repeat all the cases—well-authenticated cases too—of unnatural severity inflicted by the operation of this law. I do not know a single crime that has not been multiplied through that operation, or a single suffering which humanity is heir to that has not been aggravated and multiplied also through this law. Further than this assertion, which I can substantiate by the most irrefragable evidence, I will not at present trouble the House, but pass to another practical difficulty which, enact the law as unanimously as you please, you will never be able to overcome. How long will you get guardians to perform such laborious duties, and at a distance from their own homes of perhaps fifteen or twenty miles? Indeed, at this moment, I know a parish in which the parishioners are obliged to club a sum of money to pay the guardian they depute only five miles distant. The office is there held to be anything but honourable or respectable. Lords and country gentlemen may andeavour to give it éclat at its beginning, but that zeal had much cooled as well it might; and these offices are left to be performed by those who can ill brook to throw away their time for nothing. He alluded, when this most unfortunate bill passed, to the manner in which you will be overwhelmed by reports, amendment-acts, acts explanatory, with every trash of that description. Why, no human powers of either body or mind can comprehend or carry all that has been written and printed at the expense of this deluded country in support of this detested measure by its prime agents. You are erecting a Nelson monument of vast altitude. You may almost erect a Poor-law monument of 1167 equal height, though of more corruptible materials, of the reports of these commissioners. You seek to destroy your enemies, not as Oliver Cromwell said, with paper bullets, but with paper bulwarks and artificial mountains. When I first attacked this monstrous law, I estimated that the paper defences would soon reach up to their table. At present they overtop the Chair. I have already got upon the English Poor-law upwards of 20,000 pages; and it is in vain to make an estimate of the Irish, since the first appendix to a report itself weighs nine pounds and a half. Considering their bulk, no two porters can carry them, the English Poor-law papers weighing upwards of twelve stone. The expense of printing them would support the poor of many parishes for I know not how many years. But there is one high authority against me to which I should not have ventured to allude, had it not been frequently cited against me, and that authority I hope that I shall treat with proper respect. When I hear the greatest hero of his age say, "I know something of Governors-general, and I know something of war and its difficulties also," that man who does not bow to such authority will be rash and indiscreet to the utmost extent of indiscretion and rashness; but I must humbly contend that his grace has not had that experience of the internal affairs of this country which other men of humbler general talents may and must have had; and that great man is not, therefore, such overpowering authority upon these subjects as upon those on which his capricious mind has been, I may almost say, exclusively employed. But there is one fatality always attending the errors of great men, if such they are—that they carry an overwhelming weight with them, which the mistakes of others are not liable to. Would, indeed, that their opinions were always enunciated with proportionate caution, and never as I contend in the present case, before the subject can have been fully examined and considered. We are informed in the Divine records of our religion, that "when a great man speaketh every man holdout his tongue, and, look, what he sayeth, they extol it to the clouds; but if the poor man speak, they say what fellow is this?" But if I have met with opposition on the one hand, I have likewise met with encouragement on the other, and that from the most honourable and excellent class 1168 of men—the clergy of the Established Church—a class, also, the individuals of which, I will venture to, assert, are generally speaking, quite as competent to deliver their opinions on the subject before the House as the immortal Duke is upon that of war; for they live with the poor, in the midst of them, much more even than he lived in the midst of his soldiers; they know their wants, moral and physical, and from that class of men I have received the most useful information, as well as the most strenuous support, though means were insidiously taken at first to prevent their interference by inserting the names of two prelates in the original central commission. I will not, however, trouble the House with many of their statements, but I must be allowed to read one from a gentleman inferior to none of his sacred order in piety and intelligence, and who is well known to many Members of this House.Knowing that you are about again to bring before the House of Commons the workhouse system as administered under the present Poor-law, I think it may not be without some use, if I state to you the result of my own observation of that system, not in all nor many of its bearings, but simply in its moral action upon those who come under it. To myself this is a painful though voluntary task; for it shows me the error of my own anticipations, and reminds me of the fault of once defending as right what I now regret as wrong and pernicious.Leaving, however, such personal considerations, let me briefly state to you the conviction to which I have come on the subject, and the reasons which have brought me to it. My conviction is, that whatever may be the maladies under which our social system is suffering in the labouring part of it, the present workhouse practice is not their remedy; it is rather, under the promise of present relief, an aggravation of the disease.I have seen the working of the system under, in many respects, favourable circumstances. I have marked its effects with all the clearness I could by personal observation in union houses, especially in one with which I have been nearly connected, and by personal inquiry among those who have been inmates of those houses; and the result of both observation and inquiry has been the same. It is a demoralizing system, tending to connect poverty with licentiousness, and to generate pauperism and crime. I only state to you what I know to be literally true, when I say that in union houses supposed to be administered as well as the system will permit, the work of demoralization has been going on in every ward except those of sickness and old age. Among the poor unhappy children, 1169 among the adults of either sex, among the able-bodied, this propagation of evil has gone on. To particularise and classify its forms would be a revolting task. It would comprehend the recital of some of the most disgusting practices of licentiousness and many acts of crime. Persons well known to me have avowed, that many as were the temptations to sin without these walls, those within were far more mischievous and dangerous. The danger arises from the constant infusion of fresh and varied incentives to vice, by those evil communications which, in the world at large, are kept in check, and weakened in power, by many causes. The day of entering those walls takes, even from the man of fair character, much of the honourable sense of shame which he had before; and the bad man enters them to disdain, and ridicule, and hate all moral influence—to teach mischief, to make the tongue and ear and mind familiar with those sins in the practice of which he has attained to the greatest proficiency.It would require some experience, or considerable imagination, to comprehend the extent of this mischief. It is a never-ceasing agent of evil, leaving its infection behind, when its actual presence is gone. A ward comparatively clear of it to-day may to-morrow, with a fresh incentive, break out into every abomination that can pollute the tongue, or corrupt the heart.Now, to omit, for the present, all other objections to this system—to say nothing about its trenching hard upon the feelings of humanity, or the laws of God—I would only ask two questions in regard to it. Can the Legislature be justified in inflicting on the poor a moral evil, that apart from such legislation, has no necessary connexion with poverty? We know that in the correction of crime this is done through necessity; but then it is crime, not poverty, that is to be dealt with. The prison will always be a school of moral evil, as well as a place of punishment; but there the inmate has brought the evil upon himself—he has forfeited the protection of the laws of his country, and this is a part of the recompense of evil which he has reaped. But what has a poor family done?—poor only because they are numerous, and their wages insufficient— what have they done, that, after having striven in vain to support themselves, and then come to claim that protection which the criminal has forfeited, they should be, in one respect, treated in the same manner with him?—that they should be placed where whatever moral sense they have must be blunted and destroyed, and where their children will hear the lessons, if not witness, the practice of profligacy?Another question I would ask. Is this the way to extirpate pauperism from the country? If it be, we must unlearn every maxim which connects prosperity, either on a large or narrow scale, with moral character.But it is not. Whatever were the calculations or intentions of the framers of this mea- 1170 sure in other respects, they appear to me to have overlooked its moral effects altogether. Certain it is, that its practical effect is to undermine the moral character and well-being of the poor. Its action is all downwards. It has no tendency to raise the moral condition of the labouring classes; it has a direct tendency to degrade and deprave it; and if this be true, it stands marked with the worst stigma that can be placed upon any law—that of demoralizing those upon whom it acts.But there is another argument with which I have been plied, in favour of this most painfully important measure. I am told that Gentlemen are pledged to it. Upon this point I can give a decided negative; no Gentleman I affirm is pledged to it. Gentlemen, may unhappily, at the first origin of this system of mischief, not seeing what its consequences might be, have been pledged to the introduction of it; but did any man, at the time of its introduction, daringly pledge himself to carry it through, however it might affect the people—however odious it might prove —however, in fact, it might subvert the whole order of society? All that I predicted, has been, and is being produced. Is any man pledged, then, or can any man now plead that he is pledged, to persevere in the infliction of such evils on the country? To whom is he, to whom can he be so bound? To his country— to the poor—to his conscience? Or to his party—his friends—his political leaders? Nay, more unworthy still, does he mean, that having given his vole once for this monstrous evil, he is bound in consistency, bound in care for his own reputation, to persevere in the fatal course he has begun? Whatever the case, I bid that man pause. I bid him retrace his steps. Let him not speak of pledges given, or supposed to have been given, when he was totally unable to look into futurity. If any man has unhappily so involved himself, I own his difficulty, but do not doubt his duty. Facts—the facts of the last nine years— have cancelled his obligation. His vote is not his own, but his country's; and his only honourable retreat is in owning his mistake, and amending it. I therefore conjure the Conservatives of the House to step forward to the conservation of England. Great apprehensions have been expressed in this House and elsewhere of a certain league, to the practices of whose leaders I am as much opposed as any man. But ask yourselves how this league, now so menacing, first sprang up. I will tell 1171 you: it was suggested by a preceding league against the poor of this country, whose diet was to be reduced in quantity and corrupted in quality. What a burst of indignation would have been excited in this House as, well as throughout the country, if any resolution against the negro population, of a character similar to this against our fellow-subjects here at home, had been produced—that those blacks were first to have their daily food debased, and after that diminished. Gentlemen have been benevolent enough abroad; I call upon them to look around them at home. If, as you have been told, you have elevated the condition of the negro slave to such a state of prosperity that he can now drive his gig and drink his Champagne, surely I am not asking too much when I call upon you to elevate the condition of the free white labourer and artisan of England, whom this law crushes to the earth—at least to afford him such subsistence as will preserve him from nuking under a gradual prostration of strength. If you can not give him his cottage and piece of land which the negroes have obtained, at least insist not on his selling everything that his hovel possesses in order to qualify him for being a tenant in your vast gaols—the union workhouses. If you cannot give him Champagne you can give him the cheap, the wholesome, the nutritious, the national beverage of our land—beer. It is not, perhaps, too late yet to retrace your steps. I feel strongly convinced also, that not only this, but all the other great subjects of contention, which keep the country in a ferment, may be composed and beneficially arranged, if gentlemen will in good earnest turn their thoughts to those subjects, rather than employ their whole time in struggles for political ascendancy. If it be said that such an object is desirable, but that it is impossible to attain it. I will at once reply that I acknowledge no such impossibility with respect to objects that 'are rational. I recollect a happy maxim of Mr. Burke upon that subject: "I know," said he, "it is common for men to say, that such and such things are perfectly right, very desirable—but that unfortunately, they are not practicable. Oh! no, Sir, no. Those things which are. not practicable are not desirable.' There is nothing in the world really beneficial that does not lie within the reach of n informed understanding and well-di- 1172 rected pursuit. There is nothing that God has judged good for us that be has not given us the means to accomplish, both in the natural and moral world." I will not longer detain the House than by moving the following resolutions:—1. That in a document entitled 'Measures submitted by the Poor-law Commissioners to his Majesty's Ministers' appear the following passages:—That at any time after the passing of this act, the Board of Control shall have power, by an order, with such exception as shall be thought necessary, to disallow the continuance of relief to the indigent, the aged, and the impotent, in any other mode than in a workhouse, regulated in such manner as by the aforesaid Board of Control shall be determined.The power of the Commissioners would be to reduce allowances, but not to enlarge them.After this has been accomplished, orders may be sent forth directing that after such a day all out-door relief should be given partly in kind; after another period it should be wholly in kind; that after such another period it should be gradually diminished in quantity, until that mode of relief was extinguished. From the first the relief should be altered in quality, coarse brown bread being substituted for fine white; and, concurrently with these measures as to the out-door poor, a gradual reduction should be made in the diet of the in-door poor, and strict regulations enforced.2. That these recommendations, applicable alike to every class of the poor, and enjoining an indiscriminate reduction of their physical comforts to the lowest endurable point, are shown, by the subsequent orders and practice of the Poor-law Commissioners, to form the real though unavowed basis of the present system of Poor-law relief.3. That the suffering already caused by their partial enforcement, and the amount of out-door relief in spite of them still administered, show their provisions to have been at once cruel and impracticable.4. That the attempted substitution of punishment for legal relief has more and mere tended to irritate and dishearten the poor, to cheek industry, to increase crime, and to encourage various kinds of tyranny, without even the proposed compensation of reducing the expenses of the rate-payers.5. That this House think it therefore expedient to demand such a reconstruction of the existing system as shall make it conformable to Christianity, sound policy, and the ancient constitution of this realm
§ Mr. Walter
who again rose and said, 1173 I beg leave to supply an omission. An hon. Friend has just asked me from whom I received the letter which I have just read. I would readily mention his name, for I know that he dreads no menaces, though threats were at one time held out of removing clergymen from the commission of the peace who dared to proclaim the mischief and suffering produced by the New Poor-law. But that gentleman wrote to me further:—I would entreat that I should not be personally mentioned it would do others no good, but bring on myself some evil. A small provincial controversy with some guardian standing up for the honour of his union would be sadly inconvenient to me.
§ Sir James Graham
I anticipated that the omission which the hon. Gentleman was about to supply would relate to the manner in which he came into possession of the document upon which his resolutions are founded, and not to the letter which he read in the course of his speech. I am about to address a body of Gentlemen; and the hon. Member who has just sitten down has made an admission that I think will startle them. The hon. Gentleman has put into the first resolution, upon which he is about to take the sense of the House, a statement from a document which he himself declared to be confidential. I did hope that the hon. Gentleman was about to explain the circumstances under which he was induced to make this public use of a confidential communication but although the hon. Gentleman rose to supply an omission in his speech, nothing could be less satisfactory than what fell from him. Upon a former occasion, the hon. Gentleman asked me whether I recollected this document. I told the hon. Gentleman that I had only an imperfect recollection of it; but that I certainly did think that some such document was in existence. "I have refreshed my memory," that, I think, is the form of expression in use with the right hon. Gentleman, and I will now tell the House and the hon. Gentleman, without reserve, what I believe to be the circumstances connected with that document. The House is aware that in 1832 (I believe I am correct in the year), Lord Grey's Government appointed a commission to inquire into the condition of the labouring poor in this country, with the view of introducing a measure to amend the law for their maintenance and relief. The hon. Gentleman has mentioned to the 1174 House the names of some of the most eminent individuals who were upon that commission; and I need only recal to the attention of the House the names of the bishops of London and of Chester, Mr. Senior, and Mr. Sturges Bourne, to war rant me in saying that, in a commission so constituted, there was a perfect guarantee for the feeling of humanity and benevolence with which the subject referred to them would be investigated. The hon. Gentleman says, that a particular document, of a confidential nature, emanating from that commission, was submitted to Lord Grey's Government. [Mr. Walter: I did not say so. You said it was confidential.] I am in the recollection of the House, whether the hon. Gentleman has not this night used the expression "a confidential communication, made to Lord Grey's Government, which has come into my possession." Those, I believe, are the very words which the hon. Gentleman used; and when the hon. Gentleman rose a second time, I certainly thought that he was about to tell the House the circumstances under which this confidential communication came into his possession. I will tell the House that which the hon. Gentleman has omitted to tell it—the precise circumstances under which the document in question came into the hon. Gentleman's hands. I was remarking, when the hon. Gentleman interrupted me, that the hon. Gentleman had himself stated that the communication upon which he rested his motion was confidential. But whether the hon. Gentleman said so or not, the fact is, that the communication was of a most private and confidential nature. I will tell the House the precise nature of it. The commission to which I have already referred, having prosecuted its inquiries, made a report, which is before the House and the public; and the hon. Gentleman has this night read extracts from it. After that report was presented, for the purpose of bringing the subject in a more tangible form under the consideration of Lord Grey's Government, certain "heads" were prepared, to which their attention might be at once directed. Now the hon. Gentleman, in the preamble to his resolutions, gives a recommendation from a document purporting to be "measures submitted by the Poor-law Commissioners to her Majesty's Ministers." The hon. Gentleman says that this document is not signed. It is most true. The document in question is not signed by the Com- 1175 missioners. Nay, my belief is that, although it purports to be "measures submitted by the Poor-law Commissioners," it was, in fact, nothing more than a document prepared by a person who was employed by the Commissioners for the technical purpose of drawing up the heads of the report. I believe that, in fact, the document had never been shown to the Commissioners—that it was not known to the Commissioners; but that it was a paper prepared by the gentleman whom they employed, merely for the purpose of bringing the report in a digested form under the consideration of the Government. I am told—and the hon. Gentleman can either deny my assertion or correct me if I am inaccurate—I am told that of this document there were printed not more than twenty copies. There were fourteen members of Lord Grey's Government, and fourteen of the printed copies of the document were presented to the Members of that Cabinet. I am sorry that indisposition prevents the noble Lord the Member for the city of London from being in his place upon this occasion, because, as the noble Lord was one of the Members of the Cabinet, he would have been able to explain the circumstances under which the document was prepared and presented to Lord Grey's Cabinet, or to correct me if I am inaccurate in any part of my-statement. I am led to believe that one of these printed copies was communicated, in the strictest confidence, to a gentleman not now living, but who during his life was in immediate connection with the hon. Member for Nottingham. It was communicated in the strictest confidence—it was marked private and confidential—and from that time to this it has slumbered. The hon. Gentleman, feeling the obligation of honour and confidence strong upon him, never produced it while his friend lived. Now, however, for what purpose I know not, the hon. Member has produced it, and founded a string of resolutions upon it. The hon. Gentleman, of course, must be the best judge of the propriety of the course he is pursuing. But I must be allowed to ask, in the first place, whether that course is not most unusual? And, in the next place, I would ask, upon what ground it was that the hon. Gentleman asserted that this document was the foundation of the measure introduced by Lord Grey's Government for the consideration of Parliament. I tell the hon. Gentleman distinctly—I tell the House distinctly— 1176 and there is no breach of confidence in this, since I am compelled to use the information I possess for the public service in consequence of the course which the hon. Gentleman has pursued, and pursued, as I contend, in defiance of the most solemn obligations; but private confidence having been violated, I think it for the public good to declare distinctly that these "heads of measures" were submitted in detail to the consideration of Lord Grey's Government, and that, so far from their being made the groundwork of the measure which they, upon their responsibility, introduced to the attention of Parliament, the specific propositions to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, and some analogous propositions—one going still farther—namely, that upon a given day all outdoor relief throughout England should cease—propositions of that description were submitted to Lord Grey's Cabinet, and one and all of them were rejected; and not only was the measure which was introduced not founded upon the principles set forth in these "heads of measures," but it was founded upon other and different principles, after a full and deliberate consideration of the propositions contained in this document. Under ordinary circumstances, what I have now slated would be considered somewhat improper; but I see one of the Members of Lord Grey's Government on the opposite Bench, and I hope that, in the estimation of that right hon. Gentleman, I shall be vindicated, if, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, I have been led to divulge what I know to be the strict and accurate truth with regard to the very point which the hon. Gentleman has raised. In the most direct terms that the forms of the House will allow I meet with a negative the assertion of the hon Gentleman, that the Poor-law Bill introduced by Lord Grey's Government was grounded upon these propositions; and I state further, that although these propositions were submitted to the consideration of Lord Grey's Government, they were rejected by that Government, and the measure was founded upon other principles. It is very unfortunate that the House had not the advantage of the hon. Gentleman's presence in the last Session, when the Poor-law in all its principles, and all its details, was fully and largely discussed. [Captain Pechell: Not largely discussed.] I certainly thought that every thing connected with the subject, except, perhaps, the Gilbert Unions, 1177 had been debated even to the satisfaction of the gallant Officer. The hon. Gentleman, the Member for Nottingham, appears to imagine that the House is pledged to the Poor-laws, and is not at liberty to recede from recorded declarations. I do not at all rely upon those pledges. I am ready to rest the defence of this measure, not upon opinions which may have been pronounced by Members of this House upon their particular knowledge and experience of the balance of good and evil in the working of the measure, but upon the general practical results produced by its wholesome and beneficial operation. The hon. Gentleman says that no human mind could comprehend all that has been written in defence of this law. I say that it is very difficult to comprehend the extreme bitterness of all that has been written in opposition to this law. The hon. Gentleman has upon the present occasion, ventured to comment with some severity upon the character of the Duke of Wellington. [Mr. Walter: "No, no."] The hon. Gentleman says "No, no." I thought I distinctly heard the hon. Member say that the Duke of Wellington might be a very good judge of military matters, but that, with regard to civil matters, of this description, his great experience and his opinion were not entitled to much respect. But, as the hon. Gentleman himself said, these paper pellets pass harmless over the head of the noble Duke. Nothing that the hon. Gentleman can say or cause to be written will have the slightest effect in shaking the confidence of the people of this country in the extent and soundness of that knowledge, which is no less conspicuous in civil than in military affairs; and I am confident that the opinion of the Duke of Wellington, founded upon a practical experience of the working of this law in his own neighbourhood, where he attends not only to the wants of the poor for the purpose of relieving them, but to the operation of this law, of which he is a careful watcher—I am confident that the opinion of such a man as the noble Duke, freely and frankly given—not minding the obloquy or odium which some parties may attempt to fasten upon him for so expressing himself—will be received with respect by every Member of this House. The hon. Gentleman talked of elevating the character of the free white labourer of this country. I say that one of the grand objects of the Poor-law Bill was to elevate the character of the labouring classes in this country. 1178 I wish the character and condition of the labourers in the agricultural districts, say Bedfordshire for instance, to be contrasted with what their character and condition were at the time that the Poor-law Bill passed. I wish that comparison to be instituted. I wish every Gentleman who was cognizant of the position of these labouring men at the time that the new law passed—when every labourer in the southern district was in the degraded position of a pauper, receiving a portion of his wages out of the poor-rate—to contrast that state of degradation with the manly bearing and altered character of the same men at the present moment. I do not wish this measure to be tried by any fresh test. I assert that I am prepared to risk the measure upon this single issue: in the agricultural districts of the south of England, has the condition of the labourers been elevated or degraded since the passing of this measure? I am quite satisfied that, upon that issue the maintenance of the measure may be safely rested. As is usual, whenever this measure is assailed, the hon. Gentleman has put it upon his resolutions, that the universal practice of those who administer the Poor-laws is a denial of out-door relief, and an administration of relief within the walls of the workhouses upon a system of prison discipline. I last year stated to the House how untrue such representations were. I repeat that statement now. I do not wish to trouble the House with statistical details; but I will just mention the number of paupers who have been relieved throughout England and Wales in the last three years, namely, the years 1840, 1841, and 1842, and the amount in money to which that relief has extended. It appears from a paper which I hold in my hand, that in the year 1840, there were relieved from the poor-rate throughout England and Wales 1,195,000 persons. Of that number, there were relieved within the walls of the workhouses 165,000 persons; and outdoor relief was afforded to 1,030,000 persons. The gross expenditure for the relief of these persons was 3,739,000l., of which there was expended for the relief of paupers within the walls, 808,000l., whilst no less than 2,931,000l., was given for outdoor relief. In 1841, there were relieved throughout England and Wales 1,299,000 persons, of whom 192,000 received relief within the walls, and 1,160,000 relief out of doors. In the last year, 1842, there were relieved 1,429,000 per- 1179 sons, of whom 221,000 were relieved within the walls, whilst no lees than 1,207,000 were relieved out of doors. This is demonstrative. This is proof positive as to the manner in which the law has been administered. I assert that the general rule, as relates to the aged and infirm, is to relieve them at their own homes. I have before me at this moment a return for the Christmas quarter of the year 1842, from the principal unions in the agricultural counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, and Middlesex; from which it will appear that in that quarter, the aggregate number of persons who received relief within the walls of the workhouses of those unions was, 8,349 whilst the number who received out of door relief was 39,894; showing that the proportion of those relieved in the workhouses, as compared with those who received relief out of the workhouses, was only as one to five. But the hon. Gentleman in his last resolution, contends that the Poor-law as it now stands, is not conformable to Christianity, not sound in policy, and at variance with the ancient constitution of this realm. Now I contend for the converse of all those propositions. I contend that the law, as it now stands, is strictly in conformity with the ancient constitution of these realms— Strictly in conformity with the law of Elizabeth, which said that the able-bodied poor should be set to work. I contend further, that the basis of the present law is the 9th of George 1st, which finding that out-of-door relief was administered to able-bodied persons at their own houses, and that great abuse was the consequence, declared that workhouses should be provided, and that the relief given to the poor should be administered within the walls of those houses. I say that, practically, to the sick, the aged, and the infirm, relief is now given in an immense proportion—in the proportion of five out of six out of doors, I contend, that even with respect to the able-bodied, relief in the workhouses is the exception, and not the rule. In-door relief is the test applied to see whether the wants of the applicant are really great, and whether the complaint of want of work and employment is not merely a pretence. It is resorted to as a mode of ascertaining the truth as to the real condition of the party applying for relief. But when the truth is ones ascertained the general rule is to 1180 administer the relief out of the workhouse, I contend that the Poor-law is sound in policy. I have already pointed out to the House the effect that this law had had in elevating the character of the labourers in the agricultural districts, making them no longer dependent on the will of the overseer for a dole out of the poor-rate in aid of their insufficient wages. I say that under the operation of this law the independence of the labourer has been asserted —that his character has been elevated— that the manliness of his bearing has been restored, that he is no longer degraded by parish work, which taxed his labour and his strength to spread gravel or to break stones; to dig pits which were not wanted, and soon as digged to fill them up again; to carry needless weights and burthens; in short to do all sorts of useless unnecessary and degrading work. I maintain the whole policy of the Poor-law has been improved by the alterations effected by the measure which passed in 1834; and if its Christianity be looked at, I say that the great precepts of Christianity—namely, to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to visit the sick—are practically carried into effect under the operation of this measure. I say that the Poor-law of England from the truly Christian principles upon which it is founded, may justly be regarded as the boast of the country. In no Christian community in the civilized world is there a law which provides so humanely, so charitably, so largely, for the sick, the needy and the destitute, in their hours of affliction and suffering, In the very last year—a year of great distress —. independent of all other extraneous claims upon the poor-rates, there was administered in the form of direct relief to the destitute poor, no less a sum than 4,249,000l, This vast sum was raised under the poor-laws, and distributed in the course of the last twelve months, The magnitude of the sum will, perhaps, be more clearly perceived, when I state that it amounts to no less than 5s, per head, raised by way of compulsory assessment, upon the whole population of the kingdom, and that when compared with the number relieved, it is equal to a grant of 3l. a head to 1,400,000 paupers within the year. This too, it must be remembered, has been applied to the relief of the poor, in addition to all the aid afforded by infirmaries, hospitals, friendly societies, and many other institu- 1181 tions maintained by public charity. In addition to all that public and private charity did to alleviate the condition of the sick and destitute, the magnificent sum of 4,249,000l. was given for the relief of the poor and distressed from the funds derived from parochial assessments. I maintain, therefore, that the existing Poor-law, whether tried by its policy, its Christian principle, its practical working, or by whatever test the House may please to adopt, except the popularity hunting of the hon. Member for Nottingham—let it be tried by any fair test, and I will undertake to say that it will stand the ordeal. I have maintained t before successfully, and I do not flinch from the maintenance of it now, With respect to the first of the resolutions now before the House, I have denied the authenticity of the document for the purpose, for which the hon. Gentleman seeks to use it. I deny that that document has formed the ground-work of the present law. I do not deny the existence of the document, but I repeat that, having been under the consideration of the authors of the present law, the document was rejected, and the measure framed upon another and a different principle. Under these circumstances I am sure the House will feel that I am justified in moving the previous question with respect to the first resolution, and in declaring that it is my intention to meet the others by a direct negative.
§ Mr. Walter
hoped, that the House would allow him to say one word in the way of explanation. The right hon. Baronet had given an account of how the document upon which his resolutions were founded had come into his possession. Now he (Mr. Walter) really did not know how he got it. He did not see it, to the best of his knowledge and belief, till two days before Parliament met. It had, he supposed, been laid by with other documents; but he declared that he never saw it before the time he had just mentioned.
§ Mr. Wakley
remarked, that the manner in which the right hon. Baronet, towards the close of his address, had asked the House to try the measure by any fair test, and in which the right hon. Baronet had afterwards made a distinct reference to the motives of the hon. Member for Nottingham, was, as he thought, that the right hon. Baronet's experience would have told him, in the strictest sense, 1182 unparliamentary. He did not know anything more unparliamentary than for one hon. Member to attribute motives to another for any course that he might feel it his duty to adopt. And of all men in the House the right hon. Baronet was the last who ought to have made such a reference, because he had had ample experience during the sittings of a committee of that House in two Sessions of Parliament of the conduct of the hon. Member for Nottingham, when he was unobserved by the public, when no human being beyond the members of the committee could know what was passing before them, and when no portion of the public out of door could be aware of the part which that hon. Gentleman was taking. During that time, the right hon. Baronet must know with what zeal, what unremitting assiduity, what personal sacrifice, and at what a large expenditure the hon. Member for Nottingham prosecuted his exertions for the purpose of effecting an alteration of this most odious law. He said, therefore, that the right hon. Baronet ought not, in justice to the hon. Member for Nottingham, to have made such a reference to his motives, and he was sure that the right hon. Baronet upon reflection, would see the impropriety of having made it. The right hon. Baronet had opened his address to the House by giving a most clear, lucid, and distinct account of the manner in which a certain document supposed to be connected with the construction of the New Poor-law had been laid before Lord Grey's Government, He thought, that it was only a few days since that the right hon. Baronet declared that he had only a most indistinct recollection of any such document. He thought it was only a few nights ago, when a question was put to him about this very document, that the right hon. Baronet said, "Why, really I have some flitting, faint, indistinct recollection of the existence of such a paper, but I cannot speak positively of it; however, I will make inquiry into the report, and see if it can be produced to the House," Now, the right hon. Baronet had made his inquiry. Of whom had he made it? Of those who were his colleagues in Lord Grey's Government. Had they a more distinct recollection on the subject than the right hon. Baronet? He had had good evidence of the strength of the right hon. Baronet's memory, and he would venture to say that there was- 1183 not one of the right hon. Baronet's former colleagues who had a stronger memory than his own. Who, then, was to have a recollection of the existence of such a document, if the right hon. Baronet had not? But whether remembered or not, it now appeared that there certainly was such a document. It was now beyond the reach of doubt that there had been some monster in human form who had submitted such a document to the Government. What opinion must he have had of the Government to which he ventured to submit such a document. Why did not the right hon. Baronet let the House know the name of the great and good man to whom the public were indebted for the benevolent proposition that the poor should be put upon coarser food, and less in quantity; that the commissioners should have no power, under any circumstances, to increase the quantity, but an unlimited power, under all circumstances, to diminish it; and that at a certain fixed period out-door relief should cease altogether? These were the propositions put forth in the document upon which the hon. Member for Nottingham had founded his resolutions. He thought that the charge which the right hon. Baronet had brought against the hon. Member for Nottingham of a breach of confidence was wholly unfounded. The right hon. Baronet said, that twenty copies of the document were printed; that fourteen of those twenty were in the possession of Members of the Cabinet; and that he was of opinion that somehow or other one of the remaining six had been given, in strict confidence, to a gentleman not now alive. That being so, did the right hon. Baronet mean to charge the dead with breach of confidence. The document came into the possession of the hon. Member for Nottingham, in consequence of the death of another party; and there being nothing on the face of the document to show that it was of a confidential nature, how could the hon. Member for Nottingham be justly charged with breach of confidence in submitting it to the consideration of the House. He, from what he knew of that hon. Member, and from what he had seen of his conduct since he had been a Member of that House, did not believe that the hon. Member would knowingly be guilty of anything that could properly be termed a breach of confidence. But he felt that the hon. Member for Nottingham had 1184 rendered the public a great service by the production of a paper which would show to the people of England in what an odious, disgraceful, and fiend-like spirit this law had first originated. The right hon. Baronet said, that the present Poor-law was not founded upon the recommendations contained in this document. The right hon. Baronet said, indeed, that the sound policy, the Christian spirit, and benevolent principle of the existing law was utterly at variance with the propositions set forth in this notable document. But be was at issue with the right hon. Baronet upon that point; and it was his conviction that the people of England would believe that the present law was founded upon the very principles and recommendations which were discovered in that document. The hon. Baronet was of opinion that the poor, under the existing system, were humanely treated—treated in a way that at once accorded with Christian benevolence and sound policy; and he had referred to the county of Bedford, and to other parts of the south of England, as furnishing an illustration of the excellent operation of the law. The right hon. Baronet said, that it had produced an effect upon the agricultural labourer. Undoubtedly it had. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet upon that point. He mixed largely with the middle classes of society, and was continually in the habit of seeing and conversing with the poorest classes of society. He had many opportunities of becoming acquainted with their feelings and opinions; and he knew that the effect which this law had produced upon the minds of the working classes of this country was such as to lead them to the conviction that the great lauded proprietors of this country were their enemies—their persecutors, and not their friends. Let any man in any parish in the kingdom say to a poor individual, "The Poor-law was passed for your benefit—it is intended to do you good—to relieve your wants—to make you independent;" what in every instance, would be the reply? "Our belief is, Sir, that the great people don't care one straw for us; and that their object in passing this law was to make our condition worse, and not better." This was the feeling that was pervading the minds of the working classes of this country to a frightful extent—to an extent, in fact, that, in his opinion, endangered the possessions of the Members 1185 of that House. It was his conviction, that the Legislature had produced a feeling in the minds of the working classes which would have the effect of rendering, if not their lives, at least their property, insecure. The severity of the law was daily rankling in their hearts. They felt that they were cruelly persecuted. They had not for. gotten the different treatment which they received under the law of Elizabeth. That there were defects in the law of Elizabeth he admitted—that it was badly administered he also admitted; but that in spirit and essence it was a wise and good law, he was prepared to maintain, whether upon the floor of that House or anywhere else. The right hon. Baronet had told the House of the number of persons who, within the last three years, had received parochial relief, and had drawn, with something of an air of triumph, a comparison between the great numbers who had been relieved out of the workhouses, as contrasted with those who had received relief within the walls of the workhouses. Was this in the right hon. Baronet's estimation one of the merits of the bill? One of the proofs of its beneficial working? Why, what were they told in the year 1834? That a test must be established. And what was that test? The workhouse. There was no longer to be any out-door relief to anybody at all. Had that law been carried into execution? From the statement made that night by the right hon. Baronet, it appeared that the proportion of poor persons actually relieved within the walls of the workhouses was only as one to six, as compared with those who were relieved out of doors. [Sir James Graham: Of the aged and infirm.] The right hon. Baronet stated distinctly that the proportion of the whole number of persons relieved in the workhouses was only as one to six, compared with those relieved out of the workhouses. He was delighted that the hon. Member for Nottingham had brought this question before the House. He was glad, too, that the hon. Gentleman had brought it forward at the present time; because, as it was fit and necessary that the House should this Session determine whether there was, in fact, to be any relaxation of the existing system, or whether it was to be continued with all its severity, it was in his opinion most opportune that a motion of this kind should be submitted to the consideration of that branch of the Legislature before 1186 the amended bill of the Government was brought under discussion. The people were looking to this report with great anxiety—in the north of England they were looking to it with special anxiety. The number of letters which the Members of that House, known to be opposed to this law, received from all parts of the kingdom, complaining of its harsh, unjust, and cruel operation, far exceeded the number of communications that they received upon all other subjects combined; and the earnestness with which appeals were made for a relaxation of the law was unabated and increasing. At the same time he was obliged to say that there existed no hope in the minds of the people that there would be any relaxation of this most odious and oppressive law. The people believed that the two great parties in that House were pledged and committed to it, and that both parties were entitled to an equal share of the odium which attached to all who supported it. He had formerly thought that no party could stand in a worse position as regarded this law than the Whigs; but he now saw that there was another party in the country that could act even worse than the Whigs. When the Whigs introduced this measure, it was admitted on all hands that something must be done with respect to the Poor-laws. The country was labouring under most grievous burthens from the mal-administration of the law of Elizabeth. The Whig party, viewing the condition in which the country was placed admitted, with others, that something must be done. Therefore, assisted by their friends, they brought in the bill which was now the law of the land. They did not bring it in until after a commission of inquiry had been instituted and a formal report made. At the time that the bill was so brought forward it was, of course, problematical and speculative as to what its effects would be. But yet, at that very time, the principle upon which it was founded was denounced on the hustings and at all public meetings by the gentlemen of the Tory party in every quarter of the kingdom. It was denounced as coming from the Whigs, and was eagerly seized upon as a weapon to employ against that party. The elections came on, and oh! that Act was a rare God-send for the Tories. It served their purpose well. They denounced the cruelties that were perpetrated under the operation of 1187 this law. Cases were selected and brought forward upon the hustings as exemplifications of the odious character and nature of the law. But by and by the Tory party came into power; and a thousand times he had heard it said by individuals of the working classes,Well, if there be no other good from the accession of the Tories, thank God we shall get rid of the infernal Poor-law Act.This he had heard not once or twice, but a thousand times at least.This good, at least, (said the working people), we shall obtain from the Tories, and we will on that account support them, even if we obtain nothing else from them.He had been blockhead enough to have been one of those believers himself. He believed that an improper construction had been put upon some words that had fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth upon the subject. He admitted that: but the expected revision of the law, which was to deprive it of its harshness and cruelty, and to make it a law really beneficial to the poor, had never been made. Upon that point the people had been completely disappointed, if not grossly deceived. What was the proposition of last year? Was it a proposition to amend or alter any one of the obnoxious provisions of the existing law? No—it was a proposition to renew that odious law in all its integrity, and to continue its operation for another five years. The converts to this law declared that they were prepared to encounter all the odium and all the consequences that could possibly fall upon them in consequence of their support of the measure. He could assure them that at the next election they would feel the full weight of the odium they had so justly incurred. He did not believe (till the conviction was forced upon him) that a party boasting of so many high-minded men, and condemning what it was pleased to call the miserable pettifogging of its opponents, would so soon have forgotten declarations and pledges which had enabled them to acquire power, and that they would become the supporters of a law which they had so loudly and emphatically condemned. But he had been deceived. He saw that the two great parties in that House were fully committed to this odious law in all its obnoxious details and principles, and he now believed, that it would never be erased 1188 from the statute book unless by the force of public opinion. He was now convinced that it would never be abolished by the will and desire of that House. He had always contended that if they desired to have the administration of relief to the poor founded upon a principle of uniformity, the Legislature ought to establish a Poor-law Court, and give the people a Poor-law Judge; and that in that court, whenever a poor man appealed against the decision of parties whom he should deem to have deprived him of his rights, the country should furnish him with an advocate to plead his cause at the public expense. There would then be something like a uniformity of system, and a regular code of laws to refer to. But it was no matter how he and those who agreed with him argued this question here, or what facts they brought forward to show the cruelty or imperfections of the law, they were rime-mediate met by opposite statements as to the intent and working of the Act, showing that its application depended entirely upon the whim of the party who had to enforce it, and the caprice by which his mind was actuated. At one time the object was stated to be to effect an uniform system throughout England. Then if he and others brought forward instances in which it was shown that different modes of working the Act took place at different periods in the same unions, or that different systems of diet existed in different unions—in some descending to the starvation point, while in others, as in the City of London Union for example, the dietary system amounted almost to a plethora— then the right hon. Baronet looking over the reports, told them that it was the very object of the law not to produce uniformity, but to give to the commissioners a discretionary power, enabling them to vary the regulations according to the circumstances of the several unions. So that, do what he and the opponents of the law would, they could not get over the right hon. Gentleman. He was a match with them at every point, and, with his majority, more than a match. When speaking on a former occasion as to the dietary of the City of London and of unions in the country, he admitted that the commissioners were perfectly justified in having a varying system; but why? If it were the object of the commissioners to make the poor independent of relief, and 1189 to improve their condition, he should very much like to know of the right hon. Baronet whether he did not think the commissioners had proceeded in a wrong course? In London, where wages were high, the temptations to go into the workhouse ought to be small. The commissioners should hold out to the workmen of London every inducement to be careful, and prevent them in the hour of idleness, or when they were out of work, having immediate recourse to the workhouse; therefore in London they ought to establish a lower scale of diet than in many places in the country. Let the House see what was the situation of the poor in many remote parts of the kingdom. The guardians were the same persons who as masters employed the labourers of the unions, and who had the power of fixing the rate of wages in the neighbourhood; and by these same guardians it was determined, when assembled at the weekly board, what should be given to the labourers in the way of relief. What, then, was the state of the poor man? If he would not receive the wages fixed by the guardians, he must go into the workhouse and submit to the dietary and regulations determined upon by the very guardians who, as employers, fixed the amount of wages. In other words, if the labouring man would not accept the wages which the guardians offered him, he was under the necessity of submitting to a system almost of starvation in those receptacles called workhouses. But, said the right hon. Gentleman, this was a humane system—it was one of comfort to the poor, it was founded on Christian principles, and was a system of sound policy. Could that be a system of sound policy which made a mockery of the feelings of the poor, and which drove them to hate all above them in society? Yes, it was a system which caused the poor man to hate, detest, and abhor the aristocratic classes, and it was his firm conviction that no law or set of laws had produced so much mischief in this kingdom as the Poor-law Amendment Act; when he said mischief, he meant with reference to the insecurity of our institutions, and the dissatisfied state in which they found society. Now, supposing the poor man was admitted into the workhouse—supposing his condition to be such as that he could not be denied admission—that he was so destitute as to consent to be received into one of those disagreeable receptacles; sup- 1190 posing this, then he wished to know where was the humanity, or kindness, or Christian feeling, exhibited in the rules and regulations which had been promulgated for the government of those places? Look, for example, at some of the rules publish by the commissioners in August, 1840. Though they were not a part of the law, they were still in operation. A man whose necessities, or very often whose infirmities had driven him into a workhouse, was not allowed, at meal times, to utter a syllable to the person sitting next to him without subjecting himself to punishment as being a disorder flypaper. The silent system was observed at meal times in the workhouse. Look, again, at the rule respecting the visits of friends. By rule twenty-two, it was declared that no person not expressly authorised by law, should be allowed to visit any pauper, except by permission of the master and board, and subject to such restrictions as the board should impose. It was necessary no doubt, that there should be rules for the governing of these houses, but it was a mockery to state that the regulations which had been enforced were founded upon Christian principles, when the effect of them was to torture the feelings of visitors, as well as of the poor themselves. Such rules could never be defended by those who carefully examined them. The regulation respecting visitors contained a proviso, "that the interview of the friend and the pauper should always take place in the presence of the master, matron, or porter, and in a room separate for that purpose." Was not that converting your workhouse into a goal? Was there anything more restrictive at gaols? Indeed, he believed that in many of our gaols it, was not so bad as this. A young man, for example, could not go into a workhouse to see and speak to his mother, without having a spy set upon him, whatever he might have to communicate. And the poor had secrets as well as the rich. There were matters of importance capable of affecting their feelings and interests; and a son might have something to divulge to his mother which it might be most painful to him to relate in the presence of a third party; and yet the young man could not make such a communication unless in the presence of a spy. To talk of this being founded on humane and Christian principles! It was a mockery to say that such a law has anything 1191 of Christianity or humanity in it. The right hon. Gentleman has said, that other countries do not possess such a law as our present Poor-law. He admitted that many nations have not such a law; and that our present law, even, is infinitely better than that which prevails in other countries. But we complain of the substitution of the present law for the law of Elizabeth; we say, that you have robbed the poor of this country of one of their most precious rights by the virtual repeal of the act of Elizabeth. What have the poor done that they should be treated in this manner, and by whom are they thus treated? What he said on this subject may be very unpleasant, and may sound very gratingly to hon. Gentlemen opposite. On this side of the House it was contended that you do not give to the people the opportunity of turning their labour to the best account,—that you have restrictive laws with regard to commerce, which interfere with the poor in their demand for labour,—and that if you were to repeal certain laws with reference to the importation of food, the poor would have afforded to them an infinitely better opportunity of disposing of their labour to advantage than they now possess. On the other side of the House you contend that, for certain reasons, these laws ought not to be repealed. It is the belief of some persons—forming a not inconsiderable party—that these laws are maintained for your own benefit; and he believed that certain Members had the sagacity to be aware that they promoted their own benefit, and for that reason they adhered to them with amazing pertinacity. Now, was it not scandalous, was it not unjust, was it not iniquitous, to deny to the poor man the opportunity of turning his power of labouring to the best account, and then, because he cannot procure wages, to punish him for the fault? That was a question to which he should like to have an answer. He did not know anything more inhuman. He could not conceive anything more monstrous, than such a state of things; and it was the bitter complaint of the poor that the Legislature would not afford them an opportunity of becoming richer, and that it punished them in consequence of their poverty. It would be useless, at this time, to bring forward a multitude of details, to show the operation of the Poor-law in this country; but he could assure the House it was no uncom- 1192 mon circumstance for him to meet with cases in which men have deprived themselves of life rather than go into one of these union workhouses. He met, not unfrequently, with cases of persons who, being in a state of destitution, and fearing that this destitution might lead them to the workhouse, in a moment of despair deprived themselves of existence. He had heard many tales of suffering and woe in the families of the poor; and he could assert that, instead of the present law being deemed a blessing by the working classes, they considered it the heaviest curse with which they were ever visited. If the Members of this House were wise, if the aristocracy of this country were prudent, if they were as sagacious on this subject as they were regardful of what they consider their own interests, they would not hesitate to relax the principles of this measure, and so to amend the law as to allow the rate-payers, the parties who make and who pay the rates, to be distributors of these rates among their poorer neighbours. But it was contended that there must be a power vested in the guardians of withholding relief; and it was hoped that, by allowing an appeal from the guardians in the country to the commissioners in London, the guardians would incur little odium by the refusal of relief. It had been argued in that House, that no regard should be paid to the character of the applicant for relief, that the guardians are to be influenced only by the state of destitution in which the applicant may be, without any reference to the manner in which that destitution may have been caused. The noble Lord the Member for the city of London, declared most emphatically that it was monstrous to give the guardians the power of regulating the amount of relief according to the character and conduct of the party making the application. He had repeatedly pointed out the danger of such a principle as that for which the noble Lord contended; and when the aristocracy of this country determine by law that the guardians, in administering relief to applicants in a state of distress, should have no regard to the character or conduct of the applicant, they were laying the foundation of a state of things which could not be contemplated without extreme apprehension. What was the course pursued in former times, when the vestries were open, and before the select vestry acts were passed? The poor persons were 1193 in the habit of attending the rate-payers in the vestry-room, and application after application was made for relief. The destitute were relieved; but something more than relief was given to those of deserving and uniform good character. They received kindly and sympathizing treatment from the persons who had the disposal of the rates, and who bestowed them,—the possessors and creators of the property; but the present law denied to the creators of the property the opportunity of bestowing that property upon their poorer neighbours as they thought fit. That was the reason why he so strongly complained of the repeal of the enactment of Elizabeth; in that law no such provision is to be found; but the present law took from the guardians the power of giving relief, and left them at the mercy of the commissioners. He was glad that the hon. Member for Nottingham had brought this subject before the House in its present form. He was glad that the principle of the law was to be considered, and that the vote of the House was to be taken on the question; and he hoped that the people of this country, who had manifested much anxiety and interest with reference to the operation of this law, would have some regard to the conduct of that House in dealing with the question when they are called upon to return representatives to Parliament.
said, there was no question to which he was anxious to give such careful attention as that which was now brought before the House by the motion of the hon. Member for Nottingham. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had charged those who supported the views advocated by the hon. Member for Not-ting ham I who had so long and consistently, and he would add so ably argued the question in that House on various occasions — with popularity-hunting, and with differing from perhaps the highest authority in this country. With respect to the first charge, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman, whom did the opponents of the present Poor-law court? The poor. What advantage then might they expect to derive from flattering and courting the poor, who were incapable of rendering any other return than thanks for the exertions which were made on their behalf? He thought the right hon. Gentleman had 1194 treated somewhat unfairly the observations of the hon. Member for Nottingham with respect to his having ventured to differ from the Duke of Wellington on this question. The hon. Member for Nottingham could not have used more respectful language than he had done in referring to the noble Duke. The hon. Gentleman said, that that noble individual was the highest living authority in matters relating to war, but that he yet must differ from him in the opinions he entertained on this subject. If hon. Members were to surrender their judgment in that House, if they were to bow before talent and ability, he did not know any individual within those walls to whom he would more readily surrender his judgment than to the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department. There was no one for whom he entertained higher respect, and in whose judgment he reposed greater confidence than the right hon. Baronet; but he must say, that he could not surrender his judgment, and that he could not shrink from doing that duty which he was sent into the House to perform, from a regard for the opinions of any individual, however able and distinguished he might be. He would not, by such a surrender of his judgment, render himself liable to the charge, on the part of his constituents, of having neglected their interests. It had been said, that this country possessed a more perfect Poor-law than any other nation enjoyed; but he thought, that if they looked at Spain, and other Roman Catholic countries, they would exhibit a wonderful contrast as compared with England. He would not, however, enter into that question; but he would take leave respectfully to ask the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether there were not a country which once had a much more Christian system of Poor-laws than England now possessed? He alluded to England itself at two distinct periods, before the reign of Henry 8th, and at the time of Elizabeth? At the period when Henry 8th confiscated that property which was acknowledged to be the right of the poor, and threw upon his successors the necessity of providing some law for their relief, England unquestionably then possessed a code of laws relating to the poor infinitely more Christian, more humane, and more just in their character than those which were now in existence. He would say also that the principle of the law by which Queen Eli- 1195 zabeth made provision for the relief of the wants of the poor was much more humane, and much more consistent with the principles of Christianity and charity, than the law which was now under discussion. But did it therefore follow that no change could be made in the provisions of the present Poor law, without going back entirely to the law of Elizabeth? By no means. He would adopt the principles of the law of Elizabeth, but in their application to the present state of the country those principles might be greatly and beneficially modified. He would be travelling very much beyond his province if he ventured to suggest to the House the framework of a new law on this subject. But, with reference to the principles upon which the present law was founded, whether it was or was not founded upon the express document to which the hon. Member for Nottingham referred in his resolutions, or upon other recommendations, those principles he considered so strongly opposed to the principles upon which such a law ought to be grounded in this country, that he would feel it his duty to vote for the motion of the hon. Gentleman behind him. Whether or not the document which the hon. Member had quoted, was the express document upon which the existing law was framed was a matter of comparative indifference; but it was well known that the principles asserted in that document were precisely similar to those upon which the present Poor-law was grounded. The principle of the Poor-law, as it now existed, was neither more nor less than this, -—that when the poor applied for relief in the country in which they were born, and in which they had expended their industry, they should be told, "There are many among you who are not deserving of the relief which the country provides. You are intruders upon the legitimate inheritance of the poor. I do not say you who now apply belong to that class, but I will try whether you do or not by this test: if you are prepared to forfeit all such ties as bind you to your homes and dearest relationships in order to prove that you cannot get bread, and that you are ready to go to the workhouse, I will believe that you belong to the virtuous poor; that you really want bread; that you are an industrious poor man, who, having expended your strength on behalf of your country, are deserving of support at the hands of the public." This was the simple principle that lay at the bottom of the whole Poor- 1196 law. He asked the right hon. Baronet or any other hon. Gentleman to tell him by what manner of ingenuity he could discover a principle so directly opposed to Christianity, so directly opposed to sound policy, so directly opposed to the dictates of charity and benevolence as this? Here was the manner in which they worked out the principle to which he referred. To a board sitting at London all cases which might occur, however remote the part of the country where they occurred, were ultimately referrable. Those persons who applied for relief must be referred to the London commission. He did not object to the character of the gentlemen who composed that commission; what he contended for was, that the commissioners had a law to administer which was so inherently cruel, that if you had the quintescence of charity itself embodied, and administering the Poor-law, it would be impossible to help acts of harshness. The question before the House was a question of principle, and he most sincerely thanked the hon. Gentleman behind him, that he had reduced it to a simple and short form. He would not detain the House further than to say that he should have great pleasure in supporting the motion of the hon. Gentleman, and whenever the Poor-law came before the House, he should support the spirit of the motion by demonstrating every opposition to that law in his power.
§ Mr. Aglionby
said, that the motion before the House was so peculiar in form that he should not vote upon it without giving his reasons why be should support the hon. Member for Nottingham. It might be well, lest the public should be misled from ignorance of the rules of the House, to observe that in point of form each resolution was taken separately, and that the House was, in the first place, and at present, about to come to a vote on the first resolution. That resolution was in these words:—That in a document entitled 'Measures submitted by the Poor-law Commissioners to her Majesty's Ministers,' appear the following passages:—'That at any time after the passing of this act the Board of Control shall have power, by an order, with such exception as shall be thought necessary, to disallow the continuance of relief to the indigent, the aged, and the impotent, in any other mode than in a workhouse, regulated in such manner as by the aforesaid Board of Control shall be determined:' 'The power of the Commissioners would be to reduce allowances, but not to enlarge them;' 'After this has been accomplished, 1197 orders may be sent forth directing that, after such a day, all out-door relief should be given partly in kind; after another period it should be wholly in bread; that, after such another period, it should be gradually diminished in quantity until that mode of relief was extinguished. From the first the relief should be altered in quality, coarse brown bread being substituted for fine white, and, concurrently with these measures as to the out-door poor, a gradual reduction should be made in the diet of the in-door poor, and strict regulations enforced.'He did not understand, that on any hand those words were denied to be in the document in question; but the effect of the right hon. Baronet's motion would be this, "though true it is, that such a document and such passages do exist, yet it is not expedient to discuss them at present." That was the meaning of the vote which the House was called upon by the right hon. Baronet to pass on the first resolution. Now, he had always approved of the Poor-law in its general principles; he supported it on its passing; he believed, that while it was a good law in its general principles, many of its details had worked well for the poor; but though he did not go to the full extent with the hon. Member for Nottingham in his views, he thought that many of the provisions of the law were harsh in their nature, and had been harshly worked out, and he believed were disgustful to the poor, and, in general, unsatisfactory to the ratepayers of the kingdom. He thought some of the provisions of the act so harsh and unsatisfactory that he could not support them. Let it be observed, however, that he was not popularity-hunting by decrying the whole Poor-law, but that what he said was, that there were provisions to which, as rendering the law unpalatable to the people (as for instance, the provisions respecting out-door relief), he was opposed. He should, therefore, vote on this question with the hon. Member for Nottingham, because he thought it was not expedient to give the go-by to a subject of this kind. He wished to press on the House the spirit of the views of the hon. Member for Nottingham, and he hoped they would not fail early in the Session to take into consideration the whole of the Poor-law, with a view to ameliorate such of its provisions as were harsh. As to the principle of outdoor relief, he could not forget how great had been the difference of practice stated on a former occasion by the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary and the right hon. Ba- 1198 ronet the Member for Kent (Sir E. Knatchbull). The right hon. Member for Kent had stated, that an application had been made by him, as chairman of a board of guardians in Kent, to be allowed to adopt a relaxation of the principle, which was refused; while the other right hon. Baronet had stated, that the Longtown guardians had made the same application which was acceded to, and that if it had not been they would not have continued in office another moment. That was the mode in which the principle had been worked some time ago. Since then, however, it had been materially relaxed. Now, he objected to such large, arbitrary, and capricious powers being vested in the hands of any set of men. On the whole, therefore, though generally favourable to the Poor-law, he thought there were harsh provisions in it which prevented its working as well as it ought, and believing that those harsh provisions had been rendered still harsher by the manner in which they had been worked out, he hoped the House would as soon as possible, carry into effect some of the sentiments expressed in the resolutions of the hon. Member. Perhaps the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) would allow him to call his attention to the third and fifth resolutions. The third stated, that the suffering already caused by the partial enforcement of those recommendations, and the amount of out-door relief, in spite of them, still administered, showed their provisions to have been at once cruel and impracticable. He thought that would not be denied; he believed, that those provisions had been carried out in a most objectionable mode. The fifth resolution stated,That this House think it expedient to demand such a reconstruction of the existing system as shall make it conformable to Christianity, sound policy, and the ancient constitution of this realm.He adopted that statement in its spirit, without binding himself to any particular form of words.
§ Mr. Cripps
was anxious to state, in reply to what had been stated respecting the Cirencester workhouse, that persons in that workhouse lived, he was sorry to say, better than many of those who were called on to pay poor-rates. The dietary table which had been printed in The Times and various other newspapers was not the dietary table used in the Cirencester workhouse; there was not a single day on 1199 which the paupers in hat workhouse had ever been fed on the dietary table. If the table was signed by the Poor-law Commissioners; that might be an instance of their neglect, but at any rate, the table never was a single day or a single hour acted on in the Cirencester workhouse. When the hon. Member for Nottingham next quoted the dietary of the Cirencester workhouse, let him be sure to get the right one.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
would oppose the principles of the Poor-law, in whatever shape it came before the House, and therefore he supported the motion of the hon. Member for Nottingham, whom he wished to thank for the manner in which he had brought the question before the House. He did not wish to lay any weighty charge against the commissioners, but he did complain of the manner in which the commission was constituted, and of the way in which they had acted; and he thought it a little too much that any body of commissioners sitting in London, who could not be conversant with the wants of particular counties, should dare, as he would call it, to interfere with the local bodies of guardians, who were far better qualified to find out what description of persons were deserving objects, in their administration of relief. There could not be a question of the number of cases of cruelty and oppression which had taken place among the class of people on whom the Poor-law operated; he had heard of a number of cases himself, which he should bring forward, unless he found them contradicted. For his own part, he should be glad to resort to the old law; in his opinion it was a most excellent law; in the neigh bourhood in which he resided he knew of no one proof of cruelty to the poor under it, or of its having been administered with any other than good feeling to the poor; but in stepped this New Poor-law, and matters were changed, immediately changed, for the worse. He gave his most cordial support to the hon. Member for Nottingham, together with his thanks to him for the mode in which he had expressed his general views, and for his kind feelings to the poor. He should repeat what he had often said before,—that until he saw some measures adopted more in consistency with the feelings of humanity, he should continue to oppose the present Poor-law.
§ Mr. John S. Wortley
said, that the House had been told by two hon. Gentle- 1200 men that they should take every opportunity to express their repugnance and aversion to the Poor-law, and he must say, for his part, that he thought that repugnance, perhaps, in some cases, might be well founded; but he could not follow them in the course they were about to take in giving their votes, because he thought that as a Member of the Legislature he ought not to pursue an indiscriminating course of opposition to any measure, but ought to look to the questions which might be submitted to the House, and see whether they were such as to enable him to adopt a satisfactory and useful course upon them. With respect to the present motion, he did not hesitate to say, that he concurred in many respects with the hon. Member for Nottingham, but the hon. Member had placed the question before the House in such a way that he could not give the hon. Member his vote. He protested, however, against the attempt of the hon. Member for Finsbury to give an interpretation to the motion which was such as he could not admit. The hon. Member had told the House, that the question was not that which the hon. Member for Nottingham expressed in the terms of the resolutions, but that the question was, whether the House was to make any relaxations at all in the administration of the Poor-law. Now,' he would not admit that to be the true interpretation—he would admit no such thing. The first question at present before the House was, whether certain passages were or were not contained in a document entitled, "Measures submitted by the Poor-law Commissioners to her Majesty's Ministers;" and he thought that if hon. Members were prepared to affirm all the statements in this resolution, it was unquestionably their duty to vote with the hon. Member for Nottingham; if not, then, he said, they could not give the hon. Member their support; and though he felt it his duty to withhold his support on this occasion, yet he should hold himself free to consider any change in the Poor-law that might be proposed, and he should do his best to aid in any attempt to remedy its defects, and adapt it to the situation and wishes of the country. That was the course which he had from the first adopted, and that was the course which he would pursue. The hon. Member for Finsburr—who, to his regret, had left the House—had viewed the motion in a light which, if permitted to remain, would place many Gentlemen in an 1201 invidious position—a position in which it was possible the hon. Gentleman wished to include him with others. He, however, would take the liberty at once to reject his imputations. He never on any occasion or at any period held out an expectation to those who sent him to that House, that it was his object or intention to annihilate the existing Poor-law, or to expunge it from the statute book. On the contrary, on all occasions, as on the present, whenever speaking of this question, he had always said, that considering the outlay which had been incurred—considering the time during which the law was in operation—and considering the various and extensive arrangements which had taken place under its authority, he considered it impossible now to repeal that law. He however, at the same time, said, that there were certain points in the law which he distinctly considered to be rigorous and defective; that such parts would require to be altered and ameliorated, and that he would certainly devote his attention to the attainment of that object. When, however, he was asked whether he would support any motion for the repeal of the law, his invariable answer to all such questions was, that he would do no such thing. He again urged the same arguments, that the law had been many years in operation, that its machinery had been constructed at considerable expense, that it had been adapted to the various parts of the country, and under such circumstances and with such considerations it would be impossible for him to adopt the opinion that it ought to be totally repealed; but he would cordially concur in any practical plan for fixing and removing its defects, for altering and repealing such of its enactments as appeared to require alteration, and for adapting it more thoroughly to the existing state of society. Such being the opinions he had always expressed, and such the views he had entertained on the subject, he thought he might safely bid defiance to any imputations which the hon. Member for Finsbury might think fit to cast. The hon. Member for Finsbury chose to throw obloquy upon the present Government on the same grounds, and assumed that they had at the late elections given an implied expectation that the present Poor-law should be repealed in the event of their coming into power. He never heard that the right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government had ever held out any such expectation, but the 1202 right hon. Baronet, in his speech to his own constituency at Tamworth, in the midst of the general election, declared that he would oppose any alteration in principle of the existing law. This declaration of the right hon. Baronet was circulated by means of the press throughout the country. He recollected to have read that declaration with some disappointment. He wished that the declaration of the right hon. Baronet had been somewhat qualified; but such was the statement made by the right hon. Baronet, and he, as a supporter of the present Government, rejected the imputation attempted to be cast upon them by the hon. Member for Finsbury when it was insinuated that they wished to mislead the country, and to create an erroneous impression with respect to the manner in which they intended to act as regarded the Poor-law. Now, as to the question at present before the House. The first of the resolutions, founded upon a document said to have been submitted to the Poor-law Commissioners, was as follows:That these recommendations, applicable alike to every class of the poor, and enjoining an indiscriminate reduction of their physical comforts to the lowest endurable point, are shown by the subsequent orders and practice of the Poor-law Commissioners to form the real and avowed basis of the present system of Poor-law relief.This was the resolution which the House was then called upon to affirm, and he for one could not do so. So far from saying that such was the case, he would reject the resolution, for he denied that such was proved to be the spirit of the act, or its substantial practice. When he was asked to affirm the existence of the document upon which the resolution was founded and then to add that it was in the spirit of that document the Poor-law was uniformly administered he found it impossible to do so. The House had heard from the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department the history of the document. Whether or not it was obtained by a violation of confidence or whether it was found accidentally amongst other papers he (Mr. Wortley) could not of course undertake to say; but if he could suppose that the paper was procured by a breach of confidence that would furnish an additional reason why he would refuse his support to the first resolution. If it was procured by an improper or unjust violation of confidence, the most becoming course for the House was to give it no counte- 1203 nance. He would, however, assume that it had not been so procured. He would take it for granted that it had been obtained by some fair and legitimate process. Even with this assumption, and although the existence of the document was admitted, still it was rather a strange course to call upon him to affirm the contents of a document which he had never seen, and to vote for this resolution. When they came to the other resolution, if the hon. Member for Nottingham had made up his mind to proceed with it in the event of the first being rejected, he (Mr. Wortley) with all his objections to certain parts of the Poor-law could not say that the document produced was the avowed basis of the Poor-law Act. When the House took into consideration the declaration of the right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department, who stated positively from his own knowledge that the document which headed the resolution was not the ground, work of the new law, but that on the contrary, that document had been unanimously and deliberately rejected, it would be impossible for the House to give its assent to the resolution. The hon. Member for Nottingham might think that the Poor-law was conceived and administered in the spirit of this document, and others might more or less lean to that opinion. The hon. Member might be confirmed by the document in the opinion that the law required to be altered to a greater extent than he (Mr. Wortley) considered to be necessary, but he could not, on that account, affirm the resolution that it was in the spirit of that document the present law was administered by the commissioners. To the third resolution of the hon. Gentleman, he had but little objection. There Was a great portion of it which he would willingly support, although he would prefer having it worded in another manner. It ran thus:—That the suffering already caused by their partial enforcement, and the amount of outdoor relief in spite of them still administered, show those provisions to have been at once cruel and impracticable.There was no doubt that the opinions expressed in this resolution were, as respected some parts of the country, substantially true though to others they applied With less force, and the House ought to inquire into the truth of such assertions when placed upon record. To the last resolution, affirming the expediency of making the law conformable to Chris- 1204 tianity, sound policy, and the ancient constitution of this realm, he would give his decided assent; and if it came to the vote, notwithstanding that in this resolution also he could wish the wording to be different, he should be found on the same side as the hon. Member for Nottingham, as the resolution clearly pointed out the object which they should all have in view. The question then would merely be one of amount. There might be a difference as to the extent to which parties would go, but if any alterations of the law were to take place, they could not be founded on a better principle than that contained in the last resolution. If the question were taken upon the first resolution, he should vote with the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, but if upon the last, which he hoped would be the case, the hon. Member for Nottingham should have his support. It was the duty of the House to take care not to act upon impulse, and if the hon. Member for Fins-bury had alluded to him as one of those who were alleged to have held out expectations that the law would be abolished, he would only reply that he had never held out any such expectation, and he would add upon this occasion what he had said on former ones, that he was prepared to advocate such reasonable alterations in the law as would adapt it more thoroughly to the existing state of society.
was of opinion, that the country was deeply indebted to the hon. Member for Nottingham for bringing forward this question in its present shape. There could now be no doubt of the existence of the document which headed the resolutions, and he for one was glad that it had made its way into the House. He was satisfied that it contained the principles upon which the Poor-law Commissioners had acted, and all who watched their proceedings must come to the same conclusion, for no assertion could contradict the fact. It was the intention from the first to withhold out-door relief in all cases, but finding that principle impracticable, they were compelled to draw in their horns. The right hon. the Secretary for the Home Department said, that 4,000,000l was annually expended. He (General Johnson) should like to know how much of that sum had been expended on the establishments.
§ Sir J. Graham
said, that 4,200,000l. had been expended, of which not one farthing had gone to the establishments.
only wished that the sums so expended had been doubled It would be very desirable if the right hon. Baronet would furnish the House with the date of the document. There was no doubt that the hon. Member for Nottingham would have furnished it if he could. It was probable that some such document had been issued to the commissioners in 1832, and also that such document had been circulated amongst the framers of the Poor-law; for no one could deny—nay, not even its supporters—that the law was extremely harsh and cruel in its operation. The boards of guardians themselves in many instances were so convinced of its cruelty that they gave alms themselves from their own pockets to those to whom they were not permitted to afford out-door relief. A Christian law forsooth! Every thing Christian was characterized by goodness and mercy, but the characteristics of this law were evil, cruelty, and oppression. The noble Lord, the Member for London, when sitting upon the Ministerial Benches, stated that he was ready to defend the principle upon which the law made no distinction between the good and the bad. It was impossible that such a law—a law which made no distinction between good and evil, could emanate from, or be framed in, a Christian spirit. It was impossible that a Christian feeling could consent to throw the whole of the poor into one mass, without distinguishing between the bad and the deserving, without drawing a line between those reduced to poverty by their own intemperance and those who were afflicted by the visitation of the Almighty. Could that law be Christian which would subject those two classes to the same treatment? The principle of uniformity at first so much insisted upon was now abandoned on all hands. The principle of the present act made poverty a crime, whilst the law of Elizabeth did no such thing. How, then, could it be argued that the present law was founded upon the law of Elizabeth? Those who made that statement could not have read Elizabeth's act. It was a short one, and if hon. Members would only read and compare it with the present law they would find a material difference. The present law shut people up in prison and shortened their lives. If old or infirm at their entrance into the workhouse they scarcely ever survived twelve months without breaking down. The mere confinement produced this result He had asked an 1206 old man who had been an inmate of a workhouse how he liked his residence there, and the answer was, "They treated me well enough, but I wanted my tobacco and my liberty." That was the point. They had no right to deprive British subjects of their liberty, whose only crime was poverty. The right hon. Baronet said, the question of the Poor-law had been discussed last year. If it had been thoroughly discussed the bill would have passed; but the question came before the House at too late a period of the Session to allow of discussion, and the consequence was that only three or four of the first clauses, the more stringent clauses, were allowed to pass. His objection from the first was that the measure was found essentially unconstitutional—that it put the people of England out of the pale of the law, and placed the poor at the disposal of three persons who exercised despotic control, and whose secretary, if he were to be judged of by his correspondence, must have a heart of stone, for no other man could be found to write such letters. It was to be hoped, for the sake of the peace of the country, and with a view of allaying the ferment which existed in the public mind upon the subject, that the question which had been introduced by the hon. Member for Nottingham would be fully and fairly discussed.
§ Sir R. Peel:
The hon. and gallant Officer says it is a misapprehension to suppose that the present law is founded on the act of 'Elizabeth, and challenges us to enter into a comparison of one act with the other. Now, Sir, I will accept the challenge of the hon. and gallant Officer, and I will endeavour to show to him, as I think, successfully, that the present law is not as he appears to think at variance with the law of Elizabeth; and if I shall succeed in proving this, I think I shall render it somewhat difficult for the hon, and gallant Gentleman to vote ox the resolutions of the hon. Member for Nottingham, which he calls upon the House to support as being in consonance as well with the law of Elizabeth as with true Christian principles. By the terms "the ancient constitution of the realm," I think I understood the hon. Member rightly to mean not our form of political Government but the rights confided and guaranteed to the poor of this country by the act of Elizabeth. Now, I beg to call the attention of the House to what were the 1207 particular enactments of that law. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last would lead the House to suppose that there was something particularly tender, something extremely merciful and benevolent towards the poor in that statute. [General Johnson: No! no!] No! no! Sir, the hon. and gallant Gentleman challenged a comparison between the new law and the statute of Elizabeth. Did he not say, that in the new law we had departed from that statute, and that the poor now ceased to possess those rights to which by that statute they were entitled? I am sure I state the hon. and gallant Gentleman's arguments correctly. The same arguments were put forward by speaker after speaker in this discussion; and when I am about to accept the challenge thrown out by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, he interrupts me. It has certainly been assumed, that the Legislature of the present day have subjected the poor of this country to hardships from which they were exempt at more remote periods of our history. Now let us see what was done in respect to the poor in the reign of Elizabeth. I am not now contending that if there were hardships in the reign of Elizabeth, that is a reason why they should continue now. I am only dealing with the positive statement, that the present law is much more harsh in its operation than the law of Elizabeth, and my object will be answered if I disprove that statement. See what was enacted with respect to cottages in the reign of Elizabeth. The Legislature wished, as far as possible, to discourage the construction of cottages, and of habitations for the poor; and, accordingly, a law was passed, prohibiting the erection of any new cottage unless the builder of the cottage attached to it in fee simple four acres of ground. The Legislature, moreover, provided, with respect to all cottages actually existing at the time, that none of them should be inhabited, unless they were inhabited by a gamekeeper for the protection of deer, or by a shepherd for the protection of sheep, that shepherd having no family; and, also, that all such previously existing cottages should be inhabited by one family only, and that that family should not be allowed to increase its numbers. Is it not quite clear, that the condition of attaching four acres of land in fee-simple to all cottages that were thenceforward to be built, was intended 1208 as a prohibition to the building of cottages? And yet such a reservation was made and enacted by the 31st of Elizabeth. I now come to speak of the 43rd of Elizabeth. What did that law enact? Why, this; that overseers should be enabled to put to work all poor persons who were able to work, but who had no occupation, and were incapable of maintaining themselves. They were enabled to put those persons to work, at the parish expense, at the manufacture of flax, hemp, and iron. Nothing is said respecting the mode in which they were to work. There was no prohibition to employing them in workhouses. There was no obligation, but, at the same lime, there was no prohibition against their being so employed. The overseers were at liberty to find them employment at their own homes. Work was the test of poverty, and the condition upon which relief was to be afforded. With respect to the impotent poor, the overseers were empowered to take them from their homes, and place them in something corresponding to a workhouse. All the blind, the lame, and the impotent, so far from being left at home, were placed at the mercy of the overseers. The overseers were empowered to purchase houses, and place them in those houses, while they were compelled by the enactments of the 31st of Elizabeth, to prevent more than one family from occupying each cottage existing previous to that act. An exemption, however, was made in respect to parish cottages, in which the overseers were authorised to place as many families as they pleased. Then what were the merciful enactments of the 31st of Elizabeth respecting children, and what the power given to overseers under that act? Why, this, that whenever they determined that certain parties were unable to maintain their children, they were empowered, to take those children from their parents, and bind them apprentices. But that is not all: they might take the children of any person whom they thought incompetent to maintain his family, and bind the man child, as he was called, in any remote part of the kingdom, where he would be required to work for another person — for how long, think you? until he had attained the age of twenty-six years; while, in the case of the female child, she was to remain an apprentice, severed from the bosom of her family, and removed from the protection of her parents, until she had 1209 reached the age of twenty-one years, or until she was married. Now, taking the present law as a whole, I must say, that it is much more merciful. Would you tolerate, now, that the overseers of a parish should be enabled to take the children, not of persons receiving relief, but of any persons whom they might consider unable to maintain their children, and dispose of those children in the manner I have described, through a fear that they might become a burden to the parish? Do you tolerate, now, that children should be torn from their parents, by the authority of the overseers, and by the same authority, be sent to Cornwall or to Northumberland, and there bound apprentices until they are twenty-six years of age, or in the case of females, until they are married? There is no obligation on the overseers, by this act of Elizabeth, to employ persons for whom work was found in any particular house, and so the act continued—but it did not continue to the date of the New Poor-law. Hon. Gentlemen have assumed that with the New Poor-law originated the workhouse test, in lieu of the labour test; but, so far from that being the truth, 120 years ago, in the 9th of George 1st, owing to the gross abuses which had arisen out of the mode of employing the poor in parishes, owing to the great expenses which were incurred in those parishes, and to the charges connected with the manufacture of hemp, flax, and iron—in 1722, owing to those abuses, another act was passed which enabled the overseers to provide a house, wherein the able-bodied poor should work, and which expressly enacted that in case an able-bodied poor man refused to work within that house, he should forfeit his entire claim to relief. That act applied the workhouse test in lieu of the labour test. Upon the combined operation and experience of those two acts, the 43rd of Elizabeth and the 9th of George 1st, the latter act having been passed 120 years ago, founded on the gross abuses of the overseers in vestries, purchasing the articles I have named, and giving them out to the poor without accounting for the profits, if profits there were, and on the gross misapplication of the public funds, that act having been the first act which applied the workhouse test in lieu of the labour test, and having been so continued until the New Poor-law— upon the experience of these two acts, and 1210 upon the principle which the latter had already established, was the question dealt with by the Government, and the New Poor-law enacted. In consequence of the inconvenience of having the management of the poor confided to individual parishes, another principle was adopted by the 9th of George 1st, and followed in the present Poor-law—that of enabling parishes to unite for the purpose of having common workhouses, wherein to employ the poor. I think I have succeeded in showing that the present law, as regards the workhouse test, is not a new law, and that it is not, as it is said to be, at variance with the constitution of the country—if by the word "constitution" we are to understand ancient laws which have been continued for the maintenance and benefit of the people. The resolutions now before the House also appeared to assume that the existing law is founded strictly upon certain suggestions which were offered for the consideration of the Government. It is absolutely necessary that a Government, before it matures any plan, should seek for, and should procure suggestions. I will venture to say, that no great measure has ever passed without the aid of such suggestions, which were afterwards considered and put into shape. But is it fair, even if those suggestions come into another person's possession in the most legitimate way, that one suggestion should be taken, and it should then be assumed that they had been acted upon by the Government? Suppose, however, it should turn out that the suggestion has been rejected. Can any one be so unjust as to say, that a suggestion offered to the Government and rejected—which the Government refused to adopt—is it not too much to ask the House of Commons to resolve that the suggestion so rejected is that on which the measure of the Government is based. In the first place I object, even if an hon. Member were in possession of memoranda or a draft presented for the consideration of the Government, to produce any such paper, because it would be very prejudicial to the preparation of great measures if that House should consent to recognise the principle that all the private information on which it is founded or acquired during the preparation should be produced. But it is said the paper was printed. Why, to be sure it was printed. When fourteen or fifteen gentlemen meet together to consider a long or elaborate paper, it is usual 1211 to have it printed for their use, but although it was printed, it was considered as confidential as if it had been written. From nothing could greater inconvenience arise than if papers of a confidential nature, containing suggestions, whether they were adopted or, as in this case, not adopted, should be called for and produced. Let me take an instance from private life of the draft of a settlement or of a covenant returned unapproved of could anything be more unjust than to implicate a man in the contents if it were rejected by him? With regard to these resolutions, it is declared that the recommendations alluded to,—Applicable alike to every class of the poor, and enjoining the indiscriminate reduction of their physical comforts to the lowest endurable point, are shown, by the subsequent orders and practice of the Poor-law Commissioners, to form the real, though unavowed basis of the present system of Poor-law relief.That is to say, that the refusal of outdoor relief forms the basis of the present law. Now my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Deportment (Sir J. Graham) has shown that during the last year 221,000 persons has received in-door relief and 1,207,000 persons have received out-door relief. How is it possible, then to say that the suggestion to put down outdoor relief is the basis of the existing law, when five out of six cases of relief under it are cases of out-door relief? How can it be said that this law is more severe than the Poor-law in any other country? I will venture to assert, it can be demon strated that each poor person thus relieved received more, in reference to the riches of the country—a much larger sum—than persons in the same situation in any other country on the face of the earth. I am not now speaking of the law expenses, of the expenses incurred in the construction of the poor-houses, or of the interest to be paid for the money necessary for such construction; I am speaking of the money exclusively applied for the relief of the poor. In the year 1842, the number of 1,429,000 persons received relief, 221,000 in the workhouse, and 1,207,000 out of the workhouse. The sum appropriated for this relief was 4,036,000l. On an average of three years 1,309,000 persons had been relieved, and the sum of 3,887,000.l. had been distributed. Why that was nearly 3l. a-head received by each poor person. If you take into con- 1212 sideration the condition of the paupers in the other countries on the face of the globe, and made an allowance for the difference of wealth, he doubted whether in any country the poor received more. I am surprised to hear the speech of the learned Gentleman the Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Aglionby); I have seen him upon several occasions rise above party considerations, and vote according to the dictates of his own mind. When I heard the learned Member's speech, and his intention to vote for these resolutions, my surprise was so great I could scarcely express it. The hon. Member may measure the extent of my respeet for him by the extent of my surprise. The hon. Member said he had voted for the Poor-law; he approved of the principle on which it was founded; he had expected from it great good; the hon Member said, that, upon the whole, he had not been disappointed —that upon the whole it had performed the object for which it was enacted — it had tended to increase the comfort and elevate the condition of the poor. If the hon. and learned Member had said that, as a bill was to be introduced to remedy any defects in the law, he would give notice of his intention to vote in favour of the remedies for all those defects, he could have understood the hon. Member. [Mr. Aglionby had meant to say so.] The hon. and learned Gentleman has taken every opportunity of supporting the Poor-law, his opinion was that its operation had been beneficial; he had not been disappointed upon the whole, although in some cases he found errors; he found that the condition of the poor under the operation of the bill had been good; and then he said he would give his vote for a resolution declaring that,—The suffering already caused by the partial enforcement (of the principles), and the amount of out-door relief, in spite of them, still administered, show their provisions to have been at once cruel and impracticable.And not only this, but the hon. Member went the length of voting in the last resolution that.—.It is expedient to demand such a reconstruction of the existing system as shall make it conformable to Christianity, sound policy, and the ancient constitution of this realm.A man who denounces the law altogether ought to vote for these resolutions; but that an admirer of the law, that one who 1213 thought it had been beneficial in operation and tended altogether to the improvement of the condition of the poor, should give his vote for resolutions which condemn the law, and demand its total and complete repeal, recollecting, at the same time, what had been the uniform practice in former times, does fill me with complete surprise. Does the hon. Member not think that he will damage a law, which speaking generally, has been beneficial in its operation, and that upon the whole it has increased the physical comforts of the poor? As we have got a law of this kind, let us take care how we denounce it as not conformable to Christianity. I have still confidence, however, enough in the hon. and learned Member to believe that he will not oppose the law, which, on the whole, has worked well, and will not vote with the hon. Member for Finsbury, who denounces the law altogether. The hon. Member for Fins-bury, full of the milk of human kindness, began his speech with charges and imputations. He said that it was most unparliamentary—nay, more than that, that it was unjust to establish an inquisition, and to judge of men, not only by their conduct, but to dive into the recesses of their hearts, and then impute motives to them; and in a few minutes after he went on to say, that whoever drew up these suggestions, recommending such a system as the present, were fiends in human shape— were heartless monsters—were, but I cannot—I really cannot—follow the hon. Member; I break down altogether in the attempt. The hon. Gentleman may say that those charitable motives ought only to influence us in reference to Members of Parliament, and that as those suggestions were not drawn up by Members of Parliament, it was not contrary to usage, or uncharitable, to impute motives to the authors of them. But the hon. Member himself dealt rather uncharitably even towards Members of Parliament opposed to his views; he proceeded to make charges against me with respect to certain declarations of mine on the subject of the Poor-law; he charged me with desiring to gain support at the period of a general election by denouncing the Poor-law, and yet having in office supported that law. He made no exemption whatever, and put an erroneous construction on what I said respecting the commissioners. I gave the same support to the law when out of office that I have given since, and at the general 1214 election I said, that although I admitted that parts of the Poor-law required amendment, and that I should be willing: to listen to any improvements that might be suggested for the benefit of the poor, I had not changed my opinion respecting the commissioners, and could not therefore ask my constituents to support me on the supposition that I would take a different course upon the subject of the Poor-law from which I had hitherto taken. In fact, I made precisely the same declaration to my constituents at the two last elections, and it is therefore rather hard to be accused of holding one language in office and another when out of office. And so the hon. Member for Finsbury, forgetting the charitable construction which he would have others put upon his motives, said that those who had declared for repeal, if their opinions remained the same, ought to vote for repeal. But I have heard very few indeed say that they would not support the principle of the Poor-law, while they at the same time insisted on its amendment and modification. The hon. Member for Nottingham said that nothing could be more ridiculous than for any man merely for the sake of consistency to vote in favour of a measure of this kind if once he was honestly convinced it had failed. I readily allow that any man who could say, that although he was convinced that this law was expensive and obnoxious in its operation, and unsound in principle, yet that through a mere regard to consistency or party motives, or through a desire to 'take a more active part in public life, he would vote against the dictates of his conscience and give it his support,—I readily allow that such a man must be base indeed, and that such a course would be as unwise as it would be unjust. We should come to a decision on the question in accordance with our own conscientious convictions, and not from the influence of any clamour that might be raised against it. Nothing can be more easy than to raise a clamour against any particular law for the relief of the poor. I can conceive, with respect to persons in that condition of life which might possibly make them, under adverse circumstances, applicants for Poor-law relief, that an argument more calculated to excite their passions could not be used than that which had been used by the hon. Member for Nottingham. The hon. Member says that the blacks in Jamaica drive their gigs and drink their 1215 champagne. But the House must bear in mind that those blacks are now free labourers, and entitled to all the privileges of free subjects, and the mere circumstance of their colour being black makes no difference. Suppose that a portion of the blacks do drive their gigs and drink champagne,—and their number I presume must be limited,—still they must pay for these things, and they earn their money by the sweat of their brow. But the hon. Gentleman says (and I suppose him now addressing a collection of 5,000 persons),True it is I cannot give you gigs to drive about in, or champagne to drink; but what amiserable law it is which prevents me giving you, not champagne, but the ancient, constitutional drink of the country—ale?The hon. Gentleman says, the law is to be impeached, because it does not give an adequate supply of the ancient constitutional beverage of the country to the poor. Now, it seems always to be assumed that there is a large existing fund applicable to the Poor-law relief; but whence is that fund derived? From taxation. On whom does the taxation fall? Let us never forget those who are a little elevated above pauperism, and who being fixed to their places cannot move—the small farmer, the retail shopkeeper, and the artisan, who determine to derive no relief from the Poor-law, because they are inspired with a love of independence, which we ought to cherish. These men support their families by the sweat of their brow; and they say, "We must contribute to the relief of the poor; but give us security that the money is not misapplied—give us security that it is not appropriated to the support of idleness; and when we cannot afford ale for our own families, we cannot find ale for those who won't work." A law that gives them that security is a just law. Let the House take the whole of the circumstances into consideration, and contrast the operation of the present law with the operation of the law under which the overseers supplied the means of maintenance to the poor, and, being bakers and dealers in flour and articles of subsistence charged, as I can show, 40 per cent, advance on the articles so supplied. I must say that the poor man, elevated above dependence, and struggling against the necessity of applying for Poor-law relief, but being bound to contribute towards the fund for the relief of the poor out of his scanty 1216 means, has a right to say "Let the accounts be fully examined; let the money be duly and properly applied, and let no overseer or parish-officer make use of this Poor-law system, not for the purpose of relieving the poor, but, as they carry the bag, for the purpose of putting their hands into the bag for their own benefit." But now it is proposed that, without substituting any other system, and without the proposition of any new law—for we are left in uncertainty as to whether or not we are to return to the old system, and as to the principles of any new system which the hon. Gentleman may deem it right to recommend,—we should agree to a resolution which implies that the existing law —though no particular parts of it are specified—is "not conformable with Christianity, sound policy, and the ancient constitution of this realm." I do hope that the House of Commons will be cautious how they pass a resolution specifying what is or what is not conformable with Christianity. This is a dangerous topic; and I hope that those who moot the question of the principle of the present law, or the substitution of another law, will content themselves with moving for the repeal of the law, without involving the House in a discussion on abstract questions. Above all, I trust with respect to a law which, as long as it continues in operation, ought to have the sanction and support of the Legislature, that this House will not, in consequence of vague resolutions like the present, offering no practical measure, do any act calculated to raise an outcry against the existing system, and to paralyze every man whose duty it is to administer the law, thereby leaving this country in the worst of all states as regard legislative measures, namely, with one system condemned and in operation, and no practical substitute proposed.
§ Mr. Aglionby
said, in explanation, that he had risen for the purpose of preventing it being supposed that his vote on the present occasion would be in condemnation of the principles or some of the provisions of the present law. He conceived, that according to the forms of the House, there would be a division on the first resolution; and he would vote for it. Though he might not be called on to give any opinion with respect to the other resolutions, yet he was prepared to state that he rejected the second; but abided by the spirit of the third and fifth.
§ Lord J. Manners
was convinced in his own mind that the rule of the New Poor-law was that pauperism was a stain and a crime. He might be told that it was the practice in most parts of the country to relieve paupers out of the workhouse, and this fact had been put very strongly forward by the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, and it was stated that out-door relief was so prevalent that the workhouse had become, in fact, a punishment rather to the vicious and idle, than to the industrious but unfortunate labourer. But he maintained that these cases were exceptions to the law, the general principle of the law being that relief should be prohibited, as far as possible out of the workhouse. He would only say that the workhouse test was, in his humble opinion, fraught with danger to a far greater degree than they could perceive. It had the effect of weakening the feelings of responsibility on the one hand, and of attachment and respect on the other. These were dangers which ought not to be disregarded, but he was bound to confess he did not agree in some of the statements of the hon. Member for Nottingham. He could not go along with that hon. Gentleman in speaking against the substitution of brown bread for white; for he had tasted the brown bread and thought it remarkably good bread. At the same time he should give his vote in support of the motion, in the hope that some measure would be produced to place the system of relief in the position in which it ought to be. Some Members had referred to the statute of Elizabeth, but he would go further back, and say that the administration of the funds for the maintenance of the poor ought to be in the bands of the Church.
§ Mr. Muntz
felt no difficulty in supporting the motion of the hon. Member for Nottingham. Though the paper so much denounced might not have been the foundation of the Poor-law, yet the question with him was, "Is the new Poor-law a good or a bad law?" He had always opposed that law. It had always appeared very unjust to him for many reasons. In the first place, there could be no question that originally the intention was to prevent out-door relief, and that intention was carried into effect as long as the administrators of the law durst. He had it from the mouths of the parties themselves, that they could not carry the in- 1218 tention of the law, as respected the prevention of out door relief, into effect in large towns or populous places. In the second place he objected to the law because it made no distinction between honesty and crime. There was not a doubt that the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), was without exception the most correct man in that House. He was almost invariably correct; but on the present occasion he had not supported this character. The right hon. Baronet in attacking the hon. Member for Nottingham said that the House was called on to abandon the existing law, and to repeal it. Now, what he understood by the resolutions was, that they were called on to reconstruct the law, and they needed not to abandon the present law until the new one was constructed. And what law was proposed to be constructed? One that should be "in conformity with Christianity, sound policy, and the ancient constitution of this realm." What evil could arise to the state, if such principles were to be the groundwork of their legislation? He believed that such principles were not the groundwork of the existing law. This was fully and entirely believed by the poor themselves. During the late unfortunate disturbances he had had an opportunity of judging what were the feelings of the people with respect to the existing law, and he did not hesitate to say that a great portion of those disturbances was caused by the ill feeling arising from the working of the new Poor-law bill. He had calmly conversed with many of the people on the subject of their complaints, and almost every one said that "he had no resources —that he could not obtain a fair remuneration for his labour; and, let his conduct be ever so good, only one course was left him, namely, to sever from every tie that was dear to him on earth, and go into the workhouse and be made a prisoner for life." He was sure that the Poor-law was a great cause of dissatisfaction, not only against the Government, but against that House. He was certain that unless the law was made in conformity with Christianity, sound policy, and the ancient constitution of the realm, it would eventually put an end to the present Government, as it had done to the last.
Sir W. James
wished that the hon. Member for Nottingham would put the last resolution, which contained the sum 1219 and substance of the motion, to the vote, and not the preceding resolutions. If he were asked to vote for the five resolutions in a body, he did feel that the reasoning of the right hon. Baronets (Sir J. Graham and Sir R. Peel) was so clear and decisive on the matter, that he should, entirely agreeing with the hon. Member for the West Riding of York, be obliged at all events, to walk out of the House before the division took place. They were asked with respect to a document, which bore on its face the impression of being a confidential communication to the Cabinet, to declare that the recommendations contained therein formed "the real, though unavowed basis," of a measure of great importance. For the House to take such a course would be fraught with danger to the well-being of the country; and it would be assuming besides an untenable position, as the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary had assured the House that the recommendations in question had been rejected by the Government. He disapproved of the words "real, though unavowed," because it seemed to charge the Government with manifest insincerity. He was sure that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government would not hesitate to avow the real principles of any measure which he thought fit to bring before the House. He considered that the resolutions contained a good deal of claptrap. He disliked many of the provisions, and was opposed to the principle of the New Poor-law; but he did not think that any reason why he should turn democrat or make use of language which he considered to be of a dangerous tendency, and speak of "the substitution of punishment for legal relief." The hon. Member for Newark said he was induced, by the state of the country, to support the present motion, and that was the very reason why he should be anxious not to vote for the first four resolutions. If the last resolution were put to the vote by itself, he did not see how he could oppose it, but he could not support the first four resolutions. He confessed that he was not the more inclined to support them, when he had regard to the language used by the hon. Gentleman who had brought forward the motion. He had given a description of the boards of guardians— he had spoken of the guardians as "covering while they devoured their prey;" and yet, in another part of his speech, the hon Member said in some instances those 1220 guardians travelled, some fifteen, others twenty miles to attend the boards, and to give their best attention and consideration to the state of the poor. He thought it most unjust for the hon. Member to give such a description of the gentlemen of England as to say they attended to the New Poor-law in the first instance in order to give it a little éclat. Then, again, the hon. Member had compared the union-houses to the horrors of the middle passage. This was a gross exaggeration. There were, it was true, a great many regulations in the union workhouses which might well be objected to, but to compare them with the horrors of the middle passage, which had been described by the late Mr. Wilber-force and by Sir F. Buxton, was beyond reason and contrary to common sense. He confessed he did not like the mode in which the motion had been brought forward by the hon. Member for Nottingham. With respect to the law itself, he did not think the question would ever be set at rest until a good system of out-door relief was sanctioned by law. With one part of the speech of his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, he owned he was much surprised. His right hon. Friend had said that the workhouse test was not an essential part of the present law. Now certainly every means had been tried to carry out that principle, and he did not think that any Member of the Cabinet of Earl Grey would have made such an admission as that which his right hon. Friend had made to-night. At the same time he was very glad to hear that admission, as it shewed at least that his right hon. Friend was not prepared to act on that principle. With regard to the Com-missioners-a main point in the present law—he must say that he very much regretted the language those gentlemen had in many instances made use of. He would not quote as the hon. Member for Nottingham had done, from a document of a doubtful character, but from a report made by the Commissioners and published in the year 1840. In page 7 of that report he found—The attempts which are constantly made to evade the law by indirect means whenever there is a possibility of doing so (as by voluntary rates, &c.,) confirm us in this opinion, viz., that all old abuses would creep in again if the Poor Law Commission were abolished. The only remains of it (relief to men in work and in aid of wages) are to be found in certain irregular practices, to which, if they were not occasionally suggested by erroneous motives of 1221 humanity, we should give the appellation of fraudulent. We allude to attempts through private subscriptions, by which funds have been raised to be doled out, like the poor rates, in weekly allowances to all labourers having more than three or four children.Though the word dole" might be applied only to money, yet he held that there was in point of principle no difference between money and money's worth, and the effect of the recommendation here put forth would be, if it were carried out, to put a stop to all those charities which, much to the credit of the country, prevailed in so many parishes throughout the kingdom. In a parish in which he had lately resided in the county of Kent there was a charity, kept up by subscription, for the purpose of giving coals to the poor at a diminished price; in other instances flour and other necessaries were supplied in the same way; but according to the principle set forth in the extract he had read, all such things must cease, or be designated by the appellation of fraudulent. Now, it could not be expected when the Poor-law Commissioners made use of such language, that they should be popular in the country. He repeated, that he was very glad to hear, not only that the workhouse test was not an essential part of the present law, but also the admission that the Commissioners had made use of indiscreet language, and he hoped that in any measure which might be introduced in the course of this Session, the House and the country would see a permanent and effectual change. He did not wish longer to detain the House, as the principles upon which he should vote on the present occasion had been so well laid down by his hon. Friend, the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire. If the hon. Member for Nottingham would content himself, with putting the fifth resolution to the House, he should feel bound to vote for it, but the four previous resolutions he could not support.
§ Sir R. Peel
observed, that his hon. Friend had misunderstood him, when he supposed that he had stated that the workhouse test was no test in the present law. What he had said was, that the workhouse test was not introduced by the present law for the first time as the test of poverty, for it had been the test adopted 150 years ago, when the 9th of George I. made the workhouse the test instead of the labour test.
§ Mr. Ferrand,
on rising to address the House upon a question on which he had 1222 long taken a deep interest, begged in the first place to offer his sincere thanks to the hon. Member for Nottingham, for having brought to light what he (Mr. Ferrand) considered to be the foulest conspiracy ever entered into in the dark against the rights, liberties, and privileges of the poor. It was now twelve years since he (Mr. Ferrand) had first taken part in public affairs; and on this question, he had often received advice from the public speeches of the hon. Member, which had cheered him on in the course he had pursued in opposing by every constitutional means in his power this law, and little did he then think that he should have the honour and the privilege of sitting beside his hon. Friend, when he gave, as he had that night given, the death-blow to the New Poor-law. He deeply regretted the speech which the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had made that evening. He did not think that the right hon. Baronet had acted fairly to the hon. and learned Member for Cockermouth. The right hon. Baronet saw a rising spirit of independence flowing into the hon. and learned Member's breast; he saw that the hon. and learned Member was actuated by no party spirit, and the right hon. Baronet was afraid lest the independence the hon. and learned Member had shown, should become contagious on both sides of the House; and that if the feelings which actuated the hon. and learned Member to stand up in the independent manner he had done should be acted upon on both sides, the Government would be in a minority on the present occasion. But what had been the remarks of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department towards the hon. Member for Nottingham? The right hon. Baronet said, this was a private document, only intended for the eyes of the late Government, of which he had been a Member. He (Mr. Ferrand) wished the right hon. Baronet had remained connected with the right hon. Baronet's friends of the late Government, and then Conservative principles would have stood much higher in the eyes of the people than they did at present. The right hon. Baronet had taunted his hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham with a breach of confidence. He contended that his hon. Friend had only discharged a public duty. He had found out and dragged to light a docu- 1223 ment which, without any breach of confidence on his part, he found placed amongst his papers—he cast his eyes upon it, and said to himself, "Now I will bring before the eyes of the people of England this monstrous system of oppression." And how had the right hon. Baronet himself acted the other night, when he moved for a return of two letters which emanated from certain manufacturers when the New Poor-law was under consideration, and on which they entered into an express and declared agreement with Mr. Chadwick, the Secretary to the Poor-law Commissioners, that if they only framed the New Poor-law in such a manner as to throw a large portion of the working classes of the south into the north—that if they were able "to absorb" the surplus population of the south into the manufacturing districts of the north of England. It would enable them, the manufacturers, to reduce the price of labour in the north of England and to put a stop to the outbreaks for raising wages? [Mr. Wallace: Who said that?] The letters of Mr. Ashworth and Mr. Greg; they were in the first report of the Poor-law Commissioners. The words he had often quoted before, and no man had ever denied the truth of the quotation. Now, at that very time a committee of the House was sitting, to inquire into the then condition of the hand-loom weavers, and it was proved before that committee that the hand-loom weavers were then struggling for existence upon ten farthings a day. But what had the right hon. Baronet said with respect to these two letters? Why, he said, they were private communications—that the first letter of Mr. Ashworth was on the file of the Poor-law Commissioners, but that the letter of Mr. Greg could not be found. They were, he added, private communications, which were never intended to see daylight, but that he had no objection to produce Mr. Ashworth's letter, and lay it on the Table of the House. Now, what was the difference between the conduct 'of the right hon. Baronet in placing that letter, which he said was of a private nature, and never intended to see the daylight, on the Table of the House, and in that of his hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, who, finding a paper which had been submitted to the Government, brought it before the House? This was said by the right hon. Baronet to be a breach of confidence—he maintained there was no breach of confi 1224 dence except on the part of the right hon. Baronet himself. The right hon. Baronet had expressly stated, that the letter written by Mr. Ashworth to the Secretary of the Poor-law Commissioners was a private communication, and now he begged to ask the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury (who had always shown an earnest anxiety to prevent the slightest attempt to conceal public documents) if there was any necessity to keep back Mr. Greg's letter? It was said not to be on the file. Why was it not on the file? Let the Government say at once that it would be inconvenient to produce it because there were expressions in that letter which ought not to appear before the public. Such he understood from the hon. Member for Oldham to be the case, but at all events it was the duty of the Government to make a strict and searching inquiry as to the reasons and means used to prevent the production of that letter. He now came to the question of the working of the Poor-law in the North of England. And what had been its effects there? It happened that amongst the letters contained in the first report of the Poor-law Commissioners there was one from Mr. Ashworth in which he told Mr. Chadwick that it would be desirable that 20,000 labourers should be sent from the south down to Staleybridge. Now, the inspector of factories for that district had, within the last few days, forwarded his report to her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department, and in it what did they find there proved to be the state at present of Staleybridge—the district into which Mr. Chadwick, with the consent, and at the request of those cotton-spinners and through the agency of Dr. Kay— who, for the part he had taken in securing the election of Mr. P. Thompson at Manchester, had been made a Poor-law Commissioner, and who, in a pamphlet, had described the working population of Manchester and its neighbourhood to be, at that moment, in a state of starvation— had induced tens of thousands of the population of the south to go into the manufacturing' districts of the north? He wished the manner in which these wretched poor had been kidnapped and sold into a state of slavery, and brought to a speedy death, could be exposed to the House. But with respect to Staleybridge, and its neighbourhood, be found the following statement made by Mr. Horner, 1225 the factory inspector, in his last report:—The population of the three adjoining towns of Ashton, Dukenfield and Staley bridge included, with an area of a mile and a half radius from the most central part of the district, is considered to be not less than 55,000; and the proportion of the working population, that is, those below the rank of shopkeepers, has been estimated at 80 per cent, in Ashton, 90 in Staleybridge, and 94 in Dukenfield. This dense population has been brought together chiefly by the extension of the cotton manufacture within a very short period. The population of the borough of Ashton and township of Dukenfield together was in 1821,14,318; in 1831, 29,352; and in 1841,45,074. I am unable to give the exact numbers for the whole district, because Staleybridge is partly in Lancashire and partly in Cheshire, but the increase there has probably been in a similar ratio.Now, he asked the House to listen to what followed:—How little the moral and religious improvement of the large number of the humbler classes has been hitherto an object of solicitude, the following facts will show;— In the borough of Ashton, with a population of 25,000, there is no national school, no school of the British and Foreign School Society, nor any other public day-school for the children of the working classes. The same is the case at Staley bridge and Dukenfield, with the slight exception I shall now state. I mentioned in the report above referred to that a national school had recently been built at Staleybridge, but, I regret to say, it is not yet in operation.Now this Dr. Kay, who, by the by, held also the situation of secretary to the Education Board, was the agent employed by Mr. Chadwick, and the Poor-law Commissioners to carry down 20,000 southern labourers to a place where there was not an atom of chance of their receiving the slightest education. Now, was not this something serious and alarming—namely, that for the purpose of carrying out the New Poor-law it was necessary to absorb the population of the south into the north? Where did hon. Members think that the first outbreaks took place? Why, at Staleybridge, where there was a population whose minds, from their sufferings, were easily excited by men having deeper designs, but who had not the courage to show their faces, and who left their victims to appear at the bar of justice, and pass thence to transportation, while they slunk away into the dark. He maintained that the origin of the outbreak was the 1226 iniquitous, atrocious, bloodthirsty Poor-law. But for that law, the population of the north of England would not have had their market for labour entrenched upon by the introduction of tens of thousands of the masses of the south, and they would have had some chance of earning a subsistence by a fair price for their labour, if they had not been robbed of it under the operation of the New Poor-law. He found the other evening that the hon. Member for Manchester thought proper to deny some statements he had made with respect to the treatment of children employed in a mill belonging to a cotton-spinner in Lancashire. The hon. Member said, he had stated things which were without foundation. He had told the House that there were certain Poor-law unions where the overseers handed over the orphans under their care and protection to employers without inquiring into the mode of treatment to which they would be exposed. He had stated the circumstance upon authority on which he knew he could place reliance—he had learned it from persons of unquestionable veracity; and, although the matter had been denied by the hon. Member for Manchester, he knew very well that the hour was not far distant when he would receive an authority backed either by persons who had beheld those scenes of cruelty, or who were prepared to prove every word which he had uttered. No sooner had the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester reached that town than the representatives of the working classes, who advocate the Ten-hours Factory Bill, met and passed resolutions, which as they related to himself he would not now read. But he had received a letter from one of the body, Mr. Doherty, which corroborated all he had said. He trusted the House would allow him to read that letter. Year after year these poor girls were kept in a state of slavery; but at last human nature could bear it no longer, they burst from the chains of the manufacturer, and ran away to their parents. And what was their punishment?He (Mr. Doherty) saw the room in which these girls were confined; the light was completely excluded; they were not allowed either fire, light, or bed, and their usual allowance of food was considerably diminished. Their hair was cut off, and their confinement lasted for several days. During the confinement of Esther Price several of her fellow-apprentices mitigated the rigour of her punishment, by putting in through the crevices of the wainscoting which 1227 separated this room from the adjoining apartment portions of their own rations, as well as cloaks, &c. to cover her by night. On the Friday afternoon the matron died, and the remains lay in the next room to that in which the poor girl was confined. When she heard this, she was driven almost frantic with fright. On the following day, when refreshments were brought her, she rushed out of the room, and teld the person having her in charge that she would not, under any circumstances pass another night in that apartment. The man said, 'Well, Esther, if you pledge yourself not to be seen, I shall say nothing about it, but you know, if you are seen, it is as much as my place is worth.'These children were placed in that man's power under the operation of the New Poor Law. It was from the union workhouses that this man was supplied with these apprentices, and he would ask the right hon. Baronet whether, in a civilized country, the people of England would long allow these things to exist, and whether the working classes owed allegiance to the Government, if, on these circumstances being brought to its knowledge, it did not immediately take steps to put a stop to such proceedings? There was another instance of ill-treatment of the poor which he had alluded to the other evening, when he had moved for certain returns relative to the operation of the New Poor-law. He had stated that in the month of May, 1842, there were a number of people sent from the Skipton union workhouse to a man named Threlfall, a mill-owner at Halifax. He had asked the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if there was any communication extant between the Poor-law Commissioners and that mill-owner? The right hon. Baronet had replied, that there was no statement or correspondence whatever in the office of the Poor-law Commissioners on this subject. After that, he had asked the right hon. Baronet if he would cause an inquiry o be made in the office of the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether there were any such communication, as to him, in his high office, the poor must look for protection if their rights and privileges were invaded. That right hon. Baronet had informed him that there was not any such communication. With the permission of the House he would read a statement connected with the transportation of these people from the Skipton union workhouses to this mill;— 1228Sir, —I thank you for the attention you have paid to the subject of my letter, and for your kind communication. It was Skipton union workhouse from which the hands were brought to Threlfall's mill. The precise number cannot now be ascertained, but, as far as I can learn, there would be about twenty; four of those were so lame that they could not walk between Skipton and Addingham, a distance only of six miles, so they were brought in Threlfall's tax-cart; also one was very much deranged in her mental faculties. These were all females. The name of the poor idiot was Hannah Cockshot. I regret that I am unable to give you the names of the four cripples. One of them, whose name is Elizabeth Town-end, was so lame, that she was unfit for any employment, much less to stand twelve hours a-day in a factory. After her day's work she was scarcely able to walk to her lodgings. Thus are the poor creatures conveyed, like subjects for dissection, from the union workhouse to the factory to be experimented upon by the manufacturers. These facts are well known to many in Addingham; but, if you Sir, do not think them sufficiently authenticated to warrant an exposure in the senate-house of Britain, I hope you will at least make the world acquainted with those facts which have been proved before you in a court of justice, Alice Morrill is so far convalescent as to be able partially to resume her employment.Now, here he would ask what chance there was for protection for these poor people? The father of Alice Morrill declined to make any statement, as he was an over looker in Mr. Threlfall's mill. There was another instance of the cruelties practised under this New Poor-law, and it discovered the secret motives that had influenced the first proposers of this law— of the Ashworths and the Gregs, when they wrote their letters and did their utmost to urge forward the law, and to get into their districts the population of the south to beat down the wages of the labourers, of their own work-people. The work-people of Mr. Threlfall were so badly paid, and so ill used and over-worked, that they had struck for wages; and for the purpose of enabling him to carry on his mill, he applied to the Skipton workhouse, whence were forwarded to him twenty hands; and these poor people were obliged to work for the wages he those to give them. The hon. Members for Bolton and Manchester had warned the House against his statements unless authenticated. They had insinuated, as usual, that it would be desirable that the House and the country should not listen to what he said, unless it were 1229 fully proved before the House. He little thought that on the following morning the report of the factory inspectors would be placed in his hands. Since then hon. Members of that House had gone to him, and said,—" Why you understated the conduct of the manufacturers in the north of England. When the Secretary of State for the Home Department chided you for having used the expression 'monsters in human shape you did not to the extent to which you were justified express your abhorrence of their conduct." He would ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether he felt it his duty to inquire whether the guardians of the Skipton union had placed in the power of this manufacturer twenty hands for his mill, three or four of whom were cripples unable to walk, and one of them an idiot? He was about to read an extract from the report of the inspectors of factories for the half-year ending the 31st of December, 1842. It was rather long, but he trusted the House would bear with it; and he would ask the House to rescue the masses of the people from the oppression and plunder inflicted upon them, for their burthen was too heavy to be borne. This was the report of Mr. Saunders, and was dated the 25th of January, 1843—the last report.I was about to prepare my report for the last quarter in the early part of the month, when I received notice of one of the most gross and oppressive violations of the law, during the week ending the 25th ultimo, that has occured to my knowledge since the Factory Act was passed. This induced me to delay my report, in order to wait the result of a careful investigation of the circumstances relating to that offence, and the adjudication of any complaints which might be preferred against the offenders. The investigation was very efficiently conducted by Mr. Baker, the superintendent.He would here beg leave to bear his testimony to the conduct of Mr. Baker, for he never saw a man conduct himself with more justice to the parties concerned.And I regret to say the wilful and deliberate overworking of various young persons, both boys and girls, but chiefly the latter, between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, was clearly established. This occurred at a mill at Addingham, in Yorkshire, which has only been occupied a few months, in cotton-spinning, by the firm of Messrs. Seed and Co., of which a Mr. William Threlfall is the managing partner. The mill was at work from six o'clock 1230 on Thursday morning, the 22d ult., until twelve o'clock the same night, which (allowing two hours for meal-time) was an employment for sixteen hours of the several persons detained between those periods, some of them being under eighteen years of age. This was, however, comparatively a slight offence to what followed. The mill commenced working again the next morning, Friday, the 23d, and the machinery continued running from that time, with only some short intervals for meals, during the whole of Friday night, the whole of Saturday, and until three o'clock on Sunday morning (Christmas-day), a period of forty-five hours.Now these twenty paupers were placed in the power of this "monster in human shape," and he asked the right hon. Baronet would he make an inquiry into this statement? The right hon. Baronet must, or place himself in the position to be called on to resign his office.There can be no doubt, the report continued, but that some of the hands under eighteen years of age were present during the whole of this excessively long period; but this point was not proved in the cases selected for the prosecution, because it was necessary, in order to obtain more than one penalty, to lay distinct informations for the wrong employment of different young persons for each separate day. It was, however, proved, that girls of fourteen had been kept to work from seven o'clock on Friday evening, the 23d, during all the night, the next day, and through Saturday night, until three a.m. on Sunday, the 25th,—a period of thirty-two hours; the same persons having been worked on the previous day (Thursday) till twelve at night, and again for part of the Friday forenoon. Such conduct towards young and tender females, who cannot be deemed free agents, merited, in my opinion, the heaviest penalties which the law imposed for such offences; and I felt myself fully justified in sanctioning Mr. Baker's arrangement of his complaints in such a manner as to afford the magistrates an opportunity of awarding a punishment in some degree commensurate with the offence. The offenders were convicted on seven different informations, six of which the magistrates deemed so serious as to demand severally the full penalty of 20l.; and the other offence was punished by a payment of 5l.Now, he would call the attention of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what was now doing by this millowner. He was trying to avoid these penalties; he was getting up a petition to the right hon. Baronet to be relieved from them, and that petition had been already signed by one magistrate who was a part-owner of that mill. He knew that Mr. Threlfall would 1231 apply in vain to the right hon. Baronet. He knew, that so far as money could make this monster pay for his atrocities, he must pay the whole amount of the fines imposed upon him, but how trifling was their amount when they looked at the insult he had inflicted on humanity! But, listen again to what this inspector said—No defence was attempted, except the often-repeated one of being pressed to complete an order for shipment, the profits of which would have been lost if they had not undertaken to supply the whole quantity required. The magistrates would not entertain this plea as affording any justification for so gross an abuse of the power an employer can exercise over the operatives in a district where labour is redundant. I regret to say the mill-occupiers do not stand alone responsible for this cruelty towards the young females.No; the parents had been driven by the surplus labour of the south to work their own offspring to death for existence.It was proved that a parent had not merely consented to sacrifice the physical powers of his child for money, but obliged his tender girl to exert herself to the last. During the period the mill was at work, some of the girls were obliged to withdraw, from physical inability to work longer. The parent of one young woman, about 19 years of age, was determined to brave the punishment consequent upon opposing the will of the master— viz., dismissal from work for the future. He proceeded at four o'clock on Saturday afternoon to the mill, fortunately obtained access to the room where his girl had been working from five o'clock on Friday morning, and insisted on withdrawing her. He ultimately succeeded, but not, as he informs me, until both the managing partner, Mr. Threlfall, and his son, had endeavoured forcibly to remove him from the premises. This and the other cases of overwork which have occurred within the last two years in the Bradford district must surely convince the most sceptical of the absolute necessity of a strong law to protect the labouring class in these districts; and the officer employed may reasonably deem such cases as indicating what is to be expected among a certain class of mills under a more active state of trade.There was not a Member in the House, he did not care to what party he might belong, who could have heard this statement, and who would not blush for the honour of his country. There never was, he would venture to say, in the history of England so disgraceful a piece of conduct dragged to public light in the House of Commons by a Member against a man 1232 who had the power of inflicting such horrors on his fellow-countrymen. The New Poor-law had placed this power in that man's hands. He had lost that power over the people in the neighbourhood of his mill. [Sir R. Peel smiled.] The right hon. Baronet smiled! From plundering and persecuting to death the working classes in the neighbourhood of his mill the working classes had struck against him; they had refused to be any longer his slaves; his mill stood still. He was enabled to provide the means once more of working it; and where did he find this? Under the New Poor-law. He applied to the Skipton workhouse, and they supplied him with twenty hands. He would ask the right hon. Baronet where those twenty hands now were? The right hon. Baronet had a heart, he knew, within his breast to which the cries of these poor wretches would not plead in vain. He had stated some of the consequences of this New Poor-law upon the masses in the north of England. If the House would allow him he would state what was the conduct of the Assistant Poor-law Commissioners in the administration of this law; and in doing so, he doubted not that the First Lord of the Treasury would render an act of justice to him as well as to the parishioners of the township where he lived, when he had explained the scandalous conduct of the Assistant Poor-law Commissioners. During the discussion of the New Poor-law in that House hon. Members would remember with what glee the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury had opened the red box before him and dragged out a statement from Mr. Mott. Paragraph after paragraph he read, bringing charges the most untrue against the Keighley board of guardians. He had sat perfectly composed behind him, feeling that he should have very little difficulty to prove to his conviction that the statements made by Mr. Mott were untrue, and contradictions had passed between the right hon. Baronet and himself. This had ended in a challenge on the part of the right hon. Baronet to him to move for a committee of inquiry, when the gallant Commodore the Member for Marylebone, always ready for the fight, gave notice of a motion for a committee of inquiry, and he understood that the gallant Officer had brandished his stick above his head on leaving the House, and said, 1233He had caught the hon. Member for Knaresborough in a trap at last.That inquiry had taken place, and so convinced was he that he could disprove the statements of Mr. Mott that he had assented to the Members of the committee proposed by the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury at once; for he was convinced that half-a-dozen witnesses connected with the Keighley Union would prove every word of Mr. Mott's statement to be false. The committee had been moved for and appointed. The next day when he came to the House an hon. Member had said to him—Why, you foolish fellow, you have agreed to a packed committee; they will report against you;He had replied, he did not care what sort of a committee there was, the witnesses would prove the truth. Two magistrates, both Whigs, who had taken an active part in the forwarding of the measure, and who were strenuous supporters of the New Poor-law, legal and medical officers connected with the union, had been examined as witnesses, and every one of them, without exception, had declared that Mr. Mott's report was untrue. The committee had reported that—Mr. Mott's report was borne out in its most important allegations.He regretted that there should have been an attempt in that committee to whitewash that public officer. Let any man read the evidence given before that committee; the hon. Member for Finsbury sat on it, and would bear him out in what he stated, and he would be convinced that the evidence was opposed to the report. The committee had reported that Mr. Mott's statement was true. Mr. Mott, in his report, amonst other things, said,—23rd. April, 1842. I attended a meeting of the board of guardians of the Keighley Union on Wednesday, the 13th instant, and I regret to have to report to your board, that the proceedings of the guardians are very unsatisfactory; in short, they are entirely at variance with the provisions of the law, and the directions of your board.He had put it to the proof in that committee, upon the evidence of every witness, each of whom had proved that no instructions whatever had been received from the Poor-law Commissioners, except the original instructions, and that therefore the 1234 board of guardians had acted in direct accordance with the original instructions; but the committee had come to a vote against the evidence. He must tell the House, however, that the gallant Commodore (Sir C. Napier) had voted by mistake, that his opinion was notThat Mr. Mott's report was borne out in all its most important allegations by the evidence of the witnesses who had come forward to impugn it.And when he had found out that this was the case he had protested against his vote being recorded; but this opinion of the committee had gone forth to the world as the conviction of the hon. and gallant Commodore. But he was not a man to be put down by the whitewashing system. He came to the House and he told the House that justice had not been done; that the public had been put to great expense for the purpose of coming at the truth, and that he still would seek for it in that House. He was informed, that opposition was to be made to a motion of which he had given notice for a return of certain papers relative to this question; but the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury, with that straightforward manliness of conduct for which he had always given him credit, said he would not allow it — that the papers should be granted. There had been a driving down of the Members of that committee to oppose his motion; but the right hon. Baronet had said, that the papers should be granted. And what had he moved for by way of coming at the truth? He had moved forCopy of all orders which have been issued by the Poor-law Commissioners of Somerset-house to the board of guardians in the Keighley Union since the formation of the same, in 1838, up to the 13th day of April, 1842; also, copy of all reports upon the proceedings of the board, and complaints thereon during that period, which have been made by the assistant Poor-law Commissioners Mr. Power and Mr. Mott to the Poor-law Commissioners; also, a statement of the particular instances in which the said board of guardians have acted contrary to the directions of the Central Board at Somerset-house; also, return of the number of times the said assistant Poor-law Commissioners, Mr. Power and Mr. Mott, have visited the said board and the poor-houses of Keighley and Bingley, and the dates thereof; also, a return of the reports they have made on the said poor-houses; and of the number of inmates within the same on the formation of the union, and on the 1st day of June, 1842,1235 Now, what did the House think the return had been after the committee of the House had reported in exact opposition to the evidence of every witness that had been examined before them, of all political parties, both for and against the law, that Mr. Mott had stated what was untrue? The commissioners had sent this return to the House of Commons:—?That it did not appear that Mr. Mott had made any report on the 30th of April, 1842,which had been brought out of the box of the right hon. Baronet for the purpose of putting him (Mr. Ferrand) down in the House;—And that the commissioners had not any written evidence to show in what spirit the Said Keighley board of guardians had acted.Now, he would ask the House to listen to what was the conduct of Mr. Mott and the Poor-law Commissioners. A committee of that House had been appointed to inquire into the truth of his allegations; the committee declared that they were true, and this was the return of the Poor-law Commissioners of Somerset-house! Was this the way the Poor-law Commissioners were to treat that House? Were they to gratify private feeling to draw up a statement which was false from beginning to end, and then, when put to the test of truth, were they to come forward, and deliberately declare that such statements had not been made? But he would ask, where was Mr. Mott now? What had become of him? The country had been told, that he was dismissed from office. Had he been dismissed on account of his conduct on this question? His (Mr. Ferrand's) firm conviction was, that be had had notice that if he did not choose to resign, he would be dismissed for this very conduct. Now, one word with the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury; and if that right hon. Baronet would give him his kind attention for one minute, he thought he could convince him that he was in honour bound to do him an act of justice. The right hon. Baronet quoted from the Poor-law Commissioners' report, which he drew from his red box; and when he did so, he turned round and looked at him (Mr. Ferrand) a Member of that House anxious to do his duty according to the best of his ability, and said, "Let the hon. Member, instead of babbling about green fields and all such trash, go down into his own neighbour- 1236 hood, and inquire into the state of the workhouse there." And the hon. Member for Halifax shouted out, "Within three quarters of a mile of his own house." He (Mr. Ferrand) assented that it was so; and how loudly was the right hon. Baronet cheered by certain hon. Members opposite, who gloried in seeing him put down by the first Minister of the Crown. But at the same time be felt conscious that all the horrible scenes described by the right hon. Baronet, and horrible they were, could not have taken place; and he said, that it was a disgrace to the country that Poor-law Commissioners, for party purposes, should so deceive the right hon. Baronet. He was also determined to test the truth of the assertions of Mr. Power, as well as to justify himself in the sight of the right hon. Baronet and of the House; and to show, therefore, that they were not such monsters in the parish of Bingley before the Poor-law, as to compel the living to companion with the dead, or to sleep four in a bed—and oh, how eloquently did the right hon. Baronet describe those horrors! He, (Mr. Ferrand) moved that there be laid upon the Table of the House returns of the numbers of times the assistant-commissioners Power and Mott had visited the boards of guardians of which the right hon. Baronet had spoken, of how many reports they had made concerning them, and of the number of inmates in the union from the first day of its formation to the year 1842. Well, what was the fact? Why, that previous to that report not one single commissioner had visited the poor-house from the time of the formation of the union! But if there were evils in that poor-house now, who was to blame? It was placed under the entire control of the Poor-law Commissioners and their assistant-commissioners. The guardians and parishioners durst not interfere; if they did, they would act illegally. They were bound down in the strictest manner by the blessed New Poor-law. But what was the treatment of the poor there under the old law, and what was it under the new? The number of inmates in the poor-house of Bingley, at the formation of the union, was twelve; not enough to fill all the beds. Would the right hon. Baronet believe that, under the new law, the number had increased to fifty-six? And that crowded state of the House was under the sanction of the Poor-law Commis- 1237 sioners themselves, for their directions to the board of guardians were that the poor should be crowded into that building, including the poor belonging to two other townships in that union. He would, therefore, ask the right hon. Baronet, not as a matter of favour, but as a matter of right, did be not think he was bound to give some explanation of the attack which the right hon. Baronet made upon him on a former occasion? As long as the rate-payers had the management of the poor in' his union, they took care, that the living did not companion with the dead; they treated the poor with mercy and with justice, allowing them the enjoyment of everything they had a right to expect by the laws of England, and what, by the laws of God, they had a right to demand, in a land professing to be Christians, and to be influenced by the precepts of the Bible, He. wished to bring under the notice of the House the dreadful state of the north of England in consequence of the operation of the New Poor-law; and when he read a description of the condition of Huddersfield, he thought that hon. Members connected with the agricultural interest would say to themselves, "It is high time for us to place our houses in order, for the New Poor-law will soon operate in the same manner upon us."—At the Guildhall, Huddersfield, on Tuesday last, January 31, the overseers of no fewer than nine townships that were in arrears with the payment of the eall6 of the board of guardians appeared to answer to summonses which had been issued against them by order of the board of guardians. The following is the list of the differences. Golcar, 34l. 2s, old arrears, besides the last call of 200l.; Cumber-worth arrears, 20l.—call 60l.; Cumberworth half-arrears, 20l.—eall 70l.; Shelly arrears, 20l.call, 80l., Thurstonland arrears, 60l.— call, 90l.J Linthwaite arrears, 95l.—call 100l.; Whitley (Upper) arrears, 53l. 10s. 6d.-call, 70l.; Scammoden arrears, 27l.—call, 100l.; Kirkheaton arrears, 52l. — call, 300l. The first four of these cases were arranged with Mr. Floyd, the clerk of the board; in the other five cases the overseers were convicted in penalties for the neglect. Mr. Heaton, the overseer of the last-named township, told the magistrates that it was absolutely impossible to get the rates collected, as the people were so very, very poor: and that within the last fortnight he had taken out no less than 120 summonses, and that last week he was compelled to take out 16 warrants of distress for the rate, which they were unable to pay.He would ask, then, was not the Huddersfield Union in a state of insolvency, 1238 when 156 summonses were issued against poor persons who had not the means of earning their daily bread, which they would if they could, and sixteen distress warrants were served upon men who had committed no offence, who had not one halfpenny to help themselves with, whose furniture was gone, whose houses were stripped, who were sold up, who had become houseless wanderers, and were reduced to a state of misery qualifying them to be admitted as inmates of the workhouse? But the Poor-law Commissioners had lately discovered a new light, in the person of a Mr. Clements, whom they had sent down in the place of Mr. Mott; and the manner in which he had treated the guardians was such as to raise the blood of any man of honourable and right feelings. The insolent and overbearing manner in which that person treated those who had grown grey in the service of the poor—respectable men, members of boards of guardians for years—telling them that they were ignorant of their duty, and that through them the country was being eaten up by the poor, was almost unendurable. This Mr. Clements had told them, that he went down to set them to rights. And how did he propose to do that? By cutting through a hill. He had gone to Bradford and Halifax, and told the guardians, that they must compel the workings classes, who had not the means of earning their daily bread in their own honest manner, to cut down a hill, and if it were four or five miles away from their homes, so much the better—it would give them more exercise. That was the behaviour of that —what should he call him?—that Assistant Poor-law Commissioner — he could call him nothing worse. The guardians inquired what was to be done after the task was accomplished? Must they find another hill? "Oh, no," said he, "let them put the earth back again." Such were some of the effects of the new law, but not all. Parishes were rapidly becoming insolvent; the land was already eaten up by the poor-rates. In his parish they had more than doubled, or increased to the extent of 300l. over that, since the year 1836; and in twelve months more, the rental of the small farmers in the parish would be wholly consumed. He would ask the right hon. Baronet, was that the method to be pursued, to relieve the country from pauperism? If such was the state of things in the north, where 1239 the people had manufactures to enable them in any measure to bear up under the new law, what would be the result in the agricultural districts, where the profits on the growth of corn were reduced, and the wages of the agricultural labourers diminished in proportion? Thanking the House for the indulgence he had received, he would now conclude by declaring his intention to support the resolutions.
§ Mr. S. Crawford
said, he rose to give his cordial support to the resolutions proposed by the hon Member for Nottingham. He did not desire to shelter himself under any particular mode in which the question might be put; he was prepared to support the whole of the resolutions of the hon. Member, and to sustain the allegations contained in them. The first resolution contained a statement that a certain document was in existence, which was not denied by her Majesty's Government; neither was it denied that the document contained certain matters set forth in the resolution. The second resolution stated,That these recommendations, applicable alike to every class of the poor, and enjoining an indiscriminate reduction of their physical comforts to the lowest endurable point, are shown, by the subsequent orders and practice of the Poor-law Commissioners, to form the real though unavowed basis of the present system of Poor-law relief.The assertions of that resolution could, he thought, be likewise sustained in every point; to prove it, he would call the attention of the House to a speech made by a leading Member of the Administration of that day, when introducing the New Poor-law Bill into the House of Lords—he meant Lord Brougham, who made use of language fully corroborative of the sentiments expressed in the resolution, showing clearly that one great prospective object in view (the point to be attained one and the same for all) was the total extinction of all legal provision for the poor. The noble Lord said:For most certainly it is, that anything more mischievous, anything more fatal to the country, anything more calculated to multiply indefinitely the number of the poor, cannot be conceived than the application to them of any regular fixed provision, be it tithe, be it tax, which they can claim at the hands of the rich, except by the force of that duty of imperfect Obligation, private charity, which is imposed upon all men; every permanent fund set apart for their support, from whomsoever proceed 1240 ing, and by whomsoever administered, must needs multiply the evils it is destined to remedy.In another part he said,That at the present he would say nothing about repealing the Poor-law itself; but when time shall have been allowed for inquiry and consideration, and when this measure shall have paved the way for the reception of ulterior projects, they will, should experience warrant their adoption, receive my assent.What were the ulterior projects but that of doing away with all relief afforded by taxation to the poor of England? That very speech of the noble Lord proved it, and confirmed the sentiments in the resolutions. But, moreover, the Commissioners themselves in their own reports confirmed them. In their seventh annual report, page 42, they state,That all their proceedings had been directed to a faithful execution of the intentions of the Legislature. In particular, the intention of gradually withholding out-door relief from the able-bodied is declared in so explicit and unambiguous a manner, as left the commissioners no choice as to the course which they should pursue.In conformity with the intention of the Legislature, as they said, they issued the prohibitory order which appears in their regulations and reports. In the words of the resolution, their acts had fully carried out their intentions. In some unions the diet of the poor was so much reduced, that the people died in consequence. In one particular union to which he had alluded upon a former occasion, many persons, in consequence of the small quantity and mischievous quality of the diet, were afflicted with diarrhæa, and other diseases, which in numerous cases terminated in death. Such were the effects of the New Poor-law regulations and well was it stated in the third resolution, thatThe suffering already caused by their partial enforcement, and the amount of outdoor relief in spite of them still administered, show their provisions to have been at once cruel and impracticable.It had indeed been acknowledged by a Minister of her Majesty's Government, that in spite of the disposition to limit relief to the house it was found impossible to do so, for, on a comparison, a very small portion of the poor were receiving in-door relief. The third and fourth resolutions declared truly,—That the attempted substitution of punish- 1241 ment for legal relief has more and more tended to irritate and dishearten the poor, to check industry, to increase crime, and to encourage various kinds of tyranny without even the proposed compensation of reducing the expenses of the rate-payers:" and —That this House think it, therefore, expedient to demand such a reconstruction of the existing system as shall make it conformable to Christianity, sound policy, and the ancient constitution of this realm.He maintained that it was not consistent with either Christianity or humanity, nor was it consistent with sound policy, that in these times the poor should receive any harsh treatment, and be deprived of the rights which the ancient constitution of the realm intended they should possess, particularly those conveyed under the 43rd of Elizabeth. He had heard the able and ingenious argument of the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, used by him in a vain attempt to prove that the present Poor-law was more humane than that of Elizabeth. Let any indifferent person read the two acts, and say which was the more consistent with kindness and humanity. The act of Elizabeth provided that convenient habitations should be found for the poor; the new law confined them in houses which were not to resemble alms-houses, but to a certain degree were to be prisons or places of punishment. The right hon. Baronet attempted to show that the provisions for the poor under the new law were more certain than under the act of Elizabeth, which he quoted in order to show that cottages for the poor could not be built except under certain conditions. Those very provisions were intended for the benefit of the poor. In the reign of Henry the 7th a general disposition seized the landed proprietary of the country to reject the poor from the land. In various historical authorities it was stated that at the time the woollen manufacture commenced it was desirable to appropriate the lands for sheepcotes, and therefore the poor must be expelled from them. By the act of Elizabeth it was intended to retain the land for the benefit of the poor; and it was the expulsion of the poor from the land which caused the necessity for the Poor-laws. It was that expulsion, which had been continued and aggravated, and was now going on in an aggravated manner, that led to the oppression of the poor and of the rate-payers; because if the poor, had been allowed certain portions of lands to live and labour upon, there would have 1242 been a smaller numerical amount of un-hired labourers, and consequently a much smaller amount of poor-rates. Until the landlords of this country saw that it was their interest to let the working classes live on their lands, and to have a portion of those lands to support themselves, the pressure of the rates would not only continue, but must increase. That was no theory of his; the Poor-law Commissioners had quoted the parish of Dewsbury, as giving a dreadful exhibition of the pressure of poor-rates, which had reached the enormous height of 34s. in the pound; and it became necessary to call upon two other parishes to pay rates for the support of the poor of that parish. After the parish came into that condition, the lands were let in small portions to the paupers, and the consequence was, that the condition of the poor very quickly improved. But he did not alone rely upon his own information with reference to these points. In consequence of the statements made in the report of the Poor-law Commissioners, in which the extraordinary condition of the parish of Chonlesbury was stated, he (Mr. Crawford) having understood that the lands had since been let on the small allotment system, made inquiry as to its present state, and received statements from the clergyman of the parish, Mr. Jeston. That gentleman stated, that in the year 1833 the poor-rates exceeded 32s. in the pound, that the land was wholly unoccupied, the poor supported by rates on other parishes. In consequence of this state of things, an arrangement was made to let the land to the working people at that time paupers. It was allotted in portions varying from one to four acres. Mr. Jeston stated the result to have been,—That from that period up to the present we have not one able-bodied pauper on the parish. The men have continued to cultivate their allotments, and to maintain themselves and their families by their own exertions, with increasing comforts ever since. They pay a fair rent for their land, and pay it punctually; they also bear their full quota of parochial taxation, so that these very men who whilst dependent on the poor-rates were in a notoriously distressed state, and proved such a burthen to the community as to render all land in the parish worse than valueless, have now for nearly nine years supported themselves and families without any parochial assistance, and are at the present time in the enjoyment of far greater comforts than it may be safely asserted are the poor of any other parish in the county, whilst the property in the parish has 1243 recovered its value, and finds a ready purchaser when offered for sale.
then described the excellent effects as to moral improvement, the good conduct of the people, their attendance at public worship, the attendance of children at Sunday-schools, and the remarkable fact that not a single correction before a magistrate of any of the tenants had occurred since the commencement of the allotment system. He alluded to the objections. First he observed, that it was said the system would increase the population of the parish; the reverse of this was the case, for the population were on the decrease. With respect to a second objection, that the men would not care to work for the farmer, the reverse of this was also the case. When they could obtain work they were most anxious to have it;—But this winter," (he says) "they have hardly had a day's work, and had it not been for the produce of their allotments they would have been on the parish.Such was the statement given of the present condition of the parish by its benevolent and respectable clergyman, and after hearing it he did hope the House would not think that he had troubled them with it unnecessarily. He wished to show what was the effect of allowing the poor to work on their own lands. It appeared to him that the source of all the distress complained of was, that the poor were driven off their lands, and in his opinion if they had been allowed to remain, the state of affairs would have been widely different. With respect to the animus with which the English Poor-law was framed—a point that had been considerably discussed that night—he thought it was sufficiently proved by the framing of the Irish Poor-law. That law carried out all the enormities of the English law to the fullest extent. It was this circumstance which was producing all the excitement now prevailing in Ireland, and he did hope that the Government would provide a remedy in time. Under all the facts of the case, being convinced that the object of the English law was to restrain relief rather than to afford it, he should give his vote for the resolutions of the hon. Member for Nottingham,
§ Sir Robert Peel
wished very briefly to advert to a statement which had fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Knaresborough. That hon. Gentleman had referred to a former debate, in the 1244 course of which he (Sir. R. Peel) had addressed the House, and the hon. Member had slated that, in alluding to the report of the Committee of that House respecting the reports of Sir John Walsham and Mr. Mott, he had misconstrued the expressions, contained in the reports. The hon. Member further quoted that report, and having adduced certain passages in it had expressed a hope that he (Sir R. Peel) would now alter his opinion, and, being convinced that the construction he had put on the expression was erroneous, would explain his error to the House. Now if he had so misconstrued any expressions, he should be quite ready he was sure to explain away his error, but since the hon. Gentleman had spoken he had referred to the report, and he did not find that such error of construction existed. The hon. Gentleman said that the report gave a complete contradiction to what he had stated. Now, having referred to the report, he found that Dr. Nicholl was in the chair, and that on the question being put, "that this report, as agreed to, paragraph by paragraph, be reported to the House," Mr. Grimsditch moved a long series of resolutions of a tenor opposed to that of the report, and on a division there were three for the amendment and eight against it. The hon. Member for Marylebone (Sir C. Napier) voted with the majority. So much, then, for the general view of the report by the hon. Member. Now, what as to its particular references? With respect to Sir John Walsham's report, it said,—No attempt has been made to impugn the general accuracy, nor, with one or two trifling and immaterial exceptions, any of the details of Sir John Walsham's report.With respect to the dead body story, it said,At Keighley frequently, at Bingley only once, and then with the full consent of the other occupants of the room, dead bodies of paupers have been left till burial in the beds which they occupied whilst living, and in the room where the other paupers, who had been their companions during life, still continued to sleep: but sheets were suspended round the bed in which the corpse lay; and the expression, that the 'corpse companioned the living,' was not intended to convey that the same bed was at the same time occupied by the dead and the living.Then with respect to Mr. Mott's report, what was the evidence of the committee? They said,— 1245Your committee is of opinion, that his report is borne out in all its most important allegations, by the evidence of the witnesses who came forward to impugn it; though undoubtedly it contains some expressions which are too general and unqualified.In what respect, then, he asked, had he (Sir R. Peel) misconstrued the expressions in the report? He did not really understand what was the point of the hon. Member's charge.
§ Mr. Ferrand
explained that what he had asserted was, that the report was in opposition to the evidence taken before the committee; and he would refer to that evidence, as published, to show whether his statement was true or not. With regard to the Keighley Union, he had not denied all the statements of Sir John Walsham, but what he had particularly dwelt on was, that in the Keighly workhouse, under the old law, there were only twelve inmates, whilst under the new law the poor of two townships went into it, and the number was consequently raised to fifty-five.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said the question was whether Sir John Walsham's report was or was not generally correct. That was the question. He found that the committee affirmed that report, and he could not help thinking that it was substantially correct.
§ Mr. Ferrand
remarked that Sir John Walsham made it appear that the inhabitants of Keighley were to blame for the state of their poorhouse, and he perfectly remembered that the hon. Member for Halifax had joined the right hon. Baronet in blaming them, speaking, of course upon the allegations of that report.
§ Mr. C. Wood
said, he perfectly remembered stating that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Knaresborough, was chairman of the Keighley board of guardians, and had been from the formation of the union an ex officio guardian in consequence of his being a justice of the peace; and he also remembered remarking on the singular fact that the abuses stated by Sir J. Walsham occurred within, he believed, a quarter of a mile of the hon. Member's own door, he being either chairman of the union, or ex officio guardian as before stated. He had certainly before stated these facts, and he again repeated them.
§ Mr. Ferrand
again explained. Although he was certainly an ex officio guardian, he had refused to be a party to enforcing a 1246 law of which he so highly disapproved, and it was without his consent or know, ledge that the abuses complained of occurred.
addressed the House reluctantly, and he would say, at the beginning, that it was his conviction the resolutions moved by the hon. Member should receive the assent of the House, if it could be credited that the words he had quoted were the basis on which the New Poor-law was founded. But, after the statement of his right hon. Friend (Sir James Graham), who was one of the persons who framed the law, he must say, that it was not true, that those propositions formed the basis of the New Poor-law. When the House remembered what was the state of the country before the New Poor-law was passed, he believed they would agree with him, that the new law had saved the country from destruction, and particularly the agricultural districts. When these were his opinions, and he was thus placed in the same situation as his right hon. Friend, he should be ashamed of himself if he were to shrink from stating his opinion of the new law, which, as a guardian, he had helped to carry into execution. His right hon. Friend having denied that the propositions were the basis of the present law, he must agree with him that the resolutions of the hon. Member were extremely fallacious. They would be so if the allegations were true, but being false, the course the hon. Member had adopted, was the most extraordinary that he had ever known adopted in that House. He could deny all the allegations contained in the resolutions from his own experience as a guardian. He should believe, with the hon. Member for Rochdale, that the Corn and Poor-laws were most disastrous to the poor, if the allegations made were true. But they were untrue. He admitted, that he was using strong language, but what was said there went abroad, and unless it was contradicted, was circulated in the country as true. He would take it on himself, therefore, to assert, as a Poor-law guardian, that not one of the allegations brought before them was true. The hon. Member (Mr. Ferrand) had complained, that the poorer classes were carried off from the agricultural districts, and made slaves of in the manufacturing districts. When he recollected what the state of the country was in 1830, before the new law was passed, when the poor 1247 were bound to their parishes, and bound to their counties, when they were starved in thirties or forties, while working in gravel pits; when he remembered how heavy was the poor-rate, and that riots were frequent, he must state there was much misery under the old law. That part of the new law which went to distribute labourers more equally through the country was, he thought, extremely beneficial. They were transmitted from places where their labour was not wanted, to places where their labour was in request. He would read some statements of the condition of such labourers which he found in the second report of the Poor-law Commissioners. The first was contained in the extracts from a letter of the Rev. W. Metcalfe, published originally in the Cambridge Chronicle, in Dec. 1835, and was as follows:—At the present moment the neghbourhood of Manchester alone offers full employment for an additional 20,000 families, at great wages. The following cases of persons recently removed from Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire will illustrate the subject. William Wootton, a shepherd, at Risborough, Bucks, was there receiving 10s. a-week; he removed with his wife and five children to the cotton mills of Messrs Bayley, in the vicinity of Manchester, and was instantly employed; himself at 14s. per week; his daughter Eliza, aged sixteen, at 7s. 6.d.; John at 7s.; and Sarah at 3s. 6d.; making a total of 32s. per week, instead of 10s. James Hickman removed his family (with Wootton) from Risborough, where they were only earning 8s. weekly: he now earns, himself 14s., and his two sons, James and Richard, 3s. 6d. each; making 21s. weekly. William Bailey, from Risborough, there earned 7s., and his family, consisting of eight children, 9s., in all, 16s. weekly; they are now in a cotton mill at Staley-bridge, earning 42s. per week. Bailey received those earnings the moment he entered into Mr. Harrison's employment. Rent and firing cost him in Risborough 3s. 6d. weekly, he now pays 3s. 8d.The situation of such a person was at that time considerably improved by going into the manufacturing districts, though, he admitted that at present in those districts there was considerable distress. The people there were in a most pitiable condition, but they were not better off in the agricultural districts. In that district which he represented, at least in the western division of it, wages were not, at present, even where the men could get work, which was not always the case, 6s. a-week. 1248 An hon. Friend of his, who had represented Lincolnshire, where the wages of the people had been 13s. 6d. per week, last year, had told him that wages had now fallen to 10s. a-week, though Lincolnshire was always a dear county. His hon. Friend had also told him, that in a village between Seaford and Horncastle, there were' thirty-six able-bodied men out of employment. Would it not be better if those persons by now going from an agricultural district to a manufacturing district, could find profitable employment? He would quote a letter from the same report he had already quoted, to show how much the condition of such people had been improved. The hon. Member read the following letter:—
§ Leeds, July 24, 1836.
§ "I and my family return you our sincere thanks for providing me and my family with work when we came in a state of destitution: so by your kindness we can now live very comfortable. Before I came down from Suffolk, I had been out of employment for one year, and had nothing to live upon more than 3s. a-week, and two stone of flour, for myself, wife, and five children. I receive 12s. a-week, my eldest daughter 6s. 6d., who never earned more than 6d. or8d. a-day, and that very seldom; and Ann, the next in age, 3s., and we all expect our wages to be risen shortly. By the wages we receive now, you will see that our situation is very different to what it was before. The parish I came from received my pension of 3s. 6d. a-week; they gave me 3s., and left the 6d. for me to receive when the pension was due. I have my pension now besides the wages. I have told you this to let you know how we were, and how we are; as long as I live, and can get a bit of bread, I will never go back again. The people of Leeds behave well to us, and our neighbours looked after us, as if we belonged to them."
§ He must say, therefore, that the hon. Members who passed the law deserved the thanks of the country, and those thanks were generally given them in the agricultural districts. He felt it his duty, therefore, now to defend them, and he could not stand by and hear them vilified for what he considered a good measure. In conclusion, the hon. Member said, that he agreed with the hon. Member for Rochdale in approving of the allotment system, which, in rural districts, he conceived, was well adapted to the poor.
§ Mr. Hardy
said, that it was his intention to vote for the motion which the hon. Member for Nottingham had submitted to the House. He had opposed the Poor- 1249 law Amendment Bill at the time it was first introduced. He did not take that course with any view of obtaining popularity, or for the object of procuring a seat in that House. He was in Parliament at that time, and therefore he could not be accused of voting against the Poor-law Bill for electioneering purposes. It was his intention that evening to adopt the same course he had pursued on a former occasion when this measure was under the consideration of the House. He could not at least be justly accused of seeking for popularity by opposing the law and voting for the motion of the hon. Member for Nottingham. With reference to the Poor-law Bill, he must observe, that it would be unjust to say, that it had not some good and unobjectionable provisions. If this had not been the case, the originators of the measure would not have received the support of many hon. Members who had a seat in that House, and who voted for many parts of the bill. An allusion had been made to the Duke of Wellington's watching the operation of the Poor-law Bill in his neighbourhood. He had no doubt that the Duke of Wellington felt anxious to see the provisions of the Poor-law Amendment Act carried satisfactorily into operation. The fact of the Duke of Wellington considering it necessary to watch carefully the operation of the Poor-law in his own immediate neighbourhood satisfactorily established to his" (Mr. Hardy's) mind, that the noble Duke thought that the law had been subject to much abuse. It might be said that the new law had given satisfaction in certain portions of the agricultural districts, but he (Mr. Hardy) maintained, that in the north of England the people were perfectly satisfied with the provisions and operations of the old law. It was carried into effect at a much less expense, it was more simple in its structure, and was more easily administered, than the new law. If the circumstances of the poor compelled them to apply for assistance, it could with facility be obtained. On that account the old law was more calculated to give satisfaction than the one which had been substituted in its place. Under the present law the poor had to travel miles before they could procure pecuniary relief. This had given rise to great dissatisfaction, and had excited a strong feeling against the law. The right hon. Baronet had stated that 3,000,000l. had been expended during 1250 the last year in Poor-law relief, and that upwards of 1,000,000 persons had been relieved. That sum gave about l¾.d. per head per day. There could be no reason, he thought, to say that such an expenditure was a great sum to appropriate to the poor. The hon. Member who had just sat down told the House that the labouring men in his neighbourhood were notable to earn more than 2½d. a-day for each member of their families. As to the resolutions before the House, were not such recommendations as the hon. Member for Nottingham had quoted, submitted to her Majesty's Ministers? At least the belief that a proposition similar in effect to that contained in the resolutions which had been moved by the hon. Member for Nottingham, had been laid before the Government for their adoption previous to the introduction of the Poor-law Bill, would have a most injurious influence upon the country. The impression upon the public mind would be that her Majesty's Ministers had not only received these suggestions, but had acted upon them. He was pleased to hear the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Home Department say, that although a document like that which the hon. Member for Nottingham had referred to was submitted to Lord Grey's Government, the Poor-law Bill was not founded upon it. The resolutions of the hon. Member for Nottingham did not go the length of stating that the Poor-law Bill was based on the recommendations which had been forwarded to the Government; it merely affirmed that such a document was in existence. The first resolution was to the following effect:—1. That in a document entitled 'Measures submitted by the Poor-law Commissioners to his Majesty's Ministers, appear the following passages:—That at any time after the passing of this act, the Board of Control shall have power, by an order, with such exception as shall be thought necessary, to disallow the continuance of relief to the indigent, the aged, and the impotent, in any other mode than in a work house, regulated in such manner as by the aforesaid Board of Control shall be determined.'The power of the commissioners would be to reduce allowances, but not to enlarge them.'A reference had been made to the system of poor relief which had been adopted. He put it to hon. Members who represented various parts of the country whe- 1251 ther, when the Poor-law bill first passed, the workhouse test was not in the mouth of everybody? It was thought important that such a test as the workhouse test should exist. This was made the subject of continued conversation by those who supported the measure. If those who applied for relief were not willing to go into the workhouse, no assistance was to be afforded them. That was the general impression in the country. If this test were not established by the Government and those who supported the measure, he would ask whether the Poor-law Commissioners had not acted upon that test? Had they not put it into operation? It was not only a well-established fact, that the poor were highly incensed against the law, but it was equally certain that those above them were also greatly dissatisfied with it. There existed a strong feeling of sympathy between the class to which he had alluded and those who received Poor-law relief. In the north of England nothing could have been better than the administration of the old law. Was not that fact convincingly established by the large number of persons who petitioned the House last Session, praying for a restoration of the old-law? He should like to see a law proposed which would correct the evils of the former one. The great complaint urged against the present law was this— its administration was conducted by persons who resided hundreds of miles from those who required relief—its operation was directed by individuals who could know little or nothing of the condition of those who needed and who applied for Poor-law relief. The Government had positively disclaimed the imputation that the present law was based on the document to which the resolution had a reference; but there could be no doubt but that the Poor-law strongly smacked of those suggestions. The hon. Member for Nottingham asked, whether the law was or was not founded on those resolutions? The right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department, met the resolutions by moving the previous question; but the people of England could not be deceived by the adoption of such a course. It would be thought that the Government would neither admit that such a document was in existence, nor could it deny that the Poor-law Bill was based upon it. He felt himself bound to vote therefore for the resolution and against the previous question, 1252 though if the hon. Member for Nottingham's motion were carried, he should have some objections to make to the wording of the resolutions. A spirit of dissatisfaction was spreading far and wide through the country in reference to the Poor-law, particularly in the northern parts of England in the manufacturing districts, and it was time that some steps were taken for its amelioration.
§ Sir C. Napier
I am extremely sorry that I did not happen to be in the House when the hon. Member for Knaresborough adverted to my conduct in reference to the appointment of the committee on the Keighley union. I have been informed that the hon. Member accused me of flourishing my stick over my head, and saying, that I had caught him in a trap. Now, Sir, I certainly did flourish my stick over my head for the purpose of encouraging the Turks to do their duty, but the assertion made by the hon. Member is like many of the other assertions which he has made in this House, and which he has found it impossible to prove. When the right hon. Baronet challenged the hon. Member to come forward and move for a committee to inquire into the charges he made relative to the Keighley Union, I saw him very backward in accepting it, and I got up and proposed the committee myself. It was as fair a committee as ever was formed—it was composed of hon. Members from that as well as from this side of the House—of Gentlemen friendly to the new law as well as of those who were opposed to it, and the hon. Member for Knaresborough got the fairest hearing that a man could get, yet he could not disprove a word of the reports either of Mr. Molt or Sir John Walsham. All was proved to be perfectly correct. [Mr. Ferrand, "No, no."] There might be some exaggeration, or rather neglect in that of Mr. Mott where he said such and such was the case without his having gone into it, but, on the whole, everything was proved to be correct. The hon. Member said he had caught me in a trap. These are the very words as told me by the hon. Member for Manchester. But so far from his catching me in a trap, it was himself that was caught, for every one of his assertions were proved to be incorrect; yet after that the hon. Member has the assurance to get up in his place and say, that we on this side of the House are humbugs. I have told him that I thought him the 1253 greatest humbug in the House, and after that he disappeared from the House altogether for a while. However the hon. Member has again appeared and repeated the old stories. The hon. Gentleman ought to be a little more cautious in his assertions, for you will all agree with me that he is in the habit of making many in the face of the House, and he has never been able to prove one of them. I hope the dressing he has received to night will do for him for a while. Now, Sir, to the question before the House. I think that if the recommendations which have been alluded to were made, it would be highly beneficial to the public to know who was the author of the report, because I think it must be one of the most disgraceful documents which was ever published. Why, Sir, go into any country—go into the most barbarous country in the world, and I will defy you to find any such document in existence. Sir, I have always been favourable to the new Poor-law. In many instances it has worked well; but I know that in many it has worked extremely ill. I trust that the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department, when he introduces his bill, will endeavour to correct some of the very hard and cruel provisions of the present law. One great and glaring fault is the enormous extent of the unions. Why the poor have now to travel ten or twelve miles to ask for relief, which may be refused them, and then they have to walk the same distance back with a heavy heart. I will put it to the House whether anything can be more cruel than in the extreme heat of summer or the cold of winter to drag the poor so far, while, perhaps, they may be sent back without any relief whatever? If all the unions were small, consisting of a few parishes, so that the guardians of each parish might be acquainted with the circumstances of the person applying for relief, the system would work a great deal better than it does at the present moment. I trust also the right hon. Baronet will consider, not only the case of aged persons, but those with large families, and unfortunate women who get into those houses and never get out again. With these observations I shall conclude by saying it is my intention to give my vote for the motion of the hon. Member for Nottingham.
§ Mr. Blackstone
would not have troubled the House with any observations had it 1254 not been for the startling announcement made by the hon. Member for Somerset-shire (Mr. Miles), that the New Poor-law had saved the country from destruction. That was placing the Poor-law in a very grand position. But the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department, placed it upon another ground, but one, in his opinion equally erroneous. The right hon. Baronet said, the object of the law was to elevate the position of the labouring part of the population in this country. If might seem rash in him to attempt to answer the right hon. Baronet, who, from his high position in the Government, had access to all official information, but since the right hon. Gentleman had addressed the House, he (Mr. Blackstone) had referred to the statistics of crime in various counties since the bill had come into operation, and if the House would bear with him for a few moments he would lay the result before them. He would select twelve counties which were purely agricultural, and three others which were engaged in manufactures and in which the New Poor-law had not been strictly enforced; and contrast the increase of crime in the one with the decrease in the other. The first county he took was Bedford, not because of its alphabetical position, but because it was the pet county of the right hon. Baronet. He would take the years 1833, which was before the new law came into operation, and 1836, when it had. In Bedford in the first named year the number of criminals was 112, in the latter 162. In Berkshire the numbers were in 1833, 209, in 1838 they had increased to 290, and this was a purely agricultural county. In Buckinghamshire the numbers were 1833, 187 fin 1838, 237. Cambridgeshire, 171 and 237; Dorsetshire, 133 and 255, being an increase of nearly 80 per cent. Kent, 677 and 1,028. Oxford, 216 and 286. Hants, 484 and 632. In Somerset, the county represented by the hon. Gentleman who said the New Poor-law had saved the country from destruction, the numbers were 597 and 828. Norfolk, 529 and 588. Surrey, 454 and 505; and in Sussex, 403 and 529. He would ask whether that was not as fair a selection of counties as he could have made, and how enormous had been the increase of crime since the new law came into operation. Now he would show the House what was the state of crime—the decrease of crime in three counties wherein the New Poor- 1255 law had not been so strictly enforced, and were not under the control of the Poor-law Commissioners. In Yorkshire, in 1833, the number of crimes was 1,509, while in 1838 they had fallen to 1,324. In Lancashire in 1833, 2,305, and in 1838, 2,585; and in the metropolitan county of Middlesex in 1833 the crimes were 3,381; in 1836, 3,350; and in 1838, 3,488. He then would ask where had the new law elevated the character of the labouring; population or improved their social condition? If the right hon. Baronet should disprove the returns then he (Mr. Blackstone) would be probably obliged to alter his opinion, but until that was done he would prefer his own private judgment upon the matter. The hon. Member for Somersetshire said the New Poor-law had been the salvation of the country. Now he would ask. that hon. Gentleman, what were the rate of wages in that county? Were they not now so low as 6s. a week? What had become, he would ask, of the single able-bodied men? Was it beneficial that their employment should be discouraged? He knew that, whereas a single labourer could earn at task-work his 16s. or 17s. a week, a married man would only get probably 12s. or 13s. The opinion he had expressed on this law he had always held. He had opposed the act in its very inception; nor had he ever had reason to regret the course he had then taken against it; on the contrary, the more he knew of it, the greater reason he had to believe that it was impossible to work out the "workhouse" test, and that the attempt at it would become a perfect farce.
§ Mr. Grimsditch
said, although he had certainly agreed that the statements of Sir John Walsham had been found substantially correct by the committee to which the hon. Member for Knaresborough had referred, it was very different with respect to Mr. Mott's report, not one material part of which had been borne out by the evidence, and he was glad that the result of the inquiry had been the removal of that Gentleman from the Poor-law Commission. Now, as to the resolutions before the House, he was fairly of opinion that the document in question had been intended, at all events, as the basis of the projected measure; and although he might have suggested some alterations in the language of those resolutions, he was so sincerely opposed to the law, that he could not avoid giving his support to proposi- 1256 tions in which he substantially coincided, especially to that which deprecated the continuance of the law as unconstitutional. Whether or not it were unconstitutional in a political sense, of this he was certain, that it was directly at variance with the spirit of the act of Elizabeth, introducing as it did the bad principle of delegating to irresponsible authorities the prerogative of law.
§ Mr. Ross,
in the absence of his noble Friend the Member for Dungannon, merely rose to defend the character of Mr. Clements from the aspersions that had been cast upon him by the hon. Member for Knaresborough. That Gentleman, with whose family he was intimate, was a person of great humanity and kindness of heart, and totally incapable of acting with want of feeling.
§ Mr. Walter
then replied as follows:— After all the debate that has taken place the question is simply this—whether the House will support a law resting upon and embodying as it were the very soul and spirit of this unnatural report—a soul and spirit which will affect the future practice of the law for ever—or whether by sanctioning my propositions, or some one of them, they will impress upon the Government the necessity, if not the duty of adopting a more christian and humane principle as the ground of its legislation? Now, Sir, as to the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary—with regard to the manner in which I acquired possession of this document, I do not know that I am called upon to give him the satisfaction he requires; and I beg to say, further, that I hold myself to be perfectly competent to judge of the propriety or impropriety of making use of any document I become possessed of. Nor do I come here to be schooled on points of delicacy or decorum by the right hon. Gentleman, but feel inclined to adopt and act upon my independent conviction of duty. Here is a most scandalous communication upon which is founded a most unconstitutional and most oppressive law. Others have spoken of this communication—I have dragged it to light and branded it as it deserves; and I am told, forsooth, I ought not to have done so, because the authors of the mischief have chosen, in order to screen their offence, to put the words "private or" "confidential" to their production. Why, in that case no project of guilt whatever can be detected. The authors 1257 have only to say, "We are acting confidentially, and therefore nobody must take any notice of it, neither while we are so acting nor for years after." The names of the commissioners, it is true, are not attached to this report, but this is not uncommon, for I have other documents of theirs, undeniably authentic, to which their names are not attached. Besides any document printed at the public expense, I submit ought to be at the disposal of the public. I should like to know how long the word "secret" is to be in operation. I can conceive secrecy to be necessary during a short time for the completion of an act: but the act being in this case completed by the Poor-law itself, it is the duty of every man to know by whom and by what means this legislative provision has been hatched. But their most authentic acts, I find are now disputed, even the dietary of the Cirencester union, which bears the signature of the three Poor-law Commissioners, but which, on its being published, appeared so horrible, that they dared not to act long upon it. There was a similar suppression of a document during the Poor-law inquiry of 1837, and I called the attention of the House at the time to so reprehensible a proceeding. Evidence was in that case tendered and taken, which, when those who tendered it, found that it did not answer their purpose, or rather, would prove the contrary of what they intended, they effected its suppression. The chief of those who urged this suppressio veri— as indeed his activity in favour of the law would in no case suffer him to be second —was the present right hon. Home Secretary, who though he acted as one of that committeee, was really mistaken by one of the witnesses, as he will well recollect, as counsel for the Poor-law Commissioners. The right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government said, I had given no intimation of what I intended to do if these resolutions were agreed to. Why. Sir, the right hon. Baronet himself supplies me with an answer. "I have not," said he, when pressed in a similar instance to remedy a case of existing difficulty, "I have not," said he "received my fee for attending the patient." So neither am I obliged to tender assistance to those who, so far from offering me a fee, are previously determined not to take my help. Now as for the relaxations which have been spoken of. That must be a bad law, in the first 1258 place, which cannot bear its own enactment. The relaxations hitherto have been owing to no humane considerations on the part of those to whom the execution of the law has been intrusted, but to their inability to enforce it. They frequently indeed allow a miserable out-door relief, but why? Because the workhouses at this period of non-employment and public distress cannot receive those who are driven to its doors by suffering. In like manner, they send those whose life is extinct to be buried in the churchyards of their different parishes; but only because the churchyards near the union houses cannot contain them. The right hon. Baronet spoke of the county of Bedford, which my hon. Friend has called his pet county. I will just mention a pet union of his—the West Hampnett union. A day or two ago I received a letter, stating that,—In the West Hampnett union several parishes raise voluntary rates, by which poor persons are relieved to whom the Poor-law Commissioners will not allow relief to be given out of the cumpulsory rates. Able-bodied men are prevented being tested, as it is termed; the payers of these voluntary rates say that a considerable saving is effected by this system.The above information I had from two collectors of voluntary rates.I could send you" says one of them "strong cases of the Poor-law being the cause of thefts and mendicity, and perhaps something worse. I cannot now omit stating that not long ago, in one of the parishes of the West Hampnett union, I saw in one day six women employed in leading horses, drawing loaded dung-carts into the fields. Though I have lived in Sussex all my life, I never saw anything of the kind before.The hon. Member for Somerset has spoken of the benefit derived by the agricultural districts from this law. Now, I happen accidentally to have copied out of an old Manchester newspaper a passage which bears very strongly upon this. It is as follows:—Yesterday afternoon, shortly before the sitting magistrates at the New Bailey left the court, a case of extraordinary novelty and hardship was brought before them. Two healthy, fresh-countenanced, but somewhat emaciated agricultural labourers, presented themselves in the witness-box, whilst at the extremity of the court were ranged in view of the magistrates sixteen individuals, one of them a female, about thirty, with two infants in arms, eight children, apparently all of them 1259 under ten years of age, and three whose ages might be from thirteen to sixteen years, two of them girls and the third a boy. There were two others whom we did not see, making up a party of eighteen. One of the men slated that they came from Towersey, in Buckinghamshire, The farmers, he said, called a meeting to know if any of the parishioners would go down to Manchester, as every body there was doing well. Several of us said we would go. They told us that they thought our families would do well to come down. They said there would be houses for us to go into when we got there, and everything provided for our use. They employed a man named Clark to see after people who would go down, and we went to him. He asked what families we had got, and said we should do well indeed to come; we started accordingly to Mr. Waterhouse's, at Glossop. In answer to questions, the man said, six of the children whom the magistrate saw, belonged to him, and two were his brother's. The other man said, two of the rest were his own, and four belonged to another person; but he had promised to take charge of them, to bring them down, and do the best for them he could. The first speaker then continued his story:—' We were brought,' he said ' from our own county to Glossop in a boat, and from Glossop, Mr. Waterhouse sent us forward in a cart. When we got there, there were forty-five of us; we were put in a bit of a warehouse; and I have been there with my family three weeks, lying on a bit of straw, which is the only bed I have had. The parish' he said in answer to questions, ' paid the expenses of our journey down. We went by the boat to Marple, where they told us there was to be a cart to meet us, and take us forward to Mr. Waterhouse's. We did not know to what person in Glossop we were coming when we left our own parish. We were sent from our own parish to Coddington, where we met with a gentleman named William Clark. We travelled nearly forty miles, partly in a waggon, to the boat to where we embarked. Clark came back with us to the boat, and when we had embarked he told us, that we were going to Mr. Waterhouse's, at Glossop. Two other families came with us. I cannot tell whether Mr. Waterhouse had desired our overseer to send any hands. I worked at Mr. Waterhouse's three weeks, but yesterday he hired a cart and sent us in it to Manchester. The carter put us down in the street, and left us; he has sent another cartload this morning. I have seen them in town, and he would have sent them yesterday, but the cart would not hold us all; so he told one of the women he would send them this morning in his own cart. I don't know what has become of them. I saw them in town this morning, and they said they were going to the boat. We two (the men) are farmers, and the children are lacemakers; we were in work at the time we left Buckinghamshire.' The magistrates expressed much 1260 indignation at the deception which had been practised upon these unfortunate people, and intimated that the parties principally concerned in thus alluring them from their homes ought to be prosecuted. Mr. G. W. Wood stated, that there happened now to be in town [engaged in making inquiries on the subject of labour) Mr. Muggridge, a gentleman employed by the Poor-law Commissioners; and it was arranged that the overseers should go up to him, represent the case, and obtain his assistance, if possible, in taking measures for returning the families to their native parish, from which they had been thus unnaturally cast off. In the meanwhile it was ordered that due care should be taken of them by the overseers of Manchester. We understand that the parly, eighteen in number, were set down on Thursday evening at the Cotton-tree public-house, in Ancoats, of course entire strangers, without means or resources of any kind. They were, however, taken to the workhouse and there provided for that night.I have documents that will overturn nearly every proposition that has been advanced on the other side; but at this late hour of the night I decline bringing them under the notice of the House. The resolutions which I now propose I conscientiously believe to assert truths. They may be unpalatable to the present Ministers, as all propositions I have made on this subject were to the last administration; but that is no reason why I should not propose them, or why those who think with me should not support them. To meet the views of many hon. Gentlemen near me, I will withdraw the first four resolutions, and take the division only upon the last.
§ The House divided on the last resolution:—Ayes 58; Noes 126: Majority 68.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Cresswell, B.|
|Archdall, Capt.||D'Israeli, B.|
|Attwood, M.||Dodd, G.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Douglas, J. D. S.|
|Bell, M,||Duke, Sir J.|
|Benett, J.||Duncombe, T.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Farnham, E. B.|
|Blake, Sir V.||Ferrand, W. B.|
|Borthwick, P.||Fleetwood, Sir P. H.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Greenall, P.|
|Brockelhurst, J.||Grimsditch, T.|
|Brotherton, J.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Buckley, E,||Hardy, J.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Heathcoat, J.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Henley, J. W.|
|Cochrane, A.||Hinde, J. H.|
|Collins, W.||Hollond, R.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Crawford, W. S.||James, Sir W. C.|
|Johnson, Gen.||Scholefield, J.|
|Liddell, hon. H. T.||Smythe, hon. G.|
|Lowther, J. H.||Stewart, J.|
|Manners, Lord J.||Wakley, T.|
|Masterman, J.||Wallace, R.|
|Mitcalfe, H.||Williams, W.|
|Morris, D.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Muntz, G. F.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Napier, Sir C.|
|Polhill, F.||Walter, J.|
|Rashleigh, W.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acton, Col.||Hepburn, Sir T. B.|
|Aldam, W.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Antrobus, E.||Hodgson, R.|
|Archbold, R.||Hope, hon. C.|
|Bagot, hon. W.||Hope, G. W.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Horsman, E.|
|Beckett, W.||Hutt, W.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||James, W.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Boldero, H. G.||Jervis, J.|
|Botfield, B.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Broadley, H.||Knatchbull, r. h. Sir E.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Knight, H. G.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Lambton, H.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Lascelles, hon. W. S.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Lemon, Sir C.|
|Cripps, W.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Curteis, H. B.||Lockhart, W.|
|Damer, hon. Col.||Mackenzie, T.|
|Denison, E. B.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Marsham, Visct.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Master, T. W. C.|
|Dowdeswell, W.||Meynell, Capt.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Miles, W.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Eliot, Lord||Mundy, E. M.|
|Escott, B.||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Evans, W.||Norreys, Lord|
|Fellowes, E.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Flower, Sir J.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Follett, Sir W. W.||Packe, C. W.|
|Forbes, W.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes||Peel, J,|
|Gill, T.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Gladstone, r. h. W. E.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Gladstone, J. N.||Pollock, Sir F.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Pringle, A.|
|Gore, M.||Pusey, P.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Roche, Sir D.|
|Granger, T. C.||Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Greene, T.||Ross, D. R.|
|Grey, rt. hon Sir G.||Rous, hon. Capt.|
|Grimston, Visct.||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Grogan, E.||Russell, J. D W.|
|Hale, R. B.||Scarlett, hon. R. C.|
|Hamilton, J. H.||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Smollett, A.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Hardinge, r. h. Sir H.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Heathcote, Sir W.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Henniker, Lord||Stuart, W, V.|
|Stuart, H.||Wawn, J.T.|
|Sutton, hon. H. M.||Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Tennent, J. E.||Wood, B.|
|Thompson, Mr. Ald.||Wood, C.|
|Thornely, T.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Tollemache, J.||Wood, G. W.|
|Trotter, J.||Wyndham, Col. C.|
|Tufnell, H.||Young, J.|
|Waddington, H. S.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Walsh, Sir J. B.||Baring, H.|