§ Mr. Borthwick
should best consult the wishes and convenience of the House, by not only reducing into the smallest space the speech he was about to make, but by saying at once all he had to say on the four propositions which he had given notice he should submit to the House. He regretted the thin state of the House, but he had no doubt it arose from hon. Members supposing that the very important measure of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge (Mr. Kelly) would occupy a considerable time, and that the discussion on the Poor Laws would not consequently come on for some time, and therefore had gone to their dinners in order that they might come back in time for that discussion. He sincerely thanked the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Graham) for the great ameliorations which were by this Bill effected in the Poor Law, though the propositions he meant to submit to the House were four, the principles involved in them were but two. These principles were so simple and so general that he believed that there was not one right-thinking man within the House of Commons, or out of it, who would not be ready to admit the great desirableness of their becoming the law of the land. They were founded on natural rights; they had been sanctioned by many laws heretofore passed in this kingdom; and they were hallowed by the obligations of religion. His first principle was, that under no circumstances should the separation of husband and wife, parent and child, be permitted. The other principle had given rise to more discussion; it was the obligation of giving out-door relief to persons who, not from idleness on their own part, but from circumstances over which they had no control, were suddenly cast into poverty. He begged respectfully and earnestly to press these two principles on the careful consideration of the right hon. Baronet. The first principle involved not merely the convenience and comfort of individuals, but, what was of unspeakably more importance, it involved the safeguard of all the best and most hallowed domestic virtues, the affections between husband and wife, and the affections between parent and child. With reference to that principle, the practical case which he wished to put to the right hon. Baronet and the House was this:—A man shall have laboured from his childhood industriously and honourably all his life, without, however, 1340 having been able to earn the means of providing for his old age; he shall have attained the age of threescore years, and after a life so honourable to himself and so valuable to the country, what was to be done with him? His children might be growing up following his example, but unable to earn more than enough to supply their own immediate wants. The consequence was, that the principle so much vaunted by Lord Brougham, that the child should provide for the parent in his old age, became inoperative, not because the sense of its obligation was absent from the heart of the child, but because it was not possible for the child to do more than provide for his own sustenance. Now, to a man who, under these circumstances, applied for relief, at sixty years of age, at one of the union workhouses, he (Mr. Borthwick) did not ask what answer ought to be given under the existing law—he did not ask what answer would, in some cases be given under the existing law—he knew that there were boards of guardians so much impressed with a sense of justice, and of such Christian feelings that they did not hesitate to break the rules of the Commissioners, and give relief out of doors in spite of them; but he asked was it desirable that in a great country like this the dictates of humanity should only be attended to by means of a violation of the law — that the rights of poverty should only be acknowledged by the perpetration of a legal wrong? He said the rights of poverty advisedly, and weighing his words; for he maintained that while the House so often heard stated there, in such lofty tones, that wealth had its duties as well as its privileges, it should not be forgotten, that while poverty had its sufferings, it had its rights and privileges too. Yes, it had its rights all the more, because those who belonged to the class of the poor were not able to assert those rights; on this account, in his mind, those rights were all the more to be respected, because, while the full enjoyments of their rights was easily obtainable on the part of the rich, it was not to be obtained on the part of the poor. The man he was describing applied to the union workhouse: the answer was, "Well, according to the law, come into the workhouse; bring your wife; but that which God hath joined must be separated; you must live separate as long as you stop in the workhouse." That, unhappily, was the remainder of their lives; for it was the worst feature of this system, that instead 1341 of affording casual relief to casual depression of circumstances, the relief was the worst curse that could fall on the poor man, because it removed him from his situation of casual distress to become a permanently destitute pauper for the rest of his life; he was kept at a great expense in the workhouse for the remainder of his days; so that it appeared, that while they increased the burthen on the rate-payers, they went about to injure the poor. Well, this man enters the workhouse. He knew he should be met with the assurance, "Haply the Commissioners have, or haply the Commissioners may issue a rule that shall prevent in all cases such a result as you have described; haply they may feel the cruelty of attempting to separate husband and wife under these circumstances, and may order out-door relief, or within the walls of the workhouse take such order as shall prevent that wretched result which you have described." But if the Government answered thus, they admitted all he asked for, and he could not see why that which they admitted in practice, they should refuse to make part of the statute law of the land. If it was honourable in the Commissioners to make provisions of this sort, contravening the law of the land, à fortiori, was it honourable—yea, à multo fortiori, would it be honourable in the Government to agree to make those provisions the law of the land? He particularly solicited the attention of the right hon. Baronet to this point, and if—(as he (Mr. Borthwick) hoped the right hon. Baronet would not)—he should refuse to admit the principle of outdoor relief, then he must claim this right for the poor admitted into union workhouses, that husband and wife, parent and child, should not be separated under any circumstances. Let the House look on the operation of this cruel regulation on the hearts of honourable men; let them remember the sentiments of one of our poets, where he spoke of the churchyards in which were buried those who might, if they had enjoyed the power, have been Miltons in poetry and Cromwells in war. It had been stated, the House had heard it often stated, that there was no man in the House who had any other object in his exertions than to build up for himself an honest fame; and he (Mr. Borthwick) for one thanked them for the pains they took, and for the time so spent for the good of the country; but let them remember, that the man he had been describing had no other reward to 1342 look forward to but the consciousness of doing his duty by his country and his God. If it were true in the annals of crime that nemo repentè fuit turpissimus, so it was true in the annals of the poor that nobody was deprived of that sense of independence which naturally animated the breast of man until he had undergone sufferings almost unspeakable. This man, then, that he had been describing, was reduced to the position of craving charity at the hands of his neighbours, and it was when under that state of bitter distress that the law told him—"You shall be separated from the single spirit who knows how well you deserve a better fate—from that solitary one of all your kind who has sympathised with you from the days of your youth." Had not such a man the same feelings with the proudest heart that beat within those walls? Could he not feel the meaning of the sentiment of the poet, and feel it the more acutely that he had not been educated so as to appreciate the refined delicacy with which it was expressed—Te spectem suprema mihi cum venerit hora—Te teneam, moriens, deficiente manu?But he was told he would not reach this extremity. Some benevolent Board of Guardians would allow the companion of his happier days to visit him just before the spark of life was extinct! What, and was this their humanity? To allow his wife to close his eyes, or to be placed before them just when their sense refused, by reason of its weakness, to recognise her form? When he was about to yield up his spirit to the God who gave it, was it human to deny him the attendance of his wife? The law denied it; but it said to the wife, "You may come to close the eye when its sense refuses to recognise you." He (Mr. Borthwick) knew this would be said to be exciting the feelings of the poor; he knew that such objections had been made; but how tame it that the feelings of the poor could be excited in this way? He said the law of the land was the cause—the Poor Law—passed in 1834. This was the way the House treated the British peasantry. There was a sort of sensitiveness in the House about making allusion to the state of the poor at present. It was whispered, "For God's sake, do not speak of these things; you will excite the people; you will have a rebellion; you will give rise to a thousand evils." Good God! had it come to this, that the 1343 British peasantry, so famed for their attachment to the aristocracy, the laws, and the institutions of this country, were to be severed from that attachment by the tongues of demagogues? The House might believe him, that it was not the tongues of demagogues that had done this, if done it was, but some fatal ills which had exasperated the minds of the poor. He was the first in that House to advocate the interest of the landowners on an occasion when they had forgotten to stand up for themselves; he was the first to oppose the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) when he brought forward the present Corn Law. He must admit, that he was mistaken in his apprehensions of what would be the effect of that law, but on that occasion he had stood up in behalf of the landed interest. He had no hostility to them or to the millowners on the other side of the House, but he must say, that in his opinion there was this great evil attributable to the employers of labour in this country, whether landowners or millowners—that the produce of industry was not equally shared between the labourer and the employer. He knew that every hon. Member, like himself, could produce instances within his own experience of the contrary, where benevolent men gave adequate wages to those they employed, but it ought to be so all over the land. He would at once declare that the Poor Law would be no more needed if the capitalists did anything like approximate to their duty in this respect. It was in this spirit that he had framed the first of the Clauses for which he wished to ask the concurrence of the House. It was proper to consider that all systems of Poor Laws were to the body politic what systems of physic were to the body natural. Medicine was nothing but exhibiting one disease of an ephemeral and transitory character in the place of another which it was desired to get rid of; so the Poor Law was only supplanting one evil by means of introducing another. But in this Christian land ought there to be any Poor Law? He thought that if the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) went on with the system he had been pursuing during the Session, not only would this Poor Law disappear, but they would see a state of things where no Poor Law whatever would be wanted in this country. In a Christian country, he contended that the alms of God's people collected at God's altar ought to suffice for God's poor; so that a Poor Law might become unnecessary, though poor there 1344 must always be—that rested on unerring authority. If at the Reformation the Church Establishment had been fairly and fully carried out, that would be the case at the present moment. He begged to submit to the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham), that as he would admit the principle of these Clauses—for he (Mr. Borthwick) knew the right hon. Baronet would not say he sought not a good end, or one which ought not to be obtained; the only difference between them was, that the right hon. Baronet sought to obtain this end by means of the interposition of the Commissioners; that was to say, by chance; while he sought to obtain it by placing an enactment on the Statute Book—to obtain that as a right which the right hon. Baronet would not refuse as a bounty—he wished to submit that the right hon. Baronet would not act inconsistently in agreeing to his propositions. On one point he wished to say one word. The hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Ferrand) had given notice of a Clause with the same object as one of his (Mr. Borthwick's), on finding which he (Mr. Borthwick) had withdrawn one of his four propositions—the third; but, as the hon. Member had not brought on his Clause, and as he had necessarily left the House for the present Session, he (Mr. Borthwick) had restored his Clause. His object in that proposition was, that children should not be separated from their parents; that in all cases where the child was under seven years, the child and the mother should not be separated, but that above seven the child should have free access to the parents on all occasions. He could relate a great many instances of great hardships arising from the existing regulations in this respect, but that he should not do on the present occasion. In all the debates on the subject of the Poor Law there was this evil—that every one spoke of the union with which he was acquainted in his own neighbourhood as if that Was the rule of all the unions in England. The country owed a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Brecon (Colonel Wood) for a sort of pet union workhouse he had established in Middlesex, and as that had been established, they might have established similar workhouses on the same system everywhere; but then they must have for each workhouse a gentleman as zealous, and having as much time to spare, as his hon. and gallant Friend. However, at present, whenever any one spoke of the hardships 1345 of the system, up jumps his hon. and gallant Friend, and said, "Oh no, it is not so. Come down and see my union; there is nothing of the kind there." Nevertheless, he could assure the right hon. Baronet that men had died in the circumstances he had described, and mothers and children had also been separated. These evils existed, although it was a dispute whether Lord Denman's late decision made it allowable that a child of seven years old should be in any case separated from its mother. But he was certain that the right hon. Baronet would not take his stand on quibbles of law; he would agree to the Clauses on the ground of the good they would effect, or if he refused to consent to them, he would refuse on the ground of their failure to effect good which he thought they would issue in. Another clause to which he wished the assent of the House provided that out-door relief should be given to able-bodied paupers in certain circumstances. The right hon. Baronet knew that this had been desired in representations and petitions from all parts of the country ever since the Poor Law Amendment Bill had been proposed; there had been active complaints on this subject. The regulation of refusing out-door relief led to many serious evils—as, for instance, in the case of a man who was thrown out of work for six or seven weeks. The magistrates had not the power of ordering out-door relief; the House had refused an appellate jurisdiction the other night; relief out of the workhouse would be refused by the guardians. The man was consequently forced into the workhouse, whereby he necessarily became a pauper for the rest of his life; he there contracted indolent habits, unless he had some friend who would bring him out of the workhouse, and thus counteract the spirit of the Poor Law. The man remained a pauper for the rest of his life. In the Times newspaper of Monday last, there was an account of a meeting of the Board of Guardians of the Ipswich Union, which he could not help quoting, as that was a district with which he was not at all connected. The Guardians, it appeared, had agreed to a petition to the House of Commons, founded on a Resolution to this effect:—That the Board of Guardians petition the House of Commons, complaining of the oppressive manner in which the prohibitory order of the Commissioners relating to outdoor relief operates upon the industrious poor, and praying for power to administer such relief at the discretion of the guardians.1346 He did not know if the petition had yet reached the Table of the House, but a part of it was so important, that he would read it. It ran thus:—That your petitioners having been accustomed to consider the honest and industrious labourer, when in distress from no fault of his own, as an object of compassion, and that to administer relief to such a person in the least irksome manner is a duty enjoined by the law of nature and Divine Revelation, cannot but view with feelings of much pain the operation of an order which militates against those unerring guides, and which treats poverty as a crime. Your petitioners, therefore, humbly implore your hon. House to insert such a Clause in the Poor Law Amendment Bill now passing through your hon. House as shall fully recognise the principle of out-door relief to able-bodied labourers, and invest the guardians of the poor with full discretionary power to carry such Clause into effect uncontrolled by the Poor Law Commissioners.That was the petition of so important an union as that of Ipswich, in Suffolk; and it did but embody the one vast complaint which had been made throughout the kingdom ever since the present Poor Law had been established. The principle on which he bad been pleading was, that it was dangerous to the Constitution of the country that the people should only be protected by a violation of the law. It was no answer to say that the Commissioners might make rules; though they established rules never so humane, those rules were not the law of the land; they might be altered at the caprice of the Commissioners; he spoke not in disparagement of the humanity of the Commissioners, he believed them to be honourable and humane men; but they were capable of falling, they were fallible men, and the disciples, as far as they administered the present Poor Law, of a philosophy which rested on barren theories and abstract dogmas that nobody disputed; but when they came to apply them to human nature, they forgot it was in a lapsive state; they forgot they were ruling on earth, which was full of error, and not in Heaven, where alone abstract truths could be acted on. The hon. Member then moved his first Clause, as follows:—And be it Enacted, That when any two persons, being husband and wife, both of whom shall be above the age of sixty years, shall be received into any workhouse in pursuance of the provisions of the said recited Act, or of this Act, such two persons shall not be compelled to live separate and apart from each other in such workhouse; and that to this end suitable and decent accommodation 1347 shall be provided in every workhouse for each man and his wife so of the age aforesaid, any thing in the said recited Act, or in the rules and regulations for the government of any workhouse, to the contrary notwithstanding.
§ Clause read a first time.
§ On the question that the Clause be read a second time,
§ Sir J. Graham
could assure the hon. Member he was not disposed to treat his remarks with disrespect. He had listened to the hon. Member with attention, and he felt that the hon. Member had the advantage of carrying with him the sympathies and kind feelings of the House, whilst he in resisting the hon. Member, would have to encounter feelings which did honour to human nature, and which every humane person would rejoice to see predominant, if there were not higher considerations to be attended to. He proposed, in one respect, to follow the hon. Member's example, and treat the four Clauses proposed by the hon. Member as one Clause for the purpose of this discussion. Now, though the hon. Member had gone through the subject with great ability, he had not brought forward anything that was new, and with all the hon. Member's ingenuity, he had found it impossible to invent a new argument or a new illustration on a subject, every branch of which had in former Sessions been fully discussed. He must therefore again state what he had stated before in answer to the same argument. The hon. Gentleman appeared to think that happier days were approaching for this country, when a Poor Law would be unnecessary; he confessed he could not take so sanguine a view of the state of society in which it was our lot to live; he feared the poor would be always in the land—they were increasing and multiplying every day, and a forced provision for the poor was becoming more and more necessary. But, passing by this fine speculation, it would be more profitable to consider the history of the last three centuries, during all which time they would find that some provision for the poor had been made by Act of Parliament, and looking back to those three centuries he could not find any traces of those Acts of Parliament which the hon. Gentleman said had embodied the substance of the Clauses, which he now recommended to the adoption of the Committee. Looking through the whole of the statutory regulations on the subject of the poor, he did not find any enactment 1348 to the effect that the aged poor who became inmates of workhouses should enjoy the advantage of separate apartments, for the accommodation of husbands and wives; neither did he find that under the circumstances stated they were entitled to outdoor relief. In reference to children he must remind the House, that at all times the Poor Law Commissioners had recognised the rights of mothers so far as the nurture of their own children was concerned. In the workhouses they were at present allowed to nurse their own children. But then what was it that had been sought to be established by this Resolution? The right of the aged poor to out-door relief. Surely there was no one acquainted with the present Poor Law who could for a moment doubt that out-door relief would be given to persons above the age of sixty years, that was, if they really appeared to be fit objects of relief. On this point, however, the hon. Member told them that the regulation under which that might be done did not possess the force and effect of law, that it depended upon the caprice of the Commissioners, and that there was no certainty in anything relating to it. On this point he wished to make one or two observations. By the Act of 1834, the orders to be thereafter made by the Commissioners were to have the full force and effect of law, in all cases where those orders received the sanction of the Secretary of State. The regulations so made could not, therefore, be said to depend upon caprice; they could not be rescinded at the pleasure of the Commissioners; once having received the sanction of the Secretary of State, they could not be revoked without his consent. Having then before Parliament a Minister responsible for those orders, it could not be said that they depended altogether upon caprice; and when he said that the regulations now under the consideration of the House had received the sanction of the Secretary of State, he told the House that which was tantamount to saying that those regulations possessed the force of law; and it necessarily followed, that to re-enact them in a statutory form would be quite superfluous. Several of the concessions which the hon. Member sought to obtain for the poor were already granted to them in practice, for wherever the workhouses admitted of that degree of accommodation the aged married couples were allowed separate rooms, if in the opinion of the Board of Guardians such indulgence was fitting for them to receive; 1349 and he believed that that indulgence was generally granted in all cases where there was reason to believe that those aged people could be of mutual assistance to each other. As to children under the age of seven—and especially children during the period of nurture—they were, generally speaking, intrusted to the care of their mothers. During the period of nurture, they were never removed from their mothers; and from the close of that period till the age of seven the mothers had access to them at all reasonable times—that was the general order, and that order, he repeated, had the force of law. He now came to another part of the Resolutions proposed by the hon. Member for Evesham; he proposed to make a change in the law so that a single justice should be able by his own authority to make an order for the granting of out-door relief. He held that that proposition struck at the root of all the legislation of the last ten years. In a short form this change would re-introduce most surely and fatally all the evils of the Poor Law as it existed previous to the year 1843. Nothing would more certainly reproduce all those evils than that one magistrate should possess the power of making an order for out-door relief. In cases of that kind, nothing was so easy as to work upon the feelings of humane magistrates, and to induce them to make orders in favour of relief. It was very easy to induce them to make orders for money payable out of a public purse, to which purse they were not contributors. In that cheap indulgence of their humanity they freely gave orders to all whom they thought worthy of compassion at the expense of others. But this power had long appeared to the Legislature subject to a great deal of abuse; and it became quite obvious that such a power could be much more safely intrusted to a board of guardians, chosen by the ratepayers, than left in the hands of a single magistrate. It was the duty of Parliament not to take a one-sided view of this question. Neither did the Commissioners appear to take a one-sided view of it, for by their influence, their advice, and their inspection, they took care that the interests of the poor were attended to. In the Ipswich case, for example, there were fourteen guardians, who, on the question of out-door relief, voted as five to nine. Three of the minority consisted of the chairman, the vice-chairman, and the rector of the parish—the remaining two were elected guardians. 1350 Those guardians had the care of 3,706 poor, of whom 421 were relieved in the workhouse, and 3,281 received out-door relief. The gross payment for the quarter amounted to 3,969l.; of that 1,531l. was expended in the workhouse, and 1,940l. in out-door relief. For all the reasons, then, that he had stated he should oppose the propositions of the hon. Member for Evesham.
§ Lord J. Manners
observed, that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State had told the House, that the feelings of humanity were so strongly in favour of the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Evesham, that nothing less than the most overwhelming reasons could induce the House to decide against his proposition. That admission was one which the public could not but feel to be of great importance. Next, the right hon. Baronet said, that it would be superfluous to render statutory these regulations which already had the force of law. But if they had, what objection was there to impart to them the defined character of an Act of Parliament? What objection was there to the House of Commons making those regulations the law of the land when they authorized the Poor Law Commissioners to make them so? The whole case had already been conceded, and there was now little to be gained by contending about mere matters of form. If fathers and mothers were allowed to visit their children as often as they pleased, why permit regulations to the contrary to remain a national disgrace? The right hon. Baronet told the House that he had looked through the statutes on the subject of relief for the poor during the last 300 years, and that he did not find them to contain any thing of the sort to which the Motion of his hon. Friend referred. But it might be asked where in the history of the country did the right hon. Baronet see anything like the system of centralisation which recent measures professing to be for the relief of the poor had introduced? He was sure that he gave expression to the feelings of the public when he said that the Legislature must look to the condition of the poor, and they would not be satisfied with being told that the proposition of his hon. Friend went to the re enactment of the old system. The question was, would they legislate according to humanity and on a generous view of the case, or on a system of centralizing and severity? The right hon. Baronet must know that the sense of the country was against, him; and 1351 he must feel likewise that this worn-out system must be remodelled according to the improved sentiments of the public and in conformity with the recorded decisions of that House. He adjured the right hon. Baronet to agree to the proposition of his hon. Friend during the present Session, and thereby let the present Session be held in grateful remembrance by the people of England.
§ Mr. Hawes
said, that those who knew the state of the poor antecedent to the year 1834—those who recollected the state of the workhouses antecedently to that period, and who compared them with the present state of things, must feel that there was no just reason to complain of the present Poor Law—a law which he would say was most humane in its operation. Of late years great consideration and great care had been bestowed upon the condition of the poor. Did hon. Members recollect what the state of the poor formerly was? To agree to the proposition of the hon. Member for Evesham was to say that the existing law must be repealed, and he would ask those who so broke it down to furnish the public with some equivalent security that there would continue to be in this country a right administration of relief for the poor. The noble Lord recommended the House to go back to the old system. If those Resolutions were agreed to, the existing Poor Law must be repealed, the Commission must be done away with, and let those who did all this try to form a Government, if they could. In the administration of the existing law by Boards of Guardians the public had a security that the law would be well administered, and that relief would be well supplied to the poor. As to the discussion which had taken place upon the subject of workhouses, he would only ask hon. Members to compare in their own minds the present and the former states of the poor, and the workhouses which they inhabited now and formerly. Let hon. Members only recollect the old workhouses—their filthy state—tbemal-administration—the total neglect that prevailed there, when no one was responsible for the management of them—when there was no one to bring cases of abuse and oppression before the House of Commons. Now there were responsible officers, whose conduct could be brought before the House of Commons. There had been something said about extending workhouses for the purpose of rendering them sufficiently commodious to meet the views of the hon. 1352 Mover; but had hon. Members looked for a moment at the probable expense of those extensions? and no one could doubt that a very large increase of the size and capacity of workhouses must be the consequence of the adoption of such a principle. On the expense, however, he did not much insist, for if the improvements were just and expedient, and for the real benefit of the poor, the expense would be a secondary consideration. Though much was said of the actual paupers, yet the House heard but little respecting that class who were on the verge of pauperism, and who on that account suffered most severely from the pressure of the poor-rates. If the proposed Resolutions were agreed to, there would be an end to all discipline and classification in workhouses, and the system would speedily fall down of itself. The system under which the present law was administered might be called harsh; but he thought that epithet was applied to it most unjustly; generally speaking, the Guardians made provisions for all cases of real distress and met the difficulty of particular cases. The charges which the hon. Member for Evesham proposed to introduce would not be beneficial to the poor themselves nor any saving of expense to the ratepayers.
§ Mr. Escott
said, the simple question was this,—did the proposition of the hon. Mover effect an improvement? Now, he really thought that the hon. Member for Lambeth had not touched the argument; neither had the right hon. Baronet. Of the Motion before the House the latter said that it was useless, because the Board of Guardians could already grant out-door relief to persons above the age of sixty years; but then, as had been often said, if that were in effect the law already, why not make it so by an express enactment. The right hon. Baronet told them that any old person might get out-door relief at the discretion of the Guardians. He hoped that this fact would be generally known, for he regretted to say that a great deal of ignorance prevailed on the subject of the Poor Laws. Besides this, any Justice of the Peace might order medical relief, but though that was the state of the law, it was not acted on. It was very important to know what the Poor Law was. Amongst other things, it was a part of the law that out-door relief might be granted in cases of extreme urgency. Such language as that, naturally gave rise to much uncertainty and misconception. Then came the exceptions 1353 of the Commissioners and their explanatory letter, and that was the state of a system which should be made clear and definite by means of statutory enactment. The fact was, that in ignorance of the law, many old persons were forced into the workhouses. There was abundant power to relieve aged people out of doors, and if brought into the workhouse, they ought to be allowed every comfort compatible with their situation.
§ Sir C. Napier
said, that the poor were more expensive to the unions in the workhouses than out of them. Out-door relief to the extent of 6s. a-week would suffice for the maintenance of an aged couple. It was a most cruel thing for an old couple to be told, after they had paid the poor-rate all their lives, that they should not receive any relief without going into the union-house, under the rule and law of the governor; but, if it were cruel to separate two old people, it was ten thousand times worse to separate a man from his wife if she happened to be ill, and to turn her over to the care of a nurse in the workhouse, who might be an abandoned woman. If the Government would consent to a law to give out-door relief to people of sixty years of age, he would oppose this Clause; otherwise, he should support it.
§ Mr. Darby
wished to know how the relief proposed by these Clauses could be carried out? One Board of Guardians would say that one kind of relief was "suitable" for old people and another Board another kind of relief; and he believed this Clause would be worked in an entirely different way by different Boards of Guardians. Did the hon. and gallant Member mean to say that in the agricultural districts persons of sixty years of age were unable to work? He had always advocated a certain well-defined labour test in conjunction with the workhouse test. He did not wish to grant a relief without any labour test at all. Such a plan made good men bad, and bad men worse than they were before. If there were any hardship in the Poor Law at all it was when an able-bodied man happened to be out of work for a short time, in compelling him to go into the workhouse for relief. But he was bound to say that he did not think the law was cruel in its operation towards old people. If these Clauses were carried in their present shape he defied any Board of Guardians to work the law well.
Mr. S. Wortley
said, it had appeared to him that, although these Clauses were not 1354 altogether unexceptionable, yet, nevertheless, they were intelligible. Although it had been convenient to take these four Clauses together and treat them as parts of the same subject, he thought it essential to draw attention to them distinctly. He thought the third Clause would introduce many of the abuses which existed under the old law. He was opposed to any enactment which admitted of the discretion of another party—a Justice of the Peace—to overrule the discretion of a Board of Guardians. As the law at present stood, no matter what the age of the parties, they could not receive out-door relief unless they were infirm; but wherever he found that there were orders of the Poor Law Commissioners often acted upon, and of a commendable kind, he thought it good policy to engraft them in the law. The first of these Clauses did embody very much the practice of the Poor Law Commissioners, and as it was a matter of general practice, it appeared to him to be one of those cases in which they might safely extend the principle by giving these orders the form of a distinct and statutory enactment. He should, therefore, support the first Clause.
so far differed with his hon. and learned Friend who had just spoken, that he was certain if these Amendments of the law were adopted by the House they would so far break in upon the principle of the present law that, in his opinion, they would entirely break in upon the labours of the present Session; and he would rather that these advantages, whatever they might be, should be deferred to another Session. His hon. and learned Friend who had just sat down had abandoned the third Clause, and had admitted that to confide to a single justice the power of overruling the directionary power of a Board of Guardians would be to reintroduce all the abuses of the old Poor Law, which had brought this country to the verge of ruin. He was quite satisfied of this, that whatever might be the humane intentions of the hon. Member for Evesham, and of his right hon. Friend, they could not introduce a more cruel Clause than the first, to make it compulsory on the Guardians to give out-door relief to old people. No discretion was given by this Clause to Boards of Guardians, who were presumed to be cognizant of the individual circumstances of those whom they were to represent — the rate-payers on the one hand, and the poor on the other. At present Boards of Guardians had the power 1355 to give out-door relief, not only to persons sixty years of age, for that was no test if the parties were capable of working. A man of sixty might be robust and able to do a good day's work; while a man of fifty might be so infirm and disabled as to be a fit subject for in-door relief. But the hon. Member for Evesham wished to take away this discretion. The hon. and learned Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire wished to compel out-door relief to be given to persons of sixty years of age, and to compel separate rooms to be given to married couples in the workhouse. In every well-regulated workhouse, under the old law, it was notorious that there were separate sleeping apartments for the men and the women; but one of these Clauses provided that married couples should not be separated, which could only mean that they should have separate sleeping rooms. The hon. Member did not provide in his Clause for the case where one of the parties is above sixty and the other below that age. Did the hon. Member believe that it would be practicable to furnish every old couple with suitable and decent separate accommodation within the workhouse? Did the hon. Member believe that this accommodation could be provided in either manufacturing or agricultural districts? The effect of this Clause would be to drive Boards of Guardians not to exercise any option, and as they had not the accommodation to compel them, from a sense of economy, to allow the aged poor 5s. a-week out of the workhouse. It was now optional with the Guardians, under peculiar circumstances, to allow separate sleeping apartments to couples. The object of the Clause of the hon. Member was to take away all discretionary power in this respect from the Guardians; and the result would be, that the Guardians not having the accommodation in the workhouses, would be driven to refuse accommodation to the poor above sixty years of age in the workhouse, and give them an insufficient and miserable pittance in a hovel out of doors, exposed to the inclemency of the weather. He was perfectly satisfied that practically it would be found that these Clauses taking away the discretion which Boards of Guardians now exercised, would operate unsatisfactorily, both with regard to the ratepayers and the paupers, and would deprive the New Poor Law Act of one of its greatest advantages, namely a defined principle, leaving to the authorities the power of adapting the provisions of the 1356 law to individual cases with a view to economy and charity.
§ Captain Pechell
said, the noble Lord had followed precisely in the wake of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, because he said if there were opposition to the Bill it would be the duty of the Government to abandon it, as they did not see any great necessity to bring it forward.
What my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government said was this, that the Government was under no obligation but a sense of duty to introduce this Bill; that all the parts of the Bill were modifications of parts of the existing law, which pressed with much severity on the poor; and from neither the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, nor from the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, did one word fall for the purpose of conciliating any party.
§ Captain Pechell
continued: The noble Lord had endeavoured to impress the House with the idea that the whole of the country was in a state of riot and disorder before the present Poor Law passed. But in what parts of the country had these abuses occurred? In many parts of the country the most humane provisions for the poor were carried out under Gilbert's Act, out-door relief was given, and the workhouse was only reserved as the last resort for aged people. The New Poor Law was undeniably most vicious in its effects, and he would be bound if they were to put all the local acts in the kingdom into a bushel, and were to take out the first of the pile, that that one, or any other of them, would be a great improvement upon the New Poor Law Amendment Act. He could tell the Government that the ground was giving way beneath them, and that this law must fall—the wedge had been inserted, and he and those who thought with him upon this subject, were determined to drive it home. He should support the Motion of the hon. Member for Evesham, and he trusted that it would not want for support. Surely the hon. Member for East Kent and all his troop who were so loud against the law before the present Government succeeded to power, would not fail now to vote with the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. B. Denison
must oppose every one of the Resolutions proposed by the hon. Gentleman, because he thought that each of them was more or less impregnated with considerable danger to the whole working of the Poor Law Amendment Act. The 1st and 2nd Clauses he looked upon as being quite impracticable, and with regard to the 3rd Clause, which gave to the justice the power of granting relief, he would only observe, that he had had the honour of administering the old Poor Law, and from the experience which he then gained he did beg of the House, if they had any respect for the feelings of the Justices of the kingdom to confer upon them no such power as that contemplated by this Clause, he ventured to say on behalf of the Justices of England, that there was no power which they would so soon repudiate as that. The proposed provisions with respect to children contained in the 4th Clause he also looked upon as being most objectionable, and therefore he felt bound to oppose the whole of the Clauses.
§ Mr. Brotherton
said, if he were to consult his own feelings, he should vote for the propositions of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Evesham, but he certainly could not see how they were to be carried out. As he understood, the Guardians at present had the power of relieving persons over sixty years of age out of the workhouse, and he thought that if that fact were generally known, a good deal of opposition which had been raised against the present law would be withdrawn. His feelings, however, was in favour of the Motion, because he had always contended that it was cruel to separate old people when they were desirous of having relief out of the house. He recollected when he was an overseer, thirty years ago, that an old couple applied to him for relief out of the workhouse. The man said, "My old woman and I have lived together for forty years, and it would break our hearts to be separated.' He ordered them out-door relief; but he only mentioned that to show that under the old system married people were often separated. The fact was, that accommodation never could be given to them all in the workhouse, except upon principles which he was sure no one in that House would sanction, whilst the expense of separate rooms for each couple would be such, that no parish would consent to bear it. He thought that, generally speaking, if the Guardians had discretionary power, they would act with humanity; they were appointed by the 1358 ratepayers and there was no reason for believing that they would not administer the law in accordance with the wishes and feelings of the people. He should be sorry, also, that justices should have the power of granting relief. He had often seen in former times the justice's house surrounded by 300 or 400 persons asking for relief, and the justice, without a knowledge of, or any inquiry into the facts, gave orders upon the parish for sums of money varying in amount according to his own caprice. Such a course was not only unfair to the parish, but also to the poor, for it frequently happened that the cleverest rogue obtained relief, whilst those who were the most deserving often went without. He would vote for anything which he thought would better the condition of the people, but his judgment would not allow him to support the Clauses proposed by the hon. Member for Evesham, which he looked upon as being positively injurious to the poor themselves.
§ Colonel Rolleston
gave the hon. Member who had proposed these Clauses every credit for good intentions and for humanity; but he was inclined to think with the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire (Lord Stanley), that they were more theoretical than practical, and that it would be found to be altogether impracticable to carry them into operation.
§ Mr. P. Howard
wished to offer his best thanks to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department for the great pains which he had taken to ameliorate the existing law. He should certainly oppose the Motion of the hon. Member for Evesham, because it would put the inmates of workhouses in many cases in a better position than those who had served in the fleets and armies of the Sovereign. It would also tend altogether to change the character of workhouses, which were intended not for places of permanent residence, but of temporary shelter to the poor in case of illness or infirmity.
§ Mr. Curteis
wished, in pursuance with a promise which he had made to a Board of Guardians in his neighbourhood, to refer to one case of a somewhat curious, and as it appeared to him oppressive nature. The Board of Guardians of the Battle Union had been for some time in the habit of allowing the paupers to go out for air and exercise, and he had frequently seen them on the road side enjoying themselves harmlessly and innocently. For some cause or other unknown to him, the Commissioners 1359 in London denied to the Guardians the power of allowing their paupers to go out, unless upon a doctor's certificate of ill-health. The Guardians said it was their desire to preserve the paupers in health, by allowing them air and exercise when they were well; but the Commissioners were relentless. He called at Somerset-house, and talked with one of the Commissioners upon the subject for some time, but he neither convinced the Commissioner, nor did the Commissioner convince him. He appealed to the House whether the power of which the Board of Guardians of the Battle Union had been deprived was not a fit power to be possessed by Guardians. It was his intention to support the right hon. Baronet upon the present occasion; and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman in return would not forget this subject.
§ Mr. P. Borthwick
only wished to make one or two observations; and in the first place, he wished to remind the House that the question on which they were about to divide, comprehended the first Clause only and no more. In the second place, he found that objections had been taken by some hon. Gentlemen near him as to a certain ambiguity in the first Clause, more especially to the termination of it—"suitable and decent provision." He wished to observe that he had not trusted himself to draw up these Clauses, but that he had submitted them to a professional man who was accustomed to such labour, and he believed them to be properly drawn up so as to express what he had desired to convey. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had discussed these Clauses in a spirit of candour from which he had never deviated during the whole of the discussions upon this Bill; but he was surprised at what had fallen from the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies. The noble Lord had favoured them with a speech (as was usual with him) full of brilliance and sparkling with wit, and (as was not usual with him) full of everything except the subject before the House. Nevertheless, however brilliant the speech of the noble Lord might have been, the Government were more indebted to him for its length than for its argument, inasmuch as it had afforded an opportunity for Gentlemen to arrive and to call "Divide" who had not heard one word of the debate. If the present arrangements had all the force of law, he could see no reason for refusing to give them the form and the stability of the law, and upon that 1360 ground, coupled with a firm conviction that the Clauses which he had the honour to propose were calculated to benefit the poor of this country as well as the rate-payers, he must press his Motion upon the House.
§ The House divided on the question that the Clause be read a second time:—Ayes 32; Noes 95: Majority 63.
|List of theAYES.|
|Ackers, J.||Liddell, hn. H. T.|
|Barnard, E. G.||McGeachy, F. A.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Beresford, Major||Morris, D.|
|Bowes, J.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Collett, J.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Colvile, C. R.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Dodd, G.||Palmer, G.|
|Duncombe, T.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Escott, B.||Spooner, R.|
|Fleetwood, Sir P. H.||Williams, W.|
|Forman, T. S.||Wortley, hn. J. S.|
|Gardner, J. D.|
|Hinde, J, H.||Borthwick, P.|
|Hodgson, R.||Manners, Lord J.|
|List of theNOES.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T.|
|Aldam, W.||Fuller, A. E.|
|Allix, J. P.||Gaskell, J. Milnes|
|Antrobus, E.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Gordon, hon. Capt.|
|Goulburn, rt. hn. H.|
|Astell, W.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Greene, T.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Hamilton, J. H.|
|Blackburne, J. I.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Bouverie, hn. E. P.||Hastie, A.|
|Brotherton, J.||Hawes, B.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Henley, J. W.|
|Bruges, W. H. L.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Buller, C.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Childers, J. W.||Hope, hon. C.|
|Clive, hn. R. H.||Howard, P. H.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Hussey, T.|
|Corry, rt. hn. H.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Courtenay, Lord||Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Knight, H. G.|
|Damer, hon. Col.||Langston, J. H.|
|Darby, G.||Lennox, Lord A.|
|Denison, E. B.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Manners, Lord C. S.|
|Douglas, J. D. S.||Marsham, Visct.|
|Duncan, G.||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Eliot Lord||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Elphinstone, H.||Neville, R.|
|Emlyn, Visct.||Nicholl, rt. hn. J.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Norreys, Lord|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Northland, Visct.|
|Forbes, W.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Forster, M.||Packe, C. W.|
|Patten, J, W.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Peel, J.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Pringle, A.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Rolleston, Col.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Round, J.||Thornhill, T.|
|Rous, hon. Capt.||Tomline, G.|
|Rushbrooke, Col.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Russell, J. D. W.||Trotter, J.|
|Seymour, Sir H. B.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Sheppard, T.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Smith, rt. hn. R. V.||Wilde, Sir T.|
|Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.|
|Somerset, Lord G.||TELLERS.|
|Stanley, Lord||Young, J.|
|Stewart, P. M.||Baring, H.|
§ The other Clauses proposed by Mr. Borthwick negatived.
Mr. S. O'Brien
proposed the following Clause:—And be it Enacted, that the Commissioners do and shall take order for the due performance of religious services in each of such workhouses, and for that purpose do and shall appoint fit persons, being Clergymen of the Church of England to act as Chaplains in such workhouses, and fix the amount to be paid to such Chaplains respectively by way of salary or allowance for their services (which amount when so paid shall be paid out of the rates accordingly); Provided always, that no person who shall be so appointed to be a Chaplain for any workhouse shall act as such Chaplain unless he be approved for that purpose by the Bishop of the diocese within which such workhouse is situated.However strong his feelings were upon this question, upon which he intended to take the sense of the House, he was happy to find that he was not left to his own resources, having the advantage of the authority of a noble Colleague of the right hon. Gentleman, of a right rev. Prelate, and of the Poor Law Commissioners, who in their Report of 1839, recommended such an enactment as he now proposed. In 1834, the Bill was brought into that House, and it involved a greater than a political change, because it was a social change; and a greater than a social change, inasmuch as it was an ecclesiastical change, because it affected the parochial system of the country. Several parishes were amalgamated together for the saving of money. In large unions, as many as forty-six; in smaller ones, twenty-four. When the Bill went up to the other House it underwent some alterations, one among others making clergymen ex officio guardians. That timid hint was all that the House of Lords ventured upon in agreeing to an Act for depriving thousands of souls of spiritual instruction. 1362 But the philanthropy of the country was of a higher standard than that of Parliament, inasmuch as several chaplains were appointed throughout the country. The Commissioners had used as slight an allusion to chaplains as they could, and in 1839 they carried out their feeling to the utmost of their power, and obtained the help of a mandamus to enforce it. How often they had availed themselves of that power the right hon. Gentleman could probably explain. The Penzance correspondence carried on the history of that matter to the present time. It seemed that as the term officer was used in reference to a clergyman, as it was connected with paid officers, therefore no chaplain could be licensed to perform Divine Service according to the rites of the Church of England, in any asylum or workhouse, unless licensed by the Bishop. But that correspondence went further; for it was affirmed on the authority of Drs. Lushington and Nicholl that a clergyman performing Divine Service without licence of the Bishop was amenable to ecclesiastical law, or, in other words, he was doing an ecclesiastical act. According to the Returns obtained by the hon. Member for Shropshire, there were twenty-two union workhouses in which Divine Service was performed gratuitously by clergymen of the Established Church, and illegally, except in one particular case, to which he need not advert. They were not paid officers; they were not chaplains of those workhouses. Therefore all those clergymen were performing an act in violation of the law, when they performed service in those workhouses. By the Returns which he had himself moved for, he found that there were thirty-five towns, not unions, without chaplains. The condition of the five following districts was as follows:—Cumberland, population 178,038, three licensed chaplains; West Riding, population 1,065,453, three licensed chaplains; North Riding, population, 204,122, one licensed chaplain: Cornwall, population 341,279, two licensed chaplains; Durham, population 324,284, none. There were 195 workhouses without chaplains, containing 20,145 persons. That was the state of things at the end of ten years; and that was what they called the Established Church, a Church which they as Conservatives toasted after dinner, with loud cheering and tingling of glasses, and so the mockery must go on. The fact was, that the poor had been deprived of rights to which they were as much entitled as hon. Gentlemen were to their estates. If they 1363 persisted in depriving the poor of their rights they would not perform the part of Christians and statesmen, but of tyrants and robbers. They provided a refuge for the lunatic and the criminal; to such they sent a message of forgiveness and mercy. But it had been said, they were so fond of money that poverty was become a crime, a great reproach; nay, they were sunk lower, and deserved a worse reproach than that, which was, that a Member of that House was compelled to stand up and entreat that, for mercy's sake and for God's sake, they would not treat a poor man, however unfortunate and miserable, worse than the criminal. A Bill had recently been sent up to the other House for depriving a portion of their fellow-subjects of certain of their political privileges, but not until a case of abuse and malversation had been made out against them, and they had been heard by counsel at the bar. What right had they then to deprive the poor of this country of a right and privilege more precious than the elective franchise, and far more noble than the right of sending Members to Parliament? But as the poor had no power and no money to provide counsel to be heard in their behalf, he had ventured to come forward as their humble apologist and advocate, and to ask what case had been made out against them that they should be deprived of their right to partake of spiritual instruction and of the sacraments of our holy religion. What was the condition of the poor after ten years' rule of the Poor Law Commissioners? In 1833 the poor-rates amounted to 8,739,832l. in 1843 to 7,030,731l., leaving a balance of money in favour of 1843 of 1,706,151l. The average of salaries in the Return moved for by his noble Friend the Member for Shropshire was between 41l. and 42l. Applying this to the workhouses without chaplains which cost about 8,000l., and, if you restored to the poor people part of that which you had unjustly deprived them for the sake of saving money you would still have nearly 1,700,000l., while you boast of having fed more paupers. He would ask how, at the end of ten years, with these facts before them, they could still persevere in setting their seal to this deed of spoliation? He did not believe that the House would reject this Clause; for the whole infamy of the case had not been laid bare before: it was not until now that they were aware that the experiment of ten years had made out such a dreadful case. In founding their schools it was matter of congratulation that without one dissentient voice they determined 1364 upon the just and kind principle of not letting these poor children grow up without God in the world. He asked them to extend that principle in this case—to be consistent with themselves, and to show their Christianity and their respect for the poor. Had it not been for the zeal and skill of the local clergy the poor would have been delivered over to the atheist. As far as legislation went the poor had certainly been left in atheism. They had robbed the poor of their rights, because they had determined to save money. This might be the last discussion on the Poor Law in that House, and he hoped it would be signalized by a triumph, not of one party over another, but of Catholic charity over sectarian bigotry, sordid economy, and cowardly compromise. The right hon. Gentleman might feel bound to oppose this Clause as Home Secretary; but he was sure that neither now nor hereafter would he ever regret it if the opinion of that House should prove to be at variance with his own. He had spoken strongly, because he had had to describe a bad and a dangerous state of things, but he hoped he had not spoken intemperately. By taking the sense of the House upon the subject he would relieve himself from any share in the serious responsibility which obviously attached to the right hon. Gentleman. He trusted he had said nothing hurtful to the religious feelings of any one, or to the Government, of which he was a supporter. It was the principle, and not the phraseology, of this Clause that he contended for, and he warned them against refusing a principle so just, vital, and important.
§ Clause brought up and read a first time.
§ On the question that it be read a second time,
§ Sir J. Graham
gave the utmost credit to the hon. Gentleman for the purity of his motives, but he must complain of the warmth of language which he had indulged in. He must emphatically deny that atheism had ever been established by Act of Parliament, or that any crime or robbery had been committed against the poor by the New Poor Law; and he was perfectly willing to take upon himself any responsibility which might attach to the rejection of the Clause, if the House chose to follow his advice and negative it, because he very much doubted whether the attempt to force that form of worship to which both the hon. Gentleman and himself were attached, by compulsion upon every workhouse—by means of quartering 1365 a paid chaplain upon every workhouse—would be attended with any advantage. Nay, he doubted whether it would not be productive of very great evil. He respected the motives and excellent intentions of the hon. Gentleman, but he must be allowed to question his discretion. He utterly denied that unions had been formed with the sole desire of saving money. That intention had always been denied by those who were responsible for the introduction of the Bill, and had been equally denied by those who had supported it since. The hon. Gentleman would bear in mind that the whole system of the Gilbert Unions was antecedent to the New Poor Law, and yet when those unions of parishes were formed, there was no provision whatever made for chaplains—and wherever those unions existed no chaplain was now appointed. It was within the knowledge of the House that the formation of those unions bore date fifty years back. The hon. Gentleman made another statement, the accuracy of which he begged leave to doubt. The hon. Gentleman declared that the celebration of Divine Worship in a workhouse by a Clergyman of the Church of England was an illegal act. [Mr. O'Brien: If he were not licensed.] It so happened that there was a provision in the New Poor Law Act that every chaplain performing Divine Worship in a workhouse should first obtain the sanction of the Bishop of the Diocese in writing, and when that sanction was obtained, what became of the illegality? But if not performed by a chaplain it could only be performed by the clergyman of the parish, and was he to be told that a clergy man of the Church in connection with the State was acting illegally in discharging one of the imperative duties of his sacred office by visiting the poor of his parish—it mattered not that they were his parishioners by the operation of the law under which union Workhouses were erected—still they were his parishioners? It was the bounden duty of such a clergyman to devote the whole of his time to the discharge of his parochial duties, and surely no one could say that the visitation of the poor, and administering spiritual consolation to them—whether in their own cottages or in a workhouse, was not one of his sacred duties. In either case, therefore, he was at a loss to understand in what the illegality consisted. What were the facts of this case? There were in England and Wales 587 unions. In 21 of these there was no workhouse 1366 at all; in 53 the workhouses were very small, and contained only a few inmates, in many instances not more than 20; and in 513 only, there were large and complete workhouses. As the Act of Parliament now stood, the Poor Law Commissioners had the power of compelling, at their discretion, the appointment of chaplains, and fixing their remuneration; but they had not the power of selecting the individuals to be appointed; that power rested with the guardians. But the hon. Gentleman would make it imperative to appoint chaplains in every union; and, therefore, the House must either fail into the absurdity of having chaplains in the 21 unions where there were no workhouses, and in the 53 where there were only a few inmates in the workhouses, or leave the discretionary power to the Commissioners, which they now possessed, and for the exercise of which the Executive Government was indirectly responsible. How had the Commissioners exercised that power? In 411 out of the 513 unions in which there were large workhouses, and in which alone the question of the appointment of chaplains could arise, chaplains had been appointed—that was in the ratio of every four unions out of five. The hon. Gentleman had stated accurately that their salaries varied from 40l. to 50l. a year. Since he had held office an alteration had been made on a most important point connected with this question. A doubt had arisen whether on Sundays the inmates of workhouses should be allowed to leave the precincts of those establishments, even for the purpose of attending public worship; while there was that restraint on the inmates of workhouses, he thought the duty of administering spiritual consolation to them within those establishments was one of an imperative kind; but it having appeared to him that this rule ought to be relaxed, a new rule was issued by the Poor Law Commissioners allowing the guardians to make such regulations as they might deem expedient for authorising members of the Established Church, not being the mothers of illegitimate children, to attend public worship in the parish church on Sundays, Christmas-day, and Good Friday, under the control of the master and matron of the workhouse. This was the regulation issued in the first instance; but the exception with regard to the mothers of illegitimate children was afterwards withdrawn. Similar regulations were issued for allowing Dissenters to 1367 attend their places of worship. As he had said before, he held it the imperative duty of the clergyman of the parish to visit the inmates of the workhouse; and as to Dissenting ministers, they had free access to the members of their own creeds. He thought, therefore, that the reasoning of the hon. Gentleman was not substantiated by facts—that the discretion vested in the Poor Law Commissioners had been wisely, prudently, and temperately exercised, and that if the House was to attempt by Act of Parliament to say that this discretion should cease, and that in every union a chaplain with a fixed salary should be appointed, they would injure, instead of promoting, the cause of true religion, and excite feelings of discord which they would find it difficult to allay. Therefore, though professing as sincere an attachment to the Established Church as the hon. Gentleman, or any other hon. Member of this House, he shrunk from the responsibility of attempting to carry any such proposition, which would be violently opposed by the Dissenters, and which Churchmen could only enforce in despite of much ill will and angry opposition.
§ Mr. Liddell
had heard with considerable regret the very strong language which had been used on this subject by his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire; and he had listened with great interest and equal satisfaction to the statement made by the right hon. the Secretary of State for the Home Department. His hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire had referred particularly to the county of Durham; he entirely disagreed with him as to the supposed deficiency of spiritual consolation furnished to the poor in the workhouses of that district. It had not been found necessary in that part of the country to construct such large workhouses as in the south. For the large population of the towns some additional accommodation had undoubtedly been found necessary in the existing workhouses; but in the rural districts scarcely any addition had been found requisite. His own union, for instance, comprised seventy-two townships, and yet the workhouse never contained more than seven or eight able-bodied paupers, nor was it capable of holding more than fourteen. The fact was, relief to the able-bodied was scarcely ever required, and that to the old and infirm was almost universally given at their own homes. The condition of the workhouses, therefore, in that county was altogether different from that of the workhouses 1368 in the more pauperized unions of the south. He had been in constant communication with clergymen, intimate friends, and near relatives of his own, respecting the condition of the poor in these workhouses, and he had never heard any complaint of the want of spiritual assistance; and, after what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet as to the facility afforded to the inmates of all workhouses, both Members of the Church of England and Dissenters, to attend Church and Chapel every Sunday, he did think it would be dangerous to exercise anything like compulsion in the appointment of Episcopal chaplains. Indeed, looking to the prevalence of dissent, which, in the mining districts especially, might be well accounted, for without bringing into question the zeal and piety of the Church; looking also to the number of Presbyterians in Northumberland and of Roman Catholics in Durham, he did think it would be manifestly adverse to the feelings of those portions of the community to compel the appointment of Church of England chaplains to the workhouses, at least in that part of the country.
§ Mr. M'Geachy
also regretted the tone in which his hon. Friend had introduced this Motion, but he equally regretted the tone in which the right hon. Baronet had dealt with the question. If the Church of England was what he believed it to be, he could not think it safe only so long as it was kept out of sight. It did appear to him the duty of the State to provide spiritual instruction for its subjects through the means of the Establishment; if not, the Church was only a political engine; and, when the appointment of chaplains was compulsory in men-of-war and convict ships, he did not see why it should not be so in workhouses. The authority of Dr. Lushington himself, who had always most strenuously upheld the rights of conscience in that House, might be quoted in favour of this view. Speaking in 1841, on the subject of district union Schools, Dr. Lushington said,—Whatever objections might be made, on the part of certain persons, to the appointment of a chaplain to these schools, he was satisfied of the necessity of such an appointment.…. He entirely assented, therefore, to the proposition for the appointment of a chap lain.…. However liberal might be his opinions, with respect to those who differed from the Church of England, he had ever strenuously maintained the superintending power of the diocesan in all matters connected with the Church of England. He 1369 thought that no clergyman should be appointed to so important a trust without the sanction of the Bishop.With that sanction for his opinion, he trusted the House would assent to the proposition of his hon. Friend.
§ Mr. C. Buller
considered that the practice of connecting the Church with every measure was not calculated to promote its utility or increase of influence. He thought the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary had adopted a wise and prudent course in this matter, as a friend of the Church. The Dissenters in many localities were numerous, and as in Cornwall, had become so in consequence of the neglect of the Church in times past. It was admitted by all parties, that where persons were taken away from their own parishes and placed in workhouses, religious instruction should be provided for them; and if it should so happen that the number congregated together in those workhouses was larger than the clergymen of the parish could attend to, other assistance should be provided. That was done in the least objectionable way by the right hon. Baronet in his Bill. The principle upon which chaplains of the Established Church were appointed to ships and gaols was not applicable to the present case. The appointment of chaplains to every workhouse as proposed by the hon. Gentleman, would occasion a tax upon the rate-payers, which, in many instances, would create irritation and ill-feeling, which would operate against the beneficial working of the law. Under all the circumstances, he thought the more prudent course was that proposed by the right hon. Baronet. He should therefore vote against the Clause.
Mr. S. Wortley
looked upon the question as one of some difficulty, but would rather leave the appointment of these chaplains to the discretion of the Commissioners. He should oppose the Clause.
§ Mr. Henley
doubted whether the parochial clergy could attend to the spiritual wants of the poor in the workhouses, together with their other duties. It was of great importance that religious instruction should be provided for the poor in the workhouses, and that that provision should be made by legislation, and not left to chance or to the discretion of the Poor Law Commissioners; and when they found, that during ten years, the Commissioners had not appointed more than four or five chaplains in all, he thought it high time the Legislature should interfere.
§ Sir J. Graham
repeated that guardians had now the power, without any exception, of allowing the inmates of workhouses to go out on Sunday.
§ The House divided on the question that the Clause be read a second time:—Ayes 19: Noes 82: Majority 63.
|List of theAYES.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Marsham, Visct.|
|Borthwick, P.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Courtenay, Lord||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Packe, C. W.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Rolleston, Col.|
|Forbes, W.||Russell, J. D. W.|
|Forman, T. S.||Spooner, R.|
|Henley, J. W.||Taylor, E.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||TELLERS.|
|Ingestre, Visct.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|McGeachy, F. A.||Manners, Lord J.|
|List of theNOES.|
|Aldam, W.||Hodgson, R.|
|Allix, J. P.||Hope, hon. C.|
|Antrobus, E.||Howard, P. H.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E.|
|Blackburne, J. I.||Lennox, Lord A.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Liddell, hon. H. T.|
|Bouverie, hn. E. P.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Bowes, J.||Meynell, Capt.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Mitcalfe, H.|
|Brotherton, J.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Morris, D.|
|Bruges, W. H. L.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Buller, C.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Nicholl, rt. hn. J.|
|Childers, J. W.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Peel, J.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Ponsonby, hon. C. F. A.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Pringle, A.|
|Cripps, W.||Rous, hn. Capt.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Denison, E. B.||Sanderson, R.|
|Dodd, G.||Sheppard, T.|
|Douglas, J. D. S.||Smith, rt. hon. T. B. C.|
|Duncan, G.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Eliot, Lord||Stanley, Lord|
|Elphinstone, H.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Escott, B.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Forster, M.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Thornhill, G.|
|Gardner, J. D.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes||Trotter, J.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Wilde, Sir T.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Wortley, hon. S.|
|Herbert, hn. S.||Young, J.|
|Hinde, J. H.||Baring, H.|
§ The further consideration of the Report postponed.
§ House adjourned at one o'clock.