§ The Lord Advocate
moved, that the House do resolve itself into Committee on the Poor Law Amendment (Scotland) Bill.
moved, as an Amendment, "That the House do resolve itself into the 1443 said Committee, that day three months." This was a most important Bill; it was printed on the 23rd of last month, with a great many amendments which required attention; and since the Bill went to Scotland, the people had taken a great interest in it, and were most anxious that no such Bill should pass this Session. His object in this Motion was rather to lead to a discussion on the principle of the Bill, than with the least view to any chance of carrying that Motion; but many hon. Members wished to deliver their sentiments on the principle. The evil in Scotland, with regard to the management of the poor, was very great; he might go so far as to say that it was disgraceful to the country. It was said that this remark would apply only to some parts of Scotland; but if he were to begin with Berwick, take any midland county, and then go to the county of which they had heard so much—Sutherlandshire—he would venture to say, that the whole process of the management of the poor, with very few exceptions, would be found to lie in giving them only just what they could exist upon; he did not mean people able to work, but people seventy years old, some of them blind, totally helpless. The allowance to them would be found to be 2l. or 3l. a year; in some instances actually only 2l. 6d. year. This evil had existed for many years, and the present Bill was proposed as a means of curing it; at least, the Bill went on the footing that something new ought to be done to meet the case. Yet the power was not to be put into the hands of parties other than those who held it now; there was indeed to be a great limitation introduced, as to what might be called the guardians of the poor; and it was not likely the evil would be done away by these parties, who were interested in keeping matters as bad as they had kept them hitherto. There was to be a board of supervision in Edinburgh, to have the charge of the poor of Scotland; and how was that board to be constituted? The Lord Provost of Glasgow and the Lord Provost of Edinburgh were to be members of it. What the duties of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh were, he did not know; but he conceived it to be utterly impossible for the Lord Provost of Glasgow to be an efficient member of such a board, even if it were brought to Glasgow. There were also to be three Sheriffs on it, who, of course, had other duties; and there were to be three Commissioners appointed, two of them unpaid, and one paid. The board would, most 1444 likely, at last, resolve itself into the paid Commissioner and his paid Secretary; for unpaid work was seldom very long continued. But the pauper who should demand support from the parish board, and be refused, was no longer to have the power of going direct to the court, but must come before this board of supervision, and that was to decide whether he should have the power of going to law with the parish. As far as the pauper was concerned, therefore, he would be worse off; if the Bill was meant to throw a bar in the way of his going to law, it was wisely drawn. There would still, however, be as much difficulty as ever with regard to the management of the poor. In fact, the people who possessed property in Scotland, landed or other, in the same way as all other people, did not like to pay money if they could avoid it. The country had not time to make up its mind on so important a matter, and there was no necessity for pressing the Bill this Session.
said, it was a very serious matter for the House to determine whether, after the Report of the Commissioners who had been sent to inquire into this subject last year, it was possible for them to remain in the position in which they were, or to leave the poor of Scotland any longer subject to the kind of assistance which was now afforded them. But if he was not prepared to go the entire length with his hon. Friend who had brought forward the proposition before the House, he was, on reflection, equally unprepared to support the principle of the measure brought forward by Her Majesty's Government. It appeared to him that the Report of the Commission appointed last year made it indispensable for the Government to bring forward some measure, both for amending the law as it at present stood with respect to the poor of Scotland, and also for taking some steps to fortify the powers that at present exist for their relief, or to supply others if these powers were found to be inapplicable. The Bill, however, which they had brought in was deficient, as a remedy for the condition of the poor. It left many matters connected with the law as undecided as they were before the hon. Member opposite brought forward his proposition; and it, at the same time, afforded no assurance to the poor of Scotland that sufficient means would be afforded of ensuring them relief in an efficient and charitable way. It appeared to him that the proper course to be taken on this occasion towards any final settle- 1445 ment of the condition of the poor of Scotland, would have been to improve, in the first place, the parochial system of Scotland, disturbed as that system entirely had been by the disputes in the Church of Scotland, the great majority of the people now having no connexion with the kirk session, and that being the only party at present empowered by law to protect the interests of the poor. It seemed, therefore, to him, that under such circumstances some new authority was necessary for the protection of the poor. He would not go into the details of the provisions which were contained in the Bill for this purpose, at present, as this matter could be better discussed at a future stage. But the House having adopted fit measures to improve the authority that was to be charged with the protection of the poor, the next step, according to his view of the question, which they should consider, would be how they were to give the poor man applying for relief greater access to law and to justice than he now possessed. Instead of doing this, however, the Bill increased the difficulty which the Scottish pauper found before him at present in seeking for justice, by throwing impediments in the way of his applying to the Court of Session for what was justly due to him. If the poor had now a right to apply to the Court of Session to obtain an adequate relief, and if that Court had power by law to award such relief, why, he would ask, should not the first step of the new Bill be to give that power to the Sheriff of the county, and thus to bring the benefits of the law to the poor man's door? That would appear to be the simple course to take; but instead of it the Bill attempted to constitute a new kind of machinery for the management of the poor of Scotland. Now, the condition of the poor of that country was extremely different in different localities. The poor in the great towns should be managed under some such system as was now found existing in them. In the rural districts of the Lowlands another system would probably be found necessary; and again a totally distinct kind of management would be required for the Highland districts; and for the management of these different classes a single board was to be constituted. But how was this board to be constituted? With a single exception, all the members of it would be inefficient, and it could not, therefore, be supposed capable of managing the whole of the powers that would be intrusted to it, It appeared to him, that his right hon. 1446 Friend, the Lord Advocate, would have done better if he had provided separately for the several classes of cases which were to be found in Scotland. He should have applied one remedy to the great towns of that country. Were they never again to come back to the old system of local governments in the large towns, to attend to the local wants of the inhabitants? In this country, when difficulties had been found to exist with respect to large manufacturing towns, local Acts had been brought in for the union of parishes, and for administering to the wants of the inhabitants, by giving power to the local authorities to erect workhouses, and to superintend the condition of the poor. That system had been found to work admirably; and he said this from the experience which he had derived from his connection with the working of the local Act for the management of the poor of Coventry. Why, then, he would ask, should not the same system be extended to the enormous communities of Glasgow, with its 200,000 inhabitants; of Edinburgh, with its 100,000 inhabitants; of Leith, with about as many; of Perth and Dundee, all having large populations? Why should not the Government have looked to the corporations of these towns, and have proposed to Parliament the adoption of local Bills for the administration of the Poor Law in these great communities? They should give the local authorities the power of supervision over the state of the poor; and they could, at the same time, adopt the strictest rules in order to bind the corporations to a proper discharge of the duties imposed upon them. He had heard no explanation why the Legislature should take away from the corporations of large towns those duties which they ought to perform, and which they were best calculated efficiently to discharge. The sympathies of these individuals would be with their own poor; but the proposed board would, by its interference, induce the indolent to neglect their duty in this respect, and by exercising its powers, as was so often the case in such instances, in a dictatorial manner, would annoy and disgust those who might otherwise be inclined to exert themselves for the benefit of their poorer fellow citizens. It would appear, however, that latterly nothing was thought right except what was done by a central power. All their legislation was in favour of centralization; but, in his opinion, the sooner they went back to the old system of entrusting local concerns to the manage- 1447 ment of local powers the better, more especially after they had made the corporations more popular than they had been. But a local power being appointed, and an inspector being placed over it, why should they not give that inspector power to go to the Sheriff in cases where relief was refused, and thus procure an allowance for the poor, limited as their relief was to the infirm and the helpless? That would have been their best course; and he regretted that it had not been adopted when the Government had determined on persevering with the Bill, instead of introducing a new and anomalous system into the country. He protested against the principle on which the Bill was founded, believing, as he did, that so far from giving any facilities for the administration of relief to the poor of Scotland, it would only mate confusion still more confounded. He knew very well the Scotch influence with which his right hon, Friend was surrounded while dealing with this subject; but he would entreat of him to recollect that any appointments which he would make under this Bill would be viewed with great jealousy in Scotland, and to be, therefore, very cautious as to the persons whom he would select. If they were incapable, or indiscreet, or imprudent men, who would issue such orders as had been given in the first instance in this country, a state of things might easily be created in Scotland which would render the administration of any Poor Law difficult. He had great doubts whether he could vote with his hon. Friend on the present occasion, in favour of a postponement of the Bill, feeling, as he did, that the present system of relief afforded in Scotland to the poor was a disgrace to the country. At the same time, he felt that he would not have done his duty with respect to this measure, if he had not stated in a few words his opinion of the principles and probable working of the measure, feeling, as he did, that it would have been much better to give facilities for the execution of the law, and to avail themselves of the local authorities in the large towns for administering relief to the poor, than to establish a central board, anomalous in its character, unknown in the constitution of the country, and which, he believed, would only tend to increase the difficulties which now presented themselves in the way of an efficient administration of the law.
§ Mr. S. Crawford
felt it necessary to make some observations on this question, 1448 inasmuch as the statements he had made on a former occasion with regard to the condition of the poor in Sutherlandshire had been contradicted by the hon. Member for Wick; he was therefore anxious, by reference to the evidence given before the Scotch Poor Law Commission of Inquiry, to show that he had not spoken without due authority. With reference to the insufficiency of relief given to the poor in Sutherlandshire, it appeared from the evidence of various witnesses, as he had before stated, that the yearly amount of relief varied from 2s. to 10s., but generally did not exceed 5s. each pauper. The witnesses who stated this came from various parts of the county, and he would quote the following extracts from their evidence:—Mr. Duncan Ross, General Assembly's teacher in Creech, being examined, said—'The usual allowances to people on the roll vary from 2s. to 5s. a year. The Rev. Alexander Macpherson, minister of Golspie—'The average they receive is 9s. or 10s. a year.' The Rev. George Mackay, minister of Clyne—'We have three classes of paupers on the roll. The sums granted to them vary according to the amount of the collections. The highest class gets generally about 6s. or 7s. a year. Old people, blind and bedridden, are included in this class. The second class gets 5s. 6d. They are not confined to bed, although unable for much work. The third class receives about 3s. a year, and consists of individuals who are able to do a little work.—The Rev, John Mackenzie, minister of the parish of Rogart — 'The average allowance to old people on the roll is 4s. a year; and in cases of extraordinary distress, such as blindness, we give an average of 10s. Bedridden people receive about 10s.' The Rev. James Campbell, minister of Kildonan—'The allowances to the majority (of persons on the roll) vary from 6s. to 10s.' Mr. George Mackay, schoolmaster and session clerk of Loth—' The usual allowance to old people (on the roll) is about 5s. or 6s. a year.' The Rev. A. Kennedy, minister of Dornoch—'The average allowance (to poor on the roll) is from 8s. to 9s. a year.' The Rev. C. Gordon, minister in Assynt—'The allowance (to the poor on the roll) are very low indeed; the very highest is 4s. 6d.; the lowest 2s. 6d. or 2s.What description of the paupers were placed on this starvation allowance? Mr. George Sutherland Taylor, agent for the Duke of Sutherland in Golspie, being sworn and examined by the Commissioners of Poor Law Inquiry, said—Those whom we consider paupers in this county are those who are disabled from in- 1449 firmity or old age, and have no friends or relatives to support them.Mr. Robert Horseburgh, factor to the Duke of Sutherland, in Tongue, was also examined, and said—The pauper classes have a small allowance from the kirk session, which in most cases, however, is not more than sufficient to provide them with shoes. I certainly think that the poor who are necessitous from age or infirmity ought to be better provided for than they now are, and that the heritors of Scotland generally ought to contribute more largely for this purpose than they are now in the habit of doing. I wish to state that the Duke of Sutherland feels it to be a duty to contribute to the poor funds in each parish in which he has an interest. To each of the parishes in this district he makes an allowance of 6l. annually in aid of the ordinary collections.It might, then, be asked how these poor people lived? They lived on the lowest description of food, and this they obtained by begging; they obtained it not from the rich, but from the poor. This was attested by various witnesses. The Rev. Charles Gordon, of Assynt, said—The great assistance the poor get in my parish is from their poor neighbours, and that makes them all poor together. We have a good deal of begging in the parish; the people go about among their relations and friends, but at the same time they dislike to be considered as common beggars.The Rev. David Sutherland, of Strathy, said—I do not approve of the system of supporting the poor by allowing them to beg. We tolerate the practice as a necessary evil under the present state of things. If our poor were not to beg, they must starve, as we have no adequate supply for them.Mr. William Gordon, of Eddrachillis, surgeon—The poor on the roll often beg; indeed, begging is a necessary means of their existence.Rev. Hugh M'Kenzie, Tongue—There is a good deal of begging in the parish. The poor on the roll go about begging from place to place. Many do so with difficulty, they are so old and weak. However, they must do it, inasmuch as if they were debarred from this means of subsistence they would starve. The Duke of Sutherland is the only heritor. He sends 6l. a year in aid of the poor's fund. The usual allowances to paupers on the roll are about 3s. 6d. a year. The sum varies, however, from 2s. to 10s.1450 With reference to the condition of the people, the hon. Member quoted the Rev. Charles Gordon, Assynt:—'There is not a wealthy individual in the whole district.' 'For paupers and all cottars in general the principle food is potatoes and herrings. Their lodgings are wretched. The cottages are generally built of stone and turf mixed; the roof is always turf, with a covering of heather. Those recently built have a lining of clay, and sometimes lime in the inside. The old cottages have nothing but the bare earth for a floor; indeed, there are very few now which have anything else for a floor. The cottages have generally no chimneys; they have merely a hole in the middle—sometimes, however, at the end.' 'The greater part of Assynt is laid out in sheep farms, but the greater bulk of the population is confined to the shore,'The Rev. George M'Kay, minister of Clyne, in his evidence, said—A great proportion of the population in my parish consists of persons who have been located in villages along the coast, having been previously inhabitants in the interior. The land in the interior has now been converted into sheep walks.With reference to employment, Mr. George Gun, a sheep farmer, said, he kept 3,000 sheep, and employed a manager and six shepherds. Mr. Donald M'Donald, of Lockinver, with 30,000 acres, only employed eleven shepherds. The Rev. Mr. M'Kenzie, of Tongue, in his evidence, speaking of the clearance system, said—I am very positive, and have not the slightest doubt, that the condition of the people has been very much deteriorated by the change. There is more money going about us now, but there is much more poverty, and not the same substantial comforts as formerly. It is true that when they were in the interior they were badly off in seasons when their cattle died. They used to subsist principally upon flesh, fish, milk, butter, and curds, and cream. They used to eat no vegetables. They had a few spots of oats and bear (barley), but they bought very little meal. Potatoes were only introduced when I was a child, and now it is their general food.The Rev. W. Findlater, of Duirness, said in his evidence—I am inclined to think that, in a majority of cases, the comforts of the labouring classes have been diminished by their removal to the coast. This is chiefly owing, I think, to the small extent of the allotments made to them, and partly also to the inferiority of the land, which is in many cases pure moss. I may also add, as indicating the effects of the change 1451 which has taken place, that while the population of the parish continues much the same as formerly, the number of paupers on the roll is just about doubled. While the population were settled in the interior, though they were no doubt more liable to be affected by unfavourable seasons than they now are, yet, from the numbers of sheep and cattle which they kept, they could generally, by the disposal of part of their stock, purchase the meal requisite for their families. And though they have now the additional resource of fishing, yet from the nature of the coast, and the boisterous character of the Western Ocean, this occupation, particularly during the winter season, is very precarious. There is little difference between the diet of the working classes and that of the paupers. The people are prevented from prosecuting the white fishing to any great extent by their absolute poverty. They can afford to purchase neither the requisite boats nor drifts of lines.The Rev. Daniel M'Kenzie, of Farr, in his evidence, said—I remember very well the change which took place on removing the small tenants from the interior to the sea-shore. In my opinion the people have been decidedly losers by the change. They cannot command the same amount of the comforts of life as they did formerly. Their condition has been deteriorated both in food and in clothing. They used to keep many cattle, and they had an excellent supply of milk and of butcher's meat. They likewise manufactured their own clothing, and they were far better supplied with bedding and clothing than they are now. These are facts, to my certain knowledge. I came to live in the parish in 1813, and I have resided there ever since. The first partial change took place in 1814, the second and more important change in 1818, and the alteration was completed in 1819. I am certain, from my own personal observation, that the food and clothing of the small tenants is more scanty than formerly.Mr. Donald Macdonald, Lochinver, sheep farmer and salmon fisher, said—I have had various opportunities of becoming acquainted with the condition of the working classes in this district; and I am likewise generally acquainted with the condition of the paupers who receive relief from the kirk session. I consider that the poor on the kirk session roll are in a most miserable, destitute state. They are wholly depending on the contributions of their neighbours.The Rev. D. Sutherland, said—The tenants are but poorly off; their lots of land are too small to give them full employment, and it is but seldom that they can get other work in our locality. They are prevented from prosecuting the white fishing to 1452 any great extent, both because they are unable to purchase boats, &c, and because, even if they could get boats, there is no safe landing-place on any part of the coast in our parish.He might quote other evidence to the same effect, but he thought that would be sufficient as an answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman, who stated on a former occasion, that the improvement in the condition of Sutherlandshire had been greater within the last thirty years than in any other part of the Empire. The hon. Member for Wick had dwelt on the great prosperity of the fishing village of Helmsdale; but a letter had since been published by Mr. David Davidson, who, referring to the allegation that in 1844 Helmsdale had exported 37,594 barrels of herrings, and that 50,000 barrels had been cured in the county, said—He had been for twenty-three years an extensive dealer in fish. In 1844, the total produce of the fishing was under 25,000 barrels by 250 boats; but of these only 120 boats belonged to Sutherland, and the gross produce of their catch was under 7,000 barrels. The rest were caught by fishermen from other parts, and the whole produce of Sutherland fishing did not exceed 10,000 barrels.It had been stated that the Duke of Sutherland had expended on his estates in that county 60,000l., and that no income had been received from it which had not been spent on it from 1811 till 1833. If that were so, the improvement certainly had not been equal to the expenditure. It had been said that the morals of the people were improved, and, as a proof of this improvement, it was stated that the system of illicit distillation which formerly existed in the county of Sutherland had ceased. Now, there might be a reason for this cessation of illegal distillation, without attributing it to any improvement in the morals of the people; because, if the whole county was converted into a pasture field, how were the barley and corn to be supplied for the purposes of distillation? He asked, what should be the proofs of the prosperity of a country? One of the first proofs should be a well-employed, well-fed, well-housed, and well-clothed population; and there was no evidence given by any witness in the inquiry to which he had alluded, to prove that such was the condition of the population of Sutherlandshire. Another proof of prosperity would be improvements in agriculture. Was there any agriculture 1453 going on in that county now? Were any manufactures going forward? No. He should like also to witness an increasing population as a proof of prosperity; and he must be permitted to say, that he received with great doubt any declaration of the prosperity of a country in which that symptom of improvement was not apparent. It appeared by the evidence that whole districts had been cleared of their population, and that they were now inhabited by sheep instead of human beings; that agriculture was extinct, and that manufactures were not to be found. It was also shown, that in the county of Sutherland, the clearance system was carried on and kept up in a remarkable manner, because in 1801 the population of that county was 23,117, and at present it was only 24,782. In the county of Sutherland they had had most ample experience of the clearance system, and yet they saw how little it had contributed to its prosperity. In the large area of the county of Sutherland, the population was only 24,000 odd. It appeared also by evidence that the working classes were generally paupers, and that the support of the poor as administered in that county was a complete delusion. He had looked into the accounts respecting the county of Sutherland with the deepest interest, because he considered it important to ascertain the state of that county, not only in reference to Scotland, but also in reference to every part of the Empire; because, if it could be proved that the clearance system had had a beneficial effect in that county, the result would be to give encouragement to its being carried on in other parts. He, therefore, regarded it as a general question of great importance, and he considered that it had been proved in this case, where the clearance system had been carried to the greatest extent, that it had led to no other conclusion than the misery of the population. In the county of Sutherland, the Malthusian principle, which declared that there was no room for the poor man at nature's board, had been carried out, and he desired that that principle should not be encouraged. When the question of proceeding or not proceeding with the present Bill was raised, it was important to consider the condition of the poor in that great county of Sutherland, and also to determine whether the administration of the Poor Law ought to be continued in 1454 the hands of those who had hitherto administered it. He asked whether they would not put that administration into the hands of others, or at least place some effectual control over those who had hitherto grossly betrayed their trust? What of all other things he deemed the most objectionable had been been alluded to by the hon. Gentleman who had preceded him, namely, the taking away of the appeal to the Court of Session. As a proof of the expediency of that appeal being retained, he would refer to the case of Ann Macdonald, of Kirlomy, a deformed or crippled dwarf; her allowance from the kirk session was 2s. per year. In January last she applied to the kirk session for further relief. Answer.—The kirk session could not be troubled with such applications, and a threat to send her to the Edinburgh workhouse. She at last applied to the Court of Session for an order to compel the kirk session to judge her case; and she stated no law agent could be got to act for her, from the fear of offending the heritors. The Court of Session ordered her case to be considered within eight days, and the result was, that the kirk session then agreed to allow her 1s. 6d. per week. That case was a proof of the necessity of retaining the appeal to the Court of Session. There appeared to be something exceedingly suspicious in an attempt to throw obstacles in the way of that appeal after such a case as he had referred to, and other cases, had decided that the poor had a right to needful sustentation. It seemed to him that the alarm was taken at these decisions of the Court of Session—that it was thought that that Court would be too kind to the poor—and that therefore it was deemed necessary to interpose obstacles in the way of the poor obtaining that redress which was to be expected from an appeal to that Court. He never would agree to anything which would obstruct the benefit of such an appeal; and he thought that the object of any enactment ought to be to render that appeal more easy to the people. In any remarks that he had made, he did not wish to be supposed as passing the least reflection on the conduct of the Duke of Sutherland, whom he believed to be a kind and humane man; and if he did not do all that should be done, that did not arise from his own fault, but from not sufficiently understanding what ought to be done. If the present Bill could be made to provide the 1455 means of procuring a sufficient provivision for the poor, he should be sorry to oppose any obstructions in the way of its passing, because in their case there was an immediate necessity for legislation; but if the Lord Advocate were determined to adhere to the provisions of the present Bill, he (Mr. S. Crawford) certainly thought it preferable that the Bill should be suspended. In his opinion, it would be infinitely worse for the poor to have such a Bill as the present, than to have no Bill at all. He had troubled the House at this length, because he was most anxious that it should not be supposed that he had made any statements in that House without sufficient grounds.
§ Mr. Loch
was understood to say, that it was with considerable embarrassment he proceeded to address the House; but having followed the hon. Gentleman on a former occasion, when he made statements of a similar nature, he felt it to be his duty, as it was in his power, to give them that contradiction which he now repeated. The view taken by the hon. Gentleman related to the Poor Law in general, and particularly to its administration in the county of Sutherland. No person was more aware of the defects of the Poor Law in Scotland than he was. No person was more anxious to improve the condition of the poor, and no one would give a more hearty support to the measure of the Lord Advocate, as he thought that the law could not remain in the state in which it now was. Having stated this, he would proceed to discuss the points which the hon. Gentleman had restated. The hon. Gentleman had again said, that the relief given by the Duke of Sutherland in several parishes was limited to the amount of 6l. to each parish. He took on himself to say, that such was not the fact. If the Duke of Sutherland thought he could administer his charities in a way more beneficial to the people himself, he had the power of doing so, and reserved to himself that power, and he exercised the power to the extent which he had formerly stated, in the shape of giving money, meal, and tenements. He did not mean to say, that it was not desirable to have a better assessment for the poor; but under the system at present existing, he asserted, that when a case of distress was brought before the Duke of Sutherland, no person could be more kind to his people. The hon. Gentleman then proceeded to the 1456 second part of his argument, in which he restated that the people of Sutherland had suffered from an alteration in their condition. Now, he asserted that there was no alteration for the worse in the condition of the various populations, as far as the locality was concerned, for the last twenty-six years. He did not wish that this statement should be taken on his own authority alone, though he knew the county better than the hon. Gentleman; and he should, therefore, proceed to read from documents in his possession. The first extract he should read would be from the last statistical account made by Mr. Kennedy. The hon. Gentleman then proceeded to read the following documents relating to the condition of the different localities:—Dornoch, 1834.—The habits of the people have improved considerably; instead of their peat houses, they have now generally neat cottages built of stone and clay, and harled with lime, having chimneys, instead of the fireplace being in the middle of the house, as formerly. A great improvement has taken place in their dress, particularly in that of the young of both sexes. During the last fifteen or twenty years, agricultural improvements have been carried on with wonderful activity, and to a great extent, especially on the Sutherland estate. On that estate there are 4,000 acres of arable land under the plough; 2,000 were of waste ground, improved and carrying crops. Though the average rent of improved waste land is stated at 5s. an acre; many of the cotters pay only 1s. rent each, some 2s. on a graduated scale. The daily operations on large farms furnish employment to all in their vicinity who are willing and able to work.Creech, 1834.—A very great and visible change for the better has taken place in the conduct and morals of the people within the last twenty years.Golspie, 1833–4. — In cleanliness, both personal and domestic, there has been of late a great improvement, and the same may be said of their dress. It may be with truth affirmed, that a simple account of the improvements in the parish must have the appearance of exaggeration; he only can appreciate them who has seen the state of the parish forty or even thirty years ago.Rogart, 1834.—The greatest change has taken place in the habits of the people since the last account. They are now very industrious, and surpassed by none around them as willing, skilful, and active labourers. The traveller, interested in the working classes, must regard the cottages in this parish as pleasing objects. In no part of the north islands are there so many well-built neat-looking cottages as in Sutherland. Whoever sees them must form a favourable idea of the in- 1457 dustry of the inhabitants, and of the encouragement afforded them.Lairg, 1834.—As to the measure of comfort enjoyed by the people, the chief want is pasture for the cattle during the summer months. The Duchess of Sutherland's tenantry have their land on very moderate terms; and, though their pasture is at present confined, this defect is, we believe, to be immediately remedied. The other tenants on the adjoining estates in the parish are certainly less comfortable. They not only want pasture, but their rents far exceed the value of the land, and the appearance of the houses tell but too plainly the condition of the inhabitants. The cotters on the Duchess of Sutherland's property raise, in favourable seasons, as much corn as supplies their families during the year; and of late, a very decided improvement has been manifested in the mode of cultivating their land. The change produced in the condition of the people by the introduction of sheep farming has been already noticed, a change which, though for the time it subjected the people to very serious inconvenience, is now showing its salutary effects in the increased industry of the population.Tongue, 1841.—The deposits in the savings' banks since 1834, amount to 907l. 11s. 9d.; the drawings to 461l. 15s. 9d. The Church collections and the annual donation of 6l. from the Duke of Sutherland are the sole funds for the relief of the poor at the disposal of the session. The poor are mainly indebted for their support to the charities and kind offices of relatives and neighbours. A few received permanent charity, in meal or otherwise, from the Duchess Countess, which has been increased by the present Duke. Her Grace's kindness to aged widows and to respectable persons in reduced circumstances, was very considerate. In 1837, she distributed meal to the poor to the value of 60l., and supplied the small tenants with a great quantity at prime cost; the arrears were afterwards remitted, to the extent of 200l. The object of putting it to the account of the tenants was the desire that they should not feel themselves treated as paupers. The great change that has taken place in the introduction of sheep-farming, has rendered the land more valuable to the proprietors; for in no other way could a great portion of it be laid out to such advantage. If, however, the system is estimated by its bearing on the former occupiers of the soil, no friend of humanity can but regard it with the most painful feelings. Fishing became the necessary resource; but on a tempestuous coast, without harbours, in a county inaccessible to enterprising curers, for want of roads, difficulties of every sort overtook the people. Such was the condition of the people in 1829, when the late Duke of Sutherland became the proprietor of the parish. That truly patriotic nobleman, fully alive to the evils which beset his new people, immediately reduced the rents of his small tenants 30 per cent., and imme- 1458 diately commenced a series of improvements by opening the county with a series of new roads at an enormous expense. They were enjoined at the same time to build new houses, and, encouraged by the prospect of work, they soon set about this undertaking. The lamented death of the proprietor put a stop to improvements, and many of the people, by building these houses, by the failure of the fishings, and by a series of adverse seasons, got deeply into arrear. Upon the accession of the present Duke these were given up to the extent of 1,582l., and since then he has commenced the improvements that were suspended at his father's death.He really did think that after reading these extracts it was almost unnecessary for him to say one word more; but he would read a letter which, in looking over his papers yesterday, he had discovered, and it was written some years ago by a person since deceased. In that letter the writer corroborated what he (Mr. Loch) had formerly stated with respect to the condition of the country in 1824. The hon. Gentleman then read the following letter:—
§ "Forfar, November 7.
§ "From the insulated situation of Sutherlandshire, and recollecting the discussions that appeared in the newspapers several years ago regarding the changes that had been then effected by the Marquess of Stafford among the poorer tenantry, I must acknowledge that we left our native county a good deal prejudiced, not only against that part of Scotland, but also against the noble Marquess. After a short stay in Sutherlandshire, however, we were agreeably disappointed in both respects; and, being fully alive to the great advantages which these changes have produced on the appearance of the country and the comfort and civilization of its inhabitants, I deem it no more than justice to the authors of these improvements to express to you, who are in no small degree interested in their success, the sentiments of myself and my companion on the subject. After our arrival in the country, we first visited a portion of the Sutherland estate, in the interior of Strath Brora, where we understood the under tenantry of some middleman or original tacksman still held their own possessions. Here, if any credit was due to the assertions of the advocates of the old system, we expected to have seen the poor but cheerful peasants tending their little flocks, under some degree at least of comfort and happiness; but I must confess we were surprised to behold many of these creatures in such a state as scarcely to deserve the name of human, covered with filth and cutaneous disease, living in mud hovels, into which one could only enter by stooping nearly on hands and knees; and the scene which 1459 the interior presented was not only shocking, but really degrading to human nature. The house, if it deserves the name, into which we first entered, was totally destitute of what may be called furniture. There are, indeed, some industrious families who have turned their minds to other pursuits, and who have not put their entire dependence on their precarious and scanty crops, or on the few cattle or sheep they may raise on their possessions, to whose circumstances the above does not at all apply, and who live in comparative ease and comfort. After travelling over a considerable portion of the interior and mountainous part of the country, we visited those places on the coast where the small tenants are now settled. From the boldness and confidence with which the pretented advocates of these poor and misguided people decried those arrangements, we naturally expected to find scenes of misery and wretchedness surpassing those which I have already described. They were living in neat and comfortable cottages, built of stone and lime, amidst comparative luxury and affluence, and vying with each other in habits of cleanliness and industry. Indeed, it is not easy to describe the great change that has been effected in the manners of these people. To each family who chose to remain on the estate was allotted a certain portion of ground, the greatest part of which they have, by the assistance of the landlord, brought into a state of cultivation: and hundreds of acres, formerly producing nothing but heath, are already yielding tolerable crops, which in a great measure supply the wants of the possessor. The newly erected fishing village of Helmsdale is of itself sufficient to satisfy any unprejudiced and candid observer of the beneficial effects of the changes which I have described. The next thing that attracted our attention was the high state of cultivation of the arable lands. The farm-houses and offices, which we were told were all erected at the expense of the proprietor, are equal, if not superior, to those of this country. They are occupied partly by natives, and partly by farmers from the south country, and a more intelligent and liberal set of men does not exist."
§ He really did not wish to detain the House longer; but, after the statements made by the hon. Gentleman, he could not do less than bring forward these facts, which, he thought, would in the judgment of all impartial men, bear out the statements he had made with regard to the change in the condition of the people of Sutherland since the new arrangements were made. As long as the people were distributed in small townships over the estate, it was quite impossible to extend to them the benefits of education; but now that they were near to each other, the progress of education 1460 in that county had gone on rapidly. All the parochial schools, over which there used to be masters of inferior abilities, had been repaired, and men of ability appointed to them. The Duke of Sutherland also agreed to build twelve schools, called General Assembly schools, at an expense of 200l. each, and to give 200l. a year as a contribution to the General Assembly fund. The Duke of Sutherland had also undertaken to communicate the benefits of education to those portions of the people who felt conscientious objections to allow their children to attend the schools belonging to the Establishment. Taking everything into consideration, a foundation was laid for a vast improvement in the moral and religious education of the people. In 1817, when it was necessary to look into the condition of the people in consequence of their state of starvation, arising from bad seasons, 3,000l. was sent down to purchase cattle for them, and 9,000l. for meal. He had gone down himself and desired the ministers to send in their lists of the poor; and to his great surprise it was found that there were located in distant parts a number of people who had settled in the places without leave. They amounted to 408 families, or 2,000 persons, and, though they had no title to remain where they were, no hesitation was shown in supplying them with food, just in the same manner as if they had been in the habit of paying rent, on the sole condition that on the first opportunity they would take cottages on the sea-shore and become industrious people. It was the constant object of the Duke of Sutherland to keep the rent of his poorer tenants at a nominal amount, in order that they might be encouraged to improve their land, and have the means of bettering their condition. This had been attended by the result expected; it was proved by the return of the amount deposited by them in the savings' bank. He would only add one word more. He should always feel grateful for having been connected with changes which had tended to the improvement of the moral and religious education of so many fellow beings, and had been the means of increasing their wealth and position in the country.
§ Sir J. M'Taggart
was aware that some improvement was necessary in the Poor Law of Scotland; but he regretted that a Bill of such importance should have been 1461 introduced at so late a period of the Session. He did not thin there would be sufficient time to consider it. He particularly objected to the jurisdiction given to the Central Board; it would have been more congenial to the feelings of the people of Scotland if the decision had been given to the Sheriffs, with whom the people in general were well satisfied. He should vote with the hon. Member for Glasgow.
§ The Lord Advocate
hoped the Bill would be allowed to go into Committee; the Bill was brought forward in the first week of May, and he did not believe there was a parish in Scotland unacquainted with its details. There were certain principles involved in the measure from which he could not depart; but he was ready to receive any suggestions for the improvement of the details.
§ Mr. Sheil
begged to know whether the principle of the Bill that affected Ireland was one upon which the Lord Advocate was prepared to give way? There was one most important clause in this Bill, one which, if carried into a law, he was almost justified in saying would have a fatal operation. They provided by this Bill that no Irishman should obtain a settlement by residence in Scotland; they might tell him that this proposition was too broad, that he was not borne out by the words of the Bill in making that statement, because no Englishman, or native of the Isle of Man, could so acquire a sttlement in Scotland; that the clause was not directed against Ireland; and that he was getting up a case for clamour about justice to Ireland. But in Ireland a Scotchman did not gain a settlement by residence, because no one could acquire a settlement in that manner; in Ireland no settlement could be gained by residence. Therefore, Scotchmen, Englishmen, and natives of the Isle of Man, were in Ireland perfectly on a level. There were there no odious distinctions. Charity made no distinctions of country. But if an Irishman had resided in Scotland twenty years—if he had worked for that time in a factory at Glasgow, when he had lost his health and was worn out, when too old to work, and "to beg ashamed," what was the expedient they adopted? They sent him back to his own country, because he was not born in Scotland; because to Scotchmen alone was relief to be given. They would re 1462 member, that when money was raised at a former time for the relief of distress in Scotland, a rule was made that no Irishman should enjoy it, a rule that was received here with a feeling stronger than I surprise. He believed there was no very large body of emigrants from England to Scotland; the Bill, therefore, was directed against his country. Now, was it not just that industry should give a patent, of naturalization? He would ask the Lord Advocate whether he was prepared to make a change in this part of the Bill? If he was not, he did not think the Representatives of Scotland or the Government would support him in these narrow views, in this system of odious national distinctions; and let them look at the consequences, it would do themselves and the country the greatest possible mischief, and furnish more forcibly than ever a justification to those who inveighed against the system on which they legislated.
§ Mr. F. Maule
would vote with the hon. Member for Glasgow. He thought if they delayed the Bill for another Session, they might arrive at a better measure. He hoped the object of the Bill was to make the assessment compulsory all over the country; but while they did that they must not leave, the indefinite term, "means and substance," as the basis of it; it would give rise to a flood of litigation. In Glasgow, and Edinburgh, and other towns, large meetings were being held, headed by no uninfluential men, to form associations for the protection of the poor. When he (Mr. F. Maule) was applied to to join them, he said he could belong to no association of the kind, because he thought the best association for the protection of the poor was the Legislature of the country. If they passed this Bill in its present shape, and made it more difficult for the poor to obtain access to the legal authority when they considered themselves aggrieved, these associations would startup in all the great towns, working on a central system, with an effect exceedingly detrimental to the good government, peace, and tranquillity of the country.
§ Mr. Redington
said, the clause would have a peculiar operation upon Ireland; he wished he could augur from the silence of the Lord Advocate to the question of his hon. and learned Friend, that he would consent to his demand. He was sorry to 1463 see the power of removal, of which so many complaints had been made, introduced into another part of the kingdom. In England there were three modes of gaining a settlement; and in Scotland there was at present a right to relief, which by this Bill they would destroy. The Bill enacted, that no residence under three years should make a settlement; and one who was not a native of Scotland could not, by residence, become entitled to a settlement at all. In Ireland a Scotchman was placed on the same footing as a native. Let Irishmen be treated as they treated the Scotch; that was all they required. If there was a law of settlement in Ireland that excluded Scotchmen, they might turn round on Irishmen in the same manner; but there was not. If they passed this Act the Scotch Members would fix a stigma on their country which they ought to be anxious to avoid.
§ Mr. Francis Scott
, thought they had better reserve all discussion on the point involved in the 73rd Clause until that clause came under consideration. It was preposterous to suppose that any invidious distinction was intended with regard to Ireland and Irishmen; there was no ground whatever for such a supposition.
Mr. E. Ellice
, jun. said, that as the Bill, since its committal, had been extensively altered, he wished to say a few words in reference to its general merits. He was the more anxious to do so because he had before expressed certain opinions with regard to an extensive practice in Scotland, which were controverted, and which had been supposed to press particularly on certain parties. He had stated that he believed that a great deal of the distress, which existed in the Highland districts, arose from occasional causes, but that much also arose from causes which might by good and prudent legislation be removed. He had observed that one of the greatest evils and curses under which the country had laboured, was what was called the clearance system; and he still entertained the opinion that such was the fact. Having made that statement, he declined to say that anyone individual had adopted the system more than another. It had prevailed generally over the whole of the north of Scotland. The statements made in one of the daily journals, putting aside the deductions drawn from them, he knew to be, generally speaking, statements of facts; he referred 1464 to what was said as to the clearances and their results. He was not particularly acquainted with that part of the country to which the statements in question referred; but he drew his opinion from other districts where the same system was pursued, and where the evils depicted in regard to Sutherlandshire actually existed. It was very hard, however, that attacks should be made on his hon. Friend the Member for Wick (Mr. Loch), and the noble individual with whom he was connected; for, although the clearance system had been carried out in Sutherlandshire, it had there been greatly alleviated by the benevolent feeling of the noble owner of the land in that county, and by the care of those with whom he had intrusted its management. He did not wish at all to defend the system of Poor Laws in Scotland; but it was a notorious fact that in times of great distress the noble family to which the county belonged had stepped in, and, in the most benevolent manner, alleviated those distresses, which otherwise must have been still severer than they were. But there were other parts of Scotland which had not been blessed with a family either rich enough or willing to assist the poor; and he hoped that the gentleman who was then travelling in the north of Scotland would pursue his journey from Sutherlandshire to the western coast, where he would find the state of things quite as bad as that which he depicted in the county of Sutherland, and where he would discover no owner stepping forward with even sixpence to help those who stood in need of assistance. He must say he thought it hard that such unfavourable inferences should be drawn as to the conduct of certain individuals, when, in comparison with that of other owners, it was very much to be praised. He had felt it to be his duty to say thus much, lest it should be inferred from what he had said before that he entirely concurred in all the statements which had been made. Those statements were, generally speaking, statements of facts; but the parties upon whom the blame was made, did not deserve that that blame should be thrown upon them. Now, he felt very great difficulty as to the course which he should pursue that evening. The present Government was the first that had taken up the subject, and he believed they had done so with the intention of benefiting the country; and he therefore regretted that he felt bound to 1465 vote on that occasion with the hon. Member for Glasgow. While professing to amend their condition, the Bill robbed the poor of the only direct remedy which they now had against the proprietors of land. The poor of Scotland had had their right to relief established by the decision on the appeal to the Court of Session in the case of the parish of Ceres. There had, consequently, been an accumulation of cases from all parts of Scotland against the heritors; and he doubted whether they would have seen the present Bill but for the dread of the heritors being compelled to pay. By this measure the direct right to relief was taken away, and a board of supervision was interposed between it and the poor. The Bill had been termed by the hon. Member for Renfrewshire a landlord's bill; and as an enactment on behalf of the heritors that was its character. Independently of the constitution of the board of supervison, he (Mr. Ellice) objected to the principle of interposing a greater difficulty than at present existed between the poor and relief. This Bill, as a whole, was framed on the Report of the Commission. From that Report he totally dissented, and he was supported in his view by the protest against the Bill of a member of the board appointed by the Government itself, who had no local prejudices or predilections. With regard to assessment upon means and substance, he did not know why that should be considered practicable in Scotland, when it was found to be impracticable in England; for, although by law persons were assessed on that principle in this country, an Act was passed every year to suspend this mode of assessment. He admitted the general principle; but, unless this mode of assessment were properly defined, he believed its operation would be most injurious. He would have been glad to see a Bill introduced carrying out the present law in Scotland. Power should have been given to local magistrates to oblige parties to give relief; but, with the exception of appointing a central board of inspection, the law should have been allowed to remain very much in its present state. As the Bill stood, there would be great difficulty in carrying its provisions into execution, and there would, he believed, be so much litigation with regard to "means and substance," that either next year or the year after, it would be found necessary to introduce an amended Bill.
§ Mr. P. M. Stewart
wished to say a few words in explanation of his reasons for voting, as he should do, for the postponement of this Bill. He had presented several petitions from Scotland, praying the House and the Government to postpone this measure until next Session; and he would ask, whether any one petition had been presented praying that it might be carried? What was the reason of such undue haste with regard to the Bill before the House? The people of Scotland had no confidence in the Bill. They viewed with great apprehension the proposed appointment of a central board with such terrific powers as were given to it by the Bill. The central board were to have the power of nominating the number of representatives the ratepayers were to have at the parochial board. The ratepayers surely ought to choose their own representatives. Again, by the 71st Clause the central board were to have the sole jurisdiction in cases with respect to the claims of the poor which were brought before them. Their decision was not liable to be interfered with by the courts of law. These were highly objectionable powers to give to the central board. There were other parts of the Bill to which he objected. Why should not the clergy of the Established Church be assessed to the poor, as they were to be members of the parochial board? Non-assessment to the poor-rate was made a ground of exclusion (in the case of baillies and other authorities) from the parochial board. The Bill ought not to be hurried in this way through Parliament. Time ought to be given for full inquiry. All the petitions, or nearly all, were against the Bill; there was scarcely one for it. In the name of the petitioners be protested against the Bill, and he should support the Motion of his hon. Friend.
§ Colonel Rawdon
objected strongly to the portion of the Bill which went to deprive Irishmen of a right to relief in Scotland. He thought that Irishmen ought to be placed by this Bill in the same position, with respect to relief in Scotland, which a Scotchman would occupy under similar circumstances in Ireland. If a Scotchman in Ireland became destitute, he would have no difficulty in obtaining relief; and why, then, should not an Irishman be placed in an equally advantageous position in Scotland? This measure, however, so far from giving the 1467 Irishman resident in Scotland, and who might have for years paid the poor rates, a right to relief, gave a power of arbitrary removal; nay, it went further, and made poverty a crime, for it was proposed, according to this measure, to enact that a poor creature so to be removed was to be placed under the care of a constable, and held in safe keeping until he arrived at his place of destination; and it was proposed to enact, under the same measure, that if a person who had been so removed, returned (perhaps in search of employment) and became destitute, he was to be treated like a criminal by imprisonment with hard labour. That was contrary to the interests of Ireland; and when hon. Members considered that there were about 50,000 Irish persons in Glasgow, they would perceive that it was a provision which ought not to receive the sanction of that House. He could not give his support to a Bill which did not place the Irishman in Scotland in the same position as that in which a Scotchman would be placed in Ireland, if he required relief.
§ Mr. M. Bellew
, as an Irish Member, felt the impolicy and injustice of the Bill towards natives of Ireland resident in Scotland. The great evil of Ireland was want of employment; and the only remedy which a large portion of the population had for that was to seek in England and Scotland for that employment which they were deprived of in consequence of the non-residence of such large numbers of wealthy Irish proprietors. There were from 150,000 to 200,000 Irish in Glasgow, Dundee, Paisley, and Greenock; and it would be most unjust to deprive them of a claim to relief under this measure. They were obliged to pay poor rates, and, therefore, they ought not to be deprived of the right to relief. A most objectionable clause of this Bill was that under which a stranger seeking work was to be rendered liable to be treated as a vagabond.
§ Mr. Escott
said, the real question was, whether this Bill was calculated to remedy the admitted evils attending the present state of the poor in Scotland? It appeared to him that it was not; on the contrary, the old law was much better, if it were properly administered, and what they really wanted was a short Act giving force to its provisions. There was a clear case, as it seemed to him, for delaying the further progress of the measure, in order to give the Scotch Members time 1468 fully to inquire into the actual working of the present law, and the probable efficiency of the proposed remedy. The evils which they had seen so much reason to regret in the working of the Poor Law for England and for Ireland had entirely arisen from those measures having been passed without due consideration. The Reports of Commissioners had been held to be final, and legislation had proceeded upon them, when a full and searching inquiry into the efficacy of the proposed remedies ought first to have been made. When they found almost every Member for Scotland opposed to the Bill before the House, surely they ought to pause and inquire before they proceeded to give the central board such power of making laws and regulations as was conferred by some of the clauses. In a debate on this subject which took place on a former evening, the hon. Member for Rochdale brought forward statements, which had been made public through the press, from which it appeared that in one part of Scotland the poor had been removed from their domiciles to a great distance. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Wick (Mr. Loch) then rose to answer the hon. Member for Rochdale; but he did not answer him—he only evaded the question. The same thing had been done by the hon. and learned Member again to-night. The hon. Member for Rochdale brought forward a statement as to the condition of the poor in Scotland. What did the hon. and learned Gentleman say in reply? Why he entered into a long statement of the charities of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland, and of how much oatmeal had been distributed by the Duchess among the people. This was the way in which the hon. and learned Gentleman thought to answer the statement as to the manner in which the people had been harassed and oppressed by being removed from their dwellings, and forced to go to distant parts, where they could not continue their accustomed occupations. This was no answer to the hon. Member for Rochdale. These were not the arguments that ought to be used, and especially by an hon. and learned Gentleman who professed to be a strenuous supporter of this Bill. He repeated that the object was to get a good measure. To this he objected both in principle and in detail. It could not sufficiently be regretted that they were now about to ab- 1469 rogate the existing Poor Law of Scotland, when it would have been much better to have made that law the model in the revision of our own Poor Laws, when the present law was passed. It would be better to pass a short Bill to render the present Poor Law in Scotland effective, than to hurry forward so defective a measure as that which was now before the House.
Mr. D. Dundus
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, had referred in terms of disapprobation to the defence which his hon. Friend (Mr. Loch) had made as to the county with which he was connected, and of the proceedings which were placed—and honourably placed—in his hands. He did not think that he ought to entertain any doubt whetever that that defence—that generous defence—of his hon. and learned Friend had been satisfactory to all the just and generous Members of the House; and, although the hon. and learned Gentleman, with some notion of taste and good feeling which he (Mr. Dundas) could not appreciate, had introduced the names of ladies connected with the county of Sutherland—[Mr. Escott: No.] Yes; for the hon. and learned Member had objected to the hon. and learned Member for Wick for having entered into a defence, which he did not conceive a meritorious defence, of some Duchess. Now, if the hon. and learned Gentleman thought that the manner in which he had introduced the names of those ladies into the debate—[Mr. Escott: I did not do so]—if he thought it was according to good taste and good feeling thus to introduce names in the manner he had, he suspected that the hon. and learned Member would find himself mistaken. [Mr. Escott repeated: I did not introduce those names.] He was aware that the hon. Gentleman was splitting a straw on the word "introduced." No doubt he mentioned it in the way of historical narrative. All he could add was, that he believed that the smile and the good opinion attending such a course the hon. Member had all to himself. He believed that no Member of the House had taken the view of the subject which had been taken by the hon. Member. He appealed to the House whether his hon. Friend (Mr. Loch) had made any defence which was not meritorious and a perfectly justifiable defence. The hon. Member for Rochdale had paid a tribute to the personal character of the proprietor of the 1470 greater part of the county of Sutherland, which was certainly justifiable; for, though he was connected with that nobleman, he felt that he might say of him, that the kindness of his disposition was as much nobility to him as the highest title he bore. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the hon. Member for Wick had spoken of the meal distributed by the proprietors of the soil. Had the hon. Member ever been in Scotland? Did he know anything of the habits and customs of the inhabitants? He could only say that the wants of the poor, and the standard of their comforts, were very different indeed to those of the English people. From time to time reports came up as to the state of the people in one part of Scotland. He did not pretend to deny that the state of the poor was not what it should be; or that they had not what it was the duty of those above them to supply them with. He considered that the hon. Member for Rochdale had done good service by the candid way in which he had introduced these things to the notice of the House; for he was persuaded that the more the case of the people was made known, the more their necessities would be relieved. But what did the hon. Member for Rochdale bring forward? The hon. Member for Rochdale quoted a great number of cases from the Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry, and he quoted them most truly; but he also went away from the facts contained in the Appendix to the Commissioners' Report, to enlarge on the condition of that county to which he had more particularly referred, and brought before the House the unhappy condition that he said a great part of the country was brought to under the present administration of the Poor Law. But his hon. Friend behind him said the condition of the people was as he had stated; but he would tell the House what was the situation of the proprietors of the soil, and then he introduced those remarks, which were received with candour and favour by all the House except the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. B. Escott); and he thought that his hon. Friend was right in his introduction of that part of the subject, and that his defence was as appropriate as it was just. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that if any one would go through all the evidence in the Report, he would find that the relief afforded was not enough. Now, he (Mr. Dundas) admit- 1471 ted that the relief was not sufficient for the poor; would it were so. He hoped it would soon be established on an adequate footing; and he would give his support to every measure which would tend to give the poor man what he ought to have. He said this, not as a Scotchman or as a proprietor, but as a Christian and a man of humane feelings. He agreed with what had been said as to the miserably small amount of aliment; it ranged from 2s. 6d. to 20s. a year; and when he told this to English gentlemen, they stared and asked what could be the condition of the poor man when, at the worst, that 20s. was all he could get? Now, he did not pretend to say that any creature could live on 2s. or 3s. a week; but it must be remembered that the whole system of the Scotch Poor Law was built on the supposition of one man relieving another; and he said it was the credit, and honour, and the highest glory of the poor that they did relieve one another. It was due to the poor of that country to state this, that they sustained one another under the worst circumstances, and, to their immortal honour, in their lowest state would share their last morsel with others. He felt bound to state this. He spoke for the poor, and for all proprietors who had done their duty. He spoke for the poor as well as the rich; and if the rich in his own county had done their duty, the poor had done theirs; but in reviewing what had been done in that county to which the hon. Member for Rochdale referred, the House ought to consider what were the circumstances of the county. The county which had been introduced so much to the notice of the House and the country was a large district of country in which it was an extremely difficult thing to do many of those benevolent things which some persons had proposed. It had been said, why were not manufactures introduced? But it was very easy to say that, though in a district which was all heather—a mere wilderness, in which the only cultivation was near the shore—to do so must be the work of time; to make a Birmingham out of such a scene all at once was totally hopeless, whatever might be done after a time. He trusted that some improvement of the kind might be realized after a time; but in the present state of affairs it was impossible. They might depend upon it, when once they educated the people in those countries, they would not rest in the 1472 poverty and low estate in which they were now found. He thought that was certain, and he was persuaded that those who had seen that country would agree with him that your clever active spirited lad would not sit down in poverty and destitution, but betake himself to places where he would apply himself to the useful arts. Then, with respect to medical attendance. It had been said, that no great amount of medical attendance was afforded to the poor; but this he did not agree to altogether, for he would assert that medical attendance had been afforded by those who had money—he spoke it not in their praise; it was their duty to do it—to those who were in want. That had been done to a great extent. Then with respect to the administration of the law. In Kildonan, the hon. Member for Rochdale said there had been a great clearance; but what said the minister of the parish, Mr. Campbell? First, however, he begged to point out to the House, that it must be remembered what was the food of the people of that country. The fact was, that the small farmer in that country did not live like the English farmer; he lived like his labourers; there was scarcely any difference in their food; they eat together; porridge was almost the only thing known for breakfast throughout Scotland. A question was made in the Report of the Commissioners, whether they had the use of tea? Tea was not known in that part of the country. He knew that in the middle class, in which he was brought up, he had nothing but porridge for breakfast. He would turn to others from Scotland who were born in better circumstances than himself, and who had been clothed, for anything he knew, in purple and fine linen, and would ask them to state their experience; but for himself he said, that till he was brought from that country into this, he never saw anything but porridge. He said, therefore, that this kind of argument against the condition of the people, drawn from their lack of that which their habits did not afford, was inadmissible. Now, he had said that he came from that country into this; he came into this country, and gained a settlement in this country; he, a Scotchman born, had a settlement in England. Was it just, was it generous, that the Englishman and the Irishman should be met on going to that ancient hospitable country with such a clause as that which pro- 1473 hibited either of them from settlement there? He thought it was an inhospitable and an ill-omened clause; and he was of opinion that if it was not altered, it would bring the Government into trouble, not only with the Irish, but the Scotch friends of the measure. Well, then, Mr. Campbell said, that the usual food of the paupers was porridge, potatoes, milk, and a little mutton now and then, and fish. In fact, however, the poor of that country were nearly as well off as the shepherds themselves, and the poor were not felt as a burden to anybody. That constituted the beauty of the system. The poor were not felt as a burden on anybody. But the truth of the case was, and if they referred, one by one, to the cases laid down in the Appendix to the Report, they would find, that though the amount of relief given was very small, that did not show that the paupers were quite in a state of destitution. His hon. Friend said, there had been improvement in Sutherlandshire. "Why, how can that be," said the hon. Member for Rochdale, "when the population has not increased, and that in Kildonan, for instance, the population was 1,574 in 1811, and only 257 in 1831, and had therefore been reduced from thousands to hundreds?" But if the hon. Member had read on in the evidence, he would have found, that "the great bulk of that population is settled down in the adjoining parish of Loth, in the valley lower down, chiefly on the coast." But then it was said, there was no return from the capital that had been laid out. It was true that there had not been much return from the capital laid out there; but that was not an argument for the hon. Member's purpose. It was often the case that capital laid out beneficially to those among whom it was invested, did not yield returns to the capitalists at once; but they found it was true in the end, that "cast your bread upon the waters and it shall be found after many days;" and it might always be depended upon, that if capital was laid out among a people in a right spirit, the increase would be reaped sooner or later. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had spoken last complained of one point in the Bill, viz., the want of a compulsory assessment, and he had asked, why not make the people do their duty? Now, it was very remarkable that in the county with which he (Mr. Dundas) was con- 1474 nected, minister after minister — who were naturally kindly affectioned to the poor—in their evidence, though they proceeded from point to point to show how wretched their paupers were, when asked if there ought to be a compulsory assessment, had declined to answer almost universally. "You do not know (said they) the character of the Highlander; you don't know his kindness of heart and his reliance on his neighbour; nor how his spirit of independence sets him against compulsory relief, and makes him unwilling to see the poor provided for by a compulsory assessment." That was the only answer that could be got; it might not be a satisfactory answer, but it was the only answer that could be got.
§ Sir J. Graham
said, he was so much gratified that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Dundas) had taken that part in the debate which his talents and eloquence fitted him to take prominently, that they must rejoice in any circumstance which could stimulate him to address the House; and he would, therefore, be the last person to complain that the hon. and learned Gentleman had entered so much more into the discussion than he should perhaps have otherwise thought desirable. The hon. Member for Winchester said, that there appeared to be some reluctance to defend the Bill; but the principle of it had been so much discussed on the second reading, that he did not think it necessary to discuss it on the present occasion; and he was rather surprised that the hon. Gentleman himself should have complained of the absence of discussion, when he said, that all he thought necessary, was a short Act to give effect to the law already existing in Scotland. He (Sir J. Graham) admitted that the present law of Scotland was an excellent one. Cadit questio, then, as to the principle; the mailer resolved itself into a question of detail. They had introduced new machinery by the Bill, to give effect to the law already in existence. Let them go into Committee to discuss the details. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that there was some hardship in compelling the people of Scotland to be inhospitable. He lived on the English side of the border; and it was most true that the law of England made it most difficult for a Scotchman to acquire a settlement, whereas, by a three years' industrial residence the Englishman 1475 acquired a settlement in Scotland. He admitted that there was no fair reciprocity—but he was not prepared to say that he would inflexibly adhere to the clauses on this point—if they went into Committee. The hon. Member for Winchester talked about their postponing the Bill till they deliberated further upon it. He could only say, that they had deliberated, and had inquired; and he believed the public voice demanded an alteration of the present law, or rather that means should be devised for a better application of the present law. The subject had been fully discussed. The Lord Advocate had listened to representations outside of Parliament on the subject; several imperfections which had been pointed out were removed. For a year they had been deliberating upon the measure; and such, he believed, was the necessity for it, that he would take upon himself the responsibility of pressing it on. That responsibility appeared to him to be light, compared with the responsibility which would rest on the House, if they rejected the measure. On the House would rest the responsibility of leaving the poor of Scotland in their present condition for eight months longer; and to the Government would belong the merit of, at all events, doing their best to prevent a continuance of that suffering which they all admitted required relief.
§ The House divided on the Question, that the words "proposed to be left out" stand part of the Question:—Ayes 76; Noes 33; Majority 43.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acton, Col.||Darby, G.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Duncan, Visct.|
|Arkwright, G.||Dundas, D.|
|Baillie, Col.||Emlyn, Visct.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Fitzroy, hon. H.|
|Baird, W.||Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T.|
|Balfour, J. M.||Gaskell, J. Milnes|
|Barkly, H.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Gordon, hon. Capt.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Gore, M.|
|Borthwick, P.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Cardwell, E.||Greenall, P.|
|Chapman, A.||Greene, T.|
|Clerk, rt. hn. Sir G.||Hampden, R.|
|Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Hawes, B.|
|Compton, H. C.||Herbert, rt. hn. S.|
|Coote, Sir C. H.||Hope, Sir J.|
|Corry, it. hon. H.||Hope, hon. C.|
|Craig, W. G.||Hope, G. W.|
|Cripps, W.||Howard, hn. E. G. G.|
|Hutt, W.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Johnstone, H.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Kemble, H.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Lennox, Lord A.||Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Smollett, A.|
|Loch, J.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Lockhart, W.||Stuart, H.|
|Mackenzie, T.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|M'Neill, D.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Masterman, J.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Nicholl, rt. hon. J.||Vivian, J. E.|
|O'Brien, A. S.||Wakley, T.|
|Oswald, A.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Peel, rt. hn. Sir R.||Wemyss, Capt.|
|Pusey, P.||Baring, H.|
|Roebuck, J. A.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Baine, W.||Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Bannerman, A.||Forster, M.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Hastie, A.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Johnson, Gen.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Layard, Capt.|
|Browne, hon. W.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Cobden, R.||Morrison, J.|
|Collett, J.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Redington, T. N.|
|Dennistoun, J.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Duff, J.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Duncan, G.||Stewart, P. M.|
|Ellice, E.||Walker, R.|
|Ellis, W.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Esmonde, Sir T.||TELLERS.|
|Ewart, W.||Oswald, J.|
|Ferguson, Col.||M'Taggart, Sir J.|
§ House in Committee,
§ On Clause 1.
Mr. E. Ellice
, junr., said, that in the English Act he found that medical aid made a most necessary part of the relief given to the poor; and it would be a perfect mockery of relief, if the same thing were not done with regard to this Bill. He should therefore move, as an Amendment, that the following words be inserted at the end of the 1st Clause:—Aud the words 'relief,' 'support,' and 'maintenance,' shall be held to include necessary medical aid.
§ The Lord Advocate
thought the 6th Clause would provide for all that was requisite as to medical relief. As he understood the proposition of the hon. Gentleman, it would be obligatory on the parishes to give medical relief; but that would be impossible, unless they had a paid medical officer.
Mr. E. Ellice
wished it to be remembered, that the suggestion which he made was founded upon the Report of the 1477 Commissioners. His object was, that the words "relief and maintenance" should include medical relief.
§ Mr. F. Maule
considered it to be physically impossible that a medical man could successfully undertake the care of a district thirty miles in extent. The country should certainly be divided into districts; but the space which a medical man could take under his charge in one part of the country might be much greater than he could venture upon in another.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, nothing was more important than that medical relief should be given in every practicable case; but he entertained a strong objection to giving to the people of Scotland a positive assurance that the poor should at all times be supplied with medical relief. He thought they should be cautious how they excited expectations which could not be realized. Everything that was possible ought to be done; but fallacious hopes should not be raised.
§ Sir J. Graham
suggested, that the hon. Member opposite might propose some substantive addition to the 66th Clause, in preference to altering the interpretation clause.
wished for a more authoritative statement of the existing law of Scotland, as regarded the relief of the poor, than they had yet heard. He should be glad to know whether general relief included medical relief?
§ The Lord Advocate
had no objection to allow the boards to take the question of medical relief into consideration whenever they were called on by a parish so to do.
§ The Committee divided on the Question, that the words be inserted: — Ayes 25; Noes 62: Majority 37.
|List of the AYES.|
|Baine, W.||Johnson, Gen.|
|Blake, M. J.||Kemble, H.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Morris, D.|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Palmer, R.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Dennistoun, J.||Pusey, P.|
|Duff, J.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Duncan, G.||Stewart, P. M.|
|Dundas, D.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Ewart, W.||Tower, C.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||TELLERS.|
|Hastie, A.||Ellice, E.|
|Henley, J. W.||Collett, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acton, Col.||Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Hope, Sir J.|
|Arkwright, G.||Hope, hon. C.|
|Baillie, Col.||Hope, G. W.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Hutt, W.|
|Baird, W.||Johnstone, H.|
|Balfour, J. M.||Loch, J.|
|Barkly, H.||Lockhart, W.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Mackenzie, T.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||M'Neill, D.|
|Boldero, H. G.||M'Taggart, Sir J.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Broadley, H.||Neeld, J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Cardwell, R.||Packe, C. W.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.||Peel, J.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Pringle, A.|
|Compton, H. C.||Rous, hon Capt.|
|Craig, W. G.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Cripps, W.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Denison, E. B.||Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Smollett, A.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Emlyn, Visct.||Stuart, H.|
|Escott, B.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|French, F.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Gladstone, rt hn. W. E.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||TELLERS.|
|Gore, M.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Lennox, A. Lord|
§ The Clause agreed to, as were also Clauses 2 and 3.
§ On Clause 18,
§ Mr. F. Maule
moved as an Amendment—That the words, commencing line 37, 'And the Kirk Session of each parish shall nominate not exceeding four members of such Kirk Session to be members of the parochial board,' be omitted.
§ Mr. P. M. Stewart
wished to remind hon. Members that, since the recent division in the Church of Scotland, there was in some parishes no kirk session; and he thought they ought to care, before they adopted the Bill, that there was machinery in existence to carry out its provisions.
§ The Committee divided on the Question that the words proposed to be omitted, stand part of the. Clause — Ayes 64; Noes 30: Majority 34.
|List of the AYES.|
|Arkwright, G.||Barkly, H.|
|Baillie, Col.||Baring, rt. hon. W. B.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Baskerville, T. B. M.|
|Baine, W.||Blackburn, J. I.|
|Baird, W.||Bodkin, W. H.|
|Balfour, J. M.||Boldero, H. G.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Johnstone, H.|
|Briscoe, M.||Lascelles, hon. W. S.|
|Broadley, H.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Brotherton, J.||Loch, J.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Lockhart, W.|
|Cardwell, E.||Mackenzie, T.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||M'Neil, D.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Masterman, J.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Corry, it. Hon. H.||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Cripps, W.||Peel, J.|
|Darby, G.||Pringle, A.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Sandon, Visct.|
|Duncan, G.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.|
|Dundas, D.||Smollett, A.|
|Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes||Stuart, H.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Henley, J. W.||Wemyss, Capt.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Hope, Sir J.|
|Hope, hon. C.||TELLERS.|
|Hope, G. W.||Lennox, Lord A.|
|Jerymn, Earl||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Bannerman, A.||M'Taggart, Sir J.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Morris, D.|
|Craig, W. G.||Oswald, J.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Redington, T. N.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Dennistoun, J.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Duff, J.||Stewart, P. M.|
|Ellice, E.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Esmonde, Sir T.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Ewart, W.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Howick, Visct.||Bouverie, hon. E. P.|
|Hutt, W.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
§ Clauses to the 35th agreed to.
§ House resumed. Committee to sit again.
§ House adjourned at one o'clock.