HC Deb 21 May 1847 vol 92 cc1171-235

, in resuming the debate on the administration of the Poor Law Bill, said, that in the Committee upon the Poor Law of 1834 he had moved four resolutions, which would have materially altered the principles and objects of that law; and as the present Bill contained the main elements of the law as it had then been passed, he felt bound to record his vote in favour of the Amendment. Although the various portions of the Bill had been discussed with much ability, yet the debate had dragged its slow length along, four attempts having been made to count it out. On a former night he had been about to address the House, but refrained from doing so, as he observed the hon. and learned Member for Bath, whose attention he wished to engage, stretched in calm repose behind the Speaker's chair. At one end of the Treasury bench was the hon. Secretary to the Admiralty, also in profound repose, and the hon. representative of the Ordnance Department had followed the example of his hon. Friend. Between the two were a drowsy Ministry, in the centre of whom sat the right hon. the Secretary for the Home Department, contemplating with wistful gaze the hon. Member for Bath, and evidently remembering, with some intention of following, the excellent advice of the Irish poet:— While the lovely are sleeping, Go, sleep thou with them. The hon. and learned Member for Bath had attributed much of the opposition to the New Poor Law to hypocrisy, and a desire for illegitimate popularity. Might not men have the misfortune to differ with the hon. and learned Member for Bath without being hypocrites or hunters after popularity? There could not be the slightest idea of popularity-hunting entering into the minds of those who opposed that law, for those whom they attempted to serve were the poor, who did not return Members to Parliament. The hon. and learned Member for Bath told the House, that the hon. Member for Knaresborough, who quoted Vattel and Puffendorff, had never read them, and that he (Mr. Roebuck) believed in his conscience—though certainly to talk about his "conscience," after the assertions he had made, was somewhat of a heavy draught upon the credulity of the House—that the hon. Member did not know whether Grotius lived in the time of George III. or of the Emperor Adrian. But, even supposing, by a difficult stretch of imagination, that the superior merit of the hon. and learned Member for Bath was as great as he wished the House to believe, and that he was familiar with the writings of Grotius, knew every line of Puffendorff, besides being acquainted with the other learned work to which he referred—Mrs. Trollope's novel of Jessie Phillips, did it not leave the question before the House precisely where it stood before? The hon. and learned Member for Bath did not pretend to say that the quotations wore wrong; and anybody could cry out to an antagonist, "Oh, you don't understand the subject." He (Mr. Borthwick) would therefore put aside all this rhetoric; and, though he was warned, when he endeavoured to set the hon. and learned Member right on a matter of fact, that "fools rushed in where angels"—like himself—"feared to tread," he (Mr. Borthwick) would venture to prove himself that "fool," by plunging in medias res where certainly the hon. and learned Gentleman had "feared to tread;" for though he tripped around the question "upon light fantastic toe" in every direction, he carefully avoided treading upon its merits; and, while assuming to be an "angel," he failed at all events to follow the example of the archangel, for his speech abounded with "railing accusation." The learned Gentleman sneered at the phrase "the inalienable right of the poor to relief," assuming that the right had only been created by the Act of Elizabeth. But this assumption was grossly erroneous; for the right had been acknowledged from the earliest times, and was laid down clearly in the Book of Leviticus. Nay, its enunciation in the law of this country was to be found earlier than the Act of Elizabeth; for some centuries previously the law had been struggling towards that consummation, and this right had been declared in several previous statutes. The right was recognised as the law of nature and of God, and was not established but was acknowledged by the Act of Elizabeth. The learned Gentleman, however, had erred as grossly in the interpretation, or rather interpolation, of the Act of Elizabeth as in its history. It was not true that the Act prescribed the rigorous in-door test in the manner represented by the learned Gentleman. There was not a hint about the workhouse system in the Act. The learned Gentleman had asserted that the Act of Elizabeth was the same in spirit and in principle as that of 1834. And the noble Lord at the head of the Government had asserted the same thing, and had affirmed that the latter Act was only introduced to remedy evils arising from the bad administration of the law, especially from the for- mation of the rules for relief by irresponsible authorities, and that the Act of 1834 really went back to the principle of the 43rd of Elizabeth, and made a distinction between the industrious and the indolent. The argument amounted to this, that because the old law had been badly administered, therefore the stringent restrictions of the present Act were requisite. The evils previously existing were alleged to have been an arbitrary, irresponsible, and improper excess of liberality in the administration of relief. Then was it not equally unconstitutional to allow such irresponsible power in the restriction of relief? The learned Member for Bath declared the object was to distinguish between the idle and the industrious. But how did the law act? Imagine an idle and an industrious labourer applying for relief. Both receive the same reply, "Go to the workhouse." The difference between the two cases, however, was or might be, that the latter had been a deserving labourer, was married, and was becoming old through hard work; whereas the former had always been an idle dissolute vagabond, and had never been married, but had added to the rolls of the wretched, or had deserted a mother or a wife, yet no distinction was to be made in the treatment of these men. Both were equally told to "go to the workhouse." No matter that the industrious man had a wife and family, they must be separated. No matter that they had a few old articles of furniture, they must be sold. Was the answer that which under the law of Elizabeth would have been indiscriminately made in both of two such cases? No. The answer under the old law would have been in the case of the sturdy vagrant, "You shall be imprisoned as a vagabond;" but the other, "If you have a cottage, you shall not leave it; if you have not, the law provides a cottage for you." This might be contradicted; but it was clearly enacted by the 31st of Elizabeth, which excepted from the suppression of cottages on the common such as were erected by industrious poor people under the sanction of the churchwardens. What then became of the argument of the learned Member for Bath, who at every sentence tried to show his learning, and of whose speech it might be said, not only —as Mr. Sheridan said of a far mightier speech—that it "contained much that was new and much that was true; and that what was now was not true, and that what was true was not new;" but it might be added, that there was much in it neither new nor true, as, for instance, about the separation of soldiers and sailors from their families; for not only was that grossly fallacious, seeing that the separation in those cases, when it occurred, was voluntary, but the argument had originally been urged by the Duke of Wellington; and so the learned Gentleman's boasted argument amounted only to this—"Thus said the Duke." It had been said that the new Poor Law Act only afforded a central control over a local administration of the law. Unhappily, however, this was far from the truth; for they assumed that this local authority was only subject to central supervision, whereas the fact was that the central authority superseded the local authorities and administered the local law. Could it be denied that the central Commissioner had power to make rules to govern the local authorities? Here lay the whole fallacy of the argument in favour of the present law. The objection to the law was, that it took the poor man's undeniable right to relief out of the pale of constitutional authority, and confided it to the arbitrary and absolute control of an irresponsible central body. It was idle to complain of different sets of Commissioners. The law itself was pernicious in principle, and necessarily unjust in its operation. Yet the poor were characterized by as much or more of the elements of a noble character than other classes who considered themselves superior to them, and had a sterner aversion to those "daintier" vices which the poor blushed to mention, but which the rich did not blush to practise. Why, the injuries inflicted on the negroes under the system of slavery were not equal to the injustice inflicted on the poor in this country, despite all the accusations of exaggerations directed against hon. Members who advocated their interests by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, who was so fond of assuming the tone of "I am Sir Oracle, and when I open my mouth let no dog bark." Without entering further into these topics, he would say, that he objected to the Bill before the House, because it did not obviate the objections he entertained to the existing law. The hon. Member then observed, that it was not so much the fault of those who had to administer the law as it was of the law itself that what had taken place had occurred; and, for that reason, he should feel it to be his duty, when the Bill should be in Committee, to propose the substitution of three for five years as the limit of the duration of the new Commission. He was convinced that, even under its new machinery — which he was ready to admit was preferable to the old— the law itself would still show its inherent faults and imperfections—its direct antagonism to the best interests of the poor; and that, no matter how honest might be the labourer, he would still be liable to be treated, under such a system, with that undistinguishing severity with which they treated the vagabond and the profligate— a class for which the law of Elizabeth provided a separate punishment. He had endeavoured to show—and he thought he had succeeded in showing—that it was a very erroneous representation of the fact to say that there was any unity of principle between the law of Elizabeth and the law of 1834; but he thought the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) would confer on this country a great boon if he would leave in full force the principle of local administration, and if he would appoint a board—central, if they pleased; he cared not whether sitting in Somerset House or in Parliament—not to create rules and regulations to show the force of the law, but to supervise it, and to take care that there should be in force the principles of a statute law, applicable to every county and to every parish in England. The hon. Member concluded by stating that he had been desirous of explaining to the House, as well as to those who sent him there, the reasons why his opinions upon this question were still unchanged, and why he could not give a vote in favour of the Bill of the noble Lord.


thought the debate had been unnecessarily protracted by the interpolation of extrinsic subjects. The Bill related to the controlling power under which the Poor Law was to be administered. That controlling power might be placed either in the local magistrates, in the present Commission, or in such an authority as the present Bill proposed to constitute. He thought hon. Members would generally agree in deprecating the restoration of the controlling power to the local magistrates; and he was astonished after the speech of the noble Lord the previous night, that the noble Lord should have thought of superseding the existing Commission; for it was a speech in defence of that Commission, and against the unjustifiable, as he thought it, interposition of its own Secretary. It was not difficult to understand how the Commission had come to be looked on with unfavourable eyes. It was provided by the Act of 1834 that scarcely anything should be done by the power of a single Commissioner. But their habit of acting as individuals, instead of as a Board, was a sufficient reason why the country placed no confidence in the Commission. A Secretary of State for the Home Department had repeatedly been seen going to a Poor Law Commissioner seated under the gallery to get information as to particular cases brought under the notice of the House; but such was not the proper office of a Secretary of State; and the question for consideration was, whether such a Board as that now proposed would meet with general approbation? For himself he had no hesitation in expressing his preference for the Board as it was proposed to constitute it under this measure. He understood from the speech of the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown last night that he was by no means wedded to the constitution of the Board as proposed by the present Bill, and that he was quite willing to listen to any suggestions for its improvement. Now, considering the feeling which existed throughout the country, that the rules and regulations for the administration of the Poor Law should be placed on the Statute-book, instead of being made by what was called an irresponsible Board, he thought it would be better that the Commission should be done away with, and the central power vested solely in the hands of a President and one Secretary, who should both be eligible to seats in that House, and whose duty should be to see that the law was fairly carried out in the different parts of the country, and to authorize the relaxation of its provisions according to the circumstances of particular districts. It appeared to him that if this were done, the law would be administered with much more humanity, and would be looked upon with much more favour, than at present. The Minister of the Crown—for Ministers of the Crown the President and Secretary would be—would be placed in a proper situation, namely, that of defending the Act of Parliament in that House, and at the same time have the power of authorizing a milder and more merciful administration of it in particular localities where it might press with more than ordinary severity. He considered that this would be a system much better adapted to the wants and exigencies of the country than that contemplated by the present Bill. He was surprised that the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Bankes) had declared his inten- tion to vote against the second reading of the Bill. For his (Mr. Miles's) own part, he did not say he would support every clause of the Bill. He looked upon the Bill merely as the means to an alteration; and the question he had to consider was, whether the alteration proposed by Government was such in principle as he could accept; and this he thought he could readily do. He agreed with the hon. Member for Evesham that the poor had an inalienable right to relief; but at the same time he begged to remind that hon. Member that, reasoning by analogy from the law of Elizabeth, the able-bodied were only entitled to relief in a particular way. It was necessary to apply a test of destitution to that class of paupers; a test of destitution they had, but he was sorry to say that it was slipping little by little from under their feet. He begged to differ from the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown, who asserted, that if the power of administering the law were left in the hands of the boards of guardians, they would act with more severity than the Commissioners. As chairman of a very large union, he must say that such was not the result of his experience, for whenever the guardians had applied to the Commissioners, it had invariably been for power to put a merciful construction upon the law rather than a hard construction. He differed also from those who would prefer intrusting the central power to some county court in place of a metropolitan Board. This would only take away the power from the Poor Law Commissioners, and place it in the hands of a small number of magistrates in each county, meeting together either specially or as a court of quarter-sessions. Now, he knew the influence which the press had upon quarter-sessions, and how ready gentlemen were to get up there and make speeches about the miseries of the poor. If the plan to which he now referred were adopted, the quarter-sessions would become a mere place of debate, and the administration of the Poor Law would be made to depend upon local prejudices and partialities.


had listened with great attention to this debate, and he must confess he had been supremely disappointed by almost all he had heard, and particularly by the observations of the hon. Member who had just sat down. The hon. Member had said that what would satisfy himself would be the consideration of whether what was proposed would be satisfactory to the country on this question. That was the very point which he (Mr. Escott) had endeavoured to ascertain in the progress of this debate; but he had not heard anything to convince him upon the subject, not even from the hon. Member for Somersetshire himself. Did the hon. Gentleman think that this new Commission would be more satisfactory to the country than the old one, because it put more placemen in the House of Commons? Why was it that the hon. Member supported the new Commission at all? For his own part, he confessed that it was chiefly, though not wholly, because he thought the new Commission would not be satisfactory to the country, that he was prepared to vote against it. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, in his speech of the night before, had, in his opinion, stated many and grave constitutional reasons why this new Commission would not be popular with the country. If the Bill before the House passed into a law, every Poor Law functionary, from the highest to the lowest—every petty officer —would have to be appointed by the Government, and would all be subject to the control of the existing Government of the day. That would be a serious increase of the evils of the present system of administration of the Poor Law; and he much wished that the hon. Member for Somersetshire had grappled with that evil before he had made up his mind to support the Bill, or proved that it would be a satisfactory measure in the eyes of the country. With respect to the attempts which had been made to defend the present Commissioners, let them ask this question—if they had done their duty, why was the country to have a new Commission? Why, it was because the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State could, in reality, no longer stand by the old Commission, that a new one was to be appointed. Wherever the law had worked well, as in the case of the new union of Winchester, for instance, where the poor were contented, whilst the rates were lower, it had been because the guardians had acted in disregard of the orders of the Commissioners. But there were two points in respect of which the present Commission had wholly disappointed the expectations of the country in these trying times. The great difficulty, it would be admitted, of the administration of the present Poor Law, had been to prevent the evil of giving a working man in receipt of wages any money at all for the support of his family. It was a long time before anything was done in respect of out-door relief; but a rule was at last promulgated by the Poor Law Commission that no able-bodied man should receive relief out of the workhouse. They found, however, that it was impossible that such a rule could be invariably acted upon, and they soon issued an exception to it. The exception was, "sudden and urgent necessity." The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) declared in the House, in answer to questions put by him (Mr. Escott), that the boards of guardians were the only judges of what were cases of sudden and urgent necessity. In the west of England, where the agricultural poor were suffering from the present destruction of the potato crops, the boards of guardians gave outdoor relief; and although the Commissioners did not expressly forbid it, they discouraged it in every possible way. They said it was contrary to law, and directed individual cases to be reported to them—a serious impediment—while they never noticed a single case sent to them, but left them, after all, to the boards of guardians to decide. What was the object of the workhouse test? It was to distinguish the really destitute from the idle vagabond who refused to work; but what was its operation? It was to starve the honest poor out of the House by the fear of incarceration within its walls; while the idle vagabond, who cared for nothing but filling his belly, was fattened there in idleness, until at length he came out the bloated victim of the workhouse test. That was the result he had ever found in the west of England; and he believed it was the same everywhere else. He, therefore, saw no hope of good in the continuance of 'that test, as it was applied by the Poor Law Commissioners. He thought, of all measures proposed this Session by the Government, this was the most delusive. He agreed with the hon. Member for Knaresborough, that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had in some degree broken faith with the country in this Bill. There had been for many years a strong expectation that the New Poor Law would be altered, and that expectation was raised to a high pitch this Session; but instead of any alteration, as far as the objectionable parts of the law were concerned, it was only a confirmation of all its oppressions. One of the reasons why the people were disappointed with this Bill was, that it left untouched the present unequal system of rating property to the relief of the poor. Was it not monstrous that large accumulations of property should pay a mere nothing, while the weight of the burden rested on the poor farmer, who perhaps was himself ill able to pay? And when it was, as it would be ere long, proposed to levy additional rates to meet the exigencies of the times, would not the present ratepayers complain of the system, and say that if the rate were levied in an equitable way, the amount, instead of being 1s. 6d. in the pound in some instances, would be only 6d. in the pound on the whole? He believed, however, that the present Parliament was worn out—it could do no good; and he supposed the people must wait until a new one before they could expect justice to be done. He was surprised that the question had not been argued with respect to the present condition of the people. In the rural districts in the west of England, the population were in this afflicting position: three-fourths of their annual food had been lost in the course of the year, and the provisions which yet remained to supply them were doubled in price. It was easy to tell the ratepayers to raise the wages of their labourers; but it was the idlest of all possible exhortations. The vast majority of the ratepayers would take care to get their work done at as cheap a rate as they could; and in so doing they would be only carrying into operation a doctrine which had been inculcated again and again in that House. Such being the unhappy condition of the country, he could have wished to have seen a Poor Law introduced which was calculated to mitigate the distress under which the population was suffering, and to relieve all classes of ratepayers, by making the pressure of taxation more equitable and more even. The present Bill would not effect these desirable objects; and, regard being had to all the circumstances of the case, he felt that he would best discharge his duty to his constituents and the country by opposing it.


The public is greatly disappointed by the Bill which the Government has placed before the House. The people are disappointed with the provisions of the Bill as far as they are known; and I think the feeling of dissatisfaction will increase in force when the measure shall come into operation. The public looked for a measure of relief; but, instead of finding one in this Bill, I believe it will prove to be a measure of aggravation. In the circumstances of the time it is an unfortunate thing for the Government to have placed themselves in the position in which they stand in consequence of the introduction of this Bill; and it is a more unfortunate thing still for the people to find that they have no hope of relief from the grievances to which they are exposed under the existing law. I think it most unfortunate for the Government, because they are entitled to great praise for the course which they have pursued in the present Session with respect to the Poor Law for Ireland. By their conduct in that respect they have won my approbation and esteem. I value their labours greatly, and I think they are entitled to the gratitude of the English public and of the Irish people, for their exertions to secure a Poor Law for the sister country. It is therefore painful to me to be obliged to complain of the manner in which they have framed this Bill. I did expect, after all that has transpired, that a powerful mind would have applied itself to the consideration of the position in which the country is placed with reference to the Poor Law, and that a measure of relief would be introduced calculated to mitigate the sufferings to which the poor are exposed under the existing law; but I can look at this Bill only with feelings of deep disappointment. The noble Lord at the head of the Government made last night an able and a frank speech—and it is gratifying to have a Minister who will speak frankly. The noble Lord, I may observe, is never so bold as when he is exceedingly wrong. He adheres with extraordinary pertinacity to his resolutions when in error —never yielding or flinching in the least — but when he happens to be right, he often betrays symptoms of doubt and vacillation. I was pleased to hear the noble Lord address the House last night, because he showed that he has fortunately answered himself upon this great question by anticipation. I am delighted to have Lord John Russell of 1834 speaking against Lord John Russell of 1847. I choose the younger man; I take as my guide the noble Lord of the former period. The noble Lord told us, that when Lord Al-thorp, in 1834, proposed that a Minister of the Crown should be a Poor Law Commissioner, he was so strongly opposed to the proposition, that he used all his influence and exerted all his energies to prevent Lord Althorp from submitting it to the House. The noble Lord said it was by his influence Lord Althorp was induced not to make that proposition. The noble Lord has now yielded to sinister advice given him by some wily intriguing person, who cannot have the interests of the public at heart, who can have no regard for the stability of the Government—some person with no regard as to the effect it must have on the Government, no care for the welfare of the poor of this country, has induced him to make the present proposition, one of the most unfortunate ever submitted to this House—one of the most unconstitutional that can possibly he conceived. Why, what is it? To unite, in reference to millions of the people of this country, both the executive and legislative functions. I ask what can he more dangerous? I further ask how the noble Lord expects it will work—I do not mean in a period of smooth-water politics, a time like this, when there is in reality no opposition, but when party strife is running high and a political tempest is raging? Why, every board of guardians will be a political engine, a political instrument set at work by designing men for sinister objects. And in the contest what will become of the poor? A more preposterous, a more unhappy project was never conceived by any Minister; I am sure it did not originate in the mind of the noble Lord. He candidly and fairly admitted last night that he was against it in 1834; but he omitted to inform us what has changed his opinion; he gave no reason for the change; we can conceive a thousand reasons why he should retain his opinion of 1834; but he has left us wholly to conjecture as to what can have produced this extraordinary mutation in his mind. I ask again, what does the noble Lord expect will be the working of this measure? Are Her Majesty's Ministers jealous of the reputation of the Poor Law Commissioners? Is it possible they can be envious of the peculiar popularity the Commissioners have acquired? Does the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department expect to glory in the name of Poor Law Commissioner? We shall no longer call him Secretary of State for the Home Department; whenever I address him on the subject of the Poor Law, I shall invariably call him the Poor Law Commissioner sitting in the House of Commons. And what are the questions Her Majesty's Ministers acting as Poor Law Commissioners will have to determine? Have they thought about the matter? I really think they have not; it is my opinion the subject has not engaged the mind of the Government, but that the noble Lord has confided in the opinion of somebody not entitled to much credit; and has adopted in 1847 a proposition that was most repulsive to his constitutional mind in 1834. I say, are the Ministers aware of the questions they will have to determine? Under the old law, when they said "the matter is referred to the Commissioners" it was at an end; for the Commissioners sitting at Somerset House exercised an independent authority. Mark that! Under the existing law the authority of the Commissioners is an independent one; in the exercise of that authority, with one or two exceptions, they are not subjected to the control of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The consequence is, the Poor Law Commissioners are made the scapegoat, not only of the boards of guardians, but of the Government; and when they are sent away into the wilderness for their own sins and those of others, if any wild beast should meet them, it would be justified in dissociating itself from them for the manner in which they have acted. But the noble Lord has told us, if a resolution were brought forward in this House condemning the' Commissioners, he should oppose that resolution: the inference is obvious; he does not disapprove of their conduct; the noble Lord is prepared, for himself and his Colleages in office, to follow the example they have set them. If he does, the Government cannot stand; it is impossible; if there is an election in July, and we meet in November, there will very probably be a change in the Government in February. What are the sort of things they will have to determine in this House? Questions will be put from this side the House, ay, and from the benches behind them too, directly to the acting Poor Law Commissioners, as to a change in the diet of a certain union, whether the increased allowance recommended by a particular board of guardians shall be granted or not. One specimen of this kind of questions will be enough; and I will just quote one. It is from an official document which has been laid on the Table of the House; for it is as well that this matter should not be regarded in a speculative point of view, but that the Ministers should reduce their minds to practice, take a practical survey of it, and reflect in what position they will be placed, not only in this House, but with the constituency and the poor of the country. I will read a letter addressed, in January, 1846, to the Poor Law Commissioners, by the clerk of the Bromley union:— Bromley Union, Jan. 17, 1846. Gentlemen—I am directed by the board of guardians to inform you, that they resolved at their meeting yesterday to make the following alteration in the existing dietary of the union workhouse:— Wednesdays and Saturdays, for dinner, 1½ pint of soup and 4 ounces of bread, in lieu of 7 ounces of bread and 1 ounce of cheese; all classes. Thursdays, for children's dinner, meat pudding, in lieu of bread and cheese. The board of guardians request that you will sanction this arrangement. I subjoin a copy of a report from the medical officer of the union workhouse on this subject.— I have, &c. HENRY NOTTINGHAM, Clerk to the Guardians. The Poor Law Commissioners. A more moderate and trifling request could not have been made. The first answer, not a very prompt one, is dated the 31st of January:— Poor. Law Commission-office, Somerset House, Jan. 31, 1846. Sir—I am directed by the Poor Law Commissioners to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 17th inst., respecting the proposed alteration of the dietary in use in the Bromley Union Workhouse, The Commissioners request to be informed of the special reasons, if any, which led the board of guardians to entertain the proposal for altering the existing dietary.—I am, &c. E. CHADWICK. To Henry Nottingham, Esq. Clerk to the Guardians of the Bromley Union. The hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Trelawny) cheers; he thinks it right that this trifling insignificant change should have all the grounds for it stated. Recollect that the persons who asked for this slight modification in the diet were themselves the ratepayers, and elected by the ratepayers, and, in fact, only asked the Poor Law Commissioners to allow them to expend a little more of their own money, and of those who elected them, in adding to the comfort and happiness of the poor under their charge. These are the sort of questions you are about to bring constantly into the House of Commons. I do not know how a week can pass without introducing them; I shall invite people to make applications here. I shall always be ready on any occasion to bring them forward; and it is possible under such circumstances we may bring things to a crisis, though it may not be precisely the issue we should hope to obtain. The answer of the clerk of the guardians to the letter of the Commissioners is dated the 8th of February, and is as follows:— Bromley Union, Feb. 8, 1846. Gentlemen—I am directed by the board of guardians to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 31st. ult., requesting to be informed of the special reasons, if any, which led the board of guardians to entertain the proposal for altering the existing dietary in the Bromley union workhouse. The board of guardians desire me to state, that the proposal to alter the dietary was made in the first instance by a member of the board, who gave his reasons for the alteration, and a committee was appointed to consider the proposal; that committee agreed to a report which was submitted to the board, but was negatived by them, and the resolution to alter the dietary as at first proposed confirmed. I am directed to forward herewith a copy of the report of the Committee on the subject.—I have, &c. HENRY NOTTINGHAM, Clerk to the Guardians. The Poor Law Commissioners. I have here the report of the committee alluded to, but it is too long to read; I will only quote one or two paragraphs, stating what the cost of the change would be:— The additional expense which would arise from the supply of soup twice a week at dinner, for all the paupers in the workhouse, may be roughly estimated at about 501. per annum upon an average of 100 inmates; a sum which the board most certainly would not begrudge, was it likely to produce a certain and sufficient advantage, but which the committee feel should not be imposed on the ratepayers on merely speculative grounds, which have hitherto derived no support from experience. It will be remarked, that Mr. Smith offers no opinion on the suggestion of giving an additional meat-pudding per week to the children. Upon this point, then, the committee will make no special observation; the expense arising from it would be about 4l. 6s. 8d. per annum upon an average of forty children. What was the decision of the Commissioners? A change of diet, recommended by the medical officer, is adopted by the guardians, who confirm their first resolution, though their committee report against it, and it is proved it would only cost 54l. 6s. for 140 inmates. To this application, the following is the reply of the Commissioners:— Poor Law Commission Office, Somerset House, Feb. 12, 1846. Sir—I am directed by the Poor Law Commissioners to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 8th instant, on the subject of the proposed change in the dietary table of the workhouse of the Bromley Union. I am now to state, in reference to this matter, that the Commissioners agree in opinion with the committee of the guardians, a copy of whose report was forwarded with your letter, and consider it inexpedient to make the proposed change, always keeping in view, however, the power of making temporary alterations in the diet of the inmates, on the recommendation of the medical officer, which is vested in the board of guardians by the workhouse rules.—I am, &c. E. CHADWICK, Secretary. To H. Nottingham, Esq., Clerk to the Guardians of the Bromley Union. Now, will it add to the dignity of Her Majesty's Ministers to discuss questions of this kind in this House? The noble Lord shakes his head; I know what he intimates by that; he thinks his Colleagues will be so liberal, there will be no occasion for such discussions. I heard the noble Lord say something towards the close of his speech last night which very much disarmed my hostility to it; the noble Lord thinks his Colleagues will not act in this way—that, as Poor Law Commissioners sitting in this House, they will adopt a different line of policy. He said last night, relief should be liberally given: I was delighted to hear that expression. I think those who deserve relief ought to have a liberal allowance. In that case, the noble Lord thinks these discussions will not be raised here: applications made to the Commissioners sitting in this House for relief will be granted. But does the noble Lord know there are other boards of guardians who will send up a different kind of application? Some boards may act like the Andover union, and send up for leave to make a reduction in the allowance. How will the Government act between the two parties? The difficulty in which it will be placed will be utterly insurmountable—no Minister will be able to combat it. With four Cabinet Ministers, sitting as ex-officio Commissioners, every question will be a Government question; it must be so: whether the diet of a workhouse one day shall be gruel or soup, or on another gruel or porridge—these are questions liable to bring the Government into great disrepute. I never thought to see the Secretary of State for the Home Department take the place of a master of a workhouse. The Ministers will really become an acting committee of masters of workhouses. But in this Bromley union, what were the allowances? They were, five ounces of meat to an able-bodied man, and three ounces to an able-bodied woman. The allowance for dinner was seven ounces of bread and one ounce of cheese. Have hon. Gentlemen ever seen such quantities weighed out? Do they know what they are? I assure them they are not the "liberal" allowance spoken of by the noble Lord. What is the allowance in the House of Correction for criminals? But, I will first read the allowance in the Bromley union, the dietary which the guardians desired slightly to increase, and for which leave was finally refused by the Poor Law Commissioners; and then I will state the allowance in the House of Correction. In the Bromley union, the allowance on Sunday was, for an able-bodied man, six ounces of bread and one pint of gruel or milk porridge; for a woman, the bread was five ounces; for dinner, meat pudding sixteen ounces, for the women, ten ounces; for supper, six ounces of bread and one pint of gruel or porridge. After Sunday, not a particle of meat is given; and it is admitted in the return that the meat in the meat pudding is only five ounces. Only five ounces of meat through the entire week. On Tuesdays, sixteen ounces of suet pudding was allowed for the men, ten ounces for the women; on Fridays, the same; on other days, the dinner was seven ounces of bread and one ounce of cheese. Such is the allowance sanctioned by the Commissioners, an application to increase which was refused. Now, what have the prisoners in the House of Correction in Cold-bath-fields? I do not complain of that dietary; I hope the right hon. Gentleman understands that I do not complain of it. When people are confined, whether as paupers in a workhouse, or as prisoners in a gaol, they ought to have food enough to keep them in health. In Coldbath-fields, the allowance for breakfast is one pint of cocoa—that is better than tea—and six ounces and two-thirds of bread; and there is no reduction in that quantity for women; they have the same allowance as the men, and they want it. I think it most disgraceful to make a difference in the workhouses in the allowances of men and women; and it is infinitely more disgraceful that women with an infant at the breast have no additional allowance, but receive precisely the same as others. In the House of Correction the dinner is, the same quantity of bread as at breakfast, with six ounces of meat; on Tuesday, six ounces of meat; on Thursday, six ounces of meat; on Saturday, six ounces of meat. In the House of Correction the women have twenty-four ounces of meat per week; but the poor woman who has committed no offence—who has broken no law—who has not transgressed the rules of society—she must starve on three ounces of meat per week! And the Poor Law Commissioners refused to sanction an increase in the allowance. Is the noble Lord aware of these things? He cannot be; he could not rest under them; holding his distinguished position, with his talents and feelings, it is impossible he can be content to hear such things stated to him. Going through all the dietary, I find everything increased in the same proportion; in one the allowance is sufficient to maintain the body in health and natural vigour; by the other, whatever it did with regard to health, it must make the poor creatures wretched from always suffering the pangs of hunger. But is this politic—is it wise? Leaving the justice of the case out of the question altogether, is it wise, while thus providing for criminals, to subject innocent people who have done no wrong to this species of torture? Does the noble Lord think these are questions that ought to be agitated in this House night after night and Session after Session? Does he think his Colleagues can assume the office of Poor Law Commissioners without having them so raised? Does he think, if such a question as that from the Bromley union became a Cabinet question, and the Government refuse the application of the guardians, it could stand one month under it? Does he believe it is for the safety of the Crown that such questions should be mooted here? Will it add to the dignity and security of the Crown? Why, the whole country, when in a state of political excitement, would be convulsed from one extremity to the other by the agitation of such a question. The noble Lord will say, we can yield a little for the good of the poor. The poor are not electors, and he knew where the balance of yielding would be. It would be with the boards of guardians, and the boards of guardians in that case would rule the Government. The poor invariably being the weaker, will go to the wall. Then, what would be the feelings among the suffering population in this country? Why, they would be ready to tear this House about our ears. My conviction is, that if this Bill be carried into operation, in a very short time the indignation which will arise will endanger all our institutions. I am confident, from the nature of it, a more unconstitutional measure, or one of a more pernicious tendency, was never proposed. The noble Lord, however, may say, "If we should be weakened by the anti-popular voice, it is possible we shall be strengthened by the increased patronage it will be in our power to bestow." But is this centralisation to go on, at every step adding such enormous power to the Government? The noble Lord must be aware of the power the Poor Law Commissioners may exercise with regard to the dismissal of officers. All the clerks of the boards of guardians —all the masters of workhouses—all the matrons of workhouses—all the schoolmasters—all the medical officers—will hold these offices at the pleasure and mercy of the Government of the day. That will be the result; and I am astonished at the noble Lord, who is such a lover of our free constitution, and who has so often contested that the power of the Crown ought not to be increased, should make such a proposal. It may be all very well for the existing Government; but how would the noble Lord like the same advantage to be trusted to a Government of directly opposite principles? The noble Lord probably thinks that such a power would not now be abused; but he should look far forward, and remember that a Government may arise which might desire to abuse to the utmost extremity this enormous power. I say it is one which no Government ought to possess, and there is no reason whatever for giving it either to this Government or to the Government which may succeed. A great outcry was made the other day against the additional patronage which would be vested in the Government by the operation of the educational scheme; but this beats it all to atoms, and the noble Lord in his speech last night completely failed to show the necessity for such a measure. The noble Lord says that he is anxious for this authority; but we have had thirteen years of experience of the operation of the New Poor Law, and the noble Lord is bound to admit that when the proposition for passing that law was made, it was held out to this House and to the country that the Commission would only be of short duration. Hence it was that the proposal was made that it should last for only five years. I remember Lord Al-thorp's speech well. Out of doors at that time the proposal was altogether obnoxious to us; but the noble Lord distinctly intimated and stated in express terms it was only to introduce the Bill and work the law for a short time, in order to show what the operation ought to be, that the Commission was appointed. The same thing was repeated again and again in the House of Lords. And now, although it is set forth in the present Bill it is to last but for five years, it is to me perfectly evident that it is intended to be a permanent mea- sure—that this monster Commission is intended to be permanent. Yes, if the country will bear it. It has not been fair dealing to the House—the noble Lord was a Member of that Administration, and he ought to have taken the declaration of Lord Althorp as his own. We have had this Act in operation thirteen years: cannot the new Government see if, out of the materials which have been collected, a law might not be made to do away with this central authority? Or if there is to be a central control, why put the poor in commission? Why not give the poor a judge? a man of great discretion and great learning—a judge who shall see the spirit of the law carried out, and who shall have power to make rules for the courts—call them, if you will, boards—of guardians? I do not think there would be any difficulty in forming such a law. I am not afraid of the boards of guardians. If the noble Lord has any apprehensions of those boards, why does he not reconstruct them? The noble Lord last night spoke of the Act of Elizabeth, and of the manner in which that Act had been abused by the magistrates of Berkshire, in the first instance, and afterwards by magistrates of other counties. But by the Act of 1834, what did you do with the magistrates? Why, you absolutely put them over the elected guardians. They were rewarded instead of being condemned for their misconduct. Why does not then the noble Lord reconstruct the boards of guardians? The noble Lord alluded to the manner in which vestries had acted. When did they begin to act badly? Why, long before the Act of 1834 was passed; and yet the select vestries were permitted full powers by that measure. If the noble Lord now sees a defect in the boards of guardians, he ought to propose that they be remodelled. He, of course, saw that the election of guardians had become a complete farce. There are now no meetings of the electors, no meetings of parishioners with respect to such officers; papers with blank spaces are left at the houses of the parishioners, are filled up and are generally called for by the policemen; the same names being marked, the same men remaining guardians; the farce of election is gone through, and there is nothing more. And, Sir, I maintain that all the evils of the existing law are to continue. We are merely to have that change which has been so often dwelt upon; we are merely to have a new set of men in the Commission; the Commissioners who have hitherto acted are to be dismissed; a new chief is to be appointed; he is to have for Colleagues four Ministers of State, and as many other persons as Her Majesty chooses to name, one of them being appointed. We had a three-headed monster before; now it is to be a many-headed monster. What will the poor gain by such a Commission? According to my opinion, formed after the best view I have been able to take of the subject, as little as they have gained already. The noble Lord states, that he would oppose any vote of censure upon the conduct of the Commission; therefore he approves of that conduct, and he is prepared for his Colleagues to pursue that path in which the Commission have already trod. Under the circumstances the public has great reason to complain of this Bill. I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, that public expectation has been raised high, and that it will fall exactly in the proportion in which it was elevated. Great must be the disappointment of the people at finding that there is to be no change in the Poor Law. The New Poor Law, with the exception of the slight change I have mentioned, remains precisely as it was. The huge unions, which are formed of so vast a size, in my opinion for the express purpose of preventing the poor from obtaining relief, are to continue as formerly, with all the existing arrangements, I may presume, with regard to the manner in which out-door relief is to be administered. How does the Act operate in reference to the poor man living many miles from the workhouse? He is starving; he wishes for work and cannot get it; he asks the relieving officer for relief; the relieving officer says he must apply on the board-day; on the board-day he attends the board; and when there, as it often happens, he is not admitted to the presence of the guardians. The relieving officer behind his back states the case; the board has not the candour and the manliness to call the unfortunate fellow before it; and it decides on the business without hearing him; immediately afterwards, he is told by the relieving officer that there is nothing for him, and the poor creature, brokenhearted, is sent empty away. Why, Sir, all these things will exist; and, in my opinion, if the board of guardians should receive, as they will by this Bill, the sanction of the Government, they will feel themselves strengthened in iniquity; and all these evils will be aggravated in a tenfold form. The public, in point of fact, has gained something of late by the weakness of the Commissioners of Somerset House. They were obliged to yield under the pressure of public indignation, and that is the very thing of which the hon. and learned Member for Bath complained. He says, the Commissioners have not been sufficiently resolute in carrying out the law. The Member for Tavistock cheers. I hope he is not to be one of the new Commission. I sincerely hope that misfortune is not to fall on the poor. The hon. and learned Member for Bath complained that they had not carried out the law with adequate sternness. I am sorry the hon. and learned Member for Bath is not here, because the other night he was very free, as he often is, in charging persons with ignorance. Now, it is my conviction, that the hon. and learned Member has never in his life been in a public vestry in this country. I do not think he ever saw relief granted to the poor. I do not believe he is in the slightest degree aware of the manner in which the old law operated. That great abuses did exist I freely admit, with him, under the old system; and I do not dispute that many things were done eminently detrimental to the interests of the poor; but I do deny that such a gigantic change as that which was made was necessary. That a change was required I confess; but the one demanded was of a much more moderate character, and would have been strictly consistent with the old Act of Elizabeth. The present law is inconsistent with the principle of the law of Elizabeth, and especially inconsistent with regard to the able-bodied poor out of work. The hon. and learned Member has directed his attention only to the idler, only to the vagabond; he utterly forgets, or seems to forget, that there are honest and excellent men, industriously disposed, who have no opportunity of labour. It is, I grant, right that the idler should be punished, and that the vagabond and the drunkard should suffer; but are the sins of such persons to be laid on the shoulders of the honest man, willing, were the means open to him, to earn his daily bread by the sweat of his brow? That which appears to me to be the particular injustice in this law is the absence of any distinction between the idler and the honest man. Under the operation of the Act of Elizabeth, relief was administered in the parish; the parties who had to give relief knew the man who made the application, and consequently there was a sensible check upon misconduct. The drunkard, though he were in want, shrunk from the exposure of his misdoings, while the honest man knew, when in distress, that as he had done no wrong, relief was his right. Now, however, when a poor man applies to the board of guardians, there is but one there who is likely to know him, that is, the guardian of his parish; and it is probable that on the day he seeks assistance, that guardian may not be in attendance. The systems are utterly at variance; in the one case the man would obtain relief at his door; in the other case he has to go miles for it, and, at the end of his journey, instead of seeing countenances of those to whom his deserts and requirements are known, he finds strangers who cannot possibly sympathize with him, because they are altogether ignorant of the circumstances by which he has been reduced. The Act of Elizabeth was one of the noblest statutes ever passed by a Legislature. It gave a security to property in this country which could have been acquired by no other means; and whatever you may say of the operation of that Act, it has been mainly through its munificent influence that England has attained to her present social eminence. It is, I consider, the first duty of property to protect the poor. How can Gentlemen expect to be safe in their possessions—how can they believe they are in security, if their neighbours are in destitution, and if many of them are starving? It is one of the conditions on which you hold property that you shall assist those who have none. In a state of savage life there is no property. All is in common. The institution of property is one of the first fruits of civilization; and the establishment of private property, the creation of a right, given to an individual, enabling him to hold property, and especially property in land, as his own, throws on him a duty of maintaining or of assisting in the maintenance of those who, though they are willing to work, cannot obtain property, or the means whereby to purchase sustenance. That duty was imposed on property in this country by the Act of Elizabeth; but the principle of that statute has not been embodied in the Poor Law Amendment Act. Sir, I firmly believe that the conduct which the Government is pursuing in this case is of a most unfortunate kind. I say unfortunate, for I scarcely know any word I can more properly apply. I do believe the course which is now being taken will be attended with the most disastrous consequences to the Government itself, and, what is of still more importance, to the poor. Throughout the country the feeling is extending among the labouring population that this House is hostile to them. What is it which can have produced that sentiment? It is the Poor Law Amendment Act, and that feeling will not easily he removed. You will indeed only increase it a thousandfold if the New Poor Law Commissioners act in accordance with the conduct of the Commissioners about to be dismissed. The poor believe that in this House there is no sympathy for them. Having done no wrong, and committed no offence, they consider their condition ought to be commiserated by those whose position in life places them above want; and having by their labour given value to property, they expect that their poverty should not be neglected. They believe, however, that instead of this, arrangements have been made to withhold from them the relief which was granted by the Act of Elizabeth. They believe that the boon which was thus conferred has been wrested from them by a spirit hostile to them and to their interests. The hon. and learned Member for Bath said, that when he found a Member in this House advocating the cause of the poor, and afterwards denying to the poor a vote for the Members of this House, he pointed his finger at that individual, and designated him as a hypocrite. Now, the hon. and learned Member knows that I, for one, am willing to give the poor the suffrage. I wish to see the labouring population of the country represented in this House; and I am of opinion that nothing would be of a more conservative character, nothing would tend more to give security and stability to our most honoured institutions, than the bestowal of so just a boon upon the people. Why should they desire to do harm? Why should their votes be feared? The men of a higher station are surrounded by extrinsic circumstances which necessarily affect their conduct. Not so the labouring man; he has one object in view; he thinks that ought to be achieved, and he gives his vote in accordance with his independent conviction. The hon. and learned Member desires himself that the working people of England should have the suffrage; and if he saw his own views carried out, how long would the Amendment Act last? If the people were represented here, he would see a complete upsetting of all his favourite views in re- ference to this measure. I regret greatly that the hon. and learned Member is not here. He is constantly complaining of the intolerance of other persons, and probably he is not aware that he is himself one of the most intolerant men in the House, the most impatient under contradiction, and one who really makes less allowance for difference of opinion than any Member in this Assembly. The hon. and learned Member referred to my acquaintance with the dissecting room, and to my intimacy with some of the various pursuits of life. It is very true. I have attended at the dissection of the human hand—a most exquisite piece of mechanism; I have operated also upon the human head, and I never yet saw one which embraced all the excellencies of humanity. I never saw that development in one head; and if the hon. and learned Member will reflect on that fact, I think it may be useful to him. All knowledge, all virtue, all forbearance, all honesty, is not to be seen in one head. The hon. and learned Member alluded to the court of humanity in this House. He did not mention another sort of court— the court of self-conceit. There are, it is known, a great variety of courts, but that is one of the most unpleasant and offensive kind. I have a great respect for the talents of the hon. and learned Member, and I admire the candour and freedom with which he manifests his philanthropic sympathies. It is always refreshing to hear him at such moments; but if he would remember that, as there are different heads, differently constituted, a difference of opinion may honestly prevail, I think it would be of great use to him in future arguments, and might not be followed by unpleasant effects among the auditors in this assembly. I think that many who support the existing law are as desirous of promoting the interest of the poor as I am. I cannot entertain a doubt on the subject. Why should they not be? What motive can they have for persecuting their fellow-creatures? The poor have done them no wrong, and I am confident they desire to benefit the condition of the poor, to raise them in the scale of society, and to obtain a higher reward for their services. I differ with them only as to the manner in which they would accomplish the common object. I see a statute in operation attended with good results—I refer to that founded upon the principle of the Act of Elizabeth—and I believe that those who broke down the principle of that Act, and who frittered away its great worth to the poor, inflicted upon them a vast amount of injury. I deny that the great change was necessary, and now, instead of establishing this new Commission, or, instead of giving perpetuity to it, by putting in men connected with the Government, I would greatly prefer the repeal of the existing law, and if a Motion to that effect were moved, most cordially and cheerfully would I vote for it. By so doing, I think I would best promote the interest of the poor, and best serve the ratepayers. But, the Poor Law Commissioners seem to have anticipated that such a Motion might be made; they consequently swept away the parochial cottages and the dwellings belonging to the poor. 4,000 or 5,000 of such sales or transfers have been made; and thus, not a single place for the poor has been left in the parish, except the union workhouse. And I call the workhouse, as it is now conducted, a gaol, and nothing but a gaol. It is true the working man may live out of it; but for what?—to starve. The design is that the working man, if he be placed in it, so miserable are its accommodations, shall not remain except under the fear of starvation should he remove. I will ask those hon. Members who have reflected on the subject, if they consider this to be just treatment to the poor? Ought it not to be a house of accommodation to the poor? You say that the labourer would become an idler, and would be eventually maintained at the cost of the ratepayers, were the workhouse not made a place of terror. But is that any excuse for your treatment of the aged and the infirm? Take an aged couple in the workhouse; dining within the same walls, one on one side, and one on the other. Do you allow them to speak? No; they were denied all opportunity of exchanging a word in conversation. They are always kept apart. That was the practice in the infamous Andover union. [A MEMBER: That was an exception.] Yes, it was an exception we hit upon. It was the particular union into the proceedings of which we happened to make the inquiry, which resulted in that hideous exposure now well known to all the world. And I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the same thing is taking place in other unions, and that the Andover union was no exception, with the exception of the one hit upon. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) can see no misconduct on the part of the Commissioners with reference to the Andover Union. Will the noble Lord inform the House what the Poor Law Commissioners are appointed for? Was everything right at Andorra? On the contrary, from beginning to end everything was wrong; drunkenness, debauchery, starvation, filth, and every abomination that can be imagined. Yet the Poor Law Commissioners (who are answerable by law for the conduct of the assistant commissioners), when an inquiry was to be instituted into the affairs of that union, sent down an assistant commissioner, the very man who must have had a motive, if anything was wrong, for not inquiring. It was all wrong. The cruelties that were practised at that institution were a disgrace to humanity; and yet it is said the Commissioners were not in error with regard to that matter. Will the noble Lord, before this discussion ends, point out to the House, when his mind is brought to bear practically on the question, what he thinks the conduct of the Commissioners ought to be with reference to such a case as I have alluded to from the Bromley union, and also with reference to another case to which I will briefly refer—that of Margate? By the 27th Section of the Poor Law Act, any person who may require relief out of the workhouse, and who is unable to labour, may obtain it on the order of two magistrates, one of them certifying that the applicant is incapable of working. Mr. Waddington, the highly respected surgeon of Margate, knowing the destitution of a man named Sweetman, in the month of February made application for his relief before the magistrates. The man was present; the magistrates saw and examined him; and, after hearing the evidence of Mr. Waddington, granted an order for his relief. The order was served on the board of guardians, and relief was given him for the first week; but in the following week the board refused to continue the relief. The poor fellow again applied to the magistrates; but they stated that they could do nothing in the case beyond recommending the unfortunate man, who nineteen years ago had lost a limb and could not work, to see the board. Mr. Waddington, with great propriety, addressed the Poor Law Commissioners on the subject, and also the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The Secretary of State, in his answer, said, "he had referred his letter of the 4th inst. to the Poor Law Commissioners"—and that it "was found that the case to which it related had formed the subject of correspondence between the Commissioners and the board of guar- dians, and that it did not appear that the Secretary of State could interfere with respect to it." Has the noble Lord considered the position in which the Government will be placed by applications of this kind? It will not do to say, "Here is the head of the Commission"—the tail must be looked to as well as the head; the whole body of those appointed by the Crown, and those who hold office ex officio, including the Home Secretary, will then be the Poor Law Commissioners; and the Home Secretary will not then be able to say that he will refer such matters to the Commissioners, for they will then be the parties sitting on the same bench with him. Will the noble Lord say how he believes this thing will work? If the noble Lord is prepared to say that the magistrates and guardians ought to rule in such cases, and that their decisions shall be the governing line of conduct, that will be favourable to the Government; but in this arrangement it appears to me that a most unconstitutional thing is being done, in combining the legislative and executive functions. I believe it will be disastrous for the Government, and unfortunate for the country, that such an enormous amount of patronage as this arrangement will create should be in the hands of any party in power. In these circumstances, believing, as I do, that it is a most impolitic arrangement, and that its operation will be distressing to the poor, I will oppose the Bill, and vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Knaresborough; and in any future stage of the measure, when a division takes place, I shall most certainly vote against it.


thought there might be some doubt on the minds of many whether a case had been made out for this measure; but he was ready, for himself, to admit that, after listening to the debate of that evening, and to the hon. Gentlemen who were most violent in opposition to it, a stronger case had been made out than he was prepared for. They had had four speeches that evening against the Bill —from the hon. Gentlemen the Members for Evesham, Somersetshire, Winchester, and Finsbury; and he thought that the first question any person who had listened to those speeches would ask was, "What would these men have? What is it they agree upon, or what would they recommend to be done?" These Gentlemen seemed to differ in their views of the old law as much as in regard to subsequent measures; they differed in their views from all that had been suggested by others; they agreed only upon one thing, and that was their discontent with what existed. There was something the matter, according to all of them. The hon. Member for Evesham was for reverting to the old system. He thought the local administration was the best that could exist, if, indeed, it was not perfection; and he went further, in order to show the House the very high opinion he had of the working population, whose virtues, he said, it was impossible to overrate. The words of the hon. Gentleman on this point were so extraordinary that he had made a note of them. He said, "The labourers of this country have a higher spirit of nobility, a more acute sense of right and wrong, than those who are above them; and there is among them a hatred and distaste of vices which they almost blush to name, but which you do not blush to practise." And the hon. Gentleman said they ought not to subject such men to hardships, or to too much control, for they were far superior to themselves, and that the more they gave them power in their own hands, the more would they show that they deserved it. Now, he only wondered that, entertaining such sentiments of the working classes, the hon. Gentleman should have been so long in that House, and yet had never brought himself to give one single vote that might extend their power, or raise their influence. But the hon. Gentleman was very condemnatory of the Commissioners, and could hardly find words, as he said, to express his views of the evils of the system. Then the hon. Member for Somersetshire was a very interesting character in this debate. He was one of that class who always had great influence in the House, as representing the country party, and he was among the most constant in complaint about things relating to the Poor Law. ["No, no !"] Why, the hon. Gentleman was not satisfied with the present system, and he had come forward on the present occasion and stated his views. [Mr. FERRAND: He always supported it.] The hon. Gentleman had, at least, come forward and stated that he required that the central power and authority should be reconstructed; he wanted the power of the central authority to be strengthened, and wished to clothe them with more powers than they now had. Then the hon. Member for Winchester objected to the central power, and had a high opinion of the enlightenment and intelligence of the local power, and to such an extent that he said wherever the local authorities had resisted the law of the Commissioners, there had been an enlightened system of conduct. ["No, no!"] He certainly understood the hon. Member to say that where such had been the case the poor had no reason to complain. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury complained of the manner in which the poor were treated in the workhouse; but the hon. Member for Winchester had another view of the case, and spoke with indignation of men getting fat in the workhouse, and living there in comparative luxury, while the industrious man was left in a state of starvation. The hon. Member for Finsbury had condemned the whole system; and he introduced a contrast between the gaol and the workhouse, to show the superiority of the former to the latter. He also condemned the Commissioners as an unconstitutional power, and longed to see the Statute of Elizabeth carried out, expressing, at the same time, the most perfect faith in the excellency of local control, which was in every respect to be preferred to the system of central superintendence. Now, he held in his hand a speech delivered by the hon. Gentleman on a former occasion, which certainly did not exhibit the same amount of faith in the system of local authority. He said, "It was universally known in this country that the tyranny, oppression, and cruelty which had specially marked the local administration of the Poor Law, were found to be produced by the boards of guardians." On another occasion the hon. Gentleman stated it as his opinion, that the Poor Man's Guardian Society would operate most effectually by directing its attention to the way in which the guardians and other poor-law officers administered the law, rather than to the principles of the Poor Law. The hon. Gentleman was very angry with those who imputed ignorance to others in that House with reference to this subject. Now he (Mr. Villiers) would be the last to bring such a charge against any one; but when the hon. Member wished to bring them back to the state of things laid down in the old statutes, he thought he must be unacquainted with the real nature of those statutes. He found statutes of the most tyrannical and brutal character in the very days to which he referred. For example, if a man was detected in coming back to a parish after being removed, he was for the first offence to be flogged as a vagrant; for the second offence, branded on the forehead with the iron; for the third, sold like a slave; for the fourth, hung as a felon. These were the statutes that existed for the regulation of the relief of the poor in those days to which the hon. Gentleman had adverted. He did not charge the hon. Gentleman with ignorance; but he must call the attention of the House to the fact that he had told them that, in proportion as they had departed from those statutes, they had done injury to the poor. In all this diversity of opinion and absence of any suggestion of a plan that would more humanely administer to the relief of the poor, he saw a reason for some person being appointed to this great department of our social economy who could answer for the mode in which the poor were actually treated in this country. The absence from that House of any person who felt himself responsible for the line of conduct pursued towards the poor, led to many things being said which greatly aggravated the impression out of doors that the poor were insufficiently relieved or cruelly neglected. There was a disposition on the part of certain people always to attack those in authority if they could do it with impunity; and he believed that if such a person as he had referred to was appointed, and ready to meet charges in that House, the occupation of many of such Gentlemen would be gone. He was not surprised that, among those who opposed this Bill, such Gentlemen should be found. By its success, the way in which they obtained notoriety, and the easy way in which they achieved popularity, would at once be lost; for the instant they brought forward their charges of inhumanity and the like, there would be found ready some one clothed with authority to give the unfounded charges the necessary contradiction. That was one reason why he felt disposed to support the measure before the House. He thought it would go a great deal towards removing unnecessary odium from the present system. Whether the measure was the best that could be devised, he could not say; but he thought that the principle of central superintendence was wise and beneficial. The mischief at present was, that this central power was isolated—that it was destitute of sufficient authority; but they were now about to connect it with Parliament, and secure for it that respect which to a great extent it had hitherto wanted. He considered that the superintending power had succeeded exceedingly well in this country. It had been proved to be a great improvement on the late system. Great difficulties had been encoun- tered. They had effected great changes, and there never was a Board which the people had more reason for maintaining. There never was a time when the people were better reconciled to it, or in regard to which it was found that the opposition given to it was groundless—its usefulness had been great, and it had proved in many cases a protection to the poor. The hon. Member for Knaresborough smiled, with an appearance of confidence, as if he thought himself able to answer that statement. The hon. Member might attempt to hold him up to unpopularity for what he now said; but he would tell him, as the hon. Member for Bath had done, that he was mistaken if he thought he could do so; he completely mistook the people of this country if he thought he could make a man unpopular in their eyes without proving his assertions. He defied him to show that the central power was not a great advantage to the poor of any locality. A superintending power like this could have no interest in being harsh to the poor, and was well calculated to protect them when oppressed. He said that the system was the wisest that could have been adopted; and the more any one considered it, the more convinced he would be how false and unfounded were the statements which had been made, and how groundless was the charge made by some hon. Gentlemen opposite, who said that those who had administered the law had perilled the law. He wished to know what they meant? The novelty of the system was in its administration, and in the great power which was entrusted to those who administered it; when it was said that the law had been attended with success, it meant that the administration of the law had been successful. That House had shrank from defining the mode in which the poor should be relieved; the law did not define the precise mode: that was left to the administrators. Lord Althorp and the framers of the Act said that the law should give relief to the destitute and those who were suffering the extremity of want; and if any judgment could be formed of the intentions of those who prepared the Act, they were, that the law for the relief of the poor should be administered with great economy and with great humanity, but likewise so as not to encourage idleness amongst the poor; and they entrusted the Commissioners with the superintendence of the law. That, he believed, was the original object in view. This was a very difficult and delicate trust, a very arduous and onerous duty, thus entrusted to the Commissioners in 1834. They found great laxity and irregularity in the old mode of administration, and though, as it might be expected, that, however successful they might be, there would be great complaints made, yet there was not one single complaint that was to be traced to the central power. When hon. Gentlemen talked of the principle of the law, they did not know what they talked about. Lord Althorp had said what the Commissioners' duties were; and let hon. Gentlemen hear how the actual and practical change of the system was entrusted to their discretion by Lord Althorp. What was the first thing? They were to abolish the allowance system wherever they found it. Next, they were to deprive the magistrates of the power of giving out-door relief. Next, to alter the constitution of vestries—to alter the administration of the law of settlement and the law of bastardy; and they were to act by so many local municipalities, to consult and conciliate them, to ask their opinion, and to do nothing independent of them. Nothing could be more difficult—no duty could be more arduous than he imposed upon the board of Poor Law Commissioners. He direected them to get rid of the old system, with all its evils; and the greatest success was said already to have attended the change; people talked of the vast improvements under the new law, and yet most inconsistently reflected upon the Commissioners—the whole success attending the law resulting from the fulfilment of their part of the task. But it was one of the consequences of their being entrusted with a large discretion, without sufficient authority to enforce it: everybody considered himself at liberty to criticise it, and what they did was thought wrong. Whilst one set of persons thought they were too severe, others thought they were not severe enough; whilst one party said that relief should be given by cramming all the poor into workhouses—that the workhouse test should be carried out in all parts of the country—and that the Commissioners had failed through not rigorously enforcing that mode of giving relief: another party said they ought not to put men into the workhouse at all. The hon. Members for Finsbury and for Winchester said that the money of the ratepayers should be given to the poor at their own houses, and that they should be given what they asked. [Mr. B. ESCOTT: I never said so.] The hon. Member objected to any test being applied to them. He (Mr. Villiers) only referred to what the hon. Member said; he did not know what he meant. He (Mr. Villiers) said, as the hon. and learned Member for Bath had said, that a very large class of the industrious poor in this country were deeply interested in having some test applied to persons seeking relief. The poor themselves spoke with disgust of the manner in which the Poor Law had been administered. They used to say that there could be no help for them unless they went on the parish—that no relief would be given to them unless they married early and had large families; and though it might seem that the hon. Member for Winchester and others were taking the part of the poor, they were, in fact, as the hon. and learned Member for Bath had said, taking the part of the idle and the vagabonds and those who would not work, and who said they ought to have relief whenever they asked it. He referred to the state of the country when Lord Althorp introduced the Bill of 1834, when the poor had become absolutely demoralised, especially during the last fifty years. The Commissioners were required to introduce the system gradually, to economize the funds for the relief of the poor, to correct all the abuses which existed under the old system without defeating the great object of the Poor Law; and Lord Althorp appointed men who, he thought, would act in that way cautiously and wisely; and he believed that they had carried out his views. They did proceed cautiously, yet they stirred up a host of enemies. It was on this account that there was a division between them and their Secretary. It was as to the mode in which the new system should be carried into effect: they disagreed on this point; and that was the history of that dispute about which so much had been heard, and which, it was said, had thrown so much discredit upon the Commissioners. He wanted to have the truth known on this matter. Lord Althorp had appointed men as Commissioners whom he thought discreet and prudent, and in a very short time after, differences occurred between them and their Secretary. It had been said that no difference had existed between the first Commissioners, Mr. Frankland Lewis, Mr. Lefevre, and Mr. Nicholls, and their Secretary; but he asserted that the same difference had existed with the preceding Commissioners as with the last. An attempt had been made to show that Mr. Chadwick had not had any difference with the preceding Commissioners. He had seen it stated in his evidence that he discontinued acting at the Board in 1841. This was not the fact. The present Commissioners found a system in the office when they succeeded to it, which did not admit of the Secretary being present at the time they were debating questions. He (Mr. Villiers) had stopped the hon. Member for Weymouth when he entered upon this part of the subject, and stated that it was in 1841 that Mr. Chadwick had been removed from the Board when engaged in business. It was when Mr. Frankland Lewis, Mr. Lefevre, and Mr. Nicholls were the Commissioners, that they found that Mr. Chadwick recommended a different system of administering that law—that which was called a stern administration of the law, as opposed to one which was less stern, or less sudden; and they considered that it was not necessary that he should be present at the Board; and they took a legal opinion upon the subject, and dispensed with his attendance, not determining this themselves under the statute, but acting upon a legal opinion. The difference between them was this: they thought they ought to carry out the measure cautiously and leniently; but the Secretary was of a different opinion: that was the real difference between them; and from that time to this, the Secretary, Mr. Chadwick, had been at variance with the Commissioners, and had done everything in his power, directly and indirectly, to throw discredit upon the Commissioners, and to discredit them. And what was the ground for this? The Commissioners did not despise or underrate the talents of Mr. Chadwick, whom all the world knew to be very able, and very laborious; but every able and industrious gentleman might not have good judgment; and this was the ground upon which they differed. Mr. Chadwick had lately been making attempts to bring the Commissioners into disrepute before Committees of that House. But he had not established by anything deserving the name of proof, that the proceedings of the Commissioners had been illegal or irregular, or that they had had any object in their business but the public benefit and convenience. He had watched this debate, and had listened to everything that had been said of them; and even the hon. Member for Oxfordshire, in his most intelligent speech, had not brought forward anything inculpatory of the Commissioners. Upon comparatively trifling matters, he differed with them. They might have erred in judgment, but he had not been able to find anything done by them, in which they had not complied with the provisions of the Act of Parliament. They had consulted the highest legal authority, the Crown lawyers of two Governments, who had given their sanction to everything they had done. The Commissioners had, as a matter of course, a great number of enemies of various kinds: they must have. There were some among those who hated the law altogether, and, of course, the Commissioners with it; there were those also, who, approving the law, would administer it differently. To both classes of enemies, the Andover affair was a godsend. It was impossible now to discuss this question, without a reference to that subject. A great impression had been made in the county by the disgraceful disclosures at Andover; and all this inhumanity had been supposed to be imputable to the Commissioners in London. Nothing could be more unfounded and false; it was utterly false. He said, and he hoped it would go forth that he said—most distinctly and unequivocally—that, with respect to all the disgraceful proceedings in the workhouse at Andover, there was not one tittle of evidence to show that those proceedings were the fault of the Commissioners. They were the fault of anybody but the Commissioners. They had done all they could; and it was not the fault of the Commissioners, but owing to the disregard by the local guardians of the rules which the Commissioners had issued. He asked any Gentleman who was upon the Committee, whether the disgraceful proceedings in the Andover workhouse could be charged to the Commissioners? He said not. The hon. Member for Weymouth had said, that the inquiry as to the Andover union had created a public feeling —that he had created a public feeling. He create a public feeling! The hon. Member might call a public feeling, a most false and unfounded impression respecting the conduct of the Commissioners, and he might have contributed to that, owing to the extraordinary position of public affairs last year. No care was taken in the appointment of that Committee; and those who wanted to get rid of the law, were united in the same inquiry with those who only wanted to assail the Commissioners; and the House could not be surprised at the conduct of that Committee. The manner in which the inquiry was conducted was peculiar and unusual in that House: there had been nothing like it. Although the House had made the Com- mittee a Select Committee, what was their first step? To open the door to the public. That attempt had been made before in the Committee on the Poor Law in 1837 and 1838. If the public were admitted to the Committee, it was impossible to prevent most unfair and garbled reports being published, for the newspapers could not publish all the evidence. If he was rightly informed, the matter was discussed before the Committee, who were told the manner in which the Committee of 1837 had acted. In that case the Chairman of the Committee had come to the House and stated that a desire had been expressed in the Committee to admit the public, and asked the Speaker what course they should take under the circumstances? The direction to the Chairman was that if he thought it proper to admit the public, that he should report the evidence de die in diem to the House. That evidence, therefore, did not go forth to the public without authority. There was a Gentleman in that Committee connected with the great leading journal— Mr. Walter; and Mr. Daniel Whittle Harvey, also a proprietor of a newspaper, was likewise upon that Committee. Both those Gentlemen were most diametrically opposed to the Poor Law, and both were anxious that the proceedings of the Committee should be published. But what was said? "We do not want anything unfair, we want the proceedings to be public; but let the House and the public both have the evidence before them—let there be no partial reporting;" and they assented directly to the direction of the Speaker. But what did the Andover Committee do? Why, they did not report to the House; but they did let partial reports of the evidence go forth to the public. They refused to let the House have an official account of what took place in the Committee.


I moved in this House that the evidence should be reported de die in diem; and the House rejected the Motion.


was bound to believe the hon. Gentleman's statement; but he certainly was told that there was a disinclination on the part of the Committee to have the evidence reported from day to day to the House.




It appeared, however, that the evidence was not officially or fully reported to the House while the Committee was public—and it did not make the impropriety less. The Committee allowed partial reports to go forth to the public; they allowed personal matters to be inquired into, and partial reports to be made of the inquiry, and at the same time they made no report thereof to the House. When a Committee was a Select Committee, the Parliamentary observance was to report the evidence to the House, and not make it in the first instance public.


It was not a Secret Committee. The subject had been considered this year.


knew that the subject had been considered this year; but there was not that difference between a Select Committee and a Secret Committee which the hon. Gentleman appeared to imagine. The difference was this: a Select Committee had a right to exclude strangers, but not Members; whereas a Secret Committee had a right to exclude Members; but if the Committee saw reason for admitting the public, they were then bound to ask leave of the House. That was the invariable practice. What was the consequence of the course permitted by the Andover Union Committee to be pursued with respect to their inquiry? The evidence was partially reported; a false impression was made on the public mind; and certain people were daily calling for the dismissal of the Commissioners, founding their reasons on the partial evidence so published. He had heard a Member of the House state, that when he looked at the reports of the evidence in the newspapers from day to day, and compared those statements with the official evidence, he could hardly recognise it as the same. Why, it was impossible for the reporters of newspapers to give a perfect account of what was stated in the Committee; they could but give a partial report. But when charges of all sorts of offences were made against public men, and when, as in the case of the Andover union, all sorts of private affairs were inquired into, he contended that the Committee ought either to have made an official report, or to have concluded the inquiry with closed doors. He remembered hearing the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe) express his extreme regret that he had not attended more to the proceedings of the Andover Union Committee, and declare that if he had, he never should have allowed these charges to have been entered into with the Committee-door open, without either the evidence being reported to the House, or the parties inculpated being present. He (Mr. Villiers) mentioned this in order that the public might know what the real character of the Committee was, and what its animus was; and when he considered this, he was not at all surprised at hearing the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) say, that the change which he now proposed to make in the law was not in consequence of anything which had transpired through the investigation instituted by the Andover Union Committee, but was entirely owing to his own conviction of the necessity of the change. He (Mr. Villiers) knew not why the hon. Member for Weymouth (Mr. Christie) was not in his place; and having referred so distinctly to the Andover Committee himself, he ought to have been present now. If the hon. Gentleman had been present, he (Mr. Villiers) should have taken leave to remark upon the course which the hon. Gentleman pursued in that Committee, especially as the hon. Gentleman claimed credit with the country for what had resulted from his efforts. The manner, however, in which that hon. Gentleman had examined the witnesses before the Committee was, not at all becoming. He (Mr. Villiers) knew that some hon. Members who went into the Committee-room, had declared that they never saw anything more insulting and offensive than the hon. Member's manner was to persons who were his seniors in age, if not his superiors in everything else. The hon. Gentleman must make a large claim on the indulgence of the House, if he expected to have merit awarded to him in this matter. In further illustration of the manner in which the inquiry was conducted in this Committee, the hon. Gentleman did not scruple to inquire into the private affairs of the witnesses, one of whom had formerly held the office of Poor Law Commissioner. So much so was this practice pursued, that the Committee-room was constantly cleared in consequence of the impropriety of the questions that he put. A constant excitement was kept up from the spirit of those questions, and the manner in which the witnesses conducted themselves under the hon. Gentleman's examination. How was it possible, under these circumstances, for the evidence to be fair, and such as ought to be produced, when they could hardly trust to what the witnesses said? They were under the influence of fear, and everything was done to terrify them. Men who were ready to come forward, actually shrank from doing so, because they dreaded being examined before such a Committee. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Disraeli) asked last night with great triumph, how it was that the Secretary to the Poor Law Commissioners was not dismissed? How was it that the man who was denounced in that Committee as a dangerous and unscrupulous subordinate in the establishment in which he was found, was not instantly dismissed? Why, how soon would there have been an inquiry on the subject of his dismissal — how soon would there have been another Andover Committee, or, what would be the same thing, a Somerset House Committee! The House had already virtually deprived the Commissioners of the power of dismissing any one, having, by the inquiry instituted before the Andover Union Committee, treated them as subordinates to Mr. Chadwick. Had the Commissioners dismissed that gentleman, he (Mr. Villiers) did not believe that the month of August would have come before they would have had a Committee to inquire into it. And when, after that inquiry, no single thing had been brought home to the Commissioners that could show them to have been the cause of mischief in the particular union of Andover, it had been possible, by every unfair means, to excite such a prejudice against them, might he not fairly assume that the same feeling would have been embarked in any other inquiry, even though no blame might attach to their conduct, any more than in the case of the Andover union? The hon. Member for Shrewsbury did not seem to go into the subject of the Committee last night with any satisfaction to himself; he rather apologized to the House for having anything to do with such a Committee, than gloried in the report. The hon. Gentleman occupied the greater part of his speech in a manner different to that in which most other hon. Members had done; he spoke on the subject before the House; and it was not till he came to the close of his speech that he alluded to the Andover Committee; and he then remarked, that he should have said nothing upon the subject if an hon. Friend had not put into his hand a copy of his own resolution. Now, the House all knew that the hon. Gentleman's attendance on the Committee was very little. [Mr. DISRAELI: I was on a Railroad Committee.] The hon. Gentleman might have been on a Railroad Committee; but that only showed that the hon. Gentleman was engaged elsewhere. They all knew that the hon. Gentleman was in a state of excitement during the whole year; his mind was occupied with other things; he was not indifferent to the conduct of the late Government; but, without inquiring minutely into the cause of his absence from the Committee, the fact was, that the hon. Gentleman did not attend till the eleventh hour, and then he came down to the Committee-room, he (Mr. Villiers) knew not in what humour, prepared a resolution, not with very great gravity — "not" — to quote the expression of the hon. Gentleman himself—"not with sufficient thought, but in a moment of excitement," in which he declared that the proceedings of the Commissioners in dismissing Mr. Parker and Mr. Day were irregular and arbitrary, and against the provisions of the statute under which they were appointed. This resolution he proposed in the Committee, and it was carried. Now, he (Mr. Villiers) was sure that if the hon. Gentleman were to apply his mind for three minutes to the subject, he would see that he was not justified in proposing that resolution. This Andover-union concern had been made of great importance; but he must again remind the House, that no blame whatever was attached by the report of the Committee to the Commissioners as to what had taken place at Andover. It was proved before the Committee that Mr. Parker had that very year reported to the Commissioners that the Andover union was going on favourably. Now, the Commissioners could not be everywhere; they must receive reports from the assistant commissioners, who were their eyes and their ears, and the Commissioners were bound to trust them. But Mr. Parker reported that the union was going on favourably. He (Mr. Villiers) had never heard that fact before it was mentioned by the hon. Member for Cambridge, (Mr. M. Sutton) in the course of the present debate. He was perfectly startled on hearing it, and he immediately went up stairs and there found it. He could not believe that these Commissioners, who were so blamed for the state of the Andover union, and for having dismissed two of their assistant commissioners without reason, had received from one of those individuals such a report, and that it had been laid before them the very year in which the Committee passed the resolution of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury. But on searching the evidence, he (Mr. Villiers) saw something more striking—something that would astonish the House; he found that that very fact was brought before the Committee in the shape of a resolution by one hon. Member who felt that he was inquiring into the conduct of individuals that had been impugned, and that he was bound to act justly. The Committee were making in their report a statement of what had been done respecting the Andover union, and showing how fully the Commissioners were made aware of the state of that union; and he (Mr. Villiers) found that it was proposed to insert a clause in the report, to the effect that Mr. Parker reported the state of the union to be that it was going on well. But would the House believe that the insertion of that fact—for it was not an opinion—was rejected by the Committee? A fact, the most important of all, when inquiring into the conduct of the Commissioners, was struck out of the report. The hon. Member for Andover (Mr. Etwall), and the hon. Member for Shaftesbury, though both of them were most strongly against the Commissioners, yet they could not vote against the fact and the truth; they knew what was their duty, and the trust which was reposed in them by the House; and when the fact was made known to them, they voted that it should be inserted in the report, and that the House should be informed that the assistant commissioner had reported to the Commissioners that the Andover union was going on favourably, notwithstanding the state it was in. He presumed it was in consequence of the right hon. Baronet, the then Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir J. Graham) having heard that Mr. Parker had reported that the Andover union was going on favourably, and finding so much public interest excited in regard to that union, that he felt it his duty to write a letter to the Commissioners, in which he stated, that looking at the facts as they came before him, it appeared to him that the then state of the union must be owing to neglect and want of due attention on the part of Mr. Parker, the assistant commissioner. Now, the Commissioners not being themselves in possession of the knowledge as to the real state of the union, and receiving a letter from the Secretary of State complaining of the conduct of one of their assistant commissioners in relation to the state of that union, were they not justified in regarding it as almost a direction to them that they must institute an inquiry into the conduct which that assistant commissioner had pursued? Suppose the Commissioners had taken no notice of the letter from the Secretary of State, and suppose some six months afterwards some other case of complaint should have arisen in some other union, in which the Com- missioners felt it their duty to institute an inquiry and dismiss some other assistant commissioners — what sort of case, he begged to ask, would then have been made out against the Commissioners, if it should appear that in a case where the Secretary of State had written a letter complaining of the conduct of one of their assistant commissioners, they had altogether neglected to institute any sort of inquiry or take any steps to dismiss the party against whom the complaint was made? He did not wish to say anything against Mr. Parker. He had not the honour of his acquaintance, and he did not know him by sight; but Mr. Parker had brought his case before Parliament; it was not the act of the Commissioners; and, when so much censure had been passed, he was bound to look at the question as a public matter, and to see if the Commissioners had acted with severity. He regretted that any gentleman enjoying station and reputation should lose a situation; yet he could not but look at the situation of the Commissioners. They were blamed for the neglect; and he could not see what middle course they could have taken. When they were blamed for not stating the reason of his dismissal, he must remind the House that Mr. Parker had been advised, under the circumstances, to resign. The course which he ought to have taken, if he meant to bring his case before Parliament, was to have refused to resign: that he was asked to resign was out of consideration to him; but if he meant to bring the case before Parliament he had been ill-advised—he ought not to have resigned, and then he would have called upon the Commissioners to record their reasons; for the statute did not require the Commissioners' reasons to be recorded when they received a resignation. Therefore he said, that the hon. Member for Shrewsbury's resolution was not right in form or substance. With regard to the other assistant commissioner, he did not know much of the case; but he was in the House when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dorsetshire alluded to it at an early part of the Session, and he certainly understood him to say that it was upon his recommendation the Commissioners had dismissed Mr. Day. If he were mistaken in that, of course he could make no point of it; but if a Secretary of State saw reason to dismiss an assistant commissioner, he did not see that blame was to be passed on the Commissioners. He could not see anything in their conduct which was irregular, or against the provisions of the Act. With respect to the Andover union, all agreed that there had been neglect; and he must remind the House that the noble Lord the Chairman of that Committee (Lord Courtenay), whose character for impartiality had been praised by the enemies of the Poor Law, when he saw the resolutions, would not consent to vote that to be illegal which was not illegal, or to declare that to be a fact which was proved to be otherwise; and, strongly as he was opposed to the Commissioners, he would not vote. He would not support that resolution which condemned the Commissioners. Looking, then, at the proceedings of that Committee, he was not surprised to hear the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) say, "This shall be no guide to me; I must look to the results of experience, and I cannot rely upon anything so questionable as the report of this Committee." He thought this was sufficient answer to the charges brought against him for not attaching sufficient importance to that inquiry. He would no longer occupy the House. He thought he had shown sufficient reasons for having a Poor Law-Commissioner in the House; he thought he had shown that the Central Commission had generally answered its purpose; there never was a time when the people were more reconciled to the Poor Law than now, and especially to that part of it which involved a central independent and controlling authority, which was the control that was the best protection against local abuse, and local tyranny, and which it would be unwise to deprive the poor of. He had recently served on a Committee connected with the Poor Law for three months; before them every kind of evidence had been given, and not a word had been breathed against the Commissioners or a Commission; it was rather approved of than complained against. But what had come out in evidence was, that great inconvenience had arisen from yielding to a mischievous cry against the assistant commissioners, just before the last general election, when they had been reduced from eighteen to nine. That was done in the year 1841, just before a general election; and all the evidence showed that it proved that though it was thought to be popular at the time, it was the cause of great evil afterwards. He therefore was perfectly satisfied with a measure which would give more power and strength, and establish more firmly a system of superintendence over the Poor Law which had existed for thirteen or fourteen years, and had been found most useful. With respect to the Commissioners, they had come through a severe ordeal; he did not in the least deny that they had committed errors, or that they had erred in judgment; but that they had acted corruptly or with inhumanity, or had done anything which the House ought not to have expected from any other Commissioners, he did distinctly deny. He did not think the proposed change would be otherwise than useful, as showing that the House was satisfied with the working of the Commission, and was willing to give the Commissioners every facility to make their system and their conduct understood by the public, and to vindicate themselves against unjust aspersion, and thus to reconcile the public to a well-regulated system of superior or central control.


said, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Somersetshire (Mr. Miles) had stated truly that, if this debate had been confined to the subject before the House, it would have occupied only a few hours instead of several nights; and he might add that if it had been restricted to arguments in favour of the Bill, they might have been returned as "none." They had heard the abuses of the old law-exposed at as great length as in the year 1834; they had heard the conduct of the Andover Committee criticised to an extent for which no Gentleman in that House could have been prepared; they had heard the conduct of his hon. Friend the Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Ferrand) criticised at equal length; in short, every possible subject had been brought under discussion; but, as for the merits of the Bill itself, they had heard hardly anything. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had devoted two sentences and a quarter to the Bill itself; in those sentences he had defended it, and had defended it by an argument which, to his (Lord J. Manners) mind, was as great an accusation against the Bill as could be brought. Although, therefore, he had ample temptation to enter into the general discussion of the Poor Law, he thought it would be more becoming his duty to avoid this tempting opportunity; and he would content himself with saying that his opinion was unchanged, and that he did not think the present Poor Law offered those facilities for the relief to which the industrious and unfortunate poor of this country were entitled. He thought that every objection made against the great size of the unions was most true and just; he thought, also, that the comparison made by the hon. Member for Oxfordshire between the facilities for religion afforded in the houses of correction and the corresponding facilities afforded in the workhouses, was disgraceful in a Christian country; and he thought that the medical assistance rendered under the present Poor Law was not by any means sufficient. He spoke with some confidence on this subject, because he was one of the Members who sat on the Committee most ably presided over by Lord Ashley; and the general feeling of that Committee, though at the period of the Session they were prevented from making a report to the House, was, that the medical treatment was not such as it ought to be. His mind was impressed from the evidence of the medical gentlemen examined, that they would not have acceded to the terms of the Poor Law Commissioners did they not anticipate, in the event of a refusal, that some young and inexperienced medical practitioner would step in and take their practice, utterly regardless of the wants of the poor. He thought this accusation against the present administration of the Poor Law well founded. It was only the other day, speaking in reference to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Oxfordshire, with respect to religious assistance, that he had read the very interesting report of the chaplain of Knutsford gaol, in which he said it was his custom, strictly in accordance with the prison rules, to examine the prisoners in private as to their religious and secular knowledge, and their former habits of life; and that, on the day appointed by Her Majesty for a public humiliation, ninety-eight of the prisoners had asked permission of the governor to abstain from the principal provisions in the prison. In what part of the system of the Poor Law—in what system of instruction in the workhouses—could it be said that they would obtain such a result as that? It was notorious that such was not the case. Yet, when the hon. Member for Northamptonshire moved that chaplains should he appointed, he required support, and was in consequence defeated. He said, then, that the hon. Member for Oxfordshire was right in drawing the distinction between the gaols and the workhouses in this country. He was of opinion with the hon. Member for Evesham, that the clergy of this country ought to be the ex-officio guardians of the poor; but that had been rejected; and it was only the other day that the curate of St. Philip, Bethnal-green, had been obliged to go before the magistrate at Worship-street, to complain of the guardians; and it was because the magistrate expressed a strong opinion condemning the guardians that the clergyman was enabled to bring tardy justice to a dying man and his idiot daughter. He passed, then, from that general theme of the administration of the Poor Law, and came to that which had occupied the House for the last hour, and for many other hours during this debate—the conduct of the Poor Law Commissioners. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last had, in fact, rested the defence of this Bill on the defence of the Commissioners; and he must congratulate them upon having so earnest, so able, and so determined an advocate; but, like many eager advocates, the hon. Gentleman had proved rather too much; for if the Commissioners were so admirable in all their acts—if their conduct upon all occasions had been so correct—if they had violated no law, and had acted up to the very letter and spirit of the statute which they were appointed to administer —if they had done full and ample justice to all the subordinates they had dismissed, and had properly retained those whom they had originally appointed, or were the faultless monsters the hon. Gentleman had described them to be—the House of Commons must be the most unjust legislative body, the most indiscriminating, the most unfair to the people, the world had ever seen. The hon. Gentleman said, the only charge brought against the Commissioners was a violation of the statute; but the hon. Gentleman devoted a considerable time to show that their treatment of Mr. Day and Mr. Parker was not characterized by that injustice which was charged against them. He thought, after what had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury on the preceding night, it would require a great deal of eloquence and determination to prove that Mr. Day was not treated with great injustice by the Commissioners; and he expected that in the course of his observations upon the subject, the hon. Gentleman would have been able to disprove the statement brought forward by his hon. Friend. Then the hon. Gentleman was most indignant at the conduct of the Andover Committee. Nothing that that Committee did, or did not —nothing that hon. Members on that Committee said or left unsaid — escaped the hostile criticism of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman complained, amongst otter things, that they closed their doors, and permitted evidence to be taken, but that they did not submit that evidence to the House of Commons. But his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury interrupted the hon. Gentleman, and said that he himself had moved that the evidence be laid on the Table of the House. Did the hon. Gentleman vote on that occasion?—did he vote for the Motion? [Mr. VILLIERS: I never heard of it.] And yet the hon. Gentleman now came forward and made those violent accusations against those hon. Members who devoted four months last summer to the investigation of this most intricate subject; and when asked for proof of the most important part of his charge, said, he never heard of the Motion of the hon. Member. But the hon. Gentleman, not contented with impugning the conduct and conclusions of the Andover Committee, said not only that those conclusions were not worthy of being listened to, but that the evidence upon which they were grounded was also unworthy of credit, for that those unfortunate victims of a partial and unfair Committee were so baited and worried by his hon. Friends the Members for Weymouth and Shrewsbury, and other hon. Members on the Committee, that they did not know what they said or did. A more astounding observation he had never heard. Let them conceive a gentleman like Mr. Cornwall Lewis, so utterly incapable of answering questions put to him by Members of that House, as to say things he did not mean or intend to say! He could not repose much confidence in such assertions. Then as to the question propounded by his hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury— if Mr. Chadwick were that anguis in herbâ he had been described to be—if he were deceiving and humbugging the Poor Law Commissioners—why was he maintained in his office? The hon. Gentleman said, it was not because he did so towards the present Poor Law Commissioners only, but that he had done the same towards all former Commissioners—that he was only continuing the same course of action, and was only maintained in his office, not because the Commissioners had any confidence in him, but because they and the Government knew that if he were dismissed, he would insist upon an inquiry; and the Commissioners thought they could not stand that inquiry. [Mr. VILLIERS: I never said so.] He would retract the words, but he must retain his argument. The hon. Gentleman said, although the Andover Committee was sitting in August, that he was quite certain the end of August would not have arrived before Mr. Chadwick had kicked up such a disturbance that the Commissioners would not have been able to stand against it; or perhaps the Commissioners felt, that if the inquiry was to be conducted in the same manner as the Andover Committee, they would not be able to stand against it. And what was the charge against the Andover Committee? That they allowed the evidence taken before them to be printed. The hon. Gentleman said, that that course was at variance with the practice of Select Committees, and was liable to objection; and, having had some experience in Committees, the hon. Gentleman said that those Committees had refused to follow—and the hon. Gentleman here used some tremendous epithet which he forgot—the precedent of that Andover Committee. But did not the Free Trade Committee follow that example? Did not the Navigation Laws Committee, of which the hon. Gentleman was so active a Member, do the same? [Mr. VILLIERS: They made reports to the House.] Did the hon. Gentleman mean to say, that reports were not given in the morning papers? He believed that the same system of reporting was practised in the Andover Union Committee as in the Navigation Laws and other Committees; and if blame attached anywhere, it attached to the hon. Gentleman, who was not in his place to vote on the Motion respecting the evidence taken before that Committee. There was not one Member of that Committee but was justified by law and the custom of that House in doing what he did. Then the hon. Gentleman made a most affecting appeal on behalf of the Commissioners, and said they were now suffering undeserved odium in the country, in consequence of the Andover Union Committee's report having placed upon their shoulders the iniquities perpetrated by the board of guardians of Andover. Was there ever so unfounded a statement? He defied the hon. Gentleman to bring forward one resolution of the Andover Union Committee which asserted any such charge. It was true that the Commissioners were unpopular with the country; but it was not true that anything that was said or done by the Andover Union Committee placed the cruelties that were perpetrated at Andover on the shoulders of the Commissioners, nor was it true that the country had any such belief. He had heard a great deal on this subject, and he could safely say that he had never heard the Commissioners accused of having introduced, tolerated, or sanctioned the cruelties perpetrated by the Andover Union. But the most impressive part of the hon. Gentleman's speech, to his ear, was that in which he deprecated the habit, which he said some hon. Gentleman had fallen into, of attacking the rich and the aristocracy whenever an opportunity occurred for doing so. Recollecting the former speeches of the hon. Gentleman himself, and that long and unscrupulous course of agitation in which he had persevered, he confessed that he had heard those sentiments with some degree of surprise, though certainly with some degree of pleasure as well. His great astonishment was that the hon. Gentleman did not find his indignation excited by the attempts of hon. Gentlemen, either in or out of that House, to bring all power into disrepute unless it was embodied in the Poor Law. If the hon. Gentleman had taken the course he was now taking earlier, and had called upon his supporters not to indulge in attacks on the rich and the aristocracy, then he should have said that the hon. Gentleman was consistent in his present course, and he should not have been surprised at his making those violent attacks upon every one who did not fall down and worship the Poor Law Commissioners. Then the hon. Gentleman attacked his hon. Friend the Member for Weymouth in language as strong as any he had ever heard used in that House. There was no sneer in which the hon. Gentleman had not indulged. The quiet demeanour of his hon. Friend would, he should have thought, have shielded him from such attacks; but it seemed, on the contrary, only to invite them. The hon. Gentleman turned round to the place where his hon. Friend was not, and said, "He create public opinion! He create an influence ! Does he flatter himself that he can do anything of the kind?" His hon. Friend was more correct than the hon. Gentleman, and he might congratulate his hon. Friend for having successfully attracted public attention to the great injustice and great wrong perpetrated by those in high authority upon those who had rendered them faithful services in subordinate capacities, but who, the moment they seemed to fail in rendering successful services to their superiors, were discarded without a moment's thought or consideration. If the Andover Union Committee produced no other fruit that of placing the conduct of the Commissioners towards Mr. Day and Mr. Parker in a proper light, his hon. Friend would have reason to congratulate himself. And now he turned from that part of the subject, and asked what reason did the hon. Gentleman assign in the whole course of his speech why they should agree to the second reading of this Bill? There was one reason, and one reason only. The hon. Gentleman said that the central Poor Law authority had been attacked in the violent way it had been, because it was not allied to any great party in the State; and he said he would support the Bill, because it would invest the central authority with the dignity and defence of a great party in the State. Was not that a reason why every Gentleman who wished to see the administration of Poor Law relief pure at its fountain-head—who wished to see the conduct of those men who were invested with that, he would not say illegal, but ex-legal authority properly looked after and attended to—who wished to see justice done to the poor—should oppose the Bill, as it would defeat the very object for which it was intended. To those portions of the Bill which the noble Lord at the head of the Government seemed to think would be productive of more humane and tolerable regulations than existed at present, he would have no objection; but, for the life of him, he could not conceive how the addition of three or four high Government officers, whose time was already taken up so that they did not know which way to turn, could add to the practical efficiency of the present system. He did not think it would operate in any other way than by giving to the declaration of the Poor Law Commissioners the weight and sanction of a higher power. He knew his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was willing to undertake any amount of work that could be imposed upon him; but he must venture to doubt, even with his great capacity for business, his ability to give anything like satisfactory attention to the meetings of the Poor Law Commissioners— Cum tot sustineas et tanta negotia solus. The President of the Poor Law Commission was to be superior, not merely to the Commissioners, but even to the President of the Council, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. At the meetings, who could entertain a doubt but that his opinion and those of his two Secretaries would be taken for granted by the other Members, who would be too much occupied with other matters to investigate into each matter that would come before them. No hon. Member would say that, in point of fact, the decision of the President and the two Secretaries would not be binding upon the other Members of the Commission. Nor could any one believe that the new Commission would give the slightest real administrative power to those great officials whose names and authority would only fortify and screen it. It was because he thought that the change would not be for the practical efficiency and thorough management of the Board—because he thought the present system would undergo through it no beneficial change—because he did not think the poor of this country would he placed in a more satisfactory condition, but would be left just where they were —because the hopes and expectations which had been raised as to the Amendment of the present system would be disappointed —and because none of the evils of the present law were remedied, and because, in short, this Bill only gave a new lease of power to a system that had broken down under the present Poor Law Commissioners, that he felt bound to give his vote against the second reading.


I am not by any means surprised at the impatience of the House, and I had ventured to hope that it would never again have become necessary for me to trespass upon the time or indulgence of hon. Members for the purpose of taking any share in a Poor Law debate; but I trust when the House considers the part which it was my duty to take in framing and passing the Bill of 1834— when likewise they consider the obloquy which I have incurred on account of this law — when I myself also consider the bias which my former official position might be supposed to have given to my mind — and when I recollect also the independent position which I now occupy in this House, and which enables me calmly and dispassionately to review the operation of a measure which, under other circumstances, I might be thought to regard too favourably—I say, that with these considerations present to my mind, it will not be thought unfitting that I should shortly address the House upon the question at present before us. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Finsbury is now in his place, but I am anxious to take the earliest opportunity of saying that I entirely agree with him in thinking that the first duty of property is to maintain the poor. There is no form in which I have not repeated that opinion in this House. It is one of our most binding and important duties to take care that no policy whatever shall at any time interfere with a due provision for the poor, and with their interest and their happiness, rightly understood. I have frequently avowed my conviction that the sound and just principle upon which to legislate for the poor, is to shape your measures for their relief so that they may be rendered conducive to the interests of the moral, the industrious, and the provident labourer, as contradistinguished from the idle and the improvident. Before the great change that within our recollection was made in the Poor Law, the principles which I have just now stated were distinctly and unreservedly avowed, and upon those principles the Bill of 1834 was founded. But I have been told that that measure has been a signal failure. Upon that question I am perfectly willing to join issue; I have shown, and I am prepared again to show, that the objects of that measure have been accomplished. In the first place, I beg to remind the House that one of its objects was to substitute union aid for parochial assistance; that principle has been established. The second object of the measure I may thus enunciate: whereas the Act of Elizabeth, partly from some deficiency in the nature of the statute itself, and partly from the new and false principles acted upon for the first time in 1796, gave occasion for complaints that able-bodied labourers who could not find work were not provided with labour at the cost of the parishes; one of the objects of the Bill of 1834 was to establish the workhouses upon such a basis as that they should be rendered a test of destitution. That workhouse test has been brought into operation, and I apprehend that its practical effect has been successful. I do not think that any denial of that proposition can be in any manner successfully established; the test has been complete—destitution is relieved —habitual idleness receives no encouragement. What is the next question with which we have to deal? It had for a long time become well known that the parish officers generally performed their duty in a negligent and perfunctory manner. We considered that in future we ought to possess a set of officers whose duties should be clearly prescribed—paid officers, whose conduct should be strictly watched, and whose functions would, therefore, probably be more efficiently performed than by those who proceeded them in conducting the practical working of the Poor Law. I feel that I am warranted in saying, that that object also has been accomplished. The next point to which our attention has been directed is the medical attendance on the poor. Let us remember what has been said on that subject. I am sure the sort of relief given in the shape of medical attendance before the year 1834 is sufficiently in the recollection of every one now present, to enable me, by a mere reference to the fact, to contrast that species of relief with the medical aid given under the Bill of 1834; and I challenge a comparison of the one with the other. I venture, without hesitation to affirm that in no respect could the medical attendance under the old law bear a contrast with that which has been supplied under the new. This proposition I conceive to be perfectly incontestable, and so much has already been said with respect to it, that it is needless to waste another moment in seeking to establish an undisputed position. The Bill of 1834 not only corrected the original evil, but also other abuses which sprung from the appointments being given to those medical men who came forward as the lowest bidders, have been subsequently removed. The old plan did not afford adequate and necessary control; and, as every one might have expected, the insufficient remuneration formerly given to medical attendants laid a just foundation for those complaints of which the House has from time to time heard so much. The neglect of the children of the poor in workhouses was amongst the subjects which formed a just ground of discontent under the old law. Under the arrangements more recently made—arrangements which have received the sanction of the House—effectual provision has been made for the proper education and training of the children in the workhouses. They have been placed under the direction of masters appointed from normal schools; and I undertake to say, that whoever goes to the trouble of examining into the evidence on that subject will find, that in the matter of education the interests of the poor have been most amply and efficiently provided for; and that, upon the subject of instruction and discipline, there exist no just grounds of complaint. An- other point to which I now seek to direct the attention of the House, is the imperfect manner in which parochial accounts were formerly audited. The manner in which that department was neglected led to practices which gave rise to the grossest frauds; and the country possessed no means of correcting those abuses till a change in the old Poor Law was carried into effect. But now we have established a perfect system of auditing by means of responsible and independent officers, who strictly watch the whole expenditure. These then, I think, are the principal heads upon which this measure has been attacked; and I deny that upon any one of these it has failed —on the contrary, it has in each case proved eminently successful. I contend that upon every head which I have enumerated, I have established the fact of entire success. Upon other points — especially with respect to the allowance system, the noble Lord at the head of the Government addressed the House at so much length and with so much ability, that it becomes unnecessary for me to say more than that I share his opinions—the old allowance system was fatal to the happiness of the poor; it operated as a premium upon laxity of morals; it was a premium upon idleness, a condition which degraded the honest and independent labourer; it was a premium on premature marriages; it placed the idle and the improvident on the same footing with the most skilful and the best conducted amongst the poor. The endeavours which we have made to correct this vicious system, have been, I repeat it, perfectly effectual; and I ascribe that success to the efficient system adopted by the authority and under the control of the Poor Law Commissioners. The hon. Member for Finsbury said, he feared this House would be degraded into a sort of parish vestry, or board of guardians, by the perpetual discussion of measures of minute detail; and he assumed that we should infallibly be occupied day after day with questions touching the soup in the workhouses, the quality and quantity of the gruel given to the poor, the proportions of milk and water, the bread and cheese, and other details of that degrading kind, which, although they are most important items in the comfort of the poor, are not subjects fit to be considered in this House. Now, if it were a question whether this be the right place to discuss questions of this kind, I might perhaps deprecate the introduction of such a measure; but have we not, in reference to the measure of 1834, had questions of this sort pressed upon us almost daily by those who persisted in striving at a sort of spurious popularity by forcing questions of this kind on our attention, and at a great disadvantage to the authorities for the elucidation of the real practice, from the absence of individuals who were directly and immediately responsible? Nothing could be more just than the description given by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Home Department on this branch of the subject; and if any illustration of the truth of his remarks were wanted, it was afforded on the night he made his speech. A question was asked as to the dismissal of Mr. Mott. The right hon. Baronet, speaking from the information he had received, used the expression, "The dismissal of Mr. Mott." Now, in a penal and technical sense, that expression was an error. Mr. Mott, as I explained the other night, was not "dismissed;" but, on a reduction of the number of the Poor Law Commissioners, by Act of Parliament, viz., from ten to nine, it was on the whole thought expedient that he should retire. He was not, however, dismissed on account of misconduct. [Mr. FERRAND: You used the word "dismissal" yourself.] The hon. Member for Knares-borough relies on an expression of mine. I repeat that the Secretary of State, not knowing all the minute particulars of each case, is not the proper channel of communication with this House. It is a mode of communication at second hand, and must be always unsatisfactory. Sir, it is not desirable, nor would it be possible, to use concealment as to the present state of this question. I say, deciding from my past experience of what has been the operation of that just and natural jealousy of this House, considering the vast powers of the Commissioners, and the imperfect nature of their responsibility, this popular assembly, When conceding great powers to public officers, is justly jealous of those powers, and seeks to put its finger on the officer who has committed a wrong, when it suspects error. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) with great frankness told us what took place with the colleagues of Lord Grey when the measure of 1834 was framed; and he states that Lord Althorp—that great authority in judgment, in constitutional feeling, and in real attachment to all the principles of popular control as exercised by this assembly—Lord Althorp wished, in the first instance, to take the course which now, after many years' experience, the noble Lord proposes to us to take, and which I now entirely approve; but that, at the instance of others, after weighing the matter carefully, he surrendered his judgment, and made the responsibility to this House not direct, but indirect. I must repeat, that the result of the experience of the last ten years convinces me that Lord Althorp's original opinion was well founded, and that it would have been better had the responsibility been direct to this House in the first instance, by an officer here representing the department; and further, that less inconvenience would arise from the discussion of these minute details in his presence than in his absence. But I wish to observe, that the hon. Member for Finsbury stated that he did not object to boards of guardians; that he was disposed to trust those boards much more than Commissioners; but, not having the opportunity of referring to the debate which was quoted by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, my memory convinces me that the hon. Member for Finsbury has changed his opinion in a very important item. Until the present debate, I always heard him say that the local authorities are not to be trusted—that they have too deep -an interest in cutting down the allowances to the poor—that there is a danger of too rigid parsimony on their part—and that a supervision on the part of a central authority is salutary in the highest degree. That brings me to the question really before us for discussion. First, is the central authority necessary? and next, if it be admitted to be necessary, has the administration of that central control hitherto been imperfect? and if so, does this measure supply a remedy? As to the first branch, it appears to me I have pointed out great and striking instances where a central authority is advantageous; and many Gentlemen on the bench below me, who are opposed to this measure, have admitted that it is necessary to have some central control, and no one more pointedly than the hon. Member for Dorsetshire. The hon. Member for Finsbury argues that, under the system of relief now established, the poor of this country are confined in gaols, as he calls it—though I am rather surprised that he should have used the term after the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Bath on a former evening, who read him a lecture on this point, which he may well remember; but the hon. Member says that the poor of England are relieved on the condition of their going into places of confinement which he designated as gaols, without having even the advantages of gaols. Now, what are the facts? So far from the people being generally relieved in workhouses, I can state this fact, that for the last three years 15 per cent of the poor alone have been relieved in workhouses, the remaining 85 per cent having been relieved out of the workhouses. The number of poor relieved in workhouses throughout England and Wales cannot have exceeded an average of 185,000, while the persons relieved out of workhouses have exceeded 1,000,000 annually. And when hon. Members talk of the hardships suffered by the poor in this country, I must say that a more unfounded accusation was never brought by Englishmen against their country; I say there is not in the civilized world an example of so noble an effort made in a Christian spirit, in vindication of a great Christian virtue, as the effort made by the people of this country, by charity and by public funds, to maintain the poor. I might, in enumerating the advantages of the change made in the Poor Law, mention that of the great and striking diminution effected in the expense, compared with the expense prior to the Act of 1834. The maintenance of the poor ought now to cost 8,000,000l. in proportion to the increase of the population. The poor, as I have already said, are more satisfactorily relieved than they were prior to 1834; but, whereas, at the same rate, the expense would now be 8,000,000l., the object is effected by an annual outlay of 5,000,000l. Why, what a sum is 5,000,000l.! Last year, when the distress was not so great as this year, there were relieved 2,000,000 of our fellow-countrymen—that is to say, one-eighth of the whole population of England and Wales received relief. I have already said that it is most erroneous to assert that a large portion—the larger portion—of these are not relieved at their own homes. But just contemplate that sum of 5,000,000l.! It is as much as in years of peace this country raises for its naval defence; as much (as was well observed by the noble Lord) as is paid to the income tax. I repeat, there is no such example in any nation, ancient or modern, of such a sum so raised, given so unhesitatingly, and the administration of which is so far from being degrading to those who receive it. Then, again, Sir, what are the con- flicting accusations against the Central Board? They disprove each other. Sometimes it is said that you ought not to insist on vigorous conditions — that the workhouse test ought not to be enforced in all cases; and then, when it is stated that a large portion of the poor are relieved out of doors, the answer is, that there is too much laxity. Again, sometimes it is said that there are too many Commissioners. The hon. Member for Montrose was one of those who were most urgent in 1839 in pressing on the Government the reduction of the number of assistant commissioners. Yielding to such representations, I rather think that the number of Commissioners was reduced somewhat too low. And that again is now complained of. How conflicting these statements ! Sometimes it is said the letters of the authorities are too short and peremptory; at others, that they are too prolix and abound too much in reasoning. In short, for the purpose of attacking this unhappy Commission, the most opposite arguments are adduced—arguments that utterly disprove and contradict each other. It is also said that a central control is, after all, an inefficient control, conducted by men ignorant of their duty. Now I speak in the presence of many hon. Members, who, like myself, are members of the Committee who are sitting to consider the law of settlement—the most difficult branch of political science. We have brought before us most intelligent witnesses from all parts of England—those who have been suggested by various Members as being best acquainted with the subject. Now, whatever may be our differences of opinion, as stated so graphically by the hon. Member for Liskeard, who presides over our labours, at least we are agreed, I think, on one point—that the best and most enlightened witnesses who have been examined by us are four assistant commissioners, whose names, for the purpose of giving them their due honour, I will mention—Messrs. Tufnell, Gulson, Pigot, and Hall. And I defy any one engaged in an investigation like that of the Committee, to receive more assistance from the intelligence, the information, the suggestive faculties, and quickness of apprehension in matters of difficulty from witnesses, than we have received from those gentlemen. And now a few words with respect to the Commission itself. I may be permitted to state the facts of the part I have taken with regard to that Commission. When I succeeded to the office of Home Secretary, in 1841, I found one single Commissioner, acting under the authority delegated to him, exercising the powers of the entire Commission in England and Wales. I confess I thought the Poor Law Commission had sustained a serious loss from the alteration in its composition which had just preceded my accession to office. I was sorry that Sir Frankland Lewis had resigned; and I will not conceal that, in my opinion, the succession of his son had inadequately supplied his place. With respect to the resignation of Mr. Lefevre, I will not say in your presence, Sir, all I felt on that subject; but I admit I did not think any one could be found adequately to supply his place. My prepossession was, that the change of Mr. Lewis for Sir F. Lewis was not a change for the better. I knew Sir F. Lewis; I did not know his son. Under those circumstances I thought it prudent not to seek the acquaintance of Mr. Lewis; I thought it better to watch his conduct, and to communicate with him only officially, without having any personal acquaintance with him. So matters went on for three months. I have said that my prepossessions were not favourable; but I am bound to add, that with all my experience of the public service, I never saw the public business transacted with more punctuality, with more fidelity, and with more discretion, than the business of the Poor Law Office was transacted by Mr. Lewis during the difficult year of 1842, unaided by any assistance. Forming that opinion, I rejoiced in the opportunity of becoming acquainted with Mr. Lewis, and of uniting official with personal intercourse with him. I acted with him for five years, and having had every day better opportunities of becoming acquainted with his integrity, with his remarkable ability, with his high honour and trustworthiness, I became his intimate friend, and, under every circumstance, I shall be ready to defend him and proud to acknowledge that intimate acquaintance. Sir, it is unworthy of a great assembly like this to pick small holes in the proceedings of public men, and to dwell on any minute errors they may discover in the discharge of public business so arduous. The ablest men, under similar circumstances, must commit errors; and I will even say, it is better that with pure motives they should occasionally commit some errors, rather than that business should stand still for want of decision. We know that prompt decision does sometimes lead to error; and I admit that in some of the mistakes which the Commissioners have committed I participated. Indeed, I do not hesitate to admit that some of the things for which they have been most blamed were known to me before they became responsible for them. With respect to Mr. Parker, I was, during the progress of the Andover inquiry, residing in the north, and became acquainted with the proceedings through the medium of the newspapers to which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton has objected. My impression was, that the inquiry was not conducted in a manner conducive to the public good. I wrote to the Commissioners; I advised them not abruptly to close the inquiry, to conduct it to an end as soon as possible; and I told them that the conduct of the gentleman who conducted it was a secondary question, and that when the inquiry was closed, then would be the time for considering the merits and demerits of Mr. Parker. The Commissioners acted upon my advice, and, upon a review of all the facts, they thought it desirable that Mr. Parker should retire. And now a few words more as to the composition of the Commission. The retirement of Mr. Lefevre took place just at the period when the Government of Lord Melbourne were going out; and in the peculiar circumstances of the moment they did not think it expedient to fill up the office. I felt it a point of honour that the appointment I made should be an appointment free from favour and affection. I selected a gentleman whom I had never seen; but looking at the reports of the assistant poor law commissioners, I regarded the labours of Sir Edmund Head as, upon the whole, best entitling him to receive that reward. So far from making a political appointment, that gentleman happened to be, I believe, opposed in politics to the Government of which I was a member; but that did not prevent me from recommending him to my Sovereign to fill the office of Poor Law Commissioner. And, again, the official and private intercourse of five years has convinced me that Sir Edmund Head is well worthy of the confidence of the Government he serves. So much, Sir, with respect to the past composition of the Commission. But there has been a blot. The appointment I have last referred to was made early in the Government of Sir R. Peel, and the vice from that time to the present, in the composition of the Commissioner, has been, that Mr. Chadwick was disappointed because he was not ap- pointed to the vacant Commissionership. From that time to the present, Mr. Chad-wick never worked cordially with the Commissioners. Fortunately he never was one of the Commission — he was Secretary, holding his office during the pleasure of the Board; but he was no member of the Board; and an hon. Member, who represented that Mr. Chadwick anxiously wished for the dissolution of the present Board, would, if he referred to the concluding passage of the 10th Clause of the Bill, find words that would give him comfort. They would satisfy, also, those who objected to Mr. Chadwick. They were to this effect—that, after the passing of the Bill, all the officers of the Commission shall cease to hold their present offices. I wish very shortly to notice one or two points, with reference to the Bill, which have been urged as objections to it. In the first place, I find that exception has been taken to any increase in the number of placemen in this House. I do not say that any increase in this House in the number of persons holding offices, ought not to be regarded with constitutional jealousy by the House of Commons. But it has been fairly stated by a right hon. Gentleman on a former evening, that a considerable diminution has taken place in the number of placemen in this House. There has been one Lord of the Admiralty less within the last ten years. The Lieutenant General of the Ordnance has been disqualified from holding a seat in this House. The office of Treasurer of the Ordnance has been abolished; and the Treasurership of the Navy has been consolidated with the office of Paymaster of the Forces. The Judge of the Admiralty is no longer a Member of this House; and it also happens accidentally that the Secretary to the Master of the Ordnance has not a seat in the present Parliament. Altogether, there are six placemen who have no longer seats in this House who used to sit hero; and I think only one new officer has been appointed with a seat in this House — the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Railway Board (Mr. Strutt). Do I stop here? I may be wrong; but I confess I think that the Reform Act has added so greatly to the democratic influence of this House, and has thrown so much new weight into the popular scale of the Constitution, that some greater power may, without much danger, be safely intrusted on the other hand to the Crown. The ample and efficient control exercised by this House over any branch of the public service, may remove some of our apprehensions; and it is only necessary to show that, for the purposes of the Government, it is necessary to add to the number of placemen in this House, and my scruples on this head, I confess, are satisfied. I then turn to the question, is it on the whole expedient that the responsibility of the Poor Law Commissioners should be direct rather than indirect? Great exception has been taken to the power given them of making general rules. That delegation may be liable to objection in a constitutional point of view; but I do not see how you can dispense with it. At all events, one of two things must be done. If you attempt to enact seriatim and in minute detail all the regulations for the government of the poor in all their varying circumstances, then you must give a dispensing power to the Executive. Or, if you do not give a dispensing power to the Executive, you must delegate the power of making general rules, subject to a prompt and direct responsibility to this House. You must choose between those two courses; and I am decidedly in favour of the last. It is not possible to escape from the necessity of adopting one or other of them. The application of the prohibitory order, with regard to out-door relief in the manufacturing districts, is a most delicate operation when it is remembered that trade is brisk and is suspended almost periodically by fits and starts. There are only 100 unions out of 600 to which this order has been issued. From time to time, as circumstances vary, it is issued; and from time to time, as circumstances change again, it is necessarily and rightly withdrawn. Then, again, with regard to the dietary; consider the circumstances of this country at the present time. A sudden infliction has rendered certain articles of food comparatively dear, and especially dear in certain neighbourhoods. It has in consequence been indispensably necessary to vary the dietaries in different unions. It would be impossible to escape from the necessity of exercising a dispensing power in these cases, if you do not vest in the responsible body the power of making general rules subject to rendering an account for every act to Parliament. As it appears to me, at the present time, and up to this time, Government, with respect to the maintenance and administration of the Poor Law, and of relief generally, has been intimately connected even with the details of the administration, but without the power of command; it has been responsible —indirectly responsible—without the supreme authority of regulation and control. I am quite satisfied the time has arrived when that imperfection must be remedied; and no other mode of effecting this object occurs to me, after much reflection on the subject, better than that which has been proposed by Her Majesty's Government. Upon the whole, taking the analogy of the Board of Control and of the Board of Trade, I am of opinion that the new constitution of the Poor Law Commission as proposed by the Government is a judicious proposal. It is quite in accordance with my opinion after some experience of what the necessity of the case requires. Without at this time going into minute details, I have contented myself with stating general principles, and an outline of the reasons, which induce me, without hesitation, to give my support to the second reading of this Bill.

The House divided on the question that the word "now" stand part of the Question: — Ayes 218; Noes 42: Majority 176.

List of the AYES.
Acland, T. D. Carew, W. H. P.
Adderley, C. B. Cavendish, hon. G. H.
Aldam, W. Chaplin, W. J.
Allix, J. P. Chapman, B.
Anson, hon. Col. Christie, W. D.
Antrobus, E. Chute, W. L. W.
Bailey, J. Clay, Sir W.
Bailey, Col. Clayton, R. R.
Baine, W. Clerk, rt. hn. Sir G.
Barclay, D. Clive, hon. R. H.
Barkly, H. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Baring, rt. hon. F. T. Compton, H. C.
Baring, T. Conyngham, Lord A.
Barrington, Visct. Courtenay, Lord
Beckett, W. Craig, W. G.
Bell, J. Currie, R.
Bellew, R. M. Dawson, hon. T. V.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Deedes, W.
Blackburne, J. I. Denison, J. E.
Bodkin, W. H. Denison, E. B.
Bodkin, J. J. Dennistoun, J.
Botfield, B. Douglas, J. D. S.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.
Bowles, Adm. Duncan, Visct.
Boyd, J. Duncan, G.
Bramston, T. W. Dundas, Adm.
Brotherton, J. Dundas, F.
Brown, W. Dundas, Sir D.
Bruce, C. L. C. East, Sir J. B.
Buller, C. Egerton, W. T.
Buller, E. Egerton, Sir P.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Ellice, rt. hon. E.
Bunbury, W. M. Evans, W.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Ewart, W.
Burroughes, H. N. Fellowes, E.
Busfeild, W. Ferguson, Sir R. A.
Callaghan, D. Forster, M.
Carew, hon. R. S. Fox, C. R.
French, F. Owen, Sir J.
Fuller, A. E. Packe, C. W.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Paget, Col.
Gisborne, T. Pakington, Sir J.
Gladstone, Capt. Palmer, R.
Gore, hon. R. Parker, J.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Patten, J. W.
Granger, T. C. Philips, G. R.
Greene, T. Plumptre, J. P.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Polhill, F.
Grosvenor, Lord R. Powlett, Lord W.
Hale, R. B. Prime, R.
Hallyburton, Ld. J. F. G. Protheroe, E. D.
Halsey, T. P. Pusey, P.
Hamilton, W. J. Rawdon, Col.
Hamilton, Lord C. Repton, G. W. J.
Hanmer, Sir J. Rich, H.
Harcourt, G. G. Roebuck, J. A.
Hatton, Capt. V. Romilly, J.
Hawes, B. Ross, D. R.
Hay, Sir A. L. Russell, Lord J.
Hayter, W. G. Russell, Lord E.
Heathcoat, J. Russell, Lord C. J. F.
Heneage, G. H. W. Russell, J. D. W.
Hervey, Lord A. Rutherfurd, A.
Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J. Sandon, Visct.
Hogg, Sir J. W. Scrope, G. P.
Hollond, R. Seymer, H. K.
Hope, Sir J. Seymour, Lord
Howard, hon. C. W. G. Seymour, Sir H. B.
Howard, hon. E. G. G. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Howard, P. H. Shelburne, Earl of
Hudson, G. Sheridan, R. B.
Hughes, W. B. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Hurst, R. H. Smollett, A.
Ingestre, Visct. Somers, J. P.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Somerset, Lord G.
Jervis, Sir J. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Johnstone, Sir J. Sotheron, T. H. S.
Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Lambton, H. Stanton, W. H.
Layard, Maj. Stuart, Lord J.
Legh, G. C. Stuart, H.
Le Marchant, Sir D. Strickland, Sir G.
Lemon, Sir C. Strutt, rt. hon. E.
Liddell, hon. H. T. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Lindsay, Col. Talbot, C. R. M.
Loch, J. Tancred, H. W.
Lockhart, A. E. Thornely, T.
Lockhart, W. Tollemache, J.
Macaulay, rt. hon. T. B. Tower, C.
Mackenzie, W. F. Towneley, J.
Mainwaring, T. Traill, G.
Martin, C. W. Trotter, J.
Maule, rt. hon. F. Turner, E.
Miles, W. Villiers, hon. C.
Mitcalfe, H. Vivian, J. H.
Moffatt, G. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Monahan, J. H. Warburton, H.
Morgan, O. Ward, H. G.
Morpeth, Visct. Williams, W.
Morris, D. Wilshere, W.
Mostyn, hon. E. M. L. Winnington, Sir T. E.
Napier, Sir C. Wodehouse, E.
Neeld, J. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Neeld, J. Wood, Col. T.
Newry, Visct. Wortley, hon. J. S.
Nicholl, rt. hon. J. Wrightson, W. B.
Norreys, Lord Wyse, T.
Norreys, Sir D. J.
O'Brien, A. S. TELLERS.
Ogle, S. C. H. Hill, Lord M.
Ord, W. Tufnell, H.
List of the NOES.
Arkwright, G. Knight, F. W.
Bankes, G. Law, hon. C. E.
Bentinck, Lord G. Lowther, hon. Col.
Bentinck, Lord H. Manners, Lord J.
Blackstone, W. S. Masterman, J.
Broadwood, H. Muntz, G. F.
Clifton, J. T. Newdegate, C. N.
Copeland, Ald. Pechell, Capt.
Crawford, W. S. Perfect, R.
D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T. Sibthorp, Col.
Disraeli, B. Spooner, R.
Duke, Sir J. Stanley, E.
Duncombe, T. Stuart, J.
Escott, B. Thompson, Ald.
Floyer, J. Trollope, Sir J.
Forester, hon. G. C. W. Verner, Sir W.
Frewen, C. H. Wakley, T.
Gardner, J. D. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Hall, Sir B. Yorke, H. R.
Henley, J. W.
Hildyard, T. B. T. TELLERS.
Hill, Lord E. Ferrand, W. B.
Humphery, Ald. Borthwick, P.

Bill read a second time.