The Bishop of Exeter
had to present to their Lordships a petition on a very important subject, to which he requested their Lordships' particular attention, not only on account of its importance, but also because it was of a very delicate nature, and might therefore, perhaps, create some excitement in the House. He should deal with the subject in a very temperate manner, and he must say, that the petitioners had conducted themselves with much moderation. The petitioners were the guardians of the poor of the Dudley Union, and they prayed their Lordships to protect them against the extraordinary powers which were intrusted to the Poor-law Commissioners under the new act, and prayed that there might be given to them, and to all other boards of guardians, the liberty to provide for their poor in such a manner as they in their discretion might think fit. The events out of which the 742 petition arose were these:—Some time ago a dietary table was agreed to for the Dudley Union, which from the first gave great dissatisfaction to many of the petitioners, they being perfectly aware that, from the nature of the employment around Dudley, it was impossible that those who were temporarily compelled to resort to the workhouse, in consequence of a cessation of employment, would be able to resume their severe labour after having been dieted according to the proposed table. They felt, indeed, that the diet prescribed by the Commissioners was not sufficient adequately to sustain human beings. It happened, that, a short time afterwards, the guardians became acquainted with the dietary of the city of London union; and they found that dietary so much more considerable than the dietary prescribed for the Dudley Union, that they, without hesitation adopted it. They announced their resolution to the Commissioners, who, in consequence checked and rebuked them for having adopted that diet table without having communicated with them in the first instance before they took such a step; telling them, at the same time, that the London table had only been allowed for a short period, and under particular circumstances. The guardians, however, still persisted in adhering to the alteration, declaring that they would endeavour to secure to the poor a more fitting diet than that proposed by the Commissioners. Being aware, from their local knowledge, that the diet table sanctioned by the Commissioners did not afford a proper support for the inmates of their workhouse, they persevered in giving to their paupers the diet allowed in the city of London union. In answer, the Commissioners told them that the master and matron of the workhouse had no right to act in disobedience to their positive orders, even though they had the sanction of the board of guardians, and that if they persisted, such measures would be adopted as would show them, that even though the master and matron pleaded the orders of the guardians, it would not protect them, and they should be made to answer for their disobedience. That naturally called forth some strong observations on the part of the guardians. They stated, that so far from the fact being that there were circumstances in the London district which required a more liberal dietary there 743 —the fact was, that the inmates of the workhouse at Dudley were persons who had been from their youth inured to hard labour at the forge or in the mine, and accustomed to that substantial diet which was necessary to keep up their strength for such employment. The guardians, therefore, considered it to be their duty to God and to their fellow-men not to relax in their exertions, but to endeavour, by every means in their power, to ensure for their poor and unfortunate neighbours, who were obliged, from want of work, to seek refuge in the poorhouse, a sufficient allowance of food. When the present petition was drawn up, no answer had been received from the Commissioners, but since that, an Assistant-Commissioner had been sent down to Dudley, and something had been done, but not satisfactory to the guardians. Their Lordships were now called on to consider the fitness of the diet table of the Dudley union to keep up and preserve the strength of men who, when in employment, were obliged to labour at the forge. The right rev. Prelate then read as follows:—
DUDLEY UNION DIET TABLE FOR ABLE-BODIED MALE PAUPERS.
"On three days of every week—21oz. of bread, 3½oz. cheese, and 1½ pint of gruel, per diem.
"On one other day—20oz. of bread, 1½oz. of cheese, 1½ pint of soup, and 1½ pint of gruel.
"On two other days—5oz. of cooked meat, 1lb. of potatoes or other vegetables, 14oz. of bread, 1½oz. of cheese, and 1½ pint of gruel.
"On one other day—4oz. of bacon, 1lb. of potatoes or other vegetables, 14oz. of bread, 1½oz. of cheese, and 1½ pint of gruel."
Let their Lordships contrast this with
"THE CITY OF LONDON UNION DIET TABLE FOR MALE ADULTS.
"On three days in the week, daily 7oz. of cooked meat, beef or mutton, ¾lb. of vegetables, 1lb. of bread, 2oz. of cheese, ½ pint of milk porridge, a pint of beer at dinner and a pint at supper.
"On three other days (instead of meat), 1½ pint of soup (made on a good allowance of materials), and a single pint of beer. Other articles (except vegetables) the same as on the three former.
"On remaining day, instead of meat or soup, 1lb. of suet pudding; or boiled rice, with milk and sugar; a pint of beer at dinner and a pint at supper. Other articles the same as the last mentioned three days."
Now he would ask, was the allowance apportioned in the former dietary sufficient 744 to support and sustain the vigour of men who were called upon to perform the most laborious and toilsome work? He conceived it to be his duty, before he mentioned this case, to give full notice of his intentions to the Commissioners, and also to consult one of the most eminent physicians in the country, who had been accustomed to attend the largest hospitals and institutions intended for the benefit of the poor, and he, said the right rev. Prelate, on my communicating to him the two diet tables, tells me, that, in his judgment, the one prescribed for the Dudley union is not sufficient to preserve able-bodied paupers in health, or to prevent them from falling into actual disease, much less to keep them in a condition to resume their ordinary work. He particularly thinks, that the entire exclusion of beer from the diet of this class of persons is highly objectionable. The London union diet table appears to him sufficient, but not too great. [Lord Brougham: Name.] He did not suppose that the physician would object to his name being mentioned; but, for the present, he would, on his own responsibility, forbear to bring that gentleman's name forward. Now he would lay the convalescent dietary of the St. George's Hospital before their Lordships, and they could contrast it with the two former:—
"DIET TABLE.—ST. GEORGE'S HOSPITAL. ORDINARY DIET.
"Breakfast, 1 pint of tea, ¼ of a pint of milk.
"Dinner, 6 ounces of meat roasted (weighed with the bone before it is dressed), and ½lb. of potatoes. (This is only half the meat allowed for extra diet.)
"Supper 1 pint of gruel, and ¼ of a pint of milk.
"12 ounces of bread, and 1 pint of beer daily."
Under these circumstances, the Guardians of the Dudley Union prayed their Lordships to make such an alteration in the law as would enable them to do what they thought their duty to God and their duty to man required, in giving to the inmates of their workhouse a wholesome and sufficient dietary. They say—Your petitioners, therefore, consider themselves imperatively called upon, in discharge of their duty to those of whose interests they are the lawfully appointed guardians, to petition your right honourable House; and they do implore your right honourable House to make such alteration 745 in the present law as may enable them to fulfil the trust which is reposed in them in a way satisfactory to their consciences, and agreeable to the dictates of religion and humanity; and so to abrogate or abridge the extraordinary powers vested in the Poor-law Commissioners as to give to the different boards of guardians throughout the kingdom, who, living amongst the people, are unquestionably the best judges of their wants, liberty to provide for the poor of their respective districts in such manner as they may consider in their discretion to be fit and proper.The petition was signed by twenty-eight guardians. The names of three ex officio guardians were appended to it; but the names of two, appointed by the Commissioners, did not appear.
would not enter upon this question at any length at that moment; but as one who had introduced the Bill into that House, and had recommended it to their Lordships, he thought it necessary to say a few words. He had no right to complain either of the wording of the petition or of the manner in which it had been brought forward. The right rev. Prelate had most accurately stated, that he brought it forward in as temperate a manner as he could, consistently with his desire of doing his duty to the subject. He would then neither enter into the right rev. Prelate's statement nor into the prayer of the petition; but he would be most ready to meet the right rev. Prelate when the discussion came regularly before the House, if he should then entertain the same opinions which he now held, or the noble Earl opposite if he should also retain his opinions ["Hear, hear!" from Earl Stanhope.] The noble Earl was quite right in that cheer. The opinions which he now held on that subject he was likely to retain till the fit time for discussion, when he should be both ready and anxious to enter upon this great question, for the more inquiry and discussion took place the more satisfactory would be the result to the friends and supporters of the Act. He now only entered his protest against the measure being condemned upon such statements as the present, but he could not sit down without stating his total dissent from what had been assumed and only assumed, because it had never been argued, and still less proved, that extraordinary and unprecedented powers were given to the Central Board of Commissioners or to the Guardians. He denied that any one power or any one authority 746 had been conferred on any of the newly-constituted authorities which were not in existence under the old law, since the time of Elizabeth, with this material difference only, that previously these powers existed and were exercised irresponsibly, unsatisfactorily, irregularly, and in the dark.
§ Viscount Melbourne
bore witness to the temperate manner in which the right rev. Prelate had brought forward this subject, and he did hope and trust that, considering the nature of the subject—considering the feelings of the classes of persons most interested—and considering, also, the excitement which unfortunately existed, the same temperate manner would be followed in any future discussions. He understood that, with regard to the complaints of the Dudley Board of Guardians, the dietary table was accepted by the guardians out of two or three submitted to them by the Poor-law Commissioners, and which had been collected from those parishes which appeared, before the passing of the Poor-law Act, to have paid the greatest attention to the subject. That dietary was acted upon till the Board of Guardians read in The Times newspaper the dietary used in the city of London Union, when they desired to adopt it. To this the Poor-law Commissioners, as he thought justly, objected; they stated that the London dietary was only temporary, that it had not been sanctioned by them, and that it was only adopted under the particular circumstances of the London Union. The paupers in London were not yet collected into union workhouses; they were provided for by contractors, and the Commissioners had not yet assumed the guidance of the workhouses; the Commissioners did not approve of the dietary table in use; it was only temporarily in force; it was not intended to be permanent; and being thought by the Commissioners to be too large, it had not received their support or approbation. This was the simple case. With respect to the Dudley dietary table itself, he would not then enter into a discussion on its sufficiency or insufficiency; but he must say that he did not think that the opinions of medical men on this subject were always the best which could be attended to, for this was a dietary for persons in health, and medical men were more conversant with that for persons who were sick; even in that case, however, he knew that the 747 opinions of medical men varied exceedingly. The best test, undoubtedly, was the test of experience—the experience which had shown how different classes and large bodies of men in the navy and other services had been found to have been kept in full health and strength. He had only to state, in conclusion, that as a full opportunity would occur of discussing the subject, he hoped that noble Lords would not form a premature opinion upon it.
The Earl of Winchilsea
said, that as he had supported the measure for the amendment of the Poor-laws, he hoped to be permitted to make a very few observations on this incidental conversation. Having attended very closely to the operation of the law since it had come into force, he must say, that he held it to be most decidedly advisable that the regulations of the union workhouses should be wholly under the control of the Boards of Guardians themselves. Those boards must necessarily be more conversant with the wants and the habits of those of their neighbours who by their distresses were compelled to take refuge in these workhouses, and he thought from experience that it would be most advisable to leave the diet and other regulations to those boards without the exercise of any control by the Poor-law Commissioners. He was also of opinion that some decided alteration must take place in the present law with respect to out-door relief. It had been laid down by several boards of guardians that no person should be entitled to relief except he came into the workhouse. He thought the object of the new law was to draw a distinction between the honest and the industrious, and the idle, the dissolute, and the profligate, and to the former class he had understood out-door relief was to be afforded in cases of urgent necessity. During the late severe frost in the winter a great portion of the labouring population in Kent, many of them with large families, were thrown out of employment, and having only their labour to support them, were compelled to seek for parochial relief; and it did seem to him to be a hard case to tell an honest hard-working man, who, without any fault of his own, but owing to the state of the weather, or other causes, had fallen into temporary distress, that he must sell off his goods and come into the workhouse, "because," say the guardians, "we have no power to grant you out-door relief." It was a case of 748 urgent necessity when by a frost such as had not been seen in Kent for the last ten or fifteen years, men were deprived of employment and the means of support for themselves and their families, and such a case should receive temporary relief. He knew it might be answered that such a man could be assisted by a temporary loan, but a man to whom a loan was offered had replied, "It is of no use to grant me a loan, for in the very best employment I can only earn sufficient to pay my way before me, and therefore I never can repay it." Upon these and one or two other points he should, on a fitting occasion, offer his opinion on the law as requiring alteration. With respect to the dietary, he repeated that it ought to be left to the guardians alone, and, in his judgment, they ought also to have power to grant out-door relief in cases of urgent necessity.
The Earl of Radnor
differed altogether from his noble Friend who had just sat down, both on the subject of out-door relief and of the dietary. As to the outdoor relief, he should not occupy any portion of their Lordships' time, because it was a point not brought under consideration by this petition; but with respect to the dietary, he would observe that the prayer of this petition was totally inconsistent with the object of the Poor-law Amendment Act. That object was to produce uniformity throughout the country, and where would be the uniformity if every board of guardians were to be allowed to choose the dietary of their own workhouses? It was worthy of observation, as being somewhat curious, that though the guardians complained of the dietary table, the paupers themselves made no complaint, and if he were not misinformed, the paupers in the workhouse, when asked the question, had, with one exception only, all expressed themselves perfectly satisfied with it. If that was so, then, of what did this board of guardians at Dudley complain? They had not stated any inconvenience or mischief that had arisen from the dietary table; the right rev. Prelate had himself suggested no illness as having arisen from this dietary; but the petitioners in a speculative mood said, that the diet was not sufficient, and applied to Parliament that the dietary of the city of London might be applied to Dudley. There was, however, a great difference between the two cases. In the 749 country, as everybody knew, the paupers were supplied with the best food, supplied by contract under special provisions, while in London the paupers were farmed out, as it was called, and there was not the same security that the best materials were there provided; and again, in matters of weight, in the one case the turn of the scale would be given in favour of the farmer, while on the other hand the turn of the scale with the best materials would be in favour of the paupers. The circumstances of the two cases, therefore, were totally and essentially different. But the right rev. Prelate who had presented this petition had rested his claims for a change upon the circumstance that the labourers in Dudley, when employed, were engaged at very hard work, and that therefore it was necessary to keep up their strength when out of employ, and that for this purpose the dietary tables sent by the Commissioners were insufficient. Now, the best way to arrive at an opinion on that subject would be to compare the food which an able-bodied labourer there got when in employ, and worked upon, with that furnished to him when in the workhouse. On that head he had received some information. He had a calculation of the expense of maintaining, not, certainly, a single able-bodied labourer, but of such a man and his family out of the workhouse. From that calculation it appeared that the family of an agricultural labourer in Berkshire would subsist on 114 ounces of solid food per week, while a similar family in the workhouse at Dudley would get 137 ounces of solid food per week, being an addition of nearly twenty-six ounces. From another statement he had of the allowance for an agricultural labourer, his wife, and six children, out of the house, he found the difference between him and a labouring man and his family in the Dudley workhouse was an increase of allowance in the workhouse of 31lb. 11½oz. of solid food per week. It was true that in the matter of bread in the dietary table at Dudley there was a decrease of 4lb. 7oz.; of bacon a decrease of 7oz.; but in beef there was an increase of 5lb., and of potatoes 24lb. per week; and on the whole the difference was an increase in favour of the persons in the Dudley workhouse of 31lb. 11½oz. per week. It was not surprising, then, though these guardians complained of the dietary table, that the paupers themselves 750 did not complain. The right rev. Prelate spoke of the dietary table as if the Commissioners had drawn them up, and had adopted the smallest quantity of food that was necessary to keep body and soul together. The manner, however, in which he understood the Poor-law Commissioners had adopted this dietary table was this—they took three or four workhouses which had been subsisting previous to the passing of the Poor-law Amendment Act, where the management had been most correct, and the health of the inmates the most perfect; from those workhouses they selected as many dietary tables, and sent them round to the different unions, leaving it to the guardians of those unions to choose out of those three or four schemes, the one which they most preferred. These dietary tables were not, then, a fanciful project drawn up by the Commissioners to starve the poor, but had been all sanctioned by experience, and more than that, this very Dudley dietary table had been adopted by the Assistant-Commissioner from the dietary of the workhouse of Sedgley, within a short distance from Dudley with an addition of a certain quantity of meat. Under these circumstances it did certainly seem to him that the complaint was utterly groundless. But the right rev. Prelate had observed, that the labour of the population of Dudley was of a peculiar kind, and that it was essential to keep them in health. He certainly had not the means at present of comparing the diet of a man in the workhouse with the diet of a man employed in full labour at Dudley, but he was prepared with a comparison between the diet a man received in the Dudley workhouse and that of certain persons who had been the subjects of severe trials of uncommon labour, and who had undergone sufferings of no ordinary kind. He alluded to Captain Parry and his crew when at the North Pole. They received and consumed a less amount of solid food each man by twenty-three ounces, besides four pounds of potatoes, than these paupers were receiving and consuming in the Dudley workhouse; nay, according to the dietary table there, the female paupers each received twenty per cent. more solid food than had been sufficient for Captain Parry and his men on the expedition to the North Pole. On the whole he submitted that this complaint against the dietary tables at Dudley was wholly and entirely groundless.
The Marquess of Salisbury
said, that in all his communications with the Poor-law Commissioners he had found a perfect readiness on the part of those gentlemen to attend to any representations, and he had ever found them ready, when a satisfactory case for a relaxation of their rules was presented to them, to concur in that relaxation. He had had numerous communications with the Commissioners, and had always found, in them the greatest disposition to soften all those asperities which were incident to a new system of law. In consequence of a statement made by a noble friend on a former evening, he had informed himself as to whether any applications had been made to the Commissioners for a relaxation of their rules with reference to out-door relief, and he had ascertained that from the county of Kent seven such applications had been made to the Poor-law Commissioners in consequence of the distress which the continuance of the late extraordinary weather had created, and that in every one of those seven instances the relaxation had been granted. Under such circumstances he thought it would be better to leave the power of relaxation in the hands of the Board of Commissioners, who were responsible to the public, than to place the control in the hands of the guardians, and he believed he was borne out in that opinion by the sentiments which pervaded the boards of guardians generally throughout the kingdom—namely, that they would rather fall back upon the Commissioners than have the responsibility of disturbing the whole system placed in their hands.
The Earl of Winchilsea
, notwithstanding what had fallen from the noble Marquess, was still of opinion that the guardians should have power to grant relief in such cases of urgent necessity as he had alluded to, without having to come to the board of Commissioners in London to be enabled to do so.
The Marquess of Salisbury
thought, the boards of guardians would be grossly negligent in their duties if in cases of urgent necessity they did not take upon themselves to relieve paupers suffering under such circumstances, and to apply afterwards to the Commissioners for their sanction to such a relaxation of their rules.
§ Earl Stanhope
, on the present occasion, would confine his remarks to one or two of the points urged in the petition pre- 752 sented by the right rev. Prelate. But first he would allude to what had fallen from a noble Lord a few evenings back with reference to the discussions on this question in the country. Did his noble Friend mean to say that no appeal should be made on behalf of the oppressed and injured people of England—not to rouse them to resistance of the law, or to acts of violence and outrage, but did the noble Lord think that in speaking of the system of flagrant injustice, of the most intolerable oppression which ever yet afflicted any country on the face of the earth, the very mention of which would make their ancestors turn with horror and indignation in their graves, the sentiments and language ought not to be commensurate with the extent of the evils which that system had generated? The noble and learned Lord, who he regretted had now left the House, had said that the powers conferred by the Poor-law Amendment Act upon the three Commissioners did not vary from the powers existing in other bodies under the former law. Now, it would be very inconvenient to anticipate the motion which he proposed to submit on Thursday next, or to enter then into the powers vested in the three Commissioners—the three despots established at Somerset-house under an Act of Parliament. He wished to confine the discussion on Thursday simply to the operation of this bill, and to make the legality of those persons form the subject of a separate motion as soon as possible after the Easter recess; but he defied the noble and learned Lord to state any other instance in the history of the country in which any man, or body of men were empowered by law to frame rules, orders, and regulations, having the force and effect of an Act of Parliament. The Commissioners were not responsible to the Parliament or the Government; their rules had never been brought under the sanction of the Government or Parliament, they having acted in such a way as to evade the necessity of bringing their rules under the inspection of Parliament. The Act stated that any rules applied to more than one union were to be general, and to be submitted by the Secretary of State to Parliament for its approbation; but they had not made their rules in such a manner as to bring them within the Act. Notwithstanding the eulogistic manner in which the noble Earl had spoken of 753 the diet of the union workhouses, which were, in fact, so many prisons, and prisons of the worst description, he must repeat that the diet was inferior in all respects to that of any common gaol in the kingdom. The noble Earl opposite seemed to know nothing—[a laugh]—he should be allowed, he hoped, to finish the sentence—the noble Earl seemed to know nothing of that monstrous instance of cruelty and oppression which had been developed in the Bridgewater Union. He did not think the noble Earl had made himself acquainted with the case as developed by that mass of evidence produced by Mr. John Bowen. [The Earl of Radnor: I know something about it.] By that evidence it was proved to the satisfaction of any reasonable and impartial man that the inmates of that workhouse had perished of disease brought on by being drenched with water gruel. Those poor persons, who had been made the victims of a cruel system, had committed no offence, but they were guilty of poverty, and therefore they were put on a water gruel diet which killed them. The noble Earl had talked about the practical working of this measure, and then he quoted in a triumphant manner the case of Captain Parry and his crew at the North Pole. That was an extreme case indeed. Captain Parry knew that he had a limited stock of provisions, and therefore, that unless he diminished the allowance to his crew in time, having no prospect of an increase, and not knowing when a fresh supply might be obtained, they were likely to be reduced to all the horrors of actual starvation. As to the notion of the noble Earl that these complaints were unfounded, because the paupers themselves had not complained, he should like to know what channel for complaint was open to them? He wished to know whether they were not under that state of oppression and coercion that they would be punished for being disorderly and insubordinate if they complained? If the paupers were not afraid of being punished, he was sure that innumerable complaints would have been heard by this time. He had conversed with some of the unfortunate inmates of union workhouses, and they had told him—to use their own words—they were "near being starved to death." It was mentioned by him incidentally, but it was not a minor point, that the strength of the labourers was much reduced by the diet in the 754 union workhouses. That was an important fact, considering the labourers themselves and the public at large. But there was something still worse, that these poor people should be treated recklessly by those who were called guardians, but who were, in fact, mere tools and instruments in the hands of the three Commissioners in London, having no power voluntarily to redress their wrongs or to mitigate their sufferings. He was in no way prepared for this discussion, not having been apprised of the intention of the right rev. Prelate, otherwise he should have brought evidence to prove to the noble Earl that he was quite mistaken as to what he had stated with regard to the dietary table. What the noble Earl had stated, however, did not prove that the pauper in the workhouse was too well fed, but that the labourer out of the workhouse was too ill fed. The observations of the noble Earl were well-answered, too, by the declarations of the Commissioners themselves, who said, that the pauper in the workhouse should not be better fed than the labourer out of it.
§ The Duke of Richmond
would not have risen on the present occasion if the noble Earl who had just sat down had not stated that paupers in workhouses were not permitted to make complaints to the guardians. [Earl Stanhope: Such is the case generally speaking.] Did the noble Earl know where that was the case? Had he, since the House last met, visited any union workhouse and inquired if any person had ever been punished for making any complaint? He conceived that his noble Friend cast a gross libel, if he would permit him to use that word, but not offensively to him, upon the guardians, when he said that they did anything so unconstitutional and so illegal. Did he know who the guardians were?—that they were persons elected by a majority of their fellow parishioners, in many instances from the middle classes of, the people of this country? Did he, then, wish to charge them with punishing a man for making a complaint? He (the Duke of Richmond) had visited several workhouses, and was in the habit, when in the country, of visiting one workhouse in an union where he was a guardian, twice a-week, and he always asked every individual whether he had any complaint to make. Did his noble Friend mean to say that a man would be punished for making a 755 complaint after this? If the guardians wished to punish him, how could they do it? They had not the power to do it. When a complaint was made, the whole board listened to it, and investigated it. His noble Friend, he believed, did not wish to exaggerate; for his noble Friend thought he had a very good case, though that was not his opinion. Let his noble Friend, then, put his case without straining it further than justice and propriety would warrant. He would ask the noble Earl and those persons with whom he was now connected, who were paid to go about the country to distribute handbills calling on the labourers and the people generally not o obey this law—he would ask those numerous travelling agents, whether they knew any instance of a man being punished for making a complaint to a board of guardians? As there would be a sufficient opportunity hereafter to discuss other points which had been touched upon, he would pass on to remark, that he was certainly of opinion that the workhouse relief ought not to be better than the sustenance and living which men could get by their labour out of the workhouse; and he thought it would be much better if wages could be raised to an amount which would enable the labourer to live and bring up his family in a better way than in some cases it was possible at present. But he did not know what Legislative enactments could be passed to produce that effect. He supposed his noble Friend was not prepared to propose a new rate of wages; he supposed that was a matter which he would leave to the employers of the labourers. He knew that in many parts of the country wages had got up as much as could be expected, and as much as they would get up. [Earl Stanhope.—They are lower.] His noble Friend might say they were lower, but he was quite certain that his noble Friend would have much difficulty in proving that in some instances. When, however, the noble Earl brought the whole case before the House, that would be the time to discuss it at length. He only hoped the noble Earl would not overstate the question so much as to say that paupers dare not make a complaint. That was a proof that his noble Friend had never acted as a guardian, because every one who had filled that office knew that paupers did bring complaints under their consideration.
§ Earl Stanhope
had not attended the 756 meetings of guardians. Heaven forbid that he should! He would not by his presence recognise the illegal and unconstitutional power of the Poor-law Commissioners. He would be no party to their proceedings. As to what the noble Duke had said with regard to complaints, he begged to inform him that one of the most respectable and humane guardians of that union in which he (Earl Stanhope) resided, was so disgusted with the conduct of the other guardians, and with the cruelty and inhumanity of the law, that he refused any longer to act. He would on a future occasion furnish the noble Duke and the House with more facts, but he would just mention the case of a family who from the refusal of any relief in addition to the scanty earnings of a labouring man were now perishing by disease, produced, as an eminent physician well known to the noble Lord had assured him, by cold and hunger. Such facts must speak trumpet-tongued to the people of this country. With respect to what the noble Duke had said about his being in correspondence with persons who were calling on the people to resist the Poor-law Amendment Act, he would say that he had the happiness and honour to be in frequent and almost daily communication with a great number of persons who were engaged zealously and patriotically in resisting or opposing, but by legal and constitutional means, that most diabolical statute; but he denied, and he believed it could not have taken place without coming to his knowledge, that any handbills had been carried about calling on the people, or any portion of the people, of this country, to a violent and forcible resistance to the law. No man felt, or could feel, a greater detestation of that law than he did, but he had often solemnly conjured the people of this country, in letters, in publications, and in speeches, to persevere as long as they could in a legal and constitutional mode of proceeding to procure the alteration of this illegal and unconstitutional measure.
The Bishop of Exeter
wished to make a few observations, and he would strictly confine them to what had fallen from the noble Earl (the Earl of Radnor) who had thought fit to say, what he believed no other person in that House would say—that the complaint on the part of the petitioners was groundless. What the noble Earl had said with regard to him was a matter of perfect indifference; but 757 he was bound to say for the guardians from whom the petition came, that if ever there was a case which less than another deserved such a censure, it was that which they had brought forward. They stated that the diet table which they had put aside for the adoption of the London table was not sufficient for the due sustenance of the very laborious persons for whom it was intended. He would call to the recollection of their Lordships one point, that those persons, who were exposed to the heat of forges, and who underwent labour and fatigue of necessity much greater than any endured by agricultural labourers, were to be allowed by that diet table for half the week 1¼lb. of bread, less than a quarter of a pound of cheese, and one pint and a half of gruel per day. Would the noble Earl, or any human being, say in the face of that statement, that those honourable men, the guardians of the Dudley Union, had made a groundless and frivolous complaint, because they thought that such a dietary was unequal to the proper sustenance of the poor committed to their charge? What! was that the scale of living to be laid down for those persons, and were they then to be told by the noble Earl, who was revelling in wealth, well employed, he sincerely believed—who enjoyed great riches, dispensed to those about him, he sincerely believed, with much kindness and liberality, and who was possessed of one of those noble fortunes which had descended from one of the ancient aristocracy of England—were they to be told by such a man, forsooth, that this was a groundless complaint? Were they to be told, that labouring men, who were accustomed to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, in more than the ordinary sense, working and toiling as they did, before heat issuing from iron furnaces, a task which none of their Lordships, not even the strongest of them, would be able to endure for a single hour, ought only to have such a sustenance given to them as would neither support them when in health, nor preserve their health until the season of employment returned, and that to complain that no better sustenance was afforded to them was a groundless complaint? Was it to be said that less than a quarter of a pound of cheese per day was sufficient to keep up the strength of labouring men such as he had described? The noble Earl had en- 758 deavoured to show that the complaint was groundless, because the guardians had taken the means of redress into their own hands, and adopted the diet table permitted to be used in the city of London. The noble Earl had also referred to the dietary in the neighbouring workhouse of Sedgley, but that place was occupied, he believed, only by the aged and the infirm; and in that case he could well understand that a spare diet might have been sufficient. But he ventured to say, that it was impossible in the other case that human existence could be sustained in a robust and healthy condition by such a diet, and he appealed to common sense, whether the petitioners who condemned the diet table were wrong or not; and he asked, whether it were not a dietary inconsistent with the health and strength which, in the present case, ought to be kept up? The petition had been put into his hands because he was rather peculiarly connected with the district whence the petition came, having the honour to be a trustee of the greatest property in that neighbourhood, on which the greatest number of workmen were employed; and he was proud to have the confidence of the petitioners, who had called upon him to bring this complaint forward. The labour of the coal miners was not greater than that performed by the people spoken of in the petition. Any noble Lord who was acquainted with Durham must know that nothing could enable the men to go through their labour in the coal mines, except the very generous diet upon which they lived, feeding as they did, and were obliged to feed, upon the very hest meat and food that the markets could procure.
The Earl of Radnor
admitted, that the men in question might require a generous diet while at work, but he submitted to any man of common sense whether when they were not at work such a diet would be necessary, and whether it were not likely to produce illness, and fevers, and totally to disqualify them from labour.
§ Petition laid on the table.