HL Deb 15 May 1838 vol 42 cc1261-3
Earl Stanhope

As the petitions which were presented in favour of the Poor-law bill by the noble Earl (Earl of Radnor) were "few and far between," he felt bound to state, for the noble Earl's information, that he held in his hand a petition from a board of guardians also, which was entitled to the noble Earl's respectful consideration. It was from the guardians of Huddersfield, who expressed in strong terms their con- demnation of the present bill, and their entire satisfaction with the old system. The noble Duke on the cross-bench, who had last night expressed himself so strongly in favour of a number of different signatures being affixed to petitions, would find what must be to him a most agreeable variety in the present case. The name of Gurney, which occurred so frequently in the petitions which he had presented last night, was as common as that of Smith in other parts of the country, with respect to the latter of which names Lord Thurlow once said, that it was no name, but an appellation common to the whole human race.

The Duke of Richmond

said, that after having been appealed to by the noble Lord, he was quite willing to accede to the petitioners the credit of being most respectable men, though his noble Friend had often spoken of the members of boards of guardians as if they were not so. It was perfectly true, as stated by his noble Friend, that Gurney was a common name in Suffolk; but the objection which he had urged last night to the petition of his noble Friend was not that individuals bearing that name had signed the petition, but that the vice-chairman of his noble Friend's Anti-Poor-law Association, who had sworn, that he was getting up information on the subject through various parts of the country, and who was well aware of the importance of getting up signatures, could not prevail on the labourers of the parish from which it purported to be sent to sign the petition, and he therefore thought himself justified in subscribing a number of names for them. It could not, therefore, be said to be the petition of that parish; and the only reason why he had opposed it was, that if the petitions were received which had not been signed in the usual way, the weight attached to this sacred right of the people must be diminished.

The Earl of Radnor

observed, that the petition which the noble Earl (Earl Stanhope) had presented came from a board of guardians who had not yet witnessed the good effects of the bill, whereas the petition which he had laid before them came from a district where the bill had been two years in operation.

Earl Stanhope

The petitioners to whose statements he had called the attention of their lordships expressed themselves entirely satisfied with the present administration of the old system. With respect to what had fallen from the noble Duke as to the guardians, he seemed to forget entirely that the overseers and church-wardens were selected from the middle classes, and that the poor were much more fairly and fully represented in the vestry than by the board of guardians. As to the individual to whom the noble Duke had alluded, it was true, that he was the vice-chairman of an agricultural society, but he did not fill that office in the Anti-Poor-Law association. With respect to the petition which he had presented from Suffolk, it might be irregular, that parties unable to write their name should have them affixed to a petition by another; but he denied that any name was affixed to the petition without the distinct authority of the party who bore it.

The petition laid on the table.

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