The Bishop of Exeter
rose and said,—My Lords, as our hours are becoming important to us, as, in fact, our hours are numbered, for we are not to sit beyond this week for purposes of business, and, as three valuable hours can be employed in the manner they have been employed this evening, it is perfectly certain your Lordships will agree with me that we cannot, with any degree of decency, go into Committee on this Bill. It is preposterous—absolutely preposterous to think of doing so. Your Lordships will recollect the reasons which the noble Lord near me (Lord Wharncliffe) gave last night for now proceeding rapidly with the consideration of this Bill; and, I confess, it struck me as being the most extraordinary reason that was ever suggested by any Minister to any House of Parliament. The noble Lord said, that as a great quantity of time had been taken up by the House of Commons in the discussion of this Bill, your Lordships were to have no time at all to consider it. I took down the noble Baron's words at the time he uttered them, but I will not now taunt him with what took place last night. Let us look at this question simpliciter. The Bill which is now to be gallopped through the House was introduced into the House of Commons on the 10th of February, and six long months have now passed during which that House of Parliament has thought fit to deliberate upon it. Why, my Lords, it is impossible that this House can agree to it in two days: two days, did I say?—we are confined to this night. The Motion which I shall therefore make is, that we go into Committee on the Bill this day six months. The noble Lord the President of the Council said that the Irish Registration Bill was not a pressing measure, and that it was a reason why it should be thrown overboard. Well, then, I entreat your Lordships to consider whether the passing of this Poor Law Amendment Bill is a pressing case. There has been a long time occupied in its consideration, as it is an experimental measure. We ought also to recollect that the present Poor Law Amendment Act was a 1812 great experiment; we were told that the powers given to the Commissioners were to continue only for a few years, and that, whether we should continue those powers was to depend on the experience of the working of the measure. Now, I ask, whether six months' more experience will not be of some utility? And I think that the postponement of this Bill falls admirably within the suggestion of the noble Baron. The noble Baron said the other House did not take particular pleasure to please your Lordships by the reception which they gave to the measures which your Lordships sent down to them, and in consequence of that your Lordships will have nothing to do at the commencement of the next Session. Now, then, I think an opportunity is here offered of taking up this Bill, as it has been brought to us from the Commons, and considering it at the beginning of the next Session. We shall then have something to do as soon as we assemble, and we shall have ample time to consider its provisions and to discuss its details. There was an expression which fell from a noble Lord opposite this evening that caused me great pain when I heard it. He told us that this House was used as the instrument of registering the decisions of the other House on matters of the greatest importance; and I should say, my Lords, that you would indeed be that instrument if you proceed to pass this Bill through the House, which does not at present contain one-twentieth part of its Members, for it is a Bill which, considering its importance, requires that your Lordships should bestow your most earnest attention upon it. Last night we were told that this House was peculiarly fit to consider this Bill, and it was truly said and urged as a reason for that remark that no fewer than eighty-three chairmen of Boards of Guardians were Members of this House; and, therefore, having the assistance of such a body of chairmen of Unions, we were peculiarly fit to consider this measure. I do not know whether any of your Lordships at present sitting in the House enjoy that very useful character of Chairman of a Poor Law Union. [Here we understood it to be intimated to the right rev. Prelate that some of the noble Lords present, three, we believe, were chairmen of Unions.] Well, I hope that those noble Lords will feel with me the great necessity of waiting until they can have the assistance of the other eighty noble chairmen of Boards of Guardians. I think that it is of great importance that 1813 we should have the assistance which may naturally be expected from the experience of those noble Lords who have presided over Boards of Guardians. It was also essentially necessary that the other Members of this House, who are not chairmen of Boards of Guardians, should turn their attention to this subject, for the experience of noble Chairmen of Boards of Guardians is very likely to deceive the House. When noble Dukes and noble Earls undertake (and I think that they are right in so doing) these posts of usefulness in this country,—when they mix with the yeomanry and gentlemen of the country in carrying into effect a measure like the present, they have, as they ought to have, great influence; and when one of your Lordships happens to be Chairman of a Board of Guardians it may be expected that that Board will conduct itself humanely, and that it will be desirous of doing everything to carry the law into execution usefully, charitably, and humanely. But while the experience of such noble Lords as are connected with Boards of Guardians goes so much in favour of those Boards with which they are acquainted, the experience of others brings us to a very opposite conclusion. I am not myself connected with any Board of Guardians, but in my immediate neighbourhood, it is notorious that there is a Board of Guardians which has proceeded in a tone of so much harshness to the poor, and of so little consideration for the feelings of those with whom it had to deal, that all the ex officio Guardians have abstained from attending its meetings, and one of these ex officio Guardians is a most distinguished county Member. Therefore, the representations made to your Lordships by the eighty-three noble chairmen of Boards of Guardians, as to the excellence with which the law works, are not to be taken without a great deal of reservation. I say that this present law is a law of experiment, and permit me to ask what has been the result of that experiment? Last night, we were told by several noble Lords, of whose presence here to-night we have not the advantage, that the experiment has answered marvellously. When the law was first introduced, we were told that it was to have a beneficial effect on the rates of wages, on the morality of the poor, and the contentment of the lower classes. Do we, then, find that the poor are now no longer at variance with their superiors; or that they look up to their superiors as their natural protectors and benefactors? We 1814 were told last night that this is the feeling. I am sure that the noble Lords who gave testimony to this effect were perfectly sincere in their declaration. I am ready to admit that their own experience in their own neighbourhood did assure them of the good will of their poorer fellow-countrymen; but is it necessary to remind your Lordships that a similar result has not been found realized in every part of the country? I wish to abstain from all unnecessary agitation of an appeal to the feelings, but it is impossible to forget that among the most serious causes of the recent insurrection in Wales was this present Poor Law. Is Wales the only part of this kingdom which has indicated similar feelings? I grieve to say that these feelings are exhibiting themselves even now in an awful and fearful manner in the eastern part of the kingdom. Within the last two or three weeks a right rev. Friend of mine has felt it his duty to put forth a circular letter to his clergy on the subject of the fires in Suffolk. I fear that we cannot disguise from ourselves—the fact (guilty as the incendiaries are, and reprobated as they must be by every man of right feeling—we cannot disguise from ourselves the fact that these fires do proceed from the feelings excited by the existence of the present Poor Law. I hope that we may derive some wisdom from this consideration, and that it will operate as a warning to induce us to correct the present measure. These reasons constitute a sufficient ground with him to urge upon your Lordships to deliberate whether other measures besides the present are not required to put the existing Poor Law of this country on a right footing. We are not now merely amending an Act of Parliament; we have to amend a system which is to have the greatest operation on the happiness and virtue of the people. If this were the case, we are bound to take care that we do not hastily rush into decisions which we should be glad afterwards to retract. I believe that the present Bill affords one of the most important occasions—I do not say, that the Bill is a most important Bill; but that the introduction of the Bill gives rise to one of the most important occasions that can be expected to occur in the lifetime of the longest living person present. We have to consider on what permanent footing we will put the laws for the relief of the poor in this country. On looking at the present Bill, I find that it is by no means of so extensive a character as might be ex- 1815 pected; for I find some of the most important parts of the duty of the Legislature absolutely forgotten in this measure. I allude particularly to the absence of all kind of provision respecting the spiritual interests of the poor of this country. Not one single Clause is directed to that greatest of all subjects relating to the poor. True it is, that there is a proposition (and I rejoice to see it) for having district schools for the deserted and orphan children of the poor, but as respects the adult poor there is not one single line respecting spiritual instruction for them; no provision for teaching them to discharge their first duties to God and man. Yet it will be in the recollection of your Lordships that the individual who now addresses you, did bring forward a case in the early part of this Session, which the noble President of the Council admitted to be one of fearful importance. I will not now dwell on that case, further than to say that I believe that throughout the country the facts I laid before this House produced the deepest effect. The noble Lord, when I urged that we should go into Committee on the subject, admitted that, unfortunately, the facts were too notorious—that the dreadful spiritual destitution in workhouses was not to be denied — but that the Committee would have nothing else to do but to register facts with which all were acquainted. I do not wish to taunt the noble Baron with what had passed on that occasion; but at least we might have hoped that something would have been done in the present Bill for this great purpose. It was not only the noble Baron who suggested the necessity of some important measure for spiritual instruction in workhouses; but an authority greater than the noble Baron's, at least on this question; and which in almost every case is considered absolutely imperative—I allude to the authority of the Poor Law Commissioners, which coincided with that of the noble Baron. The Poor Law Commissioners put forth in 1839 a Report addressed to the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Normanby) on the continuance of the Poor Law Commission, and proposing further amendments to the law. In page 55 of that Report, I find a special recommendation for the enactment of a provision similar to a section in the Irish Poor Relief Bill, authorising the Commissioners to direct Guardians to appoint a chaplain of the Established Church in workhouses. This was the advice even 1816 of the Poor Law Commissioners, but still nothing was done. It may be said that there was nothing to be done, inasmuch as a Court of Justice had decided that the Poor Law Commissioners had the power to appoint chaplains. It follows then that the responsibility of not acting upon power rests primarily with the Poor Law Commissioners, but ultimately, according to all constitutional principle, with the Government. The Commissioners are obliged to report to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He is responsible for the measures of these Commissioners, and therefore, if the Poor Law Commissioners do not do what the Secretary of State feels ought to be done, the Commissioners ought to be dismissed according to every constitutional principle. Consequently the blame for absolutely refusing to give spiritual instruction to the poor of this country rests with that Officer who is constitutionally responsible. It is the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Colleague of the noble Baron (Lord Wharncliffe) and of the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) who is responsible on this point to his Colleagues, his country, and his God. I repeat that there is not one word in this Bill which relates to the appointment of chaplains. Let it not be supposed, however, that I think that the simple appointment of a chaplain is the right way of dealing with this matter. Though the Poor Law Commissioners could appoint chaplains, and have appointed them in many places, yet they have done so in such a form as is certain to render the appointment inefficient. Much consideration is necessary in order to ascertain the best mode of promoting the spiritual interests of the poor, and if nights were to be given to the subject they would be given usefully. This question cannot be discussed usefully unless it is discussed largely. You cannot pass a measure of this kind hastily. There must be great and grave considerations given to these important interests, if your Lordships wish to preserve the respect of the country and yourselves. I say this, because the few Peers who appeared to adhere to their places in this House during the present discussion, were led to do so from the important consideration that the interests, the security, and the protection of the poor are concerned. There is not one of the noble Lords who now hear me, but must feel gratified at thinking that he is discharging his duty by sitting here, and at the same time must feel ashamed at 1817 seeing how such a measure as the present is to be treated. What shall I say with regard to the Ministers of the Crown? As an Englishman, I feel gratitude to them for much that they have done; but I also feel indignant—and I do not scruple to express that indignation—that men in their high situation, with their deep responsibility, should thus try to trifle with the best interests of their country. If I look into this present Bill, and if I look further into the nature of the measure, I perceive additional reason for deliberating before assenting to it. I find the present Poor Law to be in direct antagonism to the great law of the 43rd of Elizabeth, which has been truly characterized as the Magna Charta of the poor, and which is part of the great Constitution of this country. I should rather say that it was part of the Constitution; for in this important respect the Constitution has been deeply shaken to its very basis. That great Act of Elizabeth was the Magna Charta of the poor of England; but it is not so irrecoverably lost that it may not be reclaimed; and I now call on your Lordships to take one step towards reclaiming it by refusing to go into the consideration of this present measure to-night. If you consent to pass this wretched tissue of miserable expedients, you put off the hopes and expectations of the poor to an indefinite period. I therefore implore your Lordships to weigh well the consequences. I do not mean that you should be influenced by any miserable fears for yourselves, but I mean that you should weigh well the consequences to the best interests of your country, if you set at nought the just expectations of the friends of the poor. I say that the present law, that great experiment of 1834, is in direct antagonism to the Statute of the 43rd of Elizabeth, and I will give reasons for my assertion. The Act of the 43rd of Elizabeth rests on this great principle—that the poor have a right to subsistence. The present law, on the contrary, proceeds on the principle that the poor have no such right, though by the bounty of the country, and by the kindness and mercy of the Legislature, something might be doled out to them according to the wisdom of that Legislature. "Right," and "No right" are the two principles which severally distinguish the 43rd of Elizabeth and the experiment of 1834. I say this on no slight ground. In the first place I declare myself decidedly of opinion that the poor have a distinct right to subsistence—sub- 1818 sistence in return for their labour I admit, but they have a right to be protected from absolute destitution. [Lord Wharncliffe: Hear.] I am not surprised to find that the noble Baron cheers me, when I make that assertion, and, therefore, I trust the noble Baron will act in conformity with it. [Here Lord Wharncliffe made some observation.] I must speak to order. If I misrepresented him, the noble Baron will have plenty of opportunity to refute anything I may say. I repeat that I rejoice to find that the noble Baron cheered what I stated. The poor have a right to subsistence, and I declare that that right rests on the most sacred authority, namely, the Bible. I have no hesitation in saying that this right is the gift to them of the Almighty, Giver of all Good. It is a gift to all men without exception or privilege. There is no special gift to the rich, and no special exception of the poor. They are all to be "fruitful and multiply, to replenish the earth and to subdue it," and the productions of the earth are given to man for his food. Therefore, I say that the Word of God has given to the poor the right to subsistence. The noble Baron admits that the poor have this right; but those who originated the present Poor Law, or whose principles at any rate originated it, allow of no such right. This New Poor Law is the great production of the Malthusian philosophy, and I am prepared to read to your Lordships what Mr. Malthus said as to the right of the poor to subsistence. In speaking of Mr. Malthus I may be permitted to gratify myself by bearing testimony to the excellence of that man. Mr. Malthus was a man of as singular talent as has been exhibited to the world. He was, moreover, a man of the purest benevolence, amenity of manners, and kindliness of demeanour; and exhibited a universality of charity which does not always distinguish men of high talents. I had the happiness and honour of his acquaintance, but I was much less intimate with him than I could have wished, particularly as he is now lost for ever. But my respect for Mr. Malthus's personal character must not prevent me from protesting against his principles. I am not going to enter into a discussion of his principles concerning population; but his doctrine certainly did induce him to come to a conclusion contrary, I rejoice to say, to that held by the noble Baron. Mr. Malthus held that the poor had no right to subsistence—that no man had a right to claim subsistence from 1819 society. In the second edition of his Essay on Population he permitted himself to say:—A man who is born into a world already possessed, if he cannot get subsistence from his parents, on whom he has a just demand, and if society do not want his labour, has no claim of right to the smallest portion of food, and, in fact, has no business to be where he is. At Nature's mighty feast there is no vacant cover for him. She tells him to be gone.I am told that this passage was erased from the subsequent editions of the work; but it appeared in the edition of 1803. Now, if I had understood that Mr. Malthus had retracted his principles from which the passage I have quoted forms a legititimate conclusion, I should have been ashamed to taunt his memory, or to taunt his disciples by referring to that declaration. But the principles remain, though this particular passage has been erased from his work; and as he carried those principles to a startling and disgusting point, we ought to be glad that he has given us a deliberate practical view of the result. The present Poor Law, then, is founded on the Malthusian philosophy, which, at the period of the introduction of this measure, was so strongly recommended. It is the following up of this Malthusian philosophy which has caused this great experiment to be made on the happiness and virtue of the people of England. I understand that the biographer of Mr. Malthus has stated this to be the case, and has claimed all the merit, or rather demerit, of the New Poor Law for the philosophy of Malthus. Your Lordships are aware, that though the noble Baron (Lord Wharncliffe) and myself recognized the right of the poor to subsistence, this right is not universally recognized. It is not recognized in the Poor Law of 1834; but the Statute of Elizabeth proceeded on the principle of recognizing the right. Black-stone, in his Commentaries, says, on the authority of the Mirror of Magistrates, which I believe is a great authority for the Common Law of England, that by the Common Law the poor are entitled to subsistence from the parsons and the parishioners of the parish in which they live. That very Common Law to which your Lordships are indebted for your hereditary estates, and for the incidents of the honours you bear, for your power to legislate in this House for the interest and security of the country, and for the interests of the 1820 poor—that very Common Law gives to the poor the right of subsistence, and that right is recognized by the Statute of Elizabeth, for that Statute required that there should be work found for the poor in their own parishes. It recognized the parochial system, and it enabled the poor who remained at their homes to be sure that they should have the means of existence. That Statute of Elizabeth proceeded on a very different principle from the present Poor Law, which sends the poor to a distance from their homes to live in workhouses. The Statute of Elizabeth also enjoins the building of cottages, where necessary, for the accommodation of the poor; and it does not interfere with the poor by harshly disregarding their domestic affections; neither does it require of the poor, that for the purpose of getting a subsistence they should give up the rights of fathers and of husbands. The liberty of the people at large is recognized in that great Statute of Elizabeth, which was the Magna Charta of the poor. Is such the case under the present law? If the present law proceeds on the Malthusian principle, its enactment is intelligible, that the poor should have no right to subsistence; out it is neither intelligible nor justifiable on any ground. Was it ever before heard of that the poor should be dealt with as they are under the present law? They are told that they shall have a right to subsistence, if they consent to be prisoners in gaols, or (in other words) in workhouses, and to be separated from all those round whom their feelings and affections are entwined. If the poor consent to all this, then they shall have, under this New Poor Law, a subsistence as bad as human ingenuity can contrive consistently with the mere maintenance of life. But how can this be a right which is dealt with in this way? If the British Legislature recognize the right, would they dare so to restrict it? No; if they had recognized the right, they would have done in 1834 as in 1601, and they would have dealt with the poor as with freemen, though they might happen, from misfortune, to cease to have an independent means of existence. The thing is too plain for argument. I have said that these workhouses are gaols, where the poor are shut up and kept prisoners. This is a strong expression, and the noble Baron, I am afraid, thinks it too strong; but I will give him an authority on this subject—that of a most distinguished Assistant Poor Law Commissioner. I will read a letter 1821 which the Poor Law Commissioners peculiarly made their own. I am not speaking of the present Poor Law Commissioners, because I do not know whether any one of the Commissioners who authorized the letter I allude to continues in office. On referring to the Report of the Commissioners for 1836, your Lordships will find this letter. A very humane and excellent Gentleman, who represents the county of Kent, Mr. Plumptre, had occasion to complain of the prison-like character of the workhouses, and the Commissioners directed Mr. Tufnell to give them an answer on the subject; and I will read a part of that answer to your Lordships. Mr. Tufnell says:—At present these prison-like appearance, and the notion that they are intended to torment the poor inspires a salutary dread of them. I have taken several persons—ladies as well as others—to visit them, who have invariably turned loud in praise of the comfort they afford, and confest the groundlessness of their previous prepossessions against them. These praises, however, sound to me fraught with evil forebodings, the realization of which can only be prevented by carefully keeping up what seems to me our sole barrier against them—a system of restraint.Therefore this description does not rest on any authority but on that of the Poor Law Commissioners. We have heard a good deal of the excellence of the workhouses lately, and the present system carried on there, and I will therefore read to your Lordships what Mr. Tufnell writes in 1841 in his Report on the Training of Pauper Children respecting the Schoolmasters in Union Workhouses. He says:—The extraordinary blunders I constantly hear committed by the schoolmasters in teaching the children are almost incredible. An hour before I am writing this, I requested a workhouse schoolmaster to examine his pupils on the last chapter they had been reading, which happened to be part of the 4th of St. John, when, amongst other blunders, he mistook the Publican for the Sadducee, confounded John the Baptist with John the Evangelist, made Galilee a city of Samaria, and put Samaria in Jerusalem. I once found a schoolmaster appointed who could neither read nor write.Such, then, is the working of this system, and such is the instruction given to the poor. But this is not all; and again Mr. Tufnell states—There is also considerable danger of moral contamination to the children from their residence in the same house with adult paupers.1822 This then has reference not to the merely young, but to the moral conditions of the aged and of the general inmates of those workhouses. Mr. Tufnell proceeds—It is perfectly well known to all who have had experience in Poor Law matters, that a very large proportion of the adult workhouse inmates are persons of the worst characters—the very refuse of the population—and there is a reason in the nature of the subject, which it is not now necessary to explain, why it is and always must be so. That this class, morally infected as it is, should be kept separate from the children, is of course of primary importance, and in every union workhouse means are taken to provide for this end by building separate wards and yards for each class. I am confident, however, that architectural arrangements can never effectually secure perfect classification in a workhouse. Conversation, sometimes of the obscenest description, is carried on over walls and through windows. The conversation engendered in such an establishment is anything but moral. Perhaps a woman comes into the house to lie in of a bastard child, and every circumstance relating to it becomes the talk of the house; another dies of a foul and loathsome disease, which gives rise to a multitude of inquiries. The atmosphere of a workhouse that contains adult paupers is tainted with vice; no one who regards the future happiness of the children would ever wish them to be educated within its precincts.Here, my Lords, is ample evidence of the danger of bringing the sober and industrious poor into these moral pest-houses. Is it to be endured that the honest and well-conducted man, who is obliged to come to the parish for relief, should be compelled to go into these detestable places—nay, more, that his wife and children also should be forced into those polluted sties of infamy? Is it to be endured that the honest and deserving poor of this land should be made to pay this price for the miserable boon of such a subsistence as is provided for them in the workhouses? I am sure that it is only necessary for me to bring these things under the notice of your Lordships in order to convince you that you have not sufficiently considered this question. These things are before us. They are not prepared for the occasion. They show that the existing law is intolerable, and I am satisfied that no man who hears them will deny that they present what is the state of workhouses in general. The noble Baron says, no—[Lord Wharncliffe: No, I did not.] I am glad of it; for what I have read to your Lordships shows that there must be 1823 moral pollution in these poorhouses. I say also, that it shows this to be the general state of the poorhouses, and if so, I say they are not places to which you can persist in sending your poor. These, my Lords, are very serious evils. They are truths which ought to make a deep impression on the House. My Lords, I may have perhaps spoken on this occasion with more warmth than in my cooler moments I might wish, but I have nothing to retract. I feel myself excited and I cannot help speaking strongly. I maintain that the considerations I have urged are so important that I defy you to go on until you have taken them into your fullest deliberation. As Christians, my Lords, you cannot, as legislators you will not. My Lords, I have spoken of the prison-like character of the workhouses. When the subject of the separation of man and wife has been urged, we have been told over and over again that the same things as those now complained of occurred in some of the workhouses under the old system. The noble Baron repeated the same thing the other night. Now, I have the greatest respect, my Lords, for the authority upon which that statement has been made, but I must say I believe the facts stated to be impossible. My Lords, I understand the noble Baron when he makes this declaration with respect to well-regulated workhouses to apply it to workhouses in existence before the passing of the Act of 1834. I cannot tell where those well-regulated workhouses were. The workhouses under the 9th of George I., cannot be those he refers to. They were small workhouses adapted to single parishes, or sometimes two small parishes were permitted to join; but there was no pretence for the separation of the sexes; and with regard to the unions under Gilbert's Act the fact is, that under it, only the aged, impotent, and infirm, can be taken into the workhouses. Able-bodied men and their wives cannot be admitted there. There is a positive enactment against it. The words are—And to render the provisions of this Act more practicable and beneficial, be it enacted, that no person shall be sent to such poorhouse or houses, except such as are indigent from old age, sickness, or infirmity, or are unable to acquire their subsistence by labour.Therefore in the well-regulated workhouses in the Gilbert unions the things alluded to could not possibly occur. But, besides what I have read from the Act, there are also the rules and regulations to 1824 be enforced in the poorhouses, and the third of those rules is, that the governor of the workhouse is to place in a separate and comfortable department persons who having been respectable householders shall have been reduced by misfortune, in preference to persons of an opposite character. Therefore, according to that regulation, man and wife were to be put together; and that they could not do it I maintain, on the authority of all the legal decisions that took place up to the passing of the Act of 1834. So sacred was the principle of not separating man and wife held to be, that in the case of an alien, who therefore could not have any settlement of his own, the wife, who had a settlement, could not, if she came to want, be removed to her own settlement, but remained and continued as a casual pauper, because the law would not permit the separation of man and wife. My Lords, that separation was first made legal by the Act of 1834. Not directly made legal—no, my Lords, this Parliament would never directly have made such an enactment. And not long after the passing of the Act of 1834, when the late Duke of Buckingham presented a petition from Stoke Poges, in which the petitioners expressed their sense of the grievance there was in the possibility of man and wife being separated, the noble and learned Lord who was the author of the Bill, and who carried it through this House—I mean Lord Brougham, whose distinguished ability displayed in carrying that Bill through will not, I am sure, be soon forgotten by any of those who heard him—that noble and learned Lord jumped up in his place, as he sometimes does in this House, and said that it was impossible—that it was supposing the Commissioners to be mad, to think that they would entertain the very notion of separating man and wife. My Lords, it happened to myself to put this question to the test. Believing that the separation of man and wife was not justified by any previous law, I thought that the question ought to be tested, all the Judges of the last century having affirmed the law to be, that man and wife could not be separated. I therefore undertook to try the question in a Court of Justice. I did so. The Commissioners afforded me every assistance in bringing the matter to trial. I was in communication with the Commissioners; and here I must state that whenever I was in communication with either the present or the late Commissioners, I experienced not only courtesy, but the 1825 utmost candour, fairness, and readiness to assist in the investigation I was making. My counsel on the occasion was then one of the most distinguished at the bar—he is now one of the most distinguished Judges. He moved the Court of King's Bench on the subject; but the Judges said they could not entertain so important a Motion so late in the term, and accordingly they deferred if till the next term. I had not been in personal communication with my counsel at that time. He received all the reasons why I thought the separation of man and wife were illegal, and he said there was a great deal in them. But there was one point he said, which I could not get over. He said, if the Act of 1834 had contented itself with giving the power to the Poor Law Commissioners of making laws and regulations for the management of the poor, they could not have contravened that great principle that man and wife are not to be separated; but the Act had gone further, for it said that the laws and regulations made by the Commissioners were to have the same effect as if they were part of the Act of Parliament itself. Then the question came, whether Parliament had the power to pass a law, for the separation of man and wife, and as he could not hold that Parliament was not competent to pass such a law he did not think that his application to the Judges would succeed. My Lords, the matter being thus brought to this point, I stood pledged to bring the question to a legislative issue, but when my own Counsel, a man of eminent ability, told me that I must fail, I felt that I had virtually brought the question to an issue, and that my honour was satisfied. I felt that to go further, would only be to agitate the question in a manner in which I was not entitled to agitate it—that I was entitled to say, that this law was wrong; but, finding that it was the law, I was bound to deal with it as the law. But I am entitled to mention this, in order to show how very special and stringent must be this regulation of the Commissioners for the separation of man and wife, when it required the authority of this Act of Parliament in order to enable them to make it. It appears to me that that part of the Act is not only mischievous, but also unparallelled—at least, if there are any parallels, I fear you must go a long way back for them. I fear no precedent can be found since the famous statute of Henry VIII., which gave to his proclamations during his life all the authority of law. I will defy any one to 1826 produce a later precedent for any such enactment. There was an earlier case in the reign of Edward II., when the obsequious Parliament of that day gave to the Spencers and some others of the King's minions a similar power. With these two exceptions, the Act of 1834 had in this respect no precedent. Then, my Lords, as regards relief, as it is called. We see what this "relief" is. It is to be shut up in a gaol, and a general order goes forth to refuse out-door relief to able-bodied paupers. That idea has gone forth to 460 Unions, to which therefore, it is absolute law. Under that rule, no out-door relief is to be given in those 460 Unions, except in some special cases which hardly ever occur. Relief in those Unions, with those exceptions, is not to be given except to those who come into the workhouses—into these moral pest-houses. But, my Lords, there is another question—there is the question of the facility of getting into these workhouses. One would expect that the miserable destitute poor would have had near at hand the power of obtaining relief. Such used to be the case. They used to have in their own parishes—at their own doors—the dispensers of—I will not say charity—but of the just dole given out by the country as the tribute to the Author of all Good for the property left to be enjoyed upon that condition. But how are the poor now situated in that respect? These Unions are of the most enormous extent. One of them extends over 330 miles. Your Lordships may well believe it to be incredible. [The Lord Chancellor — Twelve miles square would only give 144 miles.] In Lincolnshire, the most considerable agricultural county in England, there are 600 parishes, and only fourteen Unions. The average size of an Union in Lincolnshire, is 200 square miles. How is it possible that the poor can go so far as from the extremity of one of these Unions for relief?
The Lord Chancellor
observed, that the centre of such an Union would only be six or seven miles from the extreme point.
The Bishop of Exeter.
But the seat of the Union is commonly not in the exact centre of the Union, but in the principal town of the district, and therefore I believe you will find that in ordinary cases, certainly in the old counties, they would have to go more than six or seven miles. I think, my Lords, that is a considerable distance for the poor man to go to get an answer, perhaps of no! and then to go 1827 further on the chance of getting an answer of yes! But we are told, that although we see the abuses of the new system, we do not bear in mind the abuses of the old, which were very great indeed. And so they were. But, then, my Lords, they were abuses. These things are not abuses, but necessary parts of the system. There is the great distinction. But those abuses of the old system are mainly of modern introduction. In fact, the year 1797 originated the greatest abuses which were specified last night by a noble Earl, who spoke in favour of the present Bill. Those abuses were, the "roundsmen," the allowance system, and the payment of wages out of the rates. It is notorious, that those abuses arose out of the extraordinary state of things in 1795 and 1796. One or two of your Lordships now present, are old enough to remember those years. They were years of singular scarcity; the price of provisions rose to a great height, and some provision for such a state of things became absolutely necessary. There were also other causes; there was the war, which contributed to raise the general prices of every thing. Wages did not rise at the same time, and it was thought expedient in some counties—Berkshire, I believe, was the first to adopt it—to give to the industrious labourer who could not earn wages enough to meet the increased price of bread, an allowance of a quantity of bread. The "roundsmen" took rise from the same cause. Those were the most operative causes of the evils of the old system. In the part of the country where I then resided, in the county of Durham, those abuses did not generally prevail; but they existed to a great extent in the southern parts of England; and, as those who witnessed them there believed that they prevailed generally, they were the more ready to lend an ear to the putting down of the old system and the trial of the new one. My Lords, I think it is our bounden duty, when we are endeavouring to fix the basis of a system of poor laws, to consider well whether we cannot revert to the system under the 43d of Elizabeth, with such checks as may and ought to be provided against the repetition of those abuses under that system which were made the plea for the present law. I think it is our duty to do so, and, feeling that it is my duty also, I do earnestly beseech your Lordships to join me in deferring the consideration of this Bill for the present Session. There are not a dozen of your Lord- 1828 ships present now. The House of Commons took six months to consider this Bill. Shall we, my Lords, get through the Bill as it is proposed, to night, and probably not in so many hours? Will that be right? Is it not a measure so complicated as to render it necessary that there should be in common sense a much longer time for deliberation? Not only is the measure itself complicated, but I must say, the necessity for passing it now is inconsiderable. It will be absolutely trifling with the sacred interests of the poor if you deal with them in the manner you are now pressed to adopt. I do hope, whatever I may have said this night—however I may appear to have spoken with greater warmth than I could have wished—I do hope that anything I may have said will not be permitted to injure the cause of which I am the advocate. I do hope, however, that it will be felt that I have brought forward facts in support of the proposition with which I now conclude—"that this House do resume the Committee on this Bill this day six months."
§ The Duke of Wellington
My Lords, I have given my best attention to the speech of the right rev. Prelate, and I beg to call your attention, in the first place, to the argument he has brought forward to induce you to postpone the consideration of this Bill at such a period. He told you about an hour and a half ago that it was too late in the evening to go into the consideration of such a Bill, and he further said that your Lordships were not in sufficient numbers for so important a measure to be disposed of. But I beg to remind your Lordships that we have frequently sat here to a much later hour in the night than this, and that, according to the constitution and practice of this House, you are not at all in numbers too few for the consideration of any measure, and more particularly for the consideration of a measure which has been so long under the consideration of the other House of Parliament, on a subject which is perfectly known to your Lorpships, and which has, in fact, been under the consideration of Parliament not in the present Session only, but also during the last three or four Sessions of Parliament, when measures for the amendment of the existing Poor Law have been considered. Measures recommended by the late Government and by the present Government have been under the consideration of Parliament 1829 during that time, only that on account of the pressure of the other business those measures have been postponed, and at last this measure has been considered and brought to maturity in this Session of Parliament by the House of Commons. It is a measure which comes to your Lordships recommended by that House; and yet at this period of the Session you are called on, night after night, to put off this measure, which has for its object the amendment of many of those evils in the existing Poor Law of which the right rev. Prelate complains. This is the real question, whether you will to-night enter into the consideration of a Bill which has for its object the amendment of the existing Law. My Lords, in the course of the argument of the right rev. Prelate on this Bill, which was quite a legitimate course of argument for the right rev. Prelate to take, he spoke on the subject of the omission of any amendment in relation to chaplains in workhouses—a subject on which he with great eloquence addressed your Lordships in the early part of the present Session. My Lords, I lament for one, that this Bill does not contain all the amendments to the existing law which I think it ought to contain with respect to this subject. But the right rev. Prelate after entering on this part of the subject, and stating as he did so forcibly, his objections to the Bill, warmed up in the course of his argument and came to that which was the real object of his Amendment, namely, to repeal the existing law. The object of all the right rev. Prelate's speech, and of all his views on the subject is the repeal of the law—that, my Lords, is what he wanted. He wishes that you should return to the system which existed before the present law was enacted, and that you should not pass this Bill which has been the result of consideration during many Sessions of Parliament and the object of which is the Amendment, of the law, but that you should at once repeal it. My Lords, if the right rev. Prelate would be pleased to give notice in the course of this week or of the next that he will bring in a Bill the existing Poor Law, and to restore the Act of the 43rd of Elizabeth, which I understand to be the object of the right rev. Prelate,—if he will do this I will undertake to say, that he will bring down to the House a sufficient number of Peers to discuss that proposition, or any other subject which is worthy 1830 their attention. But, my Lords, I entreat the right rev. Prelate not to set to work to repeal the existing law by preventing in the first instance the consideration of a Bill, the object of which is to amend the very evils in the existing law of which he complains. My Lords, the right rev. Prelate having passed so much of his time in discussing the policy of the existing law, I must be permitted to say a few words to you on that subject, having voted originally for the existing law, though I sat on the other side of the House at the time when it was proposed by the then Ministers, and having supported it on all occasions from that time to this. My Lords, the existing law brought in in 1834, was rendered obligatory by the state of abuse which had grown out of the law of the 43rd of Elizabeth in every parish in England — in some to a degree which threatened the total ruin of such parishes by a total cessation of labour in some parts of the country, but everywhere to such a degree as to have required the attention of some of the greatest men who ever appeared in England—I mean Mr. Pitt, for one, Mr. Whitbread for another, and Mr. Sturges Bourne for a third, who each and all of them endeavoured to introduce and carry through Parliament bills for the amendment of the law of Elizabeth, and every one of them failed, finding that they could not attain their object. The abuses were so great and so various, varying in almost every parish in England, that it became absolutely impossible by any system of legislation to meet those abuses so as to save the country from the ruin and destruction that was growing on it in consequence of the manner in which the law was administered. It was found at last that nothing would apply a remedy except to establish a central system of Government for the regulation and maintenance of the poor under the management of Commissioners, who were to be themselves under the general superintendence and control of the Government. That my Lords, is an epitome of the history of the establishment of this Poor Law. I say, my Lords, that you cannot depart from the system so adopted without going back again to the old system with its abuses differing as I said in every parish in England, and which must tend, as it tended before, to the total destruction and ruin of agriculture, and press particularly on the very lowest class, who were the ob- 1831 jects of the Act of Elizabeth. Now, my Lords, as to the management of the Poor Law under the Act of 1834. I am not, nor have I ever been, a guardian of the poor. It is not in my power to live in the country sufficiently often from time to time to enable me to undertake such a duty, and I never have undertaken to perform it. But, my Lords, I do visit the workhouses in the different parts of the country where I happen to reside occasionally. During the year, I reside a considerable length of time in two parts of the country, and I visit workhouses in both; and this I must say, that it is impossible for anything to be better managed than those workhouses are; and it is impossible for any system to have answered better as a system for the management of the poor, to have given greater satisfaction to those employed as labourers, and those who employed them, than this system of the Poor Law in those two parts of the country where I reside. I speak, my Lords, of what I know and I have always frankly stated the same in this House whenever I have had an opportunity in answer to a noble Earl who is an enemy to this law. And, my Lords, I always will say, the same thing whenever I am called on in this House. I must say, as far as I have any knowledge of this system, and I have frequently visited the union-houses in many parts but more particularly in two parts of the country where I reside, that I cannot but approve of what I have seen there upon every occasion. The right rev. Prelate has complained of some things which exist in these Unions, and for some of which this Bill is to find a remedy. One of them is the separation of man and wife; and the right rev. Prelate says there never was such a thing heard of as the separation of man and wife. My Lords, did the right rev. Prelate ever hear of workhouses and poorhouses under the old system of the law of Elizabeth? Did he ever hear of hospitals? Why, my Lords, the common decencies of life require, that when large numbers of persons are to be brought together, man and wife shall be separated. The women must be placed in one part and the men in another part of the house. It cannot be otherwise. This is what is required by the laws of decency. It is not only under this Act that it is done, it was done in the old workhouses under the law of Elizabeth. It had 1832 been done invariably in hospitals, and it cannot be otherwise. Then with respect to the education of children, instead of declaiming, as the right rev. Prelate has done to-night, about the inferiority of schoolmasters and the defective state of education among the children, who, by the by were kept separate, let him introduce a Clause to insure that the schoolmasters shall be properly qualified for their duties. But no, my Lords, that is not the object of the right rev. Prelate. He does not want to go into Committee that the present law may be amended, nor does he want the postponement of the Committee in order that your Lordships may have a better opportunity of considering this measure to-morrow or next day, but he wants you not to go into Committee because he wishes to destroy the Act which this Bill is intended to amend. If the right rev. Prelate is in earnest, let him come here with his Amendments in Committee—let him state what his objections are—let him propose his amendments, and see whether my noble Friend will adopt them or not. Upon one subject, with reference to chaplains, there can be no amendment, because the system of legislation in force between the two Houses would prevent it; but there are other points on which the right rev. Prelate may propose amendments; let him do that, and he will render a service to the country; but to pretend to prevail on your Lordships to stop this Bill to night, in order to render it absolutely necessary to repeal the existing Act, is a course unworthy of the abilities and station of the right rev. Prelate, and which I trust your Lordships will not attend to, but go into the Bill, and proceed with it as far as you can to-night in order to render it as beneficial as you can, with the view of amending the law as it now exists.
The Marquess of Normanby
entirely agreed in what had been so well expressed by the noble Duke both with reference to the original intentions of the framers of the Poor Law Amendment Act, the necessity which then existed for its enactment, and the execution since; and he could not help expressing his extreme surprise at the course which had been taken by the right rev. Prelate. When last night the right rev. Prelate proposed the adjournment of the debate, he certainly never contemplated that the result of the delay was to have 1833 been a Motion for the rejection of a Bill, almost every Clause of which contained some relaxation of a Bill which the right rev. Prelate had so warmly opposed. As he could see no connexion whatever between the general arguments of the right rev. Prelate and the Motion with which he concluded, he could only imagine that his reason for wishing the postponement was, that the right rev. Prelate desired to have a fuller audience; but he had cautioned the right rev. Prelate not to be too sanguine on that point, and the result had been that his audience was scantier that evening than it would have been last night. There were one or two facts mentioned by the right rev. Prelate to which for a single moment he would allude. The right rev. Prelate had alluded to the letter of the Poor Law Commissioners in 1839, addressed to him (Lord Normanby), as Secretary of State, suggesting the appointment of chaplains to workhouses; but it should be recollected this was previous to the decision of a Court of Law, and the advice of the Poor Law Commissioners at that time was perfectly consistent with the course they had hitherto pursued when they found out the power possessed by the Guardians. He was surprised the right rev. Prelate had said nothing with respect to the Bastardy Clauses in this Bill, considering how strongly he had spoken on the subject in 1834. In fact, this Bill amended the Bastardy Clauses in the existing law very much in the way suggested by the right rev. Prelate, and he was surprised he had not availed himself of that fact as a legitimate source of triumph. He was obliged to own with the noble Duke, that with respect to the Bastardy Clauses they had not answered all the objects they had in view, and therefore he agreed to this measure of amendment. Then, with respect to the size of the Unions, it almost appeared to him as if the right rev. Prelate had not read this Bill; for all the arguments he principally put forth against the original Bill were met by the present measure—the evils were either entirely connected or greatly mitigated by the provisions of this Bill. With respect also to the education of pauper children, there were provisions in this Bill for the creation of district schools. As to out-door relief, in respect of which the right rev. Prelate understood, that there were 500 Unions in which it was refused, the 26th Clause of this Bill introduced most material relaxations, which he thought would be extremely useful. His noble Friend 1834 (Earl Fortescue) last night had intimated a wish to restrict the allowance to widows to twelve months after the husband's death, but in that objection he did not agree. A widow wore her weeds for one year, but he did not know why her necessities should be confined to that period; he would not therefore support that amendment. The right rev. Prelate had apologised for the warmth with which he had spoken, and hoped their Lordships would excuse it. But so far as they were concerned, he was sure there had been no exhibition of warmth to be excused. The right rev. Prelate had spoken as he always did with great ability, with great fact, with great art—[The Lord Chancellor: With great earnestness.] Yes, with great earnestness, and great sincerity; but as to any warmth, why, there was no such thing; and in the state of the House, it would have been odd indeed if there had been any excitement. But a good deal of this was not intended for their Lordships' ears; and the right rev. Prelate knew very well that a little confession of warmth and excitement on this subject did not make such a discourse tell less where it was intended. He must bear his testimony from personal experience in confirmation of the noble Duke as to the management of workhouses under the present Bill. Within a very few days he had had the opportunity of going through the very worst parts in the eastern district of the metropolis and inspecting the new workhouse in Bethnal Green; and he must say, that the appearance of the inmates of every age, contrasted with those he saw in their own wretched abodes, was such as must excite feelings of gratification in every friend of humanity; and as to the children, he could detect the period they had passed in their prison, as the right rev. Prelate termed it, by their more healthy appearance. So much had been said in praise of the manner in which the Act had been administered, that anything he could say further in commendation of those Gentlemen who had had the conduct of the measure would be neither necessary nor useful to them, but having exercised the functions of that department to which the peculiar superintendence of the conduct of this law was intrusted during two years, he could not, in justice to his own feelings, avoid bearing his personal testimony to those who had exercised their functions with mildness, humanity, and unwearied perseverance, to carry out the true ends of this law, which, in spite of 1835 what had been stated by the right rev. Prelate, he must consider wise, just, and humane.
as Chairman of a Board of Guardians, protested against the first nine Clauses of this Bill, which he greatly feared would reproduce all the evils of the old bastardy laws, by offering a higher premium to perjury and incontinence, and placing the guilty in a better position than the honest and industrious. Still he felt the position a difficulty in which the Government were placed with respect to this measure, and as there were several material amendments of the Poor Law contained in this Bill, he certainly wished to see them carried. But he could not sit down without expressing his grateful thanks to the noble President of the Council for his speech in introducing this measure in favour of the Poor Law Amendment Act, in which he had always felt the deepest interest, and which, in his opinion, had been a most successful one.
§ The House divided on the question that "now" stand part of the Motion: Content 17; Not Content 1: Majority 16.
§ House then went into Committee.
§ Lord Wharncliffe,
in proposing the first Clause, wished to say a few words, having been several times referred to personally by the right rev. Prelate. In one respect, he was very much obliged to the right rev. Prelate for the course he had pursued to-night; for this was the first time they had been enabled to learn what was the object of those out of doors who cried out so much against the existing Poor Law. The right rev. Prelate said, "Don't amend or improve the present law, for God's sake; let us go back to the 43rd of Elizabeth." But when the right rev. Prelate said, that a Bill passed in 1601, was the only thing that by possibility could answer the purpose of 1844, he would ask what, after all, was that Bill, and what was its occasion? The poor had, previous to the Reformation, been maintained by charity from the monasteries; and when they were put down, their means of relief were entirely cut off. It was necessary to get rid of bands of vagabonds who were going throughout the country; and the 43rd of Elizabeth was a restrictive measure, which compelled them to remain in their parishes. The right rev. Prelate contended that the poor had a right to subsistence;—he admitted that they had a right to relief in case of destitution, and that he maintained was the principle of the 1836 Poor Law Amendment Act. He admitted there were conditions attached, as in the 43rd of Elizabeth; but he did ask the right rev. Prelate, if he did think that in the altered state of society, and with a greatly increased population, they could reenact the 43rd of Elizabeth? Yet this was the mighty scheme of those persons who were in the habit of crying out against the present law! He would venture to say, if the right rev. Prelate would come forward and seriously propose the repeal of the existing law, and the re-enactment of the 43rd of Elizabeth, he and those persons out of doors who contended for such a thing, would become the laughing-stocks of the whole country. The right rev. Prelate, after what had passed, would not be doing his duty in that House, if he did not bring forward this subject in a more definite shape than he had done to-night. What were the provisions of the Bill which the right rev. Prelate refused to go into Committee to consider? With respect to bastardy, for instance, the Bill was a great relaxation of the present law. Then, as to the mixture of adult paupers with children, and the separation of man and wife, the right rev. Prelate denied that those things had taken place before; but he begged to inform the right rev. Prelate that, in workhouses under Local Acts, the separation of man and wife had been carried out to an extent as great, and with much less care and attention to the wants and wishes of the poor, than under the existing law. With respect to the extent of the Unions, he admitted they were too large. The Government were anxious to remedy the evil, and for that purpose they had inserted Clauses in this Bill; but the right rev. Prelate would not consider them; he would rather the grievance remained unredressed, in the hope of reenacting the 43rd of Elizabeth. The Government were accused of want of humanity; yet when grievances were pointed out, and when they sought to apply the proper remedy—when they endeavoured to mitigate the law, to render it more humane in many points in which they thought it too stringent, they were told by the right rev. Prelate the present law should not be amended, for nothing could be effectual without repealing the whole law. He certainly did not think the course recommended by the right rev. Prelate either very considerate or very humane.
The Bishop of Exeter
begged to say a very few words in reply to the noble Ba- 1837 ron. The noble Baron more than once was pleased to charge him with combining with persons out of doors for carrying a certain measure in that House. He did not think that could be wrong if it were so. [Lord Wharncliffe: Very far from it.] He begged, however, to say, that he had brought forward his Motion to-night wholly and solely on his own responsibility and to express his own views. That there were many persons out of that House who thought with him he fully believed; he should be very sorry indeed if among the many millions in this country there were not a large portion that thought with him, though none of the seventeen Peers who were going to discuss this measure in Committee did him the honour of voting with him. Without any disrespect to the noble Baron, he must say he was perfectly indifferent whether any one thought he was on this occasion seeking, with other persons out of doors (whoever might be designated by that expression), to effect a particular purpose. The noble Baron thought that he seriously proposed to renew the Act of the 43rd of Elizabeth. What he stated in that House he always stated seriously and sincerely; and what he did say was, that it appeared to him that it was the duty of Parliament now to place on a permanent footing the laws for the relief of the poor in this country, and that the wise course would be, to look to the 43rd of Elizabeth, as the foundation of what they ought to do, that having, on the whole, worked most beneficially for the country; at the same time taking care to add clauses that should meet and prevent the abuses which were introduced by the incidents of 1795, and the high prices of the war. The noble Baron said the 43rd of Elizabeth had been passed in very different circumstances from the present; and so he might say of Magna Charta, but still it afforded a good foundation on which to work. He had not accused their Lordships of want of humanity; on the contrary, he believed them entirely and sincerely anxious to promote the interests of the poor, although he believed them wholly mistaken in the way they were now endeavouring to do it. The noble Baron had referred to the history of the 43rd of Elizabeth, but there was nothing in that Act to confine the poor to their homes. So far from it, there was no restraint whatever, except as to begging. They might work at home, or go where they could get it. He thought that in comparison to the great men who 1838 lived in Queen Elizabeth's time and those who obtained Magna Charta, the greatest men of the present day would not be ashamed of being threatened with being placed on a par. When he recollected who had taken a part in the councils of this country when the 43rd of Elizabeth was passed—when he remembered such names as the Cecils and Throgmortons, Lord Keeper Egerton, Lord Coke, and Lord Bacon, and then looked round upon the Peer she was addressing, he was not ashamed of referring to that Act. Mr. Pitt had avowed that the 43rd of Elizabeth was necessarily the foundation of whatever enactment was to be made on the subject. His (the Bishop of Exeter's) recollection of the history of that time did not agree with that of the noble Baron. He believed that those vagabonds to whom he had referred existed in this country long before the suppression of the monasteries. More than that, he believed they were caused by them. There were enactments against those vagabonds in the time of Henry VIII. before the monasteries were suppressed. The noble Baron had pointed out to him what he considered to be his (the Bishop of Exeter's) duty. He must say that it had been his intention, and he had stated it to a noble Friend of his, to give notice, that at an early period next Session he would move for a Select Committee to inquire into the means of divine worship and spiritual instruction afforded in Union Workhouses. He now gave that notice.
§ The first and second clauses of the Bill were then agreed to.
§ On the 2nd Clause being proposed, enacting that Justices in Petty Sessions may make an order on the putative father for maintenance and costs, and enforce the same by distress and commitment,
The Bishop of Exeter
moved that the following words in the Clause be struck out, "and if the evidence of the mother be corroborated in some material particular by other testimoney, to the satisfaction of the Court;" the Clause proceeding to say, that in that case "the Court may adjudge the man to be the putative father of such bastard child." He was aware that that was the law at present, but he considered it a very faulty part of the law. It was perfectly conceivable that the Magistrates might have full confidence of the truth of the evidence of the mother, whether corroborated or not, and in such cases he thought the Magistrates ought to proceed accordingly. There were more objections than 1839 one against requiring this corroborative testimony. He should say that in those cases where there was the greatest degree of modesty on the part of the woman, would the difficulty of advancing corroborating testimony be the strongest. If the woman had been seduced—if, although in other respects chaste, she in a moment of frailty had yielded to the man who had addressed himself to her, it was exceedingly probable that she, being a person of great modesty, would become the mother of a child under circumstances which no human being could be aware of save the parties themselves. He thought the very modesty of the mother would prove the means of her being unable to produce this corroborating evidence. If she were a person of a different character she might absolutely take the precaution of having corroborating testimony in order that she might secure a maintenance for the child. Instead, therefore, of being a security, he conceived that the words which he proposed to omit would prove the surest means of defeating the object of the enactment. It was also, in his mind, no trifling objection that they were, he believed, without example, except in the case of high treason. Let it be known, therefore, that according to law, if this Bill were passed, the affiliation of a bastard child would rank with the crime of high treason in requiring corroborating circumstances. If noble Lords thought it a wise enactment he would not trouble them with a division, but it appeared to him absolutely monstrous. Another objection to it was, as he had been credibly assured, that it was productive of the most gross and indelicate exposures, which might under this Bill be repeated and enlarged on by the appeal which it gave to the Quarter Sessions. He was quite ready to give the Magistrates the power of demanding corroborative testimony. He thought they might very usefully demand it when they conceived that the woman was an immodest woman, and desirous of trafficking upon her own wickedness, but when they entirely believed the oath of the woman he was for allowing them to adjudge the man to be the putative father, without additional testimony.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
could not agree to the Amendment. The right rev. Prelate had probably had no experience in this matter; but those who had knew that under the old law, that which existed before the present, there were many flagrant instances 1840 of men being unjustly burdened with children of whom they were not the parents. The right rev. Prelate was very much mistaken if he supposed that the greatest number of the women who gave birth to illegitimate children were women who had been seduced. It would be nearer the truth to say, that in the majority of cases it was the men who were seduced. The women seduced the men, and then chose from amongst them the persons upon whom they wished to affiliate their offspring. The right rev. Prelate said that this corroborating testimony led to indecencies. He feared that the right rev. Prelate misunderstood the nature of the testimony. The right rev. Prelate's notion seemed to be, that there must be evidence of the fact of the intercourse. That was not necessary for corroborating evidence. It was enough, as in cases of seduction, that the corroborating evidence should merely amount to this—that the parties had been seen together under circumstances which, if they were so inclined, would have favoured a criminal intercourse between them. But it was not at all necessary to have a witness to speak to the fact of an intercourse. His firm belief was, that since the alteration of the law requiring corroborating testimony in those cases the instances of persons falsely charged with bastardy were exceedingly rare indeed.
The Marquess of Bute
thought the present Clause went a little too far. He preferred the practice of Scotland of not calling the woman at all unless the other testimony failed. He was, however, favourable to corroborating evidence.
§ Amendment negatived.
The Bishop of Exeter
next called attention to that part of the Clause which enabled the Court to make an order on the putative father for the payment of a certain sum and costs to the mother of the bastard child, or any person appointed to have the custody of such child. He thought it of most importance that some other mode should be devised of enabling the woman to receive the money awarded. If made payable to her by the putative father, see what the consequences would be. She would have to go to him at certain times to receive it, and he asked whether that would not be almost enacting by law either the repetition of her sin or her maltreatment.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
admitted the force of the right rev. Prelate's objection, and would see and remedy it on the bringing up of the Report.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ On the 4th Clause being proposed, granting an appeal to the Quarter Sessions of the putative father,
The Bishop of Exeter
said, there was an appeal at present, and he thought it right there should be, but he wished to know how the expenses of it were to be met by the woman who would have to bring her corroborating witnesses to the Quarter Sessions. He spoke not of farmers' daughters, or persons who might be supposed to have a sufficiency of means to meet such expences, but of paupers, of poor women who actually required the money they sought for the maintenance of their child, and were unable to meet the expenses of the appeal.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
said, that no doubt such instances as the right rev. Prelate contemplated might exist, but as the man in appealing was bound by this Clause to give security for the payment of all costs, and as by much the greater part of those who were the object of the Clause would be able to find the necessary means of supporting the original application, he thought no hardship was likely to arise from it. If a woman were unable to pay the necessary expenses, he doubted not that there were many attornies who, if they found the case a good one, would readily take it up. Then let the right rev. Prelate look a little at the other side. Did he think it would be right to make the order of the two justices upon the putative father final?
§ Lord Wharncliffe
Then you must have an appeal to some court, and I see none more eligible than the Quarter Sessions.
The Bishop of Exeter
felt the difficulty of the case, and did not see how it was to be got over. He had not considered the details of the Bill, and would not press his suggestion; but he did feel, if they were to carry out their intentions on this point, they ought to devise some mode for rendering the remedy offered to the woman as perfect and as easily attainable as possible.
§ Clause agreed to; as were Clauses 5, 6, and 7, with some verbal amendments.
The Bishop of Exeter
thought the woman equally entitled to protection. The Common Law applied equally to both, and if there was to be a special protection given by this Statute to the man, he saw no reason why they ought not to give the same to the woman.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
said he would take the point into consideration, and see how far he could meet the right rev. Prelate's view.
§ Clause agreed to, as also Clauses 9, 10, and 11, with verbal amendments.
§ Clauses to Clause 40 were then agreed to.
§ On the 41st Clause being proposed,
The Bishop of Exeter
said, he would take the liberty to suggest that the chaplains of the district schools should not be appointed by the guardians, but by the Commissioners. It was true that the Guardians of the District Boards would be of a higher order than they usually were, but as it was not merely a good kind of man who was wanted as chaplain, but a superior man; he thought that the Commissioners, whose eyes were all over England, would probably make a better appointment than the Guardians were likely to make. Mr. Brown, the chaplain at the Norwood school, had shown himself so admirably qualified for his office, that he was desirous that the chaplains who were to be appointed to all the other schools should be equally effective.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
said the Clause had been fairly discussed in the other House. He would take the right rev. Prelate's suggestion into his consideration, but he could not hold out much hope to him that it would be adopted. It should be recollected that the Clause, as it then stood, vested the appointment in the hands of the persons who were to pay the Chaplains.
§ That Clause, as well as the subsequent ones to 53, were then agreed to.
§ On the 54th Clause, enacting that certain poor should be chargeable to the whole Union, being proposed,
§ Lord Redesdale
said, he thought this Clause was likely to give rise to abuse as regarded travelling labourers. He was of opinion, too, that until a party who was found destitute could be brought before the Board of Guardians and relieved out 1843 of the common fund of the Union, he should be relieved by the relieving officer of the parish in which he might be found.
§ Clause 54, and 55, to 63 agreed to.
§ On Clause 64,
The Bishop of Exeter
said, he hoped his noble Friend would consider the petition which he presented from the parishoners of Kensington, complaining of their being included in a Union. Their case was one of some hardship, for the population of the parish of Kensington exceeded 20,000.
§ The Clause and the three following agreed to.
§ Clause 68 was struck out and another Clause inserted, making a slight alteration in the mode of making application by district boards.
§ The remaining Clauses of the Bill agreed to.
§ House adjourned.