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same things of The Sunday at Ilome. (London Religious Tract Society,) -which is excellent in every respect. Cassell's Penny Readings, with Illustrations. Edited by Tom Hood. (London and New York: Cassell, Petter, & Galpin.)—Every literary sciolist thinks that he can make a selection, just as every clergyman thinks that he can compile a hymn-book. Two facts ought to produce somewhat of doubt: first, that of the hundreds of compilations that are continually issuing from the press, how few there are that do not float away into oblivion with the season; next, that when a man really competent by wide reading and critical skill undertakes to make a selection, his work becomes a classic -Southey's, or Charles Knight's, for instance. Mr. Hood possesses both qualifications. His selections are admirable. They range over the whole field of English and American literature ; and to its well-known fruits and flowers, they add exquisite little bits culled out of hedge-rows and unsuspected corners. The volume is one to use as a table-book : open where we will, we are sure to meet with something choice. greater service to the people’ than such a compilation could hardly be rendered. The engravings, too, are admirable, and are wisely lavished, so as to appeal to the eye as well as to the ear; while the title indicates that the volume is one of those marvels of cheapness for which Messrs. Cassell have won a wide and grateful fame. The Quiver. Vol. II. (London : Cassell, Petter, & Galpin).-A good tale is essential to float even the gravest magazine. It would therefore be utterly impossible for the Quiver' to dispense with one. Its chief feuilletoniste is the author of · Mark Warren,' who contributes to the volume two stories; and so imperative is the necessity, that the second commences on the page that presents the conclusion of the first. It is the highest wisdom so to minister to the people-to be instructed they must be interested ; and the influence of noble principles inculcated in attractive fiction is very great and manifold. The volume admirably combines reading of every class-history, exposition, poetry, religious teaching, travel, biography, &c. The articles are short, and, as a whole, of a very high class. The names of writers like Mr. Alexander, Isa Craig, Alexander Smith, Morley Punshon, and W. H. G. Kingston, are a sufficient guarantee of this. The illustrations, too, are plentiful and good. The volume is simple enough for a cottage, and handsome enough for a drawing-room. Cassell's Magazine (London : Cassell, Petter, & Galpin) contains rather too many sensational stories and second-rate illustrations, and is not, as it appears to us, equal to the majority of Messrs. Cassell's publications.
APRIL 1, 1868.
Art. 1.-Our Poor Law Administration.
For the last three years nearly, an agitation has been going on, and steadily increasing, respecting the administration of state relief to the poor. The actual uprising of public feeling on the matter was determined by an accident, and was diverted by that accident into a somewhat narrow channel ; but the discontent upon which it was based was of much older standing, and extended to much more than the mere question of the treatment of the sick in workhouses, which last, owing to the successive deaths of Gibson and Daly, from gross neglect, in the Holborn and St. Giles's Workhouses early in 1865, became the foremost topic of agitation.
The English nation, with the exception of a small school of enthusiastic doctrinaire politicians—the authors of the billand a few stupid and selfish persons who utterly misunderstood the elevated motives of these politicians, felt no hearty liking for the New Poor Law of 1834, and in many quarters it was received with clamorous remonstrance and opposition. The intentions of the legislators were in themselves most reasonable and praiseworthy. They aimed at and they accomplished the extinction of a huge mass of voluntary pauperism which, under the corrupt administration of the old law, had eaten into the heart of the nation. On the other hand, the opposition to their measure was of divided origin, and was maintained by different parties from motives which were essentially distinct from each other. With one class of cavillers at the New Poor Law, the grievance felt was chiefly a matter of political
spite against the authors of the Bill, and partly, also, a sentimental regret at the passing away of what they considered as a remnant of the paterno-squirearchical government, upon which the Reform Act had already made such shocking inroads. With another class, whose motives were more respectable, the opposition to the new system arose from a genuine sentiment of philanthropy, and a dread, based on more or less intelligent prevision of the probable working of the Act, lest serious hardships should be inflicted on the deserving poor. Those who remember or have read the debates which took place in Parliament in the years 1837, 1838, and 1841, more especially, and still further those who have taken the trouble to search the files of the Times during several years after the passing of the Act, are aware that these forebodings were verified. It was attempted to enforce the workhouse test,' and to abolish the system of out-door relief; and at the same time the old workhouses were enlarged, and new ones were built, upon a strictly penal system. The prison-like buildings in which alone the destitute were intended to be relieved were made just a little superior to the rudest dwellings of the poor, but this trifling superiority was far more than neutralised by various devices. In the first place, entire separation of the sexes was enforced ; and this, although not unfair in the case of young, able-bodied married couples, inflicted needless cruelty upon the aged. Secondly, there was no adequate provision made either for the proper lodging or nursing of the sick, or for the tendance and care of young children. And above all, there was a prevailing air of imprisonment in all the arrangements of the workhouses, the only differences between these establishments and the common gaols being altogether in favour of the latter, both as to the quality of the diet and the general treatment of the inmates, and as to the intelligence and humanity of the supervising officers.
It is not to be supposed for a moment that the statesmen who devised the New Poor Law foresaw all the hardships that the new system would inflict, any more than that they foresaw the practical failure that it has since come to. In seeking to extinguish the voluntary pauperism of able-bodied idlers, they forgot, or rather were probably quite ignorant of, the large number of persons whom sickness or old age disables before they have had a chance to make any provision for a rainy day, and the multitudes of children, whose chances of living an honest and useful life would be ruined by their bringing up in the workhouse. Under the New Poor Law, these classes of paupers have suffered grierously, as we shall presently show more Effects of the New Poor Lau.
in detail. But we must first sketch, in rapid outline, the general results of the Act of 1834, as they are now plainly visible after the thirty-three years during which it has been in operation.
That the Act did extinguish an immense amount of voluntary pauperism, at any rate for the time, we have already admitted"; and we may now add, that the improved supervision of Poor Law relief, which was brought about by the establishment of the Poor Law Board, did undoubtedly put an end to an enormous amount of local corruption, jobbery, and extravagance of all kinds, by which the money of the ratepayers had been wasted like water. We cheerfully admit, also, that the system of inspection by officers sent from the Central Board, though its insufficient character has been only too plainly shown by recent disclosures, did really abate some of the more flagrant abuses which had previously been rampant in workhouses. least the external semblance of order, decency, and humanity was introduced into most of these establishments, which in the majority of cases had formerly been hideous stews, in which glaring profligacy and gross peculation by officials had gone on side by side with revolting cruelty, exercised by these very officials upon the more helpless inmates. Here, however, our praise must end; and the reverse of the shield which we must now present offers a picture which is startling in its sombreness.
In the first place, the workhouse test, though it succeeded so far as to get rid of a huge number of good-for-nothing ablebodied paupers, could never in practice be carried out as the sole mode of parish relief. It was found impossible not to give out-relief to a considerable number of aged and infirm, and to some temporarily distressed persons, who would not enter the workhouse. So the minimum of out-relief was occasionally allowed; with this result—that the recipients struggled on for months or years as best they might, and usually spent their latter days in the workhouse when it had become impossible for them to support themselves, or be supported by their friends with the assistance of the wretched pittance allowed by the parish. With really effective money-help at the commencement of their troubles, many of these persons might have been saved from sinking into a state of physical and mental depression from which they could never afterwards emerge into the condition of active citizens. Under the unwise economy of the system, they did so sink; and it soon became the bad traditional custom, in whole districts where the wages and the intelligence of the population were low, to look forward to the workhouse as the natural home for old age and infirmity,—a
home which people knew, indeed, to be very comfortless, but which at least was certain, and which they considered they • had a right to,' such as it was. One might fill a volume with the details of the serious evils which immediately resulted from this, but can find space for only one or two.
In the first place, the stringency of family ties was loosened, and the sense of filial obligation to shelter and provide for aged and disabled parents was greatly weakened ; and in fact, it may be feared that in many parts of the country it became the fashion among the labouring classes to regard the removal of a decrepit member of the family to the workhouse as a satisfactory and final riddance from a burden. But it may be doubted if even more mischief was not done by the diffusion among the ignorant of a thoroughly unsound notion of the social duties of the State. The working classes were taught to understand that they would receive only the minimum of assistance from the public resources, and that even that would be given in the least attractive form ; but they were unfortunately allowed, and almost encouraged, to regard that minimum as their natural right, instead of being taught to look upon it as a mere concession from motives of state expediency.
The act of compelling poor persons to enter workhouses caused, in numerous instances, the demoralization of an entire family. When the bread-winner in a household was compelled by sickness or loss of work to throw himself upon the workhouse, his home was broken up, and all the members of his family who were dependent on him were also compelled to enter the workhouse. The influence of life in the union-house upon persons of mature years and formed character might be good or bad—too often it was very bad; but upon the young, in nearly every case it was unmixedly evil. This necessarily resulted from the defective organization and management of the workhouses.
The younger generation of the present day have never known, and their elders have mostly forgotten, what was the structure and internal economy of the Bastiles' (as they were not unfairly called) to which the New Poor Law consigned the destitute. The public documents which contain the evidence on this point lie before us now, and in studying them two things strike us with astonishment. We are amazed, in the first place, that even the wildest political theorists, being otherwise decent citizens of a so-called Christian country, could have ventured to adopt the gigantic scheme of incarcerating an enormous pauper population, of all ages, of both sexes, and of every variety as to moral character and as to physical health, without at least pro