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improved ; if bridges were made of gold, instead of iron, they would not rust :- But there are not enough of these articles for such purposes.
A great part of the evils of the Poor-Laws has been occasioned by the large powers entrusted to individual Justices. Every body is full of humanity and good-nature when he can relieve misfortune by putting his hand-in his neighbour's pocket. Who can bear to see a fellow-creature suffering pain and poverty, when he can order other fellow-creatures to relieve them? Is it in human nature, that A should see B in tears and misery, and not order C to assist him ? Such a power must, of course, be liable to every degree of abuse; and the sooner the power of ordering relief can be taken out of the hands of Magistrates, the sooner shall we begin to experience some mitigation of the evils of the Poor-Laws. The Special- Vestry bill is good for this purpose, as far as it goes ; but it goes a very little way; and we much doubt if it will operate as any sort of abridgement to the power of Magistrates in granting relief. A single Magistrate must not act under this bill, but in cases of special emergency: But every case of distress is a case of special 'emergency: And the double Magistrates, holding their petty sessions at some little alehouse, and overwhelmed with all the monthly business of the Hundred, cannot possibly give to the pleadings of the overseer and pauper half the attention they would be able to afford them at their own houses.
The common people have been so much accustomed to resort to Magistrates for relief, that it is certainly a delicate business to wean them from this bad habit; but it is essential to the great objects which the Poor-Committee have in view, that the
power of Magistrates of ordering relief, should be gradually taken away. When this is once done, half the difficulties of the abolition are accomplished. We will suggest a few hints as to the means by which this desirable end may be promoted.
A poor man now comes to a Magistrate any day in the week, and any hour in any day, to complain of the Overseers, or of the Select Committee. Suppose he were to be made to wait a little, and to feel for a short time the bitterness of that poverty which, by idleness, extravagance, and hasty marriage, he has probably brought upon himself
. To effect this object, we would prohibit all orders for relief, by Justices, belween the first and tenth day of the nionth; and leave the poor entirely in the hands of the Overseers, or of the Select Vestry, for that period. Here is a beginning--a gradual abolition of one of the worst features of the Poor-Laws : And it is without risk of tumult; for no one
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will run the risk of breaking the laws for an evil to which he anticipates so speedy a termination. This Decameron of overseers' despotism, and paupers' suffering, is the very thing wanted. It will teach the parishes to administer their own charity responsibly, and to depend upon their own judgment. It will teach the poor the miseries of pauperism and dependence; and will be a warning to unmarried young men not hastily and rashly to place themselves, their wives and children, in the same iniserable situation; and it will effect all these objects gradually, and without danger. It would of course be the same thing on principle, if relief were confined to three days between the 1st and the 10th of each month; three between the 10th and the 20th; three between the 20th and the end of the month ;-or in any other manner that would gradually crumble away the power, and check the gratuitous munificence of Justices, --give authority over their own affairs to the heads of the parish, and teach the poor, by little and little, that they must suffer if they are imprudent. It is understood, in all these observations, that the Overseers are bound to support their poor without any order of Justices; and that death arising from absolute want should expose those officers to very severe punishments, if it could be traced to their inhumanity and neglect. The time must come when we must do without this; but we are not got so far yet-and are at present only getting rid of Justices, not of Overseers.
Mr Davison seems to think that the plea of old age stands upon a different footing, with respect to the Poor-Laws, from all other pleas. But why should this plea be more favoured than that of sickness ? why more than losses in trade, incurred by no imprudence? In reality, this plea is less entitled to indulgence. Every man knows he is exposed to the helplessness of age; but sickness and sudden ruin are very often escaped comparatively seldom happen. Why is a man exclusively to be protected against that evil which he must have foreseen longer than any other, and has had the longest time to guard against ? Mr Davison's objections to a limited expenditure, are much more satisfactory. These we shall lay before our readers; and we recommend them to the attention of the Committee. 4
I shall advert next to the plan of a limitation upon the amount of rates to be assessed in future. This limitation, as it is a pledge of some protection to the property now subjected to the maintenance of the poor against the indefinite encroachment which otherwise threatens it, is, in that light, certainly a benefit: and supposing its were rigorously adhered to, the very knowledge, among the parish expectants, that there was some limit to their range of expectation,
some barrier which they could not pass, might incline them to turn their thoughts homeward again to the care of themselves. But it is an expedient, at the best, far from being satisfactory. In the first place, there is much reason to fear that such a limitation would not eventually be maintained, after the example of a similar one having failed before, and considering that the urgency of the applicants, as long as they retain the principle of dependence upon the parish unqualified in any one of its main articles: would probably overbear a mere barrier of figures in the parish account. Then there wouid be much real difficulty in the proceedings, to be governed by such a limiting rule. For the use of the limitation would be chiefly, or solely, in cases where there is some struggle between the ordinary supplies of the parish rates, and the exigencies of the poor, or a kind of and
pressure upon the parish by a mass of indigence: and, in circumstances of this kind, it would be hard to know how to distribute the supplies under a fair proportion to the applicants, known or expected; hard to know how much might be granted for the present, and how much should be kept in reserve for the remainder of the year's service. The real intricacy in such a distribution of account would show itself in disproportions and inequalities of allowance, impossible to be avoided ; and the applicants would have one pretext more for discontent.
• The limitation itself in many places would be only in words and figures. It would be set, I presume, by an average of certain preceding years. But the average raken upon the preceding years might be a sum exceeding in its real value the highest amount of the assessments of any of the averaged years, under the great change which has taken place in the value of money itself. A given rate, or assessment nominally the same, or lower, might in this
way a greater real money value than it was some time before. In many of the most distressed districts, where the parochial rates have nearly equalled the rents, a nominal average would therefore be no effectual benefit;
it is in those districts that the alleviation of the burthen is the most wanted.
• It is manifest, also, that a peremptory restriction of the whole amount of money applicable to the parochial service, though abundantly justified in many districts by their particular condition being so impoverished as to make the measure, for them, almost a measure of necessity, if nothing can be substituted for it, and where the sanie extreme necessity does not exist, still justified by the prudence of preventing in some way the interminable increase of the parochia! burthens ; still, that such a restriction is an ill-adjusted measure in itself, and would in many instances operate very inequitably. It would fall unfairly in some parishes, where the relative state of the poor and the parish might render an increase of the relief as just and reasonable, as it is possible for any thing to be under the Poor-Laws at all. It would deny to many possible fair claimants the whole, of a part of that degree of relief commonly granted elsewhere to per
sons in their condition, on this or that account of claim. Leaving the reason of the present demands wholly unimpeached, and unexplained ; directing no distinct warning or remonstrance to the parties, in the line of their affairs, by putting a check to their expectations upon positive matters implicated in their conduct; which would be speaking to them in a definite sense, and a sense applicable to all: this plan of limitation would nurture the whole mass of the claim in its origin, and deny the allowance of it to thousands, on account of reasons properly affecting a distant quarter, of which they know nothing. The want of a clear method, and of a good principle at the bottom of it. in this direct compulsory restriction, renders it, I think, wholly unacceptable, unless it be the only possible plan that can be devised for accomplishing the same end. If a parish had to keep its account with a single dependant, the plan would be much more useful in that case. For the ascertained fact of the total amount of his expectations might set his mind at rest, and put him on a decided , course of providing for himself. But, in the limitation proposed to be made, the ascertained fact is of a general amount only, not of each man's share in it. Consequently, each man has his indefinite expectations left to him, and every separate specific ground of expectation remaining as before.' · Mr Davison talks of the propriety of refusing to find labour for able labourers after the elapse of ten years; as if it was some ordinary bill he was proposing, unaccompanied by the slightest risk. It is very easy to make such laws, and to propose them; but it would be of immense difficulty to carry them into execution. Done it must be, every body knows that; but the real merit will consist in discovering the gradual and gentle means by which the difficulties of getting parish labour may be increased, and the life of a parish pauper be rendered a life of salutary and deterring hardship. A law that rendered such request for labour perfectly lawful for 10 years longer, and then suddenly abolished it, would merely bespeak a certain, general, and violent insurrection for the year 1830. The legislator, thank God, is in his nature a more cunning and gradual animal.
Before we drop Mr Davison, who writes like a very sensible man, we wish to say a few words about his style. If he would think less about it, he would write much better. It is always as plethoric and full-dressed as if he were writing a treatise de finibus bonorum et malorum. He is sometimes obscure; and is occasionally apt to dress up common-sized thoughts in big clothes, and to dwell a little too long in proving what every man of sense knows and admits. We hope we shall not offend Mr Davison by these remarks; and we have really no intention of doing so. His views upon the Poor-Laws are, generally speaking, very correct and philosophical ; he writes like a gen
tleman, a scholar, and a man capable of eloquence; and we hope he will be a bishop. If his mitred productions are as enlightened and liberal as this, we are sure he will confer as much honour on the Bench as he receives from it. There is a good deal, however, in Mr Davison's book about the virtuous marriages of the poor.' To have really the charge of a family as a husband and a father, we are told,--to have the privilege of laying out his life in their service, is the poor man's boast,- his home is the school of his sentiments,' &c. &c. This is viewing human life through a Claude Lorraine glass, and decorating it with colours which do not belong to it. A ploughman marries a ploughwoman because she is plump; generally uses her ill; thinks his children an incumbrance; very often flogs them; and, for sentiment, has nothing more nearly approaching to it, than the ideas of broiled bacon and mashed potatoes. This is the state of the lower orders of mankind-deplorable, but true--and yet rendered much worse by the Poor-Laws. - The system of Roundsmen is much complained of; as well as that by which the labour of paupers is paid, partly by the rate, partly by the master--and a long string of Sussex Justices send up a petition on the subject. But the evil we are suffering under is an excess of population. There are ten men applying for work, when five only are wanted; of course, such a redundance of labouring persons must depress the rate of their labour far beyond what is sufficient for the support of their families. And how is that deficiency to be made up but from the parish-rates, unless it is meant suddenly and iminediately to abolish the whole system of the Poor-Laws? To state that the rate of labour is lower than a man can live by, is merely to state that we have had, and have, Poor-Laws, of which this practice is at length the inevitable consequence; and nothing could be more absurd than to attempt to prevent, by acts of Parliament, the natural de preciation of an article which exists in much greater abundance than it is wanted. Nor can any thing be more unjust than the complaint, that roundsinen are paid by their employers at an inferior rate, and that the difference is made up by the parish funds. A roundsman is commonly an inferior description of labourer who cannot get regularly hired ;-he comes upon his parish for labour commonly at those seasons when there is the least to do ;--he is not a servant of the farmer's choice, and probably does not suit him ;-he goes off to any other labour at a moment's warning, when he finds it more profitable;- and the farmer is forced to keep nearly the same number of labourers, as if there were no roundsinen at all. Is it just then that a labourer, combining every species of imperfection, should receive the same