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ART. III.—1. A Treatise upon the Poor Laws. By T. P. Courtenay, Esq. Svo.
2. Remarks on a Course of Education designed to prepare the Youthful Mind for a Career of Honour, Patriotism, and Philanthropy. By Thomas Myers, A. M. of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, &c.
3. A Summary View of the Report and Evidence relative to the Poor Laws, published by order of the House of Commons, with Observations and Suggestions. By S. W. Nicoll.
4. A Letter to the Common Council and Livery of the City of London on the Abuses existing in Newgate, &c. By the Hon. H. G. Bennet, M. P.
THE HE ruin of this kingdom has been predicted by shallow statesmen and malcontents rather more frequently than the destruction of the world has been announced by crazy prophets. Yet, because such predictions have proved only presumptuousness and folly, or the malevolence and madness of those by whom they were uttered, it would be wretchedly illogical to conclude that the world will hold on its regular course through all eternity, or that the fortune of the country will always bear it triumphantly through all difficulties. The doctrine of climacterical years is justly accounted among the obsolete errors of medicine, yet there are seasons of life wherein the probabilities of disease and death are greater than at others, and so it is in the constitution of society. It cannot, indeed, be foreknown, as in the human constitution, when such seasons are to be expected, but they may be well discovered by a judicious observer when they come; and he must have observed little, and reflected less, who does not perceive that this is one of those critical seasons-perhaps a more momentous one than that in which the restoration of letters and the invention of printing, the reformation in religion and the discovery of India and America, gave a new impulse to mankind, and affected them more or less throughout the globe. Whether the crisis shall be for evil or for good depends, under Providence, mainly upon ourselves. It must be for great good or for great evil. Let us inquire what may be done to assist the benignant indications, and counteract those of an opposite cha
In the progress of that great question, which is at this time before parliament, it may reasonably be hoped that some radical improvement will be effected in the poor laws, and in the condition of that class for whose benefit they were designed, but to whose deterioration they have unquestionably tended. The evil which these laws have produced increased slowly during the seventeenth and the greater part of the eighteenth century, because it had much to over
come in the habits and character of the English peasantry. are feelings which for a while survive the institutions from which they have grown: the dependence which the feudal system created was of this kind. Long after the lord had ceased to require the service of his vassals in war, and to estimate his power by the number of men whom he could bring into the field either for or against his sovereign, the bond between them continued unbroken. They who were born upon his lands looked to him as their natural protector; the castle or the manor-house was open to them upon festival days, and from thence they were supplied in sickness with homely medicines, and that good diet, which, as old Tusser says, 'with wisdom, best comforteth man.' To look elsewhere for assistance and relief would have been equally painful to the one party and injurious to the other. The old man had no sense of degradation in accepting the bounty of those for whom he had faithfully laboured in his youth and strength; there was no humiliation inflicted or intended; it was part of the payment of his services, a debt of kindness and good-will, cheerfully paid and gratefully received. As the metropolis grew more attractive, the Lady Bountifuls and the Sir Roger de Coverlys became extinct: men mingled more with the world, and women attended more regularly at Vanity Fair. The peasantry, however, were still attached to the soil, and took root where they were born. The beneficial effects of this were that they grew up with a sense of family pride; the son did not wish to leave behind him a worse remembrance than his father; a good name was part of his inheritance, and, in case of unavoidable misfortune, it assured him relief; for charity is as much the characteristic of civilized man, as cruelty is of the savage. It is not necessary to look back beyond the memory of man for this state of things as very generally existing throughout the country. A labourer would not, without extreme reluctance, apply for parochial aid, and nothing but extreme necessity could induce him to enter a poor-house. They who were reconciled to the inevitable lot of poverty shrunk from the disgrace of pauperism, and many are the instances wherein money which could ill be spared from the scanty provision of old age has been laid aside, that there might be something to defray the expenses of a decent funeral without coming upon the parish, even after death-such used to be the character of the stationary poor.
Some price is paid for every improvement in society, and every stage in our progress brings with it its concomitant evils: if the good do but predominate it is all we can expect in this imperfect world, and all that we ought to desire, for this is not our abiding-place. In the middle rank of life, which is assuredly the happiest, (and which in this country and at this time is beyond all doubt the most favourable situation in which man has ever been placed for the cul
tivation of his moral and intellectual nature,) the greatest abatement of happiness arises from the dispersion of families and the breaking up of family ties. When we think of the patriarchal age, it is its exemption from this evil that constitutes its peculiar and almost romantic charm. How rarely is it that a large family is ever collected together after the years of childhood are past! the daughters are transplanted into other households, the sons go east and west in search of fortune, separated from each other and from their birthplace by wide tracks of sea and land; they are divided in youth, and when those meet again, who live to meet, the first feeling is that sinking of the spirit which the sense of time and change produces, embodied as it were, and pressing upon the heart with all the weight of mortality. There is much to compensate for this in the middle ranks of life-communication is maintained in absence, a home for the natural affections exists-a resting-place where hope and memory meet; a wider scene of action brings with it increase of knowledge, enlargement of mind, new joys and new powers of enjoyment-in most cases a manifest balance of good. But the migratory system extends lower in society where there are not the same qualifying circumstances: it has arisen, as it became needful: the state and the general good require that it should be so; it recruits our fleets and armies, it furnishes hands for our manufactures, and supplies the consumption of life in our great cities; but its moral effects upon the great majority are lamentably injurious. The eye and the voice of a parent never wholly lose their effect over minds which are not decidedly disposed to chuse the evil part; and there are always in a man's birth-place those whose good opinion he has been desirous of obtaining, and to whom he is inclined to listen with habitual deference. From such wholesome influences the uneducated and the ill-educated are removed at an age when they stand most in need of affectionate counsel and prudent controul. They go where they are altogether strangers, or at least where there are none who have a near and dear concern in watching over their welfare. Good and evil manners are both contagious; but the evil contagion is the stronger, and it is to this that they are most exposed.
And here we may notice one cause of moral deterioration which operates widely, at present, among the class of which we are speaking: the practice among the lower order of manufacturers and tradesmen of taking out-of-door apprentices, instead of boarding them in the house, as was the old custom. Boys and lads just rising into manhood, are thus left to themselves and to each other, without the slightest controul, except that of their own good principles, if they happen to have been trained up in the way they should go: we say happen, because so little provision has been made
VOL. XIX. NO. XXXVII.
for this in our institutions, and so generally is it neglected by individuals as well as by the state, that the youth in humble life, who has been properly instructed in his duty towards God and man, may be regarded as unusually fortunate. The evil consequences of this practice are apparent; the apprentice, being thus uncontrouled, is in danger of contracting those habits which lead to idleness and want, and, perhaps, to a still more pitiable termination; and many a youth is thus sacrificed whom a careful master and the regu lations of a well ordered family might have saved from ruin. They who reflect upon the course of society in this country cannot, indeed, but perceive that the opportunities and temptations to evil have greatly increased, while the old restraints, of every kind, have as generally fallen into disuse. The stocks are now as commonly in a state of decay as the market-cross; and while the population has doubled upon the church establishment, the number of ale-houses has increased ten-fold in proportion to the population.
At a time when the legislature is taking into its consideration the momentous question of the Poor Laws, it is more than ever of importance that it should be well understood how large a part of the evil arises from causes which are completely within the power of the local magistrates, and how much may be accomplished by the efforts of benevolent individuals which cannot be reached by any legislative enactment. As the establishment of inns is one of the surest proofs and accompaniments of increasing civilization, so the multiplication of ale-houses is not less surely the effect and the cause of an increased and increasing depravity of manners. It may be affirmed broadly and without qualification, that every publichouse in the country, which is not required for the convenience of travellers, wayfarers and persons frequenting a market, is a seminary for idleness, misery and pauperism. We are speaking here of villages and small towns-large cities have wants and diseases of their own, of which we shall speak hereafter; but every public-house in the country, which is not necessary for the public good, is in itself a public evil and a cause of evil. To advise any sudden reduction of their numbers would be absurd. Hasty reformations bring with them greater evils than those which they are intended to correct: but, in this case, there is an easy and unobjectionable course. No new house should be licensed without clear proof that it would be useful to the neighbourhood;-which it could only be where a new village was rising, or where there was a rapid increase of inhabitants from some local causes : that a gentleman's servant wanted an establishment, or that a brewer found it advantageous to have another tap-room opened for the consumption of his beer, ought not to be considered sufficient causes for adding to what are already far too numerous. With regard to the unnecessary number of houses
which are already open, the licence should not be revived when the present occupier removes, or dies; one generation would then produce the desired reduction. And in every instance where habitual riot and drunkenness were suffered, or the doors kept open till an improper hour of the night, the licence should uniformly be taken away. Were the magistrates and parish-officers strictly to enforce these latter regulations, (as the law empowers and their duty requires them to do,) they would soon perceive the good effect in the amended morals of the parish, and that amendment would, slowly indeed, but certainly, be felt in the poor-rates. To punish offences is always a painful task-there is nothing painful nor invidious in preventing them and such prevention tends so evidently to the immediate benefit of the persons whom it affects, that even their own acquiescence in the fitness and utility of the measure may be looked for. The man who finds himself in the morning without a head-ache, and with the money in his pocket which he would otherwise have squandered in procuring one, cannot but acknowledge in his heart that he is the better for the restriction, however much it may have offended him at the time. But certainly they who exert themselves to prevent drunkenness and disorder will have the women on their side: the wife will rejoice in measures which may wean her husband from habits that ensure misery and want; and mothers will pray God to bless the magistrates who are instrumental in keeping their sons from temptation.
In the time of James I. it appears to have been common even for country labourers both to eat their meals and to lodge in inns or ale-houses. Sir Frederick Morton Eden, in whose great repository of facts concerning the history of the poor this is mentioned, does not determine whether this mode of living was occasioned by the injudicious regulations of Elizabeth's parliament, which prohibited the erection of cottages, or by the statute of inmates, which, in the city of London, and probably in other corporate towns, limited the number of inmates in a house to one family; or whether it was the natural and intermediate step in the progress of society, from the absolute dependence of the slave on his master for both diet and habitation, to the improved condition of the free labourer, who, at present, rarely resides under the same roof with his employer.' Whatever may have been the causes of this curious system, or whatever its extent, (for it cannot possibly have been general,) the effect was much less pernicious than that which our pot-houses produce at present. The character of the house itself was widely different-the ordinary was the usual denomination; and the word victualler, by which the law still designates an innkeeper, implies that originally his profits were derived more from the larder than 'The Innholders Posie,' provided for him by the honest. old