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On the Poor Laws,

To the Editor of the PHILANTHŘOPIST. Sir, I Am persuaded you will not think a corner of your valuable Journal ill bestowed in giving publicity to the following facts relating to the administration of the Poor Laws: they will at least contribute, if any thing for that purpose were now wanting, to show the necessity of some alteration in what has become so important a branch of our internal administration. For the purpose of authentication, I send you my name ; which you are at liberty to make such use of as you may sce convenient : there would be no objection to the communicating the names of the parties concerned, where it can prove of any use.

The poor in the parish in question, as is the case in all other English parishes, are under the immerliate management of overseers, who themselves, as to this purpose, are subject to the control of an assembly of Justices of the Peace, composing what is called a Bench. These Justices may or may not be inhabitants of the parish, in respect of which the power in ques. tion is exercised, and consequently will in some cases be, and in others will not be, individually interested in the frugal and proper direction of the money raised for the poor of the parish in respect of which they may happen to be called upon to exercise the power they are intrusted with.

In the case of the parish in question, it so happens, that the Justices who usually attend the Bench, consist wholly or for the most part of persons not resident within the parish : the consequence is, that having an interest in the reputation which is to be gained by liberality, and no restraint from their own pecuniary interest, no part of the cost coming from their own pockets, their drafts are made with a most unsparing hand.

As a specimen, it may be sufficient to mention one or two instances that have very recently occurred.

1. A woman, an inhabitant of the parish in question, applied to the overseers, informing them that she had run a score at the chandler's shop, &c. amounting to about 71., which she demanded that they should pay for her. The overseers refused; neither regarding the woman as a proper object, nor the debt


but as one improperly incurred. At the next meeting of the Justices, having by a summons compelled the attendance of the overseers, she stated ber case to the Bench. The Justice without hesitation or inquiry as to the manner in which the debt had been incurred, whether unavoidably or wantonly, without taking any precautions for securing the discharge of it, ordered the overseers to make her an allowance of 7s. a week till tlic debt was paid off: thus giving the woman an interest in never paying it off.

2. A woman applied to the overseers for a pair of shoes for her son, a boy about eight years of age. The overseers in this case too, deening the person an unfit object of charity, refused to comply with the demand. They were by summons compelled to appear before the Bench, and the Bench ordered the overseers to furnish the boy with the shoes. So far all might have been right. But the occasion was not to be lost : a suffi. cient stock of reputation for humanity it may have been thought was not to be acquired at so cheap a rate. The shoes were demanded, and were of no great value. Some spontaneous offering must be made, and of greater value. To one or all of the Justices it occurred, that to a new pair of shoes, a very proper appendage would be a new suit of clothes ; and the scheme being at once communicated to the mother, and no objections being made by her, the clothes as well as the shoes were ordered accordingly.

3. A farmer employed a man during the winter in cutting wood for him. The man one day broke his bill-hook, (the instrument employed for cutting down the wool,) and demanded another of his employer. The farmer told him, no; it belonged to himself, as to other wood-cutters in the place, to find himself in tools. The man replied, that if he would not give him one, he would stop work and go to the parish. The farmer, after resisting, finding that this would certainly be the consequence, preferred to pay for the bill-hook; partly, perhaps, to save himself from contributing towards the maintenance of the addition that would thus be made to the pauper population; partly, perhaps, to save an able-bodied man from the debilitating effects of a winter's sojournment under the discipline of a poor-house. But whatever might have been the motive of the farmer, whether benevolence, or frugality, or a mixture of both, the fact at least serves to show, that between free labour and pauperism, the balance of aclvantages is not very strongly against the poor-house.

4. In the case of girls bred up in the country, the employments between which they have to make their option, are that of servitude and that of working for farmers in harvest-work, loppicking, and other agricultural works wbich are proportioned to their strength. The one of these species of works affords constant einployment throughout every season of the year; the other occasional employment only, and that during the spring and summer, and part of the autumn, leaving the remainder of autumn and winter altogether without employment. Support is, however, as necessary during this, as during any other part of the year ; and no part of the summer earning being very commonly, or rather ever savedl, to provide for this periodically recurring deticiency, the resource is the parish. Now it so happens, from reasons that it is foreign to the present purpose to inquire into, that girls in general prefer this occasional to the constant employment; and the consequence is, that the parish rates are swelled by the periodical maintenance of this class of paupers. Renonstrance is in vain. Provide them with places of servitude, and their renedy is insolence or other misconduct to their masier or mistress; and as no compulsory measures can be resorted to for compeiling them to retain their refractory servants, they are cast again upon thicir parish, and so the same scene recurs toties quoties.

5. No parish is bound to maintain any other poor than its own; and what is its own, millions perhaps have been spent in determining. But supposing that point io be ascertained, if it so happens to please the pauper, he may, to a certain extent, draw upon any pauper fund at his option. A woman and her two children, whose settlement is in Wales, liappened to have a particular passion for establishing lierself in the parish in question, which is in Surry. To tlie over eers the arrangement appeared objectionable ; an:) they accordingly adopted what to thein appeared the preferable remedly, which was, the removal, by one of their own oflicers, of the paper and her appendages to the place of their set:lewent. tion may liave cost I have not the materials for precisely stating; but it wiil without difliculty be conceived, that the hire of a horse and cart (which was the means of conveyance adopted) for so long a journey, and the maintenance of four persons going and one returning, will not have amounted to any very inconsiderable sum. But the pauper was not thus to be discomfited. With a perseverance and alacrity worthy a better cause, she actually, before the return home of her conductor, succeeded in regaining the station from which she had thus been fruitlessly

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dislodged! The same operation, and of course at the same expense, was repeated : but whether this second disconfiture, or the apprehension of the punishment* (if she happens to be aware of it, which is not very probable) to which she subjects borself by her perseverance, will have daunted her courage, time alone can disclose,

6. It seems now not to be very generally denied that men are governed by motives, and that the materials out of which a mo. tive is formed are the circumstances that are, or are considered as being, most conducive to their interest. If a man has a full board offered to him, and without work, in so far as he is governed by motives, there seems no very obvious reason why he should prefer a scanty one and with work. In the parish in question, which is far from being managed with any remark, able want of frugality, for they do not feed their poor upon best wether mutton, the paupers are provided with hot pork three days in the week, alternating with cold jork the four other days; while the day labourers, I speak even of those who are distinguished for their sobriety and prudence, are, as they themselves have informed me, for months together without tasting any animal food whatever. What is this system then but a most tempting and almost irresistible reward, ail honour. able feelings on the subject being completely obliterated by the multitude of companions there are to keep him in countenance, to universal pauperism? There is scarcely to be met with now any agricultural labourer who is ashamed to apply for parish , relief: he might be rather apprehensive that his discreetness should be called in question were he to miss the pursuit of what is made so manisestly and palpably his interest. Perhaps, if to Mr. Windham the subject bad happened to have presented

* By 13 and 14 Car. U. c. 12. $ 3. And 17 Geo. II. c. 5. enacts, that all persons who shall unlawfully return to the parish from whence they have been legally removed, “ shall be deemed idle and disorderly persons," and may be sent to the house of correction, there to be kept to hard labour for any time not exceeding one month. With their accustomed felicity of expression, our statute framers rarely mius in making their productions obscure or absurd. It may very well happen, and no doubt has often happened, that a man whom the statute thus pereraptorily orders 10“ be dermed idle and disorderly," may be the most industrious and most orderly man in the parish. There are inany reasons, and none of them vicious, that may induce a man to prefer another parish to work in rather than his own; and if, after this statute was made, a man having such a preference, was found after one removal, whether this removal had been with or without cause, working in a foreign parish, however hard be might be working, and how ever meritorious and exemplary his conduct in other respects might be, he was still to be deemed idle and disorderly. The law is in this respect, however, altered: no person can now be removed, unless he become Mulually chargeable to his parish, See 26 Geo. III. c, 107.

itself in this point of view, one of his most potent objections to a system of national education, would not have been that it tended to raise the poor above their condition, and to inspire them with more liberal and independent kelings.

I am, &c.
Surry, Nor. Ist. 1811.

A. B.

It is with much pleasure that we give publicity to these facts. We present this as a specimen of the sort of communi, cations, which we invite from our readers, on the state of the paupers, as well as of the labouring classes in general, in every quarter of the country. We liope that we shall succeed in persuading our countrymen of how much importance it is, to make known the facts which concern humanity in all its modifications. It is only from the knowledge of facts, that a knowledge can spring either of benefits that remain to be attained, or of evils that remain to be removedl. And it is only from the circulation of that knowledge, that the desire of ei fectuating those benefits, or removing the evils, becomes so strong as to constitute an efficient principle of reformation.

We shall often revert to this subject. At present we shall only suggest one thought, which appears to us of great importance. We have already expressed our admiration of the methods contrived by Mr. Bentham, for uniting in the ca:e of penitentiary houses to so extraordinary a degree the interests of humanity with the correction of oflenders and the diminution of expenses. It has often appeared to us, that houses of industry for the safe custody and correction of offenders, and houses of industry for the employment and maintenance of the poor, were distinguished by one remarkable circumstance; that the one are intended for the purification of the inmates from the taint which they may have contracted by familiarity with vice, and for the safe custoly of their persons; the other have not that intention. But it has also appeared to us, that as in both sets of houses there are two main objects to be pursvied, viz. that the inmates, by their labour, should be rendered as productive as possible, and, by their consumption, as little burihensome as possible, (i. e. consistently with the neces. saries and comforts of well-being,) that a great many of the in. ventions which are adapted to the right ordering of the one set of houses, might, by judgement and skill, be, with great ad. yantage, borrowed and adapted to the right ordering and mapagement of the other.

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