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Concerning relieving the Poor in Workhouses.
The statutes regulating this mode of administering relief will be classed under the three following heads:
1st, As to the provisions relating to the building, altering, and enlarging workhouses; and selling old ones.
2dly, As to the provisions relating to contracts to be made for supplying goods for the use of the poor ; and,
3dly, The enactments which regulate the conduct of the masters and inmates, and provide for the internal economy and management of workhouses.
Parishes are not compellable to erect workhouses, but may maintain and employ their poor at their own homes. (1)
By 43 Eliz. c. 2. s.4. In order that necessary places of habit- Houses may ation may be more conveniently provided for poor impotent the poor on persons, the churchwardens and overseers, or major part the wastes. of them, by agreement under hand and seal of the lord of the manor, or according to any order of justices in sessions, by like agreement, may build in fit and convenient places in the waste or common, at the charge of the parish or otherwise of the hundred or county, convenient houses of dwelling for the impotent poor.
By 9 Geo. I. c. 7. s. 4. the churchwardens and overseers, Houses may with consent of the majority of parishioners in vestry, may for the poor by purchase or hire any house or houses in the parish, &c. and parishes,
(1) Per Buller J., Rex v. Wetherell, Cald. 432.
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contract for the lodging, keeping, maintaining, and em
ploying their poor ; and there keep, maintain, and employ and contracts them, and take the benefit of their labour; and any poor made for their maintenance.
refusing to be lodged, maintained, &c. in such house, shall not be entitled to relief.
The concurrence of all the parish officers is not necessary to make the contract valid ; the assent of the major part is sufficient, although the rest refuse to join. (1).
The section further provides, that if any parishes, townunite in pro ships, &c. are too small to purchase or hire such houses, for lodging the two or more of such parishes, &c. with the like consent of poor. the parishioners, and with the approbation of any justice,
under hand and seal, dwelling in or near such parishes, &c. may unite in purchasing or hiring such houses for the
lodging, keeping, and maintaining their poor, and there Poor refusing keep and maintain them, and take the benefit of their to be maintained there
work and labour; and any persons refusing to be so not entitled to lodged, kept, and maintained, shall not be entitled to relief.
relief. Extends only to those actu
This provision being, as was before mentioned (2), proally asking relief. ductive of many harsh consequences, notwithstanding the
decision of the judges, that it extended only to compel Discretionary those persons of a family to go there who were in actual
want of relief; a discretionary power is given to magistrates justices to order relief to by 36 Geo. III. c. 23., to order relief to the poor at their the poor at
dwelling houses in cases of illness, &c. for a certain period, home.
and by 55 Geo. III. c. 13. s. 3. for a still further time. (3)
power given to
But not where there are
It is, however, expressly enacted by sect. 4 & 5 of 36 Geo. III. c. 23. that such power shall not extend to places
(1) Rex v. Beeston, 3 Term Rep. 592. i Bott, 408, Pl. 510,
(3) See the statutes, ante, p. 357., for the remedy to enforce obedience to orders of maintenance, post, chap. xxxvi.
where houses of industry are provided under 22 Geo. III. houses of in
dustry. c.83., or any other special act.
Nor to hundreds incorporated by a particular act. (1)
The same section still further provides, that the church- One parish wardens and overseers of any parish where a workhouse may comtract has been established under this act, may, with the like con- nance of its sent of the parishioners, contract with the churchwardens poor with anoand overseers of any other parish for the lodging, maintaining, and employing the poor of such other parish; and any poor refusing to be so lodged and maintained in such workhouse shall not be entitled to relief. But no person shall acquire a settlement by reason of his removal to such other parish, but it shall be the same as before such removal.
Two justices by an order removed W. H. from the pa- Two united rish of Lyncombe to the parish of St. Peter and St. Paul, parishes may in the city of Bath; to which parish they adjudged him house in a likely to become chargeable. The sessions on appeal third, and if
poor reconfirm the order, and state the following case:
The side there unparishioners of the parish of St. Peter and St. Paul, in der a certifi
cate they. ivo conjunction with the parishioners of the parish of St. James, cannot be rein the city of Bath, some time since purchased a piece moved. of ground, situated in the parish of Lyncombe, and built thereon a house for the reception and maintenance of the poor of the several parishes of St. Peter and St. Paul, and St. James there. In September last, the pauper W. H. being impotent and unable to work, was, together with all the other paupers of the said parish of St. Peter and St. Paul, removed from thence to the said new erected house, in Lyncombe, where he and the rest of the poor have been maintained at the expence of that parish, without being any expence to Lyncombe. The pauper, and all the other poor who went into the said house, carried with them regular certificates signed by the officers of St. Peter and
(1) Rex v. Keer & Rich, 5 Terin Rep. 150. i Bott, 410. Pl. 501. ante, p. 358.
St. Paul, and which were delivered to the officers of Lyncombe. Notwithstanding which, the officers of L. obtained an order for his removal, as not being an object of the certificate act, and therefore unprotected by it. But by Lord Mansfield; after stating the object of the certificate act: “ The want of workhouses was soon felt as an inconvenience. They were not long after (i.e. the certificate act) introduced by the legislature; and if well regulated, a most desirable mode of relief they are. They supply comfort and accommodation for those who cannot work, and employment for those who can. In many instances which have chanced to fall within my knowledge, particularly on the midland circuit, they have reduced the annual amount of the poor rates one half. But this benefit could not within itself be received by every small district; for where parishes were small, the expence of the necessary buildings
was too heavy for them. This obstacle was foreseen by Single parishes the legislature, and provided against accordingly. Though must contract single parishes could only contract for these buildings withfor workhouses within in their own limits (1), yet where two unite, no restrictions their limits. United parish
were imposed; the power is general. It is obvious that the es may in a
workhouse of a single parish must be most conveniently situthird.
ated in that parish. Upon a similar principle, where many parishes were jointly concerned, the legislature did not require that the buildings should be raised in either of the confederate parishes; because, in such a case, a spot might be found in some other parish more centrical and better accommodated to their general convenience than any part of their united district. The act, therefore, authorizes the purchase any where; and when once the joint purchase is made, wherever it be, it becomes a part of the local system of each contracting parish ; and if the poor will not go there, they are not entitled to relief. The same narrow spirit that has impeded the progress of this beneficial plan now starts up again to limit this power, and almost to overthrow the act itself, which was calculated ultimately to
(1) Vide 59 G. III. c.12, s. 10. infra. 380.
reduce expence, as well as promote industry and encourage manufactures, by employing all the poor under the eye
of one master. But the objection is not warranted by the certificate act, whatever might be the leading motive in passing the act; that statute authorizes the whole body of the poor, of whatever denomination, and with whatever object, to leave their own and remove into any other parish, provided they can obtain the protection of a certificate. Contrary to the spirit and policy of the act, and not obliged by the letter, the court will not make an exception of a case which the act itself has not excepted. The true policy is certainly to enlarge, and not to narrow, the district within which the poor are to be maintained. (1) As to the objection of its being an injury to property; the introduction of a numerous inhabitancy, by increasing the consumption of provisions, must unavoidably add to the value of that land, the produce of which is by such a demand consumed. As to the possibility of a few illegitimate children acquiring by birth a settlement within the parish within which the workhouse stands, it is impossible to foresee every inconvenience, and all that can be said is, that de minimis non curat Lex.” Buller J. As to the last Quære, whedifficulty raised, I doubt whether the poor-house so occu- ther a work
house in a pied, and become in this manner the perpetual property of third parish the united parishes, is not to this purpose rather to be is not to be considered as part of those parishes to which it so belongs, considered for
parochial purthan of the parish in which it is locally situated, upon poses as part the same principle as that of many resolutions in the of those pa
rishes whose case of such children born in gaols. (2) Both orders were poor dwell quashed. (3)
The putting people into the workhouse does not impose upon them an obligation to work if they are not qualified
(1) Peart v. Westgarth, ante, Vol.i. 19. Accord. in Rex v. Leigh, ib. 27. the court seem to entertain a contrary sentiment. But see the several opinions, ante, Vol.i. 27. and the cases there referred to.
(2) See 54 Geo. III. c. 170. s.3., ante, Vol. i. 328.