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though some of my suggestions might probably be brought in aid of the present management. And I should deprecate any interference, not only with a Parish in which a comparatively sound system is already prevalent, but with any in which there appears at present a reasonable probability of material improvement.
Thus where a Saving Bank has been established, and the deposits from the labouring classes are regular and increasing, so as to give a fair prospect of a considerable diminution in the Rates, I should be most unwilling to prescribe any fanciful amendment.
Saving Banks aud 'Benefit Clubs, if effectual for the purposes which my scheme has in view, are highly and unquestionably preferable to it. It is suggested only by a conviction that those institutions cannot be generally efficacious.
Saving Banks canot meet all contingencies, unless wages are much higher than it is probable or perhaps desirable that they should be, and labourers much more prudent than can possibly be expected.
Benefit Clubs are more calculated to meet contingencies, because they bring the earnings of the healthy in aid of the sick; but if the whole produce of labour be insufficient for all the purposes which our system proposes to effect, no management can make up the deficiency.
These clubs, I fear, are on the decline, partly owing to this original insufficiency, and partly because, the shame of pauperism being removed, the rates are found to be an easier and cheaper résource. Saving Banks are in some places said to be quite out of the question, because there are no savings."
All that I desire therefore is to empower parishes to adopt my scheme, and to treat as paupers all the individuals who shall refuse to enter into it. I fear that in most parishes it would be necessary to establish a Society anew; as well because the clubs are not in general parochial, as because it would be unfair to alter, unless with the full consent of the members, the nature and constitution of an existing club. The new Society, therefore, must be established, and the rate of payment and allowance regulated, by the vestries, with the consent of two justices;-as long as the funds for the relief of the door are local, neither the rules, nor the rates, must necessarily be similar in all different parishes.
The Society should take as much as possible the form of a voluntary club; its officers or accountants should be appointed or chosen from among the members, and paid from the fund. The orders for the grant of allowances must originate with the club or its officers, but must be countersigned by an Overseer, and in case of sickness must be accompanied by a certificate from the parish
apothecary, or a medical man of whom the Overseers have approved.
The treasurer should, if possible, be a member of the club, but his books must be open to the inspection of the parish officers, to whom he must make requisitions from time to time for the neces sary advances. The intercourse of the poor man himself will be always with the club, and not with the parish. ⠀
I am apprehensive, that notwithstanding all the substantial be nefits to be derived from the new Societies, and all the pains that may be taken to reconcile the poor to them, they will not meet with early popularity. But I do convince myself, that they will either become gradually acceptable and effectual, or that in conjunction with the measures which have been suggested for narrowing parish relief, they will drive the poor into better habits.
As I would not compel a parish to adopt the Friendly Society, so neither would I compel a man to enter into it. The plan of Mr. C. and that of the bill printed at Birmingham in 1796, are in my mind objectionable not only as too systematic and general in their application, but as imposing a tax and interfering with income. It is a fundamental principle of my scheme, that the members of a society should be liable to no inquiry into their earnings ;-that no such inquiry should be authorized, except in a case in which a claimant for relief stands before you in the character of a delinquent, and you are avowedly desirous that he should feel the pressure, which he has neglected the means of avoiding.
It is thus, rather than by any certificates or badges, which have formed part of former schemes, that I would make and note the distinction between the innocent and the criminal poor.
It may be asked, how much of the harsher treatment which I have recommended for those who neglect the opportunity of belonging to a society, is to be applied to those, from whom, however willing they may be, their parish withholds that opportunity?
I am not prepared to propose that there should be, any where, a power of compelling a parish to adopt the plan; nor can I doubt but that on the one hand it will not be, wisely, rejected by some parishes, which are nevertheless desirous of having some further protection from the law and on the other, that parishes may be averse to it, whose system nevertheless is not so good as to entitle them to the protection against the power of magistrates, which my suggestions afford
Should Mr. B's proposition concerning the children, be thought too harsh when unaccompanied by my alternative, it might be enacted, that now order for relief on account of children should depend on the price of provisions, or be greater in pecuniary^
amount than that given by the nearest Friendly Society (supposing one to have been establis ed), or (if none) than such as may be established by the Quarter Sessions, and which shall not be increased without authority of Parliament.
The pauper in this case would he better off than the man refusing to contribute, inasmuch as to him, the allowance ordered must be less than that given by the Society.
The repeal of the clause in the Act of 1815, and the new provisions respecting work, and former earnings, may perhaps be ge neral.
There are two propositions concerning Saving Banks, upon which I will here take the liberty of observing.
Mr. H., with the view of encouraging the poor to make and retain their deposits, has suggested, that a man who has, for a stated number of years, been a regular depositor, should be entitled to a bonus in the shape of increased interest. I am indisposed to this suggestion, by an unwillingness to alter the character of these in stitutions from that of a Bank in its usual sense. They were intended to give to the poor man as ready and secure an investment for his savings, at interest, as those have who have easy access to the public securities: the depositor ought to feel himself as independent, and as little under an obligation, in the one case as in the other,
Saving Banks, too, ought to furnish the experiment of what may be done by the unaided earnings of the poor. My suggestion proceeds avowedly upon the apprehension that those earnings are of themselves insufficient; and it might therefore be very expedient to apply Mr. H.'s suggestion to the Friendly Societies, by providing, that any man who has been a member for a given (but certainly not inconsiderable) number of years, without having made upon it any claim, or any claim beyond a certain point, should be entitled either to a sum of money or to a small annuity.
The other proposition is that which has already attracted much attention in and out of the House, and which, in my humble opinion, ought to be referred to our Committee. Mr. R.'s clause, I mean, for declaring that property vested in a Saving Bank shall not be considered as barring the claim of an individual to be relieved as a pauper. This suggestion seems to me not only to be liable to the objection which I have urged against Mr. H's, but to operate against one of the leading purposes of the Institutions themselves, which is to bring parish rehef into disrepute, and to contrast the depositor in a Saving Bank with the pauper, he of It would moreover tend to place the pauper, most unjustly, upc on a footing of superiority to the poorer among those who pay the
rates, some of whom it is to be feared are even now more indigent than the man for whose relief they are assessed. To my mind, the operation of the Poor Laws upon that class is one of the most crying evils which they produce...
I have hitherto taken no notice of illegitimate children ;-the Friendly Societies, of course, could take no cognizance of them; nor can I at present suggest any thing respecting them, except that their treatment ought to be, if possible, rather less favourable than the children of the lowest married parents. The subject, however, must come separately before the Committee.
Casual and Foreign Poor too, I merely mention by way of me
I shall now advert to one or two topics less immediately connected with the question of relief.
The alteration in the law of settlement, which, upon your motion, the Committee has determined to recommend to the House, will, I believe, be found to be an improvement; though it is certainly not free from objections.
Its effect perhaps will be most questionable, in parishes partly agricultural and partly manufacturing, where, in the event of a sudden failure of the manufactory, a numerous body of workmen may be thrown upon a district of a very limited extent; whereas under the present system, the burthen will in most cases be more widely diffused.
The simplicity, however, of the principle (even though the details should be more troublesome than we expected) and its consistency with an obvious and natural policy, are with me strong inducements for establishing it. The parochial establishment of Friendly Societies, will obviously be facilitated by a measure tending to identify the legal and actual settlement.
I think it very doubtful, whether any proposition will be discussed in the Committee, for assessing to the Poor's Rate, any other property than that which is now usually brought into charge; and I shall trouble you only with two observations upon that head ;first, that I most earnestly deprecate any peculiar tax upon the Public Funds for this or any other purpose and secondly, that if all personal property were charged, and much of the fund therefore should cease to be local, the establishment through the means which I have proposed, of general rules of relief, would assuredly facilitate the execution of that great change of system,
The appointment of a permanent, or of an assistant Overseer, would in many parishes, no doubt, be highly useful, and a power to make such appointment ought to be given. In reference to Lord C.'s suggestion for adding to their power, an obligation to
make periodical reports, I shall observe that it has been suggested to me, from more quarters than one, that the accounts, which the Overseers are required to submit to the Magistrates under the Act of 50 Geo. III. cap. 49, ought to be arranged in a settled form, and might be accompanied with any information which Parliament or the Sessions might prescribe.
I have now to apologize for the length, and I fear for the desultoriness also of this letter; I am fully aware, that it is not such as you expressed your willingness to receive from me; I have perhaps not only introduced topics upon which my opinion has no value, but have stated, with too little of method and precision, the suggestions to which the Committee was ready to listen.
This deficiency I shall endeavour to supply, by preparing some resolutions for effectuating my suggestions. But I shall not venture to propose them to the Committee unless the view which I have taken of the subject appears to accord with the sentiments of a considerable portion of its Members.
I can assure you that however much I may have seemed to regard with the partiality of a projector, the scheme which I have detailed, no man can be more thoroughly impressed than I am, with a conviction of its insufficiency; or more alive to the objections, theoretical and practical, which may be urged against my propositions. If I have appeared to expect, that I could counteract principles by machinery, I have, in the eagerness of statement, done injustice to my own opinions.
But I am not so firmly convinced of the truth of any of the principles to which our difficulties have been referred, as to be assured that by the pursuit or abandonment of one theory or another, those difficulties will be overcome.
I suspect, that there is a mixture of good with the evil; and that much of the mischief is connected with the causes of our prosperity and strength, if not with the defences of our freedom.
At this particular moment I believe that this is eminently true; or rather, perhaps, that we are now in a situation more sensibly to feel the noxious tendencies of the system, while its blessings and wholesome excitements are in abeyance.
I have much consolation in believing, that the "small measures" by which, under this impression, I propose to mitigate acknow
ledged evils, have no tendency adverse to the theories which I have doubtingly rejected.
I think it extremely probable, that in the course of my exposition, I may have appeared guilty of inconsistencies; and while I acknowledge that some of them may be owing to the inaccuracy of my own judgment, and the unsettled state of my opinions, I