Poor Law Commissioners' Report of 1834
By Nassau Senior
WE, the COMMISSIONERS appointed by YOUR MAJESTY to make a diligent and full inquiry into the practical operation of the Laws for the Relief of the Poor in
Wales, and into the manner in which those laws are administered, and to report our opinion whether any and what alterations, amendments, or improvements may be beneficially made in the said laws, or in the manner of administering them, and how the same may be best carried into effect,–Humbly certify to YOUR MAJESTY, in manner following, our proceedings in the execution of YOUR MAJESTY’S Commission, and the opinions which they have led us to form. [From the Statement of the Proceedings]
First Pub. Date
London: H.M. Stationery Office
Additional preparers include Edwin Chadwick. Includes testimony by Richard Whately.
The text of this edition is in the public domain.
IT is now our painful duty to report, that in the greater part of the districts which we have been able to examine, the fund, which the 43d of Elizabeth directed to be employed in setting to work children and persons capable of labour, but using no daily trade, and in the necessary relief of the impotent, is applied to purposes opposed to the letter, and still more to the spirit of that Law, and destructive to the morals of the most numerous class, and to the welfare of all.
The subject may be divided, with respect to the mode of relief, into In-door Relief, or that which is given in the workhouse, and Out-door Relief, or that which is not given in the workhouse; and with respect to the Objects of Relief, into those who are, and those who are not Able-bodied.
THE great source of abuse is the Out-door Relief afforded to the Able-bodied on their own account, or on that of their families. This is given either in kind or in money.
The Out-door Relief of the Able-bodied, when given in kind, consists rarely of food, rather less unfrequently of fuel, and still less unfrequently of clothes, particularly shoes; but its most usual form is that of relieving the applicants, either wholly or partially, from the expense of obtaining house-room. As this last mode of relief is extensively prevalent, and productive of important consequences, both direct and indirect, we shall dwell on it at some length.
Partial relief from the expense of obtaining house-room is given, or professed to be given, whenever the occupant of a cottage or an apartment is exempted on the ground of poverty from the payment of rates. In a few places, among which are Cookham (Berks), and Southwell and Bingham (Notts), every tenement is rated, and the whole rate is collected: but, as a general statement, it may be said that the habitations of the labourers are almost always exempted from rates when the occupant is a parishioner, and are frequently exempted when he is not a parishioner. The distinction thus made between parishioners and non-parishioners is one among the many modes in which the Law of Settlement and the practice of relief narrow the market, and interfere with the proper distribution of labour. It perhaps is better that all the labourers should be exempted than that those who have sought work at some distance from their homes should be thus punished for their enterprise and diligence. But the evil effects of a general exemption of all who plead poverty are shown by Mr. Bishop, in his Report from St. Clement’s, Oxford.
“The only peculiarity (in that parish, as distinguished from the neighbouring parishes) is to be found in the extent of the speculation for building small tenements, and in some of the circumstances which have attended that speculation.
“It is impossible to estimate, with anything like accuracy, the number of new houses, but there are whole streets and rows built in the cheapest manner.
“The rents are, in fact, levied to a considerable degree upon those who pay rates. In the first place, by the abstraction of so much property from rateable wealth, the remainder has to bear a heavier burden; secondly the rents are carried to as great a height as possible, upon the supposition that tenements so circumstanced will not be rated; the owner, therefore, is pocketing both rate and rent; and thirdly, the value of his property is increased precisely in the proportion that his neighbour’s is deteriorated, by the weight of rates from which his own is discharged. Neither is this all; as it is always regarded by the tenant as a desirable thing to escape the payment of rates, the field for competition is narrowed, and a very inferior description of house is built for the poor man. In order to make out a case for the nonpayment of rates, it is necessary to have inconveniences and defects; and thus it happens that a building speculation, depending upon freedom from rates for its recommendation, always produces a description of houses of the worst and most unhealthy kind. Those who would build for the poor with more liberal views, and greater attention to their health and their comfort, are discouraged, and a monopoly is given to those whose sole end is gain by whatever means it may be compassed.”
In House Room
In a great number of cases, the labourer, if a parishioner, is not only exempted from rates, but his rent is paid out of the parish fund. North Wales is a district of comparatively good administration; but the following extracts from Mr. Walcott’s Report
*2 show both the extent of these practices in that country, and some of their effects:—
“The payment of rent out of the rates is nearly universal; in many parishes it is extended to nearly all the married labourers. In Llanidloes out of 2000
l. spent on the poor, nearly 800
l., and in Bodedern out of 360
l. are thus exhausted. In Anglesea and part of Carnarvonshire, overseers frequently give written guarantees, making the parish responsible for the rent of cottages let to the Poor. I annex a copy of one from a parish officer, on behalf of the parish, from himself as overseer, to himself as landlord:—
Copy of Guarantee for Rent of Pauper’s Apartment.
” ‘WE, the Overseers of the Poor of the parish of Llanfachraeth, will pay the rent of A. Jones, pauper of our parish, to W. Hughes, of Bodedern, the sum of 1
s. yearly, commencing to-morrow the 13th November, 1827, for an apartment of a house in Bodedern.“(Signed) ‘WILLIAM HUGHES.’
“I examined William Hughes, who stated that he signed the above on behalf of the parish, and was the person mentioned in the body of it.
“Paupers have thus become a very desirable class of tenants, much preferable, as was admitted by several cottage proprietors, to the independent labourers, whose rent, at the same time, this mode of relief enhances. Of this I received much testimony; amongst others, an overseer of Dolgelly stated that there were many apartments and small houses in the town not worth to let 1
l. a year, for which, in consequence of parochial interference with rents, from 1
s. to 2
l., was paid: and the clerk to the Directors of Montgomery House of Industry mentioned an instance of a person in his neighbourhood who obtained ten cottages from the landowner at a yearly rent of 18
l., and re-let them separately for 50
l.; eight of his tenants were parish paupers.
“This species of property being thus a source of profitable investment, speculation, to a considerable extent, has taken that direction; and it is further encouraged by exempting pauper cottages from rates, or paying them out of the parochial funds; a mode of relief as universal as the last.
“In general, all the tenements in a parish are rated, but the rates are very rarely collected from the smaller class, except in the case of non-parishioners. One or two instances will suffice to show the extent to which the exemption is carried.
“The middle division of Welch Pool contains 535 tenements, which are all rated; but of this number 207 are at a rent not exceeding 6
l. a year, from which no rate is obtained; and the Rev. Mr. Trevor states, as to the town of Carnarvon, that whole streets have been built on speculation by three or four persons, the houses in which are let under 4
l. a year, and pay no rates. Except the landlords, few doubted but that the rent in these cases is augmented by the amount of rate remitted; and there was much complaint that this class of proprietors not only escaped contributing to the burdens of a parish, but actually increased them, by creating a cottier pauper population. In and near towns the proprietors are of all classes, chiefly however builders and tradesmen. The following is the evidence on these points of the vicar of Bangor in Carnarvonshire: he states, that the proprietors of cottages are persons who, having saved small sums, build cottages as a means of procuring the highest interest for their money; that at least the half of the town of Bangor consists of cottages, many of which are exempted from rates on account of the poverty of the occupier, there being no law to compel the owner to pay the rates; that a law to that effect seems very much wanted, and that the poor tenant is given to understand by his landlord that his cottage will be free from rates, and thus is induced to give a higher rent for it.
“The proposition of rating the owner of small tenements is one of great popularity, and was received with delight by parish officers. I met with only one dissentient, an assistant overseer, who on further examination proved to be a proprietor of several exempted cottages. On the other hand, the assistant overseer of the township of Bangor, in Flintshire, also a proprietor, said that he was so convinced of the expediency and advantage of rating the landlord, that he would cheerfully
assent to an enactment for the purpose, although it would lessen the value of his property.”
The practice in Suffolk is thus stated by Mr. Stuart:
“The payment of rent is a mode of furnishing relief which few parishes recognize, yet it is unquestionably a very frequent way of giving relief, not always to the extent of paying the whole rent, but of giving some assistance towards it. It is in general difficult to ascertain the length to which this practice is carried, as in the entry of the charge in the parish books it is usually described as relief ‘in distress,’ without specifying the purpose for which it is granted. It is most prevalent in towns and large villages, in which tradesmen, who are commonly the owners of cottages, have a greater influence in the distribution of the poor fund. There is no kind of property which yields a higher rent, or of which the rent is better paid, than that of houses occupied by the lower orders. When the landlord once adopts rigorous measures to enforce his demands, the parish takes good care that the payment shall afterwards be regularly made, under the plea of avoiding the expense which would be incurred if a whole family were thrown on it for support, by being deprived of their goods. An overseer mentioned the following case, for the purpose of convincing me of the policy and necessity of paying rent:—A baker, with a family of eight children, had his rent of 13
l. a year, paid for him by the parish, besides an allowance of 2
d. a week for his children. It was determined to discontinue the payment of rent; his goods were immediately distrained, he lost his business, and he and his family were obliged to be taken into the workhouse. It was soon found that it cost the parish about 5
s. per head per week, or about 130
l. a year, to maintain them in this way, and it was judged most prudent to hire a house for him, and buy furniture, for the purpose of setting him up in his trade again, The parish, after having incurred all this expense and outlay, have again been obliged to return to the payment of his rent, which is now 12
s. a year, and to his former out-allowance. It is evident that when the landlord has such an easy remedy for securing his claims, he can command any rent he chooses to ask, which the poor man does not scruple to agree to pay, provided the outward appearance of the house is suitable to a person in his condition, for the parish is particular in this point.”
The following is an extract from Mr. Maclean’s Report from Surrey and Sussex:—
“The practice of paying rent is, I may say, universal: for although in but few parishes it is acknowledged, and in many the parish officers seemed suprised at my questions, and referred to the books, where nothing is entered as rent, still I found that it is frequently paid indirectly; (
i.e.) though the pauper does not feel that he can ask the vestry or the parish officer to pay his rent, yet he knows that an application for a pound or two, to enable him to pay it, or to stay a threatening execution, will not be made in vain. The other indirect
modes in which rent is paid, are either by an allowance of 1
s. a week for the third child, which is retained by the parish officer for that purpose, by an exemption from the rate, or by an application to the vestry from time to time, which is so invariably successful, that those with families do not think it necessary, by foresight or industry, to lay by any thing to meet the demand. To enumerate all the parishes in which one or other of these practices exists, would be to name nearly every parish which I have visited.
“In Pulborough parish 1
s. a week is allowed for the third child, but this is retained by the parish officer to pay rent.
“In the purely agricultural parish of West Grinstead, containing a population of 1292, the amount of rent entered in the parish books last year amounted to 267
“In the similar parish of Shipley, with a population of 1180 the amount entered last year was 254
“At Horsham the same custom prevailed, and has done so for years. I attended the select vestry there, and found Mr. Simpson, the clergyman (who always attends), in the chair. The applications were numerous, and were, with few exceptions, for the payment of a half or a whole year’s rent, and were in every case granted without apparently any regard to the size of the applicant’s family or his earnings; indeed, relief is given in addition for the third child. No entry is made in the parish books as ‘rent;’ but it is charged under the head of ‘weekly relief,’ and amounted to upwards of 200
l. last year.
“In the parish of Steyning, with a population of 1436, near 120
l. was paid last year for rent. If a man has two children, it has been the custom for the last twenty years and upwards to pay his rent, to the amount of 1
s. a week; and this is not considered to furnish a sufficient ground upon which to discontinue his allowance of 1
d. a week for the third child.
“The parish of Epsom pays rent to the amount of 50
l. a year, the rule being to pay none. The chief applicants are those who have large families, or persons of idle and dissolute character.”
Mr. Tweedy states, that,
“The practice of giving relief by payment of rent is found to prevail in a greater or less degree throughout the West Riding, though the opinion is gaining ground that it is a mode of relief mischievous in its effects, and liable to great abuse.
“There can be no question that the renting of cottage property by overseers, and the consequent exemption of it from the poor-rate, has more or less, according to the circumstances of each case, a tendency to increase the rate at which other cottage property is let. And when one pauper has been accustomed to receive it, another thinks himself ill used if it be not allowed to him also. The example becomes contagious, insomuch that I find in some places, where the greatest abuse has existed, young people destitute of all means of livelihood have married, and come immediately to the overseers to demand work, and
with it, what in their slang language is called ‘harbour:’ that is a house.”
“In Millbrook, Southampton,” says Colonel Hewitt, “it was imagined that houses letting under 10
l. a year are not rateable, which was found to act as an encouragement to the building of small tenements, and introduced into the parish a very objectionable description of residents.”
THE out-door Relief afforded in money to the Able-bodied on their own account, or on that of their families, is still more prevalent. This is generally effected by one of the five following expedients, which may be concisely designated as:—I. Relief without Labour.—II. The Allowance System.—III. The Roundsmen System.—IV. Parish Employment.—V. The Labour-Rate System.
BY the Parish giving to those who are or profess to be without employment a daily or a weekly sum, without requiring from the applicant any labour. Sometimes relief (to an amount insufficient for a complete subsistence) is afforded, without imposing any further condition than that the applicant shall shift, as it is called, for himself, and give the parish no further trouble. In many districts the plan has become so common as to have acquired the technical name of “Relief in lieu of Labour.”
Mr. Villiers, in his Report from the counties of Warwick, Worcester, Gloucester, and the North part of Devon, states, that,—
“The practice of granting small sums of money to able-bodied men without requiring labour in return, is adopted in some parishes in each county,—in the Atherstone and Stratford division in Warwickshire, in the Halfshire hundred in Worcestershire, and in the Slaughter hundred of Gloucestershire; and is known to be in use in other parts of these counties. This practice is favoured by parish officers, from a notion that the parish must gain the difference between the cost of the pauper’s maintenance, or the minimum allowed by the scale, and what the
pauper consents to take; it is also supposed that it may give the pauper an opportunity to seek work for himself, which he could not if he was employed by the parish.
“In the Stratford division, the overseer of Alverston stated that there were young men receiving 2
d. and 3
s. a week, and that though it was barely sufficient for their support, and that they lived in lodgings at 6
d. a week, yet they greatly preferred it to more pay with labour, as it afforded them time for depredations of various sorts, from which the farmers each year became great sufferers. At Kidderminster, in Worcestershire, young able men were observed to receive small sums of money, such as 1
d. and 2
s., and it was said that the convenient form in which relief was thus afforded them, was their chief inducement in seeking it, and that they would not accept it in any other shape. At Stow-on-the-Wold, in Gloucestershire, the overseer and churchwarden stated that this practice had been adopted after the failure of many others, and with great expectation of its advantage, since by it relief was granted without the trouble of finding employment for the pauper, and upon the condition that the application would not be immediately repeated. They stated, however, that it had completely failed, as the same men soon returned, and they were again compelled to relieve them. The object in view is to save trouble and present expense; the result proves a bounty upon idleness and crime, and is, in the end, not less expensive.”
But it is more usual to give a rather larger weekly sum, and to force the applicants to give up a certain portion of their time by confining them in a gravel-pit or in some other enclosure, or directing them to sit at a certain spot and do nothing,
*9 or obliging them to attend a roll-call several times in the day, or by any contrivance which shall prevent their leisure from becoming a means either of profit or of amusement.
In a still greater number of instances the relief is given on the plea that the applicant has not been able to obtain work; that he has lost a day or a longer period, and is entitled, therefore, to receive from the unlimited resources of the parish, what he has not been able to obtain from a private employer.
By the parish allowing to labourers, who are employed by individuals, relief in aid of their wages.
allowance is sometimes used as comprehending all parochial relief afforded to those who are employed by individuals at the average wages of the district. But sometimes this term is confined to the relief which a person so employed obtains on account of his children, any relief which he may obtain on his own account being termed “Payment of Wages out of Rates.” In the following Report we shall use the word “allowance” in its former or more comprehensive sense.
In some places allowance is given only occasionally, or to meet occasional wants; to buy, for instance, a coat or a pair of shoes, or to pay the rent of a cottage or an apartment. In others it is considered that a certain weekly sum, or more frequently the value of a certain quantity of flour or bread, is to be received by each member of a family.
The latter practice has sometimes been matured into a system, forming the law of a whole district, sanctioned and enforced by the magistrates, and promulgated in the form of local statutes, under the name of
The following are copies of some of the scales:—
“COUNTY OF CAMBRIDGE.
“The Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor are requested to regulate the incomes of such persons as may apply to them for relief or employment, according to the price of bread; namely,
“A single woman, the price of 3 quartern loaves per week. “A single man 4 . ditto. “A man and his wife 7 . ditto. “Ditto. . ditto and one child 8 . ditto. “Ditto. . ditto and two children 9 . ditto. “Ditto. . ditto and three ditto 11 . ditto. “Man, wife, four children and upwards, at the price of two quartern loaves per head per week.
“It will be necessary to add to the above income in all cases of sickness or other kind of distress, and particularly of such persons or families who deserve encouragement by their good behaviour, whom parish officers should mark both by commendation and reward.
“By order of the Magistrates assembled at the Shire Hall, Cambridge, December 15th, 1821,
Robert Gee,Clerk to the Magistrates.”
“TOWN OF CAMBRIDGE.
“The Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor are requested to regulate the incomes of such persons as may apply to them for relief or employment, according to the price of fine bread; namely,
“A single woman, the price of 3½ quartern loaves per week. “A single man 4½ . ditto. “A man and his wife 8 . ditto. “Ditto . ditto, and one child 9½ . ditto. “Ditto . ditto, and two children 11 . ditto. “Ditto . ditto, and three ditto 13 . ditto. “Man, wife, four children and upwards, at the price of 2½ quartern loaves per head per week.
“It will be necessary to add to the above income in all cases of sickness or other kind of distress; and particularly of such persons or families who deserve encouragement by their good behaviour, whom parish officers should mark both by commendation and reward.
“By order of the Magistrates assembled at the Town Hall, Cambridge,
A. Chevell.“November 27, 1829. Clerk to the Magistrates.”
“ESSEX.—DIVISION OF CHELMSFORD, 1821.
“At a special meeting of the magistrates acting in and for the said Division, held at the Justice Room, in the Shire Hall, on Friday the 15th day of June, 1821.
“It was resolved,
“That the undermentioned scale of relief, for the assistance of the overseers of the poor within the said division in relieving the necessitous poor, be recommended: That they do provide each person in every family with the means of procuring half a peck of bread flour per week, together with 10
d. per head for other necessaries, if the family consist of two only; 8
d. per head, if three; 6
d. per head, if four; and 5
d. per head, if more than four.
“N. B. The above-mentioned sums are exclusive of fuel.
” By order of the Magistrates,T. Archer, Clerk,”
|Price of Flour per Peck.||NUMBER IN FAMILY.|
HUNDREDS of UTTLESFORD, CLAVERING, and FRESHWELL, in the County of ESSEX.
“Parish officers are desired to regulate allowances according to the price of the fine bread; viz.
|Man and Wife||7||5||3||5||4¾||5||6½||5||8¼||5||10||5||11¾|
|Ditto and 1 Child||8||6||0||6||2||6||4||6||6||6||8||6||10|
|Ditto and 2 Children||9||6||9||6||11¼||7||1½||7||3¾||7||6||7||8¼|
|Ditto and 3 ditto||11||8||3||8||5¾||8||8½||8||11¼||9||2||9||4¾|
|Ditto and 4
|Ditto and 5 ditto||14||10||6||10||9½||11||1||11||4½||11||8||11||11½|
|Ditto and 6 ditto||16||12||0||12||4||12||8||13||0||13||4||13||8|
“By order of the Magistrates of the Walden Division, 1826.Thos. Hall, Clerk.”
“At a meeting of the inhabitants, held this day, the masters agreed to give able-bodied men 2
s. per day, wet and dry, and an allowance of 1
d., per week for every child (above two) under 14 years of age.
“Lads from 14 to 16, 8
d. per day; lads from 16 to 18, 1
s. per day; young men from 18 to 21, 1
d. per day, from this time to Lady-day.
It was also agreed that from Lady-day to Michaelmas the able-bodied men should have 14
s. per week, wet and dry, with a like allowance of 1
d. per week for every child (above two) under 14 years of age; the boys, from 14 to 16, 9
d. per day; from 16 to 18, 1
d. per day; and young men from 18 to 21, 1
d. per day.
“Agreed to by the Magistrates assembled at their meeting this day.”
In perhaps a majority of the parishes in which the allowance system prevails, the earnings of the applicant, and, in a few, the earnings of his wife and children, are ascertained, or at least professed or attempted to be ascertained, and only the difference between them and the sum allotted to him by the scale is paid to him by the parish. The following extracts from Mr. Tweedy’s Report from Yorkshire, and Mr. Wilson’s from Durham, show the mode in which this branch of the allowance system is extending itself over the North of England:—
“In Gisburn, the rule and practice of the town is to inquire into the circumstances of each case, and to make up the wages of a man and his family to 1
d. per head. This rule is adopted, because it is the rule by which the magistrates govern themselves on application to them. The course of the magistrates is to inquire of a weaver (for instance) how many pieces he can weave per week, and how much he gets for it. A man will say, perhaps, he can weave three pieces in a week, and would get 1
d. a piece for weaving them; then if he had a family of a wife and four children, they would allow him 5
d. a week.”—”A man had a sickly wife, and was allowed 5
s. a week for her and for a woman to attend her. She died, and in about a year he married again; and on the very day of his marriage, said, ‘Now I have married again, I’ll work Gisburn another round;’ and he has been as good as his word, having had three children by the second wife, on account of which he received 2
s. from January to September in last year.
“At Dent, in the same neighbourhood, ‘relief to the able-bodied is afforded by payments of a weekly or monthly sum in the name of a pension, the amount of which is regulated according to the number of a man’s family, after the rate of two shillings a head per week: poor
people, especially those who have become pensioners, marry early, more frequently under twenty years of age than above; they are induced to this, no doubt, from a reliance upon relief from the poor rate. Instances have been numerous in which this had been known to be the case, and in a majority of cases relief is applied for on the birth of the
first child: the most profligate and dissolute are amongst this class, and if they get a little extra pay at any time, they spend it in drinking, leaving their families to be maintained by the township.’
“At Kettlewell (in Craven) and the neighbourhood, the same system prevails. ‘The rule of the magistrates is to allow so much as will yield one shilling and sixpence a head per week, and the overseers take this rule therefore as their guide. The overseer has sometimes called upon little farmers for their rates, and found that they had
no provisions or any kind in the house,
nor money to buy any; while on the other hand, he has not unfrequently been obliged to give relief to men who, there is no doubt, could have procured work if they had exerted themselves: they speak of it as a matter of right; and, if what they ask be not granted, they threaten to appeal to the magistrate; and, as he lives
fifteen miles off, the overseers are often induced to yield to their demands, on account of the
expense of meeting the claim before him.’
“The places above-named are within the jurisdiction of one bench of magistrates.
“At Pateley Bridge many are relieved in degree when the wages they earn are not sufficient. It is reckoned that 1
d. per head for each member of the family is necessary, except for infants, and that rule the overseers act upon. One magistrate, however, allows. 2
d. each for husband and wife, and 1
d. for each child. Relief is demanded as a matter of right, and sometimes with insolence. An instance is mentioned as occurring some years ago, in which a man came and said, ‘We have been getting married; can you find us a house?’ and another instance occurred two years ago, in which a man came out of Craven, and claimed relief a few weeks after marriage, and was insolent in his demand.
“At Knaresborough the paupers are chiefly weavers of linen and flax dressers; if they are wholly out of work, the rule is to allow a man and his wife 6
s. a week, and 9
d. for each child: a single man 3
s. a week. This rate is allowed, because the magistrates allow it; but in fact, in many cases, it amounts to
more than a man, when trade is flourishing, could earn. If a man has partial work, they give him 1
d. or 2
s. a week, or as little as they can satisfy him with, knowing that, if he goes before the magistrate, he will allow him such a sum as, with his earnings, will make up the rate above mentioned. Immediately that a man is out of work
now, he comes for relief; and, if he be not relieved at once, he goes to a magistrate, who grants a summons, and makes a memorandum upon it, directing the overseer to relieve him in the mean time.”
“In Darlington, in the county of Durham,” says Mr. Wilson, “allowances to able-bodied labourers are graduated according to the
numbers of their families; and whenever the wages of any class of labourers (for example, of the linen weavers, who have latterly been the most distressed) fall below the amount appointed by the scale, the difference is made up as a matter of course by the parish. The scale awards 2
s. a head a-week to heads of families, and 1
d. for each of the children under 12 years of age. This is the minimum of allowance paid by the parish in all cases. Suppose a single man to earn 2
s. a week, he could put forward no claim to relief.
*18 Suppose another, earning the same wages, but possessing besides a wife and six children, then 2
s. a head for himself and his wife, and 1
d. a head for each of his children, give a total amount of 13
s. weekly. In this second case the
family man has a recognized claim on the parish for an allowance for 11
s. weekly, making up his earnings of 2
s. by the above-mentioned graduated scale.
“Some remarkable instances of this occurred on Wednesday, January 9th, at the meeting of the parish committee. One applicant owned he had earned 21
s. during the last fortnight; but because he had not applied within the last month to the parish, and his average during that period had not been made up (he had four children), he now applied to have the deficit made up, which was done accordingly.
“Another man was earning 9
s. a week; he had six children; 4
s. were handed over the table to him immediately.
“A third had seven children, with himself and his wife, making nine in family. He stated that his average earnings were 9
s. a week. Last week he had been out of work for a day or two, and consequently had earned only 5
s. The parish had found two days’ work for him, which made up his earnings to 7
d. additional were handed to him over the table.
“I need not report a dozen similar cases, which were dispatched like the foregoing, in my presence. Yet do people in this district talk as glibly as any of the abuses of the Poor Laws in
The abuses of the South are, however, still more striking.
“I was able,” says Mr. Villiers, “to examine some parishes in nearly every magisterial division in the county of Warwick, in the three principal hundreds of the county of Worcester, and in the adjoining parts of Gloucestershire; and I communicated personally with the overseers and other officers from the hundreds and principal towns in North Devon.
“In each of these counties the relief is regulated upon the same general principle, namely, to relieve all claimants according to their alleged actual necessities; and in each a separate table of relief, varying with the condition of the pauper and the price of bread, has been drawn up and published by the magistrates for the guidance of overseers.
“Allowance of money to men, regulated by the number of their families, was seldom, if ever, denied. The exceptions are in some few parishes, where, by a better system of management, the labourers have been encouraged to maintain their own children. The system is defended by some persons, and by others it is not considered as a mode of supplying the deficiency in wages from the rates. A magistrate lamented to me that a practice of paying the wages out of the rates did exist in the southern and eastern counties, and was happy to think that it had never been adopted in his division; but he admitted and defended the custom of allowing a sum for the third or fourth child of every labourer. In one parish I asked the overseer if it would be possible for a man and his family to be earning a guinea a week, and receiving allowance for his children; he said, ‘Certainly, as we never suppose that a man earns more than the farmers usually give.’ Upon asking several other overseers why such inquiry was not made, the reply generally was, that they either had not time, or that it was not usual, and that, should they refuse the allowance applied for, they would be summoned before a magistrate, who would order it.”
“The statement of the vestry clerk of Old Swinford was, that men with families were in the habit of being relieved who were known to earn 16
s. or 18
s. a week, and that unless it were shown that the earnings of the family amounted to 25
s. a week, allowance was not refused. This I was hardly able to credit at first, but he stated that, when the trade was good, people were able to earn these wages, and that it had been considered since that time as a standard for allowance. The character of a large portion of these people was described as being reckless and dissolute beyond any others. They were said to be living almost promiscuously, and that large families, legitimate or not, were considered by them as an advantage. Nails are manufactured in their houses, and children, who can be employed early in this trade, become a source of profit to the parents, if the trade is good, and, if it should fail, they are maintained by the parish.
“In these districts the truck system has been practised, and doubtless continues to be so; and consequently the owners of the tommy shops, being the manufacturers, are frequently the persons who are expected to regulate the distribution of relief to their own men.”
The following are extracts from the valuable Answers of Mr. Russell, a magistrate residing in Swallowfield, in the counties of Berks and Wilts, to our printed Queries:—
“The parish gives the labourers, out of the poor-rates, what they call sometimes their ‘
make up,‘ and sometimes their ‘
bread money.‘ The
bread money is calculated weekly, at the price of two gallon loaves for the husband, one for the wife, and one for each of the children, be the number what it may; and to whatever extent the earnings of the family may fall short of that sum, the difference is
made up in money. This allowance is given in compliance with an order made many years ago by the magistrates of this county (Berks), and, practically, is in
all cases enforced by them. I have known a magistrate on an application made by a pauper for his
bread money exclaim that no such thing as
bread money was recognized by the bench, and then make an order, with the mere omission of the term, for the precise amount demanded.
“No attention is paid to either the character of the applicant or the causes of his distress. In fact, he is considered entitled to it without pleading any distress.
bread money is hardly looked upon by the labourers in the light of parish relief. They consider it as much their right as the wages they receive from their employers, and in their own minds, make a wide distinction between ‘taking their
bread money‘ and ‘going on the parish.’ ”
In other parishes the labourer is not supposed to earn more than a given sum. If that sum be less than the sum to which the size of his family entitles him, he receives the difference from the parish.
At Thaxted, Essex, the overseer states:—
“That allowance is regulated by the price of flour: that the magistrates direct half a peck of flour for each individual of the family, besides 6
d. each for the father and mother, and 4
d. for each child. If wages do not amount to this, they are to be made up out of the poor-rate. A man’s weekly earnings are reckoned at 8
s. If he makes more, still he receives his allowance, in order that industry may not be discouraged.”
In the Answers to which we have referred, Mr. Russell states that,
“In the Berks portion of Swallowfield, the invariable usage, both in winter and in summer, was to make up the bread money from the actual earnings of the whole family. In the Wiltshire portion they take the man’s earnings, let them have been as high as they may, at the fixed rate of day work only, allowing him the benefit of the difference; and under the influence of the panic struck by the fires, our portion has so far yielded to the importunity of the farmers as to adopt this practice during the winter months. For instance, if a family consist of a man, his wife and six children, their bread money for nine loaves at 1
d. a loaf is 13
d. a week. Suppose, as often happens in the winter, that the man has earned 12
s. in the week, and the wife and children nothing, then, according to the rate which used to prevail with us all the year round, and which still prevails in summer, the family will receive a
make up of 1
d.; but according to the practice which we now follow in the winter, the man’s earnings, though really 12
s., will be taken at the ordinary rate of only 9
s., and he will receive 4
d. in money. Whatever the wife and any of the children may earn, whether in summer or in winter, their real earnings are taken as a set-off against their loaf.”
It is to be observed that even in those parishes in which the amount of allowance is supposed to depend on that of the applicant’s earnings, the inquiry as to the amount of those earnings is never carried back further than the current or the previous week or fortnight. The consequence is, that many of those who at particular periods of the year receive wages far exceeding the average amount of the earnings of the most industrious labourer, receive also large allowances from the parish. Mr. Cowell and Mr. Bishop found a parish in the Bedford Level, in which a recently drained tract of fertile land requires more labour than the settled inhabitants can provide; and the average yearly earnings of a labourer’s family are from 60
l. to 70
l.; but during a frost, and generally from November to March, almost every labourer comes on the parish. When they commented on these facts in their conversation with a resident magistrate, his answer was, “Why, what are we to do? They spend it all, and then come and say they are starving; and you must relieve them.”
*25 “In our vestry,” says Mr. Russell, “which meets every Monday, the calculation is confined to the earnings of the past fortnight. No further retrospect is ever taken either for or against the claimant. In some parishes I believe the account is settled once a week instead of once a fortnight.”
Sometimes the inquiry does not go back even to the beginning of the week at the end of which the claim is made.
“A case was mentioned to me,” says Mr. Stuart, “of nine men who had been able to earn 15
s. each by task work, in three days, and who came to the parish for the other three days of the week, during which they had no employment. The overseer, aware of the profitable work in which they had been engaged, offered 1
s. a day for the lost days instead of 1
d. a day, which would have been their allowance according to the scale. This the men rejected; left the work which they then had, and went to a magistrate to complain. The magistrate sent an open note by the complainants, appealing to the humanity of the overseer. The men, aware of the contents of the note, backed the recommendation of the magistrate by threats, which induced the overseer to comply.”
Again, there are other parishes in which no inquiry whatever is made respecting earnings, but the birth of a child endows the parent with an allowance, whatever be his income.
At Laughton, Sussex, says Mr. Majendie,—
“I attended the vestry with one of the principal farmers. One of his labourers, who was in constant employ at 17
s. per week, came for his ‘pay,’ for a third child just born, at 1
s. a week for six months; it will then be raised to 1
d. a week. The plan of allowance, without
inquiry into earnings, is justified on the ground that if the same allowance were not made to all, it would cramp industry.”
In Westoning, Bedfordshire,—
“There is scarcely one able-bodied labourer in the employment of individuals but what receives regular relief on account of his family. A married man and his wife, without any child, receive 5
s. per week if he be out of employment; for one child, he is allowed 1
s. whether in or out of employment; for two children, 2
s. and so on in proportion to the number of children under 10 years; above 10 years, each boy out of employment is allowed from 1
d. to 3
Mr. Walcott states, that in North Wales,—
“No single able-bodied man in the employment of individuals ever obtains parochial relief.
“Married agricultural labourers in work, and with only three children, although in many cases their rents are paid, and the rates remitted, yet are very rarely considered entitled to regular weekly relief; but if out of work, or with more than three children, in nearly every parish they obtain it on those grounds.
“The allowance is usually 1
s. a week for each child above the third. Overton is the only parish I heard of entirely free from the abuse of relieving the able-bodied in the employ of individuals. It is there considered, he states, contrary to law, justice, and humanity.
“The rule of commencing relief with the fourth child, is, however, by no means inflexible; for example, in Kerry, a very well-managed parish, a great portion of the labourers support four, five, and six children, without any parochial assistance, and wages are not higher there than in many other places where it is given.
“The effect of thus placing the married and unmarried man on a different footing as to relief, is clearly to encourage early and improvident marriages, with their consequent evils. Of this there was no lack of evidence; the answers to inquiries on this subject being, that such marriages are now much more common amongst the labouring and lower classes than formerly; that the great majority of young men marry under twenty-four years of age, and frequently under twenty-one. That such is one of the effects of the practice, is evident from the circumstance, that in the parish of Kerry, where a married man is not certain of obtaining relief, even with five or six children, the labourers (according to the testimony of a very intelligent and long-resident magistrate, Mr. Pugh) do not marry earlier than they did twenty or twenty-five years ago.”
In the Northern Division of Devonshire, says Mr. Villiers,—
“The practice of granting allowance for children is so general and confirmed, that the pauper is in the habit of giving formal notice to the overseer of the pregnancy of his wife. Should the overseer refuse the application for the fixed sum allowed for the second, third, or fourth child, the magistrates’ single inquiry, on his appearance before them
under a summons, would be as to the custom of the parish or the hundred: ‘At what number does allowance begin with you?’ is the common mode of putting the question, as I was repeatedly assured by overseers. The previous or present earnings of the pauper, or of any of his family, are never mentioned.”
It is to be observed, also, that under the scale system a child is very soon considered as an independent claimant for relief, and entitled to it, though residing with his parents, and though they may be in full work and high wages. At Friston, Suffolk, Mr. Stuart states, that “a child is entitled to relief, at the rate of 3
s. a week, on his own account, from the age of 14.”
At Bottisham, Cambridge, says Mr. Power,—
“A boy of sixteen receives 2
d. for the week; lives at home with his father; the family consists of his father, mother, brother, and himself. His father and brother are both now doing work at full wages, for Mr. Jenyns the magistrate.—(From the overseer;) Seventeen is the age at which we consider a young man entitled to separate relief, as an unemployed labourer; his pay then is 3
d.; this boy is relieved, not as a labourer out of employ, but at the instance of Mr. Jenyns, who has been for some time past endeavouring to obtain him a service.—(From Mr. King afterwards:) The allowance to our young single men out of employment used to be 2
d., according to scale, four quartern loaves, present price 8 1/2;
d. Last November they came to the sessions in a body to complain of the insufficiency, and it was then rased to 3
d. This sum they receive when above a certain age, although residing with their families. One family consisting of man, wife, and seven children, are entitled to, and at this time receiving 19
d. from the parish several of the sons being grown up. At Little Shelford a worse case than this was given me by the acting overseer, of one family, a man, wife, and four sons, living together, receiving 24
s. weekly from the parish. The woman was receiving 3
s. a week at that time in the family of Mr. Finch, the clergyman, as Mrs. Finch informed me.”
BY the parish paying the occupiers of property to employ the applicants for relief at a rate of wages fixed by the parish, and depending not on the services, but on the wants of the applicants, the employer being repaid out of the poor-rate all that he advances in wages beyond a certain sum. This is the house row, or roundsmen, or billet, or ticket, or stem, system.
According to this plan, the parish in general makes some
agreement with a farmer to sell to him the labour of one or more paupers at a certain price, and pays to the pauper, out of the parish funds, the difference between that price and the allowance which the scale, according to the price of bread and the number of his family, awards to him. It has received the name of the billet or ticket system, from the ticket signed by the overseer, which the pauper, in general, carries to the farmer as a warrant for his being employed, and takes back to the overseer, signed by the farmer, as a proof that he has fulfilled the conditions of relief. In other cases the parish contracts with some individual to have some work performed for him by the paupers at a given price, the parish paying the paupers. In many places the roundsman system is effected by means of an auction. Mr. Richardson states that, in Sulgrave, Northamptonshire, the old and infirm are sold at the monthly meeting to the best bidder, at prices varying, according to the time of the year from 1
d. a week to 3
s.; that at Yardley, Hastings, all the unemployed men are put up to sale weekly, and that the clergyman of the parish told him that he had seen ten men the last week knocked down to one of the farmers for 5
s. and that there were at that time about 70 men let out in this manner out of a body of 170.
The following extracts, from the Answers to our printed Queries for the rural districts, are further examples of all these forms of relief:—
“GREAT HENNY, ESSEX.—
William Newport, Churchwarden;
Edward Cook, Overseer.
“Having so many labouring men, the income from the land will not allow us to give more than a sufficient for the best characters to subsist upon, and we are obliged to give the same to the worst. A man of bad character, on account of which he is not employed, having two children or more, applies to the parish at the end of the week for relief, through loss of time, and has the same money given him as the honest labourer receives of his master for his labour for the same week.”
Isaac Rogers, Overseer.
“We are obliged to maintain the family if the man is idle.”
Ashurst Majendie, Deputy Lieutenant, Member of Vestry.
“Rent was, at one period, paid by the parish, by which an artificial price was kept up; since the practice has been discontinued, the rent of cottages has fallen.”
“Every man having more than three children upon his hands, comes to the parish for support for all above the third: it is granted as a matter of course.”
“The word ‘scale’ is unknown, but the thing exists as effectually as if it were published by authority at every petty sessions. Every parish officer and pauper knows that a man with his wife and three children is entitled to have his wages ‘
made up‘ (such is the phrase) to 12
s. a week; and is entitled to 1
d. per week for every child beyond three; and without entering into any very rigid account as to the average of his earnings. Extra receipts are supposed to go for clothes and extra payments: in reality, they too often go to the beer shop.”
W. O. Hammond, J.P.
“There are at this time (May) 12 or 15 able men disengaged in this parish. The thrashing is over sooner than usual, owing to a deficient crop. The woods are cleared, and pea-hoeing is also finished. The men out of work are allowed at the rate of 6
s. for man and wife, with 1
s. a head for children. Under the circumstances, the following plan has been adopted:—A married man, having two children, receives 8
s. from the poor-rate. He takes at the vestry a ticket inscribed with the name of an occupier in the parish. For this person he is required to work four days,
and the employer is pledged to set him at no necessary or essential occupation. This reservation must be obviously ineffectual. The remaining two days the man is at liberty to earn anything elsewhere if he can. The tickets are allotted by rotation. The system cannot be justified on principle or practice. So long as it lasts, necessary work will wait for the turn of a ticket man. The land will become foul, the labourer half employed and half paid, and the parish imposed upon.”
“PRESTON, near FAVERSHAM, KENT.—
Giles Hilton, Preston House.
“No regular system for the attached; when unattached, a man, wife and four children, usually obtain the full weekly wages of the attached; with six children, I have known most undeserving parents get 18
s. a week all the winter, and the greater part of the summer. The practice of partly paying for work done for individuals did prevail, but the pauper, learning the practice, could seldom be made to do a fair day’s work.”
“An allowance is made,
unhappily; beginning at three children. I consider that nearly all the work is partly paid for by the parish, and that this fact is a crying evil, working great mischief, and distress, and carelessness, and indifference about his family, in the mind of the labourer.”
“The practice of work being done for individuals and partly paid for by the parish has proved more injurious than any measure ever adopted, having brought numbers of the most hale labourers on the list of paupers, who previous to that would have shuddered at the thought of coming to a parish, but are now as contented to receive relief as they were before in a state of labouring independence; the most wages the best labourers could then obtain were no more than from 3
s. to 4
s per week, the remainder was made up out of the rates, according to their families. This system is now abolished, and the labourer gets fair wages.”
Charles Wetherell, Rector;
T. Carter, J. P.
” ‘Head money’ is given indiscriminately to all families of labouring men with more than two children under 10 years of age, without inquiring into their earnings, at the rate of 1
s. each for those exceeding two; latterly many petty tradesmen have laid claim to it, and their claims have, in too many instances, been acceded to.
“Relief is given generally, according to a scale which the deputy overseer obtains at the magistrates’ pettysessions.
William Gardener, F. Elton.
“All that apply to the vestry for employment have half their money, or more, out of the poor-rates. They allow, with all the earnings, 5
s. per week to the man and his wife, and 1
d. per head for the children, many or few; half from the master and the rest from the rates.
“A married man and his wife, with no child, will receive 5
s. per week; a single man, perhaps 3
d. and 4
s.; half from the master and the rest from the poor’s-rates.”
“ODDINGTON Parish, and PLOUGHLEY Hundred, Oxford.—
Philip Serle, Clerk and J. P.
“I am sorry to say that all our able-bodied labourers who have more than two children receive regular allowance from the parish, and this is the case generally in the neighbourhood. In some of the adjoining parishes it is carried to such a length that I have known a labourer receive 2
d. per diem where he worked, and the rest of his wages made up from the poor’s book. The children are usually sent round, and paid wholly by the overseer.”
“(Vale of TAUNTON,) BAGBOROUGH, BISHOP’S LYDEARD, COMBE-FLOREY, COTHELSTONE, KINGSTON,SOMERSET.—
E. J. Esdaile.
“All farm labourers, during the whole or a part of the year, receive a portion of their wages out of the poor’s-rates.”
“HASILBURY BRYAN, DORSET.—
Henry Walter, Rector.
“In 1821-22 the overseers had been in the habit of sharing out the pauper labourers amongst the farmers, (including themselves,) and of paying for the work done by them
wholly out of the poor’s-rates; and as certain magistrates in the Blandford division (to which this parish then belonged) declined interfering to check this abuse, the answerer felt it his duty to appeal to the two sessions in 1823, and at the July sessions at Shaftesbury he obtained a verdict, which put an end to the practice. The custom, however, of ‘making up the pay’ of able-bodied labourers from the poor-rates still continues. So lately as the 25th July last, the answerer being told by the overseers that a complaint was lodged against the parish for not affording relief to an able-bodied labourer in addition to his wages, whose family consisted of a wife and four little children, but who paid nothing for living in a house belonging to the parish; he accompanied them to the petty sessions, and respectfully informed the magistrates that he should feel it his duty to advise his neighbours to resist any order requiring the parish to pay such allowance; to which it was replied, that they felt it was
theirduty, and should sign the order. Eventually, however, they did not sign it, but their signature was withheld on grounds unconnected with the principle opposed, and that principle was still avowed and maintained.”
William Welch, Assistant Overseer.
“The labourers changed their service much more frequently when they were paid a part of their money by the overseers (called headmoney), which was an order from the magistrates, and persisted in by them till we established a poorhouse, which has nearly done it away, and the labourers are become more respectable.
“Magistrates, when applied to, always make their orders according to the head-money system, taking the labourer’s earnings at the usual day-work price, without regard to the conduct or ability of the labourer.”
BY the parish employing and paying the applicants for relief.
The 43rd of Elizabeth does not authorize relief to be afforded to any but the impotent, except in return for work. And much as this part of the statute has been neglected, its validity is recognized by the Judges. In the King
v. Collett; 2 Barnewell and Cresswell, 324, Lord Tenterden decided it to be the duty of overseers to provide work, if possible, before they afforded relief.
And whatever may be the difficulty of finding
profitable work, it is difficult to suppose the existence of a parish in which it would not be
possible to provide some work, were it merely to dig holes and fill them again. But though such is the law, it appears, from the Parliamentary Returns, that payment for work is the most unusual form in which relief is administered. The Poor Rate Returns for the year ending the 25th March, 1832, state, that out of 7,036,968
l, expended in that year for the relief of the poor, less than 354,000
l., or scarcely more than one-twentieth part, was paid for work, including work on the roads and in the workhouses. This may easily be accounted for.
In the first place, to afford relief gratuitously is less troublesome to the parochial authorities than to require work in return for it. Wherever work is to be paid for, there must be superintendence; but where paupers are the work-people, much more than the average degree of superintendence is necessary. In ordinary cases, all that the superintendent inquires is, whether the workmen has performed an average day’s work; and where the work is piece-work, he need not make even that inquiry. The practice of his trade fixes the market price of the work, and he pays it without asking whether the workman has been one hour or one day in performing it, or whether it exceeds or falls below his wants. But the superintendent of pauper labourers has to ascertain, not what is an average day’s work, or what is the market price of a given service, but what is a fair day’s work for a given individual, his strength and habits considered; at what rate of pay for that work, the number of his family considered, he would be able to earn the sum necessary for his and their subsistence; and lastly, whether he has in fact performed the amount which, after taking all these elements into calculation, it appears that he ought to have performed. It will easily be anticipated that this superintendence is very rarely given; and that in far the greater number of the cases in which work is professedly required from paupers, in fact no work is done. In the second place, collecting the paupers in gangs for the performance of parish work is found to be more immediately injurious to their conduct than even allowance or relief without requiring work. Whatever be the general character of the parish labourers, all the worst of the inhabitants are sure to be among the number; and it is well known that the effect of such an association is always to degrade the good, not to elevate the bad. It was among these gangs, who had scarcely any other employment or amusement than to collect in groups, and talk over their grievances, that the riots of 1830 appear to have originated. And, thirdly, parish employment does not afford direct profit to any individual. Under
most of the other systems of relief, the immediate employers of labour can throw on the parish a part of the wages of their labourers. They prefer, therefore, those modes of relief which they can turn to their own account, out of which they can extract profit under the mask of charity.
In those parishes in which labour is the condition on which relief is granted, we have found great differences with respect to the kind and the duration of the labour required, and the amount of its remuneration. In Cookham,
*49 in Putney,
*50 and in many of the metropolitan parishes,
*51 the work is irksome, the hours of labour are equal to those which a private employer would exact, and the pay less than he would give. In others the amount of labour required is far less than that which an independent labourer must afford; but the pay is dimished so far as is consistent with the supposed wants of the applicant. Thus, at Kimpton, Hants,
*52 “the single young men are employed by piecework, but are restricted to earn only 2
d. a week, and are then at liberty to go where they like. In the same place children are employed in picking stones by task, and are allowed to earn the price of a gallon of bread, and 6
d. over, per week, which they can do in about four days.” At Gamlingay, Cambridge, “the paupers are employed in collecting stones, at the price of 2
d. a bushel, until they have earned the sum allotted to them by the bread scale; they then do as they please for that week.”
*53 At Uckfield, Sussex, instead of a part of each week, “they are required to work a part of each day, so as to earn the sum which is considered necessary for their subsistence;”
*54 a sum which, according to the magisterial scale of the Uckfield bench, appears to be, for a single man, 4
s.; man and wife, 7
s.; man, wife, and one child, 8
d.; with two children, 10
s.; and for each child above two, the value of a gallon of flour.
*55 In a parish in Suffolk, “twenty acres were hired by the parish and dug by the paupers at piece-work, the price being proportioned to their families. Either the work was completed by two or three o’clock, and the rest of the day spent in idleness,or the men consumed the whole day in the lazy performance of the work of a portion of the day.”
*56 In Pollington, Yorkshire, they send many of them upon the highways, but they only work
four hours per day: this is because there is not employment sufficient in that way; they sleep more than they work, and if any but the surveyor found them sleeping, they would
laugh at them. In Rancliffe they employed a man in the winter of 1830-1831 to look over them; but they threatened
to drownhim, and he was obliged to withdraw. If a man did not like his work, he would say, ‘I can have 12
s. a week by going on the roads, and doing as little as I like.’ In Carlton, from 30
l. to 40
l. was paid to men last year (1831) for doing nothing.”
*57 “In the parish of Mancetter, in the county of Warwick, the overseer stated that young able men received 2
d. a week, and the magistrates would not allow the parish to employ them more than three days in the week, in order that they might get work for themselves. Upon inquiry, it appeared that their characters soon became so infamous, that no person would employ them, having devoted their spare time to thieving and poaching. In the township of Atherstone, Mr. Wellday, a manufacturer, impatient of contributing his property to the encouragement of vice and idleness by paying men without exacting labour, purchased some water-carts himself, for the purpose of giving employment to paupers. The magistrates refused to allow them to be used after twelve o’clock in the day, in order that these men might procure work for themselves: they were also described as becoming the most worthless characters in the town.”
In some of the agricultural district, the prevalent mismanagement in this respect has created in the minds of the paupers a notion that it is their right to be exempted from the same degree of labour as independent labourers. In the parish of Swallowfield (Berks), the paupers summoned the overseers before the magistrates. They had been—
“Offered task-work at the gravel-pit at 8
d. a yard, or 1
s. a load for digging and sifting without loading. This had been considered a fair price with loading. The complainants contended before the magistrates, that by what they considered ‘a right,’ they ought not to be employed on the part of the parish more than from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon, although when working for farmers they were usually kept at work from six in the morning until six at night in summer, or from daylight until dark in the winter. This, which they claimed as ‘their right,’ had, in fact, been the previous practice in the parish, and was and is in a greater or less degree the existing practice in adjacent parishes.”
In the course of the examination of Mr. Price from Great Farringdon (Berks), he was asked—
“How did you enforce work on the in-door paupers?—Chiefly by admonition. Their labour was, as might be expected, very slack comparatively. I, however, insisted that they should work during the
same time as the independent labourers. This they resisted, and appealed to the magistrates against this usage. The ground of their appeal was, that it was a thing unknown before in this parish, or any other, that parish labourers should work as long or as hard as the other classes of labourers.”
But in many places, while the labour required by the parish is trifling, the pay equals or exceeds that of the independent labourer. Eastbourne, in Sussex, is a striking example. In this place, in which the average wages earned from individuals by hard work are 12
s. a week, the parish pays for nominal labour as much as 16
s. a week. Two families alone received from it, in the year ending Lady-day, 1832, 92
s.; and the wives of the few independent labourers regret that their husbands are not paupers.
*61 At the parish farm; occupied by the incorporated parishes of the Isle of Wight, 240 men were employed at one time in the year 1830, at the same wages as those usually given by the farmers; they scarcely did any work, and twice left the farm in a body to threaten the directors. Their wages were consequently raised.
In the parish of Hartland, says Mr. Villiers—
“Mr.——,———, who had occupied land there for seventeen years, informed me that the magistrates were in the habit of ordering the same wages for the men working on the roads not superintended. as were paid to the labourers in the employ of the farmers; and that on this account, as well as that the poor liked to watch for the wrecks in the winter, they did not seek for work out of the parish.”
Mr. Richardson states, that, in Northamptonshire,
“The plan generally in use in the agricultural villages is, upon the man’s applying to the overseer for work, to send him upon some part of the parish roads, where he is expected to work—not the farmer’s hours, or anything like them, but to begin at eight, to leave at twelve for dinner, an hour, and to leave the roads finally at four. It is the business of the overseer or the surveyor of the roads, a farmer or a tradesmen, who, paid or not, has his own business to attend to, to see that the men are actually working. While he is present, and the farmers take credit to themselves for riding up once or twice a day to the roads, the men bestir themselves a little; but the moment his back is turned, a man who gives himself any trouble is laughed at by his companions. As the overseer at Kettering told me, their remark is,—’You must have your 12
s. a week, or your 10
s. a week, whether you work or not; I would not be such a fool as to work—blast work—damn me if I work,’ &c.; and, of course, under these circumstances, they do anything but work; if there is a wood near, as at Glapthorne and some other places round Oundle, they run into the wood to steal
firing, which they hide and carry off at a convenient time; and universally they are in the habit of stealing turnips, or posts, or any little thing of that sort that comes to hand.
“In short, where there were many able-bodied men employed on the roads, there everybody complained of petty thefts, pilfering, poaching, &c., as the natural consequences.
“Whatever the previous character of a man may have been, he is seldom able to withstand the corruption of the roads: two years occasional employment there ruins the best labourer. Moreover, in very many instances, the difference between parish pay for pretending to break stones on the road, and the real wages given by the farmer, does not amount to more than 1
s. a week; and, if the man has a family entitling him to receive a given sum by the scale as head-money, he receives as much from the parish as he would from any other employer. Accordingly, the labourers who are only occasionally employed are nearly indifferent to pleasing or displeasing their employer; they quit with the remark which I heard at least a dozen times from different overseers,—’I can get as much on the roads as if I worked for you.'”
The following extracts from Mr. Okeden’s and Mr. Majendie’s Reports afford examples of all these systems, sometimes separate and sometimes in combination.
“At Urchfont, a parish in the district of Devizes, the population of which is 1,340, and the annual poor-rates about 1,450
l., there are above 50 men out of employ for 45 weeks every year. To these the parish pays 3
s. a week each during that time, and inquires no further about their time or labour; thus creating an annual item of expense of nearly 400
“At the parish of Bodicott, in the district of Bloxham, a printed form is delivered to those who apply for work. The labourer takes this to the farmers in succession, who, if they do not want his labour, sign their names. The man, on his return, receives from the overseer the day’s pay of an industrious labourer, with the deduction of 2
d. The same system takes place in other parishes.
“In the parish of Sidford Gore, in the same district, where the poor-rates are under 650
l. per annum, 114
l. was paid last year in six months, to men who did not strike one stroke of work for it.
“At Deddington, during the severe winter months, about 60 men apply every morning to the overseer for work or pay. He ranges them under a shed in a yard. If a farmer or any one else wants a man, he sends to the yard for one, and pays half the day’s wages; the rest is paid by the parish. At the close of the day the unemployed are paid the wages of a day, minus 2
d. I could multiply instances of this application
of the scale to the superfluous labourers; but to do so would only waste your time.”
“At Rotherfield, in East Sussex, 120 men were out of employ in the winter 1831-32, and various modes were attempted to dispose of them. First they were set to work on the parish account; single men at 5
s.; men with families at 10
s. per week; the pay being the same as farmers’ pay, the men left the farmers in order to get the same pay with less work. Then they were billeted among the farmers at 1
s. per day from the farmers, and 8
d. from the parish. This was changed to 1
s. from the parish, and 8
d. from the farmer. The men so billeted did not keep the proper hours of work; then the farmers’ men, finding that they who worked the regular hours were paid no more than those who were irregular, gave up their employment to become billeted men, and the farmers were induced to throw their men out of employ to get their labour done by the parish purse. The billeting system having failed, a 6
d. labour-rate was made: it soon failed. Magistrates now recommend 6
d. in the pound to be deducted from the full rate, and that the occupier should be allowed to pay that proportion of his rate by employment of the surplus hands.
“The labourers are much deteriorated. They do not care whether they have regular work or not; they prefer idle work on the roads. The magistrates at the Uckfield bench told the overseer, the year before last, that if the men made complaint they should be allowed at the rate of 2
d. per head for each member of the family.”
“At Burnash, in East Sussex, in the year 1822, the surplus labourers were put up to auction, and hired as low as 2
d. and 3
d. per day; the rest of their maintenance being made up by the parish. The consequence was, that the farmers turned off their regular hands, in order to hire them by auction when they wanted them. The evil of this system was so apparent, that some occupiers applied to the magistrates, who recommended it should be given up. During the last year, the following plan has been adopted:—The names of the occupiers are written on pieces of paper, which are put into a bag; the labourer draws out a ticket, which represents 10
s. worth of labour, at fair wages; next week the labourer draws another master, and this is repeated till the occupier has exhausted the shilling rate. This has continued two winters; much fraud is mixed up with the practice. Some farmers turn off their labourers in order to have ticketed men; other occupiers refuse to pay the rate, and against them it is not enforced.”
BY an agreement among the rate-payers, that each of them shall employ and pay out of his own money a certain number of the labourers who have settlements in the parish, in proportion, not to his real demand for labour, but according to his rental or to his contribution to the rates, or to the number of horses that he keeps for tillage, or to the number of acres that he occupies, or according to some other scale. Where such an agreement exists, it is generally enforced by an additional rate, imposed either under the authority of the 2
d. & 3
d. Wm. IV. c. 96, or by general consent on those who do not employ their full proportion. This may be called the Labour-rate System. We shall consider it more at length in a subsequent portion of this Report.
In all the cases which have been mentioned, relief is professed to be afforded on the ground of want of employment, or of insufficient wages; but a class of persons have, in many places, established a right to public support, independently of either of these claims. These are Widows, who, in many places, receive what are called pensions, of from 1
s. to 3
s. a week on their own account, without any reference to their age or strength, or powers of obtaining an independent subsistence, but simply as widows. In such places, they receive an additional allowance if they have children. The allowance for each child is generally about 1
d. a week in rural districts, unless the child be illegitimate, in which case it is more frequently 2
s. or more.
THE Out-door relief to the impotent (using that word as comprehending all except the able-bodied and their families) is subject to less abuse. The great source of Poor-Law mal-administration is, the desire of many of those who regulate the distribution of the parochial fund, to extract from it a profit to themselves. The out-door relief to the able-bodied, and all relief that is administered in the workhouse, afford ample opportunities for effecting this purpose; but no use can be made of the labour of the aged and sick, and there is little room for jobbing if their pensions are paid in money. Accordingly, we find, that even in places distinguished
in general by the most wanton parochial profusion, the allowances to the aged and infirm are moderate.
The out-door relief of the sick is usually effected by a contract with a surgeon, which, however, in general, includes only those who are parishioners. When non-parishioners become chargeable from illness, an order for their removal is obtained, which is suspended until they can perform the journey; in the mean time they are attended by the local surgeon, but at the expense of the parish to which they belong. This has been complained of as a source of great peculation; the surgeon charging a far larger sum than be would have received for attending an independent labourer or a pauper, in the place of his settlement. On the whole, however, medical attendance seems, in general, to be adequately supplied, and economically, if we consider only the price and the amount of attendance.
The country is much indebted to Mr. Smith, of Southam, for his exertions to promote the establishment of dispensaries, for the purpose of enabling the labouring classes to defray, from their own resources, the expense of medical treatment. Some valuable remarks on this subject, by the Rev. P. Blakiston and Dr. Calvert, will be found in Appendix (C). It appears to us, that great good has already been effected by these dispensaries, and that much more may be effected by them; but we are not prepared to suggest any legislative measures for their encouragement.
It appears from the whole Evidence, that the clause of the 43d Elizabeth, which directs the parents and children of the impotent to be assessed for their support, is very seldom enforced. In any ordinary state of society, we much doubt the wisdom of such an enactment. The duty of supporting parents and children, in old age or infirmity, is so strongly enforced by our natural feelings, that it is often well performed, even among savages, and almost always so in a nation deserving the name of civilized. We believe that England is the only European country in which it is neglected. To add the sanction of the law in countries where that of nature is found sufficient, to make that compulsory which would otherwise be voluntary, cannot be necessary; and if unnecessary, must be mischievous. But if the deficiencies of parental and filial affection are to be supplied by the parish, and the natural motives to the exercise of those virtues are thus to be withdrawn, it may be proper to endeavour to replace them, however imperfectly, by artificial stimulants, and to make fines, distress warrants, or imprisonment act as substitutes for gratitude and love. The attempt, however, is scarcely ever made.
WE have dwelt at some length on out-door relief, because it apyears to be the relief which is now most extensively given, and because it appears to contain in itself the elements of an almost indefinite extension; of an extension, in short, which may ultimately absorb the whole fund out of which it arises. Among the elements of extension are the constantly diminishing reluctance to claim an apparent benefit, the receipt of which imposes no sacrifice, except a sensation of shame quickly obliterated by habit, even if not prevented by example; the difficulty often amounting to impossibility on the part of those who administer and award relief, of ascertaining whether any and what necessity for it exists; and the existence in many cases of positive motives on their parts to grant it when unnecessary, or themselves to create the necessity. The first and third of these sources of mal-administration are common to the towns and to the country; the second, the difficulty of ascertaining the wants of the applicant, operates most strongly in the large towns, and is well displayed in the following extract from the Report of Mr. Chadwick, on the Eastern Division of the Metropolis:—
George Huish, Assistant Overseer of the Parish of Saint George’s, Southwark.
“I HAVE lived in the parish upwards of 40 years, and have served office upwards of 12 years, and before that time I had cognizance of much parochial business with a relation.
“The most injurious portion of the Poor Law system is the out-door relief. I do not serve a day without seeing some new mischiefs arise from it. In the smaller parishes, persons are liable to all sorts of influences. In such a parish as ours, where we administer relief to upwards of 2000 out-door poor, it is utterly impossible to prevent considerable fraud, whatever vigilance is exercised.
“Has the utmost vigilance been tried?—One man to every 20 would be required to watch the paupers living out of the parish, and one man to watch every 100 living within the parish; which is an expense of inspection which could not be borne. Suppose you go to a man’s house as a visitor: you ask, where is Smith (the pauper)? You see his wife or his children, who say they do not know where he is, but that they believe he is gone in search of work. How are you to tell, in such a case, whether he is at work or not? It could only be by following him in the morning; and you must do that every day, because he may be in work one day, and not another. Suppose you have a shoemaker who demands relief of you, and you give it him on his declaring that he is out of work. You visit his place, and you find him in work; you say to him, as I have said to one of our own paupers, ‘Why, Edwards, I thought you said you had no work?’ and he will answer, ‘Neither had I any; and I have only got a little job
for the day.‘ He will also say
directly, ‘I owe for my rent; I have not paid my chandler’s shop score; I have been summoned, and I expect an execution out against me, and if you stop my relief, I must come home,’ (that is, he must go into the workhouse). The overseer is immediately frightened by this, and says, ‘What a family that man has got! it will not do to stop his relief.” So that, unless you have a considerable number of men to watch every pauper every day, you are sure to be cheated. Some of the Out-door paupers are children, others are women; but, taking one with another, I think it would require one man’s whole time to watch every twenty paupers.
“Does the practice of obtaining out-door relief extend amongst respectable classes of mechanics, whose work and means of living are tolerably good?—I am every week astonished by seeing persons come whom I never thought would have come. The greater number of our out-door paupers are worthless people; but still the number of decent people who ought to have made provision for themselves, and who come, is very great, and increasing. One brings another; one member of a family brings the rest of a family. Thus I find, in two days’ relief, the following names:—’John Arundell, a sawyer, aged 55; his son, William, aged 22, a wire-drawer; Ann Harris, 58, her husband is in Greenwich Hospital; her son John, and his wife, also came separately; so does their son, a lad aged 18, a smith.’ Thus we have pauper father, pauper wife, pauper son, and pauper grandchildren, frequently applying on the same relief-day. One neighbour brings another. Not long since a very young woman, a widow, named Cope, who is not more than 20 years of age, applied for relief; she had only one child. After she had obtained relief, I had some suspicion that there was something about this young woman not like many others. I spoke to her, and pressed her to tell me the real truth as to how so decent a young woman as herself came to us for relief: she replied that she was ‘gored’ into it. That was her expression. I asked her what she meant by being gored into it. She stated, that where she was living there were only five cottages, and that the inhabitants of four out of five of these cottages were receiving relief, two from St. Saviour’s, and two from Newington parish. They had told her that she was not worthy of living in the same place unless she obtained relief too.
“Indeed, the malady of pauperism has not only got amongst respectable mechanics, but we find even persons who may be considered of the middle classes, such as petty masters, small master bricklayers, and other such persons, who have never before been seen making application to parish officers, now applying. My opinion is, that they apply in consequence of having witnessed the ease with which others who might have provided for themselves obtain relief. They naturally say, ‘Why should we be content with half a loaf when we might have a whole one?’ A few days ago a man applied for relief, stating that he was in great distress. On inquiry, it was found that he held a situation as packer, and actually received wages of the amount of 20
s. per week, at the time he made the application, and had been in the receipt of them for some time previous. We found that one woman had received relief from us for two years, whilst she was receiving from the East India Company a
pension of 70
l. per annum. In one instance, we discovered that a man, named James Peaton, was receiving relief of six different parishes; he belonged to our parish, and he had picked out five other parishes, which gave relief on the five other days. He made it his entire business to live on parish pensions, and he received one week’s pension every day.
“Since the inquiry has been made, I have stationed persons at well-known gin shops to observe the number of paupers who came, and the money they spend; and, from all their statements, I have drawn the conclusion that 30
l. out of every 100
l. of the money given as out-door relief, is spent in the gin-shops during the same day.”
From the preceding evidence it will be seen how zealous must be the agency, and how intense the vigilance, to prevent fraudulent claims crowding in under such a system of relief. But it would require still greater vigilance to prevent the
bonâ fide claimants degenerating into impostors; and it is an aphorism amongst the active parish officers that “cases which are good today are bad to-morrow, unless they are incessantly watched.” A person obtains relief on the ground of sickness; when he has become capable of returning to moderate work, he is tempted, by the enjoyment of subsistence without labour, to conceal his convalescence, and fraudulently extend the period of relief. When it really depends upon the receivers whether the relief shall cease with its occasion, it is too much to expect of their virtue that they shall, in any considerable number of instances, voluntarily forego the pension.
The permanent officers appointed to make inquiries at the residence of the out-door paupers frankly acknowledge, that it is beyond the powers of any individuals to prevent an immense amount of fraud. We add the following instances from Mr. Chadwick’s Report:—
Mr. Thorn, assistant overseer of the parish of Saint Giles, Cripplegate, London, states—
“The out-door relief in the city of London would require almost one man to look after every half dozen of able-bodied men, and then he would only succeed imperfectly in preventing fraud. They cheat us on all hands. I have had instances where the masters who have employed out-door paupers have given such answers to my inquiries, as to leave no doubt in my mind that the master concealed the real amount of wages, for fear that if he caused the parish to reduce the man’s allowance he should have to pay him higher wages. There is no protection whatever from the growing evil of the increase of the able-bodied out-door poor, which is one of the greatest evils of the system, but in finding them labour out of town.”
Mr. Samuel Miller, assistant overseer in the parish of Saint Sepulchre, London, declares that—
“With respect to the out-door relief, there must, from the very nature
of it, be an immense deal of fraud. There is no industry, no inspection, no human skill, which will prevent gross impositions belonging to this mode of relief.
“By far the greater proportion of our new paupers are persons brought upon the parish by habits of intemperance, and the others are chiefly pauper children or hereditary paupers.
“After relief has been received at our board, a great portion of them proceed with the money to the palaces of gin-shops, which abound in the neighbourhood.”
Mr. William Weale, assistant overseer of the parish of Lambeth, whose chief business is the investigation of the cases of outdoor paupers, after specifying the modes of examination, concludes by stating, that after all—
“However diligent an assistant overseer or an officer for inquiry, may be, there are numerous cases which will baffle his utmost diligence and sagacity; the only test of these cases is making their condition more severe than that of the lowest class of labourers who obtain their livelihood by honest industry.”
Mr. Luke Teather, another officer of great experience in the same business, adds, that as—
“It is the study of bad paupers to deceive you all they can, and as they study more their own cases than any inquirer can study each of the whole mass of different cases which he has to inquire into, they are sure to be successful in a great many instances. The only protection for the parish is to make the parish the hardest taskmaster and the worst paymaster that can be applied to.”
Another evil connected with out-door relief, and rising from its undefined character, is the natural tendency to award to the deserving more than is necessary, or where more than necessary relief is afforded to all, to distinguish the deserving by extra allowances. The scales which we have already quoted, promulgated by the magistrates for the county of Cambridge, by those for the town of Cambridge, and by the magistrates of the Walden division, Essex, all direct the parish officer to reward or encourage the deserving. The whole evidence shows the danger of such an attempt. It appears that such endeavours to constitute the distributors of relief into a tribunal for the reward of merit, out of the property of others, have not only failed in effecting the benevolent intentions of their promoters, but have become sources of fraud on the part of the distributors, and of discontent and violence on the part of the claimants.
Mr. Masterman, who had served the office of headborough, and also the offices of churchwarden and overseer, in the parish of St. Matthew, Bethnal Green, states,—
“The system of expenditure was bad, in the favouritism exercised as to the parties to whom relief was given. Many of the landlords of the
smaller tenements have always mustered their friends on the days of election, to get them appointed governors or guardians of the poor. When parties came to be relieved, who were tenants of the governors who sat at the Board, the governors have given testimony to their meritorious characters, and urged that they might have relief. I have been present when it has been proposed that 1
d. should be given, when the landlord would say ‘Oh, he a very good man, give him 3
s.,‘ and the 3
s. has been awarded. The working of this system would naturally be, that when one man’s tenants were thus favoured, he would favour the tenants of the others in turn when they came to demand relief. Another consequence is, that the landlord or his collector, when they collect the rent, are well aware that the tenant has had money which will pay it.
“I found,” says Mr. Chadwick, “that most attempts to administer public relief according to character, even when those attempts have been made under circumstances apparently the most favourable, have created great dissatisfaction. Character being made up of habits, and habits being made up of series of simple acts, (which we sometimes find it difficult to determine on in our courts of law, even with all skilled appliances,) it is not surprising that persons in wealthy or superior stations who have rarely the means of observing or knowing the daily arts of the labouring classes, usually fail of estimating them, so as to adjudicate justly, according to the estimation of the claimants. The Rev. W. Bishop, the rector of Ufton, Berks, stated to me: ‘When first I came to this parish, I instituted rewards for virtuous conduct amongst my parishioners, but I soon found that I did more mischief than good by the proceeding, and I was compelled to abandon it. I found that my parishioners, from their situation, knew more of the objects whom I selected for reward than I possibly could. They saw actions of which I could obtain no knowledge. With all my desire to do justice, there were actions which I forgot to take into account; and of those which I did take into account, they probably often made a more correct estimate than I could: under these circumstances, I probably was led to decide unjustly, and excited more ill feeling by my decisions than emulation by my rewards.’ He gave up entirely the idea of rewarding according to character, and adopted other courses of proceeding.
“In more rude hands, such attempts often excite fierce discontent, by the inequalities of the distribution amongst claimants, who conceive themselves at least equal in merit. Private charity, being usually dispensed to separate individuals, is unattended with the discontents arising from a comparison of the objects of bounty; but I did not find one magistrate of extensive experience, who had found it practicable to take character into account, except on rare occasions. ‘A man,’ it has been said, ‘may be a very worthy, good sort of man, but so ought we all to be: and if every man who is so were to bring in his bill for being so, who would there be to pay it?'”
A common consequence is, that, to satisfy the clamours of the undeserving, the general scale of relief is raised; but the ultimate result of such a proceeding appears always to be, to augment
the distress which it was intended to mitigate, and to render more fierce the discontent which it was intended to appease. Profuse allowances excite the most extravagant expectations on the parts of the claimants, who conceive that an inexhaustible fund is devoted to their use, and that they are wronged to the extent of whatever falls short of their claims. Such relief partakes of the nature of indiscriminate alms-giving in its effects, as a bounty on indolence and vice; but the apparently legal sanction to this parochial alms-giving renders the discontent on denial the most intense; wherever, indeed, public charities are profusely administered, we hear, from those who are engaged in their administration, complaints of the discontent and disorders introduced. Bedford is a town in which money is profusely dispensed in charity for the partial relief of the labouring classes, without any return of labour. The following is an extract from a communication on the subject by the Rev. James Donne, the vicar of St. Paul’s, Bedford:—
“The great Bedford Charity has a bad effect on the minds of all the working classes. They are discontented because they think that there is an ample provision for the poor whenever they are thrown out of work.
“I have heard an engineer (Mr. Bailey), resident in the town, say that he dare not employ a Bedford hand, they are so idle.
“A stranger has lately contracted to light the town with gas. He declared that of all the places where he had undertaken such works, he never met with such idle workmen as the Bedford men. Thus they show by their actions that the charity is no real blessing to them, whatever it may prove to the next generation, who will have the benefit of all the improvements in our schools. But the class above the working people are also affected by this charity, to their injury. They conceive they shall be provided for in the almshouses if ever they come to poverty; and they are not careful and provident, but rather extravagant in their way of living.
“In times of popular excitement the poorer sort will speak out, and say the pauper’s charity should be theirs, and if they had justice done them they need not work at all. And having such opportunities of education in our schools, they entirely neglect the religious education of their children at home. No doubt there are exceptions, but I believe the rule to be as I state it.
“There are very few labouring men in my parish who save anything, and yet many contrive, who are beholden to the parish for their subsistence, to spend a good deal at the beer shop. Drunkenness has greatly increased the last two years. The beer houses are much frequented on Sundays.”
It appears from all our returns, especially from the replies to question 53, of the Rural Queries, that in every district, the discontent of the labouring classes is proportioned to the money dispensed
in poor’s-rates, or in voluntary charities. The able-bodied unmarried labourers are discontented, from being put to a disadvantage as compared with the married. The paupers are discontented, from their expectations being raised by the ordinary administration of the system, beyond any means of satisfying them. “They, as well as the independent labourers, to whom the term poor is equally applied, are instructed,” says Mr. Chadwick, “that they have a right to a ‘
reasonable subsistence,’ or ‘a
fair subsistence,’ or ‘an
adequate subsistence.’ When I have asked of the rate distributors what ‘
fair,‘ or ‘
reasonable,‘ or ‘
adequate‘ meant, I have in every instance been answered differently; some stating they thought it meant such as would give a good allowance of ‘meat every day,’ which no poor man (meaning a pauper) should be without; although a large proportion of the rate-payers do go without it.” It is abundantly shown in the course of this inquiry, that where the terms used by the public authorities are vague, they are always filled up by the desires of the claimants, and the desires always wait on the imagination, which is the worst regulated and the most vivid in the most ignorant of the people. In Newbury and Reading, the money dispensed in poor’s-rates and charity is as great as could be desired by the warmest advocate either of compulsory or of voluntary relief; and yet, during the agricultural riots, many of the inhabitants in both towns were under strong apprehensions of the rising of the very people amongst whom the poor-rates and charities are so profusely distributed. The violence of most of the mobs seems to have arisen from an idea that all their privations arose from the cupidity or fraud of those entrusted with the management of the fund provided for the poor. Those who work, though receiving good wages, being called
poor, and classed with the really indigent, think themselves entitled to a share of the “poor funds.” Whatever addition is made to allowances under these circumstances, excites the expectation of still further allowances; increases the conception of the extent of the right, and ensures proportionate disappointment and hatred if that expectation is not satisfied. On the other hand, wherever the objects of expectation have been made definite, where wages, upon the performance of work, have been substituted for eleemosynary aid, and those wages have been allowed to remain matter of contract, employment has again produced content, and kindness become again a source of gratitude.
s. is the utmost weekly pension or allowance
gratuitously given to a single able-bodied labourer. An applicant of this description, if he said that he could not live on his wages, would probably be taken into the poor-house, or set to work by the parish at perhaps 5
s. a-week; but he would not receive
for doing nothing more than 2
s. a-week, while the sums which a married labourer receives for doing nothing increase with the birth of every additional child.”
Part I, Section 1, continued, In-Door Relief