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gravity, by making mountains rise signed to promote trade, and the artior ascend in majesty, and even pierce ficial system by which they encumthe very
clouds which dim them to bered it, was the result, not of any ill our sight.
intention, but of ignorance. Their In the foregoing remarks I refer plans not harmonizing with the great only to works which treat of matters and original laws of society, thwarted of fact,---not to works of fiction. I its progress, and counteracted the first have no desire to curb the genius of princples of social improvement.our poets, by taking one word out of Such, however, was unquestionably their vocabulary. Let the roaring of far from their intention. In the case the sea in a tempest, or the soft mur- also of the English system of poormur of its almost quiescent waves in laws, we cannot doubt that the intena calm, be granted to those who tions of the legislators were exceedingwould personify a poker, or apostro- ly laudable. Their object was to rephize a coffee-pot. And rivers may lieve the poor at the expence of the glide, rush, and hasten with fearful rich, -to take from those who were velocity,---bend, twist, and stretch ;--- amply provided with all the superor, if they please, steal gently along, fuities of life what was necessary for and kiss the wild-flowers which over the support of the destitute. The inhang their banks, in peace, and with- tention was here benevolent in the out molestation from me ;- provided extreme. But the evils which have it be always understood, that these flowed from this erring benevolence phrases are merely figures or fictions have taught us the necessity of not of speech, and convey nothing which rashly giving way to appearances, but can disturb our belief of the earth's of rigidly canvassing the merits of all stability, or shake our faith in the those projects of benevolence, howreceived' ideas which divide animated ever specious an aspect they may asfrom inanimate matter.
sume, and of examining not merely I am, Sir, yours, &c.
whether the object in view be a good Peter Pangloss, LL. D. one, but whether the means proposF. R. & ASS. ed afford any chance of accomplishing
it. According to these principles, we
propose shortly to examine the nature OBSERVATIONS ON THE PRINCIPLES and policy of the English system of OF THE POOR-LAWS.
As it is by the industry of the laIn the union of integrity and wis- bouring classes that the community at dom consists the perfection of govern- large are provided with food, clothment, and from the want of some one ing, and lodging, it seems at first view of these two essential requisites to go- both reasonable and humane, that vern, every species of mal-administra- when this useful class fall into povertion necessarily flows. In the pas- ty and want, the richer classes, to sing of laws which are directed to the whose comfort they so largely admigeneral good of the community at nister, should contribute to their relarge, and which are wholly uncon- lief; and there is no question, that nected with the personal interests of if, in any season of general distress, the individuals, it is impossible that le- poor could be relieved by the simple gislators can have had any sinister process of assessing the rich, both purpose in view. In this branch of humanity and sound policy would legislation, therefore, their errors justify the most effectual measures for must proceed, not from a want of in- this purpose. But experience too tegrity, but from a want of wisdom, — fatally proves, that the system of gefrom a want of those just and compre- neral assessments on the rich for the hensive views of the nature of society, relief of the poor, produces effects prewithout which no legislator can ever cisely the reverse of those intended ; be qualified to regulate its complex -that, so far from relieving their dis
In all those laws, for ex- tress, or in any respect improving ample, which have been passed for the their condition, it plunges them into encouragement of commerce, there is the lowest depths of vice and misery,no reason to believe that their authors deç ra ling their moral habits,-eradi. had any other object in view than cating from their minds every feeling what they professed. They really de- of honest independence, -reconciling
them to idleness and beggary,-and same length of time. It is equally finally, increasing the distress which evident that, for this purpose, a cerit is intended to relieve. Those va- tain proportion of the community rious evils have been sometimes as must consume less, and they are recrived to the faulty administration of duced to this diminished consumption the system, and many cases of gross by the rise of price. But the system corruption and mismanagement have which we are considering makes a geno doubt been pointed out. But a neral distribution of money among system which professes benevolence, the labourers, that they may be enaand which is thus fruitful in all the bled to procure the same quantity of worst of evils, must be wrong, not provisions as before ;-or, in other merely in detail, but in principle. words, that they may be enabled to It must have some inherent quality of consume 100 millions when the whole mischief, by which so much intended produce only amounts to 90 millions. good is transmuted into so much prac- İt is evident, therefore, that for the tical evil. The two great calamities evil of scarcity, a general distribution to which the labourer is chiefly ex- of money affords no relief whatever. posed, are a'want of subsistence or a The other evil to which the labourwant of employment.
er is exposed, namely, a general șcarciA want of food may either arise ty of work, can only be adequately refrom a deficiency in the usual sup- lieved by increasing the funds of proply, or the same effect may be pro- ductive industry. The employment duced by an over abundant popula- of the poor in work-houses, which is tion. In either case, a smaller sup- the remedy provided by the law, creply has to be divided among a larger ates no new fund for the maintenance namber of consumers, and in these of labour. It merely diverts a porcircumstances, it is evident that a tion of the old stock into a different smaller share must fall to the lot of channel. Even if there were no such each. The deficient supply is divided establishments, the materials which are among the consumers, in smaller por- there worked up, would set industry tions by means of a higher price ; the in motion under the more careful inprice rising in consequence of the de- spection of the private manufacturer ; ficiency, until the labourer is disabled and the effect of such projects is not from purchasing the same quantity as to increase the funds of industry, but before. The evil falls upon the rich to change their management,-to take in the form of a tax; they use the them from those who have an interest same quantity of subsistence as before; in faithfully administering them, and but they purchase it at a higher price. to place them under less careful overThe wages of the labourer not being seers, where they may be abused or lost. sufficient for this, he is put upon short All such projects, therefore, for the allowance: and it is by his savings relief of the labouring classes, are of that the deficient supply is made to the most mischievous operation. They last out the year. In such cases, the originate in the most mistaken and law has generally interfered to regu- partial views, and manifest an ignolate wages, or to extort money from rance of those great and general laws the rich in order to divide it among on which the structure of society is the poor, the principle in either case framed, and to which all subordinate being the same, namely, the making a regulations ought to be accommodatgeneral distribution of money among ed. the labourers, to enable them to con But although the evil of this syssume the saine quantity of a scarcer tem be now generally admitted, it has commodity. We shall suppose the been acted upon so universally, and to annual consumption of a country to such an extent in England, that it amount to 100 millions of quarters of has become a question of serious difwheat. In consequence of a bad har- ficulty in what manner all its various vest, the supply falls short by 10 mil- evils can now be checked. So widely lions. It is clear, therefore, that, by has it spread the evil of mendicity,—so some means or other, the deficient sup- thoroughly has it corrupted the moral ply of 90 millions, in the same manner feeling of the great mass of the comas formerly the more abundant supply munity,--and so general, of late years, of 100 millions, must be made to last has been the stagnation of trade, and the same number of consumers the the want of employment, among the
labouring classes, that a vast train of were either left entirely to their dishelpless dependents are now attached cretion, or no precise rule was preto it, who cannot be suddenly cast off scribed for their conduct; nor was to misery and want. And in this in
any adequate security provided by the deed consists one great evil of every law for the upright administration of erroneous and artificial scheme of po- the funds which they were empowerlicy, that, in the course of time, it ese ed to raise. The statute is framed in tablishes itself among the fixed and vague and general terms. The obsettled arrangements of society, so ject which it proposes is indeed plain that, however sensible we may be of and obvious, as well as the vast powers its mischiefs, we cannot suddenly re which it creates ; but it contains no move it without producing the most adequate provision for regulating the extensive disorder and mischief. This exercise of these powers; it trusts the naturally creates hesitation among whole practical detail of the measure those who, however they may feel to the discretion of individuals. In the evil, are desirous to accomplish the administration of this system of the proposed reformation at the least compulsory charity, disputes have in possible expence of present misery. consequence been continually arising In the case of the English poor-laws, respecting the legality of the proceedhowever, the malady is not stationary. ings of the church wardens, and reIt is making continual progress,—it specting another important point, is gradually underinining the sound namely, the species of property, which and healthy constitution of society, is legally rateable to the parish conand it requires, therefore, to be check- tributions. This has been a most fered by seasonable and vigorous reme- tile subject of legal wrangling, insodies.
much, that the money expended on The system established in Eng- law-suits amounted in 1815 land, of a compulsory provision for L. 285,000; and amid the series of the relief of the poor, originated in contradictory decisions and statutes the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and by which the subject is perplexed, the various statutes which were pass- there is still ample scope for new ed on this important subject, were doubts and interminable disputes. consolidated into one general law, It is generally believed, that the by the 43d of her reign. This sta- intention of the legislature was to subtute enacts, that "the churchwar- ject every species of property to condens and overseers” shall take or tribution. But in practice, so many der from time to time (with the con- difficulties have been experienced in sent of two or more justices) for set- enforcing this law against personal ting to work the children of all such property, that the burden falls almost whose parents shall not be thought exclusively on lands and houses, and able to keep and maintain their chil. it has been gradually encroaching dren; and also for setting to work all upon the income derived from this such persons, married or unmarried, source, until it threatens in some cases having no means to maintain them, its total extinction. At the time and use no ordinary or daily trade of when the 43d Elizabeth was passed, life to get their living by; and also to it might have been easily foreseen, raise by taxation, &c. " a convenient that a system of compulsory provision stock of flax, &c. to set the poor on for the relief of the poor, established work ;” and also competent sums of and acted upon throughout the kingmoney for and towards the necessary dom, would necessarily tend to relax relief of the lame, impotent, old, blind, the principle of private exertion,-that and such other among them, being the stimulus to industry, frugality, poor and not able to work.
and foresight, being once withdrawn, By this law the churchwardens misery would increase,—that new ‘are invested with the important claimants thus continually arising, power of taxing the people for the the administrators of those funds support of the poor, or for setting to would be gradually overborne by the work poor children, or such as had no importunate solicitations of beggary, employment. All the various details —that, in place of any nice discrimiof the system,—the mode of making nation between the cases of different the assessment,—the species of pro- claimants, the easy process would be perty to which it was to be extended, adopted of confounding them all un.
der some general rule,—and that, in was complained of.
In the same this way, the foundation was laid for a strain Bishop Burnet touches the very system of profuse and indiscriminate root of the mischief, in the admirable charity, which, by gradually corrupt- remarks with which he concludes his ing the habits of the labouring classes, history : “ It may be thought (he obwould necessarily multiply its objects, serves) a strange motion from a bishop, -that new and increased contribue that the act for charging every parish tions would be required, and that, to maintain their own poor were well from this fertile fountain of evil, new reviewed, if not taken away, this seems streams of corruption would thus con to encourage idle and lazy people in tinually issue, to vitiate and to de- their sloth, when they know they must stroy the moral feelings of the people. be maintained.” It is evident, that the system contains The evil, however, was then only within itself a principle of continual in its infancy. It has now attained increase, and unless it meets with to greater maturity, and it seems to some decided check, it may proceed be still progressive. We have no acin absorbing the capital of the country count of the annual sums collected for to an indefinite extent. These evils the maintenance of the poor previous are pointed out with great force and to the year 1776. In that year the effect by the Select Committee ap- sum collected was L.1,720,361, of pointed by the House of Commons which L. 1,556,804 was expended on to report upon this important sub- the poor. On an average of the years ject.“ By diminishing the natu- 1783, 1784, and 1785, the sum raised ral impulse (it is observed) by was L. 2,161,749, of which L.2,004,238 which men are instigated to indus was employed in the same manner. try and good conduct, by supersed- In 1803, the sum raised had ining the necessity of provilling, in the creased to L. 5,348,205, of which season of health and vigour, for the L. 4,267,965 was expended on the wants of sickness and old age, and by poor; and in 1815, the sum of making poverty and misery the condi. L. 7,068,999 was raised, and there was tions on which relief is to be obtained, expended on the poor L. 5,072,028. Four Committee cannot but fear, from Beyond this period, no returns have å reference to the increased numbers been made. But it is observed in the of the poor, and increased and increas- report of the Committee, that these ing amount of the sums raised for sums have been since largely increastheir relief, that this system is perpe- ed. “ Independent (it is observed) tually encouraging and increasing the of the pressure of any temporary or amount of misery it was designed to accidental circumstances, and making alleviate, creating, at the same time, every allowance for an increased poan unlimited demand on funds which pulation, the rise in the price of proit cannot augment; and as every sys- visions and other necessaries of life, tem of relief founded on compulso- and a misapplication of part of these y enactments must be divested of funds, it is apparent that both the the character of benevolence, so it number of paupers, and the amount is without its ben icial effects; as of money levied by assessment, are it proceeds from no impulse of cha- progressively increasing ; while the rity, it creates no feelings of gratitude, situation of the poor appears not to and not unfrequently engenders dis- have been in a corresponding degree positions and habits calculated to se improved ; and the Committee is of parate rather than unite the interests opinion, that whilst the existing poorof the higher and lower orders of the laws, and the system under which community.”
they are administered, remain unchan. The práctical evils flowing from ged, there does not exist any power of this system very soon began to be very arresting the progress of this increase, seriously felt; and we find King Wil- till it shall no longer be found possiliam, in the year 1699, expressing, in ble to augment the sums raised by asa speech from the throne, his regret sessinent. that the increase of the poor had be For this alarming and growing evil come so great á burden to the king- many remedies or palliatives have dom; and that their loose and idle been suggested. It has been somelife had contributed, in some measure, times proposed, by the institution of to the deprarity of manners which schools, and by the general diffusion
of instruction, so to reform the habits lief has been extended to all classes and feelings of the labouring classes, or labourers, and it has been adminia as to render them averse to receive stered in order generally to add to the parish relief, and in this manner, by earnings of the labourer, when the the mild operation of an improved provisions were scarce and dear, or system of inanners, to free society when the wages of labour were low. from the disgrace of systematie beg- Now, what is this but endeavouring gary. In the same spirit banks have forcibly to raise the rate of wages, or been instituted, in order to afford the to fix a maximum on the price of prolabourer a safe deposit for such sav visions? When provisions are scarce, ings as he may be disposed to accu or, in other words, when a smaller mulate into a provision for sickness supply has to be divided among the or for age. But without at all depre- same number of consumers, it is eviciating the utility of public instruction, dent, that a smaller portion must fall and without inquiring into the policy to the share of each individual. This of the many other contrivances which smaller portion the able-bodied lahave been established for the benefit bourer will be enabled to purchase by of the poor, it may be remarked, that means of his wages, and if, by general these expedients touch not the source and profuse donations of money, he of the evil. They leave the grand is placed in a condition to purprinciple of corruption, namely, the chase more, it is clear that he will establishment of a compulsory provi- be benefited at the expence of some sion for the poor, in full vigour; and other order of the community; for it while this standing source of moral is certain, that when there is a genedepravation exists, it will counteract ral deficiency in the supply of provithe operation of the best laid plans for sions, the want must tall somewhere, the improvement of the labourer. and that donations of money, though Experience proves, that the human they may alter the distribution, can mind requires the continual stimulus never affect the quantity of a deficient of necessity to preserve its healthtul supply. In the year 1795, the sysand vigorous tone. Man can only be tem was begun in several counties, of trained to habits of labour, energy, and regulating the rate of wages, and a foresight, by the fear of want; and let table was published for the direction this great spring of human action be of magistrates and overseers, in which but once relaxed, and he degenerates the wages necessary for the subsistinto all the degrading vices of idleness ence of the labourer were computed and mendicity. In vain with one hand according to the price of bread, and you attempt to lead him to morality and when they fell below the computed happiness, while, with the other, you standard, they were made up to it by are scattering far and wide the seeds a parish contribution. Wages were, of debasement and misery. The sys. in short, to rise in proportion to the tem of profuse and indiscriminate cha- price of provisions, which was in effect rity must be restricted. Beggary must saying, that the mass of the commube deprived of this its main stay, and nity should consume the same quanthen we may expect all the manly tity of provisions when the supply was virtues of fortitude, energy, foresight, deficient, as when it was abundant. and industry, to flourish in their own Under this system Mr Malthus men, congenial soil of hardy independence. tions, that he has known labourers,
It is the opinion of many eminent whose earnings amounted to 11s. per writers on this question, that, by the week, receive 14s. from the parish. modern corruptions which have been “Such instances,” he observes, « could introduced into the administration of not possibly have been universal, withthe poor-laws, the 43d of Queen Eli- out raising the price of wheat very zabeth has been extended far beyond much higher than it was during any its original intention, and that this part of the dearth. But similar inact had no relation whatever to the stances were by no means unfrequent, able-bodied labourer who was in em- and the system itself of measuring ployment; but merely contemplated the relief given by the price of grain the relief of those who were sick or was universal.” The consequences infirm, or who, from some temporary are such as might have been expected. accident, were for the present unem- The exactions for the poor have raployed. In later times, however, re- pidly increased, while it does not ap