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parish, by prosecuting the party, may be relieved from the burden of main. taining them, and the overseers are made accountable to the justices at the quarter sessions for all such money as they shall in this way receive."
The law declares parents and children mutually liable for support. The father and grandfather, mother and grandmother, and the children of every poor, old, blind, lame, and impotent person, or other persons not able to work, being of a sufficient ability, shall, at their own charges, relieve and maintain every such poor person in that manner and according to that rate, as by the justices of that county, where such sufficient persons dwell in their sessions, shall be assessed on pain of twenty shillings a-month; which penalty shall go to the poor of the same parish, and be levied by some or one of the churchwardens or overseers, by warrant from two justices, by distress; or in defect thereof, any two such justices may commit the offender to the common jail, there to remain, without bail or mainprise, till the said forfeiture shall be paid."+
Every individual who has a settlement enjoys it in his own independent right, it is his estate, his birthright,—and he can apply for relief in his extremity to the parish, which has no option. It is bound to relieve his wants. He demands a right, he does not beg a charity; and, certain of never being reduced to absolute want, an Englishman is always the most independent, open, generous, and sincere character. When the horrors of poverty, the desertion of wives, and the cruelties of brutal husbands and unfeeling parents, are considered, how amiable and compassionate does the law of England appear, which provides a refuge and maintenance for the wretched and houseless poor! We have divine authority that "the poor shall never cease out of the land." Paupers are not suffered to remain for years unprovided for by the parish; the law compels the overseers of the parish, if the pauper is not admitted into the workhouse, to pay the weekly I aliment in advance. The overseers may erect cottages on wastes or commons for the residence of the impotent poor, by an agreement with the lord of the manor. They may contract with any one for the keeping, maintaining, and employing the poor; and if any pauper shall refuse to A work, he shall be put out of the parish books, and declared not to be entitled to relief.‡
The report, however, of the select committee of the house of commons, in 1817, gives the following alarming prediction of the effects of the system of parochial relief to that order of society by whom the rates are contributed: "Your committee feel it their imperious duty to state to the house their opinion, that unless some efficacious check be interposed there is every reason to think that the amount of the assessment will continue,
5 Geo. II. c. 8.
† 43 Eliz. c. 2.
9 Geo. II. c. 2.
as it has done, to increase till, at a period more or less remote, according to the progress the evil has already made in different places, it shall have absorbed the profits of the property on which the rate may have been as sessed, producing thereby the neglect and ruin of the land, and the waste or removal of other property, to the utter subversion of that happy order of society so long upheld in these kingdoms."
In Scotland, the poor laws and their administration stand on a different footing from that which they have obtained in England. In Scotland, the poor laws are not carried into effect by churchwardens and overseers; but by every person of landed property, or of certain professional influence in the country, on whom the law calls to take his individual share in maintaining the system, and in carrying it into successful operation. All the clergy and elders of the different parishes, every landowner throughout the kingdom, however small the size or value of his property may be; and the magistrates of cities, acting in the capacity of country landowners, are the persons to whom the administration of the funds are intrusted, and to whom it is left in every parish and town to determine whether there shall be an assessment or not, and its amount.
The act of 1579* is the foundation of the Scottish poor laws, and then first introduced the measure of a compulsatory assessment for assisting the impotent poor, and at the same time provided for the suppression of vagrancy. As far back as 1424, acts had been passed for the relief of the poor, which consisted simply of permission to beg, and furnishing them with badges for that purpose, while sturdy beggars and disorderly persons were peremptorily prohibited from begging. A subsequent statute limited the begging badges to "cruikit folke, seik folke, impotent folke, and weik folke;" and, later still, these same were again confined to beg within the parishes in which they were born. These restrictions were found necessary to prevent the evasion of the laws against vagrants, from whom the country suffered severely, especially during years of scarcity, who, in 1698, Fletcher of Saltoun says, amounted to 200,000. The characteristic feature of the Scottish system is, and always has been, to support the poor by collections at the church doors, and other funds voluntarily raised, and to shun assessment as a great and increasing evil.† The collection and management of the poor's funds is placed in the heritors and kirk session; and although the judge ordinary is to see the law executed, yet he cannot, in the first instance, modify an aliment to the pauper; he can only remit to the heri tors and kirk session to modify one. According to a judicial determination reported by Kilkerran : "The heritors have a joint right and power with the kirk session in the administration, management, and distribution of all
and every of the funds belonging to the poor of the parish, as well collections as sums mortified for the use of the poor and money stocked out upon interest; and have a right to be present and join with the session, in their administration, distribution, and employment of such sums, without prejudice to the kirk session to proceed in their ordinary acts of administration, and application of their collections to their ordinary and incidental charities, though the heritors be not present nor attend."*
It is necessary in Scotland, as well as in England, to entitle poor persons to parochial relief, that they have a SETTLEMENT, which can only be acquired in one of the four following ways: I. by Residence; II. Marriage; III. Parentage; IV. Birth.
I. RESIDENCE. There is scarcely any restriction as to the persons who may acquire a settlement by residence; and foreigners are equally entitled to obtain this privilege as natives. Three years' residence in any parish is a legal settlement; but when a pauper has resided three years in another parish, it is the parish within which he has resided for the last three years preceding his application for charity, which is bound to support him. Mere residence is sufficient to obtain a settlement, without any of the accompanying requisites which are necessary by the law of England; such as possession of a house or estate, hiring and service, &c. Where a settlement has once been obtained, it is not lost by mere lapse of time and intermission of residence, unless a new settlement has been acquired. But so soon as a new settlement, by residence, is acquired, the parish of the former settlement is completely liberated. This will hold although the new settlement were in England. One Brown, having acquired a settlement in a Scottish parish, removed to England with his wife and family, and after living there for three years, he deserted them. In an action for aliment, at the instance of the wife and children, the court decided that the Scottish settlement was lost; and it was only on the ground that by their residence in England they had not acquired a legal settlement there, that they ultimately obtained a settlement in the Scottish parish where they had last resided for three years.
II. MARRIAGE.-On her marriage, a woman immediately obtains her husband's settlement. Her maiden settlement is in consequence suspended, and does not revive by the husband's desertion. A widow continues to hold her husband's settlement, until she acquires a new one by residence as a widow, or by a second marriage. When divorced, a woman loses her husband's settlement, and her maiden one revives. A settlement acquired by marriage, does not entitle her legitimate children by a former marriage to her new settlement, although it acquires this privilege for her illegitimate children.
*Bell's Law Dict. Art. Poor.
III. PARENTAGE.-Legitimate children follow their father's settlement, illegitimate children that of their mother, even where the father is known, as the law holds the father of a bastard to be uncertain. The derivation settlement of parentage ceases on the child's acquiring a settlement of his own by residence, or in the case of a daughter, by marriage, and it can never be revived.
IV. BIRTH.-When a pauper has no settlement, he is entitled to be supported by the parish where he was born. But they cannot have recourse on the parish of their birth if they have acquired a settlement by residence, or during the subsistence of a settlement by marriage or by parentage.
The recent act, for the amendment and better administration of the laws relating to the poor in England and Wales, has entirely altered the poor laws, and placed them on a new footing. The act is as follows:—
I. Whereas it is expedient to alter and amend the laws relating to the relief of poor persons in England and Wales: Be it therefore enacted by the king's most excellent majesty, by and with the advice, &c., That it shall be lawful for his majesty, his heirs, and successors, by warrant under the royal sign manual, to appoint three fit persons, as commissioners, to carry this act into execution, and also from time to time, at pleasure, to remove any of the commissioners for the time being, and upon every or any vacancy in the said number of commissioners, either by removal, or death, or otherwise, to appoint some other fit person to the office; and until such appointment, it shall be lawful for the surviving or continuing commissioners to act as if no such vacancy had occurred.
II. The commissioners shall be styled, "the poor law commissioners for England and Wales;" any two of whom may sit as a board with power to summon and examine witnesses, and call for production of papers on oath; but they are not entitled to inquire into any title. III. They shall have a common seal. Rules, &c., purporting to be sealed with such seal, to be received as evidence.
IV. They must record their proceedings.
V. They must make a general report to the secretary of state yearly, and also report to the secretary of state when required.
VII. They have power to appoint assistant commissioners, and to remove the same. But they cannot appoint more than nine assistants without consent of the treasury.
VIII. Commissioners, while such, cannot sit in parliament.
IX. Empowered to appoint their own secretary, assistant secretary or secretaries, clerks, and other officers.
X. No commissioner to be appointed for a longer period than five years.
XI. Every commissioner and assistant commissioner shall take the following oath :—“ I, A. B., do swear, that I will faithfully, impartially, and honestly, according to the best of my skill and judgment, execute and fulfil all the powers and duties of a commissioner (or assistant commissioner), under an act passed in the fifth year of the reign of king William the fourth, intituled," &c. Names of commissioners and their assistants to be published in the gazette, and notification sent to the clerks of the peace, and published in every county.
XII. Commissioners may delegate powers to assistant commissioners, and also revoke them. Assistant commissioners may summon persons, and examine them upon oath.
XIII. Persons giving false evidence to be guilty of perjury; refusing to attend when summoned, guilty of a misdemeanour.
XIV. Reasonable expenses of witnesses to be paid to them out of the poor's rates of the parish interested.
XV. Commissioners have the control of the administration of relief to the poor. They are also to make rules and regulations for the management of the poor and administration of the laws for their relief. They may also suspend or alter these rules.
XVI. Forty days before general rules can come into operation, they must be submitted to one of the secretaries of state. If, during the forty days, these rules be allowed by the king in council, they can come into operation. If the secretary of state should afterwards disallow them, they shall cease to operate, but transactions in virtue of them previously are valid.
XVII. All general rules shall be submitted to parliament, by one of the secretaries of state. XVIII. A printed copy of every rule must be sent to the overseers of each parish before they can come into operation. Every owner of property, or his agent, and rate payers, shall at all times have free access to these rules free of all charge. Any overseer, obstructing or neglecting to give them publicity, is liable to a penalty, not exceeding ten pounds nor less than forty shillings. The disallowance or withdrawal of any rule to be publicly notified.
XIX. Inmates of workhouses are not obliged to attend any religious service contrary to their religious principles.
XX. The orders of assistant commissioner are not of force till they have been approved and sealed by one of the commissioners.
XXI. The commissioners are invested with the control of those acts for borrowing money, and all acts relating to the building, repairing, &c., of workhouses. Commissioners are entitled to attend local boards and vestries, but not to order the building or hiring of workhouses, except under limitations.
XXII. Prohibited from making additions or alterations to the rules contained in the schedule to 22 Geo. III. c. 83, or in any other act, until confirmed by commissioners.
XXIII. Commissioners are empowered to order work houses to be built, hired, altered, or enlarged, with consent of a majority of the rate payers and owners of property who are entitled to vote in any parish.
XXIV. For the repayment of money borrowed for the purpose of building workhouses, the overseers are empowered to charge the future poor rates of the parish with the amount, provided it does not exceed one year's amount of poor rates.
XXV. The commissioners are empowered to order workhouses to be altered or enlarged without the consent of the rate payers. The overseers are required to assess, raise, and levy, the necessary money, provided the principal sum does not exceed fifty pounds.
XXVI. Commissioners are empowered to unite parishes; but, notwithstanding, each parish to be chargeable for the expense of its own poor.
XXVII. Under this union, any two justices may order out-door relief to aged and infirm persons wholly unable to work.
XXVIII. When an union of parishes is proposed, commissioners are to inquire the expense of poor belonging to each parish for the three years preceding. The several parishes included in such union shall, from the time of the union, contribute to a common fund for purchasing, hiring, providing, altering, or enlarging, any workhouse, &c., for the relief of the poor of such parishes.
XXIX. Commissioners are to make inquiry of the visitors, directors, &c., of such unions as had been effected under the 22 Geo. III. c. 83, whether the poor have been relieved in or out of the union, and how the expense has been paid.
XXX. The averages to be taken in the mean time from the parliamentary returns of the actual expense of the poor of each parish.
XXXI. Repeals part of the 22 Geo. III. c. 83, s. 5, and 56 Geo. III. c. 129, part of s. 1, and of 22 Geo. III. c. 83, s. 29.
XXXII. Commissioners have power to dissolve, add to, or take from, any union; to make such rules as may be adapted to such altered state; provided the rights and interests of parishes, and claims on these, be ascertained and secured. No such dissolutions or alterations of parishes shall prejudice, vary, or affect the rights or interests of third parties; nor shall they take place unless a majority of two-thirds of the guardians of such union shall concur. XXXIII. For the purpose of settlement, such parishes constituting an union shall be considered as one parish.
XXXIV. For the purpose of rating, an union shall be considered as one parish, provided the guardians agree and the commissioners consent. Such agreement and consent to be lodged with the clerk of the peace.