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less he is paid a living price for his labour, followed up by tlie farmer's refusing to occupy his farm, unless his landlord lower's his rent, so as to allow of his obtaining a living profit, would bring about a change in the system. It would be much easier and pleasanter to build District Schools !
We have said that the attempt to enact that no person in the receipt of wages should be entitled to claim relief, would be next to impracticable ; but the chief difficulties of the measure do not respect the poor themselves. Cases, no doubt, of extreme hardship must occur, as the consequence of any change in the present system ; cases of this nature occur continually as things are : for these, private charity affords the only appropriate remedy. Earnestly as we deprecate the thought of consigning the whole pauper population to the precarious relief of alms-giving, we can regard only as visionary to the highest degree of absurdity, the idea of precluding the necessity of that best mode of relief. “ The poor” we shall “ have always" with us, “ the widow and the fatherless," whose distress it is one of the most sacred obligations of “pure and undefiled re“ ligion” to alleviate. And the case of partial employment, is one which can be safely as well as efficiently met by no other kind of assistance. If wages, however, were higher, partial employment would often be found preferable to the terms of pauper maintenance, and the labourer would at least struggle to subsist upon it, till work should become brisk again. The chief difficulties, we repeat it, do not respect the poor; they arise from the same source in which the practice of mixing relief with wages has originated. Those whose interest it is to keep down the price of labour, although the most clamorous against the rate, would be the last to accede to any plans that should restore the market price of labour to its natural standard.
The other suggestions of the Committee must now be briefly adverted to. With the view to introduce a reform in the admi. nistration of the Poor Laws, they reconimend a combination of the principal persons in the parish, in the execution of the laws, • on the plan generally prevalent in Scotland,' together with the appointment of permanent overseers; also, some alterations in the Law of settlement. They further propose, an annexation of Friendly Societies to the Parochial Fund, as an expedient adapted to encourage the practice of industry and frugality.
The first of these suggestions has been imbodied in what is termed the Select Vestry Bill. It is unquestionably expe
dient,' remarks Mr. Nicoll, 'to combine as much as possible, * the higher and middling classes in the execution of the Poor
Laws. It is by such combination only that an improved system will be attempted.' The employment of permanent aswistant officers, “under proper checks,' would prove, he is of
pinion, 'a measure of incalculable advantage, more especially
in large parishes, and in towns of considerable extent. But de adds :
• I should yet deprecate the present appointment of such permajent assistance; if the appointment were now made, the business vould be wholly thrown into their hands; and a great deal more than 3 called for. Till the country at large has given its time to the in
estigation of abuses, and its weight and influence to their correcCHion, the appointment of an assistant would be a mere temporary
-ralliative; the removal of one or two abuses has just the effect of mnore firmly establishing the rest; the assistant only can execute; Testries and Committees must plan.' Cry If, indeed, the appointment of an assistant overseer should on tave the effect of inducing gentlemen to undertake the managerenent of the poor, who, though benevolently disposed, are now dazleterred from it by some of the more troublesome duties of a essarish-officer, the measure might be highly advantageous; ese Decially if the principle of discrimination as to the causes of *pos distress, can be by this means introduced into the adminis
ration of the laws. In the proposal to establish, and invest
with enlarged powers, Select Vestries, we see, however, no good ef , tend that is to be answered, unless it be the salutary control ezt which it will lay upon the magistrates, who have already ocwork casioned so much mischief by their arbitrary orders and scales risk of relief. Viewed as a plan for assimilating our practice to that
of Scotland, nothing can be more fallacious. We can see no ce usianalogy, whatever between a Select Vestry and a Kirk
Session, is except indeed that, as the minister of the parish is ex-offieio mo
derator or preses of the latter, the clergyman is, in the bill intro-
elders, not less than two, as the extent and population of the
* These elders are elected by the nomination of the Session itself;
, their official duties, which include a general superintendence of
the public morals, and the administration of ecclesiastical discipline, as that is well as the management of the Poor; they are solemnly ordained to
tland," ** also, con
2 N 2
their office according to impressive prescribed forms, in the presence of the congregation when met for Divine worship.'
Have the rulers of our Episcopal church in contemplation to adopt this feature of Presbyterianism, in remodelling the parochial system? Are these to form part of the future duties of the church warden or the select vestry! But further, this Kirk Session bas under its own exclusive administration, what in this country there would be some difficulty in constituting, a paro: cbial poor's fund.
• These funds,' says the Report of the General Assembly, consists chiefly of fines exacted for immoralities, of which they take cognizance; of fees paid by immemorial custom at marriages and baptisms; of the sums drawn for the use of a hearse or a mort-cloth belonging to them; and of the interest of legacies bequeathed to their charge. They are also entitled to retain in their own hands, one half of the collections made at the church doors.* From these they distribute relief in occasional cases of want or distress, and also pay some other trifling incidental expenses.
• These elders, it is added, “ being overseers and almoners for the poor, not for one or two years only, and reluctantly, but willingly and for life, acquire all the advantages for discharging their duty, which long experience in the administration of the interests entrusted to them, can confer. "They have an opportunity also of administering those private personal expostulations and admonitions which their office binds them to give where expedient and necessary, and which are often found, in fact, most useful, both as to economy in the distribution of the poor's funds, and as to improvement on the morals and habits of the Poor themselves. However difficult and laborious the duties which the ministers and elders have to discharge, all those duties have been performed from the Reformation to this day gratuitously; though, by a moderate computation, they employ regularly the active services of not less than four thousand individuals.
In place of these ecclesiastical officers, Mr. Sturges Bourne's Bill gives us a salaried overseer, and the church wardens ! So inuch for the intended assimilation of our practice to that of Scotland. Besides them, the Select Vestry is to include a limited number
* These collections form in many instances the sole parochial fund for the support of the poor, and are found sufficient. In parishes, however, where it is found necessary to levy an assessment, the heritors themselves, who pay one half of the assessment, are associated with the ministers, elders, and deacons, who are considered as representing
the tenants and possessors' paying the other half, in the manage ment of the poor's funds. The minister of the parish, in these cases, attends the meeting, to assist them with his local kr.owledge, but has no vote either in fixing the amount of the assessment, or the distribution of it: so far is it from being true, as has been represented, that the minister and elders, might of themselves proceed to assess the parislı.
the pred of substantial householders, elected by the general vestry, but
s approved by the Justices.' The general vestries or parish ou latin meetings are, so far as regards the administration of the Poor
the Laws, to be wholly superseded, and even the right of voting in Esties ki the general vestry, is to be regulated according to the property hin assessed ; that is to say, a person is to have a number of votes hat is proportioned to his property; in addition to all the natural influ5,21 ence of rank and opulence, he is to be allowed singly to out
number any two or three obstinale fellows who may dare stand up and vote against him. No doubt, 'in populous parishes,
- where the substantial householders are numerous,' (too numer235;
ous for the parson and the squire to hold in complete subordina
tion,) it will be, as Mr. Courtenay says,' very advantageous to Then take the management of parochial concerns from a body so colest susceptible of faction and turbulence as a great parish meet. led in an ing.' A more unjust and aristocratical infringement of popureaga lar rights was never proposed to the Legislatare. We do not
presumne to say what may have been the real intention of the ori. ginator of the plan ; he inight not be fully aware of its operation; but we must say that it has the appearance of being intended only to render the power and patronage of the few, still more absolute than ever, at the expense of the many. It is a matter ! of astonishment, that the country at large should have had their attention so little awakened towards the proposed enactment.
With regard to Settlements, the Select Committee recommend a return to the old law, whereby a residence for three years conferred a settlement. This is the case in Scotland, according to the statute of 1672 ; provided that the pauper shall not, during that period, have applied for charity. Mr. Nicoli objects, that if residence be the ground of settlement, a regular discharge of the labourer will take place at the end of the second year; and he endeavours to shew, that litigation will not, by sucli a simplification of the law of settlement, be put an end to : this spirit, be thinks, can be repressed only by giving full costs on every frivolous appeal, and on every vexatious or even
careless perseverance in an order obtained.' We must content ourselves with referring, on this point, to the pamphlets by Mr. Nicoll and Mr. Courtenay, which we have so often cited. * · The establishment of Parochial Benefit Societies, is the last expedient which we have to notice. This, too, according to the representations of both these gentlemen, is liable to the most serious objections. The Committee, says one of them,
* The average amount of money expended in suits of law, removals, and expenses of parish officers, is given in the Commons Re. port, at upwards of two millions, or more than one fourth part of the money raised for the maintenance of the Poor.
• has proposed a sort of combination between the Parish rate, and the box of the Friendly society. This is a good deal like giving every labourer indiscriminately a penny roll in lieu of half a peck loaf. When the flavour of the roll has become familiar, the loaf will presently follow; when the labourer and the Overseer are once formally introduced to each other; when the mauvaise honte of the first interview is over, I see no sufficient cause in future to break off the intimacy.
• This plan implies a general dependance of the labourer on his Parish; all the usual barriers, shame, pride, timidity-are broken down; a habit of looking up to the rate is solicited. At present many an honest man encumbered by difficulties, reluctantly asks for relief, feels himself degraded whilst he receives it, and presses forward with eagerness to the moment, when, once more supported by his own exertions, he can look round with confidence amongst his neighbours, and say, “I am again your equal.” But if the weekly contribution placed in the Friendly Society's box, is met with a proportional sum from the Parish; if out of every half-guinea advanced in sickness, it is obvious half-a-crown is the produce of the Poor rate, does not every member become an initiatory pauper, when he subscribes to the box, and a completed one, when he receives from it? I see nothing to prevent the man who has to-day received half-a-crown in sickness, tomorrow demanding five shillings on any other occasion of need. The shame of pauperism is stifled; the pride of independence and self support, subdued : every man who looks round in this case, sees himself amidst a group all like himself, followers of the rate ; and where there is no degrading comparison, there will be little sense of debasement.
Where there is any thing of a prudential forethought, parochial addition to the Society's box will be wholly needless; and where there is no forethought, it will be vain : a very small contribution produces an adequate payment in sickness. In large payments there is considerable danger; where the allowances in sickness are high, the poor man will always be sick; at least a temptation difficult to be withstood is thrown in his way.'
We confess that we do not quite agree with Mr. Nicoll in the view he has taken of the necessary tendency of such societies. The plan professes only to be a compromise adapted to the present situation of the country, as affording a facility for
effecting the desired transition from the present system of • relief, to one founded upon better principles.' And when the bonus afforded by the parish bears so small a proportion as is proposed, to the spontaneous contributions of the individual, we do not see why the pride of self-support' must needs be destroyed by the arrangement. Such a contributor must feel Juimself in a situation very different from the pauper, to say nothing of the good effect which the habit of voluntary contribution will have had upon his feelings and character. The Schedule A attached to the Bill as amended by the Committee, contains, among other rules for the government of such societies, the ex-,