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formation on the subject. The land rings with it. If universal experience if the innumerable publications with which the press has lately teemed on this matter--if the reports of five or six parliamentary committees, within about as many years—had not previously conferred sufficient notoriety, or thrown sufficient light upon it, the volume of Extracts from the Report of the PoorLaw Commissioners, of which a large number of copies have been circulated gratuitously through the country, must have excited an universal conviction of the necessity for immediate interference by the legislature, and afforded to those who have to deal with the question ample materials for forming an opinion upon the course to be pursued. But no! we are to wait still longer. The PoorLaw Commission, though it has been sitting above a twelvemonth, has not yet, it seems, been able to report, or to print the remainder of the voluminous evidence they have collected. Another year is to commence, at least-perhaps to terminate, before one step is taken towards the correction of a system so notoriously illegal in its administration, pernicious in its moral influence, and ruinous in its economical results.
We were from the first inclined to doubt—and our readers will remember the assertion of our suspicion—whether the appointment of this commission was not merely a ruse of the present ministry for the purpose of delaying the consideration of a question which they were either too indolent, or did not feel themselves competent to encounter.* That suspicion has certainly not been weakened by subsequent occurrences. Had delay not been the object aimed at, why did not the commission report in time for the adoption of some corrective measures by the legislature during the past session ? It is difficult to conceive what but intentional delay could have so protracted the appearance of their report. The
. In fact this practice has quite become methodised into a system. When any troublesome or difficult subject calls imperatively for the attention of government, and they can no longer venture to shut their ears to the demand for its consideration, the expedient is to appoint a commission of inquiry. This answers a double purpose first, that of gaining time--which is everything to indolent or incapable men with a load of business before them to which they feel themselves unequalsecondly, the creation of pleasant and profitable jobs for a dozen or two of friends and retainers, We fear the commission of inquiry into the state of the Irish poor, which was promised early in the past session, but is only just appointed, will add another to the existing illustrations of this precious system. When the necessity of a poor-law for Ireland, in the interests of both islands, is urged in the course of next session upon government, the answer will be ready, Wait till our Commission reports,' and the session will, of course, end without the Irish commission reporting, just as the last session terminated without a report from the English commission. While matters of the most pressing urgency are thus postponed from year to year, other measures that not only would bear, but require delay for their mature consideration, are with a desperate rashness planned, proposed, and carried in breathless haste, and without the pretence of adequate deliberation. Witness the Abolition of Slavery and the Bank Charter Renewal Acts of last session.
travelling commissioners returned from their tours of inspection before the end of 1832. The latest of their reports is dated in January 1833. Surely three months from the termination of their inquiries would have been amply sufficient for the arrangement of the evidence, and the formation of an opinion by the central commissioners. But no; nine months more have now elapsed, and no report! Will not even the full period of ordinary gestation mature the embryo wisdom of these gentlemen ? or is it another quarter. day that they wait for? This might account for their reluctance ; but why were they not required by their superiors to expedite the business upon which they were engaged-unless those superiors were themselves, for their own ends, a party to the delay ?
Meantime they have published the volume of Extracts' to which we have already referred. This was an unusual and not a little remarkable proceeding. Were the real object of the commissioners solely what it ought to be, namely, the placing before the government and parliament, with as little delay as possible, the necessary data for legislating on this momentous subject, would not the proper course have been to hasten the publication of the entire body of evidence with the report the commission should determine upon, instead of consuming time in the preparation and publication of a volume of · Extracts' from that evidence; which, though all-sufficient as an exposure of the evils of the present system, could not be taken as the ground-work of legislation, so long as the commission chose to keep back still more matter, as well as their own opinion upon the remedial measures proper to be adopted. The effect, therefore, of this, we suspect, illegal, and confessedly imperfect publication, could only be, and of course -whether so intended or not-has been, to delay all proceedings in the way of cure for another twelve months at least, and to create in the meantime a strong, but, we fear, neither a very correct nor salutary impression on the public mind.
However high the opinion we entertain of several of the personages included in the central commission, yet there were elements in its composition which, from the first, we could not contemplate without distrust and alarm. One gentleman, to whom, in fact, the lead and management of the commission, with the arrangement of the evidence, and the drawing up of the reports and other documents, has, we believe, been entrusted throughout-we mean Mr. Senior-had previously committed himself, not in one only but a series of publications, to a determined (and, in our humble opinion, a most hasty and unfounded) hostility to the principle and entire system of the British poor-law. He had declared himself, ex cathedrá, as a professor of political economy, of the opinion of Mr. Malthus and Mr. Ricardo, that the only effective
way of improving the poor-law is to abolish it in toto. His arguments in support of this opinion had been repeatedly refuted; with the usual effect of refutations—namely, that of making their author more resolutely adhere to them. Now, we do think, with all respect for his undoubted ability, that, under these circumstances, Mr. Senior should have been the last person to be placed as a leading member in a royal commission entrusted with the delicate and important task—a task requiring the utmost impartiality and freedom from prejudice or interest-of inquiring into the working of the poor-law and the mode of improving its operation. Whatever opinion a theoretical political economist may form and proclaim from his closet, no statesman-no practical man at all conversant with the subject, can contemplate for a moment as a thing within the scope of possibility—not to speak of its policy or justice—the abolition of the poor-law of England, or any approach towards such a revolution in the rights of the poorer classes and the tenure of property in this country. Any one, therefore, having this extravagant object in view as a desirable and practicable means, must have been wholly unfitted for the commission.
It should have been evident, indeed, that Mr. Senior, carrying such decided opinions—not to say prejudices-into the commission-opinions on the justice of which his reputation as a political economist (and he is, or was, a professor of the science) has been over and over again staked-would naturally endeavour to work the commission so as to make out a case in favour of his own declared and published views against the principle of the poor-law. We do not mean the slightest disrespect towards this gentleman or his colleagues, when we say that this is precisely what appears, in some degree at least, to have taken place. It was quite beyond his power to avoid being unwittingly biassed in his conduct by his pledged and strongly entertained opinions. It must have been equally impossible for them to escape being inAuenced by an exceedingly active, energetic, and able coadjutor, to whom, from his habits of business, his reputation as a writer, and his previous acquaintance with the subject, they would waturally refer the drawing-up of their reports, and the arrangement of their proceedings. In what has already appeared of their reports and proceedings, this inevitable bias is more or less apparent. The appointments of the sub-commissioners who were to travel and collect evidence were made, we cannot but think, with a certain leaning to this object. Their evidence, and their occasionally most pompously imbecile comments upon it, shew that the greater number, if not all, of these gentlemen—some of them, we suspect, very young gentlemen-went upon their
tour prepossessed with opinions having a marvellous coincidence with the published doctrines of Mr. Senior. The selection of extracts from their evidence, as well as the extracts themselves, exhibit a similar leaning in all the parties concerned. And the result is, as might have been anticipated—if it were not intended—the creation of a general, though erroneous, impression against the principle of the poor-law: whilst we are quite confident that, had the inquiry been conducted in a spirit of complete impartiality, it would have led to the clear and universal acknowledgment at once of the excellence of the principle of that law, and of the abominations of its practical administration.
Much as we regret the false and unfavourable impression which has been disseminated by the circumstances we have referred to, and the increased difficulty thus created in the way of an effectual remedy, we do not hesitate to believe that the opinion of the public, as well as of the commissioners,- perhaps even of Mr. Senior himself, for we trust he is still open to conviction—will ultimately settle down in the right direction. It is only those who are content to skim over the Extracts,' and either take up with the obviously preconceived notions of some of the itinerant commissioners, or gather a hasty conclusion from a limited number of facts, that can permanently retain such an impression as we have alluded to. Those who will take the trouble to study more carefully even this selection of observations, will unavoidably be induced to draw for themselves that great and important distinction which we have lost no opportunity for years past of urging as the main point to be kept in view in the consideration of this subject-the distinction, namely, between the abuse and the use of the poor-lawbetween the letter, spirit and early practice of the law, and its recent indefensible infraction between the law itself and the faults of its administration-between the poor-law of Elizabeth, as àcted upon through the whole of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the poor-law of the justices of the south of England, as acted on by them during the last thirty years only!
The principal feature of this latter practice- the allowance system'— we have repeatedly shown to be unauthorised by any statute, and consequently illegal. It is opposed in spirit as well as in letter to the original and real poor-law; and even the facts selected by the commissioners exbibit the working of this abuse in all its varied forms of mischief. The following are some only of the heads under which the index refers to the effects of the allowance system as illustrated by evidence collected from different quarters. It offers an instructive commentary in a condensed shape :
Allowance.-Scale of, to able-bodied, exhibiting the inducement to improvident marriages ; illustrated by eleven references to agricultural, seven to manufacturing, parishes. Much greater to ablebodied than to infirm. Great partiality in awarding. Greater to paupers than the earnings of industrious and independent labourers; five references. Once received is ever after clung to. Given when unnecessary; five references. Persons receiving often live extravagantly. Given to make up time lost by labourers ; five references. Given to labourers for getting work. Given to able-bodied without work being required; twelve references. Large amounts annually received by the same individuals and families; three references. Largest portion of population of Lenham receiving. In Bucks, given to all who ask it. Given without reference to character ; eight references. Receivers of, frequently thieves and prostitutes : three references.
• Allowance extorted by violence.-Has been extorted by violence and fires; ten references. Increasing since the riots. Demanded for children, though large wages earned by father. Demanded for second child, though unnecessary. Demanded by those who have been profigate in expenditure of large previous earnings. Whilst the labourers in Sussex can extort, they refuse to work.
• Allowance reduces the whole labouring population to pauperism.Has been substituted for wages in whole parishes, the whole being made paupers instead of a few; seven references. Induces farmers to discharge their men in order to receive them back as paupers, the parish paying part of the wages ; also manufacturers in Durham. In agricultural parishes, encouraged by the farmers, as enabling them to throw a portion of their wages on the titheowner, shopkeeper, &c. Destroys the ratio between wages and work; five references. General distribution of, prevents the degree of any redundancy of population from being ascertained ; three references. Invariably demoralizes the labourers; nine references. Increase of, has diminished inclination to emigrate. Induces the labourer to refuse allotments of land. Induces extravagant habits on the part of labourers, mechanics, and weavers ; seven references. Has destroyed the veracity, industry, frugality, and domestic virtues of the labourer ; fifteen references. Where very common, vice and profligacy rapidly increase; three references. Makes labourers possessing small property desirous of dissipating it, in order to be entitled to; three references. System of, induces the opinion that destitution, however produced, constitutes a claim to be supported by the community ; five references. Has engendered the opinion that dependence on parish is preferable to independent labour; eleven references. Causes destruction of reciprocal feeling between parents and chil. dren; eleven references. Induces men to desert wives and children ; four references. Ultimately renders helpless the persons receiving. Large portion of given to paupers, spent in beer and gin shops. Leads to early and improvident marriages. The unquestioned title of a widow to, whatever may be her earnings, one of the inducements to early marriage. In Sussex, the ultimate cause of the riots and fires ; six references.