Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 63, 1830-1831. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, [n.d.].
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Die Veneris, 18° Februarii 1831.
The Marquess of Salisbury in the Chair.
Robert Aglionby Slaney Esquire, a Member of the House of Commons, attending, is examined as follows:
You are a Member of Parliament?
I am Member for Shrewsbury.
Have you turned your Attention to the Subject of the Poor Laws?
Have you done so generally, or have you done so with reference to any particular Part of the Country?
Generally; but more particularly with reference to one particular Part of the Law and the Practice of the Law.
Has that reference to a particular Part of the Country?
Have the goodness to state what that is to which your Attention has been directed?
I was induced to turn my Attention to what I conceive to be an Abuse of the Practice of the Law in the Southern Districts of England, which appeared to me to have the Effect of lowering the Condition of the Labourers, and lessening the natural Value of their Labour; besides being greatly injurious to them in every Way, it also appeared to me that it was extremely injurious to the Interests of Landed Gentlemen residing in those Districts, for it seemed much dearer to maintain the Poor' in the Way they were maintained in some of the Southern Districts of England, than to adopt the better Practice of the North, where Men were well paid.
To what Abuse do you allude?
There are Three or Four Abuses which prevail in the Southern Districts of England. In the first place, they pay the Rents of ablebodied Persons out of the Poor's Rate; secondly, an Allowance for the Children (I am always speaking with reference to able-bodied Persons); thirdly, making up the Wages out of the Poor's Rate. This System was adopted in several of the Southern Districts. The Wages were made up to the Number of a Family, according to a fixed and invariable Scale, varying only with the Price of Wheat; in others without a Scale, but still upon the same bad Principle. This prevailed in Sixteen or Eighteen of the Southern Counties; and I think, if a Line was taken across the Kingdom from Gloucester to Hull, every County to the South of that Line would be more or less tainted with the Practice I speak of.
Do you conceive the Practice to be at present legal?
I conceive it to be illegal.
Will you state what, in your Opinion, are its Effects, first upon the Labourer?
The Opinion I have upon the Subject of the Abuse of the Poor Laws in the Southern Counties is embodied in the Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on that Part of the Poor Laws relating to the Employment or Relief of able-bodied Persons from the Poor's Rate, to which I beg leave to refer; that Report was in 1828: Circumstances have taken place since in the Southern Counties, which we are too well acquainted with, which have altered my Opinion as to the Practicability at the present Time of carrying the Measures recommended in that Report into Effect, without some other Means to assist them; if the Recommendation of the Report had been acted upon at an earlier Period, I think it would have been practicable.
Do any other Measures of relieving the Parish of the superfluous Number of Labourers occur to you?
I think for the Purpose of carrying into Effect the Recommendation of that Report, in getting back to the Northern System of Poor Laws in the Southern Counties, it would be necessary to look for some Mode of taking up the actual Redundancy in those Parishes.
What Modes should you recommend to effect this Object?
I think there would be Two Modes, one general, and the other local; there may be Modes for taking up any general Redundancy in Agricultural Districts; there also may be Modes of taking up Redundancy in particular Districts. In the first place, as to the general Mode of taking up Redundancy, any thing which would let loose Agricultural Capital, or Capital to Rural Improvements, now fettered by Restrictions, would have the Effect of giving fresh Employment in those Districts. I consider that there are Four or Five different Measures, each of which would have that Effect more or less.
Have the goodness to state those?
The first, I think, would be a General Inclosure Act, facilitating Inclosures; so that, instead of having an Expence of 600£. or 700£. to come for every distinct Bill, there should be a general Power in Persons to do it for 30£. or 40£. complying, at the Sessions, with certain Forms and Regulations specified in the General Act. I know many Instances where small Commons, and perhaps even large Wastes, would be inclosed and put into Cultivation but for the Difficulties of getting an Inclosure Act; also the Consent of particular Parties is necessary now, some of whom withhold their Assent. An Act which would give a Power for a certain Proportion of the Majority to bind the others, for an Inclosure, would, in my Mind, be useful and necessary. In Cases of Right of Turbary, even One or Two, perhaps, differing from the great Majority of Proprietors, can prevent an Inclosure. I will not go into other Particulars. The second would be a General Highway Act. I believe that a Member of the House of Commons, Mr. Portman, has moved for a Committee upon that Subject, and is likely to carry it into Effect.
What are the Objects of the Highway Act?
I cannot exactly state what Mr. Portman's Objects are; but those I should recommend (which I think are pretty nearly the same) would be, to commute all Duty Work for Money Payments; to permit the Appointment of permanent stipendiary Surveyors, instead of having an ignorant Farmer, who is every Year changed, and knows nothing of his Duty: the Consequence is, it is utterly neglected in many Instances; and where it is not neglected, it is performed in a very irregular and improper Manner. It is also impracticable often to make any Improvement in the Highways, or for different Persons to join together to make one, without some Facilities, which might be given by a General Highway Act, by which Persons would be enabled to improve and make new Roads. This would give new Work, and be generally useful.
Do you refer to the compulsory Power of passing through Lands?
Yes, under proper Regulations. I will mention an Instance of the great Increase of Employment that would take place thereby, and of this particular sort of Employment which we are now looking to. In the Evidence given by Mr. M'Adam before Lord John Russell's Committee on Labourers Wages, in 1824, he states, that if the Cross Roads were managed upon the scientific Principles he has introduced on Turnpike Roads, the Effect would be, in the first place, it would be much cheaper than it is now; but, in the second place, that the Proportion of the whole Amount which is raised for that Purpose now is divided thus: that Cartage takes Three Fourths of the whole, and manual Labour takes One Fourth. If, however, a scientific Management of Highways was general, and broken Stone, which is the proper Material, was used, it would exactly reverse the Proportions; namely, that out of the whole Expence raised Three Fourths would be devoted to manual Labour, and One Fourth to Cartage; and this at the same Time that the total Expence would be less than it was before, and the Roads would be better. He also states, that the Labour which would be wanted would be wanted at the particular Time of the Year when there is a Deficiency in the Demand for Employment; namely, in the Winter and the Spring. He states, thirdly, that it would not merely give Employment to the Men, but it would also facilitate Employment being given to Women and to Children, and be that kind of Work at which they might employ themselves without Injury; because the breaking down of large Stones would come to the Men, and when broken to a certain Size, the Women, with a smart Stroke of a Hammer, would be enabled to break them again, and the Children to bear their Share, so as to introduce somewhat to Rural Districts the Advantage which they have in the Manufacturing Districts, of all the Members of the Family doing something towards their Maintenance. The Third general Measure which I think would be beneficial would be a General Exchange Act, to facilitate Exchanges between Persons who have only a Life Interest in their several Estates, under certain Regulations. Your Lordships are aware that the Clergy are enabled, by Statute, to exchange, under the Regulation of certain Commissioners, and under certain Regulations, Lands belonging to them for Lands belonging to other Persons, which are substituted in lieu of them. I have myself acted in the County as a Commissioner, (they generally take Two or Three neighbouring Gentlemen,) and I have seen the Benefit of such Exchanges in several Instances; but it is impracticable, at present, for any Persons who merely hold their Lands for Life to exchange without a special Act of Parliament. The Expence of an Act of Parliament is so great that it does not take place Once in a Thousand Times, when it would be beneficial to make the Exchange - to straighten a Watercourse, to alter a Road, or exchange a Field. If a Power could be given, under due Regulations to prevent Abuse, to facilitate such Exchanges where they were felt desirable, it would give much additional Employment. At present Proprietors are prevented by the having in each Case to go for a separate Act of Parliament. The Fourth would be (but this is more complex a great deal) a Simplification and Clearance of Titles of Real Property, and of the Mode of Conveyance of Real Property. This is now in progress by the Bills which have been brought in under the Recommendation of the Commissioners appointed by the King's Government, and it is to be hoped will be carried into Effect. I venture to point out that in many Instances there is an Estate which, in consequence of some Flaw in the Title, or some Difficulty in making out the Title, remains on Sale for Years, and all that Time there is no one employed, for no one has an Interest in improving it, and all the Work which should be done upon that Estate is lost; and it is a common Saying, if you see a House in Ruins, or an Estate in a very bad Condition, to say, it is in the Court of Chancery, or Law. Again, the Conveyances of Real Property are at present so complex, that to subdivide any Property into small Portions, by which each Proprietor would have an Interest in improving his Share very greatly, is prevented. A great Difficulty exists in that Way. This certainly would not give so much immediate Employment as the others I have ventured to state, but still I think it would be of great Consequence to the Country. The Fifth general Head I would beg to mention would be a Measure which should, on a proper Basis, facilitate the Exchange and fixed Commutation of Tithes, both as regards Lay Impropriators and those that are held by the Church. I have had Opportunities of seeing, in the Country, frequently Two Properties close together, and the Property on which the Right of Tithe existed, more especially when gathered in Kind, was not cultivated in the Way the next Property was; and I have frequently seen, when a Property had become free from Tithe, by the Proprietor being enabled to purchase the Tithe, a fresh Stimulus given to the Employment upon that particular Spot. I have now ventured to enumerate to your Lordships what appear to me to be the general Modes by which the Redundancy of the Population in Rural Districts may be relieved. I now turn to those which I think may be considered as local Modes for taking up the Redundancy. The first that I would venture to mention would be Spade Farms; but I beg leave to say, that these, as far as I have considered the Subject, would not be on the same Principle I have heard them put upon. I should venture to suggest, where there is a Redundancy of Labourers (we will suppose that of a Hundred Labourers there are Ten for whom you cannot find Employment at independent Wages, supporting their Family without Assistance)-then I would suggest, that to those Ten there should be let Five or Six Acres each, to be cultivated by Spade Husbandry; that there should be no Subdivision of this, no under-letting; and that they should agree to be employed for themselves alone, except during the Harvest Month; that is, that they are not to work for Hire, but on their own Land only I suppose them to be at a low fixed Rent, so that they should have the Stimulus which is found so important in every other Class of Life, of seeing that their Condition is bettered according to their own Industry and their own Efforts, which would be widely different from having them working for a Parish in any Form or Way. I suppose that in the first instance it would be necessary for the Parish to give them an Outfit, by erecting the small Buildings which were necessary, and giving them sufficient Assistance to begin; but that after a little while, from Calculations I have made, and which I have shown to Persons conversant with the Subject, they would be able to maintain their Families without Assistance from the Parish, and to pay a small fixed Rent, whatever it was. And those Ten Men being taken out of the Market for Labour in that particular Parish, (for I go on the Supposition they are to work for themselves alone,) the Wages of all the other Ninety would rise, and thereby their Condition would be improved, and they would come into the Situation of the Labourers in the North of England. I am merely supposing this to be a temporary Plan during the Transition from that which I consider a bad State of Poor Law to a good State; from the State of that in the Southern Districts to that of the County of Northumberland. I do not propose this should be done with reference to any except those now in Redundance in the Parishes, and who have been brought into that Situation in a great Measure through the Neglect and the Fault of other Persons, the Managers of those Rates; and I propose, at the same Time, that you pass a declaratory Act, absolutely prohibiting the Continuance of the System with reference to any fresh Applicants; this Proposition, therefore, being merely applicable to the Persons who are at present redundant. In this Case it would not be necessary to build Cottages at all; they are ready built: that would be a great Saving of Expence. If you are enabled to take Twenty-four Acres, and could have a small Barn, Shed, or such small Edifice as might be necessary for thrashing out the Corn, placed in such a Situation as to do for them all, taking it in rotation, that would lessen the Expence very much: the main Expence, that of building Cottages, would be entirely saved. I would beg to point out the Difference between this and the Plan which has been spoken of, that of building Cottages on Waste. If you build Cottages on Waste, however advantageous, unless you take down the Cottages from whence the Labourers go, you absolutely give a Stimulus to the Redundancy, instead of checking it; for by building Cottages you merely erect fresh Houses in each of which there will be a fresh Family. I do not say whether that would be right or not, but merely point out the Difference between the Two.
Have you any Experience in the Result of Spade Cultivation?
I have not myself, but I have spoken to several Persons who have, and who have calculated the Proceeds from Spade Husbandry, applied by Persons who had their own Interests to stimulate them to it; and from their Calculations I am enabled to say, that a Man and his Family would be enabled to maintain themselves on Five or Six Acres of Ground very well; but it would be necessary to lay down a Rotation of Crops, in order to direct his Mind to that which would be best for himself. An ignorant Man, who took it up in the first instance, would probably exhaust the Land in Two or Three Years, and it would become in a bad State; but by having a simple Plan laid down, to point out what would be beneficial for him, he might go on very well. Also, in the Economy of Manure, it would be of great Consequence to have some Directions to point out the best Mode in which the Land can be managed. I venture also to say, that this has been tried in a most ungenial Situation, in Holland, where it has succeeded in a great Measure, although not perhaps so far as has been proclaimed; yet it has succeeded so far in a much worse Situation, that it gives every Reason to suppose it will succeed here in a better. I will venture to make one Observation in favour of such a Plan, that a Man's Wife and Family would be able to assist him, because there are a great Number of Agricultural Manipulations that may be carried on by the Assistance of a Woman and her Children, more especially in Spade Husbandry. I will venture to say also, that supposing the Person should not be able to maintain himself completely, (upon the Supposition that it costs about 26£. a Year to maintain a° Man and his Family,) if he could maintain himself within Five or Six Pounds, whatever he did would be a clear Gain, for at present he depresses the Condition of all the other Labourers, and his whole Cost comes out of them or the Parish; also, this would be merely during a few Years, 'till we get back to a better System, and not as a permanent Measure. The Second would be, the Location of redundant Labourers upon Wastes, in which they go from one Spot to another, where, I suppose, Employment cannot be found by any Means in the Parish where they live. I do not feel a Doubt that if a General Inclosure Act was carried into Effect, an advantageous Mode of employing them in that Way might be found; but in that Case I would venture to say that the Cottages from whence they went ought to be taken down, or most assuredly there would be fresh Persons come into those, and it would be merely a Removal of them at a great Expence, and perhaps increase the Evil. I will venture to refer your Lordships to the Evidence of Mr. Hodges, the present Member for Kent, before the Emigration Committee in 1827, upon that Point.
Do you apprehend that the Spade Husbandry could be introduced with any Prospect of Advantage upon poor stiff Clay Lands?
I think that in Proportion as the Land was bad, just in that Proportion the Prospect of Success would be less; but I think in any Case it would be successful: by successful I do not mean that in every Instance a Man would be able to maintain himself entirely, but a Man would be able to maintain himself more nearly than he does now; he would act willingly, and consider his Condition improved; and if he gained only 10£. a Year towards his Maintenance, that would be a clear Gain to all the other Labourers of the Parish. This is an Experiment which, supposing it to be tried, I believe the Poor would embrace with the greatest Pleasure; it is not one against which they have any Prejudice, whether right or wrong, as they have against Emigration in some Instances; but they would be most anxious to try it, and so anxious that I am perfectly convinced that if in a Parish in which, if there were a Hundred Workmen, there were Ten, who probably would be the worst, who were out of Work, and this Offer were made to any, often Ten of the best would be willing to adopt it in the first instance: the Benefit would be equal to the Country whether you take the Ten best or the Ten worst; if you take the Ten best it would operate to improve the Condition of the rest, and raise their Wages.
Is it not supposed the Population is most redundant in the Clay Districts of the Counties of Sussex and Surrey?
I am inclined to think it is somewhat redundant in every District where this bad System of Poor Laws has been prevalent, and that it is quite as much in Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire and Wiltshire. I fear, in the rich Vale of Aylesbury, in Buckinghamshire, which is very fine Land, an Excess of Labourers beyond Employment exists; but no doubt the Labouring Population is very numerous in the Districts referred to.
Do you intend that the Labourers located on those Five Acres should pay Rent?
Yes; I think they should pay a low fixed Rent, and that they should know that the Rent is not to be raised as they improved the Land, but that they should have the Benefit of the improved Condition, for then they would struggle the more.
Then the Difference of the Value must be made up in some Way or other?
Yes, it must.
If they stand Rent-free on Average Land, it would be worth 30£. an Acre, the Fee of the Land?
It may be so.
To each individual Family should you not then be applying 150£. for its Location?
I will suppose the Land is worth Twenty Shillings an Acre now, and that they paid Ten Shillings an Acre for it; then the Question is, whether they would not be able to pay the whole Twenty Shillings in very many instances, almost every instance, in the Course of Three Years: but I will suppose they pay only Ten Shillings, then there will be on every Six Acres Three Pounds per Annum to be made up; then I balance against that the 26£. it has cost the Parish hitherto to maintain them; there also would be the Interest of the Outfit, whatever it was, to let them start with, to be considered.
If they were inclined to emigrate, could not you convey them to the Place where the Emigration may be destined at a much cheaper Rate?
That would depend upon a nice Calculation between the Two Plans, which would in some instances, I think, turn in favour of the Spade Farm, and in some instances in favour of the Emigration Plan. I am far from thinking that in many instances the Emigration Plan might not be the best, but I think that this would be the most popular, and that it would be an Object, at a little Increase of Expence, to get them to work with us; and in some Districts I am afraid that the People themselves are tainted against Emigration.
You mean this Plan of the Home Location only as a temporary Measure?
Merely as a transitory Measure, for some Years, 'till we get back to a good State.
You would not object to their emigrating, if they were willing?
Far from it; I would give them every Means.
Both for the sake of the Colonies and for themselves?
For themselves, and for the Country, undoubtedly I would. I am merely venturing to mention these Modes to your Lordships, because I am afraid that with them all we shall not have too many.
With regard to the building of Cottages on Waste Lands, might not that be liable to jobbing?
I think it might in some instances. In a Spade Farm there would be no Cottages to build. In the Case of their being built on Waste Lands, and the old Cottages taken down, that must be done at the Expence of the Parish, who must be enabled to raise the Money for those special Purposes; and in the Act there must be Regulations as to the Mode by which Waste must be checked.
Would it not be difficult, and rather contrary to the general Principles of Legislation, to pass an Act of Parliament to pull down a Cottage belonging to any Individual?
I think it might be done voluntarily, or by paying them for it.
Do you think that the Landlords of the Cottages would generally throughout England consent to pull their Cottages down, unless they could get repaid for them?
I think in those Parishes of the South of England, where alone the Evil is great, and where they must be aware this is a sort of remedial Measure to lessen the Weight of a great Burden upon their own immediate Tenants and themselves, they would; I mean the Gentlemen.
Are you not aware that a considerable Number of Cottage Proprietors are retired Mechanics and Public House Keepers?
That is a great Objection, and one of considerable Weight, and one that has induced me to think that the Spade Farms on the Spot would be preferable.
A Proprietor would have a Right to pull his Cottage down now; but you do not find that that Practice, however good it would have been, has been followed?
I think there would be one Difference. I have supposed all along there is a declaratory Act for the Purpose of returning to a good System, and an End of a bad System of paying Cottage Rents out of the Poor's Rates; as soon as the Practice of paying Rents out of the Rates had ceased, there would be an End to the extra Value of the Cottages derived from this Source.
Do you not consider that an increased Production of the Articles of Consumption would be useful to the Country?
Is not an Increase of Population desirable, if Labour can be profitably employed?
There is I think no doubt of that.
Do you not consider that one of the Causes of the Distress of the Southern Counties of England is their having more Labourers than they can profitably employ?
Has that Population grown up by the unnatural Stimulus which has been given by the Abuse of our Poor Laws?
Yes. My humble Judgment is, after looking at the Subject with the greatest Care, that we never ought to interfere with the Progress of Population, on the one Side or the other; that the Measure proposed is nothing but putting Things as they ought to have been left, neither to stimulate on the one Hand, nor to retard on the other; for I believe the Proportion of Population to Employment, under a Government where Education prevails, will adjust itself much better than we can do it.
Do not you consider the late Practice, under the Misapprehension of the Poor Laws, to have been a positive Interference and Encouragement of Population?
I think it has had that Effect, undoubtedly.
If an increased Production would be beneficial to the Country, and if an increased Population would be desirable if Labour could be profitably employed, would not, in your Opinion, the Extension of the Surface upon which the Labour is to be employed be an essential Means of relieving the Country from its present Difficulties?
That is a Question which requires great Consideration to answer. It appears to me to ask, whether it would be better to lay additional Capital on an Extension of Surface for Agricultural Purposes, or to lay the same Capital on that already in Cultivation? Now it may happen in many Instances it may be better to lay an additional Layer of Capital on that Land now cultivated than to cultivate additional Waste Land. That will depend on a Number of Considerations which it is impossible to put into an Answer, and on various Considerations which I think it would be almost impracticable to enter into without going into great length.
Do not you conceive that the Transition of Manufactures from the West and the Southern Parts of England, which used to exist there, into the North, has been one of the great Means of producing a redundant Population in the Part of the Country where the Manufactures have been abandoned?
I think that has had a small Effect.
You stated that the Home Colonization, you think, would be only a mere temporary Remedy?
I proposed it with a view to being a temporary Remedy.
Do not you think, if the System of Home Colonization was introduced, it would completely remove the Feeling which exists in some Parts of England for Emigration?
I think that if they were to have Cottages offered to them on Wastes, and were to have sufficient to set out in Life, they would probably prefer it to Emigration in most Instances, but it would depend in some measure on the Nature of the Land and the Nature of the Situation. They are sometimes very acute in finding out whether they should be able to do well there or not; if they found they should be able to do well, I dare say they would prefer it.
You stated that you should propose, that, in case of the Erection of new Buildings, the Cottages in the redundant Parishes should be removed; are you aware that Farmers and Occupiers of Land, and others, have speculated in erecting Buildings for their Labourers, on account of Rents being paid solely out of the Poor Rates?
I have no doubt of that.
Are you aware that it is contrary to Law, paying the Rents of those Cottages out of the Poor Rates?
No doubt; it is so adverted to in the Report to which I have referred.
Will you have the goodness to state any further Remedies which may occur to you?
I have stated, in the first place, Spade Farms, with the Cottages remaining where they are; the second, Location, or having Cottages built on the Waste, at a Distance; the third would be Emigration and Colonization, each of which are separate from the other; Emigration being merely paying them to go out somewhere where they may be able to take care of themselves, as was done, to the United States, in Kent, by Mr. Hodges; and Colonization, as it has been described in Mr. Wilmot Horton's Emigration Reports and Publications upon that Subject, to Canada or other Colonies. The latter, I think, would be in many Instances highly beneficial.
Are there any other local remedial Points to which you wish to refer the Committee?
There is one other, which would arise from the Return to a good System, which would check the Practice of paying the Rents of Cottages out of Rates, and other Abuses, that should be in any remedial Law upon the Subject: there should be a simple Form of Abstract of the Expences of every Parish laid down, and it should be obligatory upon the Parish Officers to publish that Once a Year in the same Form, so that you might compare the particular Heads of Expence of One Year with the same Heads of Expence the preceding Year, and be able to check any one of them which happens to exceed in Amount that of the preceding Year, or to look into the Cause of it. Also these Expences should be separated from each other in such a Way that they could not introduce any of those Charges which were irregular, so that the Magistrate would reject them.
Has the Magistrate any Power?
The Magistrate has Power, on passing the Account at Lady Day, to strike out any that are "unfounded." Then, that a short Summary or Abstract of the Parish Expence should be made for each Hundred and each County, and One Copy go up to the Secretary of State for the Home Department for each County, so that it would be seen how the Increase was occasioned: the Magistrates, Proprietors, and Rate Payers, who took an Interest, would be able to see what the Increase was, and to check it. Another would be, the passing of a Bill which I have brought in, annexed to that for preventing Abuses of the Poor Laws, for better rating Tenements under a certain Annual Value; that is, making the Owner of the Tenement under a certain Annual Value, which I have proposed to be 12£., liable to the Poor's Rates, instead of the Occupiers. I have found great Complaints from many Parts of England, that it is the Habit, particularly in the Vicinity of Towns, for Persons to build Rows of small Houses. They do not pay any Poor's Rate upon them, because, by the present Law, it is to be levied on the Occupier; he excuses himself on the Ground of Poverty, and pays none; and the Owner screws out from him, in consequence, a very high Rent. This has the Effect of attracting, to build small Tenements, much greater Capital than would be otherwise turned to it; the Consequence of which is to multiply those pauper Dwellings, not only unfairly to the other Property, as not being rated, but also to increase the Number of Poor, by this artificial Stimulus, in particular Spots, and to depress the Condition of the Labourers there. I have Instances from various Parts of the Kingdom of Property being worth 10£. and paying the Rate; that same Land was divided into Nine Tenements of 10£. each, and brought in no Poor Rate at all afterwards; but the Poor suffered from the Depression of the Rate of Wages, the Numbers being there thus increased.
If a Matter of that sort was proposed, do you not think it would be proper to give the Landlord the Right of Re-entry at a cheaper Rate than he has now upon his Property?
That has been proposed; but one Difficulty there is in Cottage Property is the Difficulty of recovering it back again. I am rather in favour of keeping up that Difficulty; I think it throws a Difficulty in the Way of multiplying too fast that Species of Property.
Have you any other Remedy to propose?
No; except that of returning to the Law as it is administered in the North of England, firmly and steadily.
Do not you think that the great Improvement and Division of Labour, taking a great Part of the Work from the Women and Children in the Cottages in the South, has been also another Means of deteriorating the Condition of the Labourers in the South, much Work which used to be done in the Cottages being now done in the Factories?
That may have had a small Effect; but I am not aware that there was much done, except a little Home Manufacture for their own Use, except in Buckinghamshire, in the Lace Trade; there I think they may have been injured by the Lace Machines.
Do you not think this has been an Evil of long standing; that Labour has been very ill paid in the South, comparatively to the Payment for it in the North?
No. I am of Opinion it may be traced distinctly to the Period when the Price of Wheat fluctuated extremely, from the Beginning of the French War down to 1815; and I could shew that the Wheat fluctuated a Hundred per Cent. in one Year, then went down Fifty, and then went up One hundred and fifty. Wages could not fluctuate in the same Way as Wheat; and the Magistrates, from the Necessity of the Case, in consequence took up this Mode of relieving the Men. In the South that became permanent; whereas in the North they used it only as a transitory Measure.
You have said that increased Production is very desirable, and of course would tend to increase the Fund for Labour. If it was possible to render any Facilities towards raising Money upon Entailed Estates, for Drainage, in this Country, the Effect of which, though certainly beneficial, is still of distant and prospective Issue, do you not conceive that great Advantage and great Increase of Labour would result?
I feel no doubt that Drainage is one of the most important Improvements which can be made in Agriculture, and that the System of Mr. Elkington is one of the most valuable Parts of it; but my humble Judgment is, that it ought to be left to individual Exertion, and that Government should not meddle with it; it does not strike me that they could beneficially interfere in the Matter. I beg to submit the Heads of a Plan for preventing the Abuses of the Poor Laws in the Southern Districts, and for better rating Tenements.
The same are delivered in and read.-(Vide Appendix (A.) and (B.) to this Day's Evidence.)
Have you any Abstract of Returns of the Number of poor Persons belonging to certain Parishes, and the Number of ablebodied Persons, being Parishioners, relieved or assisted from the Poor Rates, whether by taking up Allowance in Parish Work, or for other Purposes?
I have. I have made a Deduction from it.
The same is delivered in and read.-(Vide Appendix (C.) to this Day's Evidence.)
How have you taken those Parishes?
I took Six Parishes of nearly the same Proportion, as nearly as I could take them, in each. I took Six in the Southern Districts, which I understood were in a bad State. On inquiring into those in the North, I did not find that the Practices referred to prevailed. I have made a Calculation as to the Increase of the Poor's Rates, made from Returns; also the Comparison of Eight Counties on a good System, and Eight on a bad System.
The same is delivered in and read, and is as follows:
COMPARISON of Eight Counties on good System and Eight on bad.
Proportion of Cost of Poor per Head in Population, taking Year 1825, and Population Return of 1821,
|For 12 Southern Counties, with Scale and bad System,||16s. 6d. per Head.|
|12 Northern, and good System,||6s. 6d. per Head.|
Have you any Reason to believe that in those Counties where the Poor Rate is Double the Amount of the Northern Counties, the Condition of the Labourers in those Counties is so good as that of the Labourers in the North?
I am confident it is much worse.
Among the different Plans suggested by you, one is for Domestic Colonization on a large Scale; have the goodness to state in what Way you think that could be most beneficially brought about ?
I think it might be brought about by Parishes having Power to raise Money perhaps upon the Mortgage of their Rates, and to lay it out, under certain Restrictions, in erecting Dwellings and commencing the Cultivation of Land, and giving the Benefit to the unfortunate and the redundant Labourers, who will undertake to accept it, and remove from the Parish to another Spot.
Are you of Opinion that there are several Places which might be found where any Part of the redundant Agricultural Population would be glad to be so settled?
I have no doubt they would be glad to be so settled in many Instances; that is, the Poor themselves.
Do you not conceive, to make this Plan available to any Extent, it must be done at once on a large Scale ?
No, that does not strike me. I think it would be equally beneficial if done only in respect to One or Two Parishes.
Would it not be desirable it should be done on a large Scale, if it was intended that a great Benefit to the Country in respect of redundant Labour should be effected?
Undoubtedly, if the Plan be beneficial, the more extensively it be done the better; but I think there would be a great Difficulty in doing it on a large Scale, on account of the Difficulty of finding fertile Land and of finding the Funds. I think it would be desirable not to do it on too extensive a Scale at first.
Do you think any Plan could be conveniently pointed out to enable different Parishes to unite together to effect it to a considerable Extent?
I think there might.
Do you think that there would be any Difficulty found to arise, in respect of the Waste Lands, to prevent the Parishes taking advantage of it?
I think that it might be done by Act of Parliament. It will be a Question of Expence. A Difficulty would arise as to taking down the Cottages, which would be unpopular, and in many Instances perhaps difficult.
Are you not aware that in many Cottages in the Agricultural Districts more than One Family is resident?
I am afraid that is the Case.
Supposing One Family was subtracted from those Cottages, do you think it would be practicable to take down those Cottages which were left?
If One Family was left to occupy them, they would remain with Benefit to the Population; and it would be of course a Benefit to abstract One of the Families, supposing the Numbers to be redundant.
When a Cottage having Two Families, One was removed away, would not that be giving Comfort probably to Two Families?
Supposing those domestic Colonies were to be established to a considerable Extent, what sort of Intermixture of Population would it be desirable to introduce with respect to the Size of the Tenements and the Description of Persons to be so located?
I have not turned my Attention to that Point sufficiently to be able to give an Answer to it.
Are you aware whether the same System of rating exists in the Northern Parts of England as in the Southern. In the South the rating is generally on Two Thirds of the Value?
I think that prevails throughout England; that it is a rating not on the Rack Rent but on a certain Proportion.
Are you much acquainted with Parishes uniting in One Workhouse?
Yes, I am, in One or Two Instances; we have several in Shropshire, to a considerable Extent.
Are you acquainted with the united Parishes in the Neighbourhood of Ellesmere and Oswestry?
Yes; I reside in one of the contributing Parishes.
Do you happen to know whether those Houses are popular, or otherwise, among the Labourers?
They are very unpopular.
Have you reason to believe that in many Instances deserving labouring Cottagers are subject to Hardships in consequence of the Treatment they receive in those united Houses?
No. I have no doubt individual instances of Hardship exist; but I believe that the Difficulty the Poor have of going into those Houses is beneficial to them; it stimulates them to Exertion; and I believe it is beneficial to them in the Mass, that they labour much harder and are much more unwilling to apply in the Parishes where a Workhouse exists than in the Parishes where it does not.
The Magistrates have a Power now by Law to redress any just Complaints in respect to those Houses?
The Magistrates Power, I think, is limited in Parishes where they have a Local Act of that kind; but I am of Opinion, that, at the same Time a Hardship may arise from that, that Benefit arises from the Magistrates Power being limited; for if the Magistrate had not had Half so much Power I think the Mass of the Population in the Southern Counties would have been much better off than they are now. There is a united Set of Parishes in Shropshire, who have just adopted a Plan which I consider beneficial. I look upon it, the Congregation of a Number of Parishes together is an Evil; for this Reason, that it renders each Person individually less careful of the State of the Peasantry in his own particular District. He reasons sometimes - it does not signify to me much whether they are well or ill off; the Parishes will be rated one with the other, and I shall only pay my Share: so that the Stimulus of Self-interest is taken away. On the other hand, I think that the having a House of Industry is a great Benefit, in deterring idle People from coming. In Shropshire there is a Set of united Parishes who have a central House of Industry, to which they can send Persons, who may have the Produce of their Earnings, and other poor Persons. Each Parish pays in proportion to the Number of Paupers sent to that House of Industry; thus each Parish has an Interest in lessening the Number sent there. I may venture to say, that I think it would be a very great Benefit in many Instances if the Subdivision of Parishes could take place. Down to the Period, I think, of Charles the Second, Townships could separate into separate Parishes; since that they have not had the Power to do so. In many instances I think it would be beneficial that they should have the Power; for where they have a small Division, One or Two intelligent Men can manage that Division with Advantage; but where it is a large District, that which is every body's Business is often neglected.
Do you happen to know how the Payments are regulated in the Houses you refer to?
I believe that they are regulated by a Board of Directors, who are chosen by the Body of Rate Payers; a certain Portion to each Parish.
Was it regulated at the Time the House was built, or is it regulated by the Proportion of Poor sent by each Parish?
In general it is fixed by the Proportions regulated when the Act passed, which is a highly unjust Mode, as it appears to me, for the Proportions of Poor and rated Value have varied, and they are still paying the same Quota to it as they did formerly; but the Mode I stated corrects that.
You have stated that the Advantage of those Houses is, that the Poor are inclined to exert themselves more that they may not be sent there: has it not the Effect of inducing the Parish Officers to be more willing to send them to the united House than they otherwise would be?
They make it a Rule not to give out Pay except in peculiarly hard Cases. I think upon the whole this is beneficial to the Poor, and I beg to refer to the Example of Liverpool, as annexed to the Report I have referred to.
Do you not conceive that the Effect on such a dense Population as at Liverpool is different from that of a scattered Country Parish?
It may be so; but I think that the Rule, that they will not give Aid to able-bodied Persons unless they came to work entirely for the Overseer at a particular Spot is, upon the whole, beneficial: it is the Practice of the North of England too.
When you speak of its being beneficial, do you mean that it is beneficial in its Tendency to keep down the Rate, or in its giving more Comfort to the Persons who are burdensome to the Rates?
It has a Tendency to keep down the Rates; but as it has also a Tendency to lessen the Number of Applicants, it induces them to depend upon their own Efforts.
Do you think, then, that it is beneficial to the Poor not to be dependent upon Parish Relief?
Is it not your Opinion that the Labouring Classes are in a much better Condition when they place no Dependence on Parish Rates, than when they are in the habit of applying for Relief on any unexpected Calamity coming upon them?
Undoubtedly; the less they look to the Rates, and the more they look to their own Exertions, the better they are off in every instance.
Have you reason to suppose that many of the Parishes united in those Houses are very much discontented with the Manner in which they are forced to contribute to them?
I think they are, with the Proportions being fixed at a Period Thirty or Forty Years ago; the Proportions of different Parishes having advanced in a different Ratio, they are dissatisfied with the bearing of the Payment upon them.
Is it your Opinion that the Poor who belong to those Parishes which are joined together in those united Workhouses are as well taken care of, and as well satisfied with belonging to those Parishes, as those which belong to Parishes which have nothing to do with those united Houses?
I think, upon the whole, they are better taken care of when they come to the House; but they had rather belong to a Parish which has no Workhouse than one which has, because they say they are more easy with them in the one than the other.
Do you contemplate any Alteration in the Law of Settlement as advantageous both to the Poor and to the Rate Payer?
I have not much turned my Attention to that Subject, but I think there ought to be a Simplification and Condensation of that Law and all the Laws relating to the Poor; they are spread over many Volumes, and in many Thousand Decisions. With respect to the Law of Settlement, I think the Scotch System of Three Years industrious Residence, or something of that kind, would be best; but I speak without much Confidence in my Opinion.
In preference to Settlement by Birth?
I think in preference to Settlement by Birth; the Difficulty of tracing is so great.
Has it occurred to you, as a Magistrate in Shropshire, that there has been Inconvenience and Litigation occasioned by the Practice which has prevailed of late Years, of not allowing a constructive Settlement by Service, in the Manner in which it used to be allowed in past Times?
I have acted but a short Time as a Magistrate, but I have been acquainted with the Way in which the Law has been administered, and the nicest possible Questions arise as to Settlement by Service. I must state that Casuists can hardly draw a Distinction between Dispensation and Dissolution. I think it would be desirable to put an End to that Difficulty.
Does not it appear to you that the Settlement by Hiring and Service is a very objectionable Ground of Settlement in many respects?
I think it is objectionable, as the present Law causes much Perjury.
The Question does not refer to the legal and technical Difficulties; but do you not think that it is objectionable, as it fetters the free Agency of the Labourer very considerably, and on other Grounds?
I am not sure that I agree in that Opinion It appears to me that the just Ground of a Man's being chargeable at a Place is, that Place having received the Benefit of his Labour when he was strong; that where a Man has slept only Forty Nights, or worked only a Year there, should bear the Burden, would be unjust.
Do you think One Year a sufficient Measure of his Services?
You consider a Residence of Three or more Years as a much preferable Ground of Settlement to a yearly Hiring and Service?
Much more so, as was recommended in the Report of the Committee of the other House of Parliament in 1817. I have made a Calculation of the Number of Persons receiving from or depending upon the Poor Rate, taken from Returns which have been made to Parliament, and Deductions from those Returns. I calculate, that in England and Wales, in 1790, it was One in Twelve in the whole Population, in 1800 it had risen to One in Nine, and now it amounts to One in Seven; that in every County round London it is One in Four; that in the County of Sussex it is nearly One in Two. This includes the Children dependent upon their Parents. I have made a Comparison of the Expenditure upon the Poor for Three Years, namely, 1814, 1815 and 1816, and the Year 1830; that is the Change in a Period of Fifteen Years, after allowing for the Difference in the Price of Corn between the Two Periods; calculating that the Price of Corn affects Two Thirds of the Expenditure laid out upon the Poor, and allowing Twenty-four per Cent. for the Increase in the Population during that Period, then the comparative Expenditure was augmented One Seventh, or near Fifteen per Cent. But the Population has not increased in the Southern Districts in that Ratio, where the Rates have been most increased; but in the Manufacturing Districts, where there is little Increase of Rate. Allowing for this, the Increase will be nearly Twenty per Cent. or One Fifth, to be deducted from the Rent and Expenditure, more than it was in 1815. That is taken from a Series of Calculations in which I am pretty confident I am right; it may vary a little, but the general Import of it, I am satisfied, is true; and I would point your Lordships Attention to the Magnitude and Extent of the Evil.
Do you not think that Injury has arisen to the Labouring Classes from making the actual Payment of 10£. a Year Rent give a Settlement, and thereby discouraging Landlords from accommodating Cottagers, and enabling them to keep a Cow?
I think it may in some instances; but that assumes that the keeping of a Cow is beneficial to a Cottager. That is certainly an important Question, but upon which Persons who have turned their Attention to it differ. Some Persons think, that if they can go on well with One Cow it is beneficial to them; but the Risk of the Loss of a Cow is too great for a poor Man. I am of Opinion, upon the whole, that the keeping a Cow is certainly a Benefit; but there is something to be said on the other Side.
The Question refers, not to the keeping a Cow alone, but to the cultivating a certain Quantity of Land?
No doubt of it.
Have you turned your Attention to the Effect which the Bastardy Laws have in the Encouragement of early Marriages?
I have, somewhat.
What Opinion have you formed?
I think that they certainly want Revision; that the present Mode is a very bad one, and especially the Abuse which takes place from it, in consequence of the Management of ignorant Overseers, who compel a Man to marry a Woman who is pregnant, thereby entailing the Maintenance of Four or Five Children, instead of One, on the Parish.
What are the best Arrangements you have seen in the Mode of keeping the Parish Books, for showing where the Payment went for Rent?
I do not know that I have seen that, where the Money went to pay Rent; I have seen One or Two Forms for keeping Parish Accounts, which I think it would be highly beneficial to introduce. I will send a Copy of one to the Committee.
Mr. Slaney is requested to furnish the same.-(See Appendix (D.) to this Day's Evidence.)
Have you ever seen an instance of one in which the Name of the Person was put down, the next Column showing the Residence of the Person relieved, and the next Column stating the Rent of the Tenement the Pauper paid?
No, I do not recollect having seen one in which the Rent the Pauper paid was inserted. I see no Objection to it, always supposing the Rent is not paid by the Parish. With respect to the Condition of the Peasantry in the Southern Parts of England, I think there is one Cause which has not yet been sufficiently adverted to; that is, the Scarcity of Fuel. I calculate the Difference of Wages between a Man in the South, where Fuel is dear, and another in a District where Fuel is cheap, is a Shilling a Week; therefore, to be on a Par, the Man in the South ought to have a Shilling a Week more than the other; and that a Landlord ought not to consider himself as paying unreasonably to his Workmen where he pays them a Shilling a Week more in the South than in Shropshire and Yorkshire; but I fear they have often a Shilling a Week less, instead of more.
Do you not believe that the Rent of Tenements is dearer in the South than in the North?
The nominal Rent is dearer, because there the Parish Officer comes in to be one of the Persons to pay the Rent, which he does not in the North, and the poor Men bid against each other for Cottages. Whether they pay their Rent is another Question.
The Witness is directed to withdraw.
A BILL (as amended on Re-commitment) to prevent ABUSES of the POOR LAWS, by declaring and amending the Law relating to the Employment and Payment of able-bodied Labourers from the Poor Rates.
Whereas by an Act made in the Forty-third Year of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, intituled, "An Act for the Relief of the Poor," it was enacted, that the Overseers of the Poor shall take order from Time to Time for setting to work the Children of all such whose Parents shall not by the said Overseers be thought able to keep and maintain their Children, and for setting to work all such Persons, married or unmarried, having no Means to maintain themselves, and using no ordinary and daily Trade of Life to get their Living by; and also to raise competent Sums of Money for and towards the necessary Relief of the lame, impotent, old, blind, and others being poor and not able to work: And whereas the Purposes of the said Act have been in very many Parishes departed from and perverted, to the great Injury as well of the Poor as of all Persons rated to and paying the Poor's Rate, by making to ablebodied Labourers certain Allowances and Payments in increase of the Wages received by them for their Labour, such Allowances and Payments being varied with reference to their being married or unmarried, or to the Number of their Children, or under other Circumstances, contrary to the true Intent and Meaning of the said Act; by which Means the Wages of able-bodied Labourers, instead of being paid to them by their Employers, are paid by the several other Persons charged to the Poor Rates, and such Rates are thereby increased and misapplied to a very great and unjust Amount; and by the said Practices the Employers are often induced to offer lower Wages than they otherwise would do, and the Labourers, instead of looking to their own Earnings and Industry for the Maintenance of their Families, are tempted to depend on the Poor Rates; be it therefore enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same, That from and after the passing of this Act it shall not be lawful for any Overseer, Churchwarden or other Officer of any Parish to make or pay to or for any Labourer or Person engaged or employed in any Work, who shall be unmarried, or who shall marry after the passing of this Act, any Allowance of any Sum of Money as or for Cottage Rent, Allowance for Children, or under any other Pretence, or any Gift or Reward whatever, (except as herein-after provided,) in addition to the Wages received by such Person from his or her Employer or Employment; and all Payments and Allowances made contrary to this Act are hereby declared to be illegal, any Law, Custom or Usage to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding; and all Justices of the Peace are hereby authorized and directed, within their respective Jurisdictions, to strike all such Allowances or Payments out of the Account of any Overseers of the Poor, as "unfounded," on the passing of such Accounts before such Justices.
Provided always, and be it enacted, That nothing in this Act contained shall be construed to make it unlawful to afford necessary Parochial Relief or Allowance in Cases of Illness of any such Labourer or other Person, or of his or her Family; or to afford Parochial Allowance or Remuneration to any Labourer or Person whilst employed by the Parish Officers wholly on account of such Parish; or to afford Parochial Relief or Allowance to any Widow (or Wife deserted by her Husband) left with a Family which she is by her and their Labour unable to support; or to afford Parochial Relief or Allowance to those who through old Age or any Infirmity are unable by their Labour wholly to maintain themselves and their Families; or to afford temporary Parochial Assistance to those who by Fire, Flood or such sudden Calamity, are in urgent Distress.
And whereas after the passing of this Act it will be illegal to pay any Parochial Allowance to or for any Person (not within the foregoing Provisoes and Exceptions) engaged or employed in any Work, unless employed on account of the Parish; and it is expedient to devise better Means for providing such Parish Employment distinct from the ordinary Employment of the Labourers in or near the said Parish: And whereas by an Act passed in the Fifty-ninth Year of the Reign of George the Third, intituled, "An Act to amend the Laws for the Relief of the Poor," it is among other Things enacted, that, under the Circumstances in the said Act described, it shall be lawful for the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of any Parish, with the Consent of the Inhabitants thereof in Vestry assembled, to purchase or to hire or take on Lease, for and on account of the Parish, any suitable Portion or Portions of Land within or near to such Parish, not exceeding Twenty Acres in the whole, and to employ and set to Work in the Cultivation of such Land, on account of the Parish, any such Persons as by Law they are directed to set to work: And whereas it is expedient that the Powers and Provisions of the above in part recited Act should be extended; be it therefore enacted, That all and every the Enactments, Powers and Provisions contained in the said in part recited Act which apply to the Purchase, hiring, or taking on Lease, on account of the Parish, of any Portion or Portions of Land not exceeding Twenty Acres in the whole, be extended to the Purchase, hiring, or taking on Lease, on account of the Parish, of any Portion or Portions of Land not exceeding Forty Acres in the whole.
And be it further enacted, That this Act and the several Provisions respecting the Relief of any Labourer or Person engaged in any Work therein contained, relating or applying to Overseers of the Poor, shall extend and be construed to extend to every Guardian in any Parish appointed under an Act passed in the Twenty-second Year of the Reign of King George the Third, intituled, "An Act for the better Relief and Employment of the Poor," and to every Guardian, Director, Manager and Overseer of the Poor appointed under any Local Act of Parliament relative to the Maintenance, Regulation and Relief of the Poor.
A BILL for the better rating TENEMENTS under a certain ANNUAL VALUE.
Whereas by an Act passed in the Fifty-ninth Year of the Reign of King George the Third, intituled, "An Act to amend the Laws for the Relief of the Poor," it is among other Things enacted, that, under the Circumstances in the said Act described, the Owner or Owners of certain Houses, Apartments or Dwellings let to the Occupiers thereof at any Rent not exceeding Twenty Pounds nor less than Six Pounds by the Year, for any less Term than One Year, or on any Agreement by which the Rent shall be reserved or made payable at any shorter Period than Three Months, shall be assessed to the Rates for the Relief of the Poor, for and in respect of such Houses, Apartments or Dwellings, and the Outhouses and Curtilages thereof, instead of the actual Occupiers; and Power is by the said Act given to enforce the Payment of such Rates against such Owners; and various other Enactments and certain Provisions were made respecting the Collection of Poor Rates assessed on such Houses, Apartments and Dwellings: And whereas it is expedient that the Powers, Enactments and Provisions of the said in part recited Act should be extended in manner herein-after mentioned; be it therefore enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same, That all and every the Enactments, Powers, Provisions and Exceptions contained in the said in part recited Act, for the assessing and levying the Poor's Rate, which apply to the Houses, Apartments or Dwellings therein described, and the Owners and Occupiers thereof, shall apply and be extended to Houses, Apartments and Dwellings, and the Outhouses and Curtilages thereof, and to all Land let therewith, and to the Owners and Occupiers thereof, let at any Rent under Twelve Pounds by the Year, whether the Rent shall be reserved monthly, half-yearly, or at any other Period, and whether the Letting be for a Year or any greater or less Period: Provided always, that nothing in this Act contained shall be construed to extend to the rating of Houses, Apartments and Dwellings, or the Outhouses and Curtilages thereof, or the Land let therewith, which before the passing of this Act shall be let on a Lease for a Term exceeding Three Years, or on a Life or Lives, until such Lease shall expire.
ABSTRACT of the RETURNS of the Number of poor Persons belonging to each of the under-mentioned Parishes, Townships and Chapelries, relieved or assisted from the Poor Rates, between 25th March 1827 and 25th March 1828; also of the Number of able-bodied Men, being Parishioners, relieved or assisted from the Poor Rates, within the same Period and Places, whether by making up Wages, Allowance for Children, Cottage Rent, Parish Work, or for any other Purpose whatever; distinguishing the Number of those assisted by Parish Employment from those assisted in any other Manner.
The following Proportions may be deduced from this Return on Population of 1821, by Population Return.
This however only gives the Difference in the Proportion of Numbers of ablebodied Men receiving from the Rate. If the Mode and Duration of Relief were given, the Difference of System would be much more striking.
FORM of the ABSTRACT of Annual Receipts and Expenditure of a Parish.
(Appendix to Report of Select Committee of House of Commons on the Poor Laws, 1819, Paper 529.)
AN ACCOUNT showing the RECEIPT and EXPENDITURE of the Overseers of the Poor of for the Year
Made up to
D. D. Assistant Overseer.
Number of In-Poop 60to 70. Out-Poor 70 to 80. Illegitjmate Children 26.
The Right Honourable The Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham, a Member of the Committee, is examined as follows:
Is your Lordship aware that any Plan of Emigration has been adopted in any of the Parishes in your Neighbourhood?
In Two adjoining Parishes to those in which I reside in Kent, on account of the great Advantages which appeared to have arisen from the Plan of Emigration adopted by Mr. Hodges, those Two Parishes, on account of the Feeling expressed by a certain Number of Labouring Parishioners, agreed to facilitate their going to the United States. A Parish Meeting was called for the Purpose of taking into Consideration in what Way a Fund should be raised to meet the Expences attendant upon their Emigration, and it was unanimously agreed, not only by the Owners of Property, but by all the Occupiers of Property, in those Two Parishes;-and I beg leave here to state, that I believe, with the Exception of One or Two, they were all yearly Tenants;-they agreed to a Rate to be levied upon the Parish for the Purpose of meeting those Expences. I think the Number of Persons, including Women and Children, amounted in the Two Parishes to about Seventy that went to America.
Did your Lordship find that there was any Disinclination on the Part of those Persons to leave this Country?
Not the least, on the Part of those who went, but a very anxious Desire; there was a strong Desire on the Part of a great many others to have gone, but on account of the Difficulties, they were not able to meet their Wishes.
Has your Lordship heard of any of those Persons since they went out?
I can only state with respect to my own Parish, and where the Parishioners are employed all the Year round. Among my own Labourers, one of the best Labourers on my Property, a Man of between Forty and Fifty, with a Family of Six or Seven Children, stated his Wish to me to go to America; it was on the Ground of his having a large and increasing Family, and that he saw no Prospect of his Children getting constant Employment, and that he feared they would be on the Parish for Support: hearing there was a Prospect of Benefit from Labour in America, he wished to go out. This Man's Earnings were from 40£. to 50£. a Year. He went out; and I saw a Letter to his Father-in-Law, stating that he was doing exceedingly well, and that Two or Three of his Children he had got out into Service; and also stating, that any active Labourer was sure to get Employment. Another Labourer, who was younger, who went out also, wrote that if his Mother and Brother would come out, he was ready to support them.
Has any Benefit arisen to those Parishes from those Persons having gone to America?
I cannot say that any perceptible Benefit has arisen, on account of the Sum of Money raised in those Parishes, which was borrowed to be paid off by a Rate on the Parish in Two, Three and Four Years; therefore no Reduction of the Rates in those Parishes has yet taken place. They are both poor Parishes; and we have still, in one of them, a Population far beyond the Means of Employment, in an Agricultural point of view. In the other Parish I think some Alteration has taken place; I will not attribute it altogether to the Number of Persons who went from it, but in conjunction with that Cause, Four or Five of the worst Characters having been recently transported, there is a visible Alteration in that Parish; and I perfectly agree in the Opinion of Mr. Slaney, that if the best Character of the Parish went out, the former Character of the worst Part of the Community would be soon altered if Employment were found. I think Want of Employment and Occupation has tended greatly to demoralize our Peasantry.
Do you know the Expence it costs per Head?
Seven Pounds, taking the Children. This was upon the Calculation that they should have a certain Sum of Money in their Pockets when they got to America, sufficient for their Subsistence 'till they found some constant Employment. The 7£. per Head included all their Expences, and something in pocket; that was going on a liberal Allowance in comparison to that at which it has been done in some Parishes. It was felt that they ought to have some Money in their Pocket in case, from Sickness or Casualty, they could not find immediate Employment.
Does your Lordship act as a Magistrate?
Do you not believe that the Mal-administration of the Poor Laws tends very much to demoralize the poorer Classes?
Is your Lordship aware that it has been the Practice in some Parts of the Country to pay able-bodied Men, who work, Money out of the Poor Rates?
My own Opinion, with respect to the Lower Classes of the County of Kent, is this: I think that those that are employed receive Wages higher than the People almost of any County in England. Our Wages have never been less than 12s. a Week, and the Average 13s. 6d.; but it is the unemployed Men principally who receive out of the Poor Rates; they are employed upon the Roads, and receiving a miserable Pittance of 6d. a Day, or 3s. 6d. a Week. The System of paying the single Men their mere miserable Subsistence out of the Poor Rates has tended to occasion those improvident Marriages. A Man, finding he was better off as a married Man than as a single one, would naturally try to better his Situation.
Your Lordship has stated that no perceptible Benefit was derived from the Emigration which took place, because the Poor Rates still continued at the same Rate; did you in that include the Sum paid for a certain Time by way of Instalment towards repaying the Expence incurred in the Emigration?
When the Period has arrived at which that Money has been repaid by Instalments, perhaps you anticipate that there will be an Advantage resulting to the Parish from the Emigration?
My own Opinion depends in a great Measure on the Caution of Owners of Property, for if Persons are suffered to come and fill up the Cottages again, and the Number is greater than can be employed, there will be no Benefit.
Does it happen in your Neighbourhood that in many instances Cottages are occupied by more than One Family?
Does your Lordship find in your Neighbourhood that the Parish is much relieved from giving Assistance to Labourers in consequence of their being provided with Land?
We are only just commencing to any Extent giving Land to our Labourers.
To what Extent may they have been provided?
In those Parishes to which I refer they have had no Land at all, with the Exception of a small Garden to some of the Cottages. The Cottages, generally speaking, have tolerable Gardens; but there is a great Scarcity of House-room to the great Body of our Population.
What is the Rent of Cottages in that Neighbourhood?
From 5£. to 6£. and 7£. a Year. In a Parish close to me the actual Rent received for the House is more than the actual Value of the House itself. There are Five or Six Families in One House, and the Rent they pay is 2s. a Week for a single Room, making 30£. a Year, and I do not think the House is worth 30£.; but those Rents are in fact paid out of the Poor's Rates.
Ordered, That this Committee be adjourned to Tuesday next, Twelve o'Clock.