Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 63, 1830-1831. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, [n.d.].
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Die Veneris, 25° Martii 1831.
The Duke of Richmond in the Chair.
Francis Pym junior, Esquire, is called in, and examined as follows:
You have resided for some Years in the County of Cambridge, and have acted as a Magistrate?
I have resided about Twelve Years in the County; the first Seven at Kneesworth, in Royston, and the last Five in the North-west Part of the County, at Longstowe, near Caxton.
Have you turned your Attention to the Subject of the Poor Laws, and any Improvements that might be made in the Administration of them?
Yes; I have turned my Attention to them of Necessity, from having had a great deal of Business as a Magistrate, there being very few resident in that Part of the County. It is entirely an Agricultural District; and certainly the Conclusion which I have come to upon the Poor Laws generally is, that they hold out Expectations to the Poor which they cannot realize, and lead them to depend upon their Parishes more than upon their own Exertions. In explaining my views of the Poor Laws generally, and it would be as well to divide the Subject into different Branches, I would first take that which I suppose was the original Intention of the Poor Laws, namely, to provide for those who from old Age, Sickness and Infirmity are unable to provide for themselves. Upon that Point I need not say much; but there is one view in which I think even this is injurious, and that is, that Parents and Children cease to feel mutual Dependence upon each other, and are too much inclined to look to the Parish, where they ought to support and assist each other. I could mention many instances in different Places, but perhaps that is not necessary. The next Branch of the Subject is the providing for able-bodied Labourers, which in our Part of the Country, and I believe in most others, has of late Years formed a material Part of the Business of the Magistrates in the Administration of the Poor Laws. Upon that Subject it certainly appears to me that the Effect of this Interference is to lower the Wages of Labour very much, and to deprive the Labourer of that great Spring of Exertion, the Necessity of being obliged to provide for himself and his Family. From the Wages of Labour being thus mixed up with Relief, and a great deal of it going through the Hands of the Overseers, (Persons applying to them when they cannot get Work for themselves,) it has lead to single Men and young Men receiving lower Wages than Men with Families; in fact, when Application is made for Parish Work, Men are paid more according to their Families than according to the real Valne of their Labour. This is a Temptation to early Marriages, and destroys all Encouragement to Industry. Another Branch of the Subject is the Settlement Laws, which have the Effect of confining Persons to particular Parishes; it makes Farmers unwilling to hire Servants, for fear of conferring Settlements upon them, from other Parishes; and I have also found that young Labourers are unwilling to let themselves by the Year to be under the Control of a Master; they had rather take their Chance of the Parish Assistance in the Winter, and in the Summer being thrown upon their own Resources, when they can get better Wages, which they generally spend as fast as they get them. The Settlement Laws also, I think, prevent Proprietors from building Cottages which they would do, for fear of increasing the Number that are chargeable to the Parishes; and it is a Remark which I have found true myself, and it has been confirmed by the Experience of others, very generally, that those are the best, the most industrious and frugal Labourers who reside in Parishes to which they do not belong. Another Branch of the Subject is the Bastardy Laws, which appear to have been intended to protect Parishes from the Expence of Bastard Children, but, in fact, they throw the Burden of their Maintenance upon Parishes, from the Inability of the Fathers to pay, and the Expence and Trouble of going after them. Very often a Man who has had One or Two Children sworn to him marries, and in a few Years has a Wife and a large Family to maintain. In this last Year I have been obliged to grant Warrants against several under those Circumstances, who could not possibly pay for the Support of their Bastard Children. All this is attended with Expence to the Parishes; but there is one Part of the Subject which I think is more injurious than what I have mentioned; it is the Effect upon the Female Character. Of the many Hundreds that have come before me, I have very rarely seen any thing like a Feeling of Shame, or any proper Feeling upon the Subject. They consider that their Children will be provided for, they will have an Excuse for not going out to Service, and they rather seem to glory in it.
What is the Practice in your Neighbourhood as to making a Mother pay for her Child?
In making Orders of Affiliation we always put down the same Sum for the Mother that we do for the Father. In general the Mothers nurse the Children themselves, and the Form of the Order is to pay so much a Week, provided they do not nurse the Children themselves; but when the Women can get out to Service, which sometimes happens, they are occasionally called upon to support the Children, in part, themselves; and we have lately adopted a Practice in the Division where I reside, of putting a higher Sum than is usual upon both Father and Mother, that, according to Circumstances, there may be an Opportunity of recovering it. I would say, with regard to the Poor generally, that a Reference to the Poor Laws and to Parish Support enters into all their Plans and Arrangements in every thing that they do-in their Marriages, in bringing up Children, and also in the Way in which they spend their Money. In the Course of the Summer Months, when they do earn more, and particularly after Harvest, instead of making those Provisions which they used to do for Fuel and other Things, a great deal of their Money is spent, though the Wages are not high, at Feasts and Fairs which we have in all our Villages, and there is a great deal of Extravagance among them, which their Circumstances cannot justify, and a great deal is spent in Beer.
Do you ever lend them any Money at those Times of the Year when they are most distressed, requiring them to repay it when their Wages are higher?
We do to some of the little Tradesmen, whose Trade is sometimes at a stand-still in the Winter, and in some instances it is repaid. I know there is a Power of recovering it, but often it is very difficult to do it. In the early Part of 1829, finding the ill Effects which arose from the general Administration of the Poor Laws in our own County, the Magistrates agreed to a Circular at the adjourned Quarter Sessions, which they sent to the Overseers in all the Parishes, a Copy of which I have here.
The Witness delivers in the same, which is read.
(See Appendix (A.) to this Day's Evidence.)
Were the Magistrates in Cambridgeshire well acquainted with the Proceedings and Success of The Reverend Mr. Becher in the Parish of Southwell, in Nottinghamshire?
Some of the Magistrates were, though I do not think generally they were; but it was with a view to his Plan that the Circular was drawn up.
Have those Regulations been acted upon generally?
Not so much as we could wish, but they have to a certain Extent.
As far as they have been acted upon, do they appear to have produced good?
They have, to a certain Extent. In order to facilitate the keeping regular Accounts, we had some blank Books printed, in conformity with those different Heads for the Overseers Accounts, which we have circulated throughout the County: last Easter was the first Time we had an Opportunity of seeing the Effect. Having the Accounts classed under different Heads, the Magistrates were enabled to refer to every thing immediately; when they saw an Item that struck them as incorrect, they could immediately inquire into it; and that certainly was a greater Check upon the Overseers, and their Accounts were more satisfactory upon the whole.
Do you not find great Difficulty from the frequent Change of Overseers?
That is one great Difficulty; their Object generally is to get through their Time of Service with as little Trouble and as little Expence to the Parish as possible.
Have those Overseers in general availed themselves of the Act by which they may hire Land and allot it to the Poor in small Portions?
No; but a good deal has been done in the County in that Way by Individuals.
Is that found very productive of good where it has been done?
Where it has been only recently adopted there has hardly been sufficient Time to judge fairly of the Effects; but as far as my own Experience goes, in the Parish in which I reside, it has been attended with very good Effects.
Have you any Remedies to suggest for the Evils you have stated to exist in the Poor Laws?
The first Suggestion I would offer is with reference to letting Land to the Poor. As far as my own Experience goes, both in Bedfordshire and in Cambridgeshire, it has generally been attended with beneficial Effects. At the same Time I would observe, that I have seen many printed and other Statements which appear to me too sanguine. In order to give due Effect to letting, Land to the Poor it would be very desirable, if possible, at the same Time to do away with the System of giving any Relief from the Parish, in the Shape of Labour or otherwise, to able-bodied Labourers or their Families; that where you let them Land it should be on the Condition of their consenting to give up any Claim upon the Parish. This Plan has been tried in some Places with Success. In the Fourth Volume of Communications to the Board of Agriculture (fn. 1) there is a Paper by Mr. Estcourt, stating the Result of an Experiment in a Parish of his in Wiltshire, where the People themselves, upon having Land let to them, agreed to give up their Claim upon the Parish, and the Rates were reduced from 212£. 16s. the Amount of Poor Rates for the Half Year ending April 5, 1801, to 12£. 6s. for the Half Year ending April 5, 1804, of which only 4£. 12s. 6d. was applied to the Relief of the Poor; but I do not know whether the Plan has been carried on to the present Time. There is one Parish in Cambridgeshire, where Land has been let to the Poor for a great many Years, where it has not been found to answer; but I think I can offer some Reasons why it has not. A Field is appropriated to the Poor, for which they pay only Half the Rent that the Farmers do; they pay 12s. an Acre for it, and any Farmer would gladly give 25s. and the Farmers plough it for them, so that it is rather a Matter of Favour on the Part of the Poor taking the Land. It appears to me that the great Secret is to put the Poor in a Way of improving their Condition by their own Exertions.
Is that the only Reason for which you think that Plan did not answer?
That the Farmers do too much for them.
Then, that is not an Objection to the System in your Opinion, but to the Mode in which it is adopted in a particular Place?
Have you formed any Opinion as to the Extent to which they ought to be allowed to cultivate Land?
I think no general Rule can be laid down upon the Subject; my own Opinion is, that if a Man cultivated his Half Acre or Rood of Land well, if he wished for more, he should have the Opportunity of hiring it.
How much Land is allotted to each Man in the Parish of Coton?
Most of the Labourers have Land from Half an Acre to an Acre and a Half.
Do they keep a Cow?
No; it is an inclosed Parish, and they do not keep Cows upon it.
Are the Rents high in that Parish, as compared with neighbouring Parishes?
About the Average. I think the Population of the Parish is 264; there are 930 Acres of Land. The Amount of the Rates last Year was 110£. rather less than the Three preceding.
Do you take in that Calculation the Loss which is sustained by the Parish or the Landlord in letting the Land at less Money?
No; nor the ploughing. In alluding to Remedies, there is one Point of which I have heard a good deal, though I have not much practical Knowledge upon the Subject, that is Emigration; it has been practised upon Two Estates on the Borders of Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire, that I am acquainted with; and at present I think it has been an Advantage, and has afforded immediate Relief.
Can you state to what Extent the Emigration was carried on?
No, I cannot state the Particulars.
Previous to the Emigration taking place, had the Parishes suffered much from Population beyond the Demand?
They thought so; and in those Parishes there were a great many Labourers out of Employment.
How was the Emigration carried on?
The Means were found out of the Estates. With respect to Emigration, I would add, that I think, where the Numbers are really too great for Employment, it may be beneficial, if connected with the Plan which I have before alluded to, namely, the getting rid of any Claim on the Poor Rate on the Part of the able-bodied Labourers who remain. There is another Mode of Relief, the full Effect of which is very much impeded by Dependence on the Poor Rates, which is the Savings Banks. The Poor are unwilling to take Advantage of them where they can, because they feel that if they put any Money into the Savings Bank, it would be, in fact, giving up their Claims upon the Overseer. Benefit Societies are also an Assistance where well conducted, but in general they are founded upon defective Principles.
Do you consider the present System of administering the Poor Laws as discouraging both Benefit Societies and Saving Banks?
I think the Principle of the Poor Laws is a Discouragement to them; it is a Bounty on Improvidence.
What is your Opinian as to the Population of Cambridgeshire, in regard to the Proportion it bears to the Demand for Labour?
As far as we have been able to ascertain by Inquiries made this Winter, it does not appear that the Number of Labourers in the County of Cambridge is more than sufficient to cultivate the Land.
Have you any Means of stating the Proportion that the Number of Labourers bears to the Number of Acres?
Yes; some Questions were sent round the County last Winter, which I have here, and the Answers to them.
The Witness delivers in the same.
"Cambridgeshire to wit.
"Whereas at a Meeting of The Lord Lieutenant and Magistrates of the County (convened by the former) held at the Red Lion Inn, in Cambridge, on Friday the 3d Day of December instant, it was unanimously resolved, with a view to allaying the Irritation which appears to exist in the Minds of many of the Labouring Class, and which has been increased by the Misrepresentations of evil-disposed Persons, that a particular Inquiry should be made into the actual State and Condition of the Poor in every Parish in this County;-It is therefore by this Court ordered, That the Magistrates be requested to institute immediately, in each Parish in their respective Divisions of the County, a full and particular Inquiry into the present State of the Poor; and that, in making this Investigation, they be also requested to obtain Answers to the subjoined Questions, and to return the same to the Clerk of the Peace on or before the 6th Day of January next.
"Pemberton, Clerk of the Peace.
"The Questions which are referred to above.
"1.-The Name of the Parish and the Population?
"2.-The Total Quantity of Land in the Parish? If any Part of it is a Common, state what Quantity.
"3.-The Number of Labourers above Twenty Years of Age; and the Number of young Men and Boys above Ten and not exceeding Twenty Years of Age?
"4.-The Number of Labourers generally out of regular Employment? How such Labourers are maintained?
"5.-The Rate of Daily Wages, without Small Beer; and the Rate when Small Beer is found by the Master?
"6.-Whether the Labourers are apportioned amongst the Occupiers according to the Extent of each Occupation?
"7.-Whether any Distinction is made in Wages paid to married and single Men; and whether any Allowance is made from the Poor's Rate on account of a large Family?
"8.-Whether the System of Roundsmen, and the Practice of paying any Part of the Wages out of the Poor's Rates, exists in the Parish?
"9.-What is the Rent of Cottages let to Labourers, and whether they have Gardens to their Cottages? Also, whether any other Land is let to the Labourers, and if so, what Quantity to each?
"10.-Whether any Charity Estate, and if so, how the Profits are applied?
"11.-Whether any Assistance is given in the Winter by Fuel or Clothing? The Price of Fuel, whether Wood, Coal or Turf?
"12.-The Amount of the Poor's Rates from Easter 1829 to Easter 1830? Whether the same exceeds the Amount of the Average Rates during the Three preceding Years?
"N.B.-Magistrates are requested to add any further Information they may deem useful."
Have you a General Abstract of those Returns?
The Witness is requested to send to the Committee an Abstract of those Returns.
(See Appendix (B.) to this Day's Evidence.)
(Mr. Pym.) The Returns to the Questions are not quite correct, as Eight Parishes have made no Returns; but this will not affect the general Results. The Number of Acres returned appear to be about 280,000, the Number of Labouring Men, 8,900, and the Number of Boys and Lads from Ten to Twenty Years of Age, 4,400; of those, nearly 1,000 are at Times dependent upon their Parishes for Support in the Shape of Work. There are nearly 7,000 Acres of Common out of those 280,000 Acres.
Will you explain what you mean by Common?
Uncultivated Land in the open Field. It is in some instances Heath; but in some of the Fen Parishes it is of a more valuable Description; the Grass Commons are as valuable as any Part of the Parish; but in the High Lands they are not so; they are merely used as Sheep Walks, and Cattle are turned on them in Summer; but some are entirely unoccupied in any Way, except to dig Fuel from. Wages appear to vary, according to the Returns, from 9s. to 14s. per Week; the common Average in most of the Parishes was 9s. or 10s.: if the Labourers work by the Grate they get more. A Distinction is made in about Half the Parishes between the Wages of married and single Men. At Parish Work there is always a Distinction, single Men receiving less than married. Assistance is given where there are large Families in about Half the Parishes. It does not appear from these Returns, though there is a little Incorrectness in the Abstract, that any Part of the Wages of Labour, as such, is paid out of the Rates, except in the Case of the Parish Labourers; and we found the Cottage Rents not so high as we supposed, the Average is about 3l. a Year.
With or without Gardens?
There is about an equal Proportion.
Do you include in that Average the Rent of those Cottages that have been built by Bricklayers and Carpenters upon Speculation, and let at higher Rents?
Near Towns the Rents are higher, and also where they can take in Lodgers. One Cottage in my Parish is let for 7l. a Year, and the Man takes in Four Lodgers at 1s. a Week each, so that in fact he gets his Cottage for nothing; but the Average of Rents is about 3l. and there are as many that have Gardens (except in the Neighbourhood of Towns) as there are without them. Cottage Rents are hardly at all paid out of the Rates, as is the Practice in some Parts of the Country.
You stated that you thought the present Law of Settlement very inconvenient; what Law should you propose for Settlements? Should you propose a Birth Settlement or a Residence?
There is great Difficulty in the Proof of a Birth Settlement, perhaps as much as in any, because it is often necessary to go so far back.
Would you abolish all Settlements by Hiring?
As a Step to abolish others, I would.
Does not the Settlement by Hire lead to very great Inconvenience and very great Expence?
It certainly does.
Do you see any Inconvenience in having a Settlement by Residence?
I think that is the fairest Way upon the whole.
Would you recommend Settlement being confined to Residence?
Renting a Tenement is one Ground of Settlement now, which perhaps is not an unfair one, connected with Residence; but I think a Settlement by Residence alone would be the best Way of simplifying it: this, however, has always been objected to in large Manufacturing Places. In some Towns there is a large Population and very little Land; for example, the Town of Royston has a considerable Population, and I think they have not above 100 Acres of Land belonging to the Parish. Baldock, in Hertfordshire, is another Place similarly situated. They have very little Land, and they say that in those Places, Settlements by Residence would be considered a Burden.
Do not you think that the Settlement by Hiring and Service checks the Freedom of the Labourers very much?
Do not you think it tends more to increase Litigation than any other Description of Settlement?
Yes; the Distinctions that arise upon the Cases with respect to it are very numerous and very fine.
What length of Residence should you think it desirable to adopt?
Not less than Three Years uninterrupted Residence.
With respect to Bastardy, do you not think that the present Law, which makes it imperative upon the Magistrate to commit a Man to Gaol before the Birth of the Child which has been sworn against him, leads to some Inconvenience?
It is a Hardship to the Individuals who are so committed.
In point of fact, do they not come out of Gaol usually worse than they are when they go in?
Yes; because you cannot put them to Labour.
Would you see any Objection to altering the whole of the Law respecting Bastardy?
Not the least. I think if it was done away with altogether there would be no Children destroyed, but that Women would have a greater Regard to their Character.
Are not the Mothers of Bastard Children very seldom sent to Gaol, though there is a Power in the Magistrate to do so?
They are occasionally, when they have had more than One Child, but very seldom in the first instance.
What is the Practice of the Magistrates in Cambridgeshire with respect to requiring Security of the Fathers of Bastard Children?
The Practice that I adopt is to advise the Overseers not to press the Charge against the Man, unless they have reason to suppose that he will run away, 'till after the Birth, and if they can find any thing like Security for Ten or Twenty Pounds, to be satisfied with that 'till after Birth.
Do you conceive that the Law justifies a Magistrate in taking a Security for the Appearance of the Father, or that the Law does not make it imperative that the Security shall be bound to obey any Order that may be made?
The Form of it runs in that Way; they are committed in default of Sureties to the Quarter Sessions, and then, if the Woman is not brought to bed, they are remanded under the original Commitment, unless they can find Securities, to the next Quarter Sessions, or 'till an Order is made.
Do you not think it would be desirable to enact that the Magistrate should only require Securities for the Man's Appearance?
I think it would.
Do you think it would be desirable to allow the Fathers of Bastard Children to compromise with the Parish, by paying a Sum of Money?
I think if the Parish had nothing to do with it, it would be a greater Check to that Description of Crime than any thing else.
How would you have Bastard Children provided for?
That the Mother should take care of them, and her Friends.
Without any Reference to the Father?
Without any Reference to any Body.
Are you of Opinion that the treating it in the same Manner as you would a Misdemeanor would check the Offence more than treating it as a Matter of Debt?
I think if all the Difficulty and Disgrace which follows even now were thrown upon the Parties, without Reference to the Parish, there would be much fewer Cases of the sort. I think Women would have a greater Regard to their Character, and be more careful in their Conduct.
Would you impose any Penalty upon the Father?
No, I would not interfere with it at all.
Do you think there would be fewer Solicitations to Unchastity if the Father was not burdened with the Maintenance of the Child?
I cannot say whether there would be fewer Solicitations or not, but I think there would be more Regard to their Character on the Part of the Women.
Then, in fact, you would repeal the Bastardy Laws?
Would not the Bastards then become Objects of Relief, as occasional Poor?
Perhaps they might, as they do now.
Would not the Difference be, that now it is with Indemnity to the Parish, but then they would have none?
It is called Indemnity to the Parish, but it is only Indemnity to the Mothers, for the Men are constantly unable to pay, and occasionally they are sent to Gaol, but the Burden mainly falls upon the Parishes. In Confirmation of this Opinion, I would add, that in one Parish in this Neighbourhood the Expences under the Head of Bastardy for the last Year were above 48l. whilst all that was recovered from the Fathers was rather more than 3l.
Do you see any Danger of the Increase of Infanticide if it were thrown upon the Mothers?
I do not see the least. As far as I can judge, I think that is not the Case with reference to Scotland, with which I have some Acquaintance.
Have you sufficient Acquaintance with the State of the Law upon that Subject in Scotland to inform the Committee whether the Women are better conducted there than they are in England?
As far as my Acquaintance with Scotland goes, I should say that, though there are instances of Bastard Children, they are very rare as compared with England; and I have scarcely ever heard of an instance of Infanticide in Scotland.
You have stated that you conceive, that, with reference to the proper Cultivation of Land in the County of Cambridge, there is not a Redundancy of Population. Do you think that, at the Prices which Agricultural Produce has borne for the last Three Years, additional Capital, of course putting in Motion additional Labour, could be profitably employed upon the heavy Land in the County?
Upon some, but not upon all. A great deal of the Land might be very much improved by Drainage, and the Produce would be increased by at least Five Bushels of Wheat an Acre.
Therefore, to a certain Amount, Capital might be beneficially expended still upon those Parts?
I think upon some Parts, but not upon the Whole.
Do you think the Cultivation of heavy Soils generally, in the County of Cambridge, has deteriorated within the last few Years?
It has in particular Parishes. We have heavy Lands that are tolerably good, and there it has not deteriorated; but in others it certainly has deteriorated.
Where Deterioration has taken place, to what do you ascribe it?
People take Farms in those Parishes without Capital. Those who have Capital are very unwilling to hire them.
Do you not conceive that many of the Farmers who had Capital have been gradually losing it upon the heavy Lands within the last few Years?
A great many have.
Have the Rents been much reduced in that Part of the Country?
In some Parishes very much, and generally within the last Fifteen Years they have been reduced One Third.
If it be true that the Capital originally employed upon the heavy Lands has been gradually diminishing, would it not be likely that additional Capital laid out would share the same Fate?
With all the present Burdens upon Land, I should think it would, upon cold Clay Land.
What is the Average Produce of Wheat per Acre of Cambridgeshire Land?
It varies so much. There are some Lands upon a chalky Sub-soil, rather of a strong Description, which will produce nearly Forty Bushels of Wheat per Acre; and there are some poor Lands that will not produce more than Ten or Twelve Bushels.
What Proportion may it be upon each Description of Soil?
I am hardly able to say; but I should think that in the County of Cambridge, apart from the Isle of Ely, there may be One Fifth Part of poor Clay Land, but not more.
And the remaining Part likely to produce upon the Average, how much?
Varying from Twenty to Thirty Bushels an Acre. There is a great deal of thin light Land, that produces very little without the Assistance of repeated Dressings of light Compost, as Rape Dust, Malt Dust, Feathers, Soot, &c. which is thus made more productive, and bears good Barley.
Is it then your Opinion, that under the present Circumstances there is any Chance of the Population of the County of Cambridge being fully employed?
The great Hindrance to it appears to me to be the Operation of the Poor Laws; they confine Persons to particular Parishes; they act as a Clog upon Labour; and the Labourers have acquired such Habits of Indifference about looking after Work, that they will hardly go into the adjoining Parishes to ask for a Job.
Do you think that the County can generally be said to be suffering from a surplus Population?
Not in the least. According to the Answers to the Questions there are about Three Men and a Half and One Boy to 100 Acres.
Do not you know that in that Part of Cambridgeshire to which you have been alluding, namely, in the Neighbourhood of Royston, the Cultivation is in some measure checked, and the Population put out of Employment, in consequence of the general Disinclination to the Mode in which Tithes are charged and collected?
In the Parishes which I am most acquainted with, I only know one where Tithe has been at all a Matter of Complaint, or that any Difficulty has arisen.
Are you acquainted with the Fact, that in the Parish of Duxford some of the Land is now out of Cultivation in consequence of the Demand of Tithe, which is considered excessive?
No, I was not aware of that Fact.
Do you know any instances of the sort?
Not of Land being out of Cultivation, but very much deteriorated.
Are you of Opinion that giving small Plots of Land will tend to ameliorate the Condition of the Labourers, by making them feel independent; but that it ought to be accompanied, or rather preceded, by reducing the Number of Men out of Employment?
I think it would have a very beneficial Effect if attended with getting rid of Parish Assistance to able-bodied Labourers at the same Time, otherwise I am afraid the Relief would only be temporary.
Could you contemplate such an Effect to be produced by an Allotment of Half an Acre of Land?
It would fill up a great deal of spare Time; but I would not limit it to any particular Quantity; I would give a Man a little at first, and if he cultivated it well, give him more.
Do not you think if every Labourer had such a Portion of Land as he could cultivate by his own daily Labour at extra Hours, besides working for his Employers, it would by degrees become a Succedaneum for the Poor Rate?
I think if they engaged in it upon those Conditions it would, to a great Extent.
Would there not be some Danger, if you insisted upon such a Condition, that the Labourers would refuse to take the Allotments of Land?
There might, and it would require Management.
Would it not be better to induce them first to take the Allotments, and then by degrees bring them to that Condition of Independence upon the Parish?
Yes; that might be the right Way to begin, but always keeping that Object in view.
Have the Overseers of the Poor found any great Difficulty in procuring small Allotments of Land for the Poor, where they have been desirous of doing it?
They have not tried it as Overseers. In many Parishes Individuals have done it.
Do not you think it would be beneficial if, in every instance where they could, they should attempt to obtain a small Allotment for the Poor?
If Individuals will not do it; but I think it is better done by Individuals.
Do you know any instances where Proprietors have found Difficulty in inducing the Farmers to give up any Part of their Land for Allotments to the Poor?
Yes, I have known instances of that.
Upon the whole, from your Experience, would you recommend to let every poor Man have that Quantity of Land which he can cultivate after his daily Labour?
In expressing your Opinion that those Allotments of Land might supersede the Necessity of Poor's Rates, you assume that there should not be a Superabundance of Population?
Yes; but I mentioned that I thought the Allotments of Land would be one Means of arriving at that desirable Conclusion; and if the Clog were taken off, which I consider the Parish Relief and the Rates to be upon the free Interchange of Labour, the Labourers would not have the same Difficulty in getting Employment; and then if they had Land they would have no Occasion when they were out of work for a few Days to apply to the Overseer; in fact they would then be obliged to take care of themselves, and they would be able to do so.
Are you aware that this Plan was adopted at Willingham, in your County, where the Labourers soon afterwards got off the Poor's Rates?
I am; and I am sorry it has been discontinued.
Have there been any Disturbances in those Parishes where they gave the Labourers Land?
I think not in any Parish where the Labourers had Land. There was a Fire in the Parish of Coton, but that is the instance I referred to where it was not considered as a Boon by the Labourers; they had it upon too cheap Terms.
Would giving Land to a Labourer who was out of Employment be of effectual Service to him?
It would not occupy him constantly. I can state one Way in which it gives Assistance to Labourers out of Employment. In the Parish in which I reside, all the Labourers who wished it had an Offer last Year of from a Rood to Half an Acre of Land; all the Men with Families accepted it, except Two; and now, when a Man or a Lad is out of Work for a few Days, instead of going to the Overseer, he either works upon his own Allotment, or he works for some of his Neighbours, whose other Employment is so good that they are unwilling to leave it.
You do not conceive that you have an over Population in the County of Cambridge?
I think not generally. In the Parish to which I am referring we have not enough Men to cultivate the Land properly.
Then, in point of fact, all your Observations respecting giving Land are to be considered as applying to a County where there is not a superabundant Population?
Yes; my Experience goes only to that.
In your Opinion, is there a good deal of additional Employment for Labour created by the Cultivation of small Allotments?
Yes; and a great deal of additional Comfort to the Labourer, by furnishing Vegetables for his Family and the Means of keeping a Pig.
You mentioned that Two of the Labourers in your Parish declined having Allotments of Lands; what was the Reason they assigned?
One is a very improvident Man, though a very good Workman, and always in Distress; and the other is a Man who has Two Sons grown up, who are constantly employed at full Wages, and his Wife takes in Washing; and he said he was content with what he had, as he had a good Garden before.
Have any Portion of those Labourers who had Allotments given to them been found by the Farmers less amenable or less industrious than they were before?
Quite the contrary.
Do the Farmers generally like the Plan?
They made Objections and Difficulties at first; but since it has been put in Operation I have heard no Objection: they have seen the good Effects of it.
You stated that Emigration afforded immediate Relief to the Places where it was adopted; did you mean to say that you had no Proof that it was permanently beneficial?
Yes; the Expence was borne by the Proprietors, and the Relief was felt by the Occupiers.
Are not the best Labourers in general sent away by Emigration?
They are the most likely to adventure upon it.
If the Poor could be employed beneficially in cultivating and improving Tracts of Waste Land at Home, would not that be a more eligible Plan than sending them Abroad?
If they could be, I should think so certainly.
Do you know whether or not there are a great many Thousand Acres of uncultivated Land in the Kingdom of England?
Yes, I know there are.
Do you believe that a great Portion of that Land is capable of profitable Cultivation?
Is it then advisable that we should afford Encouragement to our own People to go Abroad, when, by staying at Home, that Land might be cultivated more beneficially than it is at present?
I think that both Plans might be tried; but I would certainly give the Preference to cultivating all the Land at Home, in the first place. There are Difficulties in the Way of cultivating Waste Lands at Home, which possibly might be removed; I allude to the Expence of Inclosure Acts. There is One Parish in my Neighbourhood, where, at this Moment, there are 800 Acres of uncultivated Land; and a great deal of cultivated Land in that Parish might be very much improved by an Inclosure. It is one where the Rates are very high, where there are more Persons out of Employment than in any Parish in that Part of the Country.
Should you think it desirable to tempt those Labourers to go Abroad?
There are Seasons of the Year when those Labourers can get Work in the Neighbourhood: but the Operation of the Poor Laws renders them unwilling to go to a Distance to look for it. At this Moment there are a great Number of Men, Fifty or more, at Parish Work, whilst in an adjoining Parish, in Bedfordshire, the Farmers cannot get Labourers.
Do you suppose that Relief from superabundant Population, afforded either by the Cultivation of Waste Lands or by Emigration, would be permanent, unless attended with a different Administration of the Poor Laws?
If you got rid of granting Relief to able-bodied Labourers, I think that both would be beneficial, but not permanently, without.
Do you believe that there is a superabundant Population in any County in England?
I have heard so, certainly: and I have reason to believe that is the Case.
Supposing there are One hundred Labourers in a Parish, and only Sixty of them are in constant Employment, do you not think that it would not only be very politic, but very humane, to enable those Men to earn a Livelihood in our Colonies, if they are desirous of doing so?
I stated before, that I thought the Plan of Emigration would be a desirable one, as well as the other.
Do you not think it would be better to employ those Persons, if they could be profitably employed, in a neighbouring Parish, rather than sending them Abroad?
If they could be profitably employed I would give the Preference to employing them at Home.
Do you see any Objection to facilitate the Emigration of any Man who wishes to go?
I think not.
Assuming as a Fact, that there is a superabundant Population, does it not appear to you desirable to give that Population every possible Means of finding Employment for themselves, whether at Home or Abroad?
Would you endeavour to tempt those Men to go to a Country where they do not know how they may fare, and of which they have very little Knowledge?
Not by any false Information.
Have you ever calculated what the Expence would be of removing 100 Paupers in a Parish where there is a superabundant Population, and settling them upon Waste Land?
No, I have not. My Answers do not refer to removing them to distant Parishes; I have not viewed it in that light. But in the Parish to which I alluded, where there are 800 Acres of Waste, there are 150 Labourers, and I consider that, if Facilities were afforded for cultivating that Land, all those Labourers would find Employment.
In point of fact, would you recommend that the Waste Lands in the Parish should be given to Labourers for their Cultivation?
No; but that they should be brought into Cultivation; and as one Means of improving the Condition of the Poor I would afford Facilities for letting them have small Portions of Land; but with respect to the Waste Lands, I think they should be cultivated generally; and if inclosed and well cultivated, I consider that the Parish would produce Double what it does at present.
If a Labouring Man lives by the Produce of his Labour, will not his Condition depend upon the Fertility of the Land he cultivates?
Certainly, if he cultivates the Land for himself.
Will not his Condition be much better off by cultivating good Land in a Colony than by cultivating bad Land at Home?
If he was there, perhaps it might.
Do you think that the Offer is made to an English Labourer in the Manner in which it ought to be, whether he will go Abroad or not, if he is found in this Country in a State nearly approaching to actual Starvation?
He is not then in a fair Condition to form a correct Estimate.
Does he not, in fact, know that he is at present secure from that Evil by the Poor Laws?
The Poor Laws hold out to him an Idea of being secure from that Evil, which I consider they cannot realize.
Are you aware that a great Number of People do emigrate from this Country to the United States every Year?
Yes; I am aware that they do from Parts of the Country.
Are you aware that a great many go to the Town of New York, in the United States?
I have read Accounts of it.
Have you not heard that when those Men find their Way to that Country, many of them perish from Disease, soon after they get there?
I have not seen any Statement of that.
Have you not heard that large Numbers of His Majesty's Subjects have gone to the United States, and, from no Arrangements having been previously made, have been put to very severe Distress?
I have heard of great Distress existing, but not the Extremity of Distress referred to.
Is it the Result of your Opinion, upon the whole, that, though you would not prevent them from going, yet at the same Time you would not hold out Facilities and Inducements as long as there is a Quantity of Land here which might be beneficially cultivated by them?
I would rather that they were maintained at Home; but I am not sufficiently informed upon the Subject of Emigration to give an Opinion which is of much Value.
The Witness is directed to withdraw.
Ordered, That this Committee be adjourned to Tuesday next, at Twelve o'Clock.
to the EVIDENCE of FRANCIS PYM jun. Esquire.
To the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of - in the County of Cambridge.
BY an Order of the Court of Quarter Sessions holden for the County of Cambridge on the 16th Day of January 1829, I am directed to transmit to you the following Circular and Abstract of your Duties, concerning the Relief and Employment of the Paupers of your Parish.
The severe and increasing Burthen of the Poor's Rate, and the progressive Demoralization in the general Habits of the Poor in this County, have induced the Magistrates to investigate the Subject, with a view to ascertain the leading Causes of these lamentable Effects, and the proper Remedies which should be adopted for their Removal. Upon a full Examination of the Subject, the Magistrates are convinced that a very considerable Portion of the Evils to which they have alluded is attributable to the Want of a due Administration of the existing Poor Laws - to a Departure from the Injunctions of the early Statutes, which require the Churchwardens as well as the Overseers to take an active Part in the Management of the Poor - to the Neglect of some of the latest Enactments for the Employment of able-bodied Paupers - to the giving Relief (except by Loan) to the extravagant and profligate, and to the impolitic and pernicious System of making up Wages from the Poor's Rate.
In many Parishes in the Kingdom, where the Letter and Spirit of the Poor Laws have been strictly adhered to, and duly enforced by the Parochial Authorities, a large Reduction has been effected in the Amount of the Rates, and a considerable Improvement has taken place in the Condition and Moral Habits of the Poor. The Magistrates can perceive no Reason why equal Advantage should not arise from the Adoption of similar Measures in this County, and they feel confident, therefore, that the Churchwardens and Overseers will readily unite with them in endeavouring to abolish a System of administering the Poor Laws, under which the Poor's Rate has enormously increased, and the Character and Habits of the Poor have become generally demoralized. They are convinced, however, that the present System of leaving the whole Management of the Poor of a Parish to One Overseer - of making up any Deficiency of Wages from the Poor's Rate - of having the same Scale of Relief for the idle and dissolute as for the industrious and deserving - of employing Labourers in the Gravel Pits, without requiring any certain Quantity of Work to be performed - and of giving pecuniary Relief to able-bodied Paupers, without requiring any Work in return, must be discontinued, and a better Mode of relieving and employing them adopted, before any permanent Good can be produced.
The System which the Laws sanction, and the Magistrates earnestly recommend the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor in every Parish in the County rigidly to practise, is the following:
First.- That no Parish should leave the Management of the Poor to One Overseer; but that the Churchwardens and both the Overseers should meet frequently and consult together, (as they are required to do by the 43 Elizabeth, under the Penalty of 20s.) for supporting the sick and impotent, and for setting to work the able-bodied Poor who through Necessity are out of Employment, and the Children of those Parents who from their Families being large are unable to maintain them.
Secondly.-That no Person should be entered upon the Parish Books except at a Parish Meeting of the Inhabitants, or by the Majority of the Churchwardens and Overseers at such Meeting, when the Inhabitants do not attend, (unless in obedience to a legal Order of Magistrates,) in conformity with the 3d & 4th of William and Mary, Cap. 11, and the 9th George I, Cap. 7, which require every Addition to the Poor's List to be made only in such Manner, and impose a Penalty of £5 upon any Person who shall make an Entry in the Parish Books excepting at such Meeting, and direct all Monies paid under an illegal Entry to be struck out of the Accounts, and require, when any Person is put upon the Parish Book, the Reason of the Entry to be stated.
Thirdly.- That no able-bodied Pauper should be relieved with Money without being employed, and all the Sums so paid will be struck out of the Overseers Accounts. That all Work should be put out by the Grate - digging Gravel and breaking Stones by the Load - ditching, digging Land, scraping and lining the Roads, by the Pole - and a Price should be paid to the Parish Paupers something below the general Rate of Labour, that they may be induced to seek Work independent of the Parish. With a view to supply Employment to Paupers, the 59th Geo. III, Cap. 12, empowers every Parish to take, hire or purchase a Quantity of Land (not exceeding Twenty Acres) to be vested in the Churchwardens and Overseers, for the Benefit of the Parish; and such Land may be let out in small Portions to the Poor, for the Encouragement of Industry.
Fourthly.- That where the Applicants for Relief are Persons who but for their own Extravagance or wilful Misconduct might have supported themselves and their Families, it should only be administered by Loan under the 59th Geo. III, Cap. 12, Sec. 29. And such is the only legal Mode of relieving Persons who carry on a Trade, as a Bricklayer or Thatcher out of Work, &c.
Fifthly.- That in all Cases where the Parents or Children of impotent Persons claiming Relief are of sufficient Ability to support them, the 43d of Eliz. Cap. 2, Sec. 7, requiring them to do so, should be strictly enforced.
Sixthly.- That where a Parent goes away and leaves his Family to the Charge of the Parish, the Churchwardens should apply for a Warrant to seize the Goods and Chattels, under the 5th Geo. I, Cap. 8, as the best Means of preventing similar Desertion.
Seventhly.- That the Payments of all Sums of Money under Orders of Filiation should be legally enforced, whenever they become One Month in arrear; and in default of Payment, that the Overseers should not be deterred from imprisoning the Party on account of the Expence to which it might subject the Parish.
Whenever the Parish Officers think it proper to refuse Relief or Employment, and they are consequently summoned before the Magistrates, they are earnestly recommended to attend with the Applicant, as otherwise Relief or Employment might be ordered, which the Statement of the Overseers would render unnecessary.
As no pecuniary Benefits can be expected without Regularity and Accuracy in keeping the Parish Accounts, the following Arrangement is recommended in entering the Items of Expenditure and of Receipts:-
1. Money paid to the aged - impotent - Widows and Children who are incapable of working, and are constantly supported out of the Parish Funds, distinguishing the resident from the nonresident.
2. Money paid to Paupers working for the Parish.
3. Money paid for Tools - Materials to set the Poor to work - Clothing - Fuel - Food - Salaries of Assistant Overseer, Keeper of Workhouse, and Persons who are employed to instruct Female Children in Work.
4. Money paid for lunatic - occasional - and casual Poor.
5. Money paid for Medical Attendance - Funerals - Repair of Parish Houses - Rent of Houses for impotent Poor - and Rent of Land for Employment of the Poor.
6. Money paid for Maintenance and Care of Bastard Children - the Apprehension of putative Fathers - Orders of Filiation and Loans.
7. Money paid for Law Expences in Removal of Paupers - Attendance on Justices, &c.
8. Money paid for the County Rate - Parish Constables and Militia.
1. Money received as Balance from the last Overseers.
2. Money received by Rates and other Payments for the Use of the Poor.
3. Money received from Work, with the Description and Quantities of Work specified.
4. Money received by the Repayment of Loans, for the Maintenance of Bastard Children - and Rent of Land let out in small Allotments to the Poor.
Upon passing the Accounts, an Abstract should be inserted at the End of them, showing the whole Sum paid under each Head of the above Classification; and the Parish Books and Orders of Magistrates must be exhibited, to prove the Legality of the Entries, that the Magistrates before whom the Accounts are passed may strictly conform to the 50th Geo. III, Cap. 49, Sec. 1, which requires them to strike out all illegal and to reduce all excessive Charges.
The Magistrates are aware that the Introduction of this System will, for a Time, increase, not only their own Labour, but likewise that of the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor; they are however justified in asserting, from the good Effects it has produced in many Parishes, that the additional Trouble will eventually be amply repaid.
As the present Overseers Year is drawing to a Close, the Magistrates on passing their Accounts will only require the Amount of the different Items of Expenditure in each Parish to be distinctly stated at the End of them, and all Books to be produced which contain the Minutes of their Vestry or Parish Meetings.
I am, Gentlemen, Your obedient Servant, Clerk of the Peace.
P.S.- The Parish Officers are requested to affix this Circular to the Parish Book, in order that the same may be transmitted to their Successors.
APPENDIX (B.) to the EVIDENCE of FRANCIS PYM Jun. Esquire.