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 Martis, 14°Decembris 1830.
The Marquess of Salisbury in the Chair.
Thomas Partington Esquire is called in, and examined as follows:
Where do you reside?
At Offham, in the Parish of Hamsey, near Lewes, in the County of Sussex.
Are you the Chairman of the Quarter Sessions for the East Division of the County of Sussex?
I have had that Honour many Years.
How long have you turned your Attention to the Administration of the Poor Laws?
To a certain Degree I have ever since I have acted as a Magistrate.
How long is that?
About Twenty-five Years.
Do you recollect what were the Wages of Labour when Corn was at 25l. or 30l. a Load?
I think they were about from 12s. to 15s. a Week in Winter, and from 15s. to 18s. in Summer, and perhaps so as to average about 15s. through the Year. Besides this there was constant Employment for Women, and for Boys at an early Age, which lightened the Burden upon the Heads of the Families.
In what Year was Wheat at the Price that has been mentioned?
I think in the Years 1811, 1812, and 1813, the last Years of the War; sometimes more; I have known it as high as 40£. a Load; but for a considerable Space it was 12s. 6d. a Bushel, that is 25£. a Load.
What are the Wages Farmers give now to their regular Labourers in your District?
They vary; but I should think the Wages given by Farmers for some Years past would be from 10s. to 12s. in Winter, and from 13s. to 15s. in Summer, and probably averaging 12s. through the Year. For those going with Cattle, and therefore necessarily employed entirely at weekly Wages, I should think 12s. a Week, Winter and Summer, with an additional 20s. or 40s. for the Harvest Months, was the common Price. Other Labourers may receive from 10s. to 12s. a Week when employed at daily Wages; but they are employed, especially when they have Families, in Task Work, whenever there is an Opportunity; and during that Time they may, if they please, earn much more, and as much often as from 12s. to 15s. even in the Winter, and proportionably more in the Summer, so as to make their whole Earnings considerably more than those of the former Description. In several Parishes the Farmers have lately agreed to advance Wages, so as to secure to the able-bodied Labourer 13s. 6d. in Winter, and 15s. in Summer, and in some of those Parishes they declare that that is very little, if at all, more than they were able to earn before.
Are there many People out of Work in those Parishes?
That varies entirely in different Parishes. In the Parish in which I reside there are at present none out of Work. I have Reason to believe that Four Fifths of the Labourers in it are in regular Work; the Remainder, depending upon Chance Work, may be occasionally out of Employment; of this Number there are about Six or Seven that are employed by the Parish in digging and breaking Flints, and some in cutting Furze; they can earn by their Work 2s. a Day in good Weather; and they are principally Family Men. If they are prevented from Work by the Weather, they receive Assistance from the Parish; but if single Men, or Men with no Families, are employed in that Work, they must take the Chance of good and bad Weather. In the next adjoining Parish there are, or were a few Weeks ago, from Twenty to Thirty Men out of Employment; some were Men with Families, but the greater Part single Men; and many of them have been earning and spending large Wages in the Summer (many of them out of the Parish), and then coming in and throwing themselves upon the Parish for Support in the Winter. Of course few of those can be employed in profitable Labour either by the Farmers or by the Parish; when they can, they receive full Wages for what they do; but if the Parish is obliged to put them to Work which will not give a profitable Return, (which is done in some Instances in preparing Land for Cultivation by the Spade, or in bringing Stone or other Materials which will not fetch a Price adequate to the Labour of preparing them,) they confine themselves to giving them a bare Subsistence, and they make up the Deficiency, if they have Families, by Parish Allowances; but if they can make any profitable Return for their Labour, they have the full Advantage of it; and I believe that this is more or less the Case in all the Parishes within that District.
You have stated that the Spade had been resorted to in some Cases in preparing Land for Cultivation, and that it has not been found profitable; will you inform the Committee in what Way the Spade has been used, - what sort of Cultivation has been attempted by it?
The Parish I allude to particularly have taken a Piece of Land, upon which they employ surplus Labourers, when they have no other Work for them, in digging, at so much a Rod.
At what Wages were they so employed?
I do not know; I believe it was done at so much a Rod; and it was understood, in general, to be such Wages as would subsist them; perhaps they can earn about 6s. a Week.
Has any thing like a correct Account been kept of the Outlay upon the Land so cultivated, and a Return made?
I cannot answer that; I only know it from the general Statement I have heard from the Farmers in the Parish.
What is the Name of the Parish to which you allude?
How much Land has the Parish taken for that Purpose?
A few Acres. I know that they have done it, and I know it in this Way; when we have been discussing at the Sittings of Magistrates the Complaints of Men out of Work in that Parish particularly, we have of course recommended to the Overseers to find Work of some kind or other; and they stated to us at one Time that they had done that, and employed a certain Number of them in that Way, but that they did not consider it a beneficial Work, but merely as a Work for the Purpose of keeping the People.
A Return is shown to the Witness, and he is requested to fill it up for the Parishes with which he is acquainted. (See Appendix.)
Are the Parishes in your District in the habit of giving Relief to those Men who are in Work?
Certainly, to those who have large Families. Four Children are in most Cases considered so far a large Family as to authorize the Allowance of the Cottage Rent, and something for Fuel; and if there are Six (or in some Places Five) some further Allowance in Money and Flour. It is generally considered that from 2s. to 2s. 3d. a Head upon the whole of a Family per Week is necessary for the Support of a Family of Seven Children; probably where Wages have been raised, that will not be done to the same Extent.
Do you think that the Labourers that are now out of Employment, or that are employed on the Roads and Gravel Pits, could be profitably employed on the Farms if the Farmers could afford it?
I do not think they could; I do not think that, generally speaking, the Farmer could, by an additional Outlay of Capital in the Employment of Labourers, insure any adequate Return of Profit. The Rate of Profit, even upon the Capital first laid out upon Land, is so small, and the Position so well understood, that every successive Addition is attended with diminished Profit, that I cannot suppose that it would answer to do so to any Extent, although, perhaps, it might in some particular Cases. I wish to state that I give these Views with great Diffidence.
What is the Condition of the Labourers in your Part of the Country?
In most Parts of our District those who are in regular Work are very tolerably off.
Are they worse off than when Wheat was 25l. or 30l. a Load?
By no means. The Wages are, since that Time, not reduced more than from Fifteen to Twenty per Cent. but Corn is reduced from Thirty-five to Fifty, and most other Articles of Provision and Clothing from Twenty-five to Thirty or Forty. The principal Advantages which they then possessed, and have not now, were the Facility of getting Employment for Women and Children, and the greater Ease of getting Assistance from the Parish. The former I consider to have been a substantial Benefit; but the latter, it is to be feared, has helped to lead to the Distress now existing. These Observations, however, must be confined to those in regular Work: those who depend upon Chance Work are, in general, worse off than they were; they are likewise more numerous. While the Demand for Labour was large, they could readily obtain Employment at ample Wages; and the Calls for the Army and Militia kept down their Numbers. Now, as there is no increasing Demand for Agricultural Labour to meet the increase which has taken place in the Population, and no other Resource to draw it off, there must, therefore, remain a Surplus of unemployed Hands, who can earn scanty, if any Wages, or be left to throw themselves upon their Parishes for Support, for, of course, a bare Subsistence. I would likewise confine my Observations to the principal Part of the District in which I act as a Magistrate, which is composed of Parishes on or immediately under the South Downs, where the Land is of good Quality and the Farms extensive. In approaching towards the Weald, where the Land is poor, and the Farms small, and the Tenants have little or no Substance, I believe the Case is very different, - the Wages much lower, the Labourers of all Descriptions much worse off, and the Means of Employment still more scanty; but I should doubt whether, even here, those who are in regular Employment are not fully as well off as they were in the Times alluded to. In many of those, the Occupier and his Family do nearly all the Work necessary to raise whatever Produce can be raised and turned to a profitable Account. Of course there are scarcely any Means of employing Lábourers except at particular Times of the Year, or, when employed, of giving them adequate Wages.
Are the Men put upon the Highways more for the Purpose of giving them Employment than for the Repair of the Roads?
Although Men are often put upon the Highways with the immediate Object of giving them Employment, yet the Roads are nowhere in such a State as to make that Employment superfluous. It is frequently difficult to convince Farmers of the Benefit and the Saving to be attained by good Roads.
Is it the Practice to employ Men by Day or Task Work on the Roads?
I believe the Practice of employing Men in Task Work is very general, in Work to which it is applicable, on the Roads as well as otherwise. Of course there are some sorts which can only be done by the Day.
As the Law now is, would not a Man gain a Settlement by hiring and paying 10l. per Annum, though if he hired a Farm of 1,000l. per Annum, and only paid 999£., he would not gain a Settlement?
That is literally true. The Case is this: a Man, to gain a Settlement, must not only have taken Premises for a Year, at a Rent exceeding 10£., and occupied them for a Year, but he must likewise have paid a Year's Rent, according to the Contract; if, before he has done so, he becomes a Pauper, he gains no Settlement. That might easily be remedied by a Legislative Enactment, that if he had contracted for 10l. a Year, and occupied for a Year, and paid upwards of 10£. Rent, he should gain a Settlement; and I am not clear whether that might not have been the Meaning of the Legislature.
Do you believe that Friendly Societies are of much Service in your Part of the Country?
I am satisfied, if they were constructed upon proper Principles, and could be kept in Order, and not draw Persons into Dissipation at Public Houses, they would be a great Benefit; but they are certainly defective in all those Respects, particularly upon their Calculations, of which the Fallacy only appears when they come to have existed for any considerable Period. Many have been absolutely insolvent; and others, although apparently flourishing, have been found, upon Examination, to be fast approaching to the same State. I can give the History of a Friendly Society in my own Neighbourhood, in which they have determined to dissolve themselves, though they have, apparently, a Fund of 4,000l. Upon Examination, there was very little Doubt but that the State of the Funds was such, that, though they could go on very well for a certain Time, yet, in the Course of Fifteen or Twenty Years, when a Number of old Men came upon them, they would be found insufficient, and therefore it was thought better to give back the Money.
In point of fact, is not there generally a Clause in those Friendly Societies to prevent Men from dissolving, or from changing the Place of Meeting?
Not from changing the Place of Meeting; the Place of Meeting may generally be changed by the Consent of the Society; and the Clause prohibiting dissolving is so long as the Purposes of the Society can be attained.
Does not the present Administration of the Poor Laws tend to the Encouragement of early and improvident Marriages?
I have no doubt that it does; if a Man can marry, and be sure that all his Family will be provided for by the Parish, it naturally has that Effect; though from what we know in another Country it is not the only Cause which may produce that Effect. With regard to Marriages, there is one Circumstance that increases very much the Number of early improvident Marriages, and that is the Practice of driving a Man who is sworn to be the Father of an expected Bastard Child, by the Dread of Imprisonment, to marry the Woman. This is constantly almost resorted to, where the Man belongs to a different Parish from the Woman, for the sake of getting rid of her altogether.
Are there any other Means by which the Poor Laws operate to produce the Effect of inducing improvident Marriages?
I said I thought they had done so generally, by the Circumstance of a Man finding that he could ensure a Provision for his Family out of the Poor Rates; and I know that there are Instances in which they have done so. I have known Instances where that has been the Case, where Men have absolutely married, as they call it, to spite the Parish, in order to get better Wages and larger Allowances.
In the Parish in which you reside, how many Labourers are kept in constant Employment per Hundred Acres in the Winter Months?
I have had no Time to make Inquiries, and therefore my Answer must be very uncertain; but I did inquire on Sunday, and I was told, that in the Parish where I reside there were a Hundred Labourers constantly employed on about 2,200 Acres of Land, and of that 2,200 there are 600 Down Land, which require little Cultivation, so that we may call it almost One to Eighteen Acres.
What is the Population of your Parish?
The Population on the last Return was 537. I made an Inquiry of some of the Officers on Sunday, and they said that the present Population was only 554; but they probably could not have accurate Means of taking it.
How many Men are out of Employment in that Parish in the Winter?
Few, if any.
How many in Summer?
Scarcely any; except, accidentally, a Pauper, who is brought Home from another Parish, may be some Time in getting into Work.
What does an able-bodied Man earn in the Harvest Months generally?
I think he will earn from 4l. to 5l.
What would his Wife get by leasing or gleaning?
That is very uncertain; it depends upon the State of the Weather and other Things; sometimes they pick up very little; in a large Family, I think, they pick up enough to serve them for, perhaps, Three Weeks.
What do the Labourers live upon principally?
They live principally upon Wheaten Flour in the Shape of Bread or Puddings, Bacon or pickled Pork constantly, and occasionally some other Meat. There are few of them who do not consume more or less Butter and Cheese; Milk when they can get it, but rarely; Tea very universally, and in considerable Quantities. They do not drink Beer in their own Houses. Their Wives and Families partake nearly the same Food as themselves. These Remarks I wish only to apply to my Parish and the Districts near it, but I believe that the Habits of most in our District are nearly similar. I do not mean to apply it to other Parts of the County, particularly to the Weald.
What is the Price of such Tea as they drink?
About 5s. a Pound; but they get it dearer by buying it in small Quantities in the Chandler's Shop.
What is the Price of the Quartern Loaf in your District?
The Labourers mostly bake their own Bread; and reckoning Flour at 1s. 6d. the Gallon, which is the present Price, or perhaps rather above it, it comes to about 2½d. a Pound, 10d. the Fourpound Loaf; about 10½d. the Quartern.
Yours is not a Smuggling District, is it?
Not very much; I do not think we have any in our Parish at present: but in some of the neighbouring Parishes there is a good deal.
Have the Rents been reduced in your District since Wheat was 25l. or 30l. a Load?
Certainly, they have, very considerably; all Rents that were raised in the War have been considerably reduced; I do not know that they are reduced to quite what they were before.
As compared with the Year 1792, should you think that the Rents are reduced?
They are certainly not reduced as compared with what they were at that Time; but as far as the Circumstance relates to myself, if I may mention it, I can give an Illustration of it. A Farm which was let in the Year 1795, and unfortunately for me for a Twentyone Years Lease, which came out in 1816, the present Rent of it is not Fifteen per Cent. more than it was in 1795, but it was raised something in 1816 from 1795; and since that, it has had a small Reduction.
Do you consider the Land much more profitable to the Cultivator than it was at that Time, by improved Cultivation?
I do not know how it can be more profitable to the Cultivator in a Part of the Country where the Cultivation was thoroughly improved; and I am afraid in many Places where the Cultivation was high at that Time it has gone down. It is less fully cultivated than it had been, by reason of Capital not producing so good a Profit; I know it is in some Cases.
Do the Farmers keep less Stock?
I do not know that they do materially; not in the District I speak of.
What is the Rent of Cottages in your District?
From 3l. to 4l. 10s.; and those generally have small Pieces of Garden, in which they can raise some Vegetables for their Families.
How large are the Gardens usually?
Perhaps Half a Rood. There are some that are rather less Rent. The Cottages I speak of, and, generally, the Cottages about us, are substantial Buildings, and I suppose they would cost 80l. or 100l. to build.
Has there been any Reduction in the Rent of those Cottages since Wheat was 25£. or 30£. a Load?
No, there has not; nor was there any Rise upon them at that Time. I believe the Rents of Cottages are very much what they were Thirty Years ago.
Are the Cottages generally let with the Farms?
A certain Portion of them are; each Tenant has the Cottages annexed to his Farm for his own Labourers; but there are a great many Cottages which do not belong to Farms.
Those Tenants who have received Deductions from their Landlords, have they reduced to the Labourers the Rents of the Cottages?
I do not suppose they have.
Is Fuel dear in your Part of the Country?
We principally burn Coal at about from 38s. to 40s. a Chaldron, and by Retail it must be something more; but, as far as we can, we recommend them to get Half a Chaldron at a Time, and some Farmer will generally give them the Carriage of it.
Does that 38s. or 40s. include the Carriage?
No, it does not; we have not above Two Miles Carriage to our Part of the Country; it comes by the Sea to Newhaven; it is brought up in Barges to Lewes, and that is the Price at Lewes. In other Places it comes up by Canals, at a little more Charge.
Has that Part of the Country been disturbed?
There has been no Violence immediately around us; there have, in some Parishes, been Meetings to demand an increase of Wages, which has been, to a certain Extent, acquiesced in.
Is it near the Coast that you reside?
About Ten Miles from the Coast.
What Portion of the Population is engaged in Fishery?
None; there are no Fisheries except from Brighton, and a little from Eastbourne, and a good deal from Hastings.
You have said that the Rents of Farms are reduced considerably, but you do not think they are reduced so low as they were in the Year 1792; do you think, if you allowed a fair Interest for the Money that has been expended upon them in Buildings and Improvements since that Time, that they are not quite as low as in 1792?
I can only speak from general Information.
You have stated that Labourers upon the Lands in the Weald of Sussex are in a worse Condition than in your Neighbourhood; are any of those Lands thrown out of Cultivation?
I do not know that there are any Lands absolutely thrown out of Cultivation; there is a great deal of Land, I believe, in Places that is but partially cultivated; and I believe in some Places Land is laid down for rough Stock, on which some Corn was grown formerly.
How do you account for it, that Land which was formerly cultivated to produce Corn is now laid down for rough Stock?
From the Prices being such that there cannot be a Return for the Capital laid out in inferior Lands; but I do not think it goes to a great Extent.
Has not that been the Occasion of many Persons being turned out of Employ?
It must be so of course where there is not Employment.
Even in the Lands that are continued to be cultivated, and cultivated with some Spirit, are as many Persons employed upon them as there were formerly?
I should think scarcely so many; but certainly not more, so as to find Employment for the additional Population.
You said that in your Parish there are 600 Acres of poor Land which require less Cultivation than the better Land. If poor Land is cultivated, does not it require the Employment of more Labourers than Land of a better Quality?
That Land is valuable Land as Sheep Down, but it would not be worth Cultivation at all now; and even formerly it was very much doubted whether as a permanent Measure too much Down Land had not been broken up for Cultivation in Corn.
Does not the Cultivation of poor Land, for the Purpose of producing Corn, require the Employment of more Labourers than the same Quantity of good Land?
I should think not.
You have said that the Difference in the Condition of the Poor now arises partly from the Circumstance of the Women and Boys not having Employment as they had formerly; what has occasioned that Difference?
There not being the Demand for Labour; all the Labour that is wanted the Men can do; formerly they were glad to employ the Women and Boys.
You have spoken of Spade Husbandry; is that carried on to any great Extent?
No; it is only a little Piece by way of Experiment, and merely to give the Men something to do.
You have spoken of the Deficiency of the Farmers Capital, and you have admitted that if they had Capital they could not employ all the Labourers now profitably; can you suggest any Course that can be taken for the Purpose of giving them the Means of employing an additional Number?
Certainly not; the Reason they cannot employ an additional Number I conceive to be that that additional Number will not bring back a remunerating Profit according to the present Prices of Corn.
Then the only Way in which they could be enabled to employ a greater Number of Persons would be by raising the Prices of Produce?
The only Way in which they could be enabled to employ a greater Number of Persons would be by their obtaining a better Price for their Commodity.
Were you correctly understood to state it as a received Doctrine, that every Addition of Capital laid out in the Improvement of Land would diminish the Rate of Profit derived from that Land?
Certainly, after a certain Extent; for instance, if the first Thousand Pounds that is laid out will return Twelve per Cent. and if 500£. more is laid out upon the Land, it would not return above Nine or Ten. I conceive that the additional Capital laid out in Land operates just in the same Way as taking successively worse Land into Cultivation; the Profit of the Capital employed in each Case diminishing according to the Extent of it.
Do you mean to say that there is not a given Point up to which additional Capital can be as profitably laid out upon Land as the original 1,000£. you have mentioned?
It depends upon what State of Cultivation the Farm is brought into. There is a certain Quantity of Capital that is necessary to get the best Profit out of the Land; but when that is obtained, every successive Addition, though it may bring some Profit, will bring less Profit, in a gradually descending Scale.
Is the Land in your immediate Neighbourhood brought to that State, that no additional Capital can be laid out upon it profitably?
I think it is, at the present Prices.
Are the Rates in your immediate Neighbourhood levied purely upon Agricultural Property?
They are principally, almost entirely, except in Towns,-in the Town of Lewes. In the Country Parishes there are a few Tradesmen whose Shops and Warehouses and Houses are rated; but the Bulk of the Rates are levied upon the Land.
Are the Committee to understand that the Proportion of Rates levied upon other than Agricultural Property is so trifling as not to form a material Consideration with respect to those Country Parishes?
In Parishes purely Agricultural it is.
Is not the whole Population, then, in such Parishes, at present supported out of the Agricultural Produce?
Nearly so: but the whole Population is employed either immediately in Agricultural Labour, or in that Labour which is subsidiary to Agriculture; for instance, the Carpenters and the Blacksmiths are employed by the Farmer in making and repairing his different Articles; so that they may be said to be subsidiary to the Agriculturist.
And therefore the whole Population is supported out of the Agricultural Profits?
I think it is; there is no other Property to bear it.
You have stated that those Agricultural Labourers who have full Employment receive full Wages; what Proportion of those full Wages do the Persons employed by the Parish, or rather who are out of Employment, receive?
That must depend upon the Circumstances of each individual Parish; if the Work can make any profitable Return, those who are employed by the Parishes receive full Wages; if it cannot, they pay them such small Wages as they consider necessary for Subsistence.
In your Opinion are the Persons employed by the Parishes profitably employed?
In some Instances they are.
Will you have the goodness to state what Employment they are engaged in?
Often upon the Roads, or different Circumstances connected with them; for instance, in what I mentioned before, where there is an Opportunity in digging and preparing Flints for the Roads in general, which they sell to the Turnpike Trusts. That is a profitable Employment, for which they are paid by Task Work at such a Rate that they can earn fair Wages, little less than when engaged in farming.
Are there many Persons out of Employment who cannot be so employed in profitable Employment?
In many Parishes there are, as I before stated; but a very great Part, at least, of those are Men who, having earned good Wages in Summer, come and throw themselves on the Parish in Winter. I can even go further; we have many Cases before us in that District of Men coming and demanding Employment from the Parish, who have thrown themselves out of good Work by their Misbehaviour or Idleness.
What do you do with those Men?
We direct the Parishes to find them some Work, and such as to find them a bare Subsistence; of course if they have Families, what they cannot earn by that sort of Work must be made up by the Parish.
Then those Individuals do not suffer for their Misconduct?
They do to a considerable Degree, for they have that bare Subsistence; for instance, a single Man who has thrown himself out of Work, having had very good Work, earning 10s. a Week, they order him to be found such Work as he can earn 6s., which will barely support him; if he has a Family, still they allow that Family short of what they might receive from his Earnings if he behaved himself properly.
Would it not be better for the Farmer to employ more Labourers at full Wages, and to receive the Profit arising from such Employment, than to pay a Proportion of them for comparatively unprofitable Labour?
If the Work was comparatively unprofitable, it would; it must depend upon whether the Work is comparatively unprofitable or not. The Work on which they are employed by the Parish is not such as produces no Return, although it does not produce sufficient Return; therefore the whole must be a Question of Comparison, because Work may be done on a Farm which may produce a very deficient Return as well as the other Work.
Does not Parish Employment in general produce no Return whatever?
I think in many Cases it does produce a considerable Return.
In what Cases?
I have mentioned some; for instance, preparing Materials for Roads. I think there is no Work, or very seldom that is the Case, which does not make some Return, though a small one.
Then in your Neighbourhood a System which has been represented to exist in other Parts of the Country does not exist, namely, that the Poor People employed by the Parish only do nominal Work, and not real Work?
I do not think it does to any Extent; it may to a small one. I remember one instance where no Work could be found, and there were certain Persons who had thrown themselves out of Work, and the Parish set them to turn a Grindstone to sharpen Tools; but that was a Case of Two or Three Persons who could not work to any Profit.
You have stated that improvident Marriages greatly arise from the Operation of the Laws relating to Bastardy; will you suggest any Improvement that occurs to you upon that Subject?
It is difficult to suggest an Improvement, certainly, but perhaps the Object might be attained by the Party charged in the first instance putting down what would pay for the lying in and the first Expences, and after the Order being made, continuing it as it is now. The Mischief is done by subjecting him to Imprisonment before the Birth, unless he can get Security, which scarcely in any instance can be done by the Labourer. The Law, as it stands, after Birth compelling him to pay a certain weekly Sum, and subjecting him to Imprisonment if he does not pay that, is not objectionable; but the Mischief arises out of the Imprisonment before Birth. The Parish make use of that not only for the Purpose of securing him, but, in fact, to get rid of their Pauper, by compelling a Man belonging to another Parish to marry her, even though a Prostitute with whom he has had an occasional Connection.
Has not that Practice, of your own Knowledge, rendered many a good and industrious Labourer an idle and unworthy Member of Society?
I can have no doubt of it.
Is not the Difficulty of finding Bail very much increased by its being supposed that the Bail are to be bound not only for the Appearance of the Man at the Quarter Sessions, but also for the Order that may be made upon him by the Quarter Sessions?
It is understood that the Bail are bound for him to appear at the Quarter Sessions, and to pay what is there ordered to be paid, but not to the future Payments, but only up to the Time of the Quarter Sessions. There is a Doubt upon that Subject; but I believe that is the general Understanding of the Law. It was clearly otherwise under the former Law; but the Understanding under the last Act of Parliament is, that it only extends to what is immediately directed by the Quarter Sessions.
Are there not very considerable Expences attending the Case being brought to the Quarter Sessions to obtain the Order?
The Cases are very seldom brought to the Quarter Sessions: the Order is made by Two Magistrates before the Sessions, and then when the Party is brought up to the Sessions, if he has paid all the Money up to that Time, the Recognizance is discharged; if he has not, then the Recognizance is a Security to the Extent of what is due to that Time upon the Order.
Are not the Expences at such Quarter Sessions very considerable?
The Expences are not considerable if the Order is made by the Magistrates, and the Recognizance only returned. If the Order is made at the Quarter Sessions, it is attended with very considerable Expence; in fact, that is seldom done except where the Magistrates before whom the Party is brought see that it is a doubtful Case; they will then sometimes, if they think there is a fair Defence, refuse to make an Order, but direct the Parish to apply to the Sessions, in order that it may be brought on then between the Parties, instead of putting the Man to an additional Expence of an Appeal.
In your Opinion, would it be beneficial to permit a Party to compound with the Parish Officers for a certain Sum?
That is a Question upon which very great Doubts exist, and I know that the most respectable Authorities in the Law think that it is a mischievous Practice. I own I cannot myself concur in that Opinion; I cannot but think that the Practice of Composition might often be advantageous to all Parties. There are many instances in which it is the only effectual Means of getting at those who have the Means of paying; take the Instance of a Gentleman's Servant; if there is an Order to be made for him to pay a few Shillings a Week, he goes, after a short Time, to some other Service in a distant Part of the Country, and you never get at him; whereas if he paid 20£. or 30£., the Parish would be effectually relieved.
Is not, in Practice, the Order of Sessions for weekly Maintenance generally evaded by the Party absconding or being unable to pay?
It is very much so; and I should observe that at present, however long the Party has been away, and whatever Arrear he has run into, it is all satisfied by Three Months Imprisonment. If the Arrear is but 10s., if he cannot pay it, he is subject to Three Months Imprisonment; but if the Arrear is 50l., and the Parish cannot catch him 'till he has incurred that Arrear, still he satisfies the whole up to that Time by the like Three Months Imprisonment.
Is the Order of Maintenance that is made upon the Woman generally complied with?
If the Woman gets into a good Place, and cannot take care of the Child, it is generally or partially. The Orders, generally, are so much upon the Man, and so much upon the Woman, provided she does not nurse the Child herself: if the Woman takes care of the Child, that is considered as a Satisfaction of her Portion of the Maintenance.
Is it not very frequently evaded by her entirely?
I think not; I think where the Woman gets into a good Situation, it is not; and the Parish consider, if she gets into any favourable Situation, whether it is not better to take very little from her, if they can get Payment from the Father, rather than force her to come back to the Parish to take care of the Child, in which Case they must very nearly provide for her as well as the Child.
Is not a Bastard Child generally made a Pretence for the Woman either receiving a weekly Allowance out of the Workhouse, or being brought into it?
The Mother of a Bastard Child frequently receives from the Parish the Allowance which is or ought to be paid by the Father, and she then takes the Expence of keeping it upon herself.
Does not she frequently receive considerable additional Relief from the Parish?
I think not.
Was there ever any manufacturing Employment for the Women or Children in your Division?
There was a little Spinning, but to a very trifling Amount.
Was it formerly considered a sufficient Resource for a Woman?
I think not; sometimes they were employed in knitting Stockings for their own Families, and sometimes spinning to a slight Degree.
Do you find that the Cottagers who are in full Employment have deteriorated at all in their Mode of living of late Years?
Certainly very much the contrary. I can remember them Forty Years ago, and the Cottagers certainly did not live nearly so well as they do now.
When Wheat was 30l. a Load, that is, 15s. a Bushel, how much Wheat did the weekly Earnings of the Labourer then supply him with?
Fifteen Shillings would buy a Bushel of Wheat.
At the present Time what Quantity of Wheat does his Average Earnings supply him with?
Considering the Average Earnings at 12s., that would be from a Bushel and a Third to a Bushel and a Half.
And therefore the Labourers are better off with their present Wages than they were in those high Times?
Those that are in full Work are.
Are there more People out of Employment now than were at that Time?
Yes; there were scarcely any out of Work at that Time; and, as I said before, the Women and Children got a good deal more than they do now.
Were the Farmers the Persons who employed that additional Work at that Time?
The Farmers must have been the Persons, almost entirely; the Artificers, of course, Carpenters and Blacksmiths, might have more Work, and therefore they might have employed rather more.
Has there been any Decrease of Rents in your Parish lately?
Not lately; there have been occasional Reductions.
Have the Farmers, in consequence of the Reduction of Rents, employed more Labourers than they did before?
They have been merely temporary Reductions.
Are the fixed Rents now as high as they were Ten Years ago?
I think Ten Years ago was the Time when there were most considerable Abatements.
Fifteen Years ago?
The Rents are certainly by no means so high as they were Fifteen Years ago, except in particular instances: where Rents have been set any Time between the Years 1806 and 1814, they are considerably, I think I may say universally, reduced now.
Can you state any thing like the Proportion?
No, I cannot; I only know it generally.
Was the Consequence of that Reduction of Rent an increased Employment of Labourers by the Farmers?
I do not think it was.
You have stated that there were Cases of Persons having voluntarily thrown themselves out of Work and coming to the Parish for Relief; in such Cases do those Persons receive Relief from the Parish?
The Parish is directed to find some Labour for them, which will barely subsist them, and no more.
Upon what Principle do Magistrates order the Parish to relieve such Persons?
Because we conceive that no Man must be left to starve; but we go no further.
If the Fault by which he is thrown out of Employment is his own, how do you conceive that the Law obliges you to make any Order upon the Subject?
I do not know that it obliges us; we recommend it.
Did you ever know an instance of an Overseer refusing to relieve a Person, or to give a Person Work, under those Circumstances?
I have not of their refusing to relieve to this Extent.
Do you remember any instance that you gave a regular Order for their Employment or for Relief to the Extent of Subsistence?
Do you remember any One instance?
I do not. We have sometimes said to an Overseer, "If you do not do this, we must make an Order."
Supposing the Overseer had refused to obey this Order, in what Manner would you have proceeded to enforce it?
If he refused to find him Work, we then should feel justified in making an Order for him to pay a certain Sum sufficient to keep him from starving. If that Order was disobeyed, we should conceive ourselves authorized to inflict the Penalty which the Statute of Elizabeth gives for refusing to obey an Order of Justices, I think 40s. Upon Reflection, I think there is not such a Penalty, but the Proceeding must be by Indictment.
Do you not conceive that giving Relief to a Person who voluntarily throws himself out of Work is entirely contrary to the whole Spirit of the Poor Laws?
I do not think it is. If a Man is in that Situation that he must either starve or steal, I should not think that it was against the Spirit of the Law if it went no further than actually to secure him the Means of Life.
Then according to your view of the Subject, there is nothing to prevent any Man in the Country throwing himself upon the Poor Laws?
It may be very difficult to prevent it; but, of course, a Magistrate would put him in such a Situation that if he does it, it is at great Distress to himself.
Supposing a Man in good Employment voluntarily to throw himself out of Employ, does not that Man neglect his Wife and Family, and by that means become a Vagrant?
Most undoubtedly. If he has a Wife and Family, we should then proceed against him for not using his Endeavours to maintain them, for which he is liable to Imprisonment.
Then the Relief given to Labourers throwing themselves out of Employment is confined to single Persons?
It would be to single Persons that it would be most likely to be applicable.
Do you think that the relieving single Persons who so conduct themselves is at all consonant with the Spirit of the Poor Laws?
I stated before, that where the Option is between starving and stealing, to give such Relief as is absolutely necessary to prevent that would not be varying from the Spirit of the Poor Laws.
Would not the Difficulty arise upon this, whether the Man did voluntarily throw himself out of Employment or not; and if he did, you would consider him a disorderly Person?
Do you consider a Person so throwing himself out of Work liable to Punishment as neglecting to support his Family?
Certainly, if he has a Family.
Has not a Man a Right to throw himself out of Work unless he has made a Contract with his Master?
If he has a Right to throw himself out of Work, it is upon the Principle, that if he does not work, he has no Right to demand any thing to eat.
In case of the Family applying for Relief, may he not be punished for deserting them?
Certainly, for not providing for them. There are Two different Divisions of the Offence; one is for deserting them, which subjects the Party to Punishment as a Vagabond; the other is for not exerting himself to support them, or squandering what he does receive, and not applying it to his Family, which subjects him to an inferior Degree of Punishment as an idle and disorderly Person. In general, in those sorts of Cases that are alluded to, when a Man has thrown himself out of Work, we say to the Overseers, "Do something to keep him from starving, but no more; make him work as hard for that as if he was earning good Wages."
You have said that the Reduction of Rent did not produce increased Employment; was that occasioned by a Reduction in Prices at the same Time?
The Reduction of Rent followed on the Reduction of Prices.
When the Rent was reduced, did not the Prices of Agricultural Produce fall still lower?
I think they did.
Was not that the Reason why the Farmers, though they were relieved with respect to the Rent, were not able to employ more Labourers?
I believe it was.
You have spoken of the Poor Rate in the Town of Lewes being levied upon Shops and Warehouses; do you know whether the Tradesmen in the Town of Lewes, besides being rated upon their Shops and Warehouses, are also rated upon their Stock in Trade?
Certainly not; the Practice has never been to rate Stock in Trade.
You say that formerly there was a little Spinning and Knitting; what has occasioned there being no Spinning and Knitting now?
Because those Articles are made so much cheaper by Machinery; but it never was to any Extent, and Thirty Years ago it scarcely answered.
You have been understood to state that the Average Wages in your Neighbourhood at present would enable a Labourer to purchase a greater Quantity of Corn than the Average Wages Fifteen Years ago would do, but that the Family, the Women and Children, could not earn as much now as they did at that Time. Do you consider that the greater proportional Amount of Wages earned by the Men now makes up for what is lost by the Women and Children not earning so much?
I think it more than makes it up; and I think so because, at that Time, Men even with Two Children, certainly with Three, would come for and receive Assistance from the Parish; but at present the Parish never listen to a Case of that sort unless there are at least Four Children, except there is some Illness; for instance, if the Wife is unhealthy.
You have said that, in your Parish, there was no great Proportion of Labourers beyond that which could be employed in Agriculture; is that the Case in other Parishes in your Neighbourhood?
In some it is; it varies very much; in the adjoining Parish there are between Twenty and Thirty Men out of Employment.
Generally speaking, in your District are the Quantity of Labourers more than can be employed profitably at Agriculture?
I should think that, taking the whole District, they are. There is one Circumstance to be considered: about Twenty Years ago there was a great Stimulus to the Population, as appears by the Returns of 1811 and 1821. That Population is now just coming into active Existence, and are calling for Work; and, on the other Hand, even if there was a Demand for the same Produce, that would not require more Labourers, and therefore the Means of Labour that existed then would be sufficient to produce the same Produce now; and we know that there is not a greater Demand for Agricultural Produce than there was at the Time of the War, but less.
Can you look forward to any Circumstances under which the surplus Population can be profitably employed in Agriculture?
You are aware that, in the Weald of Sussex, there is a considerable surplus Population?
Very much indeed.
Under those Circumstances of Over-population, do you conceive it possible that the Poor Rates in this particular District can be diminished?
I am not aware of any Mode by which they can be diminished.
Have you ever turned your Mind to the possibility of inducing some of that Over-population to emigrate?
I have often thought of it, and I should conceive, if it could be properly arranged, that it would be the most effectual Method of providing for that superabundant Population.
Supposing that, by some Means, that Over-population could be got rid of; do you conceive that there are any Regulations by which the Vacuum that would be thereby occasioned might be prevented from being filled up?
It would be a Matter of great Difficulty, and, I am sure, I cannot presume to suggest any such Regulations; but, at the same Time, I should think that there might be Regulations adopted in different Parishes which might discourage too early Marriages, and might, by Degrees, bring the Population more nearly to a Level with the Means of Employment; and, perhaps, in some Degree, that System is arising now: but a great deal upon that Subject will be known from the Result of the next Population Returns.
But, at all Events, no Regulations can have the Effect of diminishing the Poor Rates so long as that Over-population exists?
I should think not.
Have you been much affected by the Three last wet Seasons?
The present Year has been a very favourable one to us upon the Downs; we have had a very fair Crop, and yielding tolerably well; but at a very little Distance from us, when you get towards the Weald, even in the Parish that I alluded to just now, the Case is entirely different. I suppose that a great deal of Land there has not yielded more than Two Quarters of Wheat an Acre; and the Two Years before were exceeding bad Years every where, both on the Downs and in the Weald. The Harvest of the Year before last was one of the most expensive ever known; very little of the Wheat could be reaped under 17s. or 18s. or 20s. an Acre, and the Crop, when it was got in, was very deficient. This Year it has been otherwise as to the Down District, but very bad as to the other Part; it is nearly One Third deficient.
In your Experience, has the Quantity of Cases tried upon Appeal at the Sessions upon the Poor Rates increased or diminished?
I think those that have been tried have been very few; there have been many entered, but always made up.
Have there been more tried of late Years than there were when you originally began to act as Chairman of the Quarter Sessions?
I think not.
Do you attribute that to the Circumstance of the Magistrates understanding the Law better than they formerly did, or to any Alteration in the State of the Law?
No; because the Appeals upon Poor Rates must relate principally to Matters of Fact: it is a Question of Value in general.
In point of fact, are you of Opinion that there are as many Appeals or as many Disputes upon the Decisions of Magistrates at the Sessions as there used to be formerly?
Certainly; the Number of Cases brought to the Sessions upon Settlements are considerably increased, not within the last Eight or Ten Years, but they are very much increased since I first acted as a Magistrate. There is one Act of Parliament which has relieved us considerably, and that is an Act with regard to a Taking of Ten Pounds a Year. That has lessened the Number considerably. It used to be a Question of Value, whether it was actually worth, in which they generally brought Surveyors on both Sides.
Do not the permanent Overseers contribute to diminish the Appeals?
I should think they did.
The Witness is directed to withdraw.
The Reverend Henry Foulis is called in, and examined as follows:
You are a Magistrate in Lincolnshire?
Where do you reside?
About Ten Miles from Lincoln, at Wragby.
Have you turned your Attention to the Administration of the Poor Laws in your Neighbourhood?
A good deal.
Is it to the Parish of Wragby particularly that you have turned your Attention, or to the Division for which you act as a Magistrate?
To the Division for which I act as a Magistrate.
Does the Practice prevail in your District of paying the Wages of Labour out of the Poor Rate?
In some large Parishes, where there are no Gentlemen resident; but I do not think it is much the Custom in the small Parishes.
Can you state any Parish where that Practice has particularly prevailed?
At Tattersall and Bardney and Coningsby.
Can you state what Quantity of Acres there are in those Parishes, and the Amount of the Population?
I cannot state in Tattersall and Coningsby; but in the Parish of Bardney there are about 5,000 Acres, and the Population is about 1,000.
What are the Rates in the Pound?
In Bardney about 6s. on Two Thirds of the Rack Rental; last Year, in Tattersall and Coningsby, about 8s.
Can you state what is the common Rate of Wages in the Parish of Bardney for Labourers in full Employment?
About 2s. 6d. a Day at present for good able-bodied Men, and more in the Summer.
Is it the Practice to afford any Relief to the Labourers in full Employment, in proportion to their Families?
I think not, generally speaking.
Are there many Labourers out of Employment in the Winter Months?
Yes; there is a superabundant Population, which are employed upon the Roads, or in any Way to keep them from being idle, but not with a profitable Return.
Can you state to what Extent that surplus Population existed last Year?
How much were they paid?
About 20d. a Head per Day; but they were paid rather according to their Families; some that had large Families got more, from 20d. to 2s. a Day.
In what Way were they employed?
They were employed mostly on the Roads and in the Gravel Pits; they were bandied about from one to another, going first to one Farmer, and he said "I do not want them," and then to another.
Is your Parish principally Grass or Arable Land?
There is a Portion of Wood Land in it, but it is principally Arable.
Have any Attempts been made to introduce any thing like Spade Cultivation in that Parish?
I believe nothing of the sort.
Is there any Gentleman residing there?
How long have you found this surplus Population to exist?
About Two or Three Years.
Are you aware of any Cause that has produced it?
The Farmers have not Capital to employ Labourers; although I have no doubt there are not so many Labourers there as could be profitably employed, because, when you consider a Population of 1,000 as compared with 5,000 Acres, it is only One Person to Five Acres, which is certainly not too great a Proportion.
Has the Population increased much of late Years in your Parish?
I believe it has.
Has that produced any Effect in throwing so many Persons out of Employment?
I should think it has; but I attribute it to there being a great many poor Farmers, so that the Land is under-cultivated.
Do you think that more Labourers might be profitably employed for the Purpose of cultivating the Land?
I have no doubt of it.
You have stated an instance of a Parish badly managed; can you state an instance of a Parish in your Division which you consider to be differently managed, and what the Results have been in that Parish?
In my own Parish I am rather particularly circumstanced, for the whole of it belongs to a Cousin of mine, and the Poor's Rates do not amount to 3s. upon Two Thirds of the Rack Rent; and we give the Poor Gardens and little Accommodations.
What is the Amount of the Acreage?
There are about 1,500 Acres, and the Population about 700
What Proportion of the Population, according to the last Census, are employed in Agriculture?
I can hardly state that.
Does the Practice there prevail of paying any Part of the Wages out of the Poor Rate?
No; I have decidedly stopped it.
Are there any Persons out of Employment during the Winter Months?
No; without it is decrepid old Men; there are no able bodied Men.
You have stated that the Property belonged to a Relation of yours; does he employ any supernumerary Labourers, or does he merely employ his fair Share as any other Cultivator?
He adopted the System of Tile-draining very much upon his Estate, in which a vast Number of People are employed both in Summer and Winter; in the neighbouring Parishes round there are a great many People employed in the Winter Months in preparing Clay.
What are the Wages earned by those Persons?
About 15s. a Week.
You have stated that you have given the Poor small Gardens; can you state any particular Results of that Spade Cultivation?
I think it is a great Advantage to them; it enables them to keep their Pigs, and it keeps them at Home in the Evening instead of going to Public Houses. I think that in every point of view it is a considerable Benefit.
Have you any particular Plot of Land which is appropriated for the Purpose of granting Gardens to the Poor, or are the Gardens by Chance attached to the Cottages?
Many of them are attached to the Cottages; but we have taken a Field, and divided it into Gardens for the Poor, and given them to the Persons best deserving them.
What is the Extent of that Field?
About a Couple of Acres divided into a Rood apiece.
At what Rent do you grant it?
About 10s. a Rood.
In what Way is that cultivated by the Cottagers?
We do not at all restrict them as to Cultivation; they use it as Gardens, and the Produce is principally consumed by their Families; it consists of Potatoes and Vegetables.
Have you it in your Power to make a Statement of the Produce of those Gardens for any given Period?
I could easily procure a Statement, but I am not able to make one now.
What pecuniary Advantage do you suppose this Rood of Ground produces to the Cottager?
I should think it was worth Three or Four Times as much to them as the Rent they pay, at least.
Are they enabled upon so small a Quantity of Ground to keep more than a Pig?
About One Pig is as much as they keep.
What Rent do they pay for their Cottages?
About 3l. 10s. with a Garden added.
Are the Rents of the Cottages ever paid out of the Poor's Rates?
In Two or Three Instances they have been when Persons have been ill, and have been prevented from paying them.
Have they ever been paid by the Parish on the Ground of the Extent of the Individuals Families?
Yes, they have been assisted in that Way sometimes.
What Number in the Family should you deem sufficient to justify you in ordering such a Relief in the Payment of Rents?
I have always endeavoured to act upon the Principle of never paying their Rents at all, and throwing them as much as possible upon their own Resources. We never pay their Rents unless in some particular Case.
What Wages do that Part of the Population employed in Trades generally earn in the Parish of Wragby?
There are a Number of small Shopkeepers in the Town, and they have small Farms attached, and they have Servants whom they employ; and therefore I can hardly answer the Question.
What is the Rent of the Cottages in the Parish of Bardney?
Have they Land attached to them?
Some few have, but not the greater Part of them.
To what Cause do you attribute that great Disproportion between Two neighbouring Parishes; the Rent being 5l. in the one Parish, and 3l. in the other?
Because in the one Parish it belongs to One Landlord, who has the whole Parish, and who wishes of course to have his Labourers in a better State; and the other Parish belongs to several small Proprietors, who get as much Rent as they can.
Are the Rents in Bardney paid out of the Parish Rates?
In many Instances.
Are the Cottagers themselves rated to the Poor Rates?
Not all of them; but the greater Part are.
Do the Individuals that inhabit them pay the Rates, or are they paid by the Landlords?
The Persons that inhabit them pay the Rates; they have a great deal of Difficulty in collecting the Rates.
Is Fuel dear or cheap in that Part?
It is tolerably cheap. Coals are about 16s. a Chaldron, and the Expence of Carriage is about 7s. a Chaldron more.
Do you think the Comforts of the poor People who have Employment have increased or diminished of late Years?
I think the Comforts have certainly diminished; but I think it is partly owing to the poor People themselves; they do not live so hardily as they used to do, and they dress themselves much more expensively; they do not use the same Food or live in the same Way.
During the high Times, what was the Rate of Wages in that Neighbourhood?
I was not acquainted with it so long ago as that.
You are not, then, enabled to state to the Committee in any Way what was the State of the Country during the high Times?
In any of the Parishes you have mentioned, are there Select Vestries?
In the Parish of Bardney there is one.
In any of the Parishes you have mentioned are there Assistant Overseers?
In the Parish of Bardney, and in most of the large Parishes.
Have you found any Benefit from the Appointment of Assistant Overseers?
I think rather the reverse.
Do you find that the Assistant Overseer feels it to be the best Thing for himself to reduce the Rates as much as possible?
Yes; I think, with very little Regard to Policy as to where to do it and where not.
Do you find that the Select Vestry in the Parish you have mentioned has been of much Use?
No, not at all, I think.
Are there Workhouses in those Parishes?
There is a small Description of Workhouse.
Is any Work performed in that Workhouse?
How many does it hold?
In my Parish it would hold Twenty or Thirty Persons; but it is never used. In Bardney it would hold Seventy to Eighty; and there may be Thirty or Forty People upon the Average.
Are the Inmates old People in it?
They are principally old and infirm People.
Are there many People in those Parishes that are out of Employment in the Winter?
A good many in the large Parishes.
Is it the Practice to put those Men that are out of regular Work upon the Roads?
Yes; they send them to the Gravel Pits and upon the Roads; but they do very little Work.
Are they put on more for the Purpose of giving them Employment than because the Roads require their Labour?
Yes; they are paid so much a Week.
Do you find that the Labourers are very anxious to get the Rood of Land attached to their Cottages?
Do you enter into any Agreement or any Lease with the Men you grant the Land to?
No; but I have frequently thought it would be a good Plan that they should pay the Rent in the Autumn.
Did you give them any Seed, or any thing of that sort, when you first gave them the Land?
No; I left them to cultivate it as they chose.
Do you find that these Men become better Members of Society in consequence of having that Land in their own Occupation?
I have no doubt of it; it makes them more moral.
Do they cultivate it with the Spade?
Do they get Manure enough for it?
Yes; their Children are sent about the Roads to get Manure.
Do any of them grow Corn upon that Rood of Land?
Do you think it would be a good Plan that they should grow a certain Portion of Corn upon those Pieces of Land?
I think a little to feed a Pig might be useful.
Where do they get the Straw for their Pig?
They get some of the Farmers to give them a little.
At present they grow chiefly Potatoes?
Potatoes and Vegetables.
Are those that have the Rood of Land given to them generally the regular Labourers of the Farmer?
They are generally the poor People. It is very much the Custom of the Farmers to allow them to plant Potatoes in the Fields; that if the Labourers will manure so much Ground, they may have Potatoes planted in it.
You are understood to state, that you do not consider the Labourers in your own immediate Parish to be in a bad Situation?
Not at all.
Do you think the Practice of not making up the Wages out of the Poor Rate, and of not allowing so much for every Child, has had a great Tendency not only to ameliorate the Condition of the Labourer, but also to decrease the Poor Rates?
I have no doubt of it. I am sure it is the true Principle to act upon, to throw them upon their own Resources as much as possible; they have so many Ways of getting Money which no Overseer can point out.
In fact, is not the System of paying so much for every Child a great Inducement to Men to make early and improvident Marriages?
Do you think that the Law which requires a Magistrate to commit a Man before the Birth of a Bastard Child has the Effect of occasionally inducing Men to marry?
I do not think I have observed that; but I have always thought it a very injudicious Law to enforce, because if a Man cannot find Security you commit him to the House of Correction, and then he has no means of maintaining the Child when it is born. They might just as well leave it 'till the Child is born, and then he would have an Opportunity of getting some little to meet the Expences.
Besides the Rule you observe of not making up the Wages of Labour out of the Poor Rates, do you consider that the Practice of giving to the Cottagers a Rood of Land has had a good Effect in your Parish?
I am convinced that has a good Effect.
Do you attribute to those Two Things your Parish being better than the Neighbourhood?
Yes; and enforcing the Law very strictly; keeping as much as possible to the 43d of Elizabeth. In my own Parish, when I came to it, I could find instances of drunken People earning good Wages, who were the most forlorn People in the Place, and others with less Wages living comfortably and respectably; and I immediately saw that the System wanted to be changed.
You have the exclusive Management of your own Parish?
Do you interfere as much in the neighbouring Parishes to which you have alluded?
I have not the same Authority, because it is merely a magisterial Authority that I have in the other Parishes; but I endeavour as much as I can to do so.
Do you act as strictly up to the 43d of Elizabeth in the other Parishes?
We act as much as we can up to that; there are some instances in large Parishes in which we cannot do that.
Do you find that Individuals in those Parishes where the 43d of Elizabeth is strictly enforced gradually cease to place that Dependence upon the Poor Rates which they did formerly, and learn to provide for a Time of Adversity?
I have no doubt that it makes them more prudent, and they acquire the habit of looking forward more.
How many Persons during the last Winter obtained their Livelihood by being what are called Roundsmen?
In the Parish of Bardney I believe there were Twenty-five.
What Wages were they paid?
Those that had small Families about 1s. 8d. a Day, and those that had large ones about 2s.
Was that paid by the Person that employed them, or made up out of the Poor Rates?
It was partly paid by the Person that employed them, and partly made up out of the Poor's Rates.
What Proportion was made out of the Poor's Rates?
I cannot say, not having seen the Books.
How long have you been residing in the Parish?
About Six Years.
Has there been any Increase in the Poor's Rate during that Time?
No; they have rather decreased; but the County Rate has been increased enormously.
Is it the Custom for the Farmers to hire Labourers by the Year or by the Week?
They hire them in general for Fifty-one Weeks. I believe there is more Mischief done to the Poor through the Evasion of that Act of Parliament than by any thing else, for they are turned off at the End of Fifty-one Weeks, and they go to Statute Fairs, that is to say, they go about for a Fortnight before the Farmers hire them again; and it is generally found that at that Time of the Year there are more Bastard Children got than at any other.
Upon the whole, is there any general Distress among the Labouring Classes in your Part of the Country?
I should say not.
Does the Distress exist now in a much greater Degree than it did Six Years ago?
I think not.
Have they been quiet in your Part of the Country?
Do you use Thrashing Machines in your Part of the Country?
Are they esteemed there a great Benefit to the Farmer?
I think Farmers begin to be convinced that they are not so, because they damage the Straw, and they are almost as expensive to them, taking into Consideration the prime Cost and keeping them in order.
Do you think that great Mischief arises from the Course which is now adopted by Farmers, in order to avoid the Law of Settlement, by hiring themselves?
I think so; and I think it might be remedied by not making the Settlement a Question of hiring, but making a Service of Six Months a Settlement.
Would you recommend that in preference to the Residence of a certain Number of Years without applying for Relief?
I think that would occasion the least Litigation.
Would not a Service for any definite Period of Time, unless it was a very long one, be liable to the same Objections that the present Service is?
I think that Farmers would hardly think it worth their while to fence with the Law then.
Then you would decidedly recommend the doing away with that Part of the Law which relates to hiring?
The Result of the best Consideration I can give the Subject is, that the more Facility is given to acquire Settlements in Contradistinction to derivative Settlements the better. Derivative Settlement is often a great Source of Litigation; but acquired Settlement is so much more easily proved, that I think that would go a great Way to prevent Litigation, and the Servants would have a much greater Interest in serving their Masters if they knew they were going to continue on with them; but when they know that the Service is to terminate at Fifty-one Weeks, neither Party is interested in pleasing the other.
Do you find that Labourers marry at an earlier Age now than they did in former Times?
I have understood so, but I am not old enough to speak to that.
Do you consider the Bastardy Laws a great Encouragement to improvident Marriages?
I think in our Part there are very few instances of Women marrying Men whom they have had Children by before.
Do you consider Dependence upon the Poor Laws to produce improvident Marriages to any Extent in your Neighbourhood?
No; I think it is not much the Case in the Northern Counties.
Are you acquainted at all with the Southern Counties?
Do you know that Barley that is thrashed by a Machine is not so willingly bought by the Maltsters as that which has been thrashed by the Hand?
I have always heard the Farmers say so. I think the Practice of giving Gardens to the Cottagers has been very much prevented by the Law of Settlement, which I think might be altered with Advantage. If every entire Tenement for Six Months was to give a Settlement, I think that would remedy it entirely. I think the easier Settlements are gained the more they will tend to cut off Litigation.
Would not the Consequence of a Settlement being so easily acquired by a Tenement be an Inducement to many Persons to diminish the Tenements upon the Estate, and so to drive the Population into large Towns?
It might be so; but I think it would not be so to any great Extent.
The Witness is directed to withdraw.
Ordered, That this Committee be adjourned 'till To-morrow, Twelve o'Clock.