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Laws, he had frequently committed to print such things as occurred to him on those subjects. He had been repeatedly called upon to declare, what he meant to do in that business,-his answer had been, and then was, that he was ready and anxious to do every thing in his power, in concurrence with other Gentlemen, to correct the abuses complained of, and to introduce a better and more economical system. What that system ought to be, rested not with him, or a few individuals, but with the wisdom of Parliament to determine. Various plans had been suggested and proposed for that purpose, some by him, some by other gentlemen. He thought that every man who would put himself forward in so arduous and difficult an undertaking, though not qualified to administer a perfect and complete remedy, ought to have some degree of merit with his fellow-citizens, and instead of discouragements, seemed entitled, if not to their support, at least to their countenance and candid hearing. Mr. GILBERT said, that he had received some discouragements in the pursuit of the present work. If they were intended to check him in his progress, they had not had their effect. He saw the object so very important, and felt himself, after a long and severe application, so well acquainted with the subject, and the necessity of some reform, that as long as he had the honour of a seat in that House, and had health to do his duty, he should be inclined to exert the utmost of his endeavours to bring about some necessary regulations. He was not so wild and extravagant in his ideas, as to think that he, as an individual, could form and digest a plan equal to so great a work, but he trusted, that the pressing necessities, and cries from all quarters, poor and rich, must have their weight, and could not fail, 'ere long, to stimulate those who had ability and consequence in that and the other House of Parliament, to concert some measures for rescuing this Country from the great oppression which it felt under the present
Poor Laws, and the wretched mode of executing them. These were evils of a dangerous tendency, and were known to be increasing daily.-It seemed, therefore, necessary for obtaining a redress of grievances complained of, to form a Committee to consider the subject at large, and to point out such a Plan for the
purpose, as they should think best.»
These suggestions appear to have been thrown out, in the hope that they might call forth the attention of Gentlemen of the most distinguished characters and abilities, however discordant in their political principles,—since, in order to effect so arduous a work, as a reformation of the complicated system of the Poor Laws sented, would require the greatest exertions and the most perfect harmony.
As the spirit of Inquiry had then been awakened, it did not seem possible to allay the public anxiety, without a free and extensive investigation.
The Parliamentary History of England. vol. xxvi.
And, on the 20th of June 1816, a Select Committee who had been appointed to inquire into the Education of the Lower Orders in The Metropolis, and to report their Observations thereupon,-together with the Minutes of the Evidence taken before them, from time to time, to The House,—and who were instructed to consider what might be fit to be done, with respect to the Children of Paupers who should be found begging in the Streets in and near the Metropolis, or who should be carried about by persons asking Charity, and whose parents, or other persons whom they accompanied, had not sent such children to any of the Schools provided for the Education of poor Children,—made the following Report,
That they had examined a great body of Evidence, which had been reported and ordered to be printed, respecting the state of Education among the Lower Orders in The Metropolis, –and they had found reason to conclude, that a very large number of poor children were wholly without the means of Instruction, although their Parents appeared to be generally very desirous of obtaining that advantage for them :
That they had also observed with much satisfaction, the highly beneficial effects produced upon all those parts of the Population which, assisted in whole or in part by various Charitable Institutions, had enjoyed the benefits of Education :
That they had not had time that Session fully to report their opinion upon the different branches of their Inquiry, but they felt persuaded that the greatest advantages would result to this Country from Parliament taking proper measures, in concurrence with the prevailing disposition in the Community, for supplying the deficiency of the means of Instruction which then existed, and for extending this Blessing to the Poor of all descriptions :
That although The Committee had not been instructed to examine the state of Education beyond the Metropolis, they had, in addition to what had appeared in Evidence, received communications, which showed the necessity of Parliament as speedily as possible insti. tuting an inquiry into the management of Charitable Donations and other Funds for the Instruction of the Poor of this Country, and into the state of their Education generally, especially in the larger towns-And The Committee were of opinion, that the most effectual as well as least expensive mode of conducting such an Inquiry, would be by means of a Parliamentary Commission.
Onthe 22d of May, 1817, Mr. BROUGHAM moved the revival of The Committee which