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well inquire whether the good which they produce, could not be procured without such a lamentable train of attendant evils.
The mischief produced by the poor laws, seems to have been insisted on by almost every writer on the subject; and Burnet * in the excellent remarks with which he closes his history, seems to be decidedly of opinion, that they ought to be abolished. Most writers, however, object rather to the administration of the poor laws, than to the principles on which they are founded; and they have accordingly suggested various improvements and e. mendations. They put down the present scheme of regulations, in order to make way for a set of their own, which are no doubt sufficiently plausible in theory, but which could not be reduced to practice, without producing the evils already complained of. In 1796, a plan for reforming the poor laws was brought forward by Mr Pitt, full of device and regulation, provided with work-houses, schools of industry, superintendants, visitors, warehousemen, justices of the peace vested with large discretionary powers,-the whole a most complex contrivance, and leading to every species of abuse. Another plan has been since brought forward by Mr Whitbread, for the avowed purpose of rendering the poor laws obsolete. This desircable object, was to be effected by the establishment of schools, where the lower classes of society might be instructed, and gradually so improved in their habits, as to be set above receiving parish relief. However highly we may approve of this institution, and however much we may have been surprised, that a plan for improving the faculties of rational creatures should have met with any obstruction, we doubt much whether it would have brought about any general change in the manners of the English populace, particularly while such a source of moral depravation as the poor laws was suffered to exist. There were other regulations in this plan, of which we have already expressed our opinion, such as the establishment of banks for receiving the hoardings of the poor, and the erection of cottages for their comfort. The granting of honorary badges as a reward for decent conduct, seems quite fantastical. The great point in all those arrangements ought to be, to free society as much as posible from burdensome restraints. And we cannot help thinking, that legislators would succeed much better in their plans, if their minds could be weance from that love of device and contrivance with which they seem to have been in all ages too much infected.
Mr Malthus has, however, proposed a plan of his own for giving effect to his principles, which seems more simple, and bet
* Burnes, Hift. of bis own limes, Vol. VI. p. 314.
ter calculated for answering its purpose, than any of those complicated schemes. He is of opinion, that a regulation should be made, declaring that no child born from any marriage, taking place after the expiration of a year from the date of the law, and that no illegitimate child born two years after the fame date, should ever be entitled to parith assistance. To give a more general knowledge of this law, he proposes that the clergyman of the parish should, previous to every marriage, read a short address to the parties, stating the strong obligation on every man to support his own children, and the necessity which had at length appeared, from regard to the poor themselves, of abandoning all public inftitutions for their relief, as they had produced effects totally opposite to those which were intended.
This plan has been reprobated as iniquitous and cruel ; but if the poor laws are to be abolished, it is impossible to conceive in what way this great reformation can be brought about with less hardship to those concerned. Those who had been accuf. tomed to depend upon parochial relief, would have that dependance still left them ; so that they could not be said to suffer any injury, and the rising generation would have a plain warning that they had nothing to depend upon for their support but their own exertions. The plan, therefore, seems, in this respect, to be perfectly unexceptionable, and to accord with that enlightened humanity which the writings of Mr Malthus generally display. The scheme appears, however, to be in some refpects unsatisfactory and incomplete. It does not seem to be founded on that full and distinct view of the poor laws, on which alone a suitable remedy can be founded. When we consider how much Mr Malthus must have reflected on the poor-laws, and that it is principally to the writings of that eminent philosopher, that we are indebted for any clear views on the subject, it is with the most respectful diffidence that the following observations are offered to the attention of the reader.
It is the opinion of Sir F.M. Eden, * and it seems, indeed, extremely probable, that the law passed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth had no relation to the able-bodied labourer, but was only meant for the relief of those who either had not work, or who were unable to work. In later years, however, they have been generally extended to the relief of the labourer; and the quantity of that relief has been measured by the high price of provisions. The poor rates have accordingly increased enorniously; so that, in the year 1801, they were said to amount to the incredible sum VOL. XI. NO. XXI. H
* Vol. 9. P. 584.
SIL". Formnly they dił not exceed 3,000,000). To *C T: errings of the labourer, when his wages 23€ -**. *se price of subsistence is high, is in effect the E
e b 11:55Y to Lise the wages of labour, or to fix a 17. Cole price of prouisions. In a season of scarcity, bici a 4253", botere disorder and mischief it may be attend. ex., C+02 67 materially relieve those for whose benefit it is in 1 Thibourers and their families form by far the
te p! . cf every cortunity, and it must be chiefly by ei sus tad nished upply of corn can be made to ki, tie ir suppor can be procured. No other crder of men canie Lostituted is. I place to bear the burden. Individual
C ET I , irdeti, be raised ; and individuals in a higher situcion may be o pred ;-but the pressure of scarcity must altas 6: heaviy felt by the great body of the people. The same rear ring 4,15 to the low price of labour, which always in casa" 1765.5 of population, without a corresponding inCTES cal. Lut it is evidently the same thing, whether popuik, is is steaed in proportion to the food, or whether the it.co has decreased in proportion to the population. Both evils are exzes tie same, and can only be removed by increasing the sezi'y oi isod.
I may be said, however, that, in a scarcity, the hardship is faciu ively borne by the poor, the rich being enabled, by means of money, to consime the same quantity of subsistence as bikre, and that pecuniary co:itributions may place the two ciasses more upon a level, and force the rich to bear their share in the burden. But, even if the rich were forced to abridge their consumption, they bear such a small proportion to the mass of the community, that the poor would be but little benefit. ed; and it is moreover impossible to effect this, except by levelling the rich with the poor. The enormous gums which were lavished for the relief of the indigent during the late scarcities, contributed not so much to affect the rich, as the classes immelintely above the poor, whom it depressed, Mr Malthus observes, in the most marked manner. Now, even if the poor were to be relieved in this way, it does not appear, that the general mass of misery would be lessened ;--their sufferings would be marely transferred to another class of society equally deserving attention and relief, and the number of those demanding parochial assistance would be increased. The ease, however, which the poor car derive from this miserable resource is so trifling, that it can never be felt. Even if all the forced savings of this class of the community were distributed to them gratis, it would furnish a remedy completely insignificant, when compared with such an extensive and deep-rooted malady. During the late scar
would once carried ined from parochia if the able
cities, therefore, seven millions a year appear to have been squandered for no other purpose than to recruit for beggars.. .
As the object for which this money is raised ----namely, to relieve the great body of the people from the pressure of scarcity, appears to be completely unattainable; as the degree of pressure must be exactly such as to make the diminished supply of cotn last out the year; as pecuniary contributions cannot lessen it, and can do very little towards altering the mode of its distribution, the situation of the poor would not be at all affected, if the able-bodied labourer were wholly excluded from parochial relief. If this arrangement were once carried into effect, the expenditure of the poor-laws would be very materially curtailed, as, we believe, the greater part of the relief granted, is given to able-bodied labourers with families. :
Mr Malthus, in his plan for the abolition of the poor-laws, does not appear to us to distinguish between the original and gea nuine objects of parochial relief, and those to whom that charity has been most improperly extended. His reasonings, however, are evidently directed against the practice of giving relief to the labourer; and, so far from thinking his plan either cruel or iniquitous, as it has been most unjustly termed, the evil which Mr Malthus is for doing away by mild and gradual reformation, might, in our apprehension, without producing any bad effects, be much more speedily got quit of. To the common labourer who is able to work, all sort of charity ought, on a warning of six months or a year, to be refused ; and this ought not to be left to the justices of the peace,-it ought to be established by law. In the recurrence of a scarcity, the practice of measuring out relief by the price of provisions, shouid never again be resorted to.
With respect to those who are really destitute, it appears, by experience, that a full and certain relief cannot be provided for them, without producing very melancholy effects on the manners of the people. A better plan for modifying the relief which is given to them, cannot be resorted to, than that proposed by Mr Malthus. Whether the relief ought to be entirely taken away, as in Scotland, or whether it ought to be so far reduced, as either to come in aid of personal exertion or of voluntary charity, is a question which requires very serious consideration. From a very careful examination of this important subject, it clearly appears to us, that it is much safer to fall short ihan to exa ceed, in relieving distress by public charity. What may be wanting in public, is generally made up by private benevolence. But there is no way of correcting the evil of profuse donations enforced by the authority of law. ,
ART. VIII. On the Conduct of the British Government towards the
Catholics of Ireland. 8vo. pp. 38.. London. 1807.
Remarks on the Dangers which threaten the Established Religion, and
on the Means of averting them. In a Letter to the Right Honourable Spencer Perceval, Chancellor of his Majesty's Exchequer. By Edward Pearson, B. D. 8vo. pp. 98. London. 1807.
An Alarm to the Reformed Church of Christ established in those
Kingdoms. By a Watchman of the Church. 8vo. pp. 16. London. 1807.
An Earnest Address to those of all Orders and Degrees in the United Church of England and Ireland respecting the Papists. 8vo. pp: 32. London. 1807.
Though nothing very important has been said, written, or
done, with regard to this great subject, since we last recommended it to the notice of our readers, yet we think it material to bring it again under their view; and, in as far as in us lies, to familiarize the understanding of the public with the most momentous and most unreasonable controversy that has ever been presented to their decision. There are some causes in which perseverance is sure to be rewarded with success, and some subjects upon which reason will certainly be triumphant, provided she return with sufficient patience to the charge, and resolutely repeats the argument which has originally failed of effect. This is a result which may safely be reckoned upon in all cases in which expediency and justice are on one side, and established prejudice or habit on the other. It was so with the introduction of religious and of civil freedom into this country ;-with the reformation and the revolution of England. It was so in the more recent instance of the abolition of the slave trade ; and it is and will be so with the emancipation of the catholics of Ireland. In all these cases, the settled prejudices and habits of men, abetted and flattered by the interested clamours of individuals, resisted for a long time the force of those reasonings, before which, we now think they should have disappeared in an instant; and it was only by little and little, and in consequence of patient and persevering repetition, that the most pernicious and absurd tenets were made to give way to maxims of obvious justice and expediency. The process of illuminating the public understanding under such circumstances, in short, seems to resemble that of moistening magnesia or any other fine powder with water.