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said, That it shall and may be lawful, upon complaint made by the church-wardens or overseers of the poor of any parish, to any justice of the peace, within forty days after any such person or persons coming to settle, as aforesaid, in any tenement under the yearly value of 101. for any two justices of the peace, whereof one to be of the quorum, at the division where any person or persons that are likely to be chargeable to the parish shall come to inhabit, by their warrant to remove and convey such person or persons to such parish where he or they were last legally settled, either as a native householder, sojourner, apprentice or servant, for the space of forty days at the least, unless he or they give sufficient security for the discharge of the said parish, to be allowed of by the said justices."
But as a settlement would be thus gained by forty days residence, and that residence might not be matter of notoriety, when such a natural inducement would exist to conceal it, by a subsequent act the forty days residence is to be reckoned, not from the day of the person coming to inhabit, but from the time at which he gives a notice in writing to one of the parish officers of his abode, and the number of his family. But even this precaution against a clandestine residence was not enough to prevent such notice being defeated by the inattention and misconduct of the officers; and it was therefore further provided, that such notice should be published in the church and registered; it was felt necessary, however, to provide that the following persons should
be deemed to have a legal settlement in the parish, though no such notice in writing be delivered or published:
1st. Any person executing a public annual office in the parish, or paying parish taxes.
2d. Any unmarried person, without child or children, hired for one year.
3d. Any person bound an apprentice by indenture.
Notwithstanding these exceptions, the mischief of making the labouring classes thus stationary appears to have been soon felt, and the expedient was adopted of granting certificates by the major part of the parish officers, and allowed by two justices, acknowledging the persons removing to belong to their parish, undertaking to provide for them whenever they may be forced to ask relief of the parish to which such certificate is brought; in that case they were irremovable till actually chargeable; but in that event they might be conveyed to their place of settlement. By these means, it was hoped, that those who were in want of work in one parish might be enabled to seek it in another, notwithstanding the provisions of the 13th and 14th, C. II. which restrained them from carrying their labour to the best market.
By a subsequent act, care was taken that no settlement should be gained by a residence under such certificate, unless the party took a lease of a tenement of the annual value of 10l. or executed some annual office, being legally placed therein. And by the 12th Anne, c. 18, an apprentice or a hired servant to a certificated person, could not by virtue of the appren
ticeship, or hiring and service, gain any settlement in such parish. Another act was passed to ensure the regular execution of such certificate, by the attestation of witnesses, and again for the more certain reimbursement by the certifying parish, of the expenses at tendant on the removal of the certificated person. After all, it was solemnly decided, that the granting these certificates was quite discretionary, both with regard to the parish officers and the magistrates. And such continued to be the only means by which this restraint on the free circulation of labour could be avoided, till in the thirty-fifth year of the present reign, the privilege of persons not being removed till actually chargeable, which had been recently conferred on members of friendly societies, was extended by a law which deserves perhaps more notice and applause than it has received, and the liberty of removing from place to place was made no longer to depend upon the will and judgment either of parish officers or magistrates, but the removal of poor persons was prevented till they were actually chargeable.
No material alteration has been made in the law of settlement since this act; and the result of the various enactments on this subject now is, that every poor person, when entitled to parochial relief, can claim it only (except in cases of sudden accident or calamity) in that parish in which he has resided during forty days, either on an estate of his own, if purchased, of the value of 30l. or in a tenement rented by him of the annual value of 101. or under in,
dentures of apprenticeship, or having served a year under a yearly hiring, as an unmarried man, without a child, or by executing a public annual office during the year. If a settlement has been acquired by neither of these means, the father's settlement becomes that of his issue; if that be unknown, the mother's; and if that also should not be ascertained, recourse must be had to the place of birth, which is also (with certain exceptions) the place of settlement of illegitimate children, till they have acquired another by one of the modes described by the statute above enumerated. Persons not born within the kingdom, and who have acquired no settlement by either of the above means, are by the humane interpretation of the law to be relieved, in case of necessity, in the parish in which they are found.
These various provisions have given rise to a course of expensive and embarrassing litigation, of which a very inadequate measure would be formed by reference to the cases, numerous as they are, which have been reported in the superior court; for supposing all that have been there decided to have been reported, still they are decisions of such questions of law only as seemed doubtful to the magistrates and courts below, exclusive of the infinitely greater number of questions of fact, on which it is the peculiar province of the justices alone to decide, either in the first instance, or by way of appeal; and it may perhaps be added, that on no branch of the law have the judgments of the superior court been so contradictory. A better judgment may
perhaps be formed by a reference to the sums expended in litigation, and the removal of paupers at different periods. These sums amounted in 1776, to 35,07%; in 1786, to 35,791.; in 1803, 190,072l; in 1315, 287,000l. And it appears that the appeals against orders of removal, entered at the four last quarter sessions, amount to about 4,700l. Great however as the inconvenience confessedly is of this constant and increasing litigation, there are still other effects of the law of settlement, which it is yet more important to correct; such are the frauds so frequently committed by those who are in trusted to prevent even the probability of a burthen being brought on their parish; and such are the measures, justifiable undoubtedly in point of law, which are adopted very generally in many parts of the kingdom, to defeat the obtaining a settlement: the most common of these latter practices is that of hiring labourers for a less period than a year; from whence it naturally and necessarily follows, that a labourer may spend the season of his health and industry in one parish, and be transferred in the decline of life to a distant part of the kingdom. If the means cannot be found of wholly removing both the mischief of litigation, and the hardship that in particular and not unfrequent in stances attends the operation of this part of the law, still the committee hope much may be done to mitigate both. The entire abrogation of the law of settlement has indeed been suggested, and the suggestion has generally been accompanied with a proposal to maintain the poor from a national
fund, in order to relieve particular places from the pressure which might in that case arise from an accumulated number of paupers. But believing (for reasons which have been stated in a former part of this Report, to which it more properly belongs,) that transferring these funds from parishes to the government, would be on various grounds in the highest degree inexpedient, the committee cannot but feel, that as long as a provision for the poor is raised by compulsory parochial assessments, some means must continue to exist of assigning them to their respective parochial limits; and they are satisfied, that something short of a total repeal of the law of settlement, yet going further than all the various minor alterations which have been suggested from different parts of the king. dom, would simplify the law so much, as to reduce the subject of litigation to a very few questions of fact, place the maintenance of those who want relief upon a far more just and equitable footing, and at the same time consult in the greatest degree the comfort and happiness of the poor themselves. With these views, your committee recommend, that in future any person residing three years in a parish, without being absent more than months in each year, and without being in any manner chargeable, should obtain a settlement in such parish; and to prevent as far as possible this fact becoming the source of such litigation as frequently arises, from the difficulty of ascertaining the most simple facts, by the evidence of the paupers themselves, it might be permitted that after
such residence was completed, a deposition of the fact might be made by the party before two justices, after notice given to the overseers. Your committee are persuaded, that if service was required to be combined with residence, it would not only render the provision complicated, but would prevent a settlement being acquired within either of the parishes in which the person serves or resides. And it is recommended, that no person, from a day to be named, shall acquire a settlement, by renting a tenement, serving an office, hiring and service for a year, apprenticeship or estate. With respect to such poor persons who, not being natives of England, may be without a settlement, the influx of them to particular places has been so great and oppressive, that the committee think provision should be made for passing such persons, upon their application for parochial relief, to the nearest ports or places, from which they may return to their native country; but that any native of the British Empire shall acquire a settlement in any parish in which he may have resided five years without being chargeable.
distance from the farms which they cultivate, would tend, it is hoped, to counteract the evil; for it is chiefly from motives of this sort, that such ténements are in many instances at present upheld. It will, however, be for the House to consider whether the advantages resulting from such a change are not calculated to counterbalance this, which the committee deem the only substantial objection to the alteration; recollecting always, that inconveniences must be inseparable from such a compulsory provision for the poor, as exists in this part of the United Kingdom alone.
Your committee, however, may cite, in support of their opinion, the authority of the accurate and judicious author of the History of the Poor Laws, who says, must be owned, the statute of the 13th and 14th Car. II. hath exceeded, perhaps, the due bounds. If alterations should be thought requisite, it is submitted. whether it might not be reasonable to reduce the settlement to where it was before that statute, to wit, to the place of birth, or of inhahitancy for one or more years. For so long as this was the plain simple settlement, there were very few disputes in the courts of law about settlements. It was the easy method of obtaining a settlement by residency of forty days, that brought parishes into a state of war against the poor, and against one another; and caused the subsequent restrictive statutes to be made; all which would fall, of course, by reducing the settlement to its ancient (and indeed most natural) standard."
To state the advantages attend
ing the alteration fairly, it is necessary to direct the attention of the House to the sort of questions which arise out of each of the heads of settlement proposed to be abrogated.
In the case, for instance, of a settlement being supposed to be acquired by renting a tenement of the annual value of 101. the question in dispute generally respects the value. If it may be really not far from that sum, and the family of the pauper be numerous, the interests of the contending parishes, supported by the conflicting opinion of their respective surveyors, leads to the utmost expense and extremity of litigation.
But this question of fact has not been the only subject of dispute. The kind of tenement, and the nature of the tenure, will be found, by a reference to the reports of the King's Bench, to have given rise to the most difficult and numerous questions; the same reference will afford a still greater variety of intricate questions, and of conflicting decisions, respecting hiring and service; as to who may be hired as servants; what the contract of hiring, whether general, special, customary, retrospective, conditional, personal; hiring' service in different places, with different masters; of marriage during the service; and absence from service.
The settlement by serving an apprenticeship has also its various decisions, arising out of the nature of the binding, the time of the service, the place of the service, the discharging the indentures, and the service with different masters, the execution of indentures, and stamps. The last head of
settlement by estate, it is obvious, besides the question of value, which, in case of purchase, nust amount bonâ fide to 30l. involves necessarily some of the most intricate questions respecting real pro perty and testamentary bequests and devises. The committee are persuaded they need do no more than refer to these several heads of litigation to shew its extent; and that minor alterations in any of these, while each head of settlement is retained, would only lead to new questions. It has, for instance, been suggested, that the rent of the tenement should be substituted for its value; but the question would then be shifted, and every agreement for a rent a little above or a little below 10. would be impugned as collusive. Raising the sum from 10l. to 201. has been also suggested, and would have its advantages by diminishing litigation; but it would at the same time increase the difficulty of changing a settlement, and, consequently, of permitting skill and labour to find its best market. It has been proposed also to the committee from various quarters, that under the head of hiring and service, a contract of hiring should be dispensed with, and service for a year confer a settlement. But your committee fear, that the same means which are now successfully adopted to prevent a settlement from being obtained under this head, would in that case operate more prejudicially to the labourer, by preventing his remaining a year in one place; at present he can do so, under successive hirings, for a shorter period. If these apprehensions are well founded, the change would be most preju