« AnteriorContinuar »
dicial to him, and so impolitic in its effects, as to counteract any advantage which could be derived from such diminution of litigation. These are among the reasons for which the committee suppose that no alteration, short of that which they venture to propose, would have the effect of removing the evil of litigation incident to the present law of settlement. But it is to the labouring class of the community that they conceive this great alteration would be most beneficial. It would insure their being maintained where they had maintained themselves; where they would be more likely, if meritorious persons, to experience in case of need the kindness of real benevolence. It is hoped also that it might operate as an inducement to active, and faithful service on the one hand, and on the other, to prevent such service being interrupted by an interested consideration for parochial funds. And they propose this alteration with the more confidence, because they thereby recommend the restoration of that law, which was coeval with parochial contributions, whether voluntary or compulsory; and because it is still the existing law in that part of the United Kingdom, Scotland, where the local management and maintenance of the poor has been best conducted.
There are some other suggestions of inferior importance, which have not found a place in the foregoing part of the Report, to which your committee would refer before they conclude their observations.
It appears desirable, that justices out of sessions should have the power, which they can now
only execute in sessions, of making orders of maintenance on near relations.
That a power should also be given to enable overseers to recover, by a summary process, the possession of tenements which they may have rented and used for the accommodation of the poor, without being driven to the tedious and expensive proceeding by way of ejectment.
Your committee moreover think, that the vexation and expense of removals might, in some instances, be saved, by an arrangement for postponing the execution of the order, till after a final decision in case of appeal.
It is also suggested, that the power given by the Mutiny Act (vide 56 Geo. III. cap. 10, sect. 70,) to any justice of the peace, where any soldier shall be quartered, in case such soldier have either wife, child, or children, to examine such soldier as to the place of his last legal settlement, and which requires him to give an attested copy to such soldier, of any affidavit made by him in this respect, in order to be produced when required; and which provides that such attested copy shall be at any time admitted in evidence, as to such last legal settlement," be extended to any person confined in any gaol or place of safe custody in Great Britain, provided that such copy of the examination shall not be admitted in evidence after the discharge of such prisoner.
By the act 22 Geo. III. c. 83, it is provided, that when any application shall be made to a justice of the peace for relief, such justice shall not summon the guardian,
unless application shall have been first made by the applicant to the guardian, and if he refuses redress, to the visitor. In incorporated parishes, the visitor is frequently from ten to fifteen miles distant from the residence of the pauper, and frequently absent from home. Some alteration in the law appears necessary to obviate this incon
Your committee have thus stated to the House the result of a laborious investigation, which has been protracted to a period of the session which precludes their proposing at present such legislative enactments as it might be thought fit to adopt. They cannot, how ever, regret this circumstance; for, conceiving that the House expected at their hands a general revision of the whole system of our Poor Laws, in which, though it be not difficult to point out inconveniences and mischiefs, yet the task of providing practical remedies is so arduous that your committee is persuaded, that even more time and labour would not have been mispent in considering further the various provisions of the law, and the numerous proposals which, from different quarters, have been submitted to their judgment. The House also will not be called upon to adopt any of the suggestions of this Report, till an ample opportunity will have been afforded to correct any errors in the judgment of your committee, or to confirm their opinions and this delay will above all be salutary, if the lapse of time, aided ty a more favourable season, should restore the kingdom in some degree to its wonted and healthy state. For, though a pe
riod of depression and distress may bring out more prominently the weak and unsound parts of the system, it is obvious that the application of the most effectual remedies is at such a moment of more than ordinary difficulty. And if it should be the pleasure of the House that the consideration of this subject should be resumed in the next session of parliament, no inconsiderable advantage will be derived from that mass of information contained in the returns in 1815, to which they have not yet had access, and from a further valuable accession of detailed accounts of the admirable practice of Scotland.
in being, respecting masters and apprentices, do not provide suffi. cient regulations, so as to prevent various complicated miseries to which boys employed in climbing and cleansing of chimneys are liable, beyond any other employment whatsoever in which boys of tender years are engaged and whereas the misery of the said boys might be much alleviated, if some legal powers and authorities were given for the regulation of chimney-sweepers and their apprentices."-This act, though it has in some respects fulfilled the intention of the legislature, yet your committee have heard in evidence before them, that its principal enacting clause, viz. the regulating the age at which appren tices shall be taken, is constantly evaded; and they are decidedly of opinion, that the various and complicated miseries to which the unfortunate children are exposed, cannot be relieved by regulations. The 28th of Geo. III. enacts, That no person shall employ any boy, in the nature of an apprentice or servant, under the age of eight years; yet your committee have been informed, that infants of the early ages of four, five and six years, have been employed, it being the practice for parents to sell their children to this trade, under-stating their age; besides, this clause is not considered by the master chimney-sweepers as prohibiting their einployment of their own children; and instances have been adduced before your committee, that have satisfied them that such cases are by no means unfrequent. Your committee have also heard, from one of the master chimney-sweepers,
that it is the custom of the trade to take the parent's word for the age of the apprentice-that no other evidence is asked for-that he never heard of its being the practice of the masters to get a certificate of the age, and he was ignorant that the act of parliament required it. Your committee refer generally to the evidence for proofs of the cruelties that are practised, and of the ill-usage, and the peculiar hardships that are the lot of the wretched children who are employed in this trade. It is in evidence that they are stolen from their parents, and inveigled out of workhouses; that in order to conquer the natural repugnance of the infants to ascend the narrow and dangerous chimneys, to clean which their labour is required, blows are used; that pins are forced into their feet by the boy that follows them up the chimney, in order to compel them to ascend it; and that lighted straw has been applied for that purpose; that the children are subject to sores and bruises, and wounds and burns on their thighs, knees, and elbows; and that it will require many months before the extremities of the elbows and knees become sufficiently hard to resist the excoriations to which they are at first subject; and that one of the masters being asked if those boys are employed in sweeping chimneys during the soreness of those parts, he answered, "It depends upon the sort of master they have got. Some are obliged to put them to work sooner than others; you must keep them a little at it even during the sores, or they will never learn their business." Your committee are informed.
informed that the deformity of the spine, legs, arms, &c. of these boys, proceeds generally, if not wholly, from the circumstance of their being obliged to ascend chimneys at an age when their bones are in a soft and growing state; but likewise, by their being compelled to carry bags of soot and cloths, the weight of which sometimes exceed twenty or thirty pounds, not including the soot, the burthen of which they also occasionally bear for a great length of distance and time; the knees and ancle joints become deformed, in the first instance, from the position they are obliged to put them in, in order to support themselves, not only while climbing up the chinney, but more particularly so whilst coming down, when they rest solely on the lower extremities, the arms being used for scraping and sweeping down the soot. Your committee refer generally to the observation of every one as to the stinted growth, the deformed state of body, the look of wretchedness and disease which characterizes this unfortunate class; but it is in evidence before them, that there is a formidable complaint which chimney-sweepers in particular are liable to; from which circumstance, by way of distinction, it is called the Chimney-sweeper's Cancer. Mr. Wright, a surgeon, informed your committee, that whilst he was attending Guy's and Saint Bartholomew's Hospitals, he had several cases under his care, some of which were operated on; but in general they are apt to let them go too far before they apply for relief. Cancers of the lips are not so general as cancers of the scro
tum; the witness never saw but two instances of the former, though several of the latter. Mr. Cline informed your committee by letter, that this disease is rarely seen in any other persons than, chimney-sweepers, and in them cannot be considered as frequent; for during his practice in St. Thomas's Hospital, for more than forty years, the number of those cases could not exceed twenty; but your committee have been informed, that the dread of the operation which it is necessary to perform, deters many from submitting to it; and from the evidence of persons engaged in the trade, it appears to be much more common than Mr. Cline seems to be aware of. But it is not only the early and hard labour, the spare diet, wretched lodging, and harsh treatment, which is the lot of these children, but in general they are kept almost entirely destitute of education, and moral or religious instruction; they form a sort of class by themselves, and from their work being done early in the day, they are turned into the streets to pass their time in idleness and depravity: thus they become an easy prey to those whose occupation it is to delude the ignorant and entrap the unwary; and if their constitution is strong enough to resist the diseases and deformities which are the consequences of their trade, and that they should grow so much in stature as no longer to be useful in it, they are cast upon the world without any means of obtaining a livelihood, with no habits of industry, or rather, what too frequently happens, with confirmed habits of idleness and vice.
in general among the most respectable part of the trade, the apprentices are of the age prescribed by the act, viz. from 8 to 14; but even among the most respectable it is the constant practice to borrow the younger boys from one another, for the purpose of sweeping what are called the narrow flues. No accurate account could be obtained of the ages of the apprentices of the other classes; but they had the youngest children, who either were their own, or engaged as apprentices; and who, in many instances, it was ascertained, were much below the prescribed age; thus, the youngest and most delicate children are in the service of the worst class of masters, and employed exclusively to clean flues, which, from their peculiar construction, cannot be swept without great personal hazard.
In addition to which, it appears, that from the trade being constantly overstocked, a large proportion of the older chimney sweepers (as it is stated, one half) are constantly in a course of being thrown out of employ. Your committee have endeavoured to learn the number of persons who may be considered as engaged in the trade within the bills of mortality they have learnt that the total number of master chimney sweepers might be estimated at 200, who had among them 500 apprentices; that not above 20 of those masters were reputable tradesmen in easy circumstances, who appeared generally to conform to the provisions of the act, and which twenty had, upon an average, from four to five apprentices each; that about ninety were of an inferior class of master chimneysweepers, who had, upon an average, three apprentices each, and who were extremely negligent of their health, their morals, and their education; and that about ninety, the remainder of the 200 masters, were a class of chimney-sweepers recently journeymen, who took up the trade because they had no other resource-who picked up boys as they could-who lodged them with themselves in huts, sheds, and cellars, in the outskirts of the town, occasionally wander ing into the villages round: and that in these two classes, being in the proportion of 180 to 20, the miseries of the trade were principally to be found. It is in evidence before your committee, that at Hadleigh, Barnet, Uxbridge, and Windsor, female children have been employed. Your committee observe, that crime of murder, but the husband VOL. LIX.
Your committee have had laid before them an account of various accidents that have happened to chimney-sweepers, by being forced to ascend these small flues. They beg leave to refer particularly to a recent case, which occurred on Thursday the 6th day of March 1817, and which is contained in the minutes of evidence. wish also to direct the attention of the House to one of those instances of cruelty, which terminated in the death of an infant of about six years of age, in the month of April 1816:
William Moles and Sarah his wife were tried at the Old Bailey for the wilful murder of John Hewley alias Haseley, by cruelly beating him. Under the direction of the learned judge, they were acquitted of the