« AnteriorContinuar »
controul of Parliament and the public for a security that the work would be done with diligence, upon whomsoever it might devolve.
'The next change of importance, related to the quorum. The whole excellence of the measure consisted in the ambulatory nature of the Board; because, beside the great saving of expense, unless the Commissioners repaired to the spot, it was quite vain to expect an effectual investigation of the various particulars relating to local abuses. But, as the performance of this duty would be both cumbrous and endless, if the whole Commissioners were to go round the country in a body, it was proyided that they should divide themselves in to bodies of two each, and that four boards should thus at the same time carry on the inquiry, with an expedition greatly accelerated, and with • salutary rivalship among themselves. The Ministers in the House of Lords, changed the quorum from two to three, and left the whole number of Commissioners eight, as before; thus reducing the number of Boards from jour to two, and leaving too Commissioners wholly unemployed. As it is perfectly well known, even to beginners in arithmetic, that eight is not divisible by three, I am reduced to the necessity of suspecting that the authors of this change have no serious intention that the Board shall ever be divided at all; and that they mean to make the Commissioners proceed by written interrogatories sent to different parts of the country. It is already stated out of doors that such a plan has been formed; I can only say, that it roust render the whole inquiry a perfect mockery; and the labours of the last session, for the correction of abuses, will have ended in adding one of peculiar grossness to the former number, by the creation of about a dozen sinecure places.' pp. 5—9.
* The changes made in the. pouters of the Commissioners, were 'as important as the alterations in the construction of the Board.' In fact, it' was resolved that the Commissioners should have no * powers? This was not enough. They were to be laid under the most absurd limitations as to the objects of their inquiry. First, they were prohibited from inquiring generally into the state of education. Secondly, they were forbidden to examine into the abuses of any other charities thaii those connected with the education of the poor, notwitwHhstanding the proofs which the labours of the Education Committee had brought to light, of the most scandalous abuses in other charities.
'We found that one Corporation in Hampshire, entrusted with the management of estates worth above .£2000 a year for the use of the poor, let them for 2 or ofSOO on fines, and would give no account of the manner in which those fines were applied. The same body, h was stated, employed a sum of money confided to it for charitable purposes, in payment of its own debts. At Mere, in Lincolnshire, b an endowment for a Warden and poor brethren of a very ancient date. The warden and his lessees seem to be well provided for, whatever may be the lot of the brethren; the estate consists of 650 acres, five miles from Lincoln: it is let for only half-a-guinea an acre, though it pays neither tythe nor poor's rate; and <£2* a year is the whole sum allotted to the poor brethren. The Bishop of the Diocese is both patron and visitor; he has given the Wardenship to his nephew; and the former' Warden resigned it upon being promoted by the same prelate to a living in his gift. The son of that right reverend person is master of Spital Hospital in the same county. Besides other landed property, he is in possession of one estate worth 6 or e£700 a year in right of his office; and all that he pays to the poor is £27. <ts. to four or five pensioners. At Wellingborough, in Northamptonshire, there are lands belonging to different charities, of which only one is connected with education; a short time ago they were let for c6'68, although worth near X'llOO; and the trustees at one period enjoyed the leases. In the parish of Yeovil in Somersetshire, there are estates possessed by trustees, and destined to four different charities, one only of which is a school. Limited as the Commissioners now are, they may examine those trustees as to one part of their trust; but they must order them to be silent as to the other three. They may inspect the deeds and accounts relating to the school revenue, but they must suddenly shut the book when they perceive any mention of the other charities. And yet all the four seem to have been equally abused. An estate worth =£700 a year only educates seven or eight boys; lands valued at 11 or .i'1200 a year only afford a wretched pittance to sixteen paupers; and property worth .£ 150 a year is let for ,t2. Is. 4d-, chiefly to the trustees themselves. There are two estates belonging to the poor of Croydon, which ought to bring. between 1000 and £ 1500 a year, and yet are worth nothing from being badly let on SO years' leases; but into this the Commissioners must not look, when they go to examine the abuses in the Hospital, because those estates are unconnected with education. In that Hospital itself, they will find but little within their jurisdiction; it is, indeed, full of abuse; but only a small portion of the charity be'ongs to the school, and even that is protected from inquiry by the appointment of a visitor.' pp. 14-—16.
Thirdly, 'not only the Universities and the public schools '.down to Rugby, but generally all charities having special viri
* tors, governors, or overseers,'' that is to say, precisely those charities in which the grossest abuses exist, under circumstances which skreen them the most securely from detection, charities which above any other call for investigation, with respect to some of which the trustees, the lessees, and the visiters, are the same persons, these are, by one sweeping clause, expressly exempted from the jurisdiction of the commissioners, as too sacred to admit of their intrusive inquiry. For they had only power to inquire. To search for abuses, and to lay them before Parliament and the country, was their whole office. The remedy, if the case required legislative interference, was reserved for Parliament. But inquiry was the very thing which the hypocritical opponents of the Bill were resolved at all events to frustrate: the exemption was a master stroke, this class ot charities, as the law now stands, being 'almost certain to
* escape every other inquiry.' With regard to special vUi
the Appendix to this Letter furnishes us with some admirable specimens of their effective jurisdiction. Mr. B. states, that
'St. John's College is visitor of Pocklington school; for years the gross perversion of its ample revenues, known to all Yorkshire, had never penetrated into Cambridge. The Dean and Chapter of Lincoln have the patronage as well as the superintendence of Spital charity; yet they allow the Warden, son of their Diocesan, to enjoy the produce of large estates, devised to him in trust for the poor of the two parishes as well as of the hospital, while he only pays a few pound* to four or five of the latter. The Bishop himself is patron and visitor of Mere, and permits the Warden his nephew (for whom he made the vacancy by promoting his predecessor) to enjoy or underlet a considerable trust estate, paying only ,£24. a year to the poor. The evidence shews that the visitors of the Huntingdon Hospital are the parties chiefly concerned in misapplying its funds—being themselves trustees, occupying the charity lands tor trifling rents—and using the estate for election purposes.' p. 25, 26.
These were, it seems, not the whole of the amendments •which the Bill had undergone when it came out of the Committee of the House of Lords. Two provisions had been introduced, which completed the nullification of- the whole measure, so 'that no man,' says Mr. Brougham, ' bow great 'soever his wish to conciliate and accommodate, could think of 'lending himself to the unworthy farce of passing such an act.'
• The Commissioners were only authorized to inquire into abuses respecting which they had information previously laid before them upon oath; nay, they could not summon a witness without oath being first made, that he had material information to communicate. They were also prohibited from asking for any paper, unless it wholly related to a separate charity; and where it contained other matter, they were not allowed to call for extracts or copies of the part* relating to the charity.' p., 30.
When, however, the enemies of (he Bill, in the Lords, found, that the Committee, upon learning the scope of these alterations, resolved to reject the Bill, and to proceed in the House of Commons by way of address, they condescended to give up several of their amendments, and withdrew their opposition to the third reading.
An honest execution, even of this mutilated Bill, promised to be of material benefit to the country. But this was not iu the contemplation of those who reluctantly assented to the issuing of the Commission. First, of the gentlemen recommended by the Committee, to be put into the Commission, two only have had the good fortune to meet the approbation of the official dispensers of patronage, and they are by no means indebted for their appointment to the recommendation of the Committee.
• Of the other paid Commissioners, I have understood that some look forward to the duties of the office as quite compatible with those of a most laborious profession; while others are supposed to regard the existence of abuses generally, in any establishment, with an unwilling, if not incredulous mind. Nay, I have reason to believe, that one very respectable member of the board has publicly professed an opinion, that a great anxiety for the welfare of the poor is symptomatic of Jacobinism. Exclusive devotion to professional •vocations, is a meritorious frame of mind; but does not perhaps very naturally point a man out as fit for a second occupation. A fond disposition to find every thing right in our political system; an aversion to believe in the existence of defects; a proneness to charge with disaffection those who spy them out: a tendency to suspect all who busy themselves for the poor as influenced by sinister motives, ;uul even as contrivers of political mischief,—these, for aught 1 know may be praise-worthy feelings; or amiable weaknesses; or excusable .mistakes; and far be it from me to think the worse of any man who is honestly influenced by what may seem the least rational of such propensities. But then I must take leave to think that they form very indifferent qualifications for sitting at a Board, the object of which is to pry into abuses, to expose errors and malversations, and to drag forth to public view, those who have robbed the poor of their rights. Persons under the influence of such impressions will enter upon their inquisitorial functions with a disposition to find ground of justification rather than of charge ; will reluctantly open their eyes to truths which thwart their favorite prejudices; and feel desirous that their inquiries should convict of exaggeration the statements now before the public.' p. 35, 36.
Then, as to the six honorary Commissioners whom the Bill, as amended by His Majesty's Ministers, appointed to form a superintending central body, the Committee had been led to hope that Lord Lansdown and the Bishop of London, (both of whom were avowedly in favour of the proposed inquiry,) would be among the number. 'Their places are supplied by two right
• reverend prelates, one of whom displayed his irreconcileable 'hostility to the Bill, by even voting against its commitment; 'and the other his disinclination towards it, by retiring before
• the division, in which the bench of bishops took so active a
• share*.' These are the only peers in the Commission; those noblemen who distinguished themselves in supporting the measure in the House of Lords, being, as well at all the members of the Education Committee who originated the Bill for Inquiry, carefully and pointedly excluded, to make room for the names of individuals decidedly hostile to the proposed investigation. So much for the good faith with which the Ministers have discharged this part of their trust! After mutilating the Act itself, they have entrusted the execution of it,
* The Bishops of Peterborough and St. Asaph.
.in great measure, to its avowed enemies. That in so doing', 'they should i'avour neglect or peculation for its own sake,' says Mr. Brougham, ' is inconceivable:
'but they may be deterred from fearlessly joining in the exposure of it by the clamours of those who are interested in its concealment, or the alarms of men easily disquieted, willing to believe that there is safety in supporting whatever exists, ready to fancy that there i» danger wherever there is movement, and to forget that in the neighbourhood of mischief repose is perilous. Certain it is, that the present Ministers have at all times betrayed a reluctance to reformation of every sort; and that, whether from interest, or weak compliance, or fear of disquieting the alarmists, they have so acted as to afford abuses of all descriptions effectual shelter. Upon the present occasion they have not deviated from their accustomed course; dnd the interposition of Parliament will be required to force them out of it, as it has frequently done before.' p. 45, 46.
We have now gone through the history of this disgusting and corrupt attempt to defeat the labours of the Education Committee. Should it still be suggested, that the above is the exparte statement of one who is both pleader and plaintiff in the cause, the utmost reasonable deduction on that ground, from the amount of the charge, will leave matter enough for the indictment. Were it even credible, that the whole business from beginning to end, was planned, brought forward, and prosecuted by the Education Committee, or by any single individual of that Committee, in the spirit and with the views of party, what would it prove, but that the impulse of partyspirit is capable of the most honourable and useful directions; that party is in fact a good thing, inasmuch as it would appear <o be the only principle which can grapple with corruption? But the Education Committee are not liable to any such charge; and that the measure which they originated was both necessary and beneficial, is clear in our view from this circumstance, that the Minister, though, as it has been betrayed by his subsequent conduct, secretly hostile to'it, durst not openly oppose it. The necessity of inquiry had been established, beyond the power of denial, by incontestable facts. Abuses of the most flagrant description were acknowledged to exist, and those who were determined that they should continue to exist, shrunk from the odium of resisting the dreaded inquiry. They •wished at once to appropriate the credit, and to negative the success of the investigation; and they determined to turn the officiousness of the Reformers to good account, by making the commission for detecting abuses, itself a source" of ministerial patronage. This is, at least, the aspect which their conduct at present bears to the country ; and that conduct is by no means so palpably at variance with the general tenour of their domestic