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dandy, and carried his new invented fashions in art to i! • extreme of foppery. His original drawings, some of which are now before us, display great dexterity and much knowledge, but are disfigured by a flutter and. feeblenessj palpably the effect, not of ignorance, but of misapplied knowledge.
Art. If. I. Third Report from the Select Committee on ike Poor Laws i (1818 :) With an Appendix, containing Returns from the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, 26th May, 1818.
9. A Bill (as amended by the Committee) for the Establishment of Parochial Benefit Societies.
'T'HIS Third Report of the Select Committee, is in itself ex•*• tremely short, and merely serves to introduce the Report of the Committee of the General Assembly, which occupies the bulky Appendix. It states, that it has been the object of the Select Committee, during the late sessions, rather to carry into effect the suggestions contained in their previous report, than to bestow more time on the investigation and discussion of the subject at large, the Committee ' being satisfied of the justice 'of those principles and opinions which had been before Mi' 'mitted to the judgement of the House.' It represents the attention of the Select Committee to have been necessarily so much occupied with the details of those measures which bad received the sanction of Parliament, * aa to have added ma
* tonally to the difficulty of maturing other measures that would 'apply to the radical evil of the system.' If they have, therefore, the Report proceeds to say, c abstained from offering to 'the consideration of the House, during the present Session of 'Parliament, any measure the nature and object of which
* might have been to provide an effectual check to the progress,
* and a gradual remedy to the evils which have resulted from a 'compulsory assessment for the purposes of relieving the Poor; 'it has not been from any alteration in the opinions they have
* expressed of the necessity which exists for making such a 'provision, or from any unwillingness on their part, to Cd'counter the difficulty of offering such a provision to the con4 sideration of (he House.' It is, however, far from being improbable, that the Honourable Committee, although they may not see reason to change their opinion as to the theoretical expediency of radical remedies, have found the practical difficulties of the subject baffle every attempt to frame a feasible plan in conformity to the principles they have adopted.
In resuming the general subject of the Poor Laws, what TO propose to ourselves, is, to take a cursory review of the variou* remedial projects which have been submitted to public attention: and this will neccssai ily introduce the consideration of ih» acknowledged evils connected, either inherently or otherwise, with the system of Parochial Relief, as at present administered.
With regard to the projects having for their object the eventual abolition of the Law of Relief, they are of such a Datura as in themselves almost to justify the doubt whether the end can eveu be desirable, the attainment of which must evidently be regarded as so hopeless. Unless, however, we are satisfied as to the precise nature of the ultimate object at which it is desirable to aim, we shall make but little progress in the inquiry into the fituess or expediency of any measures of a remedial nature. Is, then, the ultimate extirpation of the present system, the object to which every modification of the existing laws should tend ?' Can we,' to adopt Mr, Court'enay's language, 'hop«
* that labour and wages will so completely adjust themselves, 'and the people be so nicely proportioned to the soil and wealth M of the country, as to confine want and misery to the profligate
* only? Or, if we are not sanguine enough for this, are we pref pared to leave wholly to private benevolence the relief of un
* foreseen and undeserved misfortune ?* If so, if our readers •re prepared to concur with Mr, Ricardo in his assertion, that no scheme .merits the least attention which has not the total aboJition of the Poor Laws Cor its ultimate object, it will only re. main to inquire how the transition from one state of things to another can be accomplished at the least expense of intermediate suffering, or, (what may perhaps be a still more impressive consideration,) with the least danger to ourselves.
The following are the projects having for their object the removal of ' the radical evil of the system.'
1. ' To fix the whole sum to be raised, at its present rate,
* or any other that might be determined upon, and to make a 'law that on no account this sum should be exceeded:' a plan said to have been suggested by Sir Win. Pulteney, favoured by Sir Frederick lijden and the Committee of the House of Commons, but strongly condemned by Mr. Malthus and Mr, Davison, as well as by Mr. Courtenay, who exposes its injustice, and shews at the same time the impracticability qf realizing it.
2. To reduce the amount raised, by taking of? one-tenth of the Poor's Rates annually, so as to destroy the whole in ten years; (a scheme recommended by Mr. Townsend;) or, by means of ' a decennial reduction of one-tenth, to deliver us 'from the burthen in a hundred years.'
3. To exclude, after a short notice, from the benefit of the l^aw of Relief, the children of future marriages. This is Mr. Malthus's suggestion; but, in his Letter to Whitbread, cited by Hi-. Courtenay, he seems virtually to abandon it, wltv.u he
that 'he should be very sorry to see any Legislative regulations 'founded upon the plan he had proposed, till the higher and 'middle classes of society were generally convinced of its ne'cessity, and till the poor themselves could be made to un4 dersland that they had purchased their right to a provision
* by law, by too great and extensive a sacrifice of their liberty
* and happiness.1 Such a condition as this, if it does not amount to a sine die postponement of the plan, refers it to a period too remote, we imagine, to come into our present calculations. Mr. Courtenay has, in our opinion, satisfactorily disposed of each of these propositions; we are not aware of any others.
Were there, however, no alternative but such as the above suggestions imply, to our sitting down under the unmitigated pressure of the existing burdens, the desperation which such a prospect would induce, might seem to warrant any experiments, however bold, that afforded the chance of eventual relief. Much, however, it is admitted on all sides, may be done towards alleviating the evil, by correcting the injurious administration of the Poor Laws, which has, within a comparatively recent period, given a new character to the original system, and by institutions adapted to raise the moral character of the lower classes. To these two objects, we are well persuaded, all measures of beneficial reform must be exclusively directed.
And here, at the very outset, in considering the evils arising from the mal-administration merely of the law of relief, we are met with the prevailing practice of mixing relief with wages. This in itself presents by far the greatest obstacle to any plans of amendment. The Committee of the House of Commons, although they have expressed themselves very strongly on the subject, have been unable to suggest any legislative remedy for this enormous abuse. There would seem, indeed, to be but two ways in which this practice could be put a stop to; either to make it obligatory on the employer, in every branch of productive industry, to pay a certain price for labour according to a fixed scale, regulated by the price of provisions, so as to supersede the necessity of relieving any who are in the receipt of wages; or to enact that no man who is in the receipt of wages, shall be entitled to claim pecuniary relief. To the former plan, insuperable objections would oppose themselves ; objections both of principle and of detail. We have seen, it js true, that in one brunch of our manufactures, a local bill of this description has appeared to have had a beneficial effect in protecting the labourer from oppression; and in cas-s where no legislative interference has been exerted, a scale of wages mutually agreed upon by the masters and workmen of a trade, is generally found to be attended with their mutual advantage. But setting aside the reasonings «f the economists, who contend that the wages of labour should always be left to be regulated by the increase or reduction of the demand, it is sufficient to remark, that work of various descriptions must be paid for in relation to its quality, not less than in proportion to quantity; its quality as produced by the superior skill of the workman. Of the material difference in the marketable value of the same commodity arising out of this circumstance, a fixed scale of wages can take no cognizance. The infinite modifications of labour by skill, can no otherwise be taken into account, than as labour of all kinds is left to be paid for according to the market price. Any further discussion of this matter, is, however, superseded by this simple consideration, that the attempt to put a statute-price upon labour, by whatsoever severities the law should be enforced, would prove as abortive as it would be injurious and unjust.
With regard to the other mode,—the enacting that in future no relief in money shall be given to any man who is in the receipt of wages, it is obvious, that by iiself, under existing circumstances, it would be next to impracticable to carry it into effect. This is, however, the only plan which promises an efficient reform of the present system, and it deserves, therefore, our most attentive consideration. For if it be true, as there can be little doubt, that the Poor Laws are the means of keeping down the wages of labour, that but for such a provision the wages of the labourer would have been higher, it would seem to be tor the good even of those who subsist upon the wages of labour, that, so far as regards them, the provision by which they are losers rather than gainers, should be abolished. The consequence of such an enactment would, of course, be, that many •would prefer casting themselves wholly upon the parish for support, to selling their labour for a sum inadequate for their maintenance: this would operate as a check upon the supply, and by that means tend to enhance the price of labour. Under these circumstances wages must, we should conceive, rise to the level of a fair living price; and as soon as this should be the case, the condition of the labourer would become so superior to that of the pauper, as to furnish the strongest inducement to industry. The aggregate number of paupers would be lessened by the total number of the labourers then receiving wages, who now subsist partly upon wages, and partly upon parochial relief; and it may be questioned whether the expense incurred by the maintenance of those who should be left entirely dependent upon parochial relief, would long continue to exceed the amount which is now expended upon a larger number in connexion with wages. Pauperism would then again become associated with the idea of degradation, as a state of dishonourable and comfortless indigence, into which the labourer would dread to sink, and in which he would loathe to continue. The pittance he would then receive, he would no longer be uble to demand as the f.iir reward of his toil, or the fulfilment of a previous agreement with his employer. Whut he received, he would receive as alms, and it would be the fault of the local administrators of relief, if those alms exceeded in either the quantity or the quality of the provision, what he might enjoy as the fruit of his honourable earnings. There arc many districts in which, we apprehend, the transition to such a state of things would not be attended with any fatal difficulties; districts in which the practice of mixing relief with wages is less prevalent ; and in them some ex|ierimeut of the kind might safely be tried. Indeed, in almost all the case? of mal administration of the Poor Laws which call for legisUT tive interference, it would he, perhaps, the safest way to begin with the enacting of local bills. Slow and tedious as the process of reform might be, if conducted upon this plan, we question whether any general legislative measures can be adapted to meet the very different circumstances of the Poor throughout the kingdom. We question whether the population of a manufacturing town, for instance, can ever be disposed of with the same facility, under any essential change in the present system, as the thinly scattered poor of an agricultural district. The best mode pf making provision for the indigent, must always be a matter as much of detail as of general principle; and if the inhabitants of a parish, of a district, or, at length, of a county, could be induced to apply to Parliament for leave and authority to make those changes which local circumstances should appear to render safe and expedient, upon their own conviction of the policy as well as practicability of the change, it would be in our view far preferable to any sweeping alterations digested in a select committee of political economists, and indiscriminately enforced upon the country at large. The failure of any experiment upon so reduced a scale, would endanger no fatal explosion; the suffering which it might inflict, would admit, if necessary, of extraordinary means of relief; and the evil, if any evil consequence? ensued, might soon be repaired. But should the plan succeed, the example of the district in which the reduction of the rate, or the melioration of the lower classes, should be proved to be the result of an improved administration of the law of relief, would speedily enough be followed by all the parishes which were so circumstanced as to be able to adopt similar measures; by no others could we wish to see them adopted. The idea of ten thousand private Poor Bills may be made a subject of ridicule, but no such absurdity as the separate application of every parish to the legislature, is contained in the proposition. The number of such bills would not, it is probable, more than keep pace