1902 Encyclopedia > England > Crime and Pauperism.

(Part 12)


Part 12. Crime and Pauperism.

The wide-spread belief that increase of education will lead to a decrease both of crime and pauperism receives some confirmation from the criminal and other statistics of England and Wales for more than a generation, though not to the full extent that might be desired. As regards crime, the decrease of it, while of a fluctuating nature, was much less in proportion than the increase of education, as shown by the number of persons committed for trial before juries in England and Wales and either convicted or acquitted. The following table shows these numbers for every fifth year from 1841 to 1876:—


The small difference between the number of persons convicted and acquitted and the total committed comprised those found to be and detained as insane.

It will be seen from the preceding table that, while the total committals decreased from 27,760 in 1841 to 16,078 in 1876, and the convictions from 20,280 in 1841 to 12,195 in 1876, the downward progress was not regular, but intermitted, fall and rise following each other. Thus there were fewer convictions in the year 1871 than in 1876. The fluctuations in crime and the number of criminals must be referred to complicated causes, chief among them the state of trade and commerce, which, according as they are either flourishing or depressed, greatly influence the condition of welfare of the masses of the population.

The classes of offences for which persons were committed for trial in England and Wales, and either convicted or acquitted by juries, in each of the three years from 1871 to 1873, were as follows:—


There were 590 workhouses and "unions" for the relief of paupers in England and Wales on the 1st of January 1849, and the number gradually rose till it reached 655 in 1864, from which time it remained stationary till 1869, when there was an amalgamation of several poor-law unions. There were 650 workhouses and unions on the 1st of January 1877.
The paupers of 1877 comprised 92,806 returned as "able-bodied," of which number 18,993 received in-door, and 73,813 out-door relief. Of the remaining paupers, 635,544 in number, 138,198 received in-door, and 497,346 out-door relief. The two-thirds of all the paupers were sane adults, the other third comprising children under sixteen years of age, lunatics, and idiots. Among the adult in-door paupers of 1877, the men formed the majority, but the women were nearly three times as numerous as the men among out-door paupers. Aged persons, or widows, deserted wives, and "unmarried mothers" with their children, comprised the great mass of these out-door paupers.

Pauperism is far more costly than crime. The total expenditure for criminals in the year 1873 was £585,021, while that for the maintenance of paupers amounted to £7,692,169. The branches of expenditure for criminals in the year 1873, and the average cost of each prisoner, were as follows:—


The total amount raised by "poor rates" so called in England and Wales in the year 1873 was £12,657,943, and the amount expended £12,426,566. But of this expenditure, not more than the sum of £7,692,169, before mentioned, was employed directly for the relief of the poor, the remainder, £4,734,397, going for other payments under the poor-laws, such as police rates, vaccination fees, and disbursement of highway boards. The actual direct expenses for the relief of the poor in the year 1873 were under the following branches:—


The average rate imposed by local taxation for the actual relief of the poor in 1873 was 5s. 11d. in the pound per head of population for the head of population for the whole of the United Kingdom, while for England and Wales alone it was 6s. 7d. per head of population, for Scotland 5s. 2d., and for Ireland 3s. 4d. Taking the percentage ratio to the whole population tax-paying and not, the amount was 3s. 3d. per individual for the United Kingdom, while the share for England and Wales was 3s. 8d per head, for Scotland 3s. 5d. and for Ireland 1s. 4d. per head of population.

The enormous cost of pauperism, and consequent heavy burthen entailed upon taxpayers—deemed the harder as being very unequally distributed, the poorest parishes being the highest assessed—led to many recent legislative attempts to effect a remedy. Under the Poor-Law Amendment Act of 4 and 5 Will. IV. c. 76, passed in 1834, a somewhat complicated administrative machinery was formed for the purpose, receiving the title of "poor Law Commission;" but it was superseded in 1847, by the statute 10and 11 Vict. c. 109, which instituted the "Commissioners for administering the Laws for the Relief of the Poor in England and Wales." An Act passed two years after, 12 and 13 Vict. c. 103, abolished alike commissions and commissioners, establishing in their stead, a "poor-law board," invested with extensive powers, its president having a seat in the Cabint., Although by the Act itself, and the institution of a new member of the Government, it was sufficiently acknowledged that the question of pauperism had become one of the most momentous of the day, and although its working, under the direction of a very able chief, gave general satisfaction, it was soon found that it was faulty in many respects. It was particularly so in not recognizing that the system of maintaining the poor, having been and remaining entirely local, could not be disserved from local government in general, and that the necessary reform must be in this direction.

The admission of this fact led to the passing of another statute, 34 and 35 Vict. c. 70, which obtained the royal assent, August 14, 1871, known as the Local Government Board Act. The Act ordered the establishment of a Local Government Board, as a ministerial department, to undertake all the functions of the Poor-Law Board, abolished henceforth, and, moreover, to superintend the execution of all the laws relating to the public health, and to matters connected with local government. The new Local Government Board began its functions in March 1871, its president holding a seat on the Cabinet.

Since its institution, the Local Government Board has published annual reports, addressed to parliament the sixth of which was issued at the end of the session of 1877. Judging by this report, the action of the new system for superintending the relief of the poor has been very successful, there being a considerable decrease of the expenditure for the actual maintenance of paupers. But this was effected entirely by savings in out-door relief. The respective charges for the maintenance of paupers in workhouses and for out-door relief in 1871 and in 1876 were stated as follows in the report:—


Poor-Law Administration—According to the sixth annual report of the Local Government Board, the expenditure for the in-door and out-door maintenance of paupers formed little more than half the total cost set down as being "for the relief of the poor." Among the other branches of expenditure were "salaries and rations of poor-law officers," £943, 000; "charges for pauper lunatics in asylums," £883,000; and a number of similar disbursements, the total amounting to £3,042,830. It is admitted in the report that, notwithstanding the strictest supervision, the local expenses of administration continue increasing, while the direct cost of maintenance of the poor is decreasing. Thus in 1871, when the actual maintenance of in-door and out-door paupers cost £357,000 less.

There cannot be any reasonable doubt than the principal remedy of pauperism must be sought in the general education of the poor. That this is already in the general education of the poor. That this is already taking effect, under the salutary working of the Compulsory Education Act of 1870, there are many symptoms. It is stated, in a report of the inspectors of the London board schools, published at the end of 1877, that the order and regularity strictly enforced in their schools not only affect the character of the children, but that of the parents in the most destitute social condition, including paupers receiving our-door relief. "There are indications," says the report , "that the parents are beginning to feel the wholesome influence of the schools. We are assured by teachers in the very lowest neighbourhood that there is now much less active opposition to their efforts to improve the children than formerly, and a marked diminution in the violent language and rough conduct which were at one time the invariable accomplishments to a parent’s visit to the school." The education of their children, the report goes on to say, is strikingly reflected in a "growing self-respect of the parents," while all things "point unmistakably to a great change for the better, which is being slowly yet surely effected in the homes of the children through the influence of board schools."

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