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POOR LAWS. Without embarking on an inquiry as to the causes of pauperism or the primary right of any persons to have their wants, however pressing, met by the state, it is sufficient to say that in Great Britain "there is no man so indigent or wretched but he may demand a supply sufficient for all the necessaries of life from the more opulent part of the community, by means of the several statutes enacted for the relief of the poor" (Blackstone). Moreover, apart from statute, by the common law of England the poor were sustainable "by parsons, rectors of the church, and the parishioners, so that none of them die for default of sustenance" (Mirror).
The great importance of the subject of relief of the poor is evinced, apart from other considerations, by the number of persons immediately affected, either as recipients of relief or as ratepayers, and by the sums expended in that relief. The number of paupers of all classes now in receipt of relief in England and Wales approaches 800,000, equivalent to a thirty-fourth part of the entire population, and relieved at a yearly cost of considerably more than £8,000,000, representing a charge of between six and seven shillings per head of the estimated population.
Of existing legislation a statute of the beginning of the 17th century (43 Eliz. c. 2, 1601) is the earliest, under which, by parochial taxation, parish officers are directed to provide a stock of materials for "setting the poor on work" (that is to say, persons "married or unmarried having no means to maintain them [and that] use no ordinary and daily trade of life to get their living by"), and further for setting to work their children and also competent sums of money for and towards the necessary relief of the lame, impotent, old, blind, and such others among them being, poor and not able to work." The same statute enacts "that the father and grandfather and the mother and grandmother and the children of every poor old, blind, lame, and impotent person, or other poor person not able to work, being of a sufficient ability, shall at their own charges relieve and maintain every such poor person."
Although the statute of Elizabeth is spoken of as the principal foundation of existing legislation relating to the poor, it is an error to say that the relief of the poor originated at that period. The common law of England has been already cited, and traces of poor laws, however far removed from a system, are found in all civilized states. An approximation to the principle may be discerned in the legislation of England at a very early period; and before the Norman Conquest laws of Athelstane, establishing a responsibility over households and landowners, although in-tended for good order and calculated to prevent the growth of vagabondage and violence, had also the effect of estab-lishing reciprocal relations between the landless man and the landowner, between property and poverty, between the householder and the houseless,casting upon one the duty of supervising the conduct and providing for the wants of the other, in some respects similar to the poor law of the present day. "The results of this legislation were likewise, it may be presumed, not very dissimilar, for the improvident and the indolent would endeavour, with the smallest amount of labour, to obtain the largest amount of assistance from the householder who was liable for their support and responsible for their conduct, whilst the householder would as certainly endeavour to obtain the largest amount of labour in return for the cost and responsibility to which he was subject." Again, so long as serfdom and villenage prevailed, whether to be traced to the Norman Conquest or not, there could be no call for any special provision for the destitute. "The persons who might, if free agents and in a destitute state, have been properly relieved out of a common stock, would as serfs or villeins have a claim on their masters, to whom they belonged, and who were bound to provide for them" (Nicholls). As those old ties became more relaxed the change to freedom was accompanied by some evils, and led to a great increase of vagrancy; and from a period commencing before the close of the 14th century there was a stream of legislation on the subject. An Act of 12 Richard II, after providing for labour to persons able to work (see LABOUR AND LABOUR LAWS, vol. xiv. p. 167), enacts "that beggars impotent to serve shall abide in the cities and towns where they may be dwelling at the time of the proclamation of this statute, and, if the people of the cities and towns will not, or may not, suffice to find them, that these, the said beggars, shall draw them to other towns within the hundred, rape, or wapentake, or to the towns where they were born, within forty days after the proclama-tion made, and there shall continually abide during their lives." This is the first enactment in which the impotent poor are directly named as a separate class, and on that account it has been mistakenly regarded as the origin of the English poor laws; but it makes no provision for their relief, and the chief characteristic of the statute is the fact of its having openly recognized the distinction between "beggars able to labour" and "beggars impotent to serve." Passing over intermediate legislation, by an Act passed in 1530, "directing how aged, poor, and impotent persons compelled to live by alms, shall be ordered, and how vagabonds and beggars shall be punished," justices of the peace were re-quired to give licences under their seals to such poor, aged, and impotent persons to beg within a certain precinct as they should think to have most need; "and if any do beg out of his precinct he shall be set in the stocks two days and nights ; and if any beg without such licence he shall be whipped, or else be set in tile stocks three days and three nights, with bread and water only. And persons being whole and mighty in body, and able to labour, who shall beg, or be vagrants and not able to account how they get their living, shall be whipped, and sworn to return to the place where they were born, or last dwelt by the space of three years, and there put themselves to labour" (22 Hen. VIII. c. 12).
Six years later an important and very interesting Act was passed reciting that, although it had been ordained that aged, poor, and impotent people should repair to the hundred where they were born or had dwelt for three years before, no provision had been made how they should be ordered at their coming thither, nor how the hundred should be charged for their relief. It was therefore enacted that the mayors, sheriffs, constables, householders, and all other head officers of every city, shire, town, and parish, at the repair and coming thither of such poor creature should most charitably receive them, and all the governors and ministers of every such place should succour, find, and keep them by way of voluntary and charitable alms, as should be thought meet in their discretion, in such wise as none of the poor persons of very necessity should be compelled to go openly in begging, on pain of every parish making default forfeiting 20s. a month. The head officers and churchwardens, or two others of every parish in the realm, were required to gather and procure such voluntary and charitable alms of the good Christian people, by means of boxes every Sunday, holiday, and other festival, in such good and discreet ways as the poor, impotent, lame, feeble, sick, and diseased people, being not able to work, may be provided, holpen, and relieved, so that in no wise none of them be suffered to go openly in begging, and such as be lusty may be kept in continual labour. Every preacher, parson, vicar, and curate, as well in their sermons, collections, bidding of the beads, as in time of confessions, and at the making of the wills or testaments of any, persons, at all times of the year shall exhort, move, stir, and provoke people to be liberal. Certain of the poor people were themselves appointed to collect and gather broken meats and fragments and the refuse drink of every householder in the parish, to be distributed equally among the poor at discretion. The overplus of collections in rich and wealthy parishes was distributable towards the sustentation of other poor parishes. The Act provided that, where the voluntary and unconstrained alms and charity, together with any moneys added or given from any monasteries or persons or bodies, proved insufficient, the officers and inhabitants should not incur the penalty nor be constrained to any contribution other than at their free will, provided that what was col-lected was justly distribated. Provision was made for duly accounting and for the punishment of embezzlement. Con-stables, churchwardens, and collectors of alms had, however, allowance for their loss of time and their travelling expenses (27 Hen. VIII. c. 25).
A number of statutes were passed after the dissolution of the monasteries for further providing for the poor and impotent, who had increased in great numbers. Many of these statutes were specially directed against vagrancy, and have been referred to in the article already mentioned, as closely connected with compulsory labour.
At the commencement of the reign of Edward VI. (1547) a statute also affecting labourers and vagrants and dealing very harshly with them (see vol. xiv. p. 168), re-citing that there are many maimed and otherwise lamed, sore, aged, and impotent persons which, resorting together and making a number, do fill the streets or highways of divers cities, towns, markets, and fairs, who, if they were separated, might easily be nourished in the towns and places wherein they were born, or have been most abiding for the space of three years, enacted that the mayor, constable, or other head officer of any city, town, or hundred shall see all such idle, impotent, and aged persons, who otherwise cannot be taken for vagabonds, which were born within the said city, town, or hundred, or have been most conversant there by the space of three years and now de-cayed, bestowed and provided for of tenantries, cottages, or other convenient houses to be lodged in, at the costs of the place, there to be relieved and cured by the devotion of good people, and suffer no others to remain and beg there, but shall convey them on horseback, cart, chariot, or other-wise to the next constable, and so from constable to constable, till they be brought to the place where they were born, or most conversant as aforesaid; provided that, if they were not so lame or impotent but that they mightdo some manner of work, work was to be provided either in common, or place them with such persons as would find them work for meat and drink. For the furtherance of the relief of such as were in "unfeigned misery," the curate of every parish was required on every Sunday and holiday, after reading the gospel of the day, to make (according to such talent as God hath given him) a godly and brief exhortation to his parishioners, moving and exciting them to remember the poor people, and the duty of Christian charity in reliev-ing of them which be their brethren in Christ, born in the same parish, and needing their help. There was a proviso that all leprous and poor bedridden creatures were at liberty to remain in houses appointed for such persons, and for their better relief such persons were allowed to appoint one or two persons for any one such house to gather the alms of all inhabitants within the compass of four miles (I Edw. V1. c. 3). This statute, however, was of brief duration.
Subsequently, in the same reign, further legislation took place, having for its main object the restraint of vagrancy, providing that every vagabond and beggar being born in any other nation or country should be conveyed from place to place, or to the place or borders next adjoining to his native country or to the nearest port if there was a sea between, there to be kept of the inhabitants until they could be conveyed over, and then at the cost of the in-habitants of the port, if the vagrants had not themselves wherewith to defray the cost. The same statute made provision for children, reciting that many men and women going begging, impotent and lame, and some able enough to labour, carried children about with them, which, being once brought up in idleness, would hardly be brought afterwards to any good kind of labour or service, and authorizing any person to take such child between the ages of five and fourteen to be brought up in any honest labour and occupation till such child, if a woman, attained the age of fifteen or was married, and if a man child until eighteen, if the master so long lived (3 & 4 Edw. VI. c. 16).
Two years later the mayor or head officer of every city, borough, and town corporate, and in every other parish of the country the parson and churchwardens, having in a book as well the names of inhabitants and householders as of needy persons, were required yearly "one holiday in Whitsunweek openly in the church and quickly after divine service to call the householders and inhabitants together and select two or more able persons to gather charitable alms for the relief of the poor, and directing such gatherers the week after their election, when the people are at the church, and have heard Gods holy word, to gently ask and demand of every man and woman what they of their charity would be content to give weekly towards the relief of the poor, and write the result in the book, to gather and distribute the alms weekly to the poor and impotent persons without fraud or covin, favour or affection, in such manner as the most impotent had the most help, and such as could get part of their living to have the less, and by the discretion of the collectors to be put in such labour as they were fit and able to do, but none to go or sit openly a-begging." It is noteworthy that, except a penalty of 20s. imposed on a person refusing the office of gatherer, duties were enforced by ecclesiastical censure. The gatherers were required to account for the money; and if they refused the bishop of the diocese or ordinary was to compel them by censures of the church to account before such persons as he appointed. Further, if any person, being able to further the charitable work, "do obstinately and frowardly refuse to give towards the help of the poor or do wilfully discourage others from so charitable a deed," the parson, vicar, or curate, and churchwardens should "gently exhort him, and if he will not be so persuaded" then on certificate the bishop should send for him" to induce and persuade him by charitable ways and means, and so according to his discretion to take order for the reformation thereof"(5 & 6 Edw. VI. c. 2).
This statute was recognized in part after the accession of Mary, by altering the time of choosing collectors to Christmas and doubling the penalty for refusing to fill the office of collector, and moving wealthy parishes in cities and towns to contribute towards the relief of the poor in the less wealthy parishes. At the same time a material modification of the spirit of earlier legislation was effected by enabling justices to license the poor of parishes having more poor than they could relieve, to go begging into specified parishes, wearing a badge "both on the breast and back of their outermost garment" (2 & 3 P. & M. c. 5).
Early in Elizabeths reign the spiritual persuasion towards obstinate and toward persons withholding con-tributions was strengthened by the aid of the civil power, by directing the bishop or ordinary to bind all obstinate persons by recognizance to appear at the next sessions; and then, the charitable and gentle persuasions of the justices failing, the latter could tax the obstinate person in a weekly sum according to good discretion, and in default commit him to jail until. payment. A corresponding power was given to deal with collectors refusing to account (5 Eliz. c. 3). A few years later (1572) legislation took a more vigorous turn "for the punishment of vagabonds and for relief of the poor and impotent." The Act 14 Eliz. c. 5, reciting that "all the parts of this realm of England and Wales be presently with rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars exceedingly pestered, by means whereof daily happeneth in the same realm horrible murders, thefts, and other great outrages, to the high displeasure of Almighty God, and to the great annoy of the common weal, and for avoiding confusion by reason of numbers of laws concern-ing the premises standing in force together," repealed the before-mentioned statutes of 22 Hen. VIII., 3 & 4 Edw. VI., and b Eliz. c. 3, and made provision for various matters, "as well for the utter suppressing of the said outrageous enemies to the common weal as for the charitable relieving of the aged and impotent poor people." Persons above fourteen and being rogues, vagabonds, or sturdy beggars, and "taken begging in every part of this realm, or taken vagrant, wandering and misordering themselves," were upon their apprehension to be committed to prison to the next sessions or jail delivery without bail, and on conviction "shall be adjudged to be grievously whipped, and burnt through the gristle of the right ear with a hot iron of the com-pass of an inch about, manifesting his or her roguish kind of life and his or her punishment received for the same." This judgment was not to be executed if after imprison-ment "some honest person, valued at the last subsidy next before that time to five pounds in goods or twenty shillings in lands, or else some such honest householder as by the justices of the peace of the same county, or two of them, shall be allowed, will of his charity take such offender before the same justices into his service for one whole year," under recognizance to keep this poor that period and to bring him, if still living, before the justices at the years end; on the other hand the pauper departing within the years against the will of his master was to be whipped and burnt as above provided. The offender was absolved from a second punishment for a short time, but if after threescore days, and being of the age of eighteen or more, he "do eftsoons fall again to any kind of roguish or vagabonds trade of life," then the said rogue, vagabond, or sturdy beggar, from thenceforth was "to be taken, adjudged, and deemed in all respects as a felon," and should suffer as a felon,subject, however, to like redemption as on the first charge, conditioned for two years service; but offending a third time he was to "be adjudged a felon" and suffer pains of death and loss of lands and goods as a felon, without allowance or benefit of clergy or sanctuary. Offenders under fourteen were punishable by whipping or stocking as provided by the repealed statutes.
A clause defining persons subject to the above punish-ment throws a light on the manners of the age, and is, as well as its exceptive provisions, of considerable interest; but, as relating to vagrancy, and only indirectly to the relief of the really poor, it is not given here. It is to be observed, however, that the statute provided that it should be still lawful to masters and governors of hospitals to lodge or harbour impotent or aged persons by way of charity according to their foundation, and to give money in alms as provided by the terms of their foundation. Harsh as was the treatment of rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars, it was not so cruel as the short-lived legislation of the reign of Edward VI. imposing slavery in its worst form on wandering serving men (see vol xiv. p. 168).
Exceptional provision was made for persons provided with passes and safe conducts, as in former Acts. The statute goes on to say that, "forasmuch as charity would that poor, aged, and impotent persons should as necessarily be provided for as the said rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars repressed," and that the former should have "convenient habitations and abiding places throughout this realm to settle themselves upon, to the end that they nor any of them should hereafter beg or wander about," and enacts that justices of the peace in their different divi-sions "make diligent research and inquiry of all aged, poor, impotent, and decayed persons born within their said divisions and limits, or which were there dwelling within three years next before this present parliament, which live, or of necessity be compelled to live by alms of the charity of the people that be or shall be abiding within the limits of their commissions and authorities," and to register in a book the names of the poor persons, and devise and appoint meet and convenient places at their discretion "to settle the same poor people for their habitations and abidings, if the parish within the which they shall be found shall not or will not provide for them," The justices were also to number the poor people and "set down what portion the weekly charge towards their relief and sustentation would amount to;" and, that done, the justices, mayors, and other officers should "by their good discretions" tax the inhabitants dwelling within these limits to such weekly charge, and appoint collectors and also overseers of the poor for one year. Much as by a previous statute of 1547, compulsory removal of poor people from parish to parish (except the leprous and bed-ridden), not born or not having dwelt in the place, was pro-vided for. Poor people refusing to "be bestowed in any of the said abiding places, but coveting still to hold on their trade of begging," or afterwards departing, were for the first offence to suffer as rogues or vagabonds in the first degree of punishment, and for a second offence to suffer the last degree of punishment already mentioned. The provisions as to putting out children of beggars contained in the statute of Edward VI. already noticed were repeated in nearly the same terms, but the age of male children was extended from eighteen to twenty-four for the duration of service.
The Act provided for justices licences for poor to beg, ask, and receive relief in other parishes under similar cir-cumstances as badges had been granted under an earlier and repealed statute. The Act also contained many provisions and exceptions as to places and corporate bodies, and any person "able to further the charitable work" contemplated by the statute, and obstinately refusing to give towards the help and relief of the poor, or wilfully discouraging others from so charitable a deed, was to be summoned before justices to abide their order, and on refusal to be committed to jail, and "thereto remain until he be contented with their said order, and do perform the same."
There is extant a letter addressed to Lord Burghley by a justice of the peace for Somerset, which shows that the great evils arising from habits of idleness amongst the poor began then to be understood, and strengthens the idea that one great object of the legislative provisions for the poor made about that time was to prevent able-bodied men from remaining unemployed. The writer advocated building houses of correction adjoining jails, to which vagrants, after conviction, should be transported "to be kept in work, except some person would take any of them into service,"adding, "I dare presume to say the tenth felony will not be committed that now is" (Strype, Annals of Church and State).
In 1576 the statute 14 Eliz. c. 5 was explained and materially extended. "To the intent youth may be accus-tomed and brought up in labour, and then not like to grow to be idle rogues, and to the intent also that such as be already grown up in idleness, and so rogues at this present, may not have any just excuse in saying that they cannot get any service or work, and that other poor and needy persons being willing to labour may be set on work," it was ordained that within every city and town corporate, by appointment of the mayor and other head officer, and in every other market town or other place where the justices in their general sessions yearly shall think meet, shall be provided a stock of wool, hemp, flax, iron, or other stuff, as that country is most meet for, and being wrought to be delivered to collectors and governors of the poor. Any person refusing to work, or begging, or living idly, or, taking such work, spoiling or embezzling it in such wise that after monition given the minister and church-wardens and the collectors and governors think such person not meet to have any more work delivered to him, was to be taken, "in convenient apparel meet for such a body to wear," to the "house of correction" establisbed by the Act, and under the government of overseers of such houses, called censors and wardens, "there to be straitly kept, as well in diet as in work, and also punished from time to time." To the houses of correction were also taken and set on work not only the persons mentioned but also such "as be inhabitants in no parish or taken as rogues, or who had been once punished as rogues, or by reason of the uncertainty of their birth or of their dwelling by the space of three years, or for any other cause, ought to be abiding and kept in the county." An additional clause of the Act, reciting that by the earlier Act of 14 Eliz. no "pain" was incurred by any impotent person who having a competent allowance provided within his parish wandered abroad without licence "loitering and begging," enacted that he was to be whipped, and for a second offence to "suffer as a rogue and vagabond" (18 Eliz. c. 3). The "stock" for work and the houses of correction were provided "of all the inhabitants to be taxed" but, "because it is to be hoped that many well-disposed persons, understanding the good success which will grow by setting people on work and avoiding of idleness, would from time to time give towards the sustentation and maintenance of that good purpose," persons were empowered during the next twenty years to give lands for the purposes without any licence of mortmain. A later Act, reciting that this power to erect hospitals or other abiding and working houses for the poor had not its due effect by reason that no person could erect such house without special licence from the crown by letters patent, dispensed with such licence for twenty years (39 Eliz. c. 5).
The numerous charities and endowments and founda-tions of almshouses by will and otherwise of the 16th and 17th centuries, still extant in numerous buildings through-out the country, are illustrations of the spirit of the legis-lation here referred to. It is not improbable that legisla-tion sometimes prompted the donors, but more probable that such legislation was a reflex of the general disposition prevalent for generations after the ordinary channels of voluntary charity were obstructed.
In 1597 considerable progress was made towards estab-lishing a system of poor laws, not so much by introducing novelties as by entering more specifically into details, and especially by defining the legislation of some twenty years earlier (18 Eliz. c. 3) in the same reign. The appointment of overseers first mentioned in the earlier statute was provided for by enacting that the church-wardens of every parish and four subsidy men or other substantial householders nominated yearly in Easter week by justices should be called overseers of the poor of the same parish. The majority of the overseers were required with the consent of justices to set to work the children of persons unable to maintain them, and also all persons married or single and having no means of maintenance and no ordirary and daily trade of life to get their living by. The taxation weekly or otherwise of inhabitants and occupiers for providing a stock of flax, hemp, wool, thread, iron, and other necessary wares and stuff to set the poor on work, and also competent sums for the necessary relief of the lame, impotent, old, blind poor, unable to work, and the cost of erection, by leave of the lords of manors, of places of habitation on waste or common lands, was gathered according to the ability of the parish (or, if the parish was unable, then of other parishes in the hundred and county), and was enforceable by warrant of distress against every one refusing to contribute, but with a power of appeal against the cess or tax. Parents and children being of sufficient ability were required to maintain their poor children or parents. Any person whatsoever wander-ing abroad and begging in any place, by licence or without, was punishable as a rogue, with a proviso exempting poor persons asking relief in victuals only in the parishes where they dwelt (39 Eliz. c. 3).
Four years after came "the famous statute" of 1601 (43 Eliz. c. 2) already mentioned, out of which Dr Burn of observes, "more litigation and a greater amount of revenue have arisen, with consequences more extensive and more serious in their aspect, than ever were identified with any other Act of Parliament or system of legislation whatever." It was the permanent establishment of the main pro-visions of the Act more than their novelty at the time the Act was passed that has fixed it as a kind of epoch in legislation for the maintenance of the poor. The Act re-enacts, verbatim for the most part, the above-mentioned statute of 1597 (39 Eliz. c. 3). The material alterations were defining the rateable property, and extending and defining the family obligation of support, and also the formal apprenticing instead of placing out of children. The Act ccntains provisions for the rendering of accounts by the overseers.
The foregoing short review of legislation exhibits the very gradual change by which the maintenance of the poor became much more a temporal than a spiritual concern. So gradual was this change that in some places the law was neglected and in others abused. The material changes in legislation subsequent to the reign of Elizabeth must now be briefly alluded to.
The efforts culminating in the statute of 1601 were not altogether attended with satisfactory results. At the end of eight years the Act 7 James I. c. 4 recited various defects. "Many wilful people finding that they, having children, have some hope to have relief from the parish wherein they dwell, and being able to labour, and thereby to relieve themselves and their families, do nevertheless run away out of their parishes and leave their families upon the parish." Again, and more prominently, "hereto-fore divers good and necessary laws and statutes have been made and provided for the creation of houses of correction, for the suppressing and punishing of rogues, vagabonds, and other idle, vagrant, and disorderly persons; which laws have not wrought so good effect as was expected, as well for that the said houses of correction have not been built according as was intended, as also for that the said statutes have not been duly and severely put in execution, as by the said statutes were appointed."
It was also convenient that the masters or governors of the houses of correction should have some fit allowance and maintenance "for their travel and care" to be had in the service, and also "for the relieving of such as shall happen to be weak and sick in their custody, and that the subjects of this realm should in no sort be over-charged, to raise up money for stocks to set such on work as shall be committed to their custody," and that there "shall be the more care taken by all such masters of the houses of correction that, when the country hath been at trouble and charge to bring all disorderly persons to their safe keeping, then they shall perform their duties in that behalf." Another grievance related to bastard children chargeable to the parish, of which more below.
The remedy for these and other grievances was putting in execution "all laws and statutes now in force made for the creating and building of houses of correction, and for punishing of rogues, vagabonds, and other wandering and idle persons," and providing restraints in the same direction, and for the efficient discharge of duties of treasurers, constables, and other officers in rendering accounts.
In 1630 a royal commission was issued to inquire into the neglect of the poor laws, and directions given for their enforcement.
By a Commonwealth statute of 1656, reciting that "the number of wandering, idle, loose, dissolute, and disorderly persons is of late much increased by reason of some defects in the laws, and statutes heretofore made and provided for the punishment of rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars (they being seldom taken begging), by means whereof divers robberies, burglaries, thefts, insurrections, and other misdemeanours have been occasioned, all and every idle, loose, and dissolute persons found and taken within the commonwealth of England, vagrant and wandering from their usual place of living or abode, and [who] shall not have such good and sufficient cause or business for such his or their travelling or wandering" as justices of the peace or mayors or other chief officers approved, were adjudged rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars, within the statute 39 Eliz. c. 4, although not found begging; at the same time fiddlers and minstrels were also adjudged rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars; and by a statute of the same year persons having no visible estate, profes-sion, or calling answerable to their rate of living expenses were indictable.
Soon after the Restoration attention was directed to the existing state of the law and some of its defects. In 1662 the statute 13 & 14 Charles II. c. 12 recites that "the necessity, number, and continued increase of the poor, not only within the cities of London and Westminster, with the liberties of each of them, but also through the whole kingdom of England and dominion of Wales, is very great and exceeding burthensome, being occasioned by reason of some defects in the law concerning the settling of the poor, and for want of a due provision for the regulations of relief, and employment in such parishes or places where they are legally settled, which doth enforce many to turn incorrigible rogues, and others to perish for want, together with the neglect of the faithful execution of such laws and statutes as have formerly been made for the apprehending of rogues and vagabonds, and for the good of the poor." "For remedy whereof and for the preventing the perishing of any of the poor, whether young or old, for want of such supplies as may be necessary," numerous additional provisions were enacted. In the first place, "by reason of some defects in the law, poor people are not restrained from going from one parish to another, and therefore do endeavour to settle themselves in those parishes where there is the best stock, the largest commons or wastes to build cottages, and the most woods for them to burn and destroy, and, when they have consumed it, then to another parish, and at last become rogues and vagabonds, to the great discouragement of parishes to provide stocks, where it is liable to be devoured by strangers." Justices of the peace, upon complaint by the parish officers, within forty days after any such persons coming to settle as before mentioned in any tenement under the yearly value of £10, were empowered by warrant to remove such person to the parish where he was last legally settled either as a native, householder, sojourner, apprentice, or servant for not less than forty days, unless he gave sufficient security for the discharge of the parish.
In this way the law of settlement arose, with its numerous complications and modifications engrafted by subsequent legislation on this its original trunk. The statute of Charles, however, allowed (§ 3) any person "to go into any county, parish, or place to work in the time of harvest, or any time to work at any other work," provided he took with him "a certificate from the minister of the parish and one of the parish officers, that he or they have a dwelling house or place in which he or they inhabit, and have left wife and children, or some of them, there (or otherwise, as the condition of the persons shall require), and is declared an inhabitant or inhabitants there." In such case, if the person did not return to his parish when his work was finished, or if he fell sick, it was not "counted a settlement," and he was therefore removable, and, wilfully refusing, was punishable as a vagabond by being sent to the house of correction, or to a public work-house, provision for which and for corporate bodies in relation to the poor in London and Westminster, and places within the so-called bills of mortality, was made at the same time. Funds raised for the relief of the poor in the city of London were, however, previously in the hands of a corporate body for that purpose.
The same statute, reciting that "the inhabitants of the counties of Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Northumberland, the bishopric of Durham, Cumberland, and Westmoreland, and many other counties in England and Wales, by reason of the largeness of the parishes within the same," could not reap the benefit of the Act 43 Eliz., extended the powers of the Act to townships and villages within these counties.
Power was given to justices at quarter sessions, to trans-port rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars, in some cases with the approval of the privy council, or without such approval, if convicted and adjudged to be incorrigible, to any of the English plantations beyond the seas, "there to be disposed in the usual way of servants for a term not exceeding seven years."
This Act, which, except as to the corporate bodies before mentioned, was limited to three years duration, was con-tinued by various Acts, and made perpetual in the reign of Anne. One of the Acts continuing the former provisions, and containing some minute provisions affecting settle-ments, affords strong evidence of want of care of the funds, and even of the frauds practised by parochial officers. Many inconveniences arose "by reason of the unlimited power of the churchwardens and overseers of the poor, who do frequently upon frivolous pretences (but chiefly for their own private ends) give relief to what persons and number they think fit; and such persons, being entered into the collection bill, do become after that a great charge to the parish, notwithstanding the occasion or pretence of their receiving collection oftentimes ceases, by which means the rates for the poor are daily increased." This grievance was sought to be remedied by means of a register with names and dates, to be examined by the vestry, and those only to be relieved who were allowed by a justice, except in certain urgent cases. The Act mentions more direct frauds. "Many churchwardens and overseers of the poor, and other persons intrusted to receive collections for the poor and other public moneys relating to the churches and parishes whereunto they do belong, do often misspend the said moneys and take the same to their own use, to the great prejudice of such parishes, and the poor and other inhabitants thereof," owing to the law by which persons in any way interested in the funds, as parishioners, although the only persons who could prove the facts, could not give evidence on the trial of actions against the parish officers to recover the misspent money; and therefore parishioners, excepting almsmen, were rendered competent witnesses in such actions (3 Will. & Mary c. 11).
The injurious effects of the restraint placed on the free of removal of the labouring classes is evinced by a statute towards the close of the 17th century. To make this in-telligible it is necessary to say that by the statute 1 James II. c. 17 (one of the Acts continuing the Act of Charles II.) it was enacted that, as poor persons "at their first coming to a parish do commonly conceal themselves," the forty days continuance in a parish intended by the Act of Charles to make a settlement were to be accounted from the time of the persons delivering a notice in writing of the house of abode and number of the family to the parish officer. Hence persons coming to work under a certificate, on its production, were removed back again, lest they gained a settlement at the end of forty days. The statute now to be noticed recited that, "forasmuch as many poor persons chargeable to the parish, township, or place where they live, merely for want of work, would, in any other place where sufficient employment is to be had, maintain themselves and families without being burthensome to any parish, township, or place, but not being able to give such security as will or may be ex-pected and required upon their coming to settle themselves in any other place, and the certificates that have been usually given in such cases having been oftentimes con-strued into a notice in handwriting, they are for the most part confined to live in their own parishes, townships, or places, and not permitted to inhabit elsewhere, though their labour is wanted in many other places, where the increase of manufactures would employ more hands." This mischievous result of previous legislation was sought to be avoided by a certificate of acknowledgment of settle-ment, and then and not before, on becoming chargeable to another parish, the certificated person could be sent back to the parish whence it was brought (8 & 9 Will. III. c. 30). This provision led to additional legislation, com-plicating the law of settlement. It was not until towards the close of the 18th century that an important inroad on the law relating to the removal of the poor was made by requiring actual chargeability before removal to their place of settlement (35 Geo. III. c. 101); and at the same time justices were empowered to suspend removal in the case of sickness.
By the statute of William III. (8 & 9 Will. III. c, 30), to the end that the money raised only for the relief of such as are as well impotent as poor may not be misapplied and consumed by the idle, sturdy, and disorderly beggars," persons receiving parochial relief and their wives and children were required (under the punishment for re-fusal of imprisonment and whipping, or of having the reliefs abridged or withdrawn) to wear a badge on the shoulder of the right sleevethat is to say, a large "P" together with the first letter of the name of the parish or place, cut in red or blue cloth ; and a penalty was imposed on church-wardens and overseers relieving poor persons not wearing such badge. The provision (a revival of a much earlier law) continued down to 1810, when it was abolished.
In 1744 provision was made reviving rather than introducing a system of magisterial "passes" for passing persons apprehended as rogues and vagabonds to their place of settlement (17 Geo. II. c. 5). Great abuses in conveying persons by passes, attributed to the neglect of this Act, led to its amendment nearly half a century later. Although these statutes fell into disuse they were not finally repealed until after the introduction of the present poor-law system.
In 1722 the system of farming the poor was introduced. By 9 Geo. I. c. 7, "for the greater ease of parishes in the relief of the poor," parish officers with the consent of the parishioners or inhabitants in vestry were authorized to purchase or hire houses, "and to contract with any person or persons for the lodging, keeping, maintaining, and em-ploying any or all such poor in their respective parishes, townships, or places, as shall desire to receive relief or collection from this same parish, and there to keep, main-tain, and employ all such poor persons, and take the benefit of the work, labour, and service of any such poor person or persons who shall be kept or maintained in any such house or houses, for the better maintenance and relief of such poor persons who shall be there kept or maintained." Any poor persons refusing to be so lodged were not to be entitled to relief. Small parishes could unite or contract with another parish for the maintenance of the poor.
A few years sufficed to develop the injurious effects of this mode of dealing with the poor, and the accumulated evils of the working of the poor laws led, in 1783, to the passing of the statute 22 Geo. III. c. 83, known as "Gilberts Act," the principle of which was extensively adopted in subsequent legislation. The Act significantly recited that, notwithstanding the many laws now in being for the relief and employment of the poor, and the great sums of money raised for those persons, their sufferings and distresses are nevertheless very grievous, and by the incapacity, negligence, or misconduct of overseers, the money raised for the relief of the poor is frequently misapplied, and sometimes expended in defraying the charges of litigations about settlements indiscreetly and unadvisably carried on, and also recited the provisions of the 9 Geo. I. c. 7, relating to contracts for the maintenance of the poor, and that such provisions, from the want of proper regulations and management in the poorhouses or workhouses that have been purchased or hired under the authority of the said Act and for want of due inspection and control over the persons who have engaged in those contracts, have not had the desired effect, "but the poor in many places, instead of finding protection and relief, have been much oppressed thereby." "For the remedy of these grievances and inconveniences, and in order to make better and more effectual provision for the relief and employment of the poor, and to introduce a prudent economy in the expenditure of the parish money," much legislative machinery was introduced, which, although not compulsory, was very extensively adopted, and with many amendments remained on the statute book long after the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. Although the Act has now disappeared, having been expressly repealed (as it was by implication previously) in 1871, Gilberts Act is memorable as having first introduced the representation of the poor by guardians, although not by the present system of election. The Act repealed 9 Geo. I. c. 7, as regarded the farming of the poor where Gilberts Act was adopted, but agreements for the diet and clothing and work of poor in poorhouses, subsequently termed "houses of industry," were expressly sanctioned. The limits of this article do not admit even of an analysis of this important statute. In many respects a double system of administration sprang up in parishes, single or united, adopting Gilberts Act, and in parishes not under that Act. In both, the conflict between the administration of relief in and out of the poorhouse arose, and continued from the time of the establishment of places of work whether termed workhouses, poorhouses, or houses of industry, and whether under special local or under general Acts.
In 1795 the 36 Geo. III. c. 23, reciting that a pro-vision of the 9 Geo. I. c. 7, prohibiting relief to persons refusing to go into poorhouses, "has been found to have been and to be inconvenient and oppressive, inasmuch as it often prevents an industrious poor person from receiving such occasional relief as is best suited to the peculiar case of such poor person, and inasmuch as in certain cases it holds out conditions of relief injurious to the comfort and domestic situation and happiness of such poor persons," gave power to the overseers, with the approbation of the parishioners in vestry or of a justice of the peace, to distribute and pay collection and relief to industrious poor persons at their homes under certain circumstances of temporary illness or distress, and in certain cases respecting such poor persons or their families, or respecting the situation, health, or condition of any poorhouse, in any place wherein houses shall have been hired or built and a contract made with any person for lodging, maintaining, and employing the poor, although the poor persons refused to be so lodged and maintained. Justices had besides a "just and proper discretion" for special cause stated in writing to order relief for a time not exceeding a month.This Act, however, did not extend to places where houses of industry or other places were provided under Gilberts Act or under any special Act.
The evils arising from farming the poor under the 9 Geo. I. c. 7 nevertheless continued in places not adopting Gilberts Act. Contractors were often non-resident and not of sufficient responsibility to insure performance of their undertaking. In 1805 these special defects were sought to be met by requiring residence, sureties, and the approval of the contract by two justices (45 Geo. III. c. 54). But these remedies did not touch the whole extent of the evil of neglect of the poor. The laws for regulating workhouses and poorhouses were found deficient and in-effectual, especially when the poor in such houses were "afflicted with contagious or infectious diseases, in which cases particular attention to their lodging, diet, clothing, bedding, and medicine is requisite." A statute passed in 1790 (30 Geo. III. c. 49) enabled justices, or medical men authorized by them or the officiating clergyman of the parish, to visit workhouses, and on finding cause for complaint to certify to the quarter sessions, and thereupon the court was authorized to make orders for removing any cause of complaint; and, moreover, without waiting for this dilatory process, if on the visitation any of the poor were found afflicted with any contagious or infectious disease, or in want of immediate medical or other assistance, or of sufficient food, or requiring separation or removal, justices of the division were empowered to make an order for im-mediate relief according to the nature of the application. There can be no doubt that the legislation of five years later already noticed (36 Geo. III. c. 23) had reference to cases of this kind as well as to the hardships inherent in the rigid application of the practice of confining relief to the workhouse.
In 1819 an Act (59 Geo. III. c. 12) was passed, the result of the report of a committee appointed two years before, containing a variety of provisions relating to the poor, empowering the establishment of select vestries "for the concerns of the poor" and regulating their proceedings. Where these were established overseers were prohibited from giving relief other than that ordered by the vestries, except temporary relief in cases of sudden emergency or urgent necessity. Justices had the power, as under earlier provisions, to order temporary relief in such cases, but they were prohibited from ordering relief in parishes where select vestries were established or in which the relief of the poor was under the management of guardians, governors, or directors, unless relief had been refused by such bodies.
An amelioration of the harsher features of the law, and the separation of that branch of it relating to vagrancy, are found in the legislation of the 18th and early part of the 19th century. In early times, as has been pointed out, legislation affecting labour and vagrancy was blended. Very gradually labour was left to run a freer course. Provisions as to vagrancy and mendicity, including strin-gent laws in relation to constructive "sturdy beggars," "rogues," and "vagabonds," still formed a prominent feature of poor-law legislation.
In 1713 an Act was passed for reducing the laws relating to rogues, vagabonds, sturdy beggars, and vagrants into one Act, and for more effectually punishing them and sending them to their homes, the manner of conveying them including whipping in every county through which they passed (12 Anne, st. 2,c. 23). This Act was in turn repealed in 1740; and the substituted Consolidation Act (13 Geo. II. c. 24), embracing a variety of provisions, made a distinction between idle and disorderly persons, rogues and vagabonds, and incorrigible rogues. Four years later a statute reciting that "the number of rogues, vagabonds, beggars, and other idle and disorderly persons daily increases, to the great scandal, loss, and annoyance of the kingdom," deals with a great variety of offences, continuing the rough classification already mentioned, and including among "idle and disorderly persons" punishable with hard labour in the house of correction "all persons who shall run away and leave their wives or children to the parish" and "all persons who shall unlawfully return to the parish or place from whence they have been legally removed by order of justices, without bringing a certificate," and also "all persons who, not having wherewith to maintain themselves, live idly without employment and refuse to work for the usual and common wages given to other labourers on the like work, in the parishes or places where they then are," and also all persons begging alms (17 Geo. II. c. 5).
The laws relating to idle and disorderly persons, rogues and vagabonds, incorrigible rogues, and other vagrants in England were again consolidated and amended in 1822 (3 Geo. IV. c. 40), but the Act being temporary and requiring amendment, was superseded two years later by the present Act, 5 Geo. IV. c. 83, commonly spoken of as the Vagrant Act, which with some additions and amendments includes the law relating to mendicity and some provisions concerning persons deserting or neglecting to support their families. Mendicity in the popular sense is now considered as appertaining to police rather than to poor laws. It must suffice here to note the change from former inhuman laws denoted by the fact that corporal punishment is confined by the Vagrant Act to the permis-sive infliction of whipping on male persons imprisoned as incorrigible rogues.
The misdoings of the "vagrant train," so often paraded by statute and so severely treated in former times, seem to have been trifling compared with the iniquities of some of those engaged in the administration of poor-law relief. In 1769 it was found necessary to prevent churchwardens and overseers from wilfully and knowingly making payments to or for the use of the poor in base and counterfeit money (9 Geo. III. c. 37). For this heinous offence a penalty limited to twenty shillings was imposed. The curious may compare this mild punishment with that inflicted on a wanderer from his home; for as recently as 1816 it was thought right to declare that it should not be lawful for any governor, guardian, or master of any house of industry or workhouse on any pretence to chain or confine by chains or manacles any poor person of sane mind, a provision significant of what passed within the walls by its prohibition as well as by the limitation.
Such were the most salient features of the legislation respecting the relief of the poor previous to the reform of parliament itself in 1832.
It had long been seen that there was something wrong which legislation had failed to set right. Sir Matthew Hale framed a scheme which was written soon after the middle of the 17 th century, although hot printed until after his death. The chief feature of his plan was "that the justices of the peace at the quarter sessions do set out and distribute the parishes in their several counties into several divisions, in each of which there may be a workhouse for the common use of the respective divisions wherein they are respectively placed,to wit, one, two, three, four, five, or six parishes to a workhouse according to the greatness or smallness and accommodation of the several parishes," and that providing "a stock" for work in and out of the workhouses should be made compulsory. His views are thus stated:
"At this day, it seems to me that the English nation is more deficient in their prudent provision for the poor than any other Christian state . . . . In some other countries a beggar is a rare sight. Those that are unable to maintain themselves by age or impotency are relieved. And those that are able to supply their wants by their labour are furnished with employments suitable to their condition. And by this means there is not only a good and orderly education and a decent face of the public, but the more populous the state or country is the richer and the more wealthy it is. But with us in England, for want of a due regula-tion of things, the more populous we are the poorer we are ; so that wherein the strength and wealth of a kingdom consists renders us the weaker and the poorer; and, which is yet worse poor families which daily multiply in the kingdom, for want of a due order for their employment in an honest course of life, whereby they may gain subsistence for them and their children, do unavoidably bring up their children either in a trade of begging or stealing, or such other idle course, which again they propagate over to their children; and so there is a successive multiplication of hurtful or at least unprofitable people, neither capable of discipline nor beneficial employment."
He further remarks that the continuance of the evils he depicted "must in time prodigiously increase and overgrow the whole face of the kingdom, and eat out the heart of it." In lamenting the want of an industrious education he observes that" a man that has been bred up in the trade of begging will never, unless compelled, fall to industry; and, on the other side, it is a wonderful necessity indeed that shall bring one bred up in civility or industry to beg." Almost all subsequent schemes looked up to Hale as their model; but all either were not accepted or did not succeed, although in some of the legislation of the 18th century imperfect attempts seem to have been made in this direction. Among other schemes Sir Josiah Child, in the reign of Charles II., who speaks of the poor in England having always been "in a most sad and wretched condition," proposed to abolish all settlements and receive every poor person that applied to incorporated societies or "fathers of the poor." John Cary, writing about 1700, having for the burden of his tract, and the cure of existing evils, to "provide work for those who are willing, and force them to work that are able," makes some pithy remarks.
"He that walks the streets of London, and observes the fatigues used by the beggars to make themselves seem objects of charity, must conclude that they take more pains than an honest man doth at his trade, and yet seem not to get bread to eat. Beggary is now become an art or mystery, to which children are brought up from their cradles. Anything that may move compassion is made a live-lihood, a sore leg or arm, or for want thereof a pretended one. The tricks and devices I have observed to be used by those people have often made me think that those parts, if better employed, might be made useful to the nation." "Licences for alehouses were at first granted for good ends, not to draw men aside from their labour by games and sports, but to support and refresh them under it ; whereas alehouses are now encouraged to promote the income of excise,not considering withal that the labour of each man, if well employed, whilst be sits in an alehouse, would be worth much more to the nation than the excise he pays." "Our laws to set the poor at work are short and defective, tending rather to maintain them so than to give them to a better way of living. Tis true, those laws design well ; but, consisting only in generals, and not reducing things to practicable methods, they fall short of answering their ends, and thereby render the poor more bold when they know the parish officers are bound either to provide them work or to give them maintenance."
In 1735 Mr Hay, a member of the House of Commons, introduced a bill, which, however, was not passed, appoint-ing guardians of a district, chosen by divers occupiers out of a list of persons qualified by estate in land, with power to purchase land, and build and furnish workhouses, and provide stock to set the poor to work, to be paid for by rate,"every person to be deemed to be legally settled where he continued a year without being chargeable, and if he gained no such settlement then at the place of his birth, and if not born in the kingdom then where he should happen to want relief,"parochial settlement to be abolished, and a county settlement substituted.
In 1753 bills were introduced into parliament by the earl of Hillsborough and Sir Richard Lloyd, but neither was passed. Lord Hillsborough proposed to repeal all existing Acts, re-enacting much, but getting rid of the notion of settlements and removals, and establishing a county board as governors of the poor with officers to carry out their bye-laws, and hospitals for the impotent and the aged and their children, and for no other kind of poor. In the same year Fielding printed A Proposal for making an effectual Provision for the Poor, for amending their Morals, and for rendering them useful Members of the Society. His plan embraced county houses of correction, and places of work, maintenance, and punishment, includ-ing a "fasting room." It may be regarded as supple-mentary to schemes of the same period. Although ail that fell from this author is worthy of attention, his plan cannot be examined closely here; but what be says of the state of things at the period, evidently the result of his daily observations as a magistrate and inhabitant of Westminster, is too striking to be passed over.
"That the poor are a very great burden and even a nuisance to the kingdom, that the laws for relieving their distress and restraining their vices have not answered their purposes, and that they are at present very ill provided for and much worse governed are truths which every man will acknowledge. Every person who hath any property must feel the weight of that tax which is levied for the use of the poor ; and every person who hath any understanding must see how absurdly it is applied. So very use-less, indeed, is the heavy tax, and so wretched its disposition, that it is a question whether the poor or rich are actually more dis-satisfied ; since the plunder of the one serves so little to the real advantage of the other. For while a million yearly is raised among the rich many of the poor are starved; many more languish in want and misery ; of the rest, numbers are found begging or pilfering in the streets to-day, and to-morrow are locked up in jails and bridewells. If we were to make a progress through the outskirts of the metropolis, and look into the habitations of the poor, we should there behold such pictures of human misery as must move the compassion of every heart that deserves the name of human. What indeed must be his composition who could see whole families in want of every necessary of life, oppressed with hunger, cold, nakedness, and filth, and with diseases the certain consequence of all these ! The sufferings indeed of the poor are less known than their misdeeds ; and therefore we are less apt to pity them. They starve, and freeze, and rot among themselves; but they beg, and steal, and rob among their betters. There is not a parish in the liberty of Westminster which doth not swarm all day with beggars and all night with thieves."
The observations of Dr Burn, a name known to every one who has considered the poor laws, whether as legislator, magistrate, or lawyer, followed in 1764. Although the suggestions and observations in his History of the Poor Laws are worthy of the highest attention to any one enter-ing into an historical retrospect, it must suffice here to say that the result of his experience and knowledge was that the laws then in force should "stand as to the main" but be rectified on two pointsbegging, and the management of the poor by overseers. Dr Burn says:
"But how shall begging be restrained? which by a kind of prescriptive claim hath so long been accustomed to triumph above the laws. All sorts of severities, it appears, have been enacted against vagrants; and yet they wander still. Nevertheless, one would hope the disease is not past all remedy. If it is, let us cease the unequal contention, and submissively give up our fortunes to the next that comes with a pass, and tells us a justice of the peace hath so ordered it; but let beggars and vagrants be doing. There is one infallible way to put an end to all this, and the easiest in the world, which consists merely in a non-feasance. Give them nothing. If none were to give, none would beg; and the whole mystery and craft would be at an end in a fortnight. Let the laws continue if you please to apprehend and punish the mendicants; but let something also be done effectually against those who encourage them. If the principal is punished, it is not reasonable the accessary should go free. In order to which, let all who relieve a common beggar be subject to a penalty."
As to the other "fundamental defect," as Dr Burn styles the leaving the management of the poor to overseers, the position of overseers and their action are so admirably painted, and the description so applicable to the mode of administration down to the reform of 1834, that the observations, written in a happy strain of irony, must be inserted.
"As to overseers of the poor, it is true the law provides that they shall be substantial householders. But many a man maybe a substantial householder who is not fit to be an overseer of the poor. And in fact the office goes by rotation from one householder to another,some perhaps tenants at rack rent, whose lease expires the next year, others ignorant and unexperienced, others not willing to charge themselves to disoblige their neighbours; and all of them wanting to get over the office with as little trouble to themselves as possible; and if any, wiser than the rest, projects anything for the common good his office expires at the end of the year and his labour is frustrated, and in practice the office of an overseer of the poor seems to be understood to be this:To keep an extraordinary look-out to prevent persons coming to inhabit with-out certificates, and to fly to the justices to remove them ; and if a man brings a certificate then to caution all the inhabitants not to let him a farm of £10 a year, and to take care to keep him out of all parish offices; to warn them, if they will hire servants, to hire them half-yearly or by the month, by the week or by the day, rather thin by any way that shall give them a settlement, or if they do hire them for a year then to endeavour to pick a quarrel with them before the years end, and so to get rid of them. To maintain their poor as cheap as possibly they can ; at all events not to lay out two-pence in prospect of any future good, but only to serve the present necessity; to bargain with some sturdy person to take them by the lump, who yet is not intended to take them, but to hang over them in terrorem if they shall complain to the justices for want of maintenance. To send others out into the country a begging (for why cannot they go as well as others they will mention, who are less able in body?) and the feebler they are the more profitable will be their peregrination. To bind out poor children apprentices, no matter to whom or to what trade, but to take especial care that the master live in another parish. To move heaven and earth if any dispute happens about a settlement, and in that particular to invert the general rule, and stick at no expense. To pull down cottages. To drive out as many inhabitants and admit as few as possibly they can; that is, to depopulate the parish in order to lessen the poor rate. To be generous, indeed, sometimes, in giving a portion with the mother of a bastard child to the reputed father, on the condition that he will marry her; or with a poor widow (for why should she be deprived of the comforts of matrimony?)always provided that the husband is settled elsewhere. Or if a poor man with a large family appears to be industrious they will charitably assist him in taking a farm in some neighbouring parish, and give him £10 to pay his first years rent with; and if any of their poor has a mercantile genius they will purchase for him a box, with pins, needles, laces, buckles, and such like wares, and send him abroad in the quality of a petty chapman, with the profits whereof, and a moderate knack of stealing, he can decently support himself, and educate his children in the same industrious way. But to see that the poor shall resort to church, and bring their children there to be instructed ; to contract with a master that be shall procure his apprentice at proper times to be taught to read and write; to provide a stock of materials to set the poor on work, to see the aged and impotent comfortably sustained, the sick healed, and all of them clothed with neatness and decencythese and such like it is to be feared are not so generally regarded as the laws intended and the necessity of the case requires."
Dr Burns remedy was not to abolish overseers altogether, but that, while they or a permanent overseer should collect the rate, a general superintendent over a certain number of parishes should be appointed by the justices at sessions, and the disposal of the rate directed accordingly.
How far the criticism and suggestions made, from those of Sir Matthew Hale downwards from time to time, influenced the legislation already indicated of the 18th century and the early part of the 19th, it is impracticable to discover. One thing is certain, that evils grew apace: ratepayers on the one hand, the poor on the other, political economists and philanthropists, magistrates and jurists, and observers of every kind were dissatisfied. For the general state of the poor in the beginning of the 19th century as presented to the accurately observant eye and ear of our English Juvenal, we glean more from his Borough than from a pile of statistics. Of the poor who were chargeable to the parish Crabbe says:
"To the most we give
A weekly dole, and at their homes they live."
Of the workhouse or house of industry, "the pauper palace which they hate to see," he speaks mournfully. In prose he wrote of the poor who "must be considered in every place as a large and interesting portion of its inhabitants, condemning the workhouse system, alike the pauper palace and the house rented for the poorthe
"House that holds the parish poor,
Whose walls of mud scarce bear the broken door."
A closer examination of the system of maintaining the poor than could be obtained by casual visitors, or even constant residents having no special duty to examine or inquire, showed, in full accord with the public criticism, already examined, and in spite of it, that the fund which the famous statute of Elizabeth directed to be employed in setting to work children and persons capable of labour, but using no daily trade, and in the necessary relief of the impotent, was by degrees applied to purposes opposed to the letter and still more to the spirit of that law, and destructive to the morals of the most numerous class and to the welfare of all. The great source of abuse was the relief afforded out of the workhouse to able-bodied persons,a class never intended by the legislation as fit objects. The description of relief was also very objectionable. Its most usual form was that of relieving the applicants either wholly or partially from the expense of obtaining house room. Partial relief from that expense was given or professed to be given by exempting the occupants of a cottage or apartment from the payment of rates on the ground of poverty, and in a great number of cases by paying the rent out of the parish fund. Relief afforded in money to the able-bodied on their own account or on that of their families was still more prevalent. This was generally effected by one of the five following expedients:(1) relief without labour, (2) the allowance system, (3) the roundsmen system, (4) parish employment, (5) the labour-rate system. (1) The relief without labour was by the parish giving to those who were or who professed to be without employment a daily or weekly sum, without requiring from the applicant any labour. (2) "Allowance" sometimes comprehended all parochial relief afforded to those who were employed by individuals at the average rate of wages of the district, and was sometimes confined to the relief which a person so employed obtained on account of his children, in that case any relief obtained on his own account being termed "payment of wages out of rates." In some places allowance was given only occasionally or to meet occasional wants, for instance, to buy clothing or food or to pay the rent of a cottage or apartment. Sometimes the income of the poor was regulated by the name of "scales"giving in money the price of so many loaves of bread or of a specific measure of flour, according to the number of the family. (3) The roundsman (or, as it was sometimes termed, the billet, or ticket, or item) system was the parish paying the occupiers of property to employ the applicants for relief at a rate of wages fixed by the parish, and depending, not on the services, but on the wants of the applicants, the employer being repaid out of the poor rate all that he advanced in wages beyond a certain sum. According to this plan the parish in general made some agreement with a farmer to sell to him the labour of one or more paupers at a certain price, paying to the pauper out of the parish funds the difference between that price and the allowance which the scale, according to the price of bread and the number of his family, awarded to him. It received the local name of billet or ticket system from the ticket signed by the overseer which the pauper in general carried to the farmer as a warrant for his being employed, and afterwards took back to the overseer, signed by the farmer, as a proof that he had fulfilled the conditions of relief. In other cases the parish contracted with a person to have some work performed for him by the paupers, at a given price, the parish paying the paupers. In many places the roundsman system was carried out by means of an auction, all the unemployed men being put up to sale periodically, sometimes monthly or weekly, at prices varying according to the time of year, the old and infirm selling for less than the able-bodied. (4) As for parish employment, although work is made by the statute of Elizabeth a condition precedent to relief otherwise than in the case of the impotent, and it is a duty of the parish officers to provide it, payment by them for work was the most unusual form in which relief was administered. Scarcely more than one-twentieth part of the sum yearly expended for the relief of the poor at the period immediately preceding the inquiry that led to the amendment of the law in 1834 was paid for work, including work on the roads and in the workhouses. This was easily accounted for "by many causes, including the trouble and difficulty attendant upon superintendence on the part of parish officers." (5) An agreement among the ratepayers that each of them should employ and pay out of his own money a certain number of the labourers settled in the parish, in proportion not to his real demand for labour but to his rental or to his contribution to the rates, or to the number of horses that he kept for tillage, or to the number of acres that he occupied, or to some other fixed standard, has been denominated the labour-rate system. This system was generally enforced by an additional voluntary rate on those who did not employ their full proportion.
As illustrating the difficulties attendant upon providing for the poor, a temporary Act passed in 1832, which has disappeared from the statute book (as founded on vicious notions), may be noticed, applying to parishes where the poor rates exceeded 5d. in the pound. It recited that, notwithstanding the many laws in force for the relief and employment of the poor, many able-bodied labourers are frequently entirely destitute of work or unprofitably employed, and in many instances receive insufficient allowance for their support from the poor rates, and "the mode of providing employment for the poor which may be expedient in some parishes may be inexpedient in others, and it may therefore be desirable to extend the powers of parish vestries in order that such a course may be pursued as may be best adapted to the peculiar circumstances of each parish," and enabled vestries (without interfering with Gilberts Act), with the approval of justices at petty sessions, to make special agreements solely for the purpose of employing or relieving the poor of the parish.
The following table exhibits the growth of the poor rate from the middle of the last century to a date immediately preceding the reforms effected in 1834:
It will be observed that subsequent to 1818 there was an apparent diminution in the whole sum expended for the relief of the poor, making a difference of between 11 and 12 per cent.; but the decline in the prices of the necessaries of life (wheat alone had fallen considerably, -more than one-half in one of the intermediate years) was more than equivalent to the difference.
The conviction, arising principally from the increase of the poor rates, that a change was necessary either in the poor law as it then existed or in the mode of its administration led to the issuing of a commission in 1832 "to make diligent and full inquiry into the practical operation of the laws for the relief of the poor in England and Wales, and into the manner in which those laws were administered, and to report their opinion as, to what beneficial altera-tions could be made." The result of this inquiry was laid before parliament in 1834. The commissioners reported "fully on the great abuse of the legislative provision for the poor as directed to be employed by the statute of Elizabeth," finding "that the great source of abuse was the out-door relief afforded to the able-bodied on their own account or on that of their families, given either in kind or in money." They also reported that "great maladminis-tration existed in the workhouses." To remedy the evils they proposed considerable alterations in the law, and the principal portion of their suggestions was embodied in the Poor-Law Amendment Act, 1834: (4 & 5 Will. IV. c. 76).
The Act was based on the principle that no one should be suffered to perish through the want of what is necessary for sustaining life, but at the same time that if supported at the expense of the public he must be content to receive such support on the terms most consistent with the public welfare; and the objects of the Act were first to raise the labouring classes, that is to say, the bulk of the community, from the idleness, improvidence, and degradation into which the maladministration of the laws for their relief had thrown them, and, secondly, to immediately arrest the progress and ultimately to diminish the amount of the pressure on the owners of lands and houses.
Under the Act three commissioners were appointed (originally for five years, but subsequently continued from time to time) styled "the Poor-Law Commissioners for England and Wales," sitting as a board, and appointing assistant commissioners and other officers. The administration of relief according to the existing laws was subject to their direction and control, and to their orders and regulations for the government of workhouses and the guidance and control of guardians and vestries and the keeping and allowing of accounts and contracts, without interfering with ordinary relief in individual cases.
The favourable state of the country at the time presenting many facilities for the introduction of the law, which it was important to render available with as little delay as possible, the whole of England and Wales was divided into twenty-one districts, to each of which an assistant commissioner was appointed. The commissioners under their powers (gradually put into operationa circumstance which beneficially affected legislation of the period, as, for example, the commutation of tithes and the introduction of police) formed poor-law unions by uniting parishes for general administration, and building workhouses, guardians elected by the ratepayers (or ex officio) having the general government and administration of relief. The expense was apportioned to each parish on settled principles and rules, with power, however, to treat the united parishes as one for certain purposes. Outdoor relief might be given, on the order of two justices, to poor persons wholly unable to work from old age or infirmity. No rule appears to have been more fully sanctioned by practical results as of an advantageous nature than that under which the country was by degrees parcelled out into unions. In parishes no adequate power existed for carrying into effect the rules and regulations of the amended system. No principle of classification could be adopted within the workhouses, and the law was liable to be thwarted in its most material objects by petty interests of a local and personal character. With the aid of boards of guardians and their subordinate officers these interests were neutralized, and the law was rendered uniform in its operation. The economical advan-tages derived from acting on an enlarged scale are self--evident. Waste unavoidably takes place when the purchase of supplies for a single parish forms a separate transaction.
The second report of the commissioners showed that of one hundred and ten unions which had been in operation more than a year, the saving in forty-three of the largest was 46 per cent.; in twenty-four of the smallest unions the rate of saving was not more than 29 per cent.; and in twenty-six unions of intermediate size a saving of 42 per cent. was effected. Even in many parishes not then included in a union the wide promulgation of the prin-ciples of the amending Act gave an impulse to improvement in the administration of the poor laws, which was attended by a marked reduction in the expenditure.
The total amount of money expended in the relief of the poor in England and Wales during the twelve years prior to the passing of the Poor-Law Amendment Act (1823 to 1834) amounted to upwards of £76,096,000, and during the twelve subsequent years to less than £57,247,000. As the commissioners early remarked
"It could not be expected that an Act which so materially disturbed the distribution of as large a sum of money as £7,000,000 per annum, which of necessity changed the source from which a large portion of the inhabitants of the country derived their customary means of subsistence, and which in so doing opposed itself not only to the interests, the prejudices, and the fears of a large portion of the population, but pressed hardly on the sincere though mistaken notions of charity which were established in the hearts of others, could possibly be carried into effect without difficulty and resistance.
The obstacles which the Act had to contend with in the metropolis chiefly arose from the confusion and perplexity of jurisdiction which existed in the one hundred and seventy parishes comprised within the city of London and the metropolitan district, some of these containing govern-ing bodies of their own; in some the parish business was professedly managed by open vestries, in others by select vestries, and in addition to these there were elective vestries, under Sturges Bournes Act, Sir John Hobhouses Act, and other Acts; and the majority of the large parishes were managed under local Acts by boards of directors, governors, and trustees. These governing bodies executed a great variety of functions besides regulating the management of the poor. The power, patronage, and the indirect advantages which arose from the administra-tion of the local funds were so great that much opposition took place when it was proposed to interfere by constitut-ing a board to be annually chosen and freely elected by the ratepayers, on which the duty of regulating the expenditure for the relief of the poor was to depend. The general management of the poor was, however, on a somewhat better footing in London than in the country.
Some opposition was experienced to the introduction of the full benefits of the Act into the unions incorporated under Gilberts Act, many provisions of which conflicted with the new system. On the early dissolution of seven-teen of those incorporations by the commissioners under their powers, it was found, however, that the rates were sensibly diminished. Much resistance of a general nature was encountered. Not only was the economical working of the new principles of management disputed, but a strong feeling was aroused against what was thought to be the inhumanity of the rigorous rules to which paupers had to submit in workhouses. While many proofs existed of the necessity for the introduction of a new systemsuch as that, while wheat was rotting in pauperized and as yet unreformed districts of the south of England for want of reapers at 21s. and 24s. an acre, at the very same time able-bodied healthy men were lying under the hedges in another part of the same county with a parish allowance of 3s. a weekon the other hand, it was felt as a grievance that old couples were refused relief at their own houses, and that if they entered the workhouse the sexes were separated, Throughout the country the reproachful name of "Bastille" was attached to the workhouse, and this is in many districts still retained, though no longer as an intended censure. In part of Devonshire prejudice was carried to the extent of a rumour leading poor persons to believe that the bread distributed by the relieving officers was mixed with poisonous ingredients.
Both Houses of Parliament were inundated for years with petitions against the new system; meetings were held at which inflammatory language was used; and in some instances riotous proceedings marked the opposition. It was remarked that the acts of violence were in the most pauperized districts, which had been conspicuous for the maladministration of the poor rates. The work, however, went forward, although three parliamentary committees (one of the Lords and two of the Commons) instituted a searching and severe scrutiny before the organization of the system was completed. Notwithstanding adverse cir-cumstances, including stagnation of trade, cold weather, and an epidemic of great severity, by the end of 1837 nearly the whole of England had been formed into unions; the benefits of the new system were gradually recognized, and a poor law was introduced into Ireland (see IRELAND). As to poor-law administration in Scotland see SCOTLAND.
The reform of the poor laws affected a variety of persons besides paupers and ratepayers. No question was more widely discussed than that of medical attendance on the sick poor. The outdoor relief of the sick was usually effected by a contract with a surgeon, which, how-ever, in general only included those who were parishioners. When non-parishioners became chargeable from illness, an order for their removal to their place of settlement was obtained, which was suspended until they could perform the journey; in the meantime they were attended by the local surgeon, but at the expense of the parish to which they belonged. The poor-law commissioners in their report of 1834 stated that on the whole medical attend-ance seemed in general to be adequately supplied and economically, considering only the price and the amount of attendance. Great good was effected by the establish-ment of dispensaries promoted by Mr Smith of Southam to enable the labouring classes to defray, from their own resources, the expense of medical treatment. While stat-ing that the country was much indebted to him for his exertions, the commissioners were not prepared to suggest any legislative measures for their encouragement; but dis-pensaries have been recently applied to the relief of the poor in the metropolis. The medical and surgical association (now the British Medical Association), of which Sir Charles Hastings was president, took up the sub-ject, and a committee, over which Dr Davis (of Presteign) presided, made an inquiry and report,by no means in hostility to, but in full accord with, the chiefs of the new poor-law administration. The present mode of giving medical relief is noticed below.
After an intermediate transfer in 1847 of the powers of the poor-law commissioners, and the constitution of a fresh board styled "commissioners for administering the laws for relief of the poor in England," it was found expedient to concentrate in one department of the Government the supervision of the laws relating to the public health, the relief of the poor, and local government; and this concen-tration was in 1871 carried out by the establishment (by Act of Parliament 34 & 35 Vict. c. 70) of the Local Govern-ment Board.
In the subsequent part of this article the governing board, whether the original poor-law commissioners or commissioners for administering the laws for relief of the poor, or the present local government board, is spoken of as the central board, as the orders at present in force are of various dates, and chiefly issued before the existence of the present local government board.
By numerous Acts of Parliament passed subsequent to the Amendment Act of 1834 the administration of relief has been affected in various ways. It would be an unpro-fitable task, and inconsistent with the objects and limits of this article, to give a chronological summary of those Acts down to the present time, but they are taken into account in treating of various heads of poor-law administration.
It is to be observed that the relief of the poor of ever union governed by a local Act is administered by a board of guardians elected according to the Poor-Law Acts.
Although containing very important provisions, the Act of 1834 was rather to restore the scope and intention o the statute of Elizabeth by placing its administration in the hands of responsible persons chosen by the ratepayers, and themselves controlled by the orders of a central body, than to create a new system of poor laws.
The agents and instruments by which the administration of relief is afforded are the following.
The guardians of the poor regulate the cases and description o relief within the union ; a certain number of guardians are elected from time to time by the ratepayers. The number is determined by the central board, by whom full directions as to the mode of election are given. In addition to those elected there are ex officio guardians, principally local magistrates. The guardians bold their meetings frequently, according tothe exigencies of the union. Individual cases are brought to their notice,most cases of residen poor by the relieving officer of the union, the case of casual pauper by him or by the workhouse officers by whom they were admitted in the first instance. The resident poor frequently appear in person before the guardians. The mode of voting which the guardians follow in respect to any matter they differ on is minutely regulated, and all their proceedings as well as those of their officers are entered in prescribed books and forms. They have a clerk, generally a local solicitor of experience, who has a variety of responsible duties in advising, conducting correspondence and keeping books of accounts, and carrying out the directions of the guardians, who in their turn are subject to the general or special regulations of the central board. The various officers of the union from the medical officer to work-house porters, including masters and matrons of workhouses, are generally appointed by the guardians ; and the duties of all the officers are specifically prescribed by the regulations issued by the central board.
Among a multitude of miscellaneous duties and powers of th guardians, apart from the ordinary duties of ordering or refusing relief in individual cases and superintending the officers of the union, the duties devolve on them of considering the adjustment of contributions to the common fund whether of divided or added parishes, and matters affecting other unions, the building of workhouses and raising of money for that and other purposes, the taking of land on lease, the hiring of buildings, special provisions as to superannuation and allowances to officers, the maintenance and orders as to lunatics apart from individual instances, and the consideration of questions of settlement and removal. A paramount obligation rests on the guardians to attend to the actual visitation of workhouses, schools, and other institutions and places in which the poor are interested, and to call attention to and report on any irregularity or neglect of duty. Guardians may charge the rate with the expenses of attending conferences for the discussion of matters connected with their duties (Poor-Law Conferences Act 1883). In relation to expenditure the guardians have very considerable but restricted powers. Among other officers they appoint a treasurer for the union.
Overseers of the poor are still appointed under the statute of Elizabeth, and the guardians cannot interfere with the appointment. As, however, the relief of the poor is now administered by boards of guardians, the principal duties of overseers relate to the making and collecting of rates and payments. The guardians, by order of the central board, may appoint assistant overseers an( collectors. Inspectors appointed by the central authority assist it the execution of the poor laws by periodically visiting and inspecting every workhouse and place laws byerein any poor person in receip reli f is lodged, attending meetings of boards of guardians every local meeting at which general may be raised or discussed, and taking part in meetings but not voting at them. The inspectors have great powers in calling before them and examining persons and books and proceedings. Besides the usual inspectors, persons may be appointed by the central authority to act in conducting special inquiries.
Provisions relating to expenditure and the audit of accounts ar noticed in a subsequent part of this article.
Some principles connected with the system of poor-la-v administration call for concise notice.
As the right to relief exists, the law recognizes thi obligation to afford it to persons unable to maintain themselves. The refusal of the officers whose duty it is to give it is an indictable offence; and, although a means of punishment does not constitute a remedy, it seems mandamus to guardians of the poor will, in extreme an exceptional cases, be granted. The liability to summay proceedings now, however, operates as a preventive to neglect of duty. If, by reason of the neglect of overseers to collect rates or to pay the guardians of the poor, any relief directed by the guardians to be given to any poor person is delayed or withheld, or if overseers disobey a justices order to give temporary relief, or if any officer wilfully neglects or disobeys the orders of the central board, penalties are incurred. The control of the central board is, except in very rare cases, found effective to secure the due administration of the law.
The recognition of the right to relief as a legal claim allows and indeed necessitates the imposition of restraints, apart from provisions connected with the law of settlement and removal, more fully noticed hereafter. Persons, how-ever poor, wandering abroad to beg or gather alms, or placing themselves in any public place for that purpose, become subject to the vagrancy laws.
Private relief, pecuniary or otherwise, may be asked for and obtained so long as it does not involve any false pretence or dishonest or prohibited means of gaining a livelihood. Any person able by work or other means to maintain himself or his family, who, by wilful refusal or neglect to do so, becomes chargeable for any part of his family, commits an offence. Poverty or idleness short of this, and apart from the case of liability in respect of children under elementary and industrial school Acts, is not an offence against the law.
There are circumstances, however, where relative lia-bilities make it a duty for persons to avail themselves of the public provision for relief. The culpable neglect of a person to provide another under his control and in his legal custody, who is actually helpless, as an infant or lunatic, with the means of life constitutes a crime, and by the express provision of a poor-law Act any parent wilfully neglecting to provide adequate food, clothing, medical aid, or lodgings for his child, being in his custody under the age of fourteen, whereby the health of such child is or is likely to be seriously injured, may be summarily convicted (31 & 32 Vict. c. 122), in analogy to the law making it an indictable misdemeanour for a master or mistress who is legally liable to provide any apprentice or servant with necessary food, clothing, or lodging, wilfully and without lawful excuse to refuse or neglect so to provide (24 & 25 Vict. c. 100). Something more than the mere abstention from seeking parochial relief without any intentional neglect is necessary to lay a criminal as distinguished from a moral responsibility on destitute persons.
Although under the vagrancy laws public begging is an an offence, the giver of such unlawful charity is not subject to legal restraint. In early times attempts were made to impose such restraints. An Act of 1349 (23 Edw. III. c. 7) provided that none on pain of imprisonment should under colour of piety or alms give anything to a beggar who was able to labour, and nearly two centuries later an Act (22 Hen. VIII. c. 12) already noticed, relating to poor compelled to live by alms, and, the punishment of vagabonds and beggars, provided that any person giving any harbour, money, or lodgings to any strong beggar who violated the statute should make such fine to the king as the justices in sessions should appoint; and as late as the commencement of the 17th century givers to beggars were subject to a penalty (I Jas. I. c. 7). These Acts, however, eventually disappeared from the statute book.
Dr Burn advocated, as has been seen, the infliction of a penalty for relieving a common beggar; but, although aiders and abettors in the commission of even petty offences are now punishable, it is not attempted to apply the law to bestowers of charity, whether in the streets and highways or elsewhere.
It is in vain to impose the doctrines of political economy in restraint of natural instincts. Such doctrines are scattered as chaff before the wind when opposed by the teachings of the nursery rhymes of "The Beggars Petition," or to the fascinating description where the beggar figures as "a well-remernbered guest," or to the sympathy enlisted by Charles Lambs essay "A Complaint of the decay of Beggars in the Metropolis."
Although in most cases the relief given to the poor is practically a gift, and does not constitute an available by debt, the plan of giving relief by way of advance as a loan was introduced early in the present century, and the Poor-Law Amendment Act (1834) enacted that any relief, or the cost thereof, which shall be given to or on account of any poor person above the age of twenty-one or to his wife or any part of his family under the age of sixteen, and which the said commissioners shall by any rule, order, or regulation declare or direct to be given or considered as given by way of loan, and whether any receipt for such relief, or engagement to pay the same, or the cost price thereof, or any part thereof, shall have been given or not by that person to or on account of whom the same shall have been so given, shall be considered, and the same is hereby declared to be, a loan to such poor person (4 & 5 Will. IV. c. 76, § 58). By the same Act power was given to enforce payment by means of a summons before justices to attach wages. A subsequent statute gives power to the guardians to recover loans to paupers in the county court (11 & 12 Vict. c. 110). By order of the central board, guardians may, in the cases within the provision of the Poor-Law Amendment Act above set out, give relief by way of loan, but no relief contrary to the regulations can be given in this way. The restriction was necessary, as formerly some guardians granted outdoor relief by way of loan contrary to the recent principles of administration of relief.
The criminal liability of parents and others in loco parentis to provide sustenance has been considered. The purely civil liability for necessaries under implied contracts is of course outside the scope of this article, but there is an express liability created by the poor laws. The liability of the father and grandfather and the mother and grandmother and the children of poor persons under the statute of Elizabeth has been set out in an earlier part of this article. The statute extends only to natural relations. The liability is enforced by orders of magistrates after chargeability, who adjudicate as to the amount after hearing the facts and taking into consideration the ability of the relative. The relief of actual destitution should always precede investigation as to the liability of other persons than the parish to contribute to it. Indeed actual chargeability to the union is in general a condition precedent to an order upon the relative.
In treating of the persons entitled to relief it may be mentioned that, in accordance with the general law, a wife is to be treated as one with her husband who is compellable to maintain her; and, as on the one hand the wife is entitled under ordinary circumstances to relief equally with the husband, the latter is the person to apply for and to receive relief.
With respect to children, they form part of the fathers family until they become "emancipated." During the minority of a child there can be no emancipation, unless, he marries and so becomes himself the head of a family, or contracts some other relation so as wholly and per-manently to exclude the parental control.
By the amendment of the poor laws in 1834 all relief given to or on account of the wife, or children under sixteen, not being blind or deaf and dumb, is considered as given to the husband or father as the case may be ; and any relief given to children under that age of a widow is considered as given to her (4 & 5 Will. IV. c. 76, § 56), but this provision does not interfere with the liability imposed by the statute of Elizabeth. Further a man marrying a woman having legitimate or illegitimate children is liable to maintain them as part of his family, and is chargeable with all relief on their account until they attain sixteen or until the death of the mother (ibid., § 57). A married woman having separate property is liable for the maintenance of her husband and children on their becoming chargeable (45 & 46 Vict. c. 75).
The position of illegitimate children and their parents stands on a distinct foundation. By a statute of 1576 (18 Eliz. c. 3) justices were empowered at discretion to charge the mother and reputed father of bastards with their maintenance on the pain of imprisonment in default. The principle of this statute, renewed and not expressly repealed until recently, is carried out now, after receiving repeated attention, especially on the great reform of the poor laws and administration of relief in 1834, by an order of maintenance on the reputed father, at the instance of the mother, or where the child is actually chargeable to a union or parish at the instance of the guardians. Such order is in force until the child is thirteen, and in some instances until sixteen. The main features of the Acts are concisely stated in the article BASTARDY.
The conditions of persons entitled to relief are indicated by the terms of the statute of Elizabeth. If they fall within the definitions there given they have right to relief. A fundamental principle with respect to legal relief of the poor is that the condition of the pauper ought to be, on the whole, less eligible than that of the independent labourer. The pauper has no just ground for complaint, if, while his physical wants are adequately provided for, his condition is less eligible than that of the poorest class of those who contribute to his support.
Although a fund has become a practical necessity, it should be always borne in mind that he who claims it is not honest if his own labour and work can suffice to provide for his wants. It is as immoral and unjust to take unnecessarily from the industrious and saving by force of a law made and a tax raised for other objects as it would be for a labourer of equal means to pillage and take from the pocket of his fellow labourer.
If a state of destitution exists, the failure of third per-sons to perform their duty, as a husband, or relative men-tioned in the statute of Elizabeth, neglecting those he is. under a legal obligation to support, is no answer to the application. The relief should be afforded, and is often a condition precedent to the right of parish officers to take proceedings against the relatives or to apply to other poor unions. The duty to give immediate relief must, however, vary with the circumstances. The case of wanderers under circumstances not admitting of delay may be different from that of persons resident on the spot where inquiry as to all the circumstances is practicable. The statute of Elizabeth contemplated that the relief was to be afforded to the poor resident in the parish, but it is contrary to the spirit of the law that any person shall be permitted to perish from starvation or want of medical assistance. Whoever is by sudden emergency or urgent distress deprived of the ordinary means of subsistence has a right to apply for immediate relief where he may happen to be. Persons comprehended within this class are called "casual poor," although the term "casuals" is generally used in reference to vagrants who take refuge for a short time in the "casual wards" of workhouses.
Various tests are applied to ascertain whether applicants are really destitute. Labour tests are applied to the able--bodied, and workhouse tests are applied to those to whom entering a workhouse is made a condition of relief.
As to the nature and kind of relief given under the poor laws the great distinction restored rather than intro-duced by the amendment of the poor-law system in 1834 was giving all relief to able-bodied persons or their families in well-regulated workhouses (that is to say, places where they may be set to work according to the spirit and inten-tion of the statute of Elizabeth), and confining outdoor relief to the impotentthat is, all except the able-bodied and their families. Although workhouses formed a con-spicuous feature in legislation for the poor from an early period, the erection of those buildings for unions through-out the country where not already provided followed imme-diately on the amendment of the system in 1834. Since that time there has been a constant struggle between the pauper class and the administrators of the law, the former naturally wishing to be relieved at their own homes, and in many instances choosing rather to go without aid than to remove within the walls of the workhouse.
Relief given in a workhouse is termed "in (or indoor) maintenance" relief, and when given at the homes of the paupers is termed "outdoor relief." The regulations, accounts, and returns to parliament, as well as the principles governing relief, are based on these distinctions. It is impossible, however, to apply rigid principles very closely, or rather the exceptions in practice are so numerous that the majority of resident poor are relieved at their own homes by being supplied with necessaries in kind, or by payment either wholly or in part in coin, as circumstances are held to demand or warrant. The general order is that every able-bodied person, male or female, requiring relief shall be relieved only in the workhouse, together with such of the family as may be resident with such able-bodied person, and not in employment, including his wife residing with him. The exceptions made are where the person requires relief on account of sudden and urgent necessity, or on account of any sickness, accident, or bodily or mental infirmity affecting such person or any of his family ; where relief is required for the purpose of defraying the expenses of burial of any of the family ; in the case of widows, relief in the first six months of her widowhood when she has legitimate children dependent upon her incapable of earning a livelihood, and has no illegitimate children born after her widowhood. Further relief in or out of the workhouse may be given b guardians in their discretion to a wife or children of an able-bodied man not resident within the union.
By the Industrial School Act any child found begging or receiving alms (whether actually or under the pretext of selling or offering for sale anything), or being in any street or public place for the purpose of begging or receiving alms, or found wandering and not having any home or settled place of abode or proper guardianship or visible means of subsistence, or found destitute, eitler being an orphan or havipg a surviving parent who is undergoing penal ser-vitude or imprisonment, or that frequents the company of reputed thieves (as also in some other cases recently added), may be sent to a certified industrial school, and while a school is being found justices may order detention for a week in the workhouse.
In the metropolis justices have power to cause inmates of dangerous structures to be received into a workhouse.
Besides workhouses, district asylums are provided for the destitute poor in certain places. Under the Poor-Law Amendment Act, 1844, reciting that it was expedient that more effectual means should be provided for the temporary relief of poor persons found destitute and without lodgings within the district of the metropolitan police or the city of London, and in Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, and Birmingham, district boards were established, by which provision is made for such temporary relief and setting to work therein of any poor person found destitute within any such district, not professing to be settled in any parish included in it and not known to have any place of abode there and not charged with any offence under the Vagrant Act.
In 1867 under the Metropolitan Poor Act of that year unions and parishes in the metropolis were by order of the board formed into asylum districts, in each of which there is one asylum or more for the reception and relief of the sick, insane, or infirm, under a body of managers partly elective and partly nominated by the board, who build or hire asylums and furnish them, and appoint committees. The attendance at the asylum of a special commissioner of lunacy is provided for. Special provision is made as well for outdoor as indoor medical relief by providing dispensaries and the dispensing the of medicines, with regulations for the appointment of medical officers in the district.
The necessarily large expenditure for the asylums is principally defrayed by a fund called the metropolitan common poor fund, by contributions from the several unions, parishes, and places in the metropolis. The amount of the respective assessments is deter-mined by the local government board according to the valuation lists (noted hereafter) or on such other basis as the board directs, the contribution being enforced by a precept of the board ; and the bodies called on to pay levy the amount by a rate on occupiers of rateable property in the nature of a poor rate.
Admission to a workhouse may be by a written order of the board of guardians, or by the master or matron (or in their absence by the porter) without an order in any case of sudden or urgent necessity, or provisionally by a relieving officer, or overseer, or churchwarden. Any person who is brought by a policeman as having been found wandering in a state of destitution may be admitted. It is to be observed generally, with respect to all persons who may apply for admission into the workhouse under circumstances of urgent necessity, that their destitution, coupled with the fact of being within the union or parish, entitles them to relief, altogether independently of their settlement (see below), if they have one, which is a matter for subsequent inquiry.
The regulations for the government of workhouses fall under two classes:(1) those which are necessary for the maintenance of good order in any building in which considerable numbers of persons of both sexes and of different ages reside; (2) those which are necessary in order that these establishments may not be alms-houses, but workhouses in the proper meaning of the term.
The inmates of a workhouse are necessarily separated into certain classes. In no well-managed institution of this sort, in any country, are males and females, the old and the young, the healthy and the sick, indiscriminately mixed together. The general classification of paupers in the workhouse so far as the structure admits is as follows:Class 1 men infirm through age or any other cause; Class 2, able-bodied men, and youths above the age of fifteen; Class 3, boys above the age of seven and under fifteen; Class 4; women infirm through age or any other cause ; Class 5, able-bodied women, and girls above fifteen ; Class 6, girls above seven and under fifteen ; Class 7, children under seven. To each class is assigned that ward or separate building and yard which may be best fitted for the reception of such class, and each class is without communication with those of any other class. Guardians are required to divide the paupers into the seven classes, and to subdivide any one or more of these classes in any manner which may be advisable, and which the internal arrangements of the workhouse admit; and the guardians are required from time to time, after consulting the medical officer, to make necessary arrangements with regard to persons labouring under any disease of body or mind, and, so far as circumstances permit, to subdivide any of the enumerated classes with reference to the moral character or behaviour or the previous habits of the inmates, or to such other grounds as may seem expedient.
For example, it is very desirable that females of dissolute and disorderly habits should be separated from those of a good character, for it is the duty of the guardians to take all reasonable care that the morals of persons admitted into the house be not corrupted by intercourse with inmates of this description ; but this has reference to continued ill-conduct, and is not in any way to be a punishment for offences committed previous to entrance into the workhouse and discontinued before admission.
The separation of married couples was long a vexed question, the evils on the one hand arising from the former unrestricted practice being very great, while on the other hand the separation of old couples was felt as a great hardship, and by express statutory provision in 1847 husband and wife, both being above the age of sixty, received into a workhouse cannot be compelled to live separate and apart from each other (10 & 11 Vict. c. 109, § 23). This exemption was carried somewhat further by contemporaneous orders of the board, under which guardians were not compelled to separate infirm couples, provided they had a sleeping apartment separate from that of other paupers ; and in 1876 guardians were empowered, at their discretion, to permit husband and wife where either of them is in-firm, sick, or disabled by any injury, or above sixty years of age, to live together, but every such case must be reported to the local government board (39 & 40 Vict. c. 61, § 10).
Children under seven are placed in such of the wards appropriated to female paupers as may be deemed expedient, and their mothers are permitted to have access to them at a reasonable times; fathers or mothers who may be desirous of seeing any child who is in the same workhouse have a daily interview; and arrangements are made for permitting members of the same family who are in different workhouses of the union to have occasional interviews with each other at such times and in such manner as best suits the discipline of the several workhouses.
Casual and poor wayfarers admitted by the master and matron are kept in a separate ward and dieted and set to work in such manner as the guardians by resolution direct; and whenever any vagrants or mendicants are received into a workhouse they ought (as a precaution necessary for preventing the introduction of infectious gr contagious diseases) to be kept entirely separate from the other inmates, unless their stay exceeds a single night.
The guardians may direct that any pauper inmate of the workhouse of any class, except casual paupers, shall be detained in the workhouse after giving notice to quit it, for limited periods. A casual pauper (that is, any destitute wayfarer or wanderer applying for or receiving relief) is not entitled to discharge himself from a casual ward before 9 A.M. of the second day following his admission, or of the fourth day if he has been previously admitted more than once within a month, nor before he has performed the work prescribed for him (Casual Poor Act, 1882).
Infirmaries are attached to many workhouses, especially in the metropolis, and also in some cases there are infirmaries for the poor distinct from the workhouse; all are governed and regulated under the orders of a central board.
The outdoor labour test order of the local government board directs that every able-bodied male pauper who may receive relief within the union out of the workhouse shall be relieved in the following manner:half at least of the relief given to such pauper shall be given in food, clothing, and other articles of necessity, and no such pauper shall receive relief from the guardians, of the union or any of their officers or any overseer while he is employed for wages or other hire or remuneration by any person ; but every such pauper shall be set to work by the guardians. The kind of work is reported to the board. A departure from the order is, however, permitted if approved by the board.
To prevent the practice formerly prevailing in some parts whereby the poor rates were used for the payment of rents directly to the landlords, the guardians and parish officers are prohibited from paying the rent of the house or lodging of any pauper, or applying any relief in such payment directly or indirectly. This does not apply, however, to any shelter or temporary lodging procured in any case of sudden and urgent necessity, or mental imbecility; nor does it prevent the guardians, in regulating the amount of relief to be afforded to any particular person, from considering the expense to be incurred in providing lodging. This allows of supplying to the pauper the means of paying for a lodging instead of requiring him to come into the workhouse in such exceptional cases.
Modern remedial legislation and public efforts connected with improved dwellings for labourers and artisans, as well as for the poor generally, are distinct from the laws for the compulsory relief of the poor,although, like education, the whole subject of amelioration of classes admits in some of its aspects of being viewed together. The allotment of land to industrious poor has been also of great service (Allotments Extension Act, 1882).
Guardians having greater provision for the reception of poor children in their workhouse than they require may with the consent of the board contract with the guardians of any other union or parish for the reception, maintenance, and instruction of any poor children under sixteen being orphans or deserted by their parents or whose parents consent (14 & 15 Vict. c. 105 ; 29 & 30 Vict. c. 113).
A consolidated order comprising workhouse regulations prescribes that the boys and girls who are inmates of a workhouse shall, for three of the working hours at least every day, be instructed in reading, writing, arithmetic, and the principles of the Christian religion, and such other instruction shall be imparted to them as may fit them for service, and train them to habits of usefulness, industry, and virtue.
In relation to education of poor children out of the workhouse there has been much legislation. To go no farther back, the Act of 1855, providing for the education of children in the receipt of outdoor relief (18 & 19 Vict. c. 34, known as Denisons Act), was superseded in 1873 by the Elementary Education Act of that year (36 & 37 Vict. c. 86), containing a special clause for the education of children relieved out of the workhouse and the payment of school fees, but this clause was in turn repealed by the Elementary Education Act, 1876 (39 & 40 Vict. c. 79), making it the duty of every parent to cause a child to receive efficient elementary instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic. See EDUCATION.
By this Act a provision substituted for that of 1872 enacts that where relief out of the workhouse is given by the guardians or by their order by way of weekly or other continuing allowance to the parent of any child above the age of five years who has not reached the standard in reading, writing, and arithmetic prescribed by a certain code, or who for the time being either is prohibited by the Act from being taken into full time employment, or who by any bye-law under the earlier Elementary Education Act of 1870 is required to attend school, it shall be a condition for the continuance of such relief to the parent or child that elementary education in reading, writing, and arithmetic shall be provided for such child, and the guardians are required to give such further relief (if any) as may be necessary for that purpose. Such relief cannot be granted on condition of the child attending any public elementary school other than such as may be selected by the parent, nor refused because the child attends or does not attend any particular public elementary school. More-over the guardians have no power under this provision to give any relief to a parent in order to enable such parent to pay more than the ordinary fee payable at the school which he selects, or more than the fee which under the provisions of the Act they can enable a parent to pay in any other case. All relief given by the guardians under this provision is deemed to be relief within the meaning of the poor laws and payable out of their common fund (39 & 40 Vict. c. 79, § 40 ; see also § 34). A child cannot, as a condition of the continuance of relief out of the workhouse under the above provision, be required to attend school further or otherwise than is obligatory by any bye-law of a school board (43 & 44 Vict. c. 23, § 5).
Money given for the payment of school fees for any child of a parent who is not a pauper and is resident in any parish is charged by the guardians having jurisdiction to that parish with other parochial charges (39 & 40 Vict. § 35).
The education of poor children is closely connected with the system of "boarding out," as it is termed. The guardians of certain unions are empowered to board out pauper children in homes beyond the limits of the union, provided the guardians have entered into approved arrangements which include education (boarding-out order 1870); and by a statute of 1862 (still unrepealed, except so far as by implication provisions are superseded) the guardians of any parish or union may send any poor child to any school certified to the board as fit for their reception and charge the expenses in the same manner as other relief. Unless an orphan or deserted or having the consent of a parent, a child cannot be sent under this statute, and no child can be kept against its will if above fourteen. Such school is open to inspection (25 & 26 Vict. c. 43).
Under the last-mentioned statute, the amount which might be paid by a board of guardians for the maintenance of a child in an institution certified under that statute was limited to the cost of the maintenance of the child in the workhouse; but by the Divided Parishes and Poor-Law Amendment Act, 1882, the guardians may pay the reasonable expenses incurred in the maintenance, cloth-ing, and education of the child to an amount sanctioned by the local government board. The board has accordingly sanctioned rates of payment, and in practice, when issuing a certificate, specifies the maximurn amount which may be paid by the guardians as a reasonable allowance towards the maintenance of any pauper child sent to the institution.
It is to be observed that the provisions of the Elementary Educa-tion Acts as to the employment of children by employers in school districts not within the jurisdiction of a school board, consisting of a parish and not a borough, must be enforced by the school committee of guardians of the union (39 & 40 Vict. c. 79, § 7).
The daily average number of childred of both sexes attending the schools of the union workhouses, &c., in England and Wales during then half-year ended at Lady Day 1883 was 26,170. Added to this total there is the average daily attendance at district schools, 7488, and d488 in the metropolitan asylum district, making a total of 34,146. The amount paid to boards of guardians and managers out of the parliamentary grant in respect of the salaries of workhouse and district school teachers for the year ending Lady Day1883 was £38,629, 11s.
Various provisions relating to the apprenticeship of poor children have been noticed in tracing the progress of legisla-tion. Guardians are not restricted from binding as apprentices children who are not actually in the receipt of relief or whose parents may not be in the receipt of relief as paupers at the time of the binding. Such children as may ordinarily be considered "poor children" are within the scope of the provisions respecting the apprenticeship of pauper children. But apprenticeship under the poor laws is a species of relief which can only be given subject to the general or special regulations on the subject.
The general orders direct that no child under the age of nine years and no child (other than a deaf and dumb child) who cannot read and write his own name shall be bound apprentice by the guardians, and no child is bound to a person who is under twenty-one or who is a married woman, or to a person who is not a housekeeper or assessed to the poor rate in his own name, or who is a journeyman or a person not carrying on trade or business on his own account. And no child can be bound, unless in particular cases, to a master whose place of business is more than 30 miles from the residence of the child at the time of binding. The term of apprenticeship is discretionary with the guardians, but no apprentice can be bound for more than eight years, and if the child is above fourteen his own consent is required. If under sixteen his fathers consent (or, if his father is dead, his mothers if living) is necessary. Various preliminaries to the binding are requisite, affecting the health and strength of the child and all attendant circumstances. When any premium is given it must in part consist of clothes supplied to the apprentice and in part of money to the master. The duties of the master of a pauper apprentice are specially provided for both by statute and by the regulations adopted by the local government board.
In the administration of medical relief to the sick, the objects kept in view are(1) to provide medical aid for persons who are really destitute, and (2) to prevent medi-cal relief from generating or encouraging pauperism, and with this view to withdraw from the labouring classes, as well as from the administrators of relief and the medical officers, all motives for applying for or administering medical relief, unless where the circumstances render it absolutely necessary.
Unions are formed into medical districts limited in area and population, to which a paid medical officer is appointed, who is furnished with a list of all such aged and infirm persons and persons permanently sick or disabled as are actually receiving relief and residing within the medical officers district. Every person named in the list receives a ticket, and on exhibiting it to the medical officer is entitled to advice, attendance, and medicine as his case may require. Medical outdoor relief in connexion with dispen-saries is regulated in asylum districts of the metropolis by the Metropolitan Poor Act, 1867 (30 & 31 Vict. c. 6).
A lunatic asylum is required to be provided by a county or borough for the reception of pauper lunatics, with a committee of visitors who, among other duties, fix a weekly sum to be charged for the lodging, maintenance, medicine, and clothing of each pauper lunatic confined in such asylum. Medical officers of unions and parishes, having knowledge that any resident pauper is or is deemed to be a lunatic, give written notice to relieving officers or other officers, and such officers, having knowledge either by such notice or otherwise of the fact, must apply to a justice, who requires the relieving officer to bring the pauper before him, or some other justice, calling to his assistance a duly qualified medical man (physician, surgeon, or apothecary), and upon his certificate, and the justice upon view or examination or other proofs being satisfied that such pauper is a lunatic and a proper person to be taken charge of and detained under care and treatment, a written order is made out directing the pauper to be received into such asylum. That is the ordinary mode, but justices may act on their own knowledge, and police officers have power to apprehend wandering lunatics and take them before justices.
The Metropolitan Poor Act, 1867, already noticed, contains many provisions applicable to insane poor, including the right of the commissioners of lunacy to visit the asylums.
In some cases when duly authorized a lunatic may be received into a registered hospital or house duly licensed for the reception of lunatics. No lunatics can be kept in a workhouse more than fourteen days except under special circumstances ; minute pro-visions are made for the care, visitation, and discharge of the lunatics. The central board has made regulations respecting the detention of harmless idiots and other insane persons.
The cost of removal and maintenance is borne by the common fund of the union, and justices sending the pauper, or the visiting justices of an asylum may draw upon the guardians for the amount of the paupers maintenance in favour of the treasurer, officer, or proprietor of the asylum. Any property of the lunatic is applicable to his maintenance. Special provision is made for inquiry into the settlement and adjudicating it, and for payment of costs of maintenance in accordance with the adjudication (16 & 17 Vict. c. 97, and subsequent Acts). There are also special provisions as to pauper criminal lunatics and sending them to an asylum at the cost of the common fund of the union as in other cases,to which expenses, however, they persons property, if he have any (Criminal Lunatics Act, 1884, and Acts there referred to), is applicable.
An increase has taken place for many years past in the number of lunatic paupers. The total number of this class of paupers relieved on 1st January 1883 was larger by 1867 than it was on the corresponding day in 1882.
A settlement is the right acquired in any one of the modes pointed out by the poor laws to become a recipient of the benefit of those laws in that parish or place where the right has been last acquired.
No relief is given from the poor rates of a parish to any person who does not reside within the union, except where such person being casually within a parish becomes destitute by sudden distress, or where such person is entitled to receive relief from any parish where non-resi-dent under justices order (applicable to persons under orders of removal and to non-resident lunatics), and except to widows and legitimate children where, the widow was resident with her husband at the time of his death out of the union in which she was not settled, or where a child ander sixteen is maintained in a workhouse or establish-ment for the education of pauper children not situate in the union, and in some other exceptional cases.
The progress of the law of settlement may be gathered from the statutes already referred to; and, without again adverting to legisla-tion already noticed, and much more not enumerated, it must be sufficient to point out that immediately before the passing of the Poor-Law Amendment Act, 1834, settlements were acquired by birth, hiring and service, ayprenticeship, renting a tenement, estate, office, or payment of rates. In addition to these an acknowledgment (by certificate, of which mention has been made, by relief or acts of acquiescence) has practically the effect of a settlement, for, if unexplained, such an acknowledgment stops the parish from disputing a settlement in the parish acknowledging. The Poor-Law Amendment Act, 1834, abolished settlement by hiring and service (or by residence under it) and by serving an office, and by apprenticeship in the sea service. Moreover the guardians of a union might agree (subject to the approval of the commissioners) that all the parishes forming it should for the purposes of settlement be considered as one parish.
It is to be observed that, for the purposes of relief, settlement, and removal and burial, the workhouse of any parish is considered as situated in the parish to which each poor person is chargeable.
There may be a settlement by parentage, or legitimate children take the settlement of their father, or if he has no settlement they are entitled to the settlement of their mother ; and it is only when both these sources fail discovery that their right of settlement by birth accrues ; for until the settlement of the father or mother has been ascertained the settlement of a legitimate child, like that of a bastard, is in the place where the birth took place.
A settlement attaches to those persons who have a settlement of some kind. Foreigners born out of the country and not acquiring any in one of the modes pointed out must be provided for, if requiring relief, where they happen to be.
As the burden of maintaining the poor is thrown on the parish of settlement, when the necessity for immediate relief arises in another parish the important question arises whether the pauper can be removed; for, although the parish where the pauper happens to be must afford immediate relief without waiting for removal, the parish of settlement cannot in general be charged with the cost unless the pauper is capable of being removed. The question of removability is distinct from settlement. A pauper often acquires a status of irremovability without gaining a settlement.
Irremovability is a principle of great public importance quite irrespective of the incident of cost as between one parish or another. Before the introduction of a status of irremovability removal might take place (subject to powers of suspension in case of sickness and otherwise) after any interval during which no legal settlement was obtained ; mere length of residence without concurrent circumstances involving the acquisition of a settlement on obtaining relief gave no right to a person to remain in the parish where he resided.
In 1846 it was enacted that no person should be removed nor any warrant granted for the removal of any person from any parish in which such person has resided for five years (9 & 10 Vict. c. 66). In 1861 three years was substituted for five (24 & 25 Vict. c. 55) ; and only four years later one year was substituted for three (28 & 0-9 Vict. c. 79). Apart from these reductions of time in giving the status of irremovability, actual removals to the parish of settlement were narrowed by provisions giving to residence in any part of a union the same effect as a residence. in any parish of that union (24 & 25.Vict. c. 55). On the other hand the time during which parish relief is received, or during which the person is in any poorhouse or hospital or in a prison, is excluded from the computation of time (9 & 10 Vict. c. 66).
The removability as well as the settlement of the family, i.e., of the wife and unemancipated children, are practically subject to one and the same general rule. Wherever any person has a wife or children having another settlement, they are removable where he is removable, and are not removable from any parish or place from which he is not removable (11 & 12 Vict. c. 211).
It is to be borne in mind that no person exempted from liability to be removed acquires, by reason of such exemption, any settlement in any parish; but a residence for three years gives a quali-fied settlement (39 & 40 Viet. c. 61).
The cost of relief of paupers rendered irremovable is borne by the common fund of the union (11 & 12 Vict. c. 110, § 3) as union expenses (§ 6), and any question arising in the union with reference to the charging relief may be referred to and decided by the local government board (§ 4).
The statute of Elizabeth required overseers to account to justices for all moneys received by them under rules or otherwise, and all expenditure for the relief of the poor, and to deliver over balances to their successors (43 Eliz. c. 2, § 2). By the amendment of the poor laws in 1834 the duty of making payments was thrown chiefly on the guardians, leaving the overseers to assess and collect the rates out of which such payments are chiefly made. The accounts of expenditure and receipts by all parties, includ-ing officers of union and treasurers, form a very important part of poor-law administration. The duties, including the forms of books of account, are minutely prescribed by orders otthe central board, and the accounts are examined and audited half-yearly by auditors appointed by the board in auditory districts, the auditing by justices having ceased. Full powers are given to the auditors to make this examination effectual and to allow and disallow accounts and items in them (see the Poor-Law Amendment Act, 1868, and Acts there recited).
It is to be observed that by various provisions in the poor-law Acts power has been given to raise money by borrowing. The Poor-Law Amendment Act 1835 authorizes applications for advances under several earlier Acts for building or enlarging workhouses or for purchasing land, and a subsequent Act authorizes the borrowing of money for payment of debts generally (5 & 6 Vict. c. 15).
The principal items comprised in the total amount expended in the relief of the poor in England and Wales during the years ending at Lady Day 1882 and 1883 are these:
The comparison between the two years shows that with the exception of the outdoor relief there has been an increase in each item of expenditure. In this respect the year 1882-83 forms no exception to its predecessors, for the out relief is the only item in which there has been any decrease of late years.
Bringing the expenditure down to a later period, the compara-tive cost of the half years ended at Lady Day 1883 and 1884 stood thus:1883, in maintenance £982,586, out relief £1,269,700, total £2,252,286 ; 1884, in maintenance £978,287, out relief £1,226,730, total £2,205,017. Therefore the cost for the half year 1884 had decreasedthe in maintenance by £4299, and the outdoor relief by £42,970. The average price of wheat per imperial quarter during the same half years was1883, 40s. 11d. ; 1884, 38s. 11d.
In the article LONDON tables have been given of the system of poor relief there. It must suffice here to notice that the cost of relief in the metropolis, comprising thirty unions, has increased since 1875. On the other hand the proportion which the cost of outdoor relief bears to the cost of in maintenance in the metropolis is continually decreasing. In 1883 the in maintenance was £586,933 and the outdoor relief £199,013. The expenditure for in and out relief in the metropolis for the Lady Day half years 1883 and 1884 stood thus1883, £417,614 ; 1884, £425,310, an increase of £7696. In the parochial year 1883 the adjusted cost of relief was £2,172,294, being equal to a rate of 1s. 6 3/4d. on the rateable value.
It is satisfactory to find that the adult able-bodied paupers have been steadily diminishing in numbers during the last four years, both among indoor and outdoor paupers. Comparing 1883 with 1873, it appears that there has been a diminution of 25,775, or no less than 20·6 per cent., in the mean number of adult able-bodied persons receiving relief, and, if we take into account the increased population, we find that the diminution has been 30·0 per cent. In the parochial year 1883 the mean number of adult able-bodied paupers wasindoor 21,558, outdoor 77,592, total 99,150. The above numbers do not include vagrants.
Although for many reasons it is considered desirable that as far as practicable out relief should be given in kind rather than in money, it will be seen by the following table for the parochial year 1883 taken from the unaudited half-yearly statements (and exclusive of relief given by the guardians in respect of school fees) how much more is given in money:
The great difference which exists in the several divisions in the manner of administering out relief is apparent. In the eastern division (comprising Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk) nearly one-third of the outdoor relief was given in kind ; while in the northern division (comprising Northumberland, Durham, Cumberland, and Westmoreland) nearly the whole was given in money.
The cost per head of relief on the mean number was in 1883 £10, 13s. 6d. ; in 1873 it was £8, 14s. Id.
It may be stated here that, whilst in the metropolis the cost of outdoor relief was in 1883 little more than one-third of that of the in maintenance, the expenditure on out relief in the remainder of England, with the exception of the north-western division, was con-siderably in excess of that on in maintenance, being in Wales more than four and a half times as great.
The mean number of paupers relieved in 1883 wasindoor 182,932, and out paupers (inclusive of those chargeable to the poor vates who are in county and borough asylums or in licensed houses) 599,490, or a total mean number of 782,422, being a ratio of 29·6 per 1000 of the population. The mean number of paupers relieved in 1883 was smaller in proportion to the population by 101,266 (or 11·5 per cent.) than the mean number relieved in 1873, ten years beforea decrease, however, entirely owing to a reduction in the number of outdoor paupers.
Some remarkable fluctuations took place in the number of vagrants relieved during the ten years ending in 1883. In 1873 the mean number of this class of paupers was 2700. In 1881 it had risen to 6979, an increase of 158·5 per cent. In 1883 it had fallen to 4790. After the end of that parochial year it still further decreased owing to the operation of the Casual Poor Act, 1882, extending the periods for which vagrants may be detained ia casual wards.
The increased cost of relief is attributable to some extent to the fact that the proportion which the mean number of paupers relieved in the workhouse bears to the mean number of paupers all classes is larger than it formerly was ; but it is also attributed partly to expenses incurred in the erection of improved buildings, the substitution of paid officers for pauper help, and other similar items of expenditure incurred for the purpose of securing the more efficient administration of relief. The Yearly cost per head on the mean number of outdoor paupers has diminished during the last few years, and was smaller during 1883 than in any other year since 1873 with the exception of the year 1880.
The poor rate is the fund from which the cost of relief is principally derived. The parochial taxation for this purpose in the statute of Elizabeth has been already noticed. As regards the subject matter of taxation the only subsequent absolute interference is in relation to saleable underwood, and also to rights of fowling, shoot-ing, or taking game or rabbits, and of fishing, where severed from the occupation of lands, and to mines of every kind not mentioned in the Act (see the Rating Act, 1874). The statute of Elizabeth enforced what are called duties of imperfect obligation; for it was, as has been seen, a duty before that statute to relieve the poor and necessitous, and the provisions of that Act were adapted to the enforcing of those duties in the way in which they could be practically carried out by enabling the parish officers to tax the inhabitants, whose representatives those officers are, for the actual performance of the obligations.
The Act gives persons aggrieved by any such tax a right of appeala right which has been fully exercised as well as regulated and affected by much subsequent legisla-tion. By the Parochial Assessment Act; 1836 (6 & 7 Will. IV. c. 96), closely following the poor-law amendment of two years before, no rate for the relief of the poor is of any force which is not made upon an estimate of the net annual value of the several hereditaments rated, that is to say, of the rent at which the same might reasonably be expected to let from year to year free of all usual tenants rates and taxes, and tithe commutation rent charge, if any, and deducting therefrom the probable average annual cost of the repairs, insurance, and other expenses, if any, necessary to maintain them in a state to command such rent.
Nothing in the Act, however, altered or affected the principles or different relative liabilities according to which different kinds of hereditanients were previously liable. The statute ot Elizabeth (extended in some respects as to places by 13 & 14 Charles 11. c. 12) embraced two classes of persons subject to taxation-occupiers of real property and inhabitants in respect of personal property, although the rateability under the latter head was reluctantly conceded by the courts of law, and was in practice only partially acted upon. Inhabitants as such, in respect of ability derived from the profits of stock in trade or any other property, were, however, expressly relieved in 1840 by a temporary Act (3 & 4 Vict. c. 89), since continued from time to time. It is solely by expir-ing laws continuance Acts (the last Act extending to the end of 1885) that the vast amount of personal pro-perty is relieved from the poor rate. This exemption, and the principle on which it is based, of course forms an important element in all questions of local and in many of imperial taxation.
As regards occupiers of land and houses, the correct principles as to the persons liable to to be rated were, after many erroneous views and decisions, established by the by the House of Lords in 1865 in the case of the Mersey docks. The only occupier exempt from the operation of the Act of Elizabeth is the crown the general prin-ciple that such liabilities are not imposed on thr general principle that such liabilities are not imposed on the sovereign unless expressly mentioned, and that principle applies to the direct and immediate servants of the crown, whose occupation of : the crown itself. If there is a personal private beneficial occupation, so that the occupation is by the subject, that occupa-tion is rateable. Thus for apartments in a royal palace, gratui-tously assigned to a subject, who occupies them by permission of the sovereign but for the subjects benefit, the latter is rateable ; on the other hand, where a lease of private property is taken in the name of a subject, but the occupation is by the sovereign or her subjects on her behalf, no rate can be imposed.
So far the ground of exemption is perfectly intelligible, but it has been carried a good deal further, and applied to many cases in which it can scarcely be said naturally, but only theoretically, that the sovereign or the servants of the sovereign are in occupation. A long series of cases have established that when property is occu-pied for the purposes of the government of the country, including under that head the police, and the administration of justice, no one is rateable in respect of such occupation. And this applies not only to property occupied for such purposes by the servants of the great departments of state and the post office, the Horse Guards, and the Admiralty, in all which cases the occupiers might strictly be called the servants of the crown, but to county buildings occupied for the assizes and for the judges lodgings, to stations for the local constabulary, to jails, and to county courts where undertakings are carried out by or for the Government and the Government is in occupation ; the same principles of exemption have been applied to property held by the office of works.
When the property is not de facto occupied by the crown or for the crown, it is rateable; and, although formerly the uses of property for public purposes, even where the crown was not constructively interested in the way above pointed out, was treated as a ground for exemption, it is now settled that trustees who are in law the tenants and occupiers of valuable property in trust for public and even charitable purposes, such as hospitals or lunatic asylums, are in principle rateable notwithstanding that the buildings are actually occupied by paupers who are sick or insane, and that the notion that persons in the legal occupation of valuable property are not rateable if they occupy in a merely fiduciary character cannot be sustained.
With respect to the particular person to be rated where there is a rateable occupation, it is to be observed that the tenant, as dis-tinguished from the landlord, is the person to be rated under the statute of Elizabeth ; but occupier of tenements let for short terms may deduct the poor-rate paid by them from their rents, or the vestries may order such owners to be rated instead of' the occupiers; such payments or deductions do not affect qualification and franchises depending on rating (Poor-Rate Assessment and Collection Act, 1869, and Amendment Act, 1882).
To be rated the occupation must be such as to be of value, and in this sense the word beneficial occupation has been used in many cases. But it is not necessary that the occupation should be bene-ficial to the occupier ; for, if that were necessary, trustees occupying for various purposes, having no beneficial occupation, would not be liable, and their general liability has been established as indicated in the examples just given.
As to the mode and amount of rating it is no exaggeration to say that the application of a landlord-and-tenant valuation in the terms already given in the Parochial Assessment Act, with the deductions there mentioned, has given rise to litigation on which millons of pounds have been spent within the last half century, with respect to the rating of railways alone, although the established principle applied to them, after much consideration, is to calculate the value of the land as increased by the line.
The Parochial Assessment Act referred to (6 & 7 Will. IV. c. 96), comprising various provisions as to the mode of assessing the rate so far as it authorized the making of a valuation, was repealed in 1869, in relation to the metropolis, and other provisions made for securing uniformity of the assessment of rateable property there (32 & 33 Vict. c. 67).
The mode in which a rate is made and recovered may be concisely stated thus. The guardians appoint an assessment committee of their body for the investigation and supervision of valuations, which are made out in the first instance by the overseers according to specific regulations and in a form showing among other headings the gross estimated rental of all property and the names of occupiers and owners, and the rateable value after the deductions specified in the Assessment Act already mentioned, and as prescribed by the central board. This valuation list, made and signed by the overseers, is published, and all persons assessed or liable to be assessed, and other interested parties, may, including the officers of other parishes, inspect and take copies of and extracts from that list. A multitude of provisions exist in relation to the valuation and supplemental valuation lists. Objections on the ground of unfairness or incorrect-ness are dealt with by the committee, who hold meetings to hear and determine such objections. The valuation list, where approved by the committee, is delivered to the overseers, who proceed to make the rate in accordance with the valuation lists and in a prescribed form of rate book. The parish officers certify to the examination and comparison of the rate book with the assessments, and obtain the consent of justices as required by the. statute ot Elizabeth. This consent or allowance of the rate is merely a ministerial act, and if the rate is good on the face of it the justices cannot inquire into its validity.
The rate is then published and open to inspection. Appeals may be made to special or quarter sessions against the rate, subject to the restriction that, if the objection were such that it might have been dealt with on the valuation lists, no appeal to sessions is permitted unless the valuation list had been duly objected to and the objector had failed to obtain such relief in the matter as he deemed to be just (see Union Assessment Acts).
In the metropolis a common basis of value for the purposes of government and local taxation is provided, including the promotion of uniformity in the assessment of rateable property. Provision is made for the appointment of an assessment committee by guardians or vestries, and for the preparation of valuation lists, and the deposit and distribution of valuation lists, and for the periodical revision of valuation lists. Appeals against the valuation list are heard by justices in special sessions, upon whom special limited powers are conferred. General assessment sessions, principally for appeals affecting the total of the gross or rateable value of any parish as being too high or too low as compared with other parishes, are appointed for hearing and determining appeals, and the lists are altered in accordance with their decisions. Those decisions may be questioned as in the case of decisions by courts of general or quarter sessions.
The valuation lists as approved by the assessment committee, or as altered on appeal, last for five years, and are conclusive evidence of gross and rateable value for the purpose of various specified rates, including the poor rate ; and the poor rate is made by the parish officers in accordance with such valuation according to a form provided,see Valuation (Metropolis) Act, 1869.
It is to be borne in mind that the amount raised by poor rates does not closely represent the amount actually expended on the relief of the poor. The rates are made in reference to the prospec-tive amounts required, and various payments not connected with the maintenance of the poor are charged by various Acts of Parliament on the poor rate.
Payment of poor rates, and of the costs incurred, is enforced on complaints to justices, and by distress warrants and imprisonment in default. Special statutory provision is made for this mode of recovery.
In conclusion, while giving full credit to the admirable way in which the English poor-law system, and the principles on which it is based, have been and continue to be promulgated and explained by the central authority to the de guardians and others concerned in the administration of the laws (an advantage in which poor-law administration stands out distinct from any other), we must add that a consolidation of the statute law relating to poor is much needed. Dr Burn, writing a hundred and twenty years ago, spoke thus""If it maybe reasonable to advance further still in speculation, perhaps a time may come when it shall be thought convenient to reduce all the poor laws into one. The laws concerning the poor may not improperly be compared to their apparel. When a flaw is observed, a patch is provided for it, upon that another, and so on, till the original coat is lost amidst a variety of patch-work. And more labour and materials are expended (besides the clumsiness and motley figure) than would have made an entire new suit." Since that remote day the number of statutes has increased notwithstanding a multitude of repeals. . At the present time the Acts of Parliament affect-ing the poor laws of England alone, exclusive of Scotland and Ireland, number upwards of one hundred and thirty, and by far the greater portion of them have originated since the amendment of the poor laws in 1834.
As to poor laws in other countries, the articles devoted to those countries must be referred to. It is to be observed that legal provision is made for paupers in every part of of the United States. The poor-law system which obtains in the States in its general features is similar to that which prevails in England so far as regards the mode of raising the fund (viz., by way of rate) and the class of people to whom relief is afforded. Each district (commonly a town, county, or city) provides for its own poor. In some of the States paupers having no legal settlement are re-lieved by the State Government (1834). The prevalence of slavery in the Southern States until its abolition modi-fied the system of relief.
The searching inquiry into the administration of the poor laws in 1832-34 was not confined to the United King-dom or to the States of America. Returns were obtained through the foreign ministers, and the result as to Europe is thus comprehensively stated by Nassau Senior in 1835""A legal claim to relief exists in Norway, Sweden, Rus-sia, Denmark, Mecklenburg, Prussia, Würtemberg, Bavaria, and the canton of Bern, but does not exist in the Hanseatic towns, Holland, Belgium, France, Portugal, the Sar-dinian states, Frankfort, Venice, Greece, or Turkey." In the north of Europe the great peculiarity of the system is stated to be "the custom of affording relief by quartering the paupers on the landholders in the country and on house-holders in the towns." Senior arrived at the conclusion that, in those portions of the Continent in which the Eng-lish principle of acknowledging in every person a right to be supported by the public existed, the compulsory relief had not, except perhaps in the canton of Bern, produced evils resembling either in intensity or extent those then experienced in the United Kingdom, and that in the major-ity of the nations that had adopted it the existing system appeared to work well. The poor laws of Russia, however, if they could be called poor laws, were merely parts of her system of slavery.
The absence of poor laws in France, and the charitable establishments, many of them under state management, are noticed in the article FRANCE. Senior arrived at the conclusion that the comprehensive and discriminate system of public relief established in France in relation to these institutions was not so complete as in Belgium. For the poor there see BELGIUM, where benevolent and charitable institutions and hospitals, charity workshops and depôts of mendicity or workhouses, and the bureaux de bienfaisance are noticed. The power of expulsion pour vagabondage exercised as a matter of daily routine in France operates as a restraint on vagrancy, although having a wider range than the English vagrancy laws. The majority of the indigent who receive public relief in France are foreigners.
The beneficent, including eleemosynary, institutions of united Italy are treated of under that head in ITALY.
The "pauper colonies" of Holland, established in the first quarter of the present century (the first idea of which seems to have been derived from a colony of Chinese in Java), attracted public attention in England and Europe generally about the time the provision for the poor and the administration of the poor laws were under considera-tion, immediately before their reform in 1834. The object of the institutions in Holland was to remove those persons who were a burden to society to the poorest waste lands, where under judicious regulations they were enabled to the number of many thousands to provide for their own sub-sistence. It is remarkable that various schemes put forth in the l7th and 18th centuries for the reform of the British poor laws already cited teem with comparisons favourable to Holland. Sir Matthew Hale refers to the industry and orderly management prevailing in Holland and Flanders. Sir J. Child and others do the like.
Among various works on poor laws see Burns History and the modern work of Sir G. Nicholls; Nassau Seniors Poor Laws of European States; Consts and Daviss treatises; Glens Poor-law Orders ; Reports of Poor-Law Commissioners; Reports of Poor-Law and Local Government Boards from 1834. (J. E. D.)
FOOTNOTE (page 478)
1To be made in consequence of the payments from the metropolitan common poor fund exceeding the payments made to that fund during each year.
The above article was written by: James Edward Davis; Barrister; Legal Adviser to the Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police, 1874-87; author of Practice and Evidence in the County Courts and The Criminal Law Consolidation Statutes.
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