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On the Poor Laws of England.


a salary to assist the overseers, and establish select vestries for the purpose of managing the parochial concerns, and to repeal the laws of settlement, and enact, that three years residence, without being chargeable, shall be the only means by which a settlement shall in future be obtained. The Report concludes with some remarks on the various questions for litigation to which the present laws on this point give occasion.-The Committee think it impracticable to assess personal property, and improper to render the burden of the poors' rate national rather than parochial,-speak favourably of Saving Banks,-praise the administration of the Scots poor laws, and wish the select vestries to act in a capacity similar to that of the kirk-sessions of Scotland.

The Lords' committee was appointed on the 9th May, and, after hearing evidence from the 20th of May to the 17th June, made their Report on the 10th July. It is their opinion, that the system of the poor laws (of which they give a summary) ought to be essentially maintained; so that there seems to be some difference in this respect between the two Reports. They agree in regard to settlement by three years residence, the appointment of permanent overseers with salaries, and in recommending the adoption of Saving Banks.


[July the committee observes, are in a great proportion paid through the poor-rate, a practice which has prevailed in the South of England parti cularly." In a parish in Wiltshire, it appears, (Minutes of Evidence, Commons' Report, p. 87.) that nearly all the labourers received pay from the parish, according to the number of their families, the wages being only from 7s. to 8s. a-week. In the Isle of Wight, the wages are from 8s. to 10s.; in 1774, they were 7s.; in 1784, 8s.; in 1794, 9s.; and in 1810, there were some 15s. Many labourers now receive assistance in addition to their wages.

In a future number, we may probably offer some remarks on the three Bills introduced into last Session of Parliament by Mr Sturges Bourne, founded upon these Reports, only one of which we believe has passed. At present we shall beg the attention of our readers to the Abstract of the returns, ordered by the 55th of the King, cap. 47, from the several counties of England and Wales, which could not be prepared in time for the Committees of 1817.* It is perhaps the most important document of the kind that has ever appeared. The returns for 1813, 1814, and 1815, from each county, with its subdivisions, are given under eleven different heads; and there is a summary, with explanatory observations, subjoined. The following observations are added to the summary of England and Wales:

"The number of persons relieved permanently, both in and out of any workhouse, on the average of the last three years, appears to be 516,963. Ditto occasionally, being parishioners, 423,663. Total, 940,626, exclusive of any children of those permanently relieved out of the house.

"Four thousand and ninety-four parishes, or places, maintain the greater part of their poor in workhouses; averaging, for the last three years, 93,142 persons.

Nothing is more worthy of attention in the minutes of evidence taken before both committees, than the great diminution of the rates, in several instances, effected by a vigilant administration; and the prevalence, on the other hand, of the ruinous practice of paying a large proportion of the wages of labour out of the poor-rate, according to no other principle of calculation than the number of the labourers' families and the price of bread. Wherever this last practice has been established, wages are lower almost by a half than in other districts; and it is probable, that the labour actually performed by men who have thus no inducement to exertion, is diminished in more than an equal proportion; or that, while they are receiving high wages from the parish and their employers jointly, more than half the industry of men in the full vigour of health and strength is lost to themselves and the community. "The wages of agricultural labour," 1818.

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"The population of England and Wales, as taken from the abstract laid before Parliament in the year 1811, appears to have been 10,150,615; so that the number of persons relieved from the poors' rates appears to have

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* Ordered to be printed, 3d March

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180,037 1,655,162




Expend Expend

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"The total of the money raised by poors' rates, or other rates, appears to have averaged for the last three years, the sum of £8,168,340, 13s. 9 d. being at the rate of 16s. 1d. per head on the population, or 3s. 1d. in the pound of the total amount of the sum of £51,898,423, 12s. 6d. as assessed to the property-tax in the year 1815.* "The total of the money expended for the maintenance of the poor, on the average of the last three years, appears to have been £6,132,719, 4s. idt being about £6, 10s. 6d. for each pauper.

"The amount of money expended in suits of law, removals, and expences of parish officers,

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Total expenditure, independent of the maintenance of the poor,

£2,162,799 2 4

or more than 1-4th part of do.
"The number of persons belong-parison.

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TABLE of Proportions of Comparative Increase.


In the Appendix to the Abstract, £327,579 6 12 there is a tabular view of the proportionate increase of the rates at different periods. This Table, valuable as it certainly is, would have been more complete if the amount of the rental of the property assessed, the price of corn, and the ordinary rate of wages at these periods, could also have been brought into the com

180,057 1 8 1,655,162 14 64

Law, &c.


Expend Expend Total

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ed for other pur poses.

1776 17 15



1803 53 40 19 10 1815 81 61 32


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ing to Friendly Societies appears to be, for the last three years, nearly 8 in each hundred of the resident population.

"The area of England and Wales, according to the latest authorities, appears to be 57,960 square statute miles, or 37,094,400 statute acres; wherefore the number of inhabitants, in each square mile, containing 640 acres, averages 175 persons.

"The greater proportion of the population of England and Wales appears to be employed in trade and manufacture, there being 770,199 families returned employed in agriculture, and 959,632 in trade, manufactures, and handicraft, besides 412,316 other families."


This, it is evident, assumes that there has been no increase of population from 1811 to 1815.

In 1813, L.6,679,657, 15s. 54d.; in 1814, L.6,297,331, 7s. 74d.; and in 1815, L.5,421,168, 9s. 34d.; or more than a million and a quarter less in 1815 than in 1813. How much of the average expenditure, or of that of any one year, was actually paid as wages, cannot perhaps be known; but, from what appears in the Reports, and the Minutes of Evidence, it

must in some counties be equal to the half of the sums said to be expended in the

maintenance of the poor.

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"EXPLANATION.-The above table is intended to





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shew, in one view, the proportionate increase in the several years 1776, 1785, and 1803, compared with the present Abstract as taken in 1815, a period of nearly forty years, and is thus explained, viz. The increase in the first column, money raised,' is in the proportion, from the year 1776 to 1785, of 17 to 21; from 1785 to 1803, in the proportion of 21 to 53; and again, from the year 1803 to 1815, in the proportion of 53 to 81, or nearly five times in the same period, doubling itself every sixteen years. And, in the same manner, is


the proportionate increase for each year, shewn in every other column.

On the Poor Laws of England.

"OBSERVATIONS.-The expenditure for the maintenance of the poor in that period, does not appear to have increased in so great a proportion, being only four times in the space of forty years; consequently doubling itself only every twenty years. For law, removals, expences of officers, &c. the increase was nearly eleven times in that period, doubling the first amount about every twelve years. "The most rapid increase of expenditure was in the money expended for other purposes, under the heads of church rate, highway rate, county rate, &c. being no less in 1815 than one-fourth part of the whole money raised, (although the amount of sums returned under those heads are far short of the truth, for the reasons explained in the remarks on the answers to 2d and 6th question, page 8th of the abstract,) doubling itself more than four times since the year 1776; it must, however, be observed, that the great and general increase has taken place only since the year 1785; but there not being any similar abstract of returns from that year to 1803, a space of eighteen years, it would be difficult to state in what precise year it commenced; but the increased expenditure between 1803 and 1815, appears in each column to be nearly equal, with the exception of the money for other purposes,' which is greater than the others by onefourth.

"The increase of paupers relieved between 1803 and 1815, was nearly one-third; and that of the population of England and Wales, from 1776 to 1815, was gradual, from about 7 to 10 millions, being likewise an increase of one-third.

[July "From the Abstract, as printed in 1804, it appears, from the returns made to the tax office for the year ending April 1804, that the rental of real property in England and Wales amounted to L. 38,000,000; and the summary of real property, as assessed to the property-tax in the year 1815, amounted to nearly L. 52,000,000, being an increase of nearly one-half in that period.

"It is necessary to observe, that the foregoing abstract does not include the number of persons relieved, not being parishioners, an account of whom was taken for the year 1803, amounting to 194,000. This class of poor must have contributed very largely to the increase of the expenditure since that period, from the natural operation of the war; in assisting the wives and families of the military and navy, to proceed to their different homes, particularly from the metropolis and different sea-port towns, including a great proportion of the natives of Ireland.

"The actual rate in the pound upon the property liable to assessment, averaged, in the year 1804, 2s. 10d., or nearly one-seventh part; and the actual rate in the pound, during the years 1813, 1814, and 1815, as shewn by this abstract, averaged 3s. 1 d., being between a sixth and seventh part of the pound, or an increase of rather more than 1 per cent.

"It may be also worthy of observation, that although the average rate in the pound, which the amount of real property in England paid to the levy of the poor-rates, was 3s. 2d. (vide page 573 of the Abstract,) yet the rate in the pound varied in the different counties from 1s. 7d. to 6s. 114d. as per the summaries of North

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This advance, with the explanation does not appear so great as might have given in the preceding observations, been expected. The total amount of the

rates in 1803, was L. 5,348,204, and the
of 1813, 1814,
and 1815,
L. 8,168,340, showing an increase of
L. 2,820,136, but the sum actually ex-
pended on the poor in 1803 was
L. 4,077,891, and the average of 1813,
1814, and 1815, L.6,132,719, showing an
advance of only L. 2,054,828, or nearly in
proportion to the advance of the rental;

so that this advance in the rate on the pound, is not to be ascribed to the increase of the sums employed in the maintenance of the poor. The difference in the rate of wa


and the price of grain also deserve notice. The Windsor price of wheat in 1803 was L.3 per quarter, and in 1813 L. 6. If we compare 1815 by itself with 1803, we find that the whole expenditure of 1815 was L. 7,508,853, 14s. 84d, (p. 630,) and for 1803 L. 5,348,204, (p. 636 ;) and that the rate per pound in 1815 was 2s. 104d., or d. per pound more than in 1804, as stated above. Again, if we compare maintenance of the poor, excluding all othese years, in so far only as regards the ther expences, the sum in 1815 was L. 5,421,168, 9s. 34d. (p. 630,) and in 1803 L. 4,077,891, (p. 636;) a rate of increase much below that of the rental, which, as stated above, was nearly onehalf in that period.

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umberland and Sussex. To point out more clearly the great disproportion, of the rates of the different counties, as at present levied, it is only necessary to observe, that three counties, viz. Cumberland, Northumberland, and Westmoreland, were rated under


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The conclusions to be drawn from these documents, though certainly painful, are not so appalling as it has become the fashion to represent them. An improved administration of the laws, even as extended beyond their original object by modern practice, would greatly reduce the amount of the rates under any given circumstances of the country; and now that these circumstances have become much more favourable in every respect than they were in 1813, 1814, and 1815, the diminution of the rates, under such an administration, could not fail to proceed in an accelerated ratio. The first thing that seems necessary, is to establish a clear, simple, and uniform method of obtaining a settlement, excluding, as far as possible, all questions for litigation, and leaving every one at the most perfect liberty to carry his labour to the best market. It might probably be expedient, even after a pauper has become chargeable, not to remove him to the parish to which he belongs, if he has for some

years lived at a distance from it, where he may still earn a little for his support and enjoy the kind offices of those among whom he has spent his better days: His pittance might easily be remitted, or the two parishes might account for it to one another. This regulation would be the more proper, if relief should, after a certain period, be nearly confined to the orphan, the aged, the sick, and the infirm, or the really "impotent poor," which is the next thing necessary. To find useful labour for all that may apply for it, adults as well as children, is impossible, to maintain them in idleness is unjust to those who pay, and destructive of every manly and moral

feeling in

There are, no doubt, periods when the demand for labour falls off suddenly in a country of which so great a proportion of the people are employed in manufactures; and bad harvests occasionally enhance the price of provisions much beyond the usual rate of wages; but these are only exceptions, and ought not to form the basis of a general law, but might be provided for either by special and temporary enactments as they occur, or left, in some degree, to the discretion of the Quarter Sessions. To ensure the faithful execution of these laws, or whatever other laws may be adopted, it is indispensible, not only that those who impose the assessment be themselves respectable, and well informed regarding the condition of the applicants for relief, but that they be also contributors to it. Nothing has had so much effect in keeping down the poor rates of Scotland as the circumstance that those who imposed them paid at least the Sheriff may order relief on appeal a moiety themselves. It is true that in the one country, as the Justices in the other; but the result of an investigation by the resident landowners or their agents, and the minister of a

The practice at least, (uniformly we believe,) if not the law, requires that the assessment for the poor in Scotland be imposed by the landowners, or their proxies, the parish usually attends their meetings, or acknowledged agents. The minister of to assist them with his local knowledge, but has no vote either in fixing the amount of the assessment or the distribution of it. We notice this, because a late writer has taken some pains to prove that, in certain

parish, is not to be lightly set aside like the opinion of an overseer in England. The sheriff is, in fact, rarely applied to, except in questions regarding illegitimate children, and in disputes about settlements between parishes themselves. Where the right to relief is adinitted, the amount of the allowance made is scarcely ever objected to by the pauper.

We have purposely refrained from attempting to estimate that which cannot be estimated,-the effect of improved habits among the poor themselves. No one who has resided though but for a few months in both countries, can be ignorant of the striking contrast in this respect between the lower classes in Scotland and England. Yet when the really impotent poor apply for relief in Scotland, no very rigorous scrutiny is instituted into the opportunities they may have had of saving a little for sickness or old age. The penalty of absolute want is one too severe for a degree of imprudence, which the very limited enjoyments of the labouring classes in most cases may go far to extenuate; even too severe for the occasional idleness and dissipation with which many of the English labourers may be too justly charged, after the evening of life has closed upon their errors. The English poor laws are to blame for encouraging this habitual disregard of economy; their gradual approximation to the poor laws of Scotland, which have produced no such effect, after having been in operation in some parishes for a hundred years, is perhaps the only effectual remedy. And while we have diverted from the channels of productive industry almost a thousand millions, and hung round the neck of the present and future generations, the intolerable yearly burden of forty millions, felt throughout all our dwellings, from the palace to the cabin, let not the magic sound of funds destined to the maintenance of labour," bereave us of all the kindly and generous feelings that redeem our errors and exalt our national character.


cases, the minister and elders, or either of them, might of themselves proceed to assess the parish, a power which would be in direct opposition to the principle laid down in the text,

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HAVING been shown a number of the Edinburgh Magazine by a gentleman in this neighbourhood, which gives some account of an uncommon animal seen among the mountains of North America, and signifies a hope that some person who has actually seen the animal will come forward and describe what he knows of it, I take this opportunity of testifying, that, in so far as I can judge from the description, I have seen the very animal in question.

In the year 1803, I was a sergeant in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company, and in that capacity accompanied the late Mr Louis in an incursion into the interior, with a view to open a direct communication with the Indian nations immediately to the west of us. We left York Fort on the 19th of May 1803. In about a fortnight after, having been sent across a river, the name of which I do not now recollect, by Mr Louis's orders, the guide and myself suddenly came upon an animal of an enormons size. It appeared about 20 feet in height, and had a very heavy and unwieldy appearance. I can give but a very lame account of it, on account of the consternation into which I was thrown. The largeness of its belly was enormous, nearly touching the it that strive to unground. Its colour was a dirty black. By Mr Louis's desire I attempted a write the characters) drawing of it, which he got, but I am sure it could not have been very acbutable to express curate. Mr Louis unfortunately saw only its footsteps and dung. He took a correct measure of the former, which was about two feet square. I am positive, however, that the feet were not divided, as the account in your Magazine bears. It appeared from the impression, that the feet were hollow in the middle. Perhaps the account in your Magazine is derived from the same source; but I think that the records of the Hudson's Bay Company could give the scientific observations of Mr Louis, to which I could make no pretence.

I recollect his saying, it was evident from the dung that the animal must live upon vegetables. When I returned home in 1812, I gave the a

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