« PreviousContinue »
these be insufficient to meet the urgency of the case, it is not to be resorted to. The constitution and interests of the parochial tribunals have secured, generally speaking, the greatest attention to these principles. In many parishes, when any circumstance occurs to occasion an unusual pressure on the poor, it is customary for the heritors to meet this temporary difficulty by agreeing to raise a certain sum by subscription, proportioned to the real or valued rent of their estates. A proceeding of this sort is substantially equivalent to an assessment, but with the important difference that the poor are not so much disposed to regard it as a certain resource, and that it is, consequently, easier got rid of when the pressure has subsided.
The large secession from the Established Church that took place in the first half of last century, and the continued and, perhaps, growing prevalence of dissent since that time, by diminishing the contributions at the doors of the parish kirks, is believed, by Mr Monypenny and others, to have materially influenced the introduction of assessments. But we doubt whether there be any good grounds for this opinion. Liberal contributions for the poor are as regularly collected at the different meeting-houses as at the established churches, and they are distributed with the most exemplary care and economy. The extraordinary increase of the manufacturing population in towns and villages, and of day and piece-work labourers throughout the country, and the consequent greater liability of the mass of the people to be thrown out of employment, and deprived of their accustomed means of support, have been the real causes of the growth of assessments. Under the circumstances, the only thing to be wondered at is, not that they have been introduced into some parishes, but that they are not incomparably more prevalent and oppressive. The slowness with which they have spread, and their lightness, must be principally, no doubt, ascribed to the objects for, and the mode in which they are imposed. There can, however, be no question that the moral and considerate character of our people, and their love of independence, have powerfully contributed to repress the progress of pauperism.
Dr Cleland of Glasgow, founding on the statements in a report by a committee of the General Assembly, shows that, in 1820, there were in Scotland 44,119 regular paupers; which, taking the population at 1,805,688, (as ascertained by the census of 1811,) gives one pauper for every 40 individuals. The total sum received in 1820 for the relief of the Scotch poor, including collections at church doors, assessments, voluntary contributions, &c., was L.114,195, 17s. 94d.; which, being divided by the number
of paupers, we have L.2, 11s. 8d. as the average cost of each. The proportion of paupers to the population, and the expense of their maintenance, are generally greater in parishes where there are assessments than where there are none. But this is not by any means always the case. In St John's parish, Glasgow, for example, where assessments have been relinquished, each pauper cost, in 1830, L.3, 8s. 101d.; whereas in the Barony parish, in the same city, one of the most populous in Scotland, and having assessments, the cost of paupers was only L.3, 6s. 11d.
In 1830, the population of the city and suburbs of Glasgow was 202,426, while the total number of paupers was 5006, being at the rate of one in every 40.43 persons: the total sum expended upon the poor in the same year was L.17,281, 18s. Old., so that each cost, at an average, L.3, 9s. 04d. Hence, also, it appears that the total expense on account of the poor, to the independent population of the city and suburbs, did not exceed 1s. 9d. each!*
5. The other particulars with respect to the Scotch Poor Laws are of inferior importance. Assessments in country parishes are imposed half on the landlords, according either to the real or the valued rent of their estates, and half on the other inhabitants; that is, in nine out of ten cases, on the tenants. And hence, as already observed, the latter, owing to the universal habit of holding farms under pretty long leases, are quite as much interested as the landlords in preventing the increase of pauperism.
There has been, at different periods, a good deal of difference of opinion as to whether the parish an individual was connected with by birth or residence should be bound to support him in the event of his becoming a pauper. But it is now finally adjudged, that if an individual reside for three years in a parish, and support himself during that period by his own industry or resources, he acquires a settlement in it, and, consequently, a legal title to support, if he become infirm and destitute. It is worthy of mention, that how much soever opinions may have varied in Scotland as to what ought to constitute a settlement, no individual in this part of the empire ever so much as dreamed of making the support of the poor a national instead of a parochial burden. Any such change would, indeed, be wholly subversive of all the principles of the Scotch system, and would set wide the flood-gates of pauperism. The author before us truly states, that the erecting each parish into a separate body, or one great family, as it were,
* Cleland's Statistics of Glasgow, p. 34, and p. 261.
independent, in so far as relates to the poor, of any other parish, was an act of the wisest policy, and most unquestioned expediency.' And every one will acknowledge the justice of this statement, who bears in mind that the parochial plan brings the state of the poor under the cognizance of those thoroughly acquainted with their character and necessities, and who, while they have never shown any indisposition to relieve cases of real distress, are supported by the strongest principles and motives in their determination to withhold relief from all who can subsist without it, and to confine it, when given, within the narrowest limits.
Defective as is the English parochial system, it has done more than any thing else to counteract the abuse of the Poor Laws. Its influence in this respect has been no less clearly and ably than briefly stated by Mr Ricardo. The present mode of collecting and applying the fund for the support of the poor has served to mitigate its pernicious effects. Each parish raises a separate fund for the support of its own poor. Hence it becomes an ob'ject of more interest and more practicability to keep the rates low, than if one general fund was raised for the relief of the 6 poor of the whole kingdom. A parish is much more interested ' in an economical collection of the rate, and a sparing distribution of relief, when the whole saving will be for its own benefit, than if hundreds of other parishes were to partake of it.' *
Such is a rough, but we hope not an incorrect, sketch of the more prominent and distinguishing features of the plan followed in Scotland for providing for the poor. Its advantages are obvious and striking, and have been sufficiently indicated in the previous statements. To ensure their continuance, and to prevent the growth of abuse, it is essential that the kirk-sessions and the supreme court should always have the principles of the system in view. They should never forget that the able-bodied poor have no right to relief; that what is given them by the parish, is as much charity as if it were given by an unknown individual; and that such charity should never be afforded except in cases of unquestionable exigency, nor be continued one moment longer than necessity requires. All individuals should be taught to look to their own exertions, and not to the parish, for support; and there is no way so effectual to impress the mass of the people with a salutary conviction of the importance of industry and economy, as an avowed determination on the part of the parish authorities to withhold relief in all but extreme cases.
Principles of Political Economy, 1st ed. p. 113.
This is not a matter in which, as it appears to us, there is any room or call for legislative interference. The heritors and kirksessions must now be pretty well aware of the principles that ought to govern their conduct; and in this knowledge, and their interest in keeping the burden on account of the rates as low as possible, we have the only securities that are worth any thing, for the proper administration of the system. We doubt much whether any advantage would result from allowing, as Mr Monypenny seems inclined to recommend, the General Assembly to interfere in any way with the proceedings of the heritors and kirk-sessions. The latter have local knowledge and an interest in good management,-qualifications for the proper discharge of their important duties, which cannot possibly be found united, in anything approaching to an equal degree, in any other body. We, therefore, are disposed to condemn all attempts at interference with the existing system. The discussions that have been going on for years respecting the Poor Laws, and the strong and steady light thrown on the principles of the Scotch system, by the publication before us, and a few others, will, we doubt not, assist in eradicating whatever vicious practices may have insinuated themselves into its management.
These details may, we hope, be not altogether unserviceable in England. Nine-tenths of the abuses that disgrace the administration of the Poor Laws in that country, may be traced to the defective constitution of the parochial tribunals, and the right of interference exercised by the justices and other inferior judges, Had the power to admit claimants for relief, to impose assessments, and to regulate allowances, been intrusted exclusively among our southern neighbours, as it has been amongst us, to those having an interest in keeping the rates low, we venture to affirm, that the poor rates, instead of amounting to more than six, would have been decidedly under two millions sterling.
The Autobiography, Times, Opinions, and ContemSIR EGERTON BRYDGES, Bart., (Per legem terræ,) los of Sudeley. 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1834.
ad this work with feelings of considerable pain. resents to us an elaborate picture of a species of character, that may be expected to appear, at times, in eated and high-wrought civilisation, to which the world has tained; a character that has all the acute sensibilities of poetical genius, without its energy and its power-its irritable temper-its wayward self-engrossment-its early relinquishment of the common pleasures of life, for one feverish and jealous object. This is often a painful picture, even when, as in the case of Byron or Rousseau, it is gilded with all the glory of success, placed in the long gallery of fame, and destined to become immortal. But how much deeper is the pain with which we gaze on these melancholy colours, when we feel them fading as we gaze; or when we know that in a little while the picture will be thrown aside, amidst the lumber of the age, to perish and be forgotten.-All these visionary repinings in which happiness is lost-this morbid susceptibility to the opinion which a no less morbid pride affects to disdain -this sacrifice of health, both of frame and heart—this dreaming youth this unsocial manhood-this dissatisfied, yet still enterprising old age, the aching brow without the laurel wreaththe torments of Rousseau without his triumphs! What object more sad or more impressive, in the complex calamities of authorship, ever seemed to present itself to our survey? Yet, no doubt, we exaggerate the melancholy of the prospect. He who feels most the peculiar pains, feels most the peculiar pleasures of the poet: no matter what the silence of the crowd, his own heart is never silent; it whispers fame to the last. His statue is not in the market-place. For that very reason he expects the chaplet for his tomb. The author before us, for example, is as intimately persuaded of the reality of his powers, of the solidity of his reputation, as if the loud huzzas of the literary world were borne to his retreat. The amabilis insania (the delusion is too proud, too strong for ordinary vanity) cheats, soothes, flatters, to the verge of the abyss. All that criticism could prove, all that neglect severest of all critics-could teach, fall vain and unheeded on the sons of a nature of this mould. Nursed in the tastes and habits of genius, it mistakes the tastes for the capacities; in the habits (making now no mistake) it feels its reward; and if the individual author were the sole concern of the critic, here might
VOL. LIX. NO. CXX.