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THE breaking out of the war in 1803, prevented the publication
of this PLAN at the period tor which it was written--but the present nearly similar distress of the country from the general change in the States of Europe, by the sudden Peace, induced some warm friends to their country, as well as competent judges of the present unhappy and dangerous weight of the Poor Rates, to press for the publication at this crisis.
By way of introduction, it is thought proper to present the reader, in this place, with an extract or two from recent publications, by persons of distinguished eminence in this line of political investigation.
SIR T. BARNARD on the POOR and POOR RATES.
Bath Herald, Feb. 9, 1805.
is The National Debt, with all its magnitude of terror, is of little moment, when compared with the increase of the Poor Rates-the Poor Rate is the barometer which marks in all the apparent sun-shine of prosperity, the progress of internal weakness and debility. The only rational hope of diminishing our present parochial burthens, and of affording a remedy to those evils, must be founded by the education of youth; by the moral and religious habits of mature age; by the improvement of the labourer's and cottager's means of life; by the increase of his resources, and of his habits of industry and foresight. Without these means, workhouses and alms-houses, public charities and hospitals, may be erected with increasing and unwearied diligence throughout the land, and yet never keep pace with the progress of indigence and misery."
These are such plain facts, and présent so serious a warning to the landed interest in particular, that it is marvellous all do not join, with one heart and hand, in the great work.
PALEY, Vol. I. RESPECTING PECUNIARY BOUNTY, p. 246. "As no fixed laws for the regulation of property can be so contrived as to provide for the relief of every case and distress, which may arise, these cases and distresses, when their right and share in the common stock was given up, or taken from them, were supposed to be left to the voluntary bounty of those, who might be acquainted with the exigencies of their situation, and in the way of affording assistance. And therefore, when the partition of property is rigidly maintained against the claims of indigence and distress, it is maintained in opposition to the intention of those who made it, and to His, who is the supreme proprietor of every thing, and who has filled the world with plenteousness for the sustentation and comfort of all whom he sends into it.”
THE ROOT OF THE EVIL.
It is computed that since the year 1760, there have been upwards of forty thousand small farms monopolized and consolidated into large ones, and as many cottages annihilated: this is the chief cause of the dearness of provisions, and the great increase of the Poor Rates. The small farms, besides corn, supplied the weekly markets with provisions, butter, cheese, and a small stock of poultry; and the cottager, by his daily labour and the produce of his cottages, kept his family from becoming burthensome to the parish. There are few small farmers, who do not keep three cows, two sows, a few sheep, aud some poultry: the large farmer keeps cows only sufficient for his own use; he sends nothing of consequence to the weekly markets, and he keeps his corn for a rise in price. Let any one consider the annual produce of 120,000 cows, 80,000 sows, probably on the average of 240,000 sheep, besides poultry, from the small farms, independent of considerable supplies from the cottage, and he will not be surprised at the present dearness of provisions. In 1761, according to a report to the House of Commons, mutton was sold at 2 d. to 3 d. per lb. and beef from 34d. to 3 d. per lb. in Leadenhall Market, and we then grew corn enough for ourselves, and exportation also.
Extract from the Oxford Journal,
Saturday, Feb. 11, 1815.
THIS plan is designed to lessen the number of the parochial poor, and for permanently providing an increase of comforts for that valuable class of men in particular, called peasantry, or agricultural labourers, without giving umbrage or interfering with the existing parochial laws, or any alteration of them, by invidious and dangerous expedients. Thus affording this description of men a local interest from settled property in their respective parishes, or districts, and thereby attaching them to the lands they cultivate for the Farmers, or proprietors of them: while the method proposed, would greatly help to secure in this order of people, their affection and loyalty to the state and government, which thus would realize to them the blessing prophesied, of "sitting under their own vine, and their own fig-tree."
Such advantages it may appear but justice to afford them in times like these of high commercial ones, enjoyed by the next class above them, by men raised from little farmers to great opulence; as also by improvement in the management and increased size of farms, with the Asiatic wealth of many landlords, inducing them to inclose, cultivate, and monopolize. These things operate as alarming preponderances: to which should the present waste lands be added of manor-right, and proposed to be purchased or enclosed at large through specious, but selfish arguments, these purchases and enclosures eventually falling, (as they all would) into the hands of the already too wealthy classes of subjects, no balance would remain, nor possible means be left for supporting the labourer. His wages and present parish-aid, though so enormous a weight on the Nation, supply him not in many instances with daily bread and we see poverty reduced to beggary, with degraded minds corrupted and corrupting, together with every evil passion roused to desperation, seizing on guilty dangerus expe
dients, for want of virtuous objects and interests to stimulate the duty of their superiors to provide for them!
A plan on such rational principles properly methodized, would probably operate beneficially and equally on the whole body of peasantry in every part of this Island, perhaps on the United Kingdom, as well as give great relief to all other classes of indigent persons, nay eventually to society at large from its tendency to resist quietly artificial scarcity, and the consequent high price of provision for common subsistence. It would do all this real good, without incurring the evil even in the commencement of the plan of any increase of parish rates: nay gradually in the course of a very few years after its institution decreasing, until such rates became nearly, if not totally useless.
Perhaps indeed this might prove the only safe way of getting rid of the dangerous and enormous fabric of Poor Laws, any attempt of an amendment of which threatens our being buried under its ruins. On the other hand the gigantic evil would here be removed without giving alarm or dissatisfaction to the subjects of them; pressure or inconvenience to any class or indeed to any individual; unless it might be so considered to resign for the benefit (it may not be too much to say the ultimate safety) of the whole community, an Ideal property in Manor waste Lands. These lands, besides producing much more than would answer the intended purpose would leave a great surplus of such wastes (of which, for many reasons it is desirable that great tracts should remain open) especially when united to the present patrimony (let it be called) of the poor, in the various bequests which are to be found written on tables in Churches, rather than enjoyed by them, owing either to the inveteracy of bad customs, or radical error in the mode of bequeathing, notwithstanding very many laudable attempts by individuals to do the poor justice.
The importance of at least a trial of the kind here suggested, is enhanced by giving a chance of so much real and certain good, and of so permanent a nature, after the evil to be remedied has so fully been evinced to be of a dangerous kind, equally by the impa tient clamours, depraved manners, and squalid appearance of the once simple, decent, humble and contented village poor themselves; and the employment it has given to the Committees for years past, composed of the most dignified, enlightened, humane and valuable members of Society, to ameliorate the sufferings of the poor and better their condition, while thanks are due for such vigilance, and every degree of danger it may have averted, in the late peculiar perilous times. A blindness to the future consequences that may follow a subject of such national magnitude being always in contemplation and frequently agitated; and agitating the minds of dis