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cbauics, and tradesmen. And there is much truth in the observation, that "a small additional increase of the assessments would in many instances render the land productive of no rent at all." The very aggravated situation of our little farmers is deplorable ; it is ruinous. The whole of these heavy burdens fall almost exclusively on the land,1 at the same time that the landlord and occupier pay all other taxes and assessments in common with the rest of the community. The consequence is, that the property of the country is passing into new hands, without benefiting individuals or the state.
The habit of inconsiderately yielding to a very mischievous indulgence respecting the poor, will prove the greatest impediment to the establishment of a better system; and it certainly must be a
1 It is too much the practice of these days to confine all attention and consideration to the monied and the manufacturing interests, and to overlook that infinitely more important branch of the community, the owners and occupiers of land. The dividends, or yearly income arising from the unredeemed debt, amount to more than 27 millions, which is entirely untaxed, and pays nothing to the poor. That any taxation charged thereon would be a breach of public faith, is an assertion equally devoid of argument and reason, and strange to be adduced, when we remember within how short a time the funds have been chargeable to the property tax. There is certainly a difficulty in making the proprietors liable to parochial rates; but if the twenty-seven millions were subjected only to a very moderate tax, it would enable the legislature to lighten those burdens which so partially oppress the agriculture of the country. Personal property, though expressly liable, by law, to contribute to the poor, somehow evades it, as it did also, in a great degree, the property tax: neither is personal property liable to other parochial rates. But the inconsiderate partiality in favor of the monied and manufacturing interests, literally hangs like a dead weight round the neck of the country, and overwhelms the sleepy landed interest. It is with regret that the writer feels himself compelled to make these observations; butit should be remembered that he has always been among the foremost to promote the commerce and manufactures of the British empire, and to assert the necessity of'kceping all foreign ports as much as possible open to them, and of excluding the manufactures of all other countries, unless protected by adequate duties. And above all, he has asserted the necessity of reserving to ourselves the most essential of all manufactures, ship-building, and of inviolably maintaining the navigation and colonial system; laws for the security of which he considers as the best guardians of the prosperity of Britain. Heflatters himself, that in urging the necessity of amoderate tax on the funds, he shall not be suspected, in any degree, of recommending the renewal of a general property tax, the most odious, and in many respects the worst and most partial that can be devised, especially when it includes the land already overloaded with taxes, from which the restof the community is exempt. If such should be proposed again, it is to be hoped, the wholecountry will oppose. Perhaps in the history of taxation and finance there never was amore extravagant and unfair measure than that of offering the nominal fifth of the land of England (viz. the land-tax), for sale, without the consent or approbation of the owners, and immediately afterwards laying on another land-tax, in general four-fold, and in very many instances ten-fold heavier than that which was offered for sale.
work of time and difficulty generally, to remove abuses of such magnitude, and of so long continuance. The claims of the poor have been indulged in the most improper manner, insomuch that in many parishes three-fourths, sometimes four-fifths of the parish actually receive relief; the greater part of the population become beggars, and often insolently insist upon relief, depending rather on their clamorous demands than on their industry, foresight, or economy.1
The evils arising from the mal-administration and expenditure respecting the poor, have so rapidly and seriously increased, that the case of the farmer is become almost desperate; he is so overloaded with assessments of all kinds, particularly that of the poor rate, that he is incapable of paying his rent, and in many instances, with the greatest difficulty, even a part of it: thus neither landlord nor tenant has the means of employing the numerous country people, who complain that they are unemployed: the money which would otherwise be used in the most advantageous manner for the country, is absorbed in rates and assessments; consequently, the lands are not half tilled, nor can the occupiers afford to purchase manures, nor are their farms half stocked, nor have they money to purchase any manufacture, or any other article that they can possibly avoid. The effects of all which have been already experienced, and will be severely felt hereafter.
A most extravagant opinion prevails in general throughout the country, that vestries and parish officers may raise upon the parish, and expend whatever sums they please without control, or any reference to the letter of the law; and through that extraordinary notion, they exercise a power over the property of the parishioners, not allowed to any body or description of persons whatever, which is become a frightful burden on the country, and renders the taxation necessary for the exigencies of the state infinitely more oppressive, and more difficult to be levied.
The abuses, mismanagement, peculation, and enormous expense
1 The incompetency of parish officers, their ignorance and weakness in yielding to the demands of the poor, who claim not only subsistence, but rent, firing, &c. have principally occasioned the extravagant expenditure respecting them. Thus the great mass of the people are taught to become beggars, and thus the incitements to industry, frugality, and timely care, are repressed and counteracted. Applications have been repeatedly made to the writer of these observations by the wives and by the paupers themselves, complaining that they lost two days last week; and others, that they lost three days two weeks ago, and desiring that an order might be given on the parish officers for relief; and many still more ridiculous instances might be quoted. Such complaints are made even by single men; and it is not unto equent to require a sack of pease to finish the fattening of a hog; and all such applications have been generally complied with by the parish officers of this district.
of the poor, are now so intolerable, that it is absolutely necessary to consider of some restriction in respect to the sums to be raised on the several parishes. A long acquaintance with the details of a great number of parishes, where the poor rate has been as high as in any part of England, suggests that two shillings in the pound, or a tithe on the full rental of the parish, would be sufficient to do every thing that is necessary; this limitation, however, not to take place immediately, but at the end of six or seven years, or such period as may be deemed expedient. Thus time would be given to prepare for better management; good economy might be gradually introduced; and neither magistrates nor parish officers would be enabled (through a mistaken kind of compassion and false notions of popularity, or indolence) to squander the money of others in a degree which now rapidly tends to ruin the agricultural interests of the country. When the sum for the poor is thus limited, every individual would be careful and anxious to make the amount raised go as far as possible; and if the old respectable principle of considering it as a degradation to become a dependent pauper should be restored, and the habits of the people improved by education, there can be no doubt that the sum proposed will be more than sufficient. The abuses are gone so far, and the bad habits of the lowest classes are so deeply rooted, that the prospect of a radical remedy seemed almost desperate until the able reports of both houses of parliament raised the hope that some firm and great measure would be adopted that might avert the impending ruin.
No document of the kind has afforded so much general satisfaction as those reports; and if the propositions and principles therein suggested should meet with due attention, and be followed up by legislative measures, this country will be saved from a calamity greater than it ever before experienced, both as to the extraordinary waste of money, and the depravation of the character of the lowest ranks.
On all the material points specified in the report of the house of commons, especially as to the mode of relief, the necessity of appointing a permanent overseer, committees of vestry, also the expediency of checking parochial litigation, and some essential alteration in respect to settlements, as well as removals, the opinions of all enlightened persons unanimously concur. There is a paragraph, however, which immediately follows an excellent preamble or statement in the lords' report, that chills our expectations as to a radical and essential correction of the mischief so loudly complained of; it says, that the general system of the poor laws, interwoven as it is with the habits of the people, ought, in consideration of any measures to be adopted for their melioration or improvement, to be essentially maintained. If such is to be the fundamental principle on which we are to enter on the great work in question, there is little chance of adequate melioration.
An attempt to patch up and amend a system, which is defective in its very principle, and still more in practice, will deceive and mislead the country ; feeble palliatives will divert the attention of government; procrastination will render the situation of it infinitely worse, and certainly some extraordinary convulsion will be risked. The system must be (not modified but gradually, at least) abandoned; every extension of it only increases the evil, and impedes the return to sounder policy.
It is justly stated in the report of the commons, " that the sums to be raised for the relief of the same, impotent, &c. can be applied according to the letter of the law to such persons only as the justices can conscientiously adjudge to be not only poor but impotent." But the strongest objections arise to that part of the Report which suggests, " that it should be left to the uncontrolled discretion of the respective parishes, whether the poor should receive the necessary assistance in money, or by a supply of the articles wanted, whether at their own houses or in workhouses." Such a concession, unless the mode of relief is defined and limited, would render legal, confirm and establish, all the abuses, mal-administration, and senseless waste which have chiefly contributed to bring, especially on the agricultural part of the country, its late and present distresses.
Nothing is more contrary to the original intention of the law, than relieving the poor with money; and it is infinitely mischievous in its effects: although it may not be always, it is generally misapplied; it encourages and promotes applications for relief and checks exertion: and it is well known, that in proportion to the facility of obtaining relief in money, the evil has been aggravated; every shilling so disposed of, too often promotes an indulgence in habits of indolence and dissipation. The greatest benefit that can be conferred on the poor is, to check the facility of obtaining relief, by which idleness and an improvident spirit are encouraged and maintained, to compel all who are neither impotent, lame, nor blind, to maintain themselves. It is stimulating necessity alone, that produces exertion of the body and mind, and leads to industry, and ultimately to moral feelings and a moral foresight.
In cases where money is given on account of more children than the parents can maintain, the father who receives it, often spends the greater proportion of it at the alehouse, and the mother in tea and sugar, leaving the children to suffer through the want of necessaries. At the same time, by this mode of relief the best opportunity is missed of educating the children, giving them a notion of moral duties, and bringing them up in habits of industry.
It is impossible to banish or mitigate the pressure of poverty by any other means than by industry and unremitted application; and the poor should feel precisely that degree of want, which will be always necessary to stimulate their industry.
We may borrow much that is judicious and salutary, from the practice in Scotland in respect to settlements, as well as from the opinions of the very respectable persons expressed in the evidence annexed to the reports of the two houses of parliament.
It seems peculiarly necessary to get rid, if our lawyers will permit it, of the enormous expense of litigations on that subject, and also of that kind of constructive settlement which seems m direct opposition to that law which says there shall be a hiring and a complete service for a year.
Three years' residence seems rather too short a period, and it should only be admitted in favor of those who had contributed to the parochial assessments for the number of years that may be determined on.
If settlements by hiring land or tenements are to be continued, the annual value should not be less than twenty pounds, which is far below the original rate of ten pounds per annum, as fixed by law many years ago.1
It seems essential to endeavour to diminish the number of removals, and to establish some simpler and less expensive mode of removing paupers.
The necessity of establishing workhouses having been already noticed, it will not be improper to make some farther observations on that important subject.
In a very few instances the county of Sussex affords examples of a certain number of parishes having united to form houses of industry, in imitation of those established iu several parts of England; and there is little prospect of the system ever becoming by any means general, notwithstanding its evident good effects. These establishments have been strongly recommended at different periods, and the benefits arising from such institutions have been represented not only in respect to the management of the poor, but also in the great reduction of expense. The most obstinate prejudice and
1 According to Sir George Shuckhurgh's tables, renting of 10/. which gained a settlement by the act 13 and 14 Car. II., in the year 1800 amounted fa value to 28/. 2s. It is curious to observe how inadequate several penalties have become since the act passed which first imposed them, the 43d Eliz. in 1600: "poor persons to be relieved by their parents and children, penalty per month, 20s. In 1800, amounted in value to Si. 18s.; 5/. penalty at the tame period, viz. 1600, amounted in value in 1800, to 19/. Ioj. 3d."