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counts, to determine on the nature and quantity of relief, until the case can be laid before a magistrate. No relief should be ordered by a magistrate without summoning at least two of the select committee, or, as the law stands, the overseers of the poor; and the name of the person to whom relief is given should be registered in the parish books, as the law at present directs.
It will be highly beneficial, as suggested in the Reports, that the parish accounts should be passed quarterly, as circumstances will then be fresh in recollection. The business becomes immense and impossible to be corrected, when delayed to the end of the year. The examination of the whole is very lightly, incorrectly, and improperly transacted, and in very many instances must be too late for making any such control effectual.
The late act, 50 Geo. III. which establishes the power of the magistrates to insist on the vouchers, and to control the expenditure, is of essential service: they should lay down rules for the future, object to items which they think objectionable from error of judgment, and direct the future conduct of the overseers.
It is much also to be wished, that something could be done to establish a better mode of rating to the poor: the expense of the valuation of parishes, as now practised, is enormous, and generally brought on by very troublesome, wrong-headed persons of small property, and seldom or ever proves satisfactory: the frequent recurrence to those valuations acts as a great check to all improvements.
Nothing can be more unreasonable than the proposition, that part of the poor rate should be paid by the landlord, and part by the tenant. It is perfectly just that the occupier of land, who has the control and management of the rate, should pay the whole, otherwise there would be much less economy in the expenditure. He has the power to indemnify himself in a great degree on the sale of the produce of his farm ; and thus the expense ultimately falls upon the consumer, as it ought to do. It should also be remarked, that when a tenant applies for a farm, he regularly and accurately informs himself of all the outgoings, especially of the poor rate, and is generally directed by them, as to the price he should offer for that farm; so that virtually the whole is at present defrayed by the landlord, the taxation being deducted from the rent that would otherwise be paid.
The extension of agriculture would be by far the best mode of furnishing employment to those who are in want of work; but the greatly increased expenses of it, added to the impoverished state of the country, the great expense of obtaining acts for inclosure, and of rendering the land when inclosed productive, and the great weight of assessments to which it then becomes immediately liable, and still more the great depression of those concerned in agriculture, must ot coarse check the cultivation of our waste lands. The money which would be, most advantageously for the state, laid out in the cultivation of our waste and improvable lands, is, most unprofitably for the country, exhausted in the soliciting and obtaining the separate acts of inclosure. A chief difficulty in respect of the improvement in question, might be removed or alleviated by a general act of inclosure; but all attempts to pass such a bill have hitherto failed.1 Scotland has hadthe benefit of such an act upwards of a hundred years. Objections have been made to the use of machinery, even in farming, as interfering with the employment of our redundant population. It would be a barbarous system, worthy of Jack Cade, to check the ingenuity of man in such improvements. It was well answered in the Committee of the Lords," that there would be quite sufficient employ for every laborer, if the farmer could afford to pay them."1
The capital of the country unfortunately is diverted into too many channels; and although we hear of prodigious wealth and capital in the city, little of it is likely to come into the country,3 where it would be employed more usefully for the state than in any other line.
The relief of agriculture and the tenantry, is the great alleviation which we must now expect. It is the land which is most oppressed, and which most requires relief; and if agriculture, the fouuda
1 The number of inclosure acts passed every year is a source of great profit to all branches of lawyers, from those holding the highest situations down to the bustling attorney who solicits the bills in the country. The clerks of both houses, very respectable persons of no small influence, also derive great profits from the number of these bills. It would be far wiser to double or treble the salaries of these persons, than that the country should be deprived of the benefits which would certainly result from a general inclosure act. A very unexceptionable bill passed the House of Commons about three years ago, with every conciliating clause that could recommend it. Its object was to promote the inclosure of small parcels of land which could not afford the expense of an act, viz. not exceeding 500 acres. The writer of these Observations had the honor of moving this bill in the House of Lords, where, however, it was thrown out. It seems as if those who were unfriendly to it apprehended that it might lead to a general inclosure bill. It was thought at the time, that those who took the lead in the opposition to this bill, had never read it.
1 There is reason, however, to be alarmed by the increased and increasing population of very many agricultural parishes. If a considerable family did not reside in the parish from whence these Observations are sent, there would be at least fifty able-bodied men unemployed. Sixty-one men are employed, forty-three of that number woodcutting.
3 There is certainly plenty of money at present in the city, but it is very much in the hands of people who, though they might be inclined to make an advance upon ready money securities, such as India bonds, and Exchequer bills, for short periods, would not be desirous to lock up their money upon bonds or mortgages of land.
tion of every thing, is not relieved, it is impossible the country can prosper in other respects. This will be the only effectual means of restoring circulation and credit, of employing the population, the agriculturists, and the manufacturer.*
1 It is not with the expectation that attention will be paid to his suggestion, that the writer of these Observations presumes to make the following statement, but it is with the wish to show the ground on which is founded his opinion of the undue preference of the monied to far more essential interests of the country, and that the extravagant sacrifices to the sinking fund are unnecessary.
The commissioners appointed for the redemption of the national debt, expend annually in the purchase of capital stock, about 15 millions. Previously to the war, that debt was 238 millions, and in March 1814, we had discharged 44,507,426/. more than the whole of that debt, which it was universally supposed could never be paid off.
£. s. d.
Capital stock, unredeemed Nov. 1,1816. . . . i . 687,664,424 18 9
Interest on unredeemed debt 26,924,931 8 6
Interest on stock redeemed 9,455,134 14 8
This latter large sum furnished the means, without laying on new taxes, of paying the interest of any new loans that might be necessary for winding up the expenses of the war, and the remainder might have been substituted for those taxes which are most prejudicial; but a great part of it, as also of the redeemed land tax, has been, most unnecessarily and oppressively for the country, at times of the greatest distress, added to the sinking fund, which already, without this addition, was fully sufficient to answer the intended purpose, as far as circumstances required. Nor should we have been deterred from adopting a measure dictated both by policy and necessity, through the mistaken supposition, that the country is engaged to the immediate discharge of the national debt; a measure which is neither obligatory nor necessary, but would, in fact, be extremely impolitic.
Money left in the hands of the public would be increased by all the means of gainful industry. There is no reason for the immediate application of money to discharge a capital that we are not bound to pay, in order to get rid of the payment of interest, which is comparatively little burdensome; but there is not the semblance ot any argument, nor indeed does it seem consistent with common sense, to suffer the remainder of the 15 millions to be so applied.
When the present sinking fund system was established, in 1786, the grant from parliament of one million was deemed sufficient for that purpose. In 1802,200,000/. was added; but since that time the per centage on loans having amounted to upwards of eight millions yearly, surely that sum, without the 1,200,000/. which is now become unnecessary, might at any time be deemed sufficient for the liquidation of the national debt: but if objections should be made to withdrawing the above sum of 1,200,000/. now allowed by parliament, there would still remain nearly six millions surplus of the 15 millions, which it would be wise and politic to employ for other exigencies in the place of the most oppressive and pernicious part of the heavy taxes and assessments: fur example, supposing the assessed taxes to amount to about six millions, and the sum now laid out by the commissioners in the redemption of the national debt, to be about 15 millions, the amount of the above-quoted assessed taxes would get into circulation by enabling those who now pay such taxes to expend them in a manner most
It is not the petty short-sighted expedient of abolishing sinecure places, or depriving the executive power of the means of governing, that will relieve agriculture, and consequently the people, from the crushing load of taxes, especially the poor rate, by far the most oppressive of all. It would be much more wise in these wild times to strengthen the hands of government.
It cannot be expected that persons who have not had a practical knowledge of the mode of proceeding in country parishes should be competent to decide on these matters. The best writers, persons of the greatest talents, unless they have that practical knowledge, are incompetent; and perhaps none but those active magistrates, and those intelligent persons who have had considerable experience in parochial management, are fully equal to the subject. These severely purchase that experience, and deserve the gratitude, and merit the acknowledgments and thanks of the country.
The sentiments of mere theorists would lead to an expanse greatly beyond the powers of the country; and if we were to indulge in them, it might prove in the end a complete levelling system, and at the utmost only an immediate temporary gratification to those for whom this tenderness was intended.
The allotting four acres to a cottage is not perhaps so desirable as it at first appears :it often misleads the laborer into speculations that waste much of his time, and he can no longer be depended on as a regular steady workman. Besides, the cottager, with this quantity of land, becomes subject to all the parochial assessments, &c. which would encroach so much upon the profits, as often to render it a bad speculation. Better were it for the laborer to be restricted to half an acre, which he might cultivate with his spade, at such hours as would not interfere with his regular daily work and earnings.
Perhaps the same objections may be made to the wish so often expressed, that each cottager should have a cow: he would be liable
useful and most likely to relieve the country. The cessation of these imposts, or part of them, would in a great measure obviate the incitement, as well as the excuse, for flying to foreign countries, where an exemption is enjoyed for those taxes which at home deprive so many persons of the comforts to which they have been accustomed; and the impolicy must surely be obvious, of disgusting the country by such severe and unnecessary deprivations. The assessed taxes fall principally on comparatively a small portion of the community, are consequently heavy and oppressive, and are the greatest check to that kind of expenditure which is most beneficial, and employs the greatest number of artificers, manufacturers, and workmen of all descriptions. These taxes, consequently, tend to diminish the revenue,and aggravate and increase, in a great degree, the distress which has been so loudly complained of, the dismission of servants, and diminution not only of luxuries, but of the comforts, and in many instances, of what are become the necessaries of life.
to a ruin6us loss by any accident that might happen to that cow, or other perverse circumstances, or through misconduct on the part of himself or wife. The man is taken from regular industry and employment as a laborer; his time is wasted in going about as a higler, seeking how he can dispose of the produce of his cow : he seldom returns to his former occupation of a steady regular workman; and therefore small dairy farms, where the occupier is bound by covenant to sell by retail the milk, butter, and cheese, is, perhaps, thepreferable plan.
The proposal to take a farm to employ the poor of the parish, who cannot find work, proceeds, in the first place, upon the false and exploded principle that the landed proprietors are bound to maintain and employ all the able-bodied poor who choose to require it at their hands. If, indeed, this principle be admitted, the plan might possibly, in a few instances, under peculiar control and constant vigilauce, be found to answer, but it could only be in a very few. It might, if realised, succeed for a time where there happened to be one or two active and intelligent men to superintend and manage it; but as the law now stands, the parish officers have no authority to hire any such farms; no such lease taken by them can bind their successors ; and the landlord on his part has no tenant legally responsible for his rent and the necessary covenants ; no individual parishioner can be expected in justice to his family to bind himself and his executors by a lease from which they profess to derive no personal benefit; and if the management of such a farm be left to such a fluctuating body as a parish committee, in the case of their ceasing to attend, the undertaking would soon cease to florish; and the business falling into the hands of persons less skilful or diligent, would generally become a source of jobbing and waste of the parish money. The sum necessary for the stocking a considerable farm, and putting it in a productive state, would be large, and when levied would be severely felt by the parish, more especially by those occupiers whose leases might end, and their residence in the parish cease, long before any possible future benefit could accrue from the additional and heavy rate which they would be called on to pay m the first instance. Such a measure would ultimately end in speculation and mismanagement of various kinds, and the final result would be an universal expression of dissatisfaction.
It may, however, be superfluous to estimate the effect of success, when the expectation of general failure amounts to a moral certainty; but could these farms answer for a time the most sanguine expectations, their population would soon become redundant. Other portions of land must be procured, until the whole country might pass under the management of parochial committees. It might be