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slack or brisk, his condition remained the same. The scale prevented it from sinking; we shall presently see that, at the same time, it prevented it from rising.
· Let us examine its consequences in detail. First, single men are thereby deprived of employment, or else sustain a considerable reduction of wages. If a farmer has work to employ one man, it will be made his interest to employ some labourer with a large family, rather than an unmarried man. Suppose that the farmer can afford to keep one man in employment at the wages of 10s. a-week, and that the scale for a single man is 6s. a week, but is 14s. for a married labourer with six children. If the farmer employs the former, the parish must give the latter an allowance of 14s. a week.
But if he employs the latter, the parish will give him 4s. to make up his allowance, and will give the other 6s. for his allowance, and thus save 4s. a week by depriving the unmarried man of employment. The same motives induce them to employ those who otherwise must be supported as paupers, in preference to those who, having by prudence and economy saved a little money, will
, for a short time, be able to live on what they have thus saved. It might be supposed that the farmers would employ those whose labour was most valuable in proportion to their wages, and that no single farmer would sacrifice his own interest to effect a
slight reduction in the burthens of the parish, of which only a small portion would be borne by himself. This is neutralized in two different ways: First, the farmers frequently, by agreement among themselves, regulate the wages of labour, and fix them so low for a single man, that he shall be reduced to the small allowance fixed for him by this scale, being in general much less than the value of his labour. The married man, with a family, will either directly receive larger wages, or have the difference between their amount and that fixed by the scale paid to him by the parish. It is vain for the single man toʻstand out in the expectation of receiving higher wages ; he will always be underbid by the married man, who is perfectly indifferent to the amount of wages he receives from his employer, and who must work for hire at the command of the parish. It has accordingly been found in England, that wherever the allowance system was established, wages sunk to the lowest limit of the scale, that is, to the sum fixed for the maintenance of a single man without a family. A farmer has been known to dismiss his labourers, to throw them on the parish, and then to receive them again from the parish at wages reduced one half, the parish paying the difference according to the family of each. It is easy to conceive what encouragement such a system gives to improvidence, and to early marriages, and an excessive increase of population in parishes where it prevails. Labourers have frequently been refused employment, because they had saved money, and had some small property or pension which would disentitle them, while it lasted, to parish relief. The farmers prefer employing those whom they must otherwise support out of the poor rates ; and they say that they cannot afford to employ those for whom they are not bound by law to provide. The knowledge that this would be the case, acts as a preventive against saving
« The next effect of the allowance system was to equalize the condition of the skilful and industrious, with that of the negligent and the idle. The worst workman who undertook to labour received his allowance; the best could obtain no more. All those whose labour at any time was worth less than the amount prescribed for them by the scale, were placed in the same state. If the scale for two men was 10s. a week each, and that one could do 9s. worth of work and the other only 4s., the difference was, that the one received 4s. from his employer and 6s. from the parish, the other got 9s. from his employer and 1s. from his parish, and the income of both was the same. such a state of things it is evident that the better workman would soon learn to toil less, and to attend less to his business, since he could not suffer from any reduction made in his wages. It is not unusual to see a steady good labourer who happens to be a single man, receiving 4s. or 55. a week, and working in company with an idle good-fornothing labourer with a large family, who therefore receives 15s. a week. This is felt as the greatest grievance, and is a constant and natural and just source of discontent among those who see their labour undervalued, or themselves thrown out of employment by the manner in which the
poor laws are administered. • Is it wonderful that, where this system prevails, the skill and industry of the labourer should be in a continual state of decline? In those parishes where it has been lately adopted, it is remarked, how much inferior this generation is to the preceding one, in skill and industry. Could it be otherwise, where every motive to skill and industry has been destroyed ? How can those habits which form a valuable workman be created in him, who from his earliest youth had nothing to hope or fear from his conduct ? Severe toil, excited and cheered by hope, is preferable to the dreary monotonous task of one who is obliged to remain at work, but has no motive to exertion. Task-work is the most laborious, and at the same time the most agreeable species of work, since every exertion is accompanied with its reward, and every acquisition of skill produces a certain increase of income. Even the day labourer in a natural state of things is rewarded for his skill and industry. Being known to be skilful and attentive he is more sure of constant employment, and frequently will procure
But on the allowance system, his wages will depend upon his poverty, not his industry. Poverty is rewarded, and industry is neglected.' What wonder is it then, that poverty should increase, and industry diminish? It produces early, injudicious marriages, since the allowance increases with the family. "It engenders improvidence and want of economy, since the labourer who by the exercise of these qualities has saved any thing, is deprived of the allowance, and is unable to find employment. It encourages idleness and inattention, since the idle and negligent workman is placed on a level with the skilful and industrious. And it deprives the labourer of every motive of hope or fear to animate him to exertion. The demoralization of the labourer is now complete. Legislative interference, without the assistance of Satan, the professed enemy of mankind, can do no more than to render him thoughtless, idle, negligent, and im, provident, fraudulent, discontented, and desperate. In the absence of every virtue suitable to his condition, there is little reason to doubt that every vice will quickly take possession of his mind.
• These evils are so great, that other bad consequences appear comparatively insignificant. To instance a few—for I will not consume your time by a vain endeavour to enumerate them all—the free, circulation of labour is impeded, and a labourer is almost confined to the parish in which he was born. Every labourer is considered as an incumbrance to his parish, and the exertions made to prevent a stranger from obtaining a settlement in it, prevent him from disposing of his labour to the greatest advantage. The frauds and perjuries to which the allowance system gives rise are innumerable. Labourers conspire with their employers to impose upon the parish by representing their wages 'as less than they really are, and obtaining the difference from the parish, in the form of an increased allowance. pp. 73–80.
Last of all comes the crowning and most unexpected evil, to the existence of which it is probable that England will ultimately be indebted for her deliverance from the system. It engenders the fiercest spirit of discontent among the labouring classes. This evil, perhaps, could scarcely have been anticipated from poor laws which allow a liberal measure of relief to the pauper!!! In a natural state of things, a man feels that he is paid for his labour according to its value, and that his master would not find it profitable to employ him at higher wages. The contract between him and his employer is a free contract which each enters into for his own advantage. He sells his labour to the highest bidder, and he cannot reasonably feel angry with the employer who pays him wages which he could procure from no other person But with the pauper the case is different. His allowance is settled by his wants, not by the value of his labour. If he thinks the pittance he receives too small, he naturally resents it as an injury and an insult.
He sees himself condemned to a fare which he detests, because, he says, his superiors think that good enough for him. If prices fall, his allowance will be reduced, lest he should be made more comfortable. If prices rise, his income will be increased, but still only to the same miserable and detested standard ; because, he says, the rich dare not make his condition worse. Can any thing be more calculated to embitter the feelings of a population, than to know that their condition depends upon the decision of their superiors ; that the wages of the labourer are given to him, not as the price of his labour which he is permitted to dispose of, when he chooses, to the best advantage, but as his right, to enable him to enjoy a certain degree of comfort to which he is entitled ; that the measure of this right, and of this comfort, is determined by those whose own enjoyments are of a more expensive nature, and who are interested in keeping his enjoyments as low as possible? The contrast and the cause are incessantly forced upon the pauper. The rich think this good enough for me, how would they like it themselves ? Am not I as good as they? The idea of property is necessarily left out of the question, as well as that of contract. The doctrine is, that the rich and the poor have by law an equal right to the soil; and it is unjust that the proportion in which its produce is distributed should be
settled by a combination of the richer classes. The pauper claims his rights, and finds that their fears will sometimes yield what he could not obtain from their justice. The incendiary and the destroyer of property deter men from giving unpopular votes, and produce the desired increase in the scale of allowance.
These are the evils of the allowance system, under which the strength of England has tottered, and almost sunk. pp. 82-84.
Such is the giant evil with which the Amenders of the Poorlaw system, not of the statute-book, but of the justice-made law, had to grapple. In one of the series of vituperative attacks made upon the Bill by a certain autrefois leading journal, it was urged, in deprecation of its utility, that the whole machinery of the Central Board of Commissioners in chief, sub-commissioners, &c., was to be created simply for this object, and no other; that they may be able to refuse relief or assistance to the
poor, unless they go into the district workhouse. Now even were this a true representation, it has been remarked, instead of being a wilful mis-statement, when it is recollected that the mixture of relief with wages, under the allowance system, by which a tenth or twelfth part of the population of England have been pauperized, is the very root of the enormous mischief which it is sought to repair, one might have thought it would have been deemed worth while to create, at any expense, a machinery which promised to put a stop or check to that practice.
The poors' rates of England and Wales have at length come to absorb from the industry of this country between eight and nine millions annually; "a sum equal to the entire revenues of Russia,
and to five times that of Sweden or Denmark. It must, therefore, have been one ultimate object of any amendment of the poorlaw administration, to reduce this enormous amount of parochial taxation which is pressing upon the springs of industry, or to equalise the pressure. Although some diminution might have been effected by a more economical management of the funds, and by lessening the prodigious expense occasioned by litigation, the only effectual reform of the system must consist in the withholding of that fatal assistance from the able-bodied labourer, which has led him to look to the parish vestry for a portion of his wages, and has transformed the most industrious agricultural labourers into paupers. In order to accomplish a thorough change in this respect—in order to render the law of relief compatible with the interests of the working classes themselves—the pauper must be altogether withdrawn, as such, from the market for labour : otherwise he will inevitably compete unfairly with the labourer who has nothing to depend upon but his wages. The only terms upon which the farmer ought to be able to procure labour are, purchasing it at the fair market price--the rate at which it would stand, if not unnaturally depressed below the price at which human labour can be permanently supplied. The object sought to be realized by the Amendment Act is, to secure to the employed labourer his natural wages, by withdrawing pauper labour from the market. If it effects this to any extent, it will prove the greatest boon that any Government could confer upon the class most entitled to, because most needing, its protection.
We have described the main evil of the poor law system, which has imperceptibly grown up within the past forty years, in the place of the salutary system of relief established by the legislature of Elizabeth, and approved by the experience of two centuries. But two other fertile sources of political and moral mischief, having their origin in bad legislation, have been pouring their feculent streams into the main channel. The law of settlement is one; the bastardy laws are another.
The law of settlement has been a productive mischief to all who trade in parochial litigations ; but the cost of these has not been the worst consequence.
By allowing a settlement to be acquired by hiring and service, the law deterred the employer from making a permanent engagement with the labourer who did not already belong to the parish. It has thus operated to the disadvantage of both parties ; has tended to relax still further the already loosened social ties between master and servant; and has narrowed the fair and natural demand for labour. The effect of those clauses in the present Bill which abolish settlement by hiring and service, and impose additional restrictions on settlement by renting a tenement, has already, Mr. Tidd Pratt says, been perceptible in throwing open the labour market.
The other cognate branch of this demoralizing system has had a still more active and direct effect in undermining the relations which are the cement of society. Upon this delicate point, we shall, without apology, avail ourselves of some observations which have already met the public eye.
The law of marriage was intended chiefly as a security to the woman against the deceit, caprice, or tyranny of the stronger party: it was also intended, however, to afford a security to the husband as to the paternity of his offspring. Accordingly, marriage is held to be in law a sufficient proof of paternity; nor can any other be safely relied upon. In this respect, the Bastardy laws, which made the simple oath of the woman a proof of paternity, were at variance with the spirit and practice of our legis. lation, and were often the occasion of inflicting upon the putative father one of the greatest wrongs. Every one knows that the charge of affiliation was brought, in a large proportion of cases, under circumstances which rendered certainty unattainable, and imposition easy. Besides, by leading the woman to regard marriage itself, not as a security, but as reparation, the law