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alone, did not the neceffity of the subject, and the apparent novelty of the meafure, demand a few words in explanation, and they should be but few. He felt as much as any man how greatly it was to be defired that legislative interference in matters of this nature should be abolished, and the price of labour, like every other commodity, be left to find its own level. From reafonings upon the fubject, the refult was, that it always would find its level; but the deductions of reason were confuted by experience; for he appealed to the fenfe of the Houfe, whether the fituation of the labouring poor in this country was fuch as any feeling or liberal mind would with? He did not mean that the wages of the labourers were inadequate for his fubfiftence and comfort in times of temporary fcarcity and unusual hardship; but even at the period preceding this distress the evil likewife prevailed. In moft parts of the country, the labourer had long been struggling with increafing mifery, till the preffure had rifen to a height almoft too grievous to be endured, while the patience of the fufferers under their accumulated diftreffes had been confpicuous and exemplary. And did not such distress, fupported with fo much fortitude, merit relief from the Legislature of the country? Were it ncceffary to refer to any authority, he could quote the writings of Dr. Price, in which he thews, that in the courfe of two centuries, the price of labour had not increased in the rate of more than three or four times, whereas the price of meat had increased in the proportion of fix or seven times; and that of cloathing, no less than fourteen or fifteen times in that period. poor's rates too had increafed fince the beginning of the century from 600,000l. at which they were cftimated, to upwards of three millions. Nor was this prodigious increafe in the poor's rates to be aferibed to the advance of population, for it was doubtful whether in fact any fuch increase had taken place. At the prefent period the contrary feemed to be the cafe. By the preffure of the times, marriage was difcouraged; and, in the domeftic circle, among the laborious claffes of the community, the birth of a child, instead of being hailed as a bleffing, was confidered as a curfe. For this ferious and alarming evil a remedy was required, and to this was the bill in queftion directed. It is my with, faid Mr. Whitbread, to rescue the labouring poor from a state of flavish dependance, to enable the husbandman, who dedicates his days to inceffant toil, to feed, to clothe, and lodge his family with fome degree of comfort, to exempt the youth of this country from the neceffity of entering into the army or the navy, and from flocking to great towns for fubfiftence; to prevent the mechanic from confidering the birth of a child as a family curfe; and to put it in the power of him who


ploughs and fows and threshes the corn, to taste of the fruits of his industry, by giving him a right to a part of the produce of his labour. Such were the grounds upon which the bill in question was built, and by which it was recommended to the Houfe. To those who dreaded every thing which wore the afpect of innovation, and who reprobated every measure that was new, he would fay, that here was no departure ftom established precedents, or introduction of unknown principles. The statute of the 5th of Elizabeth, was enacted exprefsly for the purpose of regulating the price of labour. This ftatute was acted upon for forty years, when it was afterwards amended by a fubfequent one in the reign of James the firft, bearing a fimilar title. He would not be understood as commending the principle of these statutes; on the contrary he was of opinion, that they operated as a clog to induftry, by permitting Juftices to fix the maximum of labour. But even as late as the 8th of George the third, Juftices were empowered to regulate the wages of taylors, and even now the Lord Mayor and council of London control the rate of the filk-weavers' wages. He mentioned thefe as precedents, merely to fhew that the price of labour has, in different cafes, been already regulated by Legiflative provisions. To those who were afraid of entrufting Juftices with the power with which they would be invefted by the provifions of the prefent bill, he fhould only fay, that he left the power where he found it. At prefent they were poffeffed of the power to opprefs the labourer, and this bill only invested them with the additional power to redress his grievances. By fixing the minimum of the wages of labour, a com→ fortable fubfiftence was fecured to industry, and at the fame time greater exertions were prompted by the hope of greater reward. To fome, perhaps, the time of bringing this subject forward might appear exceptionable. There were thofe who would fay, if the labourers were not diftreffed, why agitate a queftion for which no neceffity calls, and awaken defires which are not felt? others would maintain that it was unfeasonable to direct the public attention to such a fubject, while the preffure of distress might excite difcontents, or raise unreasonable expectations.-To thefe he could only answer, that he was not one who could fee wife and falutary measures facrificed to a pretended inconvenience in the circumftances of the times; and that he was of opinion that what was proper to be done could never be done out of feafon. If any material objections were afterwards urged against the bill, he might avail himself of the indulgence allowed to the perfon who makes a motion, and reply to the beft of his ability. He concluded with moving, "That the bill be now read a fecond time."

Mr. HONEYWOOD feconded the motion.

Mr. Chancellor PITT not obferving that gentlemen were prepared to deliver their fentiments on the prefent bill, could not give a filent vote upon a queftion of fo much importance, and at the fame time of fo much delicacy. In the interval which had taken place fince the first reading of the bill, he had paid confiderable attention to the fubject, and endeavoured to collect information from the best fources to which he had accefs. The evil was certainly of fuch a nature as to render it of importance to find out a proper remedy; but the nature of the remedy involved difcuffions of such a delicate and intricate nature, that none fhould be adopted without being maturely weighed. The prefent fituation of the labouring poor in this country, was certainly not fuch as could be wifhed, upon any principle, either of humanity or policy. That clafs had of late been exposed to hardships which they all concurred in lamenting, and were equally actuated by a defire to remove. He would not argue how far the comparison of the state of the labourer, relieved as it has been by a difplay of beneficence never furpaffed at any period, with the state of this class of the community in former times, was juft, though he was convinced that the representations were exaggerated. At any rate the comparisons were not accurate, because they did not embrace a comprehenfive view of the relative fituations. He gave Mr. Whitbread ample credit for his good intentions in bringing the prefent bill into Parliament, though he was afraid that its provifions were fuch as it would be impolitic, upon the whole, to adopt; and though they were adopted, he believed that they would be found to be inadequate to the purposes which they proposed. The authority of a very eminent calculator, Dr. Price, had been adduced to fhew the great advance that had taken place on every article of fubfiftence, compared with the flow increase of the wages of labour. But the statement of Dr. Price was erroneous, as he compared the earnings of the labourer at the period when the comparison is instituted, with the price of provifions, and the earnings of the labourer at the prefent day, with the price of the fame articles, without adverting to the change of circumftances, and to the difference of provifions. Corn, which was then almost the only food of the labourer, was now fupplied by cheaper fubftitutions, and it was unfair to conclude that the wages of labour were fo far! from keeping pace with the price of provifions, because they could no longer purchase the fame quantity of an article, for which the labourer had no longer the fame demand. The fimple queftion now to be confidered was, whether the remedy for the evil, which was admitted in a certain extent to exift, was to be obtained by

giving to the Juftices the power to regulate the price of labour, and by endeavouring to establish by authority, what would be much better accomplished by the unaffifted operation of principles ? It was unneceffary to argue the general expediency of any Legislative interference, as the principles had been perfectly recognized by the honourable gentleman himself. The most celebrated writers upon political economy, and the experience of thofe ftates where arts had flourished the moft, bore ample teftimony of their truth. They had only to inquire, therefore, whether the prefent cafe was strong enough for the exception, and whether the means proposed were fuited to the object intended? The honourable gentleman imagined that he had on his fide of the queftion the fupport of experience in this country, and appealed to certain laws upon the statute book, in confirmation of his propofition. He did not find himself called upon to defend the principle of thefe ftatutes, but they were certainly introduced for purposes widely different from the object of the prefent bill. They were enacted to guard the industry of the country from being checked by a general combination among labourers; and the bill now under confideration, was introduced folely for the purpose of remedying the inconveniences which labourers sustain from the difproportion exifting between the price of labour, and the price of living. He had the fatisfaction to hear the honourable gentleman acknowledge, that if the price of labour could be made to find its own level, it would be much more defirable than to affefs it by arbitrary statute, which in the execution was liable to abufe on the one hand, and inefficacy on the other. If the remedy fucceeded according to the moft fanguine expectations, it only eftablished what would have been better effected by principle; and if it failed on the one hand it might produce the fevereft oppreffion, and on the other encourage the most profligate idlenefs and extravagance. Was it not better for the House then to confider the operation of general principles, and rely upon the effects of their unconfined exercise? Was it not wifer to reflect what remedy might be adopted, at once more general in its principles, and more comprchenfive in its object, lefs exceptionable in its example, and lefs dangerous in its application? They fhould look to the inftances where interference had fhackled induftrý, and where the best intentions have often produced the moft pernicious effects. It was indeed the most abfurd bigotry in afferting the general principle, to exclude the exception; but trade, industry, and barter would always find their own level, and be impeded by regulations which violated their natural operation, and deranged their proper effect. This being granted, then he appealed to the judgment of the House,

whether it was better to refer the matter entirely to the difcretion of a magistrate, or to endeavour to find out the causes of the evil, and by removing the caufes, to apply a remedy more juftifiable in its principle, more eafy in the execution, more effectual in its operations, in fine, more confonant to every maxim of found and rational policy. The evil, in his opinion, originated, in a great measure, in the abufes which had crept into the poor laws of this country, and the complicated mode of executing them. The poor

laws of this country, however wife in their original institution, had contributed to fetter the circulation of labour, and to fubftitute a fyftem of abuses, in room of the evils which they humanely meant to redrefs, and by engrafting upon a defective plan, defective remedies produced nothing but confufion and diforder. The laws of fettlements prevented the workman from going to that market where he could difpofe of his industry to the greatest advantage, and the capitalist, from employing the person who was qualified to procure him the best returns for his advances. Thefe laws had at once increased the burdens of the poor, and taken from the collective refources of the ftate, to fupply wants which their operation had occafioned, and to alleviate a poverty which they tended to perpe

Such were the inftitutions which mifguided benevolence had introduced, and with fuch warnings to deter, it would be wife to diftraft a fimilar mode of conduct, and to endeavour to discover remedies of a different nature. The country had not yet experienced the full benefit of the laws that had already been paffed, to correct the crrors which he had explained. From the attention he had bestowed upon the subject, and from the inquiries he had been able to make of others, he was difpofed to think we had not gone yet far enough, and to entertain an opinion that many advantages might be derived, and much of the evil now complained of removed, by an extenfion of thofe reformations in the poor laws which had been begun. The encouragement of friendly focieties would contribute to alleviate that immenfe charge with which the public was loaded in the fupport of the poor, and provide by favings of industry for the comfort of diftrefs. Now the parish officer could not remove the workman, merely because he apprehended he might be burdenfome, but it was neceffary that he should be actually chargeable. But from the preffure of a temporary distress, might the industrious mechanic be transported from the place where his exertions could be ufeful to himfelf and his family, to a quarter where he would become a burden without the capacity of being even able to provide for himself. To remedy fuch a great ftriking grievrice, the laws of fettlement ought to undergo a radical amendment.

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