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He conceived, that to promote the free circulation of labour, to remove the obftacles by which induftry is prohibited from availing itfelf of its resources, would go far to remedy the evils, and diminish the necessity of applying for relief to the poor's rates. In the course of a few years, this freedom, from the vexatious restraint which the laws impofed, would fuperfede the object of their institutions. The advantages would be widely diffused, the wealth of the nation would be increased, the poor man rendered not only more comfortable but more virtuous, and the weight of poor's rates, with which the landed intereft is loaded, greatly diminished. He fhould wish, therefore, that an opportunity were given of restoring the original purity of the poor laws, and of removing those corruptions by which they had been obfcured. He was convinced, that the evils which they had occafioned did not arife out of their original constitution, but coincided with the opinion of Blackstone, that in proportion as the wife regulations that were established in the long and glorious reign of Queen Elizabeth, have been superseded by subsequent enactments, the utility of the inftitution has been impaired, and the benevolence of the plan rendered fruitless.

While he thus had expreffed those sentiments which the discusfion naturally prompted, it might not perhaps, be improper, on fuch an occafion, to lay before the House the ideas floating in his mind, though not digefted with fufficient accuracy, nor arranged with a proper degree of clearness. Neither what the honourable gentleman propofed, nor what he himself had suggested, were remedies adequate to the evil it was intended to remove. Suppofing, however, the two modes of remedying the evil were on a par in effect, the preference in principle was clearly due to that which was leaft arbitrary in its nature, but it was not difficult to perceive that the remedy propofed by the honourable gentleman would either be completely ineffectual, or fuch as far to over-reach its mark. As there was a difference in the numbers which compose the fa milies of the labouring poor, it must neceffarily require more to support a small family. Now by the regulations proposed, either the man with a small family would have too much wages, or the man with a large family who had done most service to his country, would have too little. So that were the minimum fixed upon the standard of a large family, it might operate as an encouragement to idleness on one part of the community; and if it were fixed on the standard of a small family, thofe would not enjoy the benefit of it, for whofe relief it was intended. What measure then could be found to fupply the defect. Let us, faid he, make relief in cafes, where there are a number of children a matter of right, and an honour VOL. XLV:


inftead of a ground for opprobrium and contempt. This will make a large family a bleffing, and not a curfe; and this will draw a proper line of diftinction between thofe, who are able to provide for themselves by their labour, and thofe who, after having enriched their country with a number of children, have a claim upon its affiftance for their fupport. All this, however, he would confefs, was not enough, if they did not engraft upon it refolutions to dif courage relief where it was not wanted. If fuch means could be practifed as that of fupplying the ncceffities of thofe who required affiftance by giving it in labour or affording employment, which is the principle of the act of Queen Elizabeth, the most important advantages would be gained. They would thus benefit thofe to whom they afforded relief, not only by the affiftance beftowed, but by giving habits of industry and frugality, and in furnishing a temporary bounty, enable them to make permanent provifion for themfelves. By giving effect to the operation of friendly focieties, individuals would be refcued from becoming a burden upon the Public, and, if neceffary, be enabled to fubfift upon a fund which their own industry contributed to raise. Thefe great points of granting relief according to the number of children, preventing removals at the caprice of the parish officer, and making them fubfcribe to friendly focieties, would tend in a very great degree to remove every complaint to which the prefent partial remedy could be applied.— Experience had already fhewn how much could be done by the induftry of children, and the advantages of carly employing them in fuch branches of manufactures as they are capable to execute. The extenfion of schools of industry was also an object of material importance. If any one would take the trouble to compute the amount of all the earnings of the children who are already educated in this manner, he would be furprifed, when he came to confider the weight which their fupport by their own labours took off the country, and the addition which, by the fruits of their toil, and the habits to which they were formed, was made to its internal opulence. The fuggeftion of these schools was originally drawn from Lord Hale and Mr. Locke, and upon fuch authority he had no difficulty in recommending the plan to the encouragement of the Legiflature. Much might be effected by a plan of this nature fufceptible of conftant improvement. Such a plan would convert the relief granted to the poor into an encouragement to industry, instead of being, as it is by the prefent poor laws, a premium to idleness, and a school for floth. There were also a number of fubordinate circumftances, to which it was neceflary to attend. The law which prohibits giving reliet where any visible property remains should be

abolished. That degrading condition fhould be withdrawn. No temporary occafion fhould force a British fubject to part with the laft fhilling of his little capital, and compel him to defcend to a state of wretchednefs from which he could never recover, merely that he might be entitled to a cafual fupply. Such little fums might be advanced as might put the perfons who received them in the way of acquiring what might place them in a fituation to make permanent provifion for themfelves. Thefe were the general ideas which had occurred to him upon the fubject; if they fhould be approved of by any gentleman in the Houfe, they might perhaps appear at a future time in a more accurate shape than he could pretend to give them. He could not, however, let this opportunity flip without throwing them out. He was aware that they would require to be very maturely confidered. He was aware alfo of a fundamental difficulty, that of infuring the diligent execution of any law that should be enacted. This could only be done by prefenting to those who should be intrusted with the execution motives to emulation, and by a frequent infpection of their conduct as to diligence and fidelity. Were he to fuggeft an outline, it would be this.. To provide fome new mode of infpection by parishes, or by hundreds-to report to the Magiftrates at the Petty Seffions, with a liberty of appeal from them to the General Quarter Seffions, where the Juftice fhould be empowered to take cognizance of the conduct of the different commiffioners, and to remedy whatever defects fhould be found to exist. That an annual report should be made to Parliament, and that Parliament fhould impofe upon itfelf the duty of tracing the effect of its fyftem from year to year, till it fhould be fully matured. That there should be a ftanding order of the Houfe for this purpose, and in a word, that there fhould be an annual budget opened, containing the details of the whole fyftem of poor laws, by which the Legiflature would fhew, that they had a conftant and a watchful eye upon the interests of the poorest and most neglected part of the community. Mr. Pitt concluded an excellent fpeech with acknowledging, that he was not vain enough to think that he had brought forward any new idea, adding, however, that those which he had fuggefted, were collected from the beft fources of information, from a careful examination of the subject, and an extenfivefurvey of the opinions of others. He would only fay, that it was a subject of the utmost importance, and that he would do every thing in his power to bring forward or promote fuch measures as would conduce to the intereft of the country.

Mr. LECHMERE felt it impoffible to give a filent vote upon this occafion, becaufc the bill, in his opinion, was not only founded

upon humanity, but policy also; and the late alarming scarcity of provifions, he thought, ought to induce every man who wished to encourage the industrious poor, to promote every plan of relief for them at such a crifis. No man among the agricultural labourers could at present support himself and his family with comfort; for a barley loaf is at the enormous price of twelvepence-halfpenny, while the whole of the labourer's daily wages amount to no more than one fhilling. As to the various acts of unheard-of beneficence which the right honourable gentleman had boafted of during this temporary calamity, he knew nothing of them, fince, unhappily, the labouring poor in his neighbourhood had not experienced their bleffed effects. By the exorbitant price of meat, which he attributed rather to an unprincipled monopoly than any material scarcity of that article, the poor were unable to purchase it, else they might poffibly make use of an inferior fort of bread, which might be obtained at a cheaper rate, but it would be less nutritious in its quality alfo, and therefore not sufficient sustenance alone. In his part of the country, he repeated, that it was impoffible for a poor man to live, though an honourable gentleman (Mr. Burdon), upon a former evening, afferted, that the contrary was the cafe in his part of the country, where the poor not only lived contentedly, but well. This, however, was the effect of the contributions of the rich and the benevolent, and, as had been quoted on the occafion, "Haud ignara mali, miferis fuccurrere disco,"

It was a noble sentiment, and he applauded him for it, but yet he would rather have the labourer enjoy the honeft fruits of his industry, than be obliged to receive his due as an eleemofynary gift. It appeared to him extremely neceffary; that the minimum of agricultural labour should at least be fixed; not but that he wished equally well to the manufacturer and artificer, but he thought their fituation called lefs for the interference of Parliament than the other. Upon these principles he gave his affent to the second reading of the bill, because it tended to make the poor man happier.

Mr. BUXTON faid, after the able and comprehenfive speech of the right honourable gentleman (Mr. Pitt), he fhould not presume to trouble the Houfe much. If the plan of the honourable gentleman opposite were to do no more good than having drawn forth a variety of obfervations fo fraught with found policy, liberal argument, and a general view of fuch an important and complex fubject, as that fpeech of the right honourable gentleman, he should affert that it had done a great deal, and that the right honourable gentleman was not only entitled to the thanks of that House, but of


his country for it. Farther than that he was free to confefs that the bill did not appear likely to be of much fervice, for if the price of labour were to be fixed by the Juftices of Peace, according to the regulations there propofed, he feared that many labouring and induftrious people would be entirely thrown out of employ, and become a burden to their respective parishes. Some of the people he alluded to were those who by fickness or old age are rendered incapable of doing so much as a common labourer, and who would confequently be rejected for younger perfons, and perfons of more ftrength and activity, and more healthy conftitutions. Another class of people which would be much injured by it were the linen weavers, who, in the laxity of employment in that manufacture, turn their attention to agricultural labour, and are employed by farmers to do an inferior kind of work, where a regular labourer can be more usefully employed. These people can earn but a fhilling per day, when a regular labourer earns eighteen-pence, and confequently if their wages were to be equalized, they would be difmiffed. When the honourable gentleman (Mr. Lechmere) faid that he had not feen any of those unheard of acts of beneficence which the right honourable gentleman near him had fo highly and fo properly extolled, he regretted that he lived in a different part of the country than that from which he himself came, as there the farmers and neighbouring gentry had voluntarily entered into the moft liberal fubfcriptions for the relief of the labouring poor, which did them immortal honour. In regard to the objects and tendency of the prefent bill, he said that at Christmas he confulted with various well-informed farmers and gentlemen in their meetings at Norwich, and they all unanimously concurred in their opinions, that if it were paffed into a law, it would be injurious, and therefore he should give his negative to the fecond reading.

Sir THOMAS COXHEAD faid, he felt infinite fatisfaction, in common with every member in that Houfe, at what had fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whofe whole attention, it could not be denied, was ever directed to the public good. He chiefly rofe to do away any misrepresentation from the affertion of an honourable gentleman, that he had not witneffed any of the un-. heard-of acts of beneficence, which the right honourable gentleman oppofite him had fo worthily praised, in his part of the country. If the honourable gentleman meant Worcestershire, as he prefumed he did, he was bound to inform the House and the public, that the farmers and gentry in that county had been as active, generous, and liberal in their relief of the labouring poor as in any other part of the kingdom whatever.

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