Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

posed, would supersede the object of their of children, a matter of right and an hoinstitutions. The advantages would be nour, instead of a ground for opprobrium widely diffused, the wealth of the nation and contempt. This will make a large would be increased, the poor man ren- family a blessing, and not a curse; and dered not only more comfortable but more this will draw a proper line of distinction virtuous, and the weight of poor-rates, between those who are able to provide for with which the landed interest is loaded, themselves by their labour, and those greatly diminished. He should wish, who, after having enriched their country therefore, that an opportunity were given with a number of children, have a claim , of restoring the original purity of the poor upon its assistance for their support. laws, and of removing those corruptions All this, however, he would confess, was by which they had been obscured. He not enough, if they did not engraft upon was convinced, that the evils which they it resolutions to discourage relief where had occasioned did not arise out of their it was not wanted. If such means could original constitution, but coincided with be practised as that of supplying the nethe opinion of Blackstone, that, in pro- cessities of those who required assistance portion as the wise regulations that were by giving it in labour or affording emestablished in the long and glorious reign ployment, which is the principle of the of queen Elizabeth, have been superseded act of Elizabeth, the most important adby subsequent enactments, the utility of vantages would be gained. They would the institution has been impaired, and the thus benefit those to whom they afforded benevolence of the plan rendered fruit- relief, not only by the assistance bestowed, less. While he thus had expressed those but by giving habits of industry and frusentiments which the discussion naturally gality, and in furnishing a temporary prompted, it might not perhaps, be im- bounty, enable them to make permanent proper, on such an occasion, to lay be provision for themselves. By giving fore the House the ideas floating in his effect to the operation of friendly socie. mind, though not digested with sufficient ties, individuals would be rescued from accuracy, nor arranged with a proper de- becoming a burthen upon the public, and, gree of clearness. Neither what the hon. if necessary, be enabled to subsist upon gentleman proposed, nor what he himself a fund which their own industry contrihad suggested, were remedies adequate buted to raise. These great points of to the evil it was intended to remove. granting relief according to the number Supposing, however, the two modes of of children, preventing removals at the remedying the evil were on a par in effect, caprice of the parish officer, and making the preference in principle was clearly due them subseribe to friendly societies, to that which was least arbitrary in its would tend, in a very great degree, to renature ; but it was not difficult to per- move every complaint to which the precei that the remedy proposed by the sent partial remedy could be applied, hon. gentleman would either be com- Experience had already shown how much pletely ineffectual, or such as far to over- could be done by the industry of children reach its mark. As there was a difference and the advantages of early employing in the numbers which compose the fami- them in such branches of manufactures lies of the labouring poor, it must neces- as they are capable to execute. The sarily require more to support a small fa- extension of schools of industry was also mily. Now by the regulations proposed, an object of material importance. If any either the man with a small family would one would take the trouble to compute have too much wages, or the man with the amount of all the earnings of the a large family, who had done most service children who are already educated in this to his country, would have too little. So manner, he would be surprised, when he that were the minimum fixed upon the came to consider the weight which their standard of a large family, it might ope- support by their own labours, took off the rate as an encouragement to idleness on country, and the addition which, by the one part of the community; and if it fruits of their toil, and the habits to which were fised on the standard of a small fa- they were formed, was made to its inmily, those would not enjoy the benefit ternal opulence. The suggestion of of 'it for whose relief it was intended. these schools was originally drawn from What measure then could be found to lord Hale and Mr. Locke, and upon

such supply the defect? Let uş, said he, make authority he had no difficulty in recomrelief in cases where there are a number mending the plan to the encouragement

ܪ

of the legislature. Much might be ef system from year to year, till it should be fected by a plan of this nature suscepti. fully matured. That there should be a ble of constant improvement. Such a standing order of the House for this purplan would convert the relief granted to pose, and in a word, that there should be the poor into an encouragement to in- an annual budget opened, containing dustry, instead of being, as it is by the the details of the whole system of poorpresent poor-laws, a premium to idleness, laws, by which the legislature would and a school for sloth. There were also, show, that they had a constant and a a number of subordinate circumstances watchful eye upon the interests of the to which it was necessary to attend. The poorest and most neglected part of the law which prohibits giving relief where community.--He was not vain enough to any visible property remains should be imagine that these ideas were the result abolished. That 'degrading condition of his own investigations, but he was should be withdrawn. No temporary oc- happy to say, that they arose from a careful casion should force a British subject to examination of the subject, and an expart with the last shilling of his little ca- tensive survey of the opinions of others. pital, and compel him to descend to a He would only add, that it was a subject state of wretchedness from which he of the utmost importance, and that he could never recover, merely that he might would do every thing in his power to be entitled to a casual supply.-- Another bring forward or promote such measures mode also of materially assisting the in- as would conduce to the interest of the dustrious poor was, the advancing of country. He gave the hon. gentleman small capitals, which might be repaid in every possible credit for his humane and two or three years, while the person who laudable motives, yet seeing the subject, repaid it would probably have made an in the light in which he did, he was addition to his income. This might put compelled to give his negative to the mo. him who received them in the way of ac- tion. quiring what might place him in a situa- Mr. Lechmere said, that the bill was tion to make permanent provision for not only founded in humanity, but policy himself. These were the general ideas also. The late alarming scarcity ought which had occurred to him upon the sub- to induce every man who wished to enject; if they should be approved of by courage the industrious poor, to promote any gentleman in the House, they might every plan of relief for them at such a perhaps appear at a future time in a more crisis. No agricultural labourer could at accurate shape than he could pretend to present support himself and his family give them. He could not, however, let with comfort; for a barley loaf was at the this opportunity slip without throwing enormous price of 124d, while the whole them out. He was aware that they would of the labourer's daily wages amounted to require to be very maturely considered. no more than one shilling. " Haud ignara He was aware also of a fundamental dif. mali, miseris succurrere disco, ficulty, that of insuring the diligent exe- noble sentiment; but he would rather have cution of any law that should be enacted the labourer enjoy the honest fruits of his This could only be done by presenting industry, than be obliged to receive his to those who should be intrusted with the due as an eleemosynary gift. It appeared execution motives to emulation, and by to him that the minimum of agricultural a frequent inspection of their conduct as labour should be fixed. to diligence and fidelity. Were he to Mr. Buxton said, that the bill did not suggest an outline, it would be this. To appear likely to be of much service, for provide some new mode of inspection by if the price of labour were to be fixed by parishes, or by hundreds—to report to the justices of peace, he feared many the magistrates at the petty sessions, with industrious people would be thrown out of a liberty of appeal from them to the ge- employ, and become a burthen to their neral quarter sessions, where the justice respective parishes. The people he al. should be empowered to take cognizance luded to were those who by sickness or of the conduct of the different commis- old age were rendered incapable of doing sioners, and to remedy whatever defects so much as a common labourer, and who should be found to exist. That an an- would consequently be rejected for pernual report should be made to parliament, sons of more strength and activity. He had and that parliament should impose upon consulted with various well-informed faritself the duty of tracing the effect of its mers and gentlemen in Norfolk who una, nimously concurred in opinions, that the his own benevolent intentions, but would bill would be injurious.

was a

have done a much greater service to the Mr. Vansittart commended the hon. country, than even if the bill which he gentleman who introduced the bill, for had now brought forward were adopted. his bumane intentions, but he had no he- Mr. Whitbread said :-I cannot but sitation in voting against it, because he congratulate the House on the able and thought any arbitrary regulations of the eloquent speech of the chancellor of the justices of the peace, in the price of la- exchequer. At the same time I must bour, would be a greater evil than that remark, that if the poor laws were actualready complained of. The bill appeared ally such, as the right hon. gentleman to him unnecessary, as the law since the has stated they ought to be, it would not reign of James 1st, enabled the magistrate have been necessary for me to have to fix the price of labour.

brought forward any proposition : but I Mr. Burdon did not think that the in- am afraid that facts and experience will dustrious poor were in that wretched si- be found undeniably to confirm my assertuation stated by some gentlemen. The tion, that the poor in this country are in a industrious labourer, in many instances, state scarcely consistent with the characwas able to support his family, and lay ter of a civilized country. As to what up something for his old age. From the the right hon. gentleman has stated, average price of labour for some years, about the price of labour finding its own the House must perceive, that the wages level, he does not recollect, that till that of the labourer were considerably in. level be found, the industrious poor lacreased. The friendly societies, if they bour under the pressure of immediate sufcontinued to extend, would be productive fering. If the expedients he has proposed of infinite good. As to the bill, he was should succeed, they are matter of future convinced of its inadequacy to correct the regulation, and not calculated to afford abuses of which it complained. He re- the relief which the exigencies of the commended rather (to repeal the act of times so imperiously demand. If it should Elizabeth than set it up as a precedent to be possible to a considerable degree to

promote industry among the children of Mr. Fox said, that no man was more the poor, and to destroy the oppressive against the idea of compulsion as to the restrictions with respect to settlements, price of labour than he was. The ques- still it will be a considerable time before tion now was, not on the general principle, the price of labour will have found its but on that particular state of the law, level. Even if other more effectual regu. which rendered some measure necessary lations should afterwards be adopted, still to be adopted for the relief of the labour- this bill is eligible as a temporary reing poor, while the law, as it stood, was lief. It does not compel the magistrates saddled with so many restrictions. He to act; it only empowers them to take approved of the bill proposed by his hon, measures according to the exigency of friend, as calculated to correct that which the times. It has been stated as an ob. was bad in its present operation, and to jection to the bill, that it goes to fix the secure at least to the labourer the means price of labour; but gentlemen do not of partial relief. But if the House ob- attend to the circumstance, that it does jected to the measure as improper, if not go to determine what should be the they were of opinion that it was not the general price of labour, but only what most judicious or desirable that might be should be the least price of labour under applied, he hoped they would go to the particular circumstances. As to the parroot of the evil, and provide some remedy ticular case labourers, who have to adequate to the extent of the grievance. provide for a number of children, the If, therefore, they should give a negative wisest thing for government, instead of to the second reading of the bill, he putting the relief afforded to such on the should consider that by so doing they footing of a charity, supplied, perhaps, pledged themselves to take the subject from a precarious fund, and dealt with a into their early and most serious consider- reluctant hand, would be at once to ination. If what his hon, friend had brought stitute a liberal premium for

the encouforward should induce the House to go ragement of large families. There is just into a full examination of the subject, and one circumstance to which I shall advert, to provide a remedy commensurate to the before I conclude, namely, the wretched evil, he would not only have accomplished manner in which the poor are lodged. It

act upon.

is such as ought not to be suffered in a trines hostile to our tranquillity. They country like this, proud of its freedom, are forced to recur to the expedient of and boasting of the equal rights of all its deluding the people with the hopes of subjects. The landlord, who lets the peace while they are determined to perground upon lease to the farmer, does severe in the system of warfare; and not consider himself as bound to repair while they had professions of peace in the cottages. The farmer, who has only their mouths, a new campaign was to be a temporary interest in the property, feels enterprised; while they are fattering us no anxiety on the subject. The cottage, with promises, they hurry us into all the dismantled and mouldering to decay, af- expenses and calamities attendant upon fords neither warmth nor shelter to the war. Under such circumstances, I feel poor inhabitant, who is left exposed to it my indispensable duty once more to the fury of the elements and the incle. call the attention of the House to the mency of every season. If a negative subject. Before we had plunged into a should be put upon the second reading of war which has been marked by one conthe bill, I shall then move for leave to tinued series of misery and misfortune, it fell bring in a bill to repeal the statute of tomy.lot to support a proposition of an hon. Elizabeth, and afterwards for a commit- gentleman, which was calculated to extee to take into consideration the state of plain and make intelligible, the principle the poor laws.

upon which ministers thought it necesThe motion was negatived. After sary to disturb the peace and tranquillity which, the bill was ordered to be read a of the nation. Our efforts were not second time on that day three months. crowned with success. We at last em

barked in the war, without understanding Debate in the Commons on Mr. Grey's the principle on which we ourselves Motion respecting a Negotiation for Peace acted, or even that of our allies, without with France.] Feb. 15. Mr. Grey rose, seeing our way; having, in fact, nothing to make his promised motion on the sub- to hope, and every thing to fear. The ject of Peace, and addressed the chair as consequences were those we had reason follows :-In rising to bring this subject to expect. A confederacy without have once more before the House, I cannot ing the same view of the object to be athelp expressing my sincere regret, that tained, each studying its separate interest, the circumstances of the country have could not be successful. The first cambeen such as to render it necessary for paign ended with the defeat sustained by me so earnestly to press it upon your at the allies at Dunkirk and at Maubeuge. tention. I ardently hoped, that in the Propositions were again brought forward, interval which has taken place since a

to induce ministers to take measures for communication upon this subject came the re-establishment and preservation of from the throne, something would have peace. Force did not seem to promise been done, calculated to give effect to success. The moment was upon the the promises which ministers held out; whole, extremely favourable to views of but I have been disappointed. I expect- pacification, but all ideas of negotiation ed, that while Europe was bleeding at were rejected. Then came the unfortuevery poré, ministers would have done nate campaign of 1794. From the mosomething to realize the fond hopes we ment we were obliged to retreat from were all led to indulge in. An interval Landrecy, it was but an unremitting of two months has elapsed, during which series of defeat and disgrace. Holland, the most favourable opportunities for ne- the taking of which was held out to be gociating have occurred, and we, at the incompatible with the safety of this counpresent moment, appear not to be a sin- try, or of Europe at large was overrun. gle jot nearer the desired object than Again, in 1795, a proposition was made before. From every thing to be seen, we to the same purpose, but still every idea are led to conclude, that a contest, the of negotiation was rejected. What foluniform progress

of which has been lowed? Prussia made a separate peace. marked with disaster, is to be prosecuted Spain followed the example. Then apto the utmost extremity. Ministers, have peared the pacific declaration of the Gerindeed, changed their language and their manic Body, with the exception of the principles. It is no longer the preserva elector of Hanover, who, however, in tion of social order, the safety of regular that capacity, soon afterwards acted a government, or the extirpation of doc. different part. The Emperor, at tho

to my

same time, was indulged with a loan. But have renounced these wild ideas, and have why should I repeat these things? It is no objection to consider them as a repubnot for the sake of triumph, but to show, lic, one and indivisible, founded on the that whatever blame might have been in- basis of liberty, equality, fraternity, and curred, the fault is not to be attached the rights of man. We have not now to

friends or to myself. Let me call discuss the nature of the French governto the recollection of the House, what ment, nor the state of their finances : but passed in the course of last year. Minis- to inquire if ministers have done someters came forward with smooth phrases, thing more than they appear to have and pleasant expressions. They were done, and which, consistently with their afraid to shock the ears of the people honour they were bound to do. I shall with the harsh and discordant sounds of be asked, no doubt, what I have to ex. war. They used general words, which, it pect? Why should I intrude myself into seems, meant nothing. For what have the councils of the ministers, and perthey bitherto done? Deserted by one ally haps throw obstacles in the way of at. after another, they continue obstinately taining the object I so anxiously look for? to persist in war ;' and the only hope now I may be asked, what more can be done? seems to be, that we shall soon have the \ I do not presume to point out the partiwhole weight of the war upon our own shoul- cular mode, or to dictate the terms; but ders. I was again about to present myself to I wish that we may no longer be deluded your notice on this subject, when minis. by general declaration and vague expresters on the 8th of December last an- sions. I say, that if ministers are sincere nounced a message from his majesty, and in their desire of peace, direct proposals from that high authority we were informed, ought to come from this country. They that the long-looked for order of things may perhaps say, that this would be proshad taken place ; that the crisis had come to trating Great Britain at the feet of France. a favourable issue ; and that negotiation No! Sir, it never can be humiliating for was at last practicable. I had even gi- the greatest nation to come forward with ven notice of my motion, but I thought the offer of peace. I mean not to say, proper to suspend it, because, finding that we ought to sue for it. When his that we were no longer to hear of the present majesty, in a speech from the French government being incompetent to throne, in 1760, informed the parliament, maintain the relations of peace and amity, that he had made overtures of peace, but I firmly expected on the meeting of par- that those overtures not having produced liament after the recess, to hear that a suitable return, he was bound to consomething satisfactory had been done. tinue the war * was such a conduct on Has any such thing been heard ? No. the part of this country accounted huCan ministers state any thing satisfactory miliating? When a nation is successful on the subject? Can they tell us that in war; it is generous to offer peace to their readiness to negociate has been fol. the

enemy.

When the sụccess is equal, lowed up by actual negotiation? Had overtures of peace are equally honouraany satisfactory explanation been given, ble on either side. If one be extremely I would have abstained from making the unsuccessful humiliation may become a present motion. Yet nothing of this matter of necessity. I have several reakind is understood, and hitherto all our sons to state why a proposal may with expectations have proved to be vain. propriety come from this country. We Peace in their mouths, while they make have repeatedly refused to acknowledge preparations for war. Another cam- the independence of the French republic. paign is about to take place, and, it is We have thrown upon them every sort said, another loan is to be granted to the of abuse, which language is capable of Emperor. I find it, therefore, again ne- conveying. Have we retracted a word cessary to bring the subject before the of all this? Is the king's message such as House. The question is, however, disen- would induce the French to throw a veil cumbered of many topics which were for. over the past? The French themselves merly matters of dispute. I am relieved have in this respect shown the example. from the necessity of arguing on the They at one time published propositions, competency of the French to treat. We

which were perhaps justly'accounted hosno longer hear of them as the avowed tile to every sort of good government. enemies of God and man, of virtue, social order, happiness and humanity. We

See Vol. 15, p. 984.

« ZurückWeiter »