Imagini ale paginilor

were opposed to the proposition for giving | were higher, and the condition of the small detached portions of land to the labouring classes was worse, and there peasantry, on the ground that it would was this additional circumstance, that in tend to multiply and increase their num- not a single instance was a portion of land ber. Now, as far as his experience went, annexed to the cottage of a poor man. and his knowledge was more of a practical Not only the happiness and well-being of than of a theoretic nature, the result was the peasantry would be promoted by a of a directly contrary description. In pro- measure, having for its object the allotting portion as the comforts of the labouring small portions of land to the agricultural classes were increased, they were made labourers, but also the landowners and less reckless of the cousequences of their farmers would be gainers in the great conduct; and a spirit of industry was improvement that would take place in the excited, and the desire which was so fruit- morals and character, and habits of indusful in man, of bettering his condition, was try, of those classes. He regretted that increased. In what country in the world the bill which was introduced by the had population increased more rapidly than Duke of Richmond into the other House, in Ireland? And had not that arisen from relative to the condition of the poor, and the dependence and low condition of the which was now on the Table of this House, peasantry, who were aware that, by no exer- could not be passed into a law before the tions of their own, could they better their prorogation. He regretted that the laudcondition? Although, therefore, he could able example of the Sussex landowners, not give his approbation to all the plan of who entered into associations for the purthe hon. Member, he should be most pose of giving small portions of land to the favourable to any proposition for appor- peasantry, and for other measures to imtioning small pieces of land to the cottages prove the condition of the poor, had not of the labouring poor. The system of pay- been followed in other parts of the couning wages out of the poor-rates had had try. He trusted that the example would a most pernicious effect upon the morals not be lost on the gentry of the county and character of the peasantry of the parts he had the honour to represent, and he of the country in which it had prevailed. was determined to give his best exertions He held in his hand the reports of the to form such associations in those districts Overseers of two large parishes, situated in with which he was connected. He was the county which he had the honour to re- convinced that this object would be much present, of the state of the poor in those better effected by private arrangement parishes. He should like to be in possession amongst country gentlemen, than by any of such documents relative to the condition legislative enactment. It was most painful of the labouring classes in all parts of the to the Magistrates to have continual applicountry; for, by means of the information to cations made to them by able-bodied be derived from such papers as these, the labourers, both married and single, who Legislature would be able to arrive at a were both able and willing to work, but, much more correct conclusion than it now notwithstanding all their exertions, were could do as to the real state of the people. unable to procure it. If each family were He had received a number of similar reports allowed a small patch of land, parishes from the Overseers of other large parishes in would be exempt from those distressing the county of Surrey, and they all confirmed cases which were now continually occurthe conclusions he derived from them. ring. He trusted that effectual steps In the first of those parishes there were would be taken without delay, and that a between ninety and a hundred married, and large distribution would be made of land, between fifty and sixty single labourers; which was at present uncultivated, to the the number of persons receiving relief from agricultural population of the country. If the parish in winter was fifty-five; and of active measures were not taken at once, these, forty were constantly dependent the whole character of our peasantry on the poor-rates for support. The amount would be deteriorated, and only a multipaid in poor-rates was, in summer, about tude of paupers would remain. 301. a month, and in winter 50%. In this parish there were from ten to fifteen labourers who had small pieces of land annexed to their cottages. In the other parish the proportions in every respect

Mr. Estcourt was anxious something should emanate from Government, to show to that class of the people to whom allusion had so eloquently been made by the hon. Mover, that the Government was

desirous to alleviate and remedy, in part, I lit in it, the individual who performed these at least, the effects of a highly injudicious acts obtained a right to the soil. But such a system of dispensing the Poor-laws in the principle was wholly contrary to law, and south of England. The subject was one its fallacy ought to be generally known. which must at last be taken up by Government itself. The measures of Mr. Sturges Bourne had done much at the time; but Government must again interfere, and that shortly. He was grateful to the hon. Mover for the attempt to introduce the Bill he had described, and prefaced with so eloquent a descant on the acknowledged inconveniences and sufferings of the labouring poor; and though it was too late to expect the Bill should go through the House this Session, the introduction of the subject could not fail to be productive of benefit to this most interesting class of the people.

Mr. Scott expressed his approval of the measure proposed by the hon. Member, and said he was of opinion that, unless something were speedily done to relieve the sufferings of the poor, evils very affecting and serious in their consequences must soon occur. He regretted that this measure had not been made to occupy the attention of Parliament at an earlier stage of the Session; it would then have been received with more satisfaction, and obtained a degree of attention more commensurate with its importance.

Mr. George Robinson entirely approved of the proposed measure. It related to a subject which, though so long in making its appearance, was of great interest and importance to every Gentleman in that House. He had no doubt the hon. Gentleman would obtain his Bill; he hoped he would, and he trusted that at an early stage of the next Parliament, the Government would take it into its immediate consideration, and propose such amendments as were necessary; for he did not think the measure of the hon. Gentleman likely to supply more than a very partial remedy to a very general evil. That something ought to be done, and that speedily, the House must agree with him. No situation, of any'amongst the most unfortunate of human beings, was more pitiable than that of the poor honest man, who was willing and anxious to work for his bread, but was forced to submit to the degradation of subsisting in idleness upon a pittance below that of felons. The poor deserved the attention of that House, and that House was bound to afford it them. Before he concluded, he wished to call the attention of the House to a circumstance which he must consider a reproach to them. It had long happened that in this House the attention of the Members of the Government was engrossed,until nearly the close of every Session, by some one great measure, which left them neither time nor energies sufficient to enable them to proceed with matters even of the most vital importance to the interests and wellbeing of society. He hoped, however, that early in their next meeting the Government would take into consideration some comprehensive and complete measure for the relief of the present great hardships under which the poor were labouring.

Mr. John Campbell, in answer to an observation which had fallen from the hon. member for Aldborough (Mr. Sadler), said, that the maxim which had been quoted from Lord Bacon-namely, that in all alterations of the allotments of land, the rights of the people should be carefully preserved-was strictly attended to. Those rights had been most sacredly attended to in all Inclosure Acts. If what the hon. member for Aldborough had stated were the fact-if the poor were oppressed and deprived of their rights under those Acts, then, surely, the hon. Member ought to become a Reformer in order to assist them in recovering that of which they were said. to be unjustly deprived. Where a man possessed a little garden, or had the privilege of depasturing a cow, here he admitted there was a right which ought to be protected but he would ask, when gipsies took up their residence on a common, to the annoyance of the surrounding neighbourhood, did their sojourn give them a right which ought to be protected? In different parts of the country an idea prevailed, that if a hovel were erected and a fire

Mr. Daniel Whittle Harvey said, that when the hon. and learned member for Stafford stated that no inclosure bill was passed which did not contain a provision to protect the rights of the poor, the hon. and learned Member forgot to state how that provision was carried into effect. There was, in each inclosure bill, an enactment, imposing on the Commissioners the duty of dealing with the property. They were either to let out the property itself, or, if it was sold, they were to in


vest the money produced by the sale in the public funds. Still it was true, that the rental derived from the one course, or the interest which accrued from the other, was misapplied. Many individuals, who had claims upon property of this kind, were, at the present moment, receiving little or no benefit from it. The amount of the rental, or of the interest were not given to those who were struggling for independence-who were anxious to escape from being placed on the parish books. It was carried to the general fund, to relieve the landed proprietors, instead of being granted to those to whom it really belonged. Against the advance of money by Government there were a thousand reasons, political and fiscal. Little benefit could be derived from the advance of 100,000l., which, in its commiseration, the public might be willing to grant; but immense good might be effected by pursuing the inquiry which was now going forward, and which, he hoped, would rescue millions of money, applicable to the relief of the poor, from the situation in which it was at present placed. The hon. member for Oxford had regretted that, even in the present Session, a measure had not been brought forward to soothe the feelings of the people. Such a measure had been brought forward --such a measure would be again brought | forward he spoke of the measure of Parliamentary Reform, which was, as regarded the people of this country, infinitely more powerful and infinitely more beneficial than any measure on the subject of the Poor-laws that had ever emanated from either side of the House.

should have had the mortification of addressing his excellent speech to a House not containing many more than fifty Members. If the Slave-trade had been under discussion the benches would have been filled, but the condition of the peasantry of England excited little sympathy. If his Majesty's Ministers had sent down Commissioners to inquire into the cause of the burnings instead of inquiring into the boundaries of boroughs, they would have saved hundreds from transportation. The poor were driven to thievery and roguery by the bad treatment which they have experienced. He begged to call attention to some regulations made in the year 1822, in the county of Wilts, and which demonstrated that the agricultural labourers were then in the most wretched condition. The allowance for a labouring man, his wife and two children, was from 4s. to 5s. 6d. a week, or a gallon of flour and 4d. per head were allotted to those persons, according to circumstances, and thus were these unfortunate people left without lodging, clothing, or fuel, and nothing given them but a bare allowance of bread, not equal to half the allowance given to a felon. Where the children increased in numbers, the allowance per head was reduced. Was it then a matter of surprise, when starvation had driven these people to madness and despair, that they looked upon their landlords with enmity and upon the operation of the laws with horror, and that the public should not consider themselves safe from the re-action of such deplorable circumstances? He thought the great danger to which the country was exposed, arose from the situation and condition of these people, and he hoped that something efficacious would be done to remedy it.

Sir Thomas Baring said, the document alluded to by the member for Preston never regulated the price of labour in the county of Wilts. The only object of these regulations was, to make some provision for the surplus unemployed population. The wages at the time they were made were 8s. or 9s. a-week. The hon. Member was mistaken in supposing that such regulations gave rise to the late disturbances in Hants. He went, as a Magistrate, for the purpose of dispersing one of the meetings, and arresting some of those concerned. The meeting consisted of 1,500 persons, most of them fellow parishioners of his, and there was not one of them out of work, and not one who had T


Mr. Hunt felt greatly indebted to the hon. Member who brought forward this subject. He totally differed from the hon. Member who spoke last, for he was of opinion that this subject was of much more importance to the people than the Reform Bill. It was a delusion to hold out that the poor would derive any benefit from the Reform Bill. He was sure, that even the anticipation of such a measure as that now proposed would give comfort to the people. He had received a letter last week from a clergyman in the country, stating,that in his parish there was a family consisting of twelve persons living in one apartment, thirteen feet square; a man, his wife, two daughters and their husbands, and six children. Was there anything so miserable as that even in Ireland? It was to be lamented that the hon. Member VOL. VIII. {Series}


forward at the meeting who were best off. One of them, the leader in breaking his machines, was a carpenter who had worked for him twenty-five years, and never earned less than 25s. a-week. His gardeners also, who had good wages, left their work and joined the rioters. When asked afterwards what their reasons were, they said they could give none-that it was infatuation. That was sufficient to show that the disturbances did not originate in the cause mentioned by the member for Preston.

not a good cottage. In fact those were most | done-that they should only embarrass themselves--and that it would be useless to excite expectation. That was not the answer that ought to have been given. The present Government had come into office under a pledge that they would inquire. But it would be unreasonable, fully occupied as their time had been by the Reform Bill, to expect that they could now bring forward a well-considered measure. They were about, however, to have a period of repose, and he doubted not that they would turn their minds to this subject. It was most essential that they should do so, for he was satisfied that the consequences would be dangerous, if some effective measure for the relief of the lower classes was not brought forward.

Mr. John Weyland begged also to return his thanks to the hon. member for Aldborough for the manner in which he had brought this subject forward. He was persuaded that he had not exaggerated the miserable condition of the labouring classes in England. It was such as every humane man must deeply lament. No doubt much of the misery of the poor arose from the altered state of society, by our becoming a manufacturing from an agricultural country. He fully agreed with him, that it was the absolute duty of the Government to endeavour, if it could, to restore to the poor man his former advantages either in substitute or in kind. His hon. friend proposed to restore them in kind, and he went with him to the full extent of his wishes, although he must confess, that he did not think his measure would effect all the relief he anticipated. The poor man could never be comfortable unless there was full employment for his labour. He carried to market a strong arm and a willing mind, and expected in return a comfortable subsistence. The only effectual remedy, then, for the distress of the poor man was, by a proper system of legislation, to encourage the capitalist to employ him to a greater tent than he now did. No pains bestowed on this subject could be bestowed in vain; for any improvement in the condition of the labouring classes was not merely beneficial to them, but highly advantageous to all the higher classes. What induced him as much as anything else to vote against the Government of the Duke of Wellington, nearly as much, perhaps, as his fusal of Reform, was, although he came there inclined to support him, the answer of the right hon. member for Tamworth, when asked whether it was intended to institute any inquiry into the condition of the labouring classes, he answered that question by saying, that nothing could be |

Mr. Attwood stated, his hon. friend did not say, that it was the design of the hon. member for Aldborough to inflame the people; but he did say that his speech had a tendency to do it. If there could be a speech calculated to convince the poor that a careful regard to their interest and rights was had in that House, it was the speech of the hon. member for Aldborough. The hon. and learned member for Stafford denied the legal existence of the rights of the poor; he who asserted those rights was charged with exciting the people to discontent, instead of that charge being laid upon him who denied them. This was a subject of great and paramount importance of an importance infinitely superior to that upon which this House had been so recently and so long engaged. He could not refrain from expressing his satisfaction at witnessing the House of Commons, at length, resuming its proper duties and its proper business-— that of inquiring into the situation of the people-that of looking into the state of the ex-country. If that state was such as it was described to be by the hon. member for Aldborough, by the hon. member for Preston, by the hon. Member who spoke last, and such as no one had denied it to be, it presented a scene of misery, suffering, degradation, pauperism, and crime, which could not long exist with security to any interest. This was the real subject of paramount re-importance, for although the other was described to be so, it was not a subject peculiarly adapted to the present state of the country, or which, in the present emergency, could relieve existing distress. He did not intend to open afresh the debate on Reform; but taking the late Bill to be all that was said of it by its

Sir Charles Wetherell thanked his hon. friend (Mr. Sadler) for the motion he had brought forward. He did not, however, blame the present Government for not originating it. He hoped his hon. friend would persevere, and not resign the subject into other hands. No man was more capable than himself of prosecuting it with success. Let the House and the country bear in mind, that while the borough of Aldborough, the unfortunate nomination

friends, would it have relieved the people? | thousand times further than the Debates Yet were the people labouring under a which had lately excited and agitated hon. dangerous delusion in that respect, which it Members as well as others. became every honest man in that House, of whatever party he might be, to endeavour to dissipate. Would any man say, that that Bill could have relieved the distresses of the poor, or indeed, have been of service to any man? No, it was useless. If the state of the people was such as was described,ought the exclusive labour of the House of Commons to have been directed to a speculative system of improvement, which at some future period might be of benefit, but which could not affect the existing genera-borough, was hooted and hunted downtion? Whilst they were discussing the specu- while the Government and the House of lative improvement, the present generation Commons were wasting four or five months might die of famine, and that which was to in barren speculation, his hon. friend, who come to enjoy the benefit of this improve- represented that calumniated borough, ment, be bred up in pauperism and in was employing his weeks and months in crime. In the course of the Debate of laborious and diligent inquiry, to prepare last night it had been said, that the people himself for bringing forward this important were under the guidance of dangerous Motion. He defied them to show any leaders, and that the remedy was, for hon. county Member, any Member for a town, Members to become the leaders of the however large, who could surpass, or even people. No doubt they should be; but equal, his hon. friend in the industry, the what was the method pointed out by which ability, the information, the resources of they were to become so? By telling them heart or understanding, which he displayed that they might have confidence in the on this occasion. The hon. Baronet (Sir Representatives of fifty counties and of all T. Baring) told them, that some of the the great towns. But were men, whose misguided men concerned in the recent children were perishing for want of bread, disturbances, when asked their reason for to reckon the counties that sent Re-taking a part in them, said they did not presentatives to that House, which had know-that they were infatuated. It exhibited a spectacle of non-attention to would, ere long, be the same with Reform; their crying sufferings rarely seen? If and when those who were now so strongly the House desired to lead the people, and excited should be asked the cause, their have their confidence, it must inquire answer would be the same-they did not patiently and deliberately into the causes know what they were doing-they were of their distress, and make that their first infatuated. The agitation they had witbusiness. One of the expressions of the nessed for Reform arose somewhat from Prime Minister, when he first came into the same spirit that exhibited itself in office, was, that an hour should not elapse the more formidable risings of last winter, without an inquiry being instituted into and as then, when asked the cause of this the condition of the people, with a view to dissatisfaction, the same negative answer their relief. They ought to inquire till the would be given by the people. They knew means of relief were found, or till they nothing of the advantages they would obtain had the melancholy satisfaction of deter-from Reform. They were perhaps in want mining that the cause of the evil was beyond of bread, perhaps in want of clothing; their reach. That was the course by which they were perhaps in deep distress, and for they might assuage the troubled waters of these evils, his hon. friend the member for discontent. He did not despair that, the de- Aldborough proposed an efficient remedy; bate of that night, exhibiting to the people, but the Ministers, whose business it was to as it would, the spectacle of the House of remedy these evils, were hunting after the Commons engaged in an inquiry suggested applause of noisy political assemblies, and by his hon. friend, in a speech full of philan-they only proposed to cure hunger and cold, thropy, eloquence, and philosophy, would that the Parliament should be reformed. go far to convince them that the House To the people, Reform could be of no use, cared for their interests, and would go a and in fact, they would be as satisfied by the

« ÎnapoiContinuați »