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considered a sufficient declaration of the sentiments of the government. He did not accept the dictum of the honourable member for Dublin, nor feel bound to his alternative of conservatism or repeal.
The subject was then dropped. In the house of lords, on the 4th of February, the earl of Minto moved the thanks of the house to admiral sir Robert Stopford, G.C.B., and the officers and men under his command in the late operations on the coast of Syria. His lordship paid a just tribute to the merits of that portion of the British fleet which had been employed on this occasion. After a few words of approbation from lord Colchester, the duke of Wellington, in terms of the most earnest and cordial nature, expressed his admiration of the services performed by those engaged in the glorious expedition under discussion. He considered the present achievement one of the greatest deeds of modern times, but thought it his duty to warn their lordships that they must not always expect that ships, however well commanded, or however gallant their seamen might be, could be capable of engaging successfully with stone walls. The vote was then carried unanimously, and on the following day lord John Russell moved the thanks of the house of commons to the same gallant individuals. He gave a short narrative of the reduction of Acre, and bestowed a warm eulogy on
the services of those who achieved it. The political questions connected with the Syrian war did not arise upon the present occasion. But, referring to the improvements of modern times in the arts and machinery of war, he wished to observe that their successful results were owing in a great degree to the character of the men who had applied and directed them-a character formed and exalted by the institutions of a great and free country, and combining in a remarkable degree the qualities of valour and of prudence.
Lord Stanley seconded the motion. He agreed that the political merits of the contest were not now in discussion; the present duty of the house was only to record their high opinion of the officers and men who had done so much honour to their country. He was anxious, on the part of his own side of the house, to express, that whatever might be the differences of party, there was but one feeling among men of all politics on the subject of the country's success, and of the gallantry of her forces.
Viscount Ingestre, sir R. H. Inglis, and other members, warmly supported the motion, which was carried unanimously.
On the 6th of April, a letter from sir Robert Stopford, acknowledging in suitable terms the vote of thanks, was read to the house by the speaker, and ordered to be entered on the journals.
Poor Law Amendment Act-Expiration of the power of the Commissioners-State of Public Opinion and division of Parties with respect to the Law-Efforts of the Press-Lord John Russell moves for leave to bring in a Bill-Vehement Opposition of Mr. Wakley and other Members-Speeches of Sir F. Burdett and Lord John RussellDebate on second Reading-Speeches of Mr. D'Israeli, Mr. Wakley, Mr. Gally Knight, Sir Robert Peel, Viscount Howick, and Lord John Russell-Division on the second Reading-Motion of Mr. Townley Parker, that the Bill should be committed that day six months, rejected by a large majority-Strictures of Sir Robert Peel on the language used by the Commissioners in their public Documents-Observations of Lord G. Somerset and Viscount Sandon to a similar effectRenewal of power of Commissioners for five years carried- Discussion upon Union Schools and compulsory Education-Speech of Sir Robert Peel thereupon--Mr. Colquhoun's motion for the appointment of Chaplains to Unions-Remarks-Ultimate fate of the Bill at the dissolution of Parliament-Return of Mr. Walier for NottinghamProgress and working of the Poor Law in Ireland-Inquiry in the House of Lords respecting Clonmel Union-Resolution of the House respecting the Secretary to the Poor Law Commissioners in Ireland.
HE powers of the poor-law
been limited by the act of parliament to a period of five years, would, in due course, have expired at the close of the present year. The speech from the throne adverted to this among the very few topics of domestic concern which were touched upon, as calling for the earnest and immediate attention of parliament. Accordingly, on the 29th of January, lord John Russell moved, in the house of commons, for leave to bring in "A bill to continue the poor law commission for a time to be limited, and for the further amendment of
the laws relating to the poor in
Although much diversity of opinion, and even considerable excitement of feeling, existed at this time with respect to the principles and working of the new poor-law, perhaps upon no single measure introduced of late years has the public mind been less affected by those party feelings which influence the views taken of almost every question submitted to the legislature. The whigs, as a body, might indeed be said generally to be in favour of the new system, but among those who usually supported them, though differing by
various degrees of liberalism, were many who regarded with inveterate hostility, and who loudly denounced, the law, its authors, the commissioners, and all the agents concerned in its execution. The language held on this subject by some men of wild and extreme political views was of a very inflammatory nature, and had been employed with very exciting effect on several occasions. On the other hand, while the leaders of the conservative party in parliament had avowed a distinct though modified assent to the measure, such could by no means be described as the general feeling of that body, which comprised numerous persons as decidedly and strongly opposed to it as any among the radicals themselves, and who frankly expressed dissent from their usual leaders and guides with reference to this question. The discontent felt by the opponents of the measure was sedulously fanned and kept alive by a portion of the public press, which industriously gave publicity to publicity to every case of alleged mismanagement or oppression on the part of those invested with authority by the act, and strove to foment, upon popular grounds, an opposition to the proposed renewal of the powers of the commissioners. These efforts were not without effect, and the difficulties experienced by the ministers in the progress of the measure which we are now about to record, may doubtless, in a great measure, be referred to the active endeavours of the press to represent opposition to the authority of the commissioners, as an evidence of regard for the interests of the poorer classes, and to inculcate it as the best recommendation to popular favour.
On lord John Russell's moving
for leave to bring in his proposed bill to continue the powers of the commissioners for ten years, and to make certain amendments and alterations in the act, several members spoke strongly in opposition to it.
Mr. Wakley objected in strenuous terms to the course proposed. He denounced the principle of the act as harsh and tyrannical, the institution of the commissioners as both expensive and useless. He was surprised that a ministry calling itself reformed should propose the continuance of such a law after the experience they had had of its pernicious and most cruel working. He wished to know what duty the commissioners were to do; whether the law was to be in their will or in the statute-book. The office he held (as coroner for Middlesex) gave him opportunities of knowing how much the law was disliked by the middle classes; they considered that the workhouse had been made a place of torture instead of protection, with a view to deter the poor from asking any assistance. Among the poor, also, the abhorrence to the only species of relief which the law allowed of was still more strong. He knew of two instances that occurred in one week, of persons who preferred death rather than resort to the workhouse; they declared they would rather die than be separated from their children in the manner proposed by the new poor-law, and they did die, rather than go into the workhouse. The honourable member referred to the case of the Kensington union, where, as he alleged, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters were located in four different houses in different parishes, and, after descanting on the harshness, inhumanity, and im
policy of the law, declared his ir reconcileable opposition to any extension of the office of the commissioners.
Mr. Wakley's views were supported by several members.
Sir F. Burdett said, he had always disapproved the principle of the new poor-law, as unconstitutional, and repugnant to the habits and feelings of the people; and he did not think the proposed bill could be so framed as to render it a permanent measure, or one which the country ought to adopt. The system could never be made palatable to the people of England. Men who loved the public liberty could never be reconciled to the tribunal at Somerset-house, and it was the universal feeling, that that at any rate should be abolished. It was impossible to frame unbending laws for remote places and unknown circumstances without the greatest mischief. He thought that parliament had done a most dangerous thing in introducing so cruel an experiment, and he would support any motion for its repeal.
Mr. Hume urged the gross abuses of the old system, and the necessity for some such reform as this law had introduced. The rules were not unbending ones-the commissioners had been entrusted with a discretion. Great benefit had been produced by the law, and the house ought to do their best to make it still more useful. He doubted, however, the expediency of extending the continuance of the commission to so long a period as ten years.
Lord John Russell observed, that it would of course be for the house to determine the duration of the commission. It would have been the easiest course for himself to let the powers of the commissioners
expire; but he thought his duty. required him to deal positively with so important a subject. The labouring classes must depend on wages, on public relief, or on private charity. The old system confounded all these, and put the honest and industrious on a level with the idle and vicious; and it pretended to do that by public relief which only private charity could effect. It was easy for the parish officers to be charitable at the expense of others; but their alms did not create the mutual good feeling which real charity begets. The amendment of the old law had proceeded, therefore, upon the principle that wages should be a just reward for labour; and thereupon it was presently found that persons, before regarded as idle and worthless, became industrious and useful. The wise principle was that of the act of the 43rd of Elizabeth, which distinguished the relief of destitution from the wages of work. To execute the amendment of a system so essentially vicious, there was a necessity for assistant as well as for general commissioners. Lord Althorp had proposed to make the experiment under those commissioners for five years, but had not intimated that their office was necessarily to determine at the end of that period. He should be deceiving the house if he were to hold out that there was any intention on the part of government to propose any considerable alteration or relaxation in the main principles of the existing sytem.
Leave was given to bring in the bill on the 8th of February. The second reading being moved, a long and important debate took place.
Mr. D'Israeli first rose to oppose it, trusting that, as members
had been taunted with a silence in the house unsuitable to their declarations on the hustings, the house would indulge him with a hearing. It was impossible, he said, to conceive any revolution affecting more deeply than the poor-law the happiness of the people. The parochial constitution of England had been destroyed for a mere pecuniary benefit, which, after all, had not been obtained. The expenditure was now on the increase; and we should soon have to pay, under a system of abuse, as much as was paid under the abrogated law. The statute of Elizabeth might be defective or obscure, but the new scheme of shutting up your pauper population in prisons was, upon the principles of human nature, impracticable. He admitted that the controlling power under the new scheme must be central, but he thought it might also be local; it might reside in the chief city of each district. In the bill he found not only unions, with the objections belonging to them, but unions of unions, with all these objections proportionally increased. Here were powers to the commissioners quite without precedent; centralization, after all, was a principle rather applicable to material than to moral government. A metropolitan control might be cheaper and more convenient than a provincial one; it might make government strong and society weak, but he would rather have a strong society and a weak government. He was persuaded that the measure had produced much disaffection, and he would move that the present bill should be read a second time on that day six months.
Mr. Wakley seconded this amendment. He said, that if the prin
ciple of the bill were really the establishment of a distinction between vice and misfortune, no man would have objected to it; but it had been honestly explained that the bill had no such object, that the object of it was merely to prevent the poor from starving. And this was cheered by the liberal side of the house; such was the liberality of the reformed ministers and members! In the name of the poor and laborious people, he appealed to the great conservative party. The landed gentlemen were the natural leaders of the peopleto them the poor must look, not to the manufacturers, who wanted to lower the price of bread, knowing that wages must come down in proportion. The commissioners, on a hint no doubt from ministers, had made a report, slowing ingeniously the expediency of their receiving their salaries for ten years longer. They said the poor showed no gratitude; none was called for. The poor had right, by law, to the relief they got, and owed no thanks for that. It had been matter of complaint that the poor-rate had increased, but had not population and property increased as largely? In the ten years preceding the new poor law, the poor-rate had increased about one and a half per cent., the population about sixteen per cent.; and the property, as appeared by the returns of the legacy-duty, had increased by the amount of between 6,000,000l. and 7,000,000l. The new poor-law had transferred the votes in the election of guardians from the occupiers to the owners. This was done by a liberal government; but if this kind of liberality was still to guide them, the sooner they ceased to be a government the better. The people had come to