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'tain the impotent, and "settle to work the rogues and vaga'bonds," and, to commit those who refuse payment to gaol, un'til they be contented with the orders of the justices, and perform the same. The principal difference between this act, and the celebrated Forty-Third of Elizabeth is, that by the latter the duty of assessing, collecting, and applying the parochial fund, is transferred from the Justices to the Churchwardens, and two or more householders to be appointed by them-the modern overseers. The purposes to which that fund was to be applied remained unchanged; they were the necessary relief of the lame, impotent, old, and blind poor, not able to work; and the setting 'to work all persons having no means,' (a word then signifying property,) and using no ordinary or daily trade of life to get their living by.'
We shall not fatigue our readers by enumerating the steps, some of them actual enactments, and others administrative abuses, by which the simple and comparatively safe provisions of this act -the Forty-Third of Elizabeth-were perverted and extended; until at length, in the pauperized portions of England, the overseer was the distributor of employment, and the justice the regulator of wages. We ought not indeed to use the word wages, for in the proper sense of that word there were none. Wages imply a contract; they imply an exchange of values, in which a given amount of labour is purchased by an equivalent in money. When a man was paid by the overseer eight shillings for standing six days in the pound-when he was put up to auction and received threepence a-day from his employer, and one shilling and ninepence a-day from his parish, when he was billeted on a farmer, who was required to pay him two shillings and sixpence a-week if single, four shillings if married without children, and eighteenpence more ahead if he had children-these payments were not wages. Such, however, in the beginning of 1834, was the condition of the labouring population in many thousand English parishes! Such was the regimen which was to train them to the industry, the providence, and the honesty on which the prosperity of a country depends.
Is a law, of which such were the practical effects, a law which can safely or justly be transferred to Ireland ?
We shall be told, perhaps, that we are fighting with shadows, and combating dangers of our own creation that no one proposes any thing so monstrous, as the inflicting on any other portion of the Empire the English Poor-Law, as it existed before the Poor-Law Amendment Act. We hope that this is true. But, when we see that many of those who demand an Irish Poor-Law, demand also the repeal of the Poor-Law Amendment Act; or, what
is the same thing, the abolition of the Commission which alone gives it life, we cannot but suspect that, whether they know it or not, this monstrous proposal is the real measure for which they are clamorous. Mr Scrope, however, whose Letters to Lord John Russell we have taken as the text of this article, has endeavoured to exempt himself from this reproach. He demands for Ireland the Elizabethan poor-law. But the Elizabethan poor-law extended its charity only to the lame, impotent, old, and blind.' As regards the able-bodied, it was not a law of charity or of economy, but of Police. It required that persons having no property and using no trade should be set to work. We have al
ready shown that under the previous acts such persons were criminals-liable to punishments more cruel than any which the existing law can bear to inflict. The able-bodied, industrious labourer, the man who has an ordinary or daily trade of life, but loses his employer or finds the produce of his hands or of his fields unequal to his support,-is not within the 43d of Elizabeth; he cannot under that statute be relieved as impotent, or set to work as a rogue. He was left by the act to voluntary charity, which was soon largely assisted by permanent funds provided by the donations or testaments of individuals. Most of the charities established generally for the poor' of a given parish, were created in the seventeenth and the early part of the eighteenth century; that is, while the provisions of the 43d of Elizabeth were substantially enforced. Of course, persons who could be relieved under the act were not to participate in them; for that would have been a mere diminution of rates-a charity not to the poor but to the rich. They were intended for a class who, as Lord Hale remarks, are excluded from the Act-the industrious poor whose wages are insufficient.
Now, these are the persons for whose supposed benefit Mr Scrope wishes to legislate. It is an abuse of words, thereforeit is an attempt to seduce the judgment by using one term to express ideas essentially distinct-to call his scheme the Elizabethan poor-law. The only known example of his plan was Paraguay, under the Jesuits. Under that government, the country was divided into districts, or, as we call them, parishes, each under the superintendence of its priest. The priest, or rather the officers whom he appointed, assigned to every inhabitant his task, and distributed among them according to their numbers, the whole produce of the land. As the ordinary motives to exertion were wanting, as no one could increase his share by industry, or diminish it by inactivity; idleness and indolence were made crimes, and punished by imprisonment or stripes. The system, like all systems of the kind, became a mitigated slavery; and this we
firmly believe would be the result of Mr Scrope's proposal, if it were possible that it could be adopted and maintained.
His plan, as far as we can understand it, is contained in the following passages: Make a law,' he says, 'enacting that every man willing to work shall have work and wages. Give a title to relief to every one in danger of starving, and 6 require it to be given to the able-bodied in the form of work. Let the terms be his willingness to work for such wages as ' will support his family.'† My purpose,' he says, in a subsequent letter, is the compulsory employment of the labourers, by means of the English Elizabethan poor-law, not in bonecrushing in workhouses, but in works of public and general ' advantage to the district, such as are not likely to be undertaken on private speculation, and also in the cultivation of waste lands. That the works of which I speak, whether the improvement and erection of piers, harbours, bridges, roads, embankments, public buildings, &c., or the reclamation of ' waste lands, have not been hitherto effected to any thing like 'the extent to which they might be usefully carried, none will deny. Here, then, is a vast field for the employment of the surplus labourers of Ireland.' ‡ The tax imposed for this purpose will be shared by the landlord, if not entirely placed on him; to which I see no great objection, as such a shifting of burthens has answered admirably in the case of • tithes.' §
We agree with Mr Scrope, that, except where tenant-right prevails, the whole tax will ultimately fall on the landlord, as long as such a class exists; and we will now see what is likely to be the relation of the proposed burthen to the means of supporting it. The gross rental of the land of Ireland was estimated by the Commissioners of Inquiry, on evidence supplied by the Masters for Chancery, at less than £10,000,000; the net rental at less than £6,000,000. We suspect that this estimate is now too low, and that the net income derived from the land and houses of Ireland is not less than £10,000,000. Mr Scrope says that Ireland contains a population of 6,000,000 of persons existing on potatoes, 2,500,000 of them in absolute destitution, for want of employment.|| These 2,500,000 are to be employed in public works, out of the clear rental of the land. When the public undertakes to maintain a man and his family, they must receive a sufficient maintenance. Their dietary cannot be lower than that of an Irish workhouse: if they are to labour,
*P. 17. †P. 18.
P. 39. § P. 29.
it must be higher. Their clothing cannot be worse than that of the workhouse: if they are to be exposed to the seasons, it must be better. In the year 1844, the last for which the returns are before us, the average cost of providing maintenance and clothing for the 67,971 paupers relieved in Ireland, was Is. 9d. per head per week, or £4, 11s. per year. This, for Mr Scrope's 2,500,000 of absolutely destitute persons, would be £11,375,000 a-year for mere maintenance and clothing, to which must be added lodging, which is excluded from the workhouse expenditure. The public works proposed by Mr Scrope are to be such as are not likely 'to be undertaken by individuals; that is, such as are not likely to afford a profit to the undertakers. Such, indeed, is the character of those which he enumerates. Piers, harbours, bridges, and public buildings, may be profitable to the public, but certainly not to the builders. The reclamation of waste lands, without doubt, may be profitable; but where we have to deal with materials so intractable as the bogs and mountains of Ireland, the return must be very slow. Even supposing the population which has just received this inexhaustible right to employment, at wages sufficient to maintain a family,' not to increase under such a stimulus ;-supposing all the expenses of superintendence, all the expense of procuring, repairing, and replacing the tools and materials, to be provided from some other source; supposing that no part of the fund is wasted by carelessness, or diverted by fraud, still, for many years, £11,375,000 must be paid every year in mere wages to this nation of pauper labourers; the rental which is to meet it being at most £10,000,000. Austria, with 37,000,000 of inhabitants, and 250,000 square miles of territory, is crushed by the expense of a standing army of 400,000 men. Prussia, with 107,000 square miles, and 15,000,000 of the most industrious people on the Continent, maintains with difficulty an army of less than 130,000 men. Mr Scrope proposes to throw on the 30,000 square miles of land, and £10,000,000 a-year rental of Ireland, the support of a standing army of paupers, far exceeding in number the whole military force, not of Austria or of Prussia, or even of France, but of Europe!
He complains that his scheme is called a confiscation. We really know of no word that, as far as the landlords of Ireland are concerned, more adequately expresses the case. But that word does not adequately, or nearly adequately, represent the whole mischief of the proposal. Confiscation signifies merely a forced ademption of property; literally, an ademption by the State. Such an ademption, of course, is a severe evil to the possessor. It probably destroys his whole happiness; but there the
injury ceases. If the estates of all the Orangemen were taken from them, and given to Repealers, or if those of all the Repealers were seized and made over to Orangemen, a great wickedness would be perpetrated, and great misery inflicted; but the misery would be confined to the persons despoiled. The estates might be as useful to the public in the hands of one class as in those of the other; but if the rental of Ireland, instead of being transferred, were exhausted-if the ownership of land ceased to be worth having-if estates were abandoned to avoid payment of rates the consequence would be, not the ruin only of the proprietors, but of the whole island.
The existence of rent, that is to say, of individual property in land, is the only means by which the population of a country is proportioned to the demand for labour. In this, as in many other cases, nature has provided that the interests of the landlord and of the public shall coincide. It is the interest of the landlord that his estate shall be occupied by precisely the number of persons which will produce the largest surplus, above their own consumption; or, in other words, by the number of persons whose labour can be beneficially employed. The proportion, of course, varies according to the habits of the people. A labouring population eating meat, must be more thinly scattered than one eating corn; and a potato fed community might be denser than one eating wheat. On the other hand, a skilful and laborious peasantry would be more productive, and therefore might be denser, than one idle or unskilful. A population thus proportioned to the demand for labour never can be in want of employment. If it be frugal it cannot, except from unforeseen misfortune, want public assistance. This is the state of things in the best parts of Scotland and England, in Switzerland, in Norway, in the eastern parts of Belgium, and in France. It is indeed the natural state of things in the absence of misdirected legislation; since it is the state of things to which the interests of all parties lead them. And if property, according to Mr Drummond's celebrated aphorism, has its duties as well as its rights-if the great duty of the landlord be so to manage his estate as to render it the seat of prosperous tenants, and moral, industrious, and well-paid labourers-the first step in the performance of this duty is to prevent it from being occupied by an excessive population.
Nowhere is this duty more vigilantly or more effectually performed, than where the ownership of the land is minutely subdivided. The owner of twenty thousand acres, especially if they form separate and dispersed estates, knows little of what is going on in the greater part of them. While he is taking care that