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presume to assert they may not be found. Previous to a legal provision, such occurrences must not have been uncommon. In France, the Seigneurs Haut-Justiciers were chargeable with the providing for children so found. Perhaps presentments of that kind may be discovered in our manorial records. The analogy of the feudal law in both countries, and still more, the Saxon system of mutual responsibility existing previous to the introduction of the feudal law in England, render this probable.
The extracts from Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Malthus, which follow, are expressed in their own words, in preference to any deductions or observations in my own from facts, which the actual state of the Foundling Hospitals in Italy or France presents; both because their evidence is of great weight in itself, and because, in this instance, I make use of the latter writer to invalidate his own objections against the poor-laws; for if the inference drawn from the principle of population by Mr. Sumner, and extended by me, page 64, be just, I think it is difficult to reconcile Mr. Malthus's plan of abolishing the poor-laws, with common humanity.
“I consider,” says Mr. Wakefield, “ an hospital that presents an open basket to receive every infant without distinction, as one of the greatest evils that can be devised by human ingenuity.
Even if well conducted in its internal regulations, it holds out encouragement to all kinds of vice, and imperceptibly deadens the finest feelings of the human heart: the poor are tempted to part with their offspring; to resign into the hands of strangers the most endearing of all parental employments, that of a mother fostering her own child. But if it should chance to be badly conducted, humanity must be further shocked, while the miserable victims are left to bewail the conduct of unnatural parents, and the existence of so vile an institution *.”
The details which he produces respecting the Foundling Hospital in Dublin fully justify the above assertions.
“In the course of thirteen years, from 1785 to 1797 inclusive, 27,274 children were received ; out of which number 13,120, or nearly one-half, perished. But in the last year, 1797,-how enormous the loss of life !-no less than 1457 deaths out of 1922 admitted. Since the new regulations, the return of infant deaths has been 5043 out of 19,638, admitted from 1799 to 1808 inclusive; but it is to be observed, that this exhibits the mortality among infants only, and, consequently, furnishes us with no data to calculate the total of deaths in the number admitted of. And yet to
* Account of Ireland, vol. ii. p. 424.
+ Ibid. p. 427.
support this establishment, a tax of one shilling in the pound is levied upon all houses of the annual value of five pounds and upwards, and of sixpence in the pound under that value, and an additional sixpence in the pound on all houses where malt or spirituous liquors are sold by retail*, within the several parishes of Dublin, and within two miles of the Castle. The produce of this tax exceeds £8000 per annum.
Must not every person regret the existence of an institution, wherein it appears, by the Eighth Report of the Commissioners who examined it, that in the course of one year 1237 children died out of 145874."
From his own personal examination and information, Mr. Malthus states, that
“ In the Maison des Enfans trouvés (Foundling Hospital) at Petersburgh, the mortality is prodigious :
from the most careful inquiries I could make, 100 a month was the common average; in the preceding winter of 1788, it had not been uncommon to bury eighteen a day. The average number received in the day is about ten."
“ As children are received without any limit, it is absolutely necessary that the expenses should be also unlimited. It is evident, that the most * 40 Geo. III. c. 33.
† Wakefield, p. 434. # Vol. i. p. 424.
§ Page 426.
dreadful eyils must result from an unlimited reception of children, and only a limited fund to support them *. Such institutions, therefore, if managed properly, that is, if the extraordinary mortality do not prevent the rapid accumulation of
expense, cannot exist long, except under the protection of a very rich government; and even under such protection, the period of their failure cannot be very distant."
“ It is evident that if the deaths belonging to this institution be omitted, the bills of mortality for Petersburgh cannot give a representation in any degree near the truth of the real state of the city with respect to healthiness. At the same time it should be recollected, that some of the observations which attest its healthiness, such as the number dying in a thousand, &c. are not influenced by this circumstance; unless, indeed, we say, what is perhaps true, that nearly all those that would find any difficulty in rearing their children, send them to the Foundling Hospital.”
He concludes, “ With regard to the moral feelings of a nation, it is difficult to conceive that they must not be very sensibly impaired by encouraging mothers to desert their offspring, and endeavouring to teach them that their love for their new-born infants is a prejudice which it is the interest of their country to eradicate*."
* Wakefield, p. 426. + Page 429. | Page 434.
The system of providing for illegitimate children in England is of a different nature. The birth of such a one is considered as a crime in both parents, and they are both equally compellable to contribute to its support; but the burthen is generally thrown on the father*. In the early infancy of the child it is almost always, except in cases of the most abandoned women, nurtured by the mother; and, consequently, the chance of the preservation of its life is equal at least to that of any other child. With respect to the legitimate children of those who are unable to support them, the system of domiciliary relief adopted in England affords them equal chances of living with those who depend on their parents without the intervention of parochial assistance.
Of twenty-five children brought into the Foundling Hospitals, it is calculated, that at the end of twelve years only three or four will be alive ; of the same number reared at home, thirteen or fourteen.
* In the extensive parish of Walcot in Bath, where there has been great attention paid to the administration of the poor-laws, under the select Vestry Act, the legal maintenance of the child by the mother, as well as the father, is with great propriety enforced.
+ The children brought into the Foundling Hospital at Barcelona were, on an average of two years preceding 1786, 528; and of these, two-thirds were buried in the year. Townsend's Travels in Spain, vol. i. p. 133.
# Dupin, p. 335.