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cruel as such treatment may appear, such was the malignant nature of the disease, that fewer died in those sheds than in the wretched mud cabins."
“Since I was last here (in Strabane) this town and neighbourhood have been visited by two of almost the heaviest calamities that can befall human beings-Fever and Famine have been let loose ; and it is hard to say which has destroyed the most
Hordes of wandering beggars, impelled by the cravings of hunger, carried the distemper from door to door Irish usages have always opened a ready way to the beggar
Even in ordinary times the poor claim charity less as a matter of favour than of right, and approach the rich man's door almost with the freedom of an inmate ; but they now, in frightful numbers, besieged every house, and forced their way into kitchens, parlours, &c. Those who condemn the English system of Poor Laws would have here found reason to change their opinion ; and have beheld the evils inseparable from leaving our fellow men to seek in infirmity and old age that bread, which, were society constructed as it ought to be, should be wanting to none*.”
* Views of Society and Manners in the North of Ireland, written in 1818, by John Gamble, Esq.-Gentleman's Magazine, July, 1819, p. 52.
I regret that the same adherence to my principle compelled me to place an integral and valuable part of the British empire at the bottom of the scale. That contest, which the able author of the State of Ireland describes as a “constant warfare between landlords and tenants," is in fact the right of self-preservation warring against the right of property. I shall be happy if any thing in this Essay shall lead to a view of any principle, which may be applied to put an end to this distressing contest, and to afford to that country a participation of all the blessings of the British Constitution. I certainly comprehend within those blessings the system of relief afforded to indigence by the English Poor Laws; and although these, in common with all other human institutions, are subject to abuses, yet I view the legislative measures of 1818 as having an effectual tendency to remove those abuses, by placing the administration of the law in the hands of those who are the most frequent complainants on this subject, I mean the principal Proprietors and Occupiers of Landed Property.
This is to be done by adopting such of the provisions of the statute 59 George III. c. 12, as empower the inhabitants in vestry assembled, and voting according to the gradations of property prescribed in the 58th George III. c. 69, to
appoint a select vestry for the care and management of the concerns of the poor in every parish. Those active and intelligent Members of the Committee which introduced this law, considered the power of discrimination in the distribution of relief given by it as effecting an important change in the administration of the
poorlaws * : I consider it further, if properly reduced to practice, as capable of removing that great objection which esteemed it as incompatible with the discriminative exercise of Christian charity. It is my humble endeavour to suggest some practical applications, which may make of this law, (as admirably expressed by Sir Matthew Hale, “ a pillar whereunto to fasten our charity.” These powers of discrimination are contained in the first and second clauses :
“ Every such select vestry is hereby empowered and required to examine into the state and condition of the poor of the parish, and to inquire into and determine upon the proper objects of relief, and the nature and amount of the relief to be given, and in each case shall take into consideration the character and conduct of the poor person to be relieved, and shall be at liberty to distinguish in the relief to be granted between the deserving and the idle, extravagant or profligate poor ; and such select vestry shall make orders in writing for such relief as they shall think requisite, and shall inquire into and superintend the collection and administration of all money to be raised by the poors’-rates, and of all other funds and money raised and applied by the parish to the relief of the poor : and where any such select vestry shall be established, the overseers of the poor are required, in the execution of their office, to conform to the directions of the select vestry, and shall not (except in cases of sudden emergency and urgent necessity, and to the extent only of such temporary relief as each case shall require, and except by order of justices in the cases hereinafter provided for,) give any further or other relief or allowance to the poor than such as shall be ordered by the select vestry.”
* Courtenay, page 124.
In the second clause, “ After relief has been refused by the select vestry, and it has been proved on oath before two justices, that the party complaining is in need of relief, it shall be lawful for such justices to make an order, under their hands and seals, for such relief, as they in their just and proper discretion shall think necessary, reference being also had by such justices to the character and conduct of the applicant, &c.”
And by the fifth clause it is enacted, “ That every order to be made for the relief of any poor person by the churchwardens and overseers of the
poor of any parish not having a select vestry
under the authority of this Act, shall be made by two or more justices, who shall, in making every such order, take into their consideration the character and conduct of the person applying for relief ; provided, that in every such order the special cause of granting the relief thereby directed shall be expressly stated,” &c.
From ten years' almost daily experience of the practical good effects of the adoption of this law in an agricultural parish of some extent, I have no hesitation in saying, that I consider it as highly beneficial; but I recommend no less the adoption also of the other clause in the same Act, respecting the appointment of an assistant overseer. Combined with the attention of the select vestry, the continuance of the executive officer tends to that permanency of discriminative administration, which it is the object of the bill to create and enforce. On the character of this officer much depends ; and in large parishes it is advisable to employ another person, with the title of vestry clerk, to keep the accounts ; as the qualities of active out-door exertions, in addition to the labour of collecting the rates, are frequently not co-existent, especially in the country, with the minute attention which is found in the practical accountant.
In the adoption of these two parts of the system, and in every step of it, I recommend a