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pitals and Lunatic Asylums * have assumed a permanent and legalized form. The grants for the Dispensaries, indeed, it is said, ought to be more under the control of the magistracy than at present. The Lunatic Asylums provide in a great degree for recent cases, although from there existing no asylums for incurables, many pitiable cases of the former are excluded, and there are large districts, especially the Province of Connaught, where the want of them was strongly felt, and loudly complained of five years ago t, and where they have not yet been erected.
One of the earliest advocates for some measure which should operate as a system of legalized relief was the celebrated Swift*. He states indeed, what I cannot trace in the public law of Ireland, that “by the ancient law of that realm still in force, every parish is obliged to maintain its own poor.” And I believe this statement to have originated from the mention made of an overseer of the poor in an Act of Charles I., which was most likely to have been borrowed from some English statute. But he complains of the prevalence of that evil which still presses upon the cities and towns in Ireland, namely, the influx of beggars; and proposes that the poor parishes
Report of Richmond Lunatic Asylum, Dublin, 1826-1827. + Lords' Evidence, 1825. p. 446.
Sermon on the wretched state of Ireland.
to which they belong should badge them, and thus license mendicity; and that all beggars not belonging to parishes in cities or towns, should “be forced to return to their several homes in the country, there to smite the conscience of those oppressors who first stripped them of all their fortunes."
But it is to another dignitary of the church of Ireland at a much later period that she is indebted for the establishment of the first legalized provision for the poor. Dr. Woodward, at that time a parish priest in Dublin, and afterwards bishop of Cloyne, published in 1773 “An Argument in support of the Right of the Poor in Ireland to a National Provision.” This pamphlet had great success; and the Irish Parliament passed an Act, 11 and 12 Geo. III. c. 30, forming corporations for the poor
and the establishment and maintenance of Poor Houses, and authorizing the grand juries to present annually not less than 2001. and not more than 400l.for counties at large, and half those sums respectively for cities; and by 23 and 24 Geo. III. 1001. additional; and by 25 Geo. III. cap. 48, in the spirit of the then ascendant interest, to apprentice poor boys to Protestant tradesmen. The Government in framing that Act relied much upon voluntary subscription; and the first excitement authorized that reliance, but the fervor soon abated. The grand jury assessments for Dublin, the great asylum for mendicity and wretchedness from all parts of Ireland, were quite inadequate ; and although there was “no complaining in the streets,” and “the nuisance of beggary, grievous beyond the experience of other cities, was actually suppressed,” yet Dr. Woodward in a second pamphlet called on the Legislature for parliamentary assistance, which was granted in 1777, to the amount of 40001.; and in the year 1806 the parliamentary grants amounted to 22,1771. The voluntary subscription, after languishing for many years previously, had sunk to 101.—the interest of a legacy.
The last parliamentary return presents a similar statement; and in the counties of Waterford and Limerick, being two out of the only remaining ten Poor Houses established in the kingdom, I find that in the first, out of an annual expenditure of 40871., only 3171. arose from voluntary subscription ; and in the latter, out of an expenditure of 16641. 14s. 2 d., less than 1001. arose from the same source.
Giving badges to the poor, upon the plan suggested by Swift, formed also a part of Dr. Woodward's scheme, and of the legislative enactment in the adoption of it; but if it were ever generally practised, it is now almost entirely disused *.
Beggars are badged only at Naas, County of Kildare.-Evidence, 1825 : p. 22).
All accounts of Ireland, until within the last fifteen or twenty years, abound with dreadful descriptions of the mendicancy of the large towns ; but I did not find this in my journey. In the smaller towns the carriage was occasionally beset with beggars, as in the small towns and villages on the continent; but it was seldom that the beggar wandering on the road solicited alms. He expected perhaps little relief from the casual donation of the more opulent, as his dependence was more on the arrangement of his route among those just above him in society.
In fact, almost all the great towns have established voluntary Associations for the suppression of mendicity. I visited them at Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick, and Belfast. It will, however surprise the English to learn at how small expense those establishments have been maintained and supported. The system of management is generally as follows:
The beggars are collected in the streets, or admitted into the house upon their own application, and compelled to remain there all day, but not allowed to remain during the night, although sometimes a small sum is given wherewith to procure lodging.
In Dublin, it appears by the series of annual reports, that the diet in the Mendicity Establishment at Dublin, has been almost entirely potatoes, and that the average cost of a mendicant to the Association is (including children) 31. 138. 3d. per year, not quite 21d. per diem, and never exceeds 3d.
In Sligo, the Mendicity Reports present a similar scale of expenditure.
In Limerick, the diet is the same, viz. potatoes and milk ; and the average cost (including coals, rent and salary, as well as victuals) is not more than 1fd, per diem for each mendicant. The same may be said of most of the Mendicity Establishments in Ireland.
The effects of this system of low diet are, however, beneficial to the real interests of the
poor ; for the Committee of Mendicity in Dublin * "has found that the most trifling increase in the demand for labour has been followed by a decrease in the numbers on the books, and that its effect has been to prevent actual starvation, and to give a supply of food to those actually in want.
A residence of six months is required in Dublin, and a residence of five years in Belfast, to entitle the case of the applicants even to consideration. Upon this system of exclusion under various modifications all those towns and cities act, wherever Mendicity Societies exist. I certainly consider the north-east of Ireland as considerably preceding the rest of that country in
* Report, 1827 : p. 29.