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had died. Wherever his statements were disputed, he published the names of the children, the date of each birth and admission, the time the child had lived, and the name of its nurse. He next made a journey throughout England, to compare the mortality in country workhouses with that of the metropolis ; and everywhere he found the same excessive mortality, arising from overcrowding, ill-ventilation, and neglect. The publication of such striking facts, and the known integrity of the man, could not fail to produce an effect even upon the most indifferent; and many workhouses speedily became reformed and improved. In 1761 he had obtained an Act, obliging every London parish to keep an annual register of all the infants received, discharged, and dead ; and he took care that the Act should work, for he himself superintended its working with indefatigable watchfulness. He went about from workhouse to workhouse in the morning, and from one member of Parliament to another in the afternoon, for day after day, and for year after year, enduring every rebuff, answering every objection, and accommodating himself to every humour. At length, after a perseverance hardly to be equalled, and after nearly ten years' labour, he obtained an Act, at his own sole expense (7 Geo. III., c. 39), directing that all parish infants belonging to the parishes within the bills of mortality shall not be nursed in the workhouse, but be sent to nurse a certain number of miles out of town, until they are six years old, under the care of guardians to be elected triennially. The poor people called this the “Act for keeping children alive ;' and the registers for the years which followed its passing, as compared with those which preceded it, showed that thousands of lives had been preserved through the interference of this good and sensible man. He died in the year 1786.”—“ Self-help,” by Samuel Smiles, 1859.
EXTRACT from the speech of the new President of the Poor Law Board, Mr. Sotheron Estcourt, at Devizes. Mrs. Sidney Herbert had told me last year of his interest in the cause, and I sent him a pamphlet, so I trust the change will be in our favour.
“If it is indeed true that I possess the fitness for the office to which I have been appointed, I cannot but recollect that I owe that fitness to the experience which I gained during the seventeen years that I occupied the chair of the Board of Guardians of this place. He had on all occasions, and particularly when the Poor Law was nearly in its infancy, day after day to exercise great patience and forbearance, some firmness, and a good deal of judgment. He had to consider conflicting claims, and it was our business to administer that most noble part of British legislation, a public provision for the poor, in such a manner as would secure comfort to those who were distressed, and at the same time bear as little as possible on the pockets of those who had to defray the expense. In the capacity of President of the Poor Law Board I am sensible I shall have to show not only those qualities which were formed in me by experience here in a smaller sphere, but to extend my views over the Poor Law economy of the whole country, and I hope while I am sitting in my office at Whitehall I shall never forget the feelings and lessons I learnt when I was sitting in the chair of your Union Workhouse here. I have at this moment no greater desire than so to act during my tenure of office, that when I leave it I may carry with me from the public at large that same approbation and the same satisfaction of my own conscience which I am proud to know followed me when I quitted the less prominent position of Chairman of your Board of Guardians.”
The following is an extract from a letter dated July, 1857, from one whose experience enabled him to speak with effect on this point. Twenty-two years after we need to enforce the same truths, and I therefore insert it here.
In my conversation on this subject with you, we both seemed to think that the law, as it at present stands, is sufficiently powerful to enable workhouse authorities to institute useful reforms, provided proper men were elected to the management. Hitherto it has been too much the custom among ratepayers of the upper classes to leave the election to the tradesmen and middle classes of the respective parishes, and to take no interest in the management of the workhouse beyond a transient emotion of indignation excited now and then on the perusal of a ney
report of some case of more than common hardship. Whereas, if it were possible to induce every member of the community to take an active interest in the concerns of the poor, cases of hardship from neglect, etc., would scarcely be possible, because it would be the business of the ratepayers to vote the right men into the right places. At present the guardians of the poor are often selected from the class of small tradesmen, who sometimes have an interest in contracts for supplying necessary articles to the workhouse, or have some other kind of pecuniary interest in their office, but who, at any rate, rarely show a strong desire to improve the condition of the poor committed to their charge.
“If men of station and influence in their respective parishes would meet together and draw up a list of names of candidates for the office of guardians, taking care that such list should include men of their own class sufficient in number to have their fair share of influence in the conduct of the Board ; moreover, if every lady or gentleman in the parish entitled to vote at the parish election would make it a point of duty to exercise her or his privilege, I cannot but think that the evils which we have to deplore in many of the metropolitan workhouses, would quickly disappear.”
BLEUSIS CLUB 180, KINGS ROAD CERISEAS.W
“ WORKHOUSES AND WOMEN'S WORK.” AN ARTICLE
CONTRIBUTED TO THE “ CHURCH OF ENGLAND
Sunshine in the Workhouse. By Mrs. G. W. Sheppard. London:
London : Long
Report on the Accommodation in St. Pancras Workhouse. By
Henry Bence Jones, M.D., F.R.S. Presented both
Houses of Parliament by command of Her Majesty. The Communion of Labour. By Mrs. Jameson. London :
Longmans. The Institution of Kaiserswerth, on the Rhine, for the Practical
Training of Deaconesses. (Not published.) Two Letters on Girls' Schools, and on the Training of Working
Women. By Mrs. Austin. London : Chapman and Hall.
TWENTY-THREE years ago the old Poor Law was superseded by An Act for the Amendment and better Administration of the Laws relating to the Poor in England and Wales," and people in general are satisfied with the great advantages that have been gained by the exchange. The abuses of the former system had become so glaring, that some alteration seemed to be urgently called for, if the poor of this country were not to become pauperized. To such an extent was relief afforded, that the able-bodied labourer was in the habit of applying for it to eke out his weekly wages ; and should they fail