« НазадПродовжити »
“ But were this plan, or some plan on the same “principle, adopted, the public aid would not be “ wasted on districts able to support their own “poor ; and where given, it would come in aid of “ ample funds from local taxes, instead of afford“ing a motive to resist their imposition and collec“ tion. Local control would be enlisted by self“ interest, to guard the prudent expenditure of all “ the relief funds, and no confiscation of property “ or stoppage of cultivation could take place."*
The necessity of enforcing the collection of the poor-rate, cannot be too strongly insisted on. If men able to pay are allowed to escape payment, because they throw difficulties in the way of collecting it, a moral injury is inflicted which will require years to repair. Provided that, in the manner proposed by Professor Hancock, or by some similar plan, care be taken that no district be taxed beyond its ability to bear, no excuse should be allowed to interfere with, or delay the collection. All depends on the determination of the Government. This is a condition of such consequence, not only for the proper support of the poor, but for the general well-being of the country, that it cannot be pressed too strongly. To maintain the standard of honesty effectively, it is
· Three Lectures by W. Neilson Hancock, LL.D., Professor of Political Economy in the University of Dublin, p. 46.
necessary that we should be compelled to pay our debts. This may at first appear difficult, in the present impoverished condition of many districts, but the eventual result will be more beneficial than the remission of the amount.
To facilitate the collection of the rates, it is very important that public opinion should be conciliated, by the funds raised being judiciously and economically administered. It may be said that the ratepayers elect the guardians; and that if they make a bad choice, it is their own loss. Heretofore the rates being moderate, the question appeared of less moment; and in the election of guardians, very little attention was paid to their fitness for the office, or their capability of fulfilling its duties. Now, the case is altered, and we may expect that more consideration will be bestowed on this point in future. But however desirous the guardians may be of acting judiciously, it requires close attention, peculiar ability, and considerable experience, to manage efficiently the distribution of out-door relief in an extensive union, and to take proper care of the workhouse. Few persons who have the requisite ability, are able to devote the needful amount of time to the work.
The distribution of relief was managed last summer by electoral division committees, a board of guardians, a finance committee, and an inspect
ing-officer appointed by government; now, it is proposed to leave it to the board of guardians alone, who are directed to appoint relieving officers to act under them. If so large a staff were required last summer, how can it be expected that the guardians alone will now be sufficient ? In the richer unions along the eastern coast, they may manage tolerably well. There is a better choice of guardians, and much fewer destitute persons to be relieved. In the western parts, and even in some of the midland counties, it is beyond their power. So much do the guardians themselves feel this in many places, that they are desirous of being superseded by a paid board, as they have been at Castlebar, Westport, and some other places. They feel that this course would save them personally much labour and trouble, and they have good reason to expect that it would prove more economical; that by better management, the paid guardians would be able to save the union much more than the amount of their salaries.
To throw aside the local management, and work through paid official machinery, is very undesirable, and should be avoided if possible. The guardians require some kind of assistance. Probably the most valuable that can be afforded them, would be to continue the appointment of inspecting. officers. It has been decided to do so, as respects
twenty-two of the most destitute unions in the west. If their assistance were afforded to some of the unions in the midland counties also, much benefit would probably result. In this case, one inspector might, perhaps, have two or more unions under his charge. Uniformity of management would thus be obtained ; and as the law comes more fully into operation, and the guardians learn their business more thoroughly, the office may be eventually dispensed with.
It is especially important that the guardians themselves should be really desirous of carrying out the law, of relieving the destitute, and of collecting the rates. If a board absolutely refuse to act, the commissioners can displace them, but the remedy for negligence is more difficult. Would it not be right that the non-payment of his rates by any individual guardian, should be a disqualification ; say, that if his rates remained unpaid for six weeks after the rate was struck, his place should become vacant, and a new election take place ? Having themselves paid, they would be much more anxious to collect from others; and it is certainly very galling to other rate-payers to be forced to pay, when it is well known that some of the guardians themselves are in arrear.
It has been suggested, that instead of looking to the tenant for the whole rate, he should only
be assessed for his own portion ; and that the landlord,“ that is, the owner of the first estate of inheritance," should also be assessed for his por-' tion. This would, in some cases, facilitate the collection, and obtain payment of rates which, under the present system, are wholly lost, on account of the poverty of the tenant. Still it involves a hardship, to compel a landlord to pay the rate for a property from which he has not received rent; and should hardly be resorted to, unless the present law prove decidedly inefficient. If it appear necessary, more summary means of recovery might also be provided. By these or other arrangements, greater facilities might be given, so as to ensure a better collection, without resorting to the harsh and unusual measures which some have proposed.
But the benefit of a poor-law is limited to shifting a portion of the burden, from the wholly destitute, to those who are better able to bear it. It has no direct effect in adding to the resources of the country. It may even diminish them, if badly administered. The payment of rates may consume the funds applicable to the employment of labour; and the income of the country, instead of contributing to its improvement, and thus becoming capital, may be spent in maintaining a useless population in idleness. Every thing depends on judicious legis