« НазадПродовжити »
from the same calamity. Relief could only come from the imperial exchequer; and from it, unquestionably, relief would be afforded. Let it not be supposed that the illustration is extravagant, or that such a case is impossible. Three years ago, the failure of the potato-crop appeared quite as improbable. “To the north-western population of Eng“land, cotton is not only a necessary of life, but it “is that paramount necessary which includes all
Already Manchester suffers from a short crop of cotton, as she never suffered before. But let the blight be total in Louisiana and Georgia; let a servile war interrupt the cultivation, and destroy the hopes of the cotton planter; and the destitution in Manchester, and over a large part of Lancashire, would rapidly approach to that of Mayo. The sources of employment would be dried up. The factories would be as valueless as the untilled fields of Erris. The poor, having no money, and receiving no wages, would become destitute. It would be impossible to collect a poorrate sufficient for the necessity. Recourse must be had to the imperial exchequer. The following suggestion, made by Professor Hancock, is much to the point, and is here quoted, both because it is so explanatory, and also that the proposal may have the support of his authority : —“The principle is thus admitted, “that although the property in the distressed “districts ought to be primarily charged with the “cost of relief, yet when the cost becomes exces“sive, part of the burden should be thrown on the “ public taxes. This principle could be applied to “the extended poor-law, and the difficulty about “confiscation would be at once avoided. If the “expenditure of any electoral division, under the “extended poor-law, in one month, should ex“ceed five pence for each pound of net annual “value, that is, five shillings a year, let one-half “of the excessive expenditure be defrayed by “public grants. If the expenditure of any electo“ral division in one month should exceed one “shilling and three pence for each pound of net “annual value, let the excess above such sum be “entirely defrayed by public grants; with power “to the government, in the latter case, to appoint “a special guardian, without whose consent no “further relief should be given. “In this plan of raising the funds, the sums of “five pence in the pound, and one shilling and three “pence in the pound, are of course only taken for “illustration. The scale on which public contribu“tions should be given, ought not to be determined “without elaborate investigation of the subject. “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 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 inspecting-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 2 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 Castiebar, 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
* Times, Sept. 4th, 1847.
* Three Lectures by W. Neilson Hancock, LL.D., Professor of Political Economy in the University of Dublin, p. 46.