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and gentry and others, to the loss of their precious time, and the utter ruin of their estates and for
tunes, and withdrawing them from noble and ' laudable employments and exercises !' Will a nobleman, I ask, confess that he can employ his time in no better amusement; or will he frankly own that he plays with any other view than that of amusement? Lastly, what can a man who sins in open
defiance of the laws of his country answer to the vir bonus est quis? Can he say,
Qui consulta patrum, qui leges juraque servat? Or can he apply that celebrated line,
Oderunt peccare boni virtutis honore, to himself, who owes to his greatness, and not to his innocence, that he is not deterred from such vices-Fcrmidine pæna ?
Of the Laws that relate to the Provision for the Poor. HAVING
now run through the several immediate consequences of a general luxury among the lower people, all which, as they tend to promote their distresses, may be reasonably supposed to put many of them, of the bolder kind, upon unlawful and violent means of relieving the mischief which such vices have brought upon them, I come now to a second cause of the evil, in the improper regulation of what is called the poor in this kingdom, arising, I think, partly from the abuse of some laws, and partly from the total neglect of others; and (if i may presume to say it) somewhat perhaps from a defect in the laws themselves.
It must be matter of astonishment to any man to reflect, that in a country where the poor are, beyond
all comparison, more liberally provided for than in any -other part of the habitable globe, there should be found more beggars, more distressed and miserable objects, than are to be seen throughout all the states of Europe,
And yet, undoubted as this fact is, I am far from agreeing with Mr. Shaw*, who says, 'There are few, : if any, nations or countries where the poor are more
neglected, or are in a more scandalous nasty con! dition, than in England. Whether,' says he, this
is owing to that natural inbred cruelty for which Englishmen are so much noted among foreigners,
or to that medley of religions which are so plentis ! fully sown, and so carefully cherished among us; ! who think it enough to take care of themselves,
and take a secret pride and pleasure in the poverty and distresses of those of another persuasion,' &c.
That the poor are in a very nasty and scandalous condition is, perhaps, too true ; but sure the general charge against the people of England, as well as the invidious aspersion on particular bodies of them, is highly unjust and groundless. Nor do I know that any nation hath ventured to fix this character of cruelty on us. Indeed, our inhospitality to foreigners hath been sometimes remarked; but that we are cruel to one another is not, I believe, the common, I am sure it is not the true opinion. Can a general neglect of the poor be justly charged on a nation in which the poor are provided for by a tax, frequently equal to what is called the land-tax, and where there are such numerous instances of private donations, such numbers of hospitals, alms-houses, and charitable provisions of all kinds ?
Nor can any such neglect be charged on the legislature ; under whose inspection this branch of polity hath been almost continually, from the days of queen Elizabeth to the present time. Insomuch, that Mr. Shaw himself enumerates no less than thirteen acts of parliament relating to the indigent and helpless poor.
* Vol. II. p. I.
If therefore there be still any deficiency in this respect, it must, I think, arise from one of the three causes above-mentioned ; that is, from some defect in the laws themselves, or from the perversion of these laws; or, lastly, from the neglect in their execution.
I will consider all these with some attention.
First, that the churchwardens of every parish, and two substantial householders, at least, shall be yearly appointed to be overseers of the poor.
Secondly, that these overseers shall, with the consent of two justices of the peace, put out apprentices the children of poor people. And all married or unmarried persons, who have no means or trade to maintain themselves, shall be put to work.
Thirdly, that they shall raise by a parochial tax ą convenient stock of flax, hemp, wool, thread, iron, and other ware and stuff, to set the poor to work.
Fourthly, that they shall, from the same tax, provide towards the necessary relief of the lame, impotent, old, blind, and others, being poor and not able to work.
Fifthly, that they shall, out of the same tax, put the children of poor persons apprentices.
That these provisions may all be executed, that act vested the overseers with the following powers ; and enforced the executing them by the following penalties.
1. The overseers are appointed to meet once at Least every month in the church after divine service; there, says the act, to consider of some good course to be taken, and some meet order to be set down in the premises. And to do this they are enjoined by a penalty; for every one absenting himself from such ineeting, without a just excuse to be allowed by fwo justices of the peace, or being negligent in his
* Chap: i.
oíñce, or in the execution of the orders aforesaid, 'forfeits 20s.
And after the end of their year, and after other overseers 'nominated, they are, within four days, to make and yield up to two justices of the peace, a true and perfect account of all sunis of money by them received or assessed, and of such stores as shall be in their hands, or in the hands of the poor, to work, and of all other things concerning their office, &c. And if the churchwardens and overscers refuse to account, they are to be committed by two justices till they shall have made a true account.
II. The overseers and churchwardens, both present and subsequent, are empowered, by warrant from two justices, to levy all the monies assessed, and all arrearages of those who refuse to pay, by distress and sale of the refusers goods; and the subsequent overseers inay, in the same manner, levy the money and stock in the hands of the precedent; and for want of distress the party is to be committed by two justices, without bail, till the same be paid.
III. They have a power to compel the poor to work; and such as refuse or neglect, the justice may commit to the house of correction or common gaol.
IV. The overseers may compel children to be apprentices, and may bind them where they shall ses convenient; till the man-child shall attain the age of twenty-four, and the woman.child the age of twenty-one, or till the time of her marriage ; the indenture to be as effectual to all purposes as the covenant of one of full age.
V. They have a power to contract with the lord of the manor **, and, on any parcel of ground on the waste, to erect, at the general charge of the parishi, convenient houses of dwelling for the impotent poor; and to place several inmates in the
* This must be done by consent and order of sessions.
same cottage, notwithstanding the statute * of cottages.
VI. They can compel the father and grandfather, mother and grandmother, and children of every poor, old, blind, and impotent person, or of any other person not being able to work (provided such father, &c. be of sufficient ability) at their own charges, to relieve and maintain such poor person, in such manner, and after such rate, as shall be assessed by the sessions, under the penalty of 20 s. for every month's omission.
VII. If no overseers be named, every justice within the division forfeits 51.
So far this statute of Elizabeth, by which the legislature may seem very fully to have provided, First, For the absolute relief of such poor, as are by age or infirmity rendered unable to work; and, Secondly, For the employment of such as are able.
• The former of these,' says lord Hale in his discourse on this subject, seems to be a charity of
more immediate exigence ; but the latter (viz. the employment of the poor) is a charity of greater exftent, and of very great and important consequence 'to the public wealth and peace of the kingdom, as
also to the benefit and advantage of the poor.' And this, as Mr. Shaw observes, would prevent
the children of our poor being brought up in la' ziness and beggary, whereby beggary is entailed
from generation to generation : This is certainly the greatest charity; for though he who gives to any in want, does well, yet he who employs and educates the poor, so as to render them useful to the publick, does better; for that would be
many hundred thousand pounds per ann. benefit to this : kingdom.'
Now the former of these provisions hath, perhaps, though in a very slovenly and inadequate
These cottages are never after to be applied to any other use.