Page images

whole legislature. Another, and and the spirit of the people, when the only control exclusively vest- they cannot prevent an encroached in the House of Commons is, ment in one quarter, have often the annual grant of money for the gained a compensation in another. support of the army. It is in its But it is never too much to say, nature the most effectual: it is the that those who contend for the privilege of the House of Com- exception must always prove it, mons alone. The constitution aland that those who rely on the lows the other house to reject our constitution need only allege it. votes of supply; but neither to Where is the proof? It is no ordialter their nature nor to increase nary evidence which can outweigh their amount. It is the peculiar such principles as those now uncharacteristic of the Commons der our consideration-the exclu. House: it is that which forms our sive right of this house to grant strength and our pride: it is that supply, and the danger of every which has given us a preponderat- | prerogative which may be a source ing authority over all measures of of independent revenue. state. On this subject we have It will probably be said, that ever thought that the smallest ministers are responsible for the dangers are to be guarded against exercise of this like every other with the utmost vigilance. No power of the crown. Wherever a jealousy has here appeared un- power is proved to be legal, rereasonable: no encroachments, sponsibility is doubtless our safehowever slender and unintentional, guard against its dangers: wherehave been thought too harmless to ever the creation of a new power be repelled. Such, sir, has been is shown to be absolutely necesour jealousy, and (I may add in sary, there also we must content justice) your jealousy, of this ourselves with such security as great privilege in our intercourse the responsibility of ministers may with the other house of parlia. afford. But we must not speak of ment. What new term can be responsibility till either the legaimagined adequate to the feelings lity or the necessity of the power with which we are bound to guard it be first made out. Responsibility is as a control over a standing army? no reason either for recognizing

I am well aware that in every or for granting political power; it human system, especially in a go- is only a security of a certain vavernment só complicated as ours, lue against the abuse of an authoand formed by the course of cir-rity which legal evidence proves cumstances in a long series of to exist, or urgent danger renders ages, there are anomalies which it necessary to create. must be owned to have the cha. Anciently while our kings de. racter of law, though they be ut. frayed their expenses from their terly irreconcileable with the ge- own revenues, with occasional aid neral principles of the constitu- from parliament, there are but tion. These irregularities are, I few traces of parliamentary interam ready to admit, often balanced ference in appropriating public by similar deviations on the oppo- money to particular objects. Afsite side. So that the last result, terwards, when the kings of Enthe just counterpoise of constitu- gland were reduced by a happy tional authority, is maintained.poverty to that dependence on the The principles of the constitution commons which preserved the

British constitution, they were and forethought are banished; imstill considered as contracting to providence and immorality encoudefray the whole expense of the raged. To restore the respectabistate, on condition of their receiv-lity and the happiness of the ining a certain gross annual reve- ferior classes, they must be nue. They were allowed to appor- brought back to those manners tion it according to their own from which they have swerved. judgment, unless where the ap. Their general good sense I think pearance of great abuse called for as highly of as any man, but, mis.' investigation, rather for the pu- led as they have been by dependnishment of delinquents, than foring on parochial relief, an immethe better regulation of the expen- diate and complete reformation is diture. Attempts to improve this not to be expected. From the de. practice were made at various basement which has arisen out of times under the princes of the that system, gradually operating house of Stuart. It was not until for two centuries, half that period the glorious era of the revolution, may perhaps be necessary before that the system was established of the stain can be removed,- until appropriating all parliamentary this can be effected, I would by grants, by the authority of parlia- no means recommend any other ment, to services previously ap-than a gradual change in the sys- . proved by parliament, which gave tem. Evidence may there be adreality and energy to all the an- duced, that the effect of the precient constitutional principles, re- sent system is to degrade the poor specting the power of the purse, man as well in his own estimation created a constant and irresistible as in that of the persons on whom control over the public expendi- the charge of maintaining him is ture in this house, and ought to be devolved,—that his happiness is at regarded as the most important an end-his existence embittered. reform in the practice of the Bri- The relief bestowed on him may tish constitution which has been remove indeed the cravings of effected in modern times. Since hunger, but it is at the expense of that happy period, every part of all the best feelings of Inis nature. public law and parliamentary To restore independence of mind usage on the subject of finance, is to the labouring classes is an indisconsistent and intelligible. We pensable ingredient in every plan have only to open the journals of for bettering their situation. Need this house to comprehend the there be any other proof requisite constitution.

of this than the superiority of our people, on the whole, over every

other nation. Whence does this ENGLISH POOR LAWS.

arise? Is it not among the blessed MR. CURWEX.

fruits of our free constitution, inThe abuse of the poor laws has spiring independence of mind and transferred from the individual to action, giving consequence in his the public, not merely the charge own eyes to every member of the of providing for the casualties and community? Hence has arisen the misfortunes incident to humanity, glory, the pre-eminence of Enbut for the direct consequences of gland. Extinguish the vital spark men's vice and folly. Economy of liberty, destroy the political

character of the people, and we consists in wanting little: in conshall soon sink to a level with tradiction to it, worldly or vulgar countries groaning under despo- happiness is to want and enjoy tism! Is it then consistent either much.-Thus it will be invariably with sound policy, or with huma- found, that where the earnings nity, that three millions of people, are greatest the forethought is or nearly a third of our population, least. should be suffered to remain in From year to year the malady the degraded state of pauperism? has been augmenting, The The loss of public estimation takes amount of the poor rates in 1760, away a principal incentive to right was not quite two millions: in the action, and lessens the influence of last fifty-six years they have quamoral principle, which places the drupled. It will not, I believe, be reward of merit in the esteem of difficult to assign the causes that the virtuous. On this ground, be have produced this melancholy yond all others, does this measure change, presenting us with such press itself on the consideration of an accumulated prospect of human the house.

misery. From 1760 we may date The sums now collected for the a great revolution in the state of poor are an intolerable burthen: the country; from that period we the industrious, who are now com- began to become a great manusacpelled to contribute to the support turing nation; agriculture shortly of the idle and the profligate, after declined. By the politicians though their utmost exertions are of those days it was viewed as a hardly adequate to procure sup- subordinate object. The wealth of port to their own families, are the country was doubtlessly rapiddaily depressed into the class of ly augmented: luxury spread its paupers. It will not be questioned baleful influence through all ranks by those who have paid attention of society. The price of labour to the past and present state of the rose, and the earnings of the work. poor, that their moral condition ing classes were increased, though has undergone a most unfavour- not their happiness. The demand able change, and particularly for workmen in the various manuwithin the last fifty years, during factures transferred to them pumwhich period the sum collected bers from the peaceful occupation for their maintenance has quad- of agriculture. The habits of their rupled. The increased wealth of former lives were soon lost: highthe nation, advancing their wages, er wages were obtained, more has at the same time lessened expensive habits acquired, and their happiness. By destroying no thought taken, or provision the principle of economy, their made, for any reverse. Temporawants have augmented beyond ry depressions of trade occurred; their earnings. The present mo

the numbers that were thus at ment has acquired undue prefer- once exposed to hunger and the ence, as compared with the fu- extreme of misery were too great ture. Much is this change to be for private benevolence to suclamented, as it operates on their cour: so numerous were the de. moral and philosophical happi- mands for parochial relief, that all ness. Moral happiness dwells in sense of shame was lost sight of. the mind; philosophical happiness The plague is not more rapid in its progress than this malady has dearing relation destroyed. In its proved itself. The example of place, a principle of savage selfone great town quickly extended ishness pervading all classes-ento another, and in a short period gendering mutual jealousy and pervaded the whole kingdom. To hatred. Age, infirmity, youth, idleso shameless a pitch is it now ar- ness, and profligacy, indiscrimi. rived, that pauperism is contem- nately huddled together. plated and calculated on in the Can any mortal contemplate very outset of life: instances are such a conclusion of life, and not not wanting of parties applying bless the attempt to preserve him immediately after being married from it? I put it to every gentlefor relief from the parish. What man's feelings who hears me, if was strictly the sole inheritance he can doubt the poor of England of misery is now indiscriminately will hail any change of system claimed as a night appertaining to which will in its operation secure all.

to them the enjoyment of their To stop the progress of this peaceful habitation and domestic alaşming malady, in modern times, comforts? Yes, they will grateexpedients have been resorted to fully acknowledge to God and which bear a strong analogy to the you the escape from this misery, policy which produced the act of which the poor laws now hang the 8th and 9th of William and over their head. Mary, I mean the erection of Every motive of humanity as workhouses for the reception of well as policy calls on us to en. the poor. The principal object of deavour to devise means for sethese receptacles, seems to have curing so large a portion of our been, not to accommodate the fellow-creatures from the degradneedy, but to deter them from ap- ed situation to which they are replying for relief: as a preliminary, duced. Eight millions expended, every domestic comfort was to be and that without promoting the sacrificed-their little property happiness of one individual who seized for the benefit of the pas participates in it. If the evil is sufrish-every hope of returning to fered to proceed, the whole industheir fireside extinguished. Who try and revenue of the country can view these mansions of mi- will be inadequate to support the sery without horror. This springs poor-not a comfortable and hapfrom that radical error in the ad- py, but a dissatisfied and degraded ministration of the poor laws poor, who discover, when it is too which confounds vice and virtue, late, that improvidence and want and equally entitles both to relief. of economy, which makes them a To guard against the idle and the burthen to others, robs them of profligate, the unfortunate are the

every comfort of life. victims. Every feeling heart must Splendid as is the renown which deplore that a a fellow-creature the nation has acquired by its nashould be exposed to such a cruelval and military exploits, these alternative.

will not form the most brilliant The best regulated poor houses and striking feature in the future present a dreadful state of exist history of the present times. The ence,-a society with no one com- admiration of succeeding ages mon bond of feeling-every en will be directed to that revolution


that has operated and is still ope- it is an imperious duty, binding on rating on the moral state of man, every mortal, to exert his utmost by the system of education intro- endeavours for the support of himduced by Bell and Lancaster, self and those he has contributed wbich in its progress, will multi- to bring into the world. By the ply the happiness of every suc- sweat of his brow, man is ordainceeding age by increasing its ha- ed to earn his bread. No claim bits of virtue and probity. In twen- can honestly be set up for relief ty years we may fairly contem- till every effort has been made and plate that there will scarce be an failed. The neglect of this princi. individual to be found who will ple has brought on the nation the not possess the means of making evils it now endures; unless the himself acquainted with his duty consent and opinion of the work. to God and man.

ing classes can be brought back The blessed effects of a general to a recognition of this truth, it is system of education, I hold equal. in vain to look for relief from any ly high with Mr. Whitbread, and remedy that can be proposed. consider it as the foundation on which is to be built any system for

ENGLISH PARLIAMENTARY COURbettering the condition of the people of England. Whatever can lead men to curb their passions

May 7th, 1816. and teach them to oppose the fu- Mr. Tierney in reply to Lord ture to the present, must be at. Castlereagh, observed, that if ever tended with the most important he saw real fear disguised under a results to their happiness.

lofty tone-if ever he saw a perDisposed as I am to look to son attempt to look tall by walkeducation as a most powerful aux- ing upon stilts (a laugh if ever iliary, so great is the evil with he saw a minister betray a conwhich we have to contend, that it sciousness that he was toitering to would not, in my humble opinion, his fall, it was on that night, and be safe to confide in any plan that in the person of the noble lord. did not offer not only an equal, (Hear, hear.) The noble lord was but extended scale of support for mistaken when he attributed to 'the afficted. I am neither called him and his friends the impres. on nor disposed to enter into the sion prevailing in the public mind discussion of any abstract prin- against him: they on his side did ciples. It matters not whether not deal in sinecures, and such an every human being be entitled to attempt would be a sinecure. (.4 a support from the produce of the laugh.) The house was told that, earth; or that the most imperious by voting for the motion, they duty on man after the payment of would withdraw their confidence debts is, the exercise of charity from ministers. For his own part, I am disposed to allow every lati- he had no confidence to withdraw, tude that can be required to the for he had never given any; but claims of misery, and io agree that he differed as to this point; he did the exercise of benevolence is the not think that the effect of the highest source of human enjoy. vote would be to remove the ment.

noble lord and his colleagues from Nor is the axiom less true that his office. He wished to know

« PreviousContinue »