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much excitement prevailed relative to the poor laws; hut he would state explicitly, that whatever might have heun his opinions of the Poor-law Amendment Act hefore it became the law of the land, he had now no desire to see it repealed; on the contrary, if its repeal were proposed, he should oppose it. But great amendments were necessary, in order to make it satisfactory to the people; for unless it were satisfactory it could not be effectual. In his opinion the erection of those vast buildings throughout the country would prove not only a most extravagant but a most useless expenditure of the public money. To say nothing of the cruelty to which their unfortunate inmates were subjected in the separation of parents from children, brother from sister, and husband from wife, if even they came to be used to the extent of their capacity, those workhouses would be found to be in every respect the pests of the country. He did not see why the poor of England should not have a protector as well as the unfortunate negroes, whose case had excited so much sympathy in this country. It appeared from a paragraph which he had read in a newspaper this morning, that in consequence of ordering roast beef and plum pudding on the day of the coronation to the poor of a certain workhouse, contrary to the instructions of the Poorlaw commissioners, the master had been condemned to one month's imprisonment. The certain effect of the uncontrolled dictatorial powers with which the commissioners were invested would be to infringe upon the rights and liberties of every individual in the community, within and out of that House. He had felt considerable alarm two or three months ago on reading the following statement which appeared at the time in the public papers:—
"An order has just been issued by the Poorlaw commissioners which it is understood will be forwarded to all the unions in England,
directing the guardians to appoint within a specified time persons to perforin the duties enumerated in the first schedule below, such persons to be paid by an annual salary, and to find two sureties for the due performance of their duties. The duties to be performed by one person are to be specified by the Poor-law commissioners according to circumstances, and every person appointed to perform the duties stated in the first schedule shall uudertake in case he be nominated and elected by the Inhabitants in vestry of any parish or place within his district, and appointed thereto by any two justices of the peace to perform with
out any additional remuneration any of the duties enumerated in the second schedule, or any other duties imposed by law upon overseers of the poor, and not enumerated in the first schedule; and every person appointed under the order shall have power to execute the duties assigned to him in like manner, and to all intents and purposes as an ordinary overseer of the poor; and any board of guardians may at any time suspend the performance of the duties of any assistant-overseer appointed in pursuance of the order, until such suspension be confirmed or taken off by the Poor-law commissioners; and if the suspension be confirmed by the Poor-law commissioners, but not otherwise, the remuneration of such assistantoverseer and his continuance in office shall, if the commissioners so direct, cease from the day of such suspension. No person shall be chosen to perform any of the duties unless lie will undertake to devote the whole of his time to the employment, not following any trade, profession, or any other occupation whatever, except he be already a paid officer of the union, and except he be elected to perform the duties stated in the second schedule.''
Perhaps he was not entitled to call that an order of the commissioners, or even a proposed order; but he was entitled to say, that he himself had seen it in the minute-books in Somerset-liouie' He had no doubt every one would agree with him in thinking it a most objectionable paper; indeed, he hardly thought the noble Lord himself would be found to approve of it. In the first instance, it attempted to take away from the parochial authorities every description of management of their own affairs; even the parish books were to be placed in the hands of a hired servant of the Commissioners, liable to be dismissed at a moment's notice. Then, in the most underhand manner, it interfered with that particular clause of the Reform Bill, which provided for the making out of the lists of voters for Members to serve in Parliament. He would ask, whether the centralization principle was not clearly manifested in every part of the last debate on the question of the Poor-law for Ireland; and whether that ought not to convince the people that, if they were not on their guard, they would speedily have but little left worth the caring for. What was the noble Lord's intention with respect to the police? He had heard, that it was intended to place the new police of the city of London under the authority of the noble Secretary for the Home Department. The establishment of a rural police, likewise, at the beck of the noble Lord, would, he supposed, soon follow, and then the enthralraent of the country would be complete. He should now proceed more immediately to the consideration of the question berore the House. Early in March he had first given notice of the motion which he was about to move, and he had then no reason to think, that the papers he sought would have been refused. When he made the motion, however, the noble Lord objected to the production of the letter, stating, that it was not a final order determined upon by the Poor-law commissioners, but had only, as he thought the noble Lord said, been laid by them before some one or two persons in order to have the advice of those persons upon it; and then the noble Lord went on to suppose a case, and said, that if he, as Secretary of State, had thought proper to write a letter to his under-secretary, and desire him to make any suggestions upon it which might occur to him, the House of Commons would not think of calling for the production of a paper written under such circumstances. Be that as it might, this was his answer, and the noble Lord had thus the full advantage of his supposed case. Shortly after this, a public paper, friendly to the Government, said, that he had greatly mistaken the fact, in saying, lhat this letter had been sent through the country generally, for that the truth was, it had only been sent to Poole and (he thought) two other places. He wrote to Poole and received, through the medium of a noble Member of lhat House, the following answer from Mr. Parr, the clerk of the Poole union :—
"My Lord,—I much regret, that I have unavoidably been prevented answering your Lordship's favour with Mr. Palmer's enclosed before this. The order, with schedules Nos. 1 and 2, for appointing an assistant-overseer, was received from the Poor-law Commissioners on the 13th of January last. The Commissioners sent it to the guardians, and stated it to be an order, they would be prepared to sanction, if the guardians approved of it, and that I, as the clerk, should be instructed to fill it up, and return it to the Commissioners. The guardians were unanimous in their opinion, that the powers given to the assistant-overseer by such order ought not to have been given to any one individual, and the Commissioners were informed, that the guardians disapproved of such order. Subsequently—namely, on the 8th of February, another order was issued to appoint a collector of poor-rates, &c. "Poole,April 24, 1838. "Robert H. Pare. "To the right hon.Lord Ashley, M.P,"
Of the effect of the circular of the 8th of February he could only judge from a document which he had seen, and which he found had been sent to the Chorltonon-Medlock Union; and on speaking on this subject, he did feel, that the House ought to understand what kind of control they had over the Poor-law commissioners. But from the act of Parliament, if he understood it correctly, it appeared, that every order from the board of Poor-law commissioners ought to be understood as a general order, and was to be laid upon the Table of that House, in order, that such steps might be taken as should be thought necessary if it was disapproved. But he was told, at the office of the board at Somerset-house, that as long as the board only issued one or two at a time, they were not to be considered to be general orders; but not to dwell upon this part of the subject, he must express his hope, that the noble Lord would not on that occasion take shelter in pretexts of political expediency or diplomatic secrecy, and refuse the production of the letter for which he was about to move. The hon. Member concluded by moving "for the production of a copy of a letter dated the 8th of January, 1838, addressed by the Poor-law commissioners to the assistant commissioners, with which certain proposed orders for the appointment of assistant overseers were sent."
Lord Russell could not object to the motion of the hon. Member on grounds of state necessity, nor that the letter, if produced, would cause any great revelation of state secrets, but he objected to the production of this letter for the same reasons as he had stated when the matter was first mentioned to him. More than one of the Poor-law commissioners had stated to him that they had directed some one in the office of the board to draw up a letter to be sent to the guardians of some of the Poor-law unions, and that such a letter was sent to two or three of the assistant-commissioners, who were requested to say whether the steps proposed in it would be useful or not. But the commissioners had themselves seen, upon considering the letter as drawn up, that there were two or three points in it which it would not be desirable should be carried into effect. But on the 12th of May they did agree to a letter amended from the former, to be sent as before. Now, his objection to producing documents of this
Friend to do something for these poor men. Suppose he only added a sum of only half the amount now proposed, which he thought would not be enough to induce any others to come over for shares. It should be recollected, that in the French Chambers ministers had formerly stated their intention to send no more of those unhappy men to our shores. He hoped, therefore, that nothing would induce his right hon. Friend to withhold the small relief he had asked for from any apprehension of fresh arrivals—a thing which he could render ineffectual by stipulating that no Pole should receive relief out of the original grant who had not resided above a year in this country. He was in nowise personally interested in the Polish cause; he was merely moved by the fate of two hundred unhappy men, who had been driven from their own country, deprived of all the comforts of life, and cast helpless and destitute on our shores without any help save the casual charity of the day. They had made every effort to obtain food by their labour; on railroads and public works, Colonels and others of high rank might be found working as common labourers, but being strangers, speaking a strange language, and having few facilities of obtaining employment, the great majority were left to wander starving about the streets. In the police reports accounts would be found of Poles taken in the act of sleeping under our porticos and at our hall doors and such other places of shelter as chance threw in their way. The state of our finances might be urged as a reason for withholding present relief, but he did not think the right lion, Gentleman would give the national distress as a reason for refusing a grant of 5,000/. for so benevolent a purpose. Although our finances were not in the most flourishing state, prants were made for the support of the British Museum, and for other purposes connected with art and science; and while we were indulging in these luxuries, wholesome and beneficial luxuries he j need they look to the past as affording would admit, he did not think we should , motives for making this grant. The future refrain from the higher luxury of assisting ; was pregnant with prospects which made those unfortunate men in their present it expedient that we should have Poland state of destitution. There was only one and the Poles on our side. From Gibraltar point more to which he would allude, to the Persian Gulf events were approachAttempts had been made to prejudice the ing which made the alliance of a brave public mind against the Poles, by the people a thing not to be despised. If we fact of twenty or thirty misguided men now refused this paltry sum of 5,000/., *e having published placards and interfered should lose all the gratitude we hoi
at a late election. He did not mean to vindicate the conduct of those individuals, which all must concur in thinking highly improper; but surely that was no reason why 200 men, totally unconnected with that conduct, should be left to perish. He trusted, that however great and just might have been the irritation caused by this foolish conduct, that time sufficient had elapsed since its occurrence to erase it completely from the public mind. Under all these circumstances he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would consent to the enlargement of the grant.
Mr. O'Connell said, that if the noble Lord had proposed a distinct vote, he (Mr. O'Connell) should have been exceedingly anxious to second him, but as that could not be done consistently with the usages of the House, he must only content himself with pressing on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accede o the enlargement of the vote. The right hon. Gentleman, of course, ought to be as chary of the public money as of that of individuals; but he could tell the right hon. Gentleman, that there was no portion of that public which would not hear of the increased grant with gladness. They were assembled there to represent every grade and variety of public opinion, but be believed there was no man on either side unrestrained by official duty who would be afraid to answer to his constituents for voting in favour of this grant. The only objection that could be urged to the proposed increase was, that it would be creating an inconvenient precedent by encouraging exiles for political opinions. Why the last century afforded several preceof that kind, and was Poland —the land to which the poet alluded in the bautiful lines—
"Sarmatia fell unwept without a crime."
and which lines, although poetical, were strictly true—Poland that fell a victim to the crimes and perfidy of others—was she to be excluded from relief? Neither
acquired by former grants. He did not wish to enter further into the matter, or to trench on disputable points. The present was not a disputable point—it was one that called for the exercise of one of our highest virtues—that of charity; and, if the grant did form a precedent, it was one of wisdom and generosity, and one that would be hailed with acclaim in every corner of the British empire.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, thatthere never was a more painful duty imposed on an individual Member, than that of bringing back the House from the impulses of generosity and compassion to the considerations of right and of justice. He had, however, one cause for rejoicing, and that was, that he was not now called on to defend the withholding of the grant altogether. The question, he was happy to say, was not one of principle but of degree; and he was also rejoiced to say, that he now, for the fifth time, had had the honour of proposing the grant. Now, the point to which he wished to call the attention of the House, and which had been alluded to by his noble Friend, was, that when the grant was first solicited from Government the gentlemen who consulted Earl Spencer on the subject undertook that the extent of relief required should be for the Poles at that period actually in the country. They not only consented to this stipulation, but stated their determination themselves to resist any attempt at infraction. He did not wish to press this point more than it deserved; but be bad a right to make the House acquainted with facts—facts which an hon. Gentleman present could attest. This was in 1834. Afterwards, in consequence of the events at Cracow, new calamities overtook the Poles, and a new class became exiles from their native land, and although these formed no part in the stipulation, the Government overlooked the fact and relieved them. The vote had not been decreased from its original amount, notwithstanding that the natural course of things must have greatly diminished the number of claimants; but the balance had been applied to the relief of the Cracow exiles. Among those who wished to leave the country, and who came recommended by the association, were given the entire sura allowed for one year's subsistence to assist them in emigration. From emigration and other causes the original number had greatly decreased. It was at first 485,
but, in 1835, 116 emigrated. This, of course, caused a great reduction, and the whole balance was applied to the assistance of the rest. He did not wish to take any merit to himself in this transaction, he was merely the distributor of the national benevolence; but he defied any man to say, that he had not carried into effect the declaration of Parliament; or that, if he had committed any fault, it was on the side of generosity. What was it they were now called upon to do? Were they prepared to commence an inter, minable system of grants? No matter what brought political exiles here. Were they to pledge the country to provide for their wants? It was but justice, however, to say, that the unfortunate men deserved our warmest sympathy. No men could have acted with more prudence, more honesty, or more resignation than they had since their arrival in this country. Indeed, their valour in the field was only exceeded by their resignation under misfortunes. Therefore, it was not any want of sympathy that induced him to oppose the increase; but, because he knew, that if in 1838 they went beyond the principle originally proposed, they would not know where to stop. He would remind the House, too, of what had been the course with men who had much stronger claims on us than the Poles—he meant the Spanish exiles, the companions in arms of the Duke of Wellington, and who had fought side by side with our own soldiers. The grant for their relief, which in 1833 was 12,000/., in 1837 was only 3,000/.; in this case, although the same cause had been in operation, he did not call for any reduction, but merely opposed increasing it to 15,000/. There had been one observation made in passing, to which he would only give a passing reply. Allusion was made to the political objects to be served in assisting the Poles. He could only say, that he disclaimed any such feeling, and that whether the grant was 10,000/. or a greater amount, he wished it to be understood as given from motives of generosity, and without a view to any political consequences whatever. In conclusion, he must say that, having consulted his colleagues on the subject, it was his painful duty to rest contented with the grant as it now stood.
Sir Stratford Canning observed, that as the French Government had given positive assurances that there should be no further attempt* to send the Poles out of that country, he thought the present was an occasion on which the national benevolence might be safely exercised. He
generous public. He trusted, that the Gnances of the country were not so low as to render a refusal of the increase to this grant necessary. He hoped the Cban
must express his concurrence in the sen- | cellor of the Exchequer would see the
timents of his noble Friend, and his satisfaction at hearing the tribute to the good conduct of the Poles, which the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had so well expressed.
Mr. Briscoe mourned for the decision to which the right hon. Gentleman had come, because he thought the reputation of the country was involved in it. He had listened with the utmost attention to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and he heard nothing in it to justify our withholding relief from those who were peri hing in our streets. This was no party or political question, but one of need and destitution—a destitution of the extent of which the House was most probably not aware. He had taken some pains to ascertain the facts, and he found the actual number excluded from participation in the grant to be 189. Of these seventeen were field officers—126 officers, and thirty-six soldiers, and ten the wives and children of soldiers. This was the exact number of persons who were depending on the casual bounty of the public, and of these some had been many days without food. The increase asked was a mere trifle. The apprehension of an increase of the grant being likely to induce more Poles to come to this country was groundless, more especially after the declaration of the French Minister, when he staled, that it was not the intention of the present government to send more Poles into England. This country, therefore, might, without danger, give free scope to its generosity. It was, in his opinion, a mistaken economy to refuse so small an addition to the grant. He would rather see the 5,00(W. deducted from the expense of the coronation than refused on such an occasion as the present. We ought not to suffer those brave and much-enduring men, who fled from tyranny to our shores, to find there not an asylum, but a grave.
Mr. Dennison thought, that when the cause in which these men suffered, was considered—when the depth of their misery and the resignation with which they endured it was borne in mind—there could be no stronger grounds for a liberal grant of money than those which their claims possessed upon the sympathies of a
propriety of acceding to the proposition.
Sir Francis Burdetl would not do justice to his own feelings, if he did not cordially support the increase of this grant. He felt, that he could add nothing in favour of the proposition to the excellent observations made by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, of whom it would always give him greater pleasure to speak in terms of praise than censure, la the injury that had been done to the highminded and generous Poles, a blow had been stricken at all civilised Europe. They should not forget the hint which had been thrown out by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, namely, that it was an ennobling and a stirring sight—a sight calculated to excite a worthy emulation in every generous mind—to see these brave men still clinging to the cause of their prostrate country, even in her utmost desolation. A time might arrive when it might be necessary for us to adopt a course in which the co-operation of these brave men might be desirable. With respect to the increase to the grant, be was sure that the House would be unanimous in consenting to it.
Sir R. Inglis said, that when he considered the state of the Poles—some of them refugees in England, some exiles in Siberia, and some of them strangers in their own home—he was happy to think.that England was no party to that revolt which reduced them to that condition, and was in no degree chargeable with any share in the injustice which blotted Poland as a country out of the map of Europe. England ought to be the asylum of the oppressed of every nation, and she would be found so. When the smallnessof the sum was taken into consideration, and when lie saw that all those who differed so widely upon other subjects were almost unanimous upon this, he did not think the additional grant would be refused. It was called for, not only by humanity, but by justice, being only a tardy discharge of the debt due by us for the assistance which Poland formerly rendered to England in 1650. Even though the grant should form a precedent, he did not think there would be any objection to its future adoption. The Chancellor of tho Exchequer ad