Page:Appeal to the wealthy of the land.djvu/26

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tween the conflicting opinions. I premise the exact words of the first objection.

"After the principle of a legal assessment has begun to be acted upon, there is no one expedient within the reach of human skill, by which the progress and increase of pauperism can be arrested."—E. R.[1] vol. xxix. 279.

This is a strong, unqualified assertion; let us see how it is borne out by facts. The earliest accounts of the amount of the English poor rates that we have, date in 1673, when they amounted to £840,000;[2] whereas in 1750, after a lapse of 77 years, they were reduced to about £700,000,[3] being a reduction of 16 per cent., notwithstanding the intervention of the sanguinary and expensive wars of William III., Queen Anne, George I., and part of those of George II., and the great increase of population.

On these simple facts the question might be confidently rested, so far as regards the first and most important allegation, the regular and progressive increase of pauperism, and consequently of poor rates. But we must not rely wholly on these facts; others of equal force remain, drawn, mirabile dictu! from the same Edinburgh Review.

"From the period [1601] when the act of the 43d of Elizabeth, the foundation of the existing code of poor laws, was promulgated, to the commencement of the late war, there had been scarcely any increase of pauperism: and few or none of those pernicious consequences had actually resulted from their operation, which we are naturally led, looking only to the principles they involve, to suppose they must produce."—E. R. vol. xlvii. p. 304.

Thus, after assuring us that "there is no expedient within the reach of human skill to prevent the progress and increase of pauperism," in the case of "a legal establishment for the support of the poor," we are gravely informed that "scarcely any increase" took place for 190 years under that system!! May we not say "ex ore tuo" to the oracle which pronounced the former dictum? And does not this strong contrast warn us against surrendering our judgment to those self-installed judges of literature, politics, and government? Again:

"According to the official accounts, it appears that the total sum raised by assessment under the name of poor rates, in England and Wales, during the three years ending with 1750, amounted at an average to £730,135 a year, of which £689,971 were expended on the poor, being a mere trifle more than the sum expended on them at the revolution, and about £300,000 less than the sum supposed to have been expended at the commencement of the century!"—Idem, p. 307.

"During the period between the termination of the American war and the commencement of the late French war, the rates were again considerably reduced."—E.R. vol. lii. p. 351.

Let us go on, and "make assurance doubly sure."

"It may safely be concluded, that the rates were considerably lower in 1793 than in 1785. How much this reduction might amount to, it is impossible accurately to conjecture, but at the commencement of the late war, they could hardly, one should think, exceed £1,400,000 or £1,500,000 a year."—E. R.. vol. xlvii. p. 318.

"The poor rates gradually diminished during the three years ending March 25, 1821; and that year were nearly one eighth, or one million less, than in the year 1818."—Q. R. vol. xxviii. p. 357.

"Sums expended for relief of the poor; 1817, 1818, £7,890,148: 1820, 1821, £6,958,445. Total population in England and Wales:—1811, 10,502,500: 1821, 12,218,500."—Ibid, note.

The Edinburgh Review, among other evils, ascribed to the operation of the poor laws, has asserted that their tendency is to increase a pauper population. Let us hear it again on the other side of the question.

"It is established by evidence which it seems to be impossible to controvert, how much soever
  1. E. R. refers to the Edinburgh Review, and Q. R. to the London Quarterly Review.
  2. Eden on the Poor Laws, vol, i. p. 189.
  3. Idem, p. 249.