was, at least in the 19th century, held to apply only to the “destitute,” that is, to those who required “necessary relief”—according to the actual wording of the statute. The economic fallacy of home industries founded on rate-supplied capital early declared itself, and the method could only have continued as long as it did because it formed part of a general system of industrial control. When in the 18th century workhouses were established, the same industrial fallacy, as records show, repeated itself under new conditions. Within the parish it resulted in the farmer paying the labourer as small a wage as possible, and leaving the parish to provide whatever he might require in addition during his working life and in his old age. Thus, indeed, a gigantic experiment in civic employment was made for at least two centuries on a vast scale throughout the country—and failed. As was natural, the lack of economic independence reacted on the morals of the people. With pauperism came want of energy, idleness and a disregard for chastity and the obligations of marriage. The law, it is true, recognized the mutual obligations of parents and grandparents, children and grandchildren; but in the general poverty which it was itself a means of perpetuating such obligations became practically obsolete, while at all times they are difficult to enforce. Still, the fact that they were recognized implies a great advance in charitable thought. The act, passed at first from year to year, was very slowly put in force. Even before it was passed the poor-rate first assessed under the act of 1563 was felt to be “a greater tax than some subsidies,” and in the time of Charles II. it amounted to a third of the revenue of England and Wales (Rogers, v. 81).
The service of villein and cottar was, as we have now seen, in part superseded by what we have called a statutory wage-control, founded on a basis of wage supplemented by relief, provided by a rate-supported poor-law. But it follows that with the decay of this system the poor-law itself should have disappeared, or should have taken some new and very limited form. Unfortunately, as in Roman times, state relief proved to be a popular and vigorous parasite that outlived the tree on which it was rooted: assessments of wage under the Statute of Labourers fell into disuse after the Restoration, it is said, and the statute was finally repealed in 1814, and sixty years later the act against illegal combinations of working men; but the serfdom of the poor-law, the eleemosyna civica, remained, to work the gravest evil to the labouring classes, and even after the reform of 1834 greatly impeded the recovery of their independence. Nevertheless, by a new law of state alms for the aged, or by statutory outdoor relief with, as some would wish, a regulated wage, it is now proposed to bring them once again under a thraldom similar to that from which they have so slowly emancipated themselves.
The policy adopted by Queen Elizabeth for the relief of the poor (1601) included a scheme for the reorganization of voluntary charity as well as plans for the extension of rate-aided relief. During the century, as we have seen, endeavours had been made to createThe endowed charities. a system of voluntary charity. This it was proposed to safeguard and promote concurrently with the extension of the poor-rate. Accordingly, in the poor-law it was arranged that the overseers, the new civic authority, and the churchwardens, the old parochial and charitable authority, should act in conjunction, and, subject to magisterial approval, together “raise weekly or otherwise” the necessary means “by taxation of every inhabitant.” The old charitable organization was based on endowment, and the churchwarden was responsible for the administration of many such endowments. What was not available from these and other sources was to be raised “by taxation.” The object of the new act was to encourage charitable gifts.
Towards the end of the 18th century, when the administration of poor relief fell into confusion, many charities were lost, or were in danger of being lost, and many were mismanaged. In 1786 and 1788 a committee of the House of Commons reported on the subject. In 1818, chiefly through the instrumentality of Lord Brougham, a commission of inquiry on educational charities was appointed, and in 1819 another commission to investigate (with some exceptions) all the charities for the poor in England and Wales. These and subsequent commissions continued their inquiries till 1835, when a select committee of the House of Commons made a strong report, advocating the establishment of a permanent and independent board, to inquire, to compel the production of accounts, to secure the safe custody of charity property, to adapt it to new uses on cy-près lines, &c. A commission followed in 1849, and eventually in 1853 the first Charitable Trusts Act was passed, under which “The Charity Commissioners of England and Wales” were appointed.
The following are details of importance:—(1) Definition.—The definition of the act of 1601 (Charitable Uses, 43 Eliz. 4) still holds good. It enumerates as charitable objects all that was once called “alms”: (a) “The relief of aged, impotent and poor people”—the normal poor; “the maintenance of sick and maimed soldiers and mariners”—the poor chiefly by reason of war, sometime a class of privileged mendicants; (b) education, “schools of learning, free schools and scholars in universities”; and then (c) a group of objects which include general civic and religious purposes, and the charities of gilds and corporations; “the repair of bridges, ports, havens, causeways, churches, sea-banks and highways; the education and preferment of orphans; the relief, stock, or maintenance for houses of correction; marriages of poor maids, supportation, aid, and help of young tradesmen, handicraftsmen, and persons decayed”; and there follows (d) “the relief or redemption of prisoners or captives”; and, lastly, (e) “the aid and ease of any poor inhabitants concerning payment of fifteens” (the property-tax of Tudor times), setting out of soldiers, and other taxes. The definition might be illustrated by the charitable bequests of the next 60, or indeed 225, years. It is a fair summary of them. (2) Charitable Gifts.—A public trust and a charitable trust are, as this definition shows, synonymous. It is a trust which relates to public charities, and is not held for the benefit of private persons, e.g. relations, but for the common good, and, subject to the instructions of the founder, by trustees responsible to the community. Gifts for charitable purposes, other than those affected by the law of mortmain, have always been viewed with favour. “Where a charitable bequest is capable of two constructions, one of which would make it void and the other would make it effectual, the latter will be adopted by the court” (Tudor’s Charitable Trusts, ed. 1906, by Bristowe, Hunt and Burdett, p. 167). Gifts to the poor, or widows, or orphans, indefinitely, or in a particular parish, were valid under the act, or for any purpose or institution for the aid of the “poor.” Thus practically the act covered the same field as the poor-law, though afterwards it was decided that, “as a rule, persons receiving parochial relief were not entitled to the benefit of a charity intended for the poor” (Tudor, p. 167). (3) Religious Differences.—In the administration of charities which are for the poor the broadest view is taken of religious differences. (4) Superstitious Uses.—The superstitious use is one that has for its object the propagation of the rights of a religion not tolerated by the law (Tudor, p. 4). Consequently, so far as charities were held or left subject to such rights, they were illegal, or became legal only as toleration was extended. Thus by degrees, since the Toleration Act of 1688, all charities to dissenters have become legal—that is, trusts for schools, places for religious instruction, education and charitable purposes generally. But bequests for masses for the soul of the donor, or for monastic orders, are still void. (5) Administration.—The duty of administering charitable trusts falls upon trustees or corporations, and under the term “eleemosynary corporations” are included endowed hospitals and colleges. Under schemes of the Charity Commissioners, where charities have been remodelled, besides trustees elected by corporations, there are now usually appointed ex-officio trustees who represent some office or institution of importance in connexion with the charity. (6) Jurisdiction by Chancery and Charity Commission.—The Court of Chancery has jurisdiction over charities, under the old principle that “charities are trusts of a public nature, in regard to which no one is entitled by an immediate and peculiar interest to prefer a complaint for compelling the performance by the trustees of their obligations.” The court, accordingly, represents the crown as parens patriae. Now, by the Charitable Trusts Act 1853, and subsequent acts, a charity commission has been formed which is entrusted with large powers, formerly enforced only by the Court of Chancery. (7) Jurisdiction by Visitor.—A further jurisdiction is by the “visitor,” a right inherent in the founder of any eleemosynary corporation, and his heirs, or those whom he appoints, or in their default, the king. The object of the visitor is “to prevent all perverting of the charity, or to compose differences among members of the corporation.” Formerly the bishop’s ordinary was the recognized visitor (2 Henry V. I, 1414) of hospitals, apart from the founder. Subsequently his power was limited (14 Eliz. c. 5, 1572) to hospitals for which the founders had appointed no visitors. Then (1601) by the Charitable Uses Act commissions were issued for inquiry by county juries. Now, apart from the duty of visitors, inquiry is conducted by the charity commissioners and the assistant commissioners. By subsequent acts (see below) ecclesiastical and eleemosynary charities have been still further separated and defined. (8) Advice.—“Trustees, or other persons concerned in the management