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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/455

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sire for public welfare no less great than that which in 1533 prescribed the number of sheep a tenant might keep, or that of 1597, which commanded that decayed houses of husbandry should be rebuilt. Nobody will dispute that the various measures of late years taken for restricting the sale of intoxicating liquors, have been taken as much with a view to public morals as were the measures taken of old for checking the evils of luxury, as, for instance, in the fourteenth century, when diet as well as dress was restricted. Every one must see that the edicts issued by Henry VIII, to prevent the lower classes from playing dice, cards, bowls, etc., were not more prompted by desire for popular welfare than were the acts passed of late to check gambling.

Further, it is no part of my present purpose to question the wisdom of these modern interferences, which Conservatives and Liberals vie with one another in multiplying, any more than the wisdom of those ancient ones which they in many cases resemble. We will not here consider whether the plans of late adopted for preserving the lives of sailors are or are not more judicious than that sweeping Scotch measure which, in the middle of the fifteenth century, prohibited vessels from sailing during the winter. For the present, it shall remain an open question whether there is a better warrant for giving the police powers to search certain provision-dealers' premises for unfit food than there was for the law of Edward III, under which innkeepers at sea-ports were sworn to search their guests to prevent the exportation of money or plate. We will assume that there is no less wisdom in that clause of the Canal-boat Act, which forbids an owner to gratuitously board the children of the boatmen, than there was in the Spitalfields Acts, which up to 1824, for the benefit of the aritsans, forbade the manufacturers to fix their factories more than ten miles from the Royal Exchange.

We exclude, then, these questions of philanthropic motive and wise judgment, taking both of them for granted, and have here to concern ourselves solely with the compulsory nature of the measures which, for good or evil, as the case may be, have been put in force during periods of Liberal ascendency.

To bring the illustrations within compass, let us commence with 1860, under the second administration of Lord Palmerston. In that year, the restrictions of the Factory Act were extended to bleaching and dyeing works; authority was given to provide analysts to be paid out of local rates; there was an act providing for inspection of gas-works, as well as for fixing quality and limits of price; there was the act which, in addition to further mine-inspection, made it penal to employ boys under twelve unable to read and write; and there were further provisions for cheap locomotion on railways. In 1861 occurred an extension of the compulsory provisions of the Factory Act to lace-works; power was given to poor-law guardians, etc., to enforce vaccination; local boards were authorized to make improvements in