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Relief of the Poor in Scotland
From Tait's Edinburgh Magazine


A novel and important document has been presented to Parliament this session, entitled the "First Annual Report of the Board of Supervision for Relief of the Poor in Scotland.” One of the most notable features of the Scottish Poor-law Act, passed in 1845, was the erection of a central Board or Commission, somewhat akin to the Board of Poor-law Commissioners in England, and charged with the supervision of the parochial officials. Previous to the passing of the new Act, the parishes were left to do very much as they pleased: the consequence was, great inequality in the mode and amount of relief throughout Scotland, and in the majority of parishes an inconceivable degree of hardship and injustice to the poor. The old poor-law, in so far as it appeared on the statute book, was not to blame for these evils. The rights of the poor, and the duties of the parochial boards, were singularly well defined by the various acts and proclamations which the Legislature and Privy Council of Scotland, from the days of James VI. to those of William and Mary, had with exemplary perseverance enrolled among the laws of the realm. Even the usual checks and counterchecks, with which it is customary in this country to regulate the exercise of authority and secure the impartial discharge of official duty, were not neglected. A power of appeal was given from the parochial boards to the sheriffs of counties; and from these again to the lords of session. Magistrates, justices of the peace, sheriffs and judges, were all by turns invoked to protect the interests of the poor, and to visit the negligence of parishes with severe pecuniary penalties. In short, the sustenance of the poor was constituted a right—a legal and civil right—surrounded with the same sanctions as the right of property, and capable of being enforced by the same means as a creditor would recover a just debt, or as an heir of tailzie would make good his claim to an estate. But in vain were all these benevolent precautions. The “still small voice” of charity which issued at intervals from the hall of Parliament, or the recesses of the Secret Council, was utterly lost amid the theological contentions and civil convulsions of the times. The first enactments relating to the poor, were passed in the crises of the Reformation: the last received the touch of the Royal sceptre when the nation had newly and but temporarily emerged from the fiery struggle by which an ancient line of kings was finally expolled from the throne. The claims of the poor and indigent had but small chance of being respected in an age when ecclesiastics strove for supremacy, and kings themselves were forced to contend for their crowns. Even when civil turmoil had subsided, and peace, order, and government were fully established, new pretexts were not long in being discovered for evading the administration of laws which proposed to relieve the wants of the poor out of the superfluities of the wealthy. It was found that such a mode of relieving destitution was very ill adapted to the peculiar genius of the Scottish people; and another system, or rather like no-system which had prevailed from the beginning of the Reformation, was applauded as exceedingly congenial with the pride, modesty, and independence of the national character. Science and philosophy came to the aid of avarice and greed; and elaborate arguments, founded upon ingenious but speculative theories of population, were added to the more vulgar reasons dictated by sheer selfishness, in support of the dogma that no provision should be made for the poor.

The indigent population in Scotland were thus flattered, argued, and mystified out of their legal claims. The acts and proclamations intended for their protection were forgotten; while that benevolence which beats spontaneously in the bosom of society, was lulled into dormancy or exhausted in other exercises than the humble one of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. The precarious collections at the church-doors, distributed often with a partial, and always with a stinted hand, formed the only patrimony of the poor. The result was obvious. In seasons of prosperity, the poor shared, to some extent, the abundance of the country; but in periods of gloom and distress, their numbers and their destitution increased to an alarming degree, pouring over the land a flood of vagrancy, pestilence, and immorality, the sad traces of which remained long after the calamity, which was their primary cause, had disappeared.

But the tide ultimately began to turn. Benevolence, reason, and an enlightened self-interest, gradually assumed their proper sway. The general desire for practical reforms, which began to be manifested after the passing of the Reform Bill, directed attention at once to the condition of the poor. Their extreme destitution was found to be, in Scotland at least, the great origo mali—the one radical source of filth, ignorance, vagabondism, and disease. The best schemes of sanitary and moral reform were seen to be utterly worthless, so long as the numerous class, whom the misfortunes and vicissitudes of time had reduced to a state of dependent poverty, were either doomed to starve upon three farthings a day, or abandoned to a life of wild and unsettled vagrancy. In 1841 well-known case from the parish of Ceres was brought before the Court of Session; and a decision was given by that supreme judicatory which exercised a powerful influence on the position of the poor-law question in Scotland. Hitherto attention had been exclusively directed to the necessity of a new Act of Parliament; but the decision in the Ceres case shed a sudden light over the laws for relief of the poor which had already found their way into the Statute-book. It established by a majority of the judges, that the proceedings of the parochial boards were subject to tho review of the Court of Session; that this power of review on the part of the Supreme Court extended to the question of amount of aliment, as well as to the more strictly legal question of right to relief; and lastly, that the Court was disposed to give a much more liberal interpretation to the words “needful sustentatioa,” occurring in the ancient statutes, than had hitherto formed the practice of the parochial boards. The widow of Ceres obtained redress; and soon after the allowance of two old women, sisters, residing in the parish of Balmacleilan, was raised from 2s. 3d. to seven shillings a-week, by a similar process. Such successful pleading was sure to find numerous imitators. Cases of inadequate relief were poured into Court from all parts of the country; and, in almost every instance, the result was adverse to the parish and in favour of the pauper. The heritors and kirk-sessions, alarmed at the dreary prospect of assessment which these decisions opened up to them, and the equally galling burden of legal expenses with which they were threatened, did they not give implicit obedience to the new interpretation of the law, suddenly changed their tactics, and became as eager for the introduction of a new poor-law into Scotland as they had formerly been opposed to it. The disruption of the Church in 1843, by greatly diminishing, and in some parishes altogether sweeping away, the weekly contributions at the Church doors, by which the poor under the old system were mainly supported, brought matters rapidly to a head; and the Government, taking advantage of these changes in the opinion and position of parties, the Act of 1845 was introduced into Parliament, and passed rapidly through its various stages without encountering any formidable opposition.

A wide diversity of opinion prevails respecting the nature and intention of this new law. That large portion of the public, who, not feeling deeply interested in the question, take but little pains to acquaint themselves with its practical bearings, are, for the most part, content to regard it exactly as its preamble describes it—“An Act for the better administration of the laws relating to the relief of the poor in Scotland.” While, on the other hand, those who pay a closer attention to the working of the measure, and take a deeper interest in the condition and complaints of the poor, are inclined to condemn it as a cunning contrivance for stopping the cases of appeal in the Court of Session, and destroying the chance of justice which, by the Ceres case, had been unexpectedly opened up to the poor through the channel of that supreme judicatory. These conflicting opinions will be most effectually tested by the practical results of the measure, and therefore we proceed to lay before the reader, as concisely as possible, the leading facts contained in the Report of the Board of Supervision.

The first and main point in the Report to which we would call attention, is the increase in the expenditure on the poor in Scotland. From the returns made to the Board of Supervision, it appears that the sum raised from all sources for the relief and management of the poor, in the year ending 1st February, 1848—during the latter half of which the Board of Supervision and the machinery of the new law were in operation-—was £308,044. In the previous year the sum raised for the same purposes was £258,814 19s. ll½d, being £36,417 8s. 1½d. less than the sum expended in the year ending 1st February 1848. Nor is this increase confined to the year 1848 alone; for if we take the four years preceding 1845, we find that there was an average annual increase in the expenditure on the poor of no less than £21,890 15s. And going back farther still, It appears that during the six years from. 1838 to 1841 inclusive, there was a progressive increase, amounting in all to £47,439. Were we to go still farther back, we believe the same feature would be exhibited ; but taking the ten years from 1st January 1836 to 1st February 1846, we have the sufficiently striking result that the funds for the relief of the poor have increased by £135,002, or nearly 79 per cent. At the time the Board of Supervision drew out their Report, they anticipated a still greater increase in the year ending 1st February 1847; and it is very probable that their next returns will show that the sum raised for the poor in Scotland has been doubled in eleven years—a space of time in which the population has possibly not increased more than some 10 or 12 per cent.

So much for the fact of increase: let us briefly inquire into the causes to which it is to be attributed. It is obvious that this increase in the expenditure on the poor cannot be traced to the operation of the Act of 1845, seeing that it existed and was progressing at an annually increasing ratio many years before the passing of that measure. The increase in the first year of the new law is certainly greater than in any previous year; but when we take into account the additional cost of management under the new system, it seems doubtful whether the recent measure has not actually checked, rather than augmented, the force with which the sum expended on what is, properly speaking, the relief of the poor, was increasing. Nor do we believe that the increase is owing to any increase in the amount of destitution in the country, or even in the number of paupers on the parish rolls.1 There is one fact especially which seems to overturn such a supposition. In the years 1839-40-41, when the most extreme distress prevailed in all parts of the country, the expenditure on the poor was less, and the rate at which it increased was smaller, than in 1843-44-45, which were years of abundance and prosperity. Had the poor-law expenditure of Scotland been affected in any sensible degree by the state of trade and the condition of the people, this state of things would have been entirely re-versed. The expenditure in the three former years would have been large, and in the three latter it would have undergone a rapid diminution. It is obvious, therefore, that the progressive increase which has been going on in the sum raised for the poor cannot be taken as any indication of an increasing amount of destitution, though it is by no means improbable that such an evil may exist collaterally with it. In support of the same opinion, it may also be observed, that though the expenditure during the year 1845, was greater by £36,417 8s. 1½d than: in the previous year, yet the number of paupers on the roll, at the end of the former year, was only 6,362 more than at the end of the latter. Supposing that these additional paupers were on the roll six months on an average out of twelve, and that they received the average allowance of £3 10s. per annum, this would produce an increase in the expenditure of only £11,133 10s., being less than one-third of the actual increase which took place. There must be some other causes at work, therefore, in producing the increased expenditure, than any increase which is going on in the number of the recipients of relief, or in the amount of actual pauperism.

We are disposed, no less by the facts of the case than by inclination, to trace the rapid increase of the funds, raised for relief of the poor, to a more hopeful and satisfactory source. We believe it is, in a great measure, accounted for by the more general adoption of the plan of assessment, and by the suppression of mendicity and the increased allowances with which the introduction of that mode of relief is invariably accompanied. In 1842, there were only 230 legally assessed parishes in Scotland. In 1846, when the Board of Supervision made up their report, the number of such parishes had increased to 448. When an assessment is instituted in a parish, the old system of supporting the poor, or rather of the poor supporting themselves, by public begging, is abolished; but to compensate the poor for the loss of this source of subsistence, their allowances must always be increased. In 1842, the average rate of allowance in the assessed parishes, was £2 14s. 9d.; while in the non-assessed parishes, it was so low as £l Os. 4d. The same disparity will still be found to exist; so that the ^introduction of assessments into 218 additional parishes since 1842, must have had a powerful effect in raising the rate of allowance, and, consequently, in increasing the amount of expenditure on the poor. Some idea of the extent to which allowances have increased, may be formed from the fact, that while in 1842 the average rate of allowance in assessed parishes was, as we have stated, £2 14s. 9d., in 1846 it was so high as £3 10s. over both the assessed and the non-assessed parishes. Here, then, is the true source of that increased expenditure to which the Board of Supervision has called attention; and the main question to be considered is, whether the important change, both in the rate of allowance and in the mode of raising the funds, which is gradually spreading over Scotland, be really necessary and beneficial?

That a considerable augmentation of the allowances was absolutely requisite, will not be disputed by any, who are at all acquainted with the miserable pittances which it was customary to dole out to the poor in Scotland, in the name of & legal provision. Five shillings a quarter was considered, in the majority of parishes, an ample allowance for any poor old man or woman; and with some such paltry sum as this, the most destitute and deserving persons were left to eke out subsistence by appeals to the charity of their neighbours. A system of mendicity was thus engendered among a people proverbially proud and high-spirited, which was most discreditable to the Christian benevolence, and entirely inconsistent with the rapidly increasing wealth, of the country. The homes, the food, and the clothing of the poor were all of the meanest description ; and the most shocking scenes—aged paupers falling exhausted on the roads and the streets, and helpless widows laying themselves down, amidst their famishing offspring, to die—were of frequent occurrence. This deplorable state of matters was all the more inexcusable, inasmuch as in Scotland none but the infirm, the disabled, or the orphaned poor were entitled to relief. The able-bodied have never been recognised as qualified objects of legal support; so that three-fourths of the arguments, which are usually urged against a public provision for the poor, lose all their force when applied against the poor law of Scotland. To increase the rate of allowances was a course to which the parochial boards were urged by every principle of justice and every feeling of regard for the public interest; and we have little doubt that the fruits of this policy, if wisely and temperately pursued, will be manifested in the improved health, morality, and happiness of the community.

It is a misapprehension to suppose that a system of adequate allowances is worse to the public, even on the score of expense, than the niggardly system which has so long been common in Scotland. The poor must always be supported somehow. If no provision is made for them, they will contrive a way of providing for themselves. The more criminal, and especially the poor class, will apply themselves to the art of thievery; while those of a timid and innocent cast of char racter will prefer to beg. The few, whose honesty and virtuous pride prevent from resorting to either alternative, will, doubtless, endure severe distress, and eat much less of the public bread than would have fallen to their lot under a system of legal relief; but any saving to the community, from this source, will be far more than balanced by the exactions of impostors, who, taking advantage of the license, which must always be granted under such a system, will mix in the crowd of beggars, and, in the garb of poverty, prey upon the benevolence, the fear, and the ignorance of the public. But of the enormous sums thus extracted from the community there is never any return. The figures which indicate this quantity never appear in the Report of a Board of Supervision, or any board whatever, to appal the economist, or frighten debt-ridden lairds. The exaction of beggary is an unfathomed abyss of expenditure, but an abyss not less real or less impoverishing to the commonwealth, because its limits are not accurately known. On the other band, every farthing expended under & legal system of relief is noted down, and in due time blazoned forth in reports and returns. In passing, therefore, from one system to the other, as we are now doing in Scotland, it may often happen that an apparent increase in the expenditure on the poor, is accompanied with an actual saving to the community; and this, we believe, is the case in the present instance. There is an increase in the public contributions to the poor; but, along with this, there is a decrease of mendicity and vagrancy, and of all the evils, pecuniary and moral, which follow in their train.

Apart from considerations of expense, the new system has many advantages over the old. It is regular and certain in its operation. It admits of every case being thoroughly investigated before relief is administered, and consequently affords the best security for the detection of imposture. It reaches the pockets of the greedy and ucsha-ritable, as well as of the liberal and benevolent, and so equalises the burden of the poor. And, by means of its officers, its public character, its steady and constant authority, it secures the adoption of measures, such as the education and employment of destitute children, by which thousands may be timeously rescued from the depths of pauperism, into which they would be inevitably plunged, if left to be swept along by the current of natural circumstances. The old system, on the other hand, can lay claim to none of these excellences. It is most uncertain and capricious in the distribution of its gifts. It fattens the sturdy and importunate beggar by the wayside, while it leaves the honest and diffident poor to starve in the dingy seclusion of their homes. It imposes a most unequal burden upon the kind-hearted, while it spares the hoarded gains of the illiberal. And by leaving the bereaved and the unfortunate to shift for themselves, it encourages vagrancy, permits beggars to multiply, and, neglecting all preventive and preservative measures, exposes society to the ravages of an ever-growing and inveterate pauperism.

In this view of the question, which we humbly take to be the correct one, the gradual increase which has taken place, during the last ten years, in the poor law expenditure of Scotland, is to be regarded with anything but feelings of alarm or regret. It is, on the contrary, the symptom of a most wholesome change in the administration of relief, both as regards the interests of the poor and of the community. Nor can it even be justly supposed that the expenditure has nearly reached its highest point yet. If the poor of Scotland are to be provided for like the poor of other civilised countries, it is clear that we must make up our minds to a considerable additional increase of poor law expenditure. In Holland the annual expenditure on the poor amounts to 4s. 4d. a-heqd on the entire population; in France, to nearly 10s. a-head; and in England, it is now reduced to about 5s. 10d. per head. But in Scotland, though containing, perhaps, a greater proportionate number of destitute persons than any of these countries, the expenditure on the poor is still only 2s. 3d. per head on the whole population. We believe that, with the proverbial economy of the Scotch poor, and by means of right educational institutions, and a proper spirit of enterprise and improvement on the part of owners of property and capital, the poor rate in Scotland may, with all justice to the poor, be smaller than in any country of Europe. But Scotland is not so distinguished above neighbouring countries, either for the superior education of her poorer classes, or the extensive industrial enterprise of her landowners, as to entitle her, in present circumstances, to any such immunity. She still suffers herself to be trammelled by a barbarous law of entail, which directly prohibits the improvement of the soil, and the independent sustenance of the poor; and, though once at the head of European nations in point of education, there are but too good grounds to believe that, in this respect also, she now occupies an inferior position. So long as Scotland is content with matters as they are, her poor rate must, and, we will add, it ought to increase.

Even supposing that the number of poor on the roll was to remain as it is at present, without any addition, the increase in the rate of allowance, which is still indispensably necessary, would be sufficient of itself to swell out the general expenditure to a very considerable extent. For though a rapid increase has taken place of late in the amount of allowances, these are still far from what the necessities of the poor require, and from what would be sufficient to justify a measure which we ought never to stop short of, viz., the total suppression of mendicity and vagrancy. It appears from the Report before us, that the average rate of allowance per annum, throughout Scotland, is £3 10s., or about Is. 4d. per week. Let any one consider the most ordinary wants of a human being—the lowest items of expenditure for food, clothing, and housing, which are indispensably requisite to support existence—and say whether such a rate of allowance be not very inadequate for the “needful Bustentation” of the poor. It would be totally insufficient, even though designed for the maintenance of one individual, only; but the truth is, that though appearing in the returns of the Board of Supervision as the average aliment of each individual pauper, it is practically the average aliment of an entire family of paupers. The majority, perhaps, of persons on the roll, are widows with families of helpless children, and old infirm men, whose wives, by reason either of their own infirmity or the attention which they must pay to their frailer partners, are really as dependent upon parochial support as their husbands themselves, though not admitted nominally to the roll. In all such cases, of course, the allowance allotted is not required for the sustenance of one merely, but of two, and frequently of a much larger number of destitute human beings—a consideration which must bring home to every judgment and every heart, a painful sense of the gulf which still separates the poor of Scotland from a necessary and adequate provision.

We confess that the more we examine the amount of allowances in the various districts of Scotland, the more reason do we find for surprise, if not a much severer feeling, in regard to the policy which has been pursued by the Board of Supervision. To this central body, according to the new law, all complaints of inadequate aliment must be addressed in the first instance. No pauper, however cruelly starved, is permitted access to the Supreme Court, until the Board first decide that he has a just cause of action; and by this novel contrivance the Board has literally become invested with those functions which formerly devolved upon the Court of Session. There is a marked contrast between the decisions of the Court and those of the Board; and the poor have certainly not been gainers by the change. The voice of the Judges was ever raised on the side of the oppressed, and we believe there is not a single instance, in recent years, of a pauper complaining to their Lordships of inadequate relief, without obtaining ample and immediate redress. But on the other hand, so far as can be gathered from this Report, there does not appear to be one case in which the Board of Supervision has declared a poor man to have a just cause of action! Out of 497 complaints lodged with the Board in the short space of six months, no fewer than 997 were directly refused any redress; the remaining 182 having been withdrawn, on account of some additional aliment wrung from the Parochial authorities by the remonstrance of the Board. It is impossible for a casual peruser of the Report to judge whether the additional aliment thus obtained by the complaining paupers be adequate or not; because this document, though it be the only account of their stewardship which the Board is called upon to render, very singularly omits to inform os what the aliment complained of amounted to ; how much additional relief was granted; or whether the parties complaining were single or married, healthy or bedridden, partially or totally destitute, solitary paupers or the heads of young and helpless families. Had the Board intended to keep Parliament and the country in perfect ignorance of its ideas of what constituted adequate relief to the poor, it could not have constructed its return of applications for increase of aliment, on a happier or more suitable principle. We can well believe, that, amid the hurry of winding up the affairs of a protracted Parliament and the bustle of preparation for a general election, the Report has been quite successful in blinding the eyes, both of the officials of the Government, and the members of the Legislature, to the real character of the proceedings of the Board; but, to the writer of this article, and to those who, like him, have other and clearer sources of information than this official document, it is abundantly evident that the Board is in the almost daily habit of refusing the applications of paupers, whose allowances do not amount to one-half the sum which the Court of Session promptly awarded to the widow of Ceres, or the sisters Haliklay of Balmaclellan.

It is an alarming novelty in this constitutional country, that a Board of some eight or nine gen-tlemen, armed certainly with extraordinary powers, but still not authorised to repeal or enact, bat duply to administer laws, should secretly and cystemati-cally set themselves to overturn the injunctions of the statute-book, and to wrest from a numerous portion of Her Majesty's subjects that “needful sustentstion” which has been so recently declared to be their imprescriptible right by the highest legal authorities in Scotland, without provoking the interference of a guardian Legislature, or drawing forth the unanimous protest of an indignant nation. It is true, the parties wronged are the poor—the down-trodden, the tattered, the hungry, and the friendless poor—to whom the spirit of Selfishness has denied the simplest offices of humanity, and whom the power of Authority would now exclude from the commonest privileges of citizenship. But yet it may be well to remember that the Constitution can be as fatally wounded in the person of a pauper, as of a peer. Such is the noble doctrine which the genius of British liberty teaches. There are rights and privileges of a high and noble order, which none bat the more distinguished citizens are yet permitted to possess; but there are others of a few glittering, perhaps, hut not less valuable character, which, in the darkest days of British, history, were the birthright of all. In these utter are decided the right to be governed according to the laws, and the right to a free and equal administration of justice. Both of these have been shamefully violated in the persons of the poor of Scotland.

A secret and irresponsible Board has keen erected, which takes upon itself, without the sanction of Queen, Lords, or Commons, to contravene the statutes, and overturn the decisions of the courts. To complete this new despotism, no pauper is permitted to have access to the College of Justice, until he first obtain permission from this central Board, although his object is to obtain redress from the wrongs inflicted by this very Board, or the parochial authorities of whom it has constituted itself the patron and protector. The purport of the regulation virtually is, that the poor shall not be permitted to ask for justice in the usual legal channels, until the parties of whose injustice they complain may choose to allow them! Had the parochial authorities been bound equally with the poor to submit to tbe decrees of the Board of Supervision, then, however unconstitutional the law, it would, at least, have had the merit of dealing impartially with the parties most doeely interested; but while the Act of 1845 debars a pauper from appealing to the Court of Session from an adverse decision of the Board, it places no similar restriction vpon the parochial authorities with whom he is struggling, but leaves them full power to drag the poor ipan through a painful process of litigation when ever the decision of the Board may chance to be in his favour. A more partial, unconstitutional, and un-British regulation, was never admitted to the statute-book; and having tamely permitted this outrage on the rights of the poor, who esa tol where the evil will stop? Oaoe familiarise with the legislation and legal practice of this country such as that no poor man shall he permitted to enter a court of law against the rich until a secret Board sit in conclave upon his case, and declare that he has a just cause of action, and what becomes of the boasted purity of British justice, the equality of British subjects, the disenthralling magic of British soil, and all the high-sounding attributes with which we have been accustomed to associate the name and glory of our country? Could the practical mischief of such an innovation be confined to the class of paupers, many might not care perhaps to bear its shame; but of this there can be no security. The blow vhich strikes down the most common right, inevitably weakens the stability of the highest. The poison of injustice habitually administered to the meanest extremity of the body politic, will circulate with malignant virulence through the entire frame.

Whatever evils maj be expected to result to ether desses of the people, there can be no doubt that to the poor the dosing of the Court of Session is daily bearing very bad fruits. Complaints of inadequate relief are rejected by the Board of Supervision, which there can be no doubt would have received immediate redress from the Court; and even in those cases in which “the ground of complaint is removed by the Board, the additional aliment allowed, always much less than was judged necessary in similar cases by the Court, is only obtained after the most distressing delay. A case appears in the return of applications to the Board, ion which, after having remitted the complaint to the parochial authorities three several times, the Board at length intimated that permission would he granted the pauper to enter the Court of Session; and additional relief was granted nearly sic months after the complaint are lodged. A poor cripple and his destitute family were thus deprived nearly half a-year of the “needful sustentation” to which they were entitled by law; while the parochial Board, which was the cause of this injustice, was not only subjected to no expenses, bat actually gained by the illegal act to the extent of nearly four pounds— the amount of the poor man’s additional aliment for six months; whereas, had the case been decided by the Court, the parish would have been compelled to pay over to the pauper the additional allowance from the date of his first application to the parochial board besides bearing the expense of the litigation. It is obvious that the effect of this change must be to encourage parochial boards in resisting the jnst claims of the poor; and that, in fact, it operates as a premium upon the obduracy with which they disregard the entreaties of paupers, and the orders of the Board of Supervision.

Another striking evil which still clings to the administration of the poor-law in Scotland, is the inequality in the amount of allowances in the various parishes. The average allowance in one parish is £8 Os. 7d. per annum; in another it is 2s. 6d.; and between these wide extremes, there are average allowances of every amount. Sometimes the greatest difference prevails in the same city. In the city parish of Glasgow, for example, the average allowance is £5 2s. 3d.; while in the Barony parish, in the same city, it is only £3 17s. 8d. No one will say that the expense of subsistence varies so much in these two parishes as to justify this wide difference of allowance; and upon what other ground is it possible to defend it? In the northern county of Boss, the average allowance is £l 9s. 3d.; while in the southern county of Kirkcudbright, it is £4 7s. 3d. It cannot he said that the poor are so much more numerous in the former county than in the latter, or that the value of property is so much less, that it is unable to sustain so great a burden; for Kirkcudbrightshire, in proportion to its population, supports fully twice as many poor as Boss-shire, and expends, in relief, to the extent of 1s. 3½d. per pound on its real property; while the expenditure of Boss-shire does not amount to more than 5½d. per pound on its real property. Yet the Board of Supervision must be pretty well satisfied with the state of matters in Boss-shire; for after a tour of inquiry, made by their Secretary, in the Highland counties, that gentleman arrived at the conclusion that 1s. 3d. per week is a quite adequate allowance for an entirely destitute Highland pauper! If 1s. 3d. be a sufficient, aliment in Boss-shire, the allowances given in many other parts of Scotland must be extremely extravagant; and if the Board does not think it necessary to raise the allowances in the one ease, it ought to reduce them in the other. The glaring inequality which prevails in the mode of treatment must necessarily attract the poor from the favourable to the unfavourable parishes, and thus prove a source of great injustice to those very districts where the law is most strictly obeyed.

The Report of the Board of Supervision, therefore, along with many signs of progress to a better system, exhibits much that is objectionable. The minor defects, to which we have not been able to allude, are numerous, but very inferior in importance to the neglect of destitute children, the stinted allowances given to the most deserving poor,, and the encouragement of mendicity and vagrancy, which still characterise our poor-law system. Let the benevolent classes be once fully assured that every really destitute person is readily and adequately provided for by the regular officers, and in a very short time you may sweep from society those daring bands of vagrants which infest the wynds of large cities, and periodically spread plunder and havoc over the rural districts. But in present circumstances, every benevolent person knows very well that a poor-law official is not one who relieves, but one who wrangles with the poor, and if possible denies them support; and so long, as this lasts, vagrancy, imposture, and theft must be tolerated.


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