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A History of the Scotch Poor Law
Distinctive characteristic of Scottish Poor Law


Distinctive characteristic of Scottish Poor Law — Administration of relief—Settlement — Distress in Scotland — Schoolmasters' Act — Its effects —Distress at Paisley — Decision of Supreme Court — Scotch and English systems contrasted — Report on distress at Paisley — Extent and influence of distress — Report of Poor Law Inquiry Commission — Mr. Twisleton's 'Reasons of Dissent', therefrom.

THE chief characteristic of Scottish Poor Law administration, as contrasted with that of England, is the pertinacity with which all claim to relief on behalf of the able-bodied poor has been resisted. The General Assembly in their Report of 1839 however, admit "that the situation of people destitute of employment was not to be overlooked, and that many cases might occur in which men of this class ought to obtain temporary relief in times of occasional sickness or unusual calamity, although not as a matter of right." With this view, it is said, a certain proportion of the church collections has from an early period been placed at the disposal of the kirk sessions, "in order that they, at their discretion, may be enabled to afford assistance for a time to such industrious persons within their bounds as should happen, owing to temporary sickness, or to a casual failure of work, to be in difficulty and straits:" This arrangement rested for a long time on usage only, but was at length sanctioned by the proclamation of 1693, afterwards ratified by parliament, "by which one-half of the church collections was left to the disposal of the kirk sessions, for the purpose in part as has since been held, of being so applied." Such, it is further said, "are the rules of the law of Scotland on this subject--such the origin and foundation of the distinction between those who are called the `ordinary' and those who are denominated occasional' poor. The latter receive temporary assistance only from the charity of the parish, bestowed at the discretion of the kirk session, during the pressure of want. Of the former a roll is made up, in terms of the Act of 1579 and subsequent statutes, and altered at stated periods according to circumstances by the kirk session in each parish, and such of the heritors as may act with them. The poor whose names are thus en- rolled, are entitled to periodical allowances permanently and as a matter of legal right."

"The allowances to the parochial poor, are in the in aid of wages." The evils arising from such a practice would of course greatly depend upon the extent to which it is carried, and the persons to whom it is applied. If applied to the labouring classes, it would tend to divert them from a reliance upon their own industry, and also to lower the rate of wages—if to the infirm and disabled poor, the insufficiency of relief would not only cause them suffering and privation, but would also lead to their being depressed lower socially, than with a due regard to the general welfare it is right that they should be, whilst mendicancy would at the same time be sanctioned and perpetuated.

The foregoing extracts from the Report of 1839 explain the practice as regards the "occasional" or able-bodied poor, whose relief in any way is left entirely to the discretion of the kirk session, as a matter of charity. The relief of the "ordinary" or infirm poor, is imperative upon the heritors and kirk session conjointly; but in the Report of 1818, it is stated that in practice " the heritors seldom or never interfere in regulating the concerns of the poor, or the poor's funds, except in parishes where assessments are levied." In such cases " they meet on the first Thursday of August in each year, or oftener if they judge it expedient, and along with the kirk session examine and adjust the poor's roll, and fix the amount of the assessments required. In practice therefore, the heritors, we see, in no way interfere with the relief of the "occasional" or able-bodied poor; and only with that of the "ordinary" or infirm poor, where the parish has been subjected to an assessment. The reason for their then doing so is sufficiently plain, as they are required to pay half the levy; but the reason for their being exempted from interference with the relief of the "occasional" poor is not so clear, since the first proclamation (that of 1692) directs that " if any of the poor of the parish are able to work, the heritors of the parish are hereby authorised and required to put them to work according to their capacities, either within the parish or to any adjacent manufactory, as they shall find expedient, furnishing them always with meat and clothes." There is here no limitation as to the class of persons to be employed and furnished with meat and clothing, except their being poor, and capable of work, on each of which points the heritors appear to be the parties to decide, and to be responsible for putting the law in execution. It seems difficult therefore to understand the grounds on which a claim to relief was in practice limited to the "ordinary" poor, or on which the heritors were deemed to be restricted from relieving the wants of the "occasional " poor. We have seen however that both restrictions were practically maintained throughout a long series of years. [In his valuable work on Scotch Poor Law, Mr. Dunlop remarks that "the general tenor of our Scottish statutes applies solely to those who are permanently disabled; and although in many. parishes, it was the practice to afford relief to persons labouring under temporary sickness, there seems to be no authority for considering that this was imperative on them."—See p. 33, edition of 1854]

Although the management of the poor and the administration of the funds are by law vested in the heritors and kirk session in landward parishes, and in the magistrates in burghs, the Report of 1839 declares that in the latter case the management generally devolves upon the kirk session; and it also repeats the statement made in the Report of 1818, to the effect, that in all cases where the poor are provided for by voluntary contributions, the management is left to the kirk session alone. But the heritors and magistrates are, it is said, always entitled to have an account of their administration from the sessions, even when the funds consist exclusively of church-door collections. When these "become inadequate, the heritors are called upon to determine as to the course to be pursued ; and whether they adopt the plan of a voluntary assessment, or impose a legal rate, they thereafter take a more active superintendence at the general yearly or half-yearly meetings of the joint board of heritors and session."

The Scottish law of settlement has already been briefly noticed. The practice under it is to be gathered from the Reports of the General Assembly. That of 1839 states, that "the circumstances which entitle the impotent poor to demand parish relief are, that the claimant has had his residence or 'common resort' within the parish during the last three years immediately before he fell into a state of poverty and inability to support himself; and if he has removed from the parish, that he has not since his removal acquired a legal settlement in any other. If he has funds of his own, or relations who are bound in law and able to maintain him, the parish will be relieved of so doing." But it is added, "there is not and never existed by the law of Scotland, a power of removal of persons likely to become chargeable, such as was established in England by the 14th Charles 2nd, cap. 12,f and which gave rise to so much litigation and oppression." The Report of 1818 remarks, that " it does not appear that there ever has been an instance of the removal of a pauper from one parish to another involuntarily, or by legal means. Even when the title of a pauper to maintenance has been contested at law between two parishes, he has been allowed to make his option of residence in either of them, and his allowance has been received by him in the usual way from the parish found liable to pay it. He frequently makes his option of residence in the parish where he can best find employment, when able to follow it, or where he happens to have relations living and who are able to contribute towards his support." This is practically equivalent to irremovability, and must have gone far in the then state of Scotland, to mitigate the evils necessarily inherent in a settlement law.

The description which has been previously given of the several legislative enactments regarding the poor, and the account here given of what has been the practice in this respect, chiefly founded on the representations contained in the General Assembly's Reports, will it is hoped enable the reader to understand both the state of the law, and the manner in which it was applied, throughout the long period extending from the Union in 1707 to the passing of the Amendment Act 8tti and 9th Victoria, cap. 83, in 1845. Before entering upon a consideration of that statute, and the inquiries by which it was preceded, there are yet however a few matters which require to be noticed, as being essential to a right understanding of the condition of the people, more especially in the western districts.

In 1783 great distress prevailed in Scotland, especially in the Highlands, and a committee of the House of Commons was appointed to inquire into the circumstances. A good deal of evidence was taken, both oral and written, and reported to the houses One of the witnesses stated—"that the season last year was very cold, and the harvest late—that the frost came on at the beginning of November very severe, and a great deal of snow fell at the beginning of the month—that at that. time the corn in general was far from ripe, and only a small proportion of it was cut before the snow fell, and that the crop was very deficient." Another witness stated—"that during the early frost and fall of snow in November and December last, the crop of potatoes was entirely destroyed in most parts of the counties of Nairn Inverness and Murray--that the oats and barley were covered with snow before they were ripe—that the cattle in many parts were kept alive by pulling the green corn from under the snow, and that the frost kept the corn from filling so as to yield meal—that this is the second bad season, and the farmers had sold great part of their stock to pay their rent." The sheriff of the counties of Caithness and Sutherland wrote, stating—" that the condition of the north parts of Scotland is truly lamentable—In Sutherland and Ross shires many people have already perished for want of food—Caithness is not far removed from a similar disaster, and in Orkney they are still nigher to it." Another writer from Inverness, states" I cannot express to you the miserable situation of this country—There are many good farmers with their wives and children begging in the streets—Last harvest Las finished the most of them—meal or any kind of victuals cannot be had for love or money, and before the summer is over people will die in the fields for want."

Under these very distressing circumstances, the comniittee came to the resolution that Government should be enabled to allow the importation of corn for a time, not exceeding four months from the 3rd of September next, into the several counties named; and it was further resolved—"That it is the opinion of this committee, that the commissioners of land-tax of the said counties be enabled to levy a sum not exceeding 14l Scots, on every 100l. Scots of the valued rent of the said counties, and to apply the same to the relief of such of the inhabitants as are or shall be reduced to poverty by the failure of last year's crop, and the scarcity and high price of corn occasioned thereby."

These resolutions were reported to the house by Mr. Pulteney, the chairman of the committee, who moved an address to the king, which was unanimously adopted, to the effect—"That it appears from evidence brought before this house that the inhabitants of the Highlands and northern parts of Scotland in particular, have suffered most severely from the lateness of the last harvest, whereby their corn while green was covered with snow, and in many places was not gathered in till the month of December, and then in a very bad condition. That the crop of potatoes on which the said inhabitants principally depend for support, was also destroyed by the frost. That many of the said inhabitants being thereby reduced to indigence, will either be constrained to migrate or be exposed to the danger of perishing for want of food, unless timely measures be devised for their relief. That the distresses occasioned by famine being generally most extreme in the summer months immediately preceding the new harvest, when this house may not be sitting"—his Majesty is besought to give such directions as may most effectually avert the evils apprehended from the above calamitous state of the northern parts of Scotland, and the house promises to make good the expenses incurred "in relieving the misery to which his Majesty's unhappy subjects may be reduced by this most deplorable calamity " —and the several provisions were forthwith embodied in an Act (The 23rd George 3rd, cap. 53) which immediately received the royal assent.

The distress at this time appears to• have been very severe, and the removal of the restriction on the importation of corn was undoubtedly judicious under the circumstances. This was jealously done however, and limited both in duration and area—thus showing that the legislature did not omit other considerations in its sympathy for the distress of the people. The power given to the land-tax commissioners to " assess and levy upon all and every the beritors and landholders within the respective counties of Perth, Kincardine, Aberdeen, Inverness, Ross, Nairn, Cromartie, Argyle, Forfar, Banf, Sutherland, Caithness, Elgin, Dumbarton, Orkney, and Zetland, a sum of money not exceeding 141. Scots, on every 1001. Scots of valued rent," and to apply the same in relieving such of the inhabitants of these counties as have been reduced to indigence by the failure of the last year's crop, "in such way and manner as the said commissioners in their judgment and discretion shall think fit"—was a judicious measure, and calculated to afford immediate aid; but we have no means of ascertaining to what extent the power was exercised, or whether it was exercised at all. With a return of the usual seasons, it must be presumed that the distress subsided, at least for a time; but it will be seen that these districts were afterwards subjected to similar privations, arising from the same or a similar cause.

The Schoolmasters' Act, 43rd George 3rd, cap. 54, also requires to be noticed, it being of very considerable importance, as well generally, as in connexion with our subject. It is entitled 'An Act for making better provision for the Parochial Schoolmasters, and for making further regulations for the better government of the Parish Schools in Scotland.' It commences by declaring that—"The parish schoolmasters in Scotland are a most useful body of men, and their labours have been of essential importance to the public welfare." The Scottish Act of William the Third' on the subject is then referred to, and its provisions for the salaries of the schoolmasters are recited, which it is said by difference in the value of money, and change in the circumstances of the country, has become a provision altogether inadequate for a body of men whose labours are of so great public utility "wherefore it is enacted, that except in certain cases mentioned, the salary of each parish schoolmaster shall not be under the sum of 300 merks,' nor above the sum of 400 merks Scots, per annum; and it is further directed, that within three months after the passing of the Act, the heritors and the minister of every parish are to hold a meeting (notice thereof being previously given) "and on due consideration of the circumstances of the parish in respect to extent population and valued rent, and the probable amount of the other emoluments of the schoolmaster's office," are to determine whether the salary shall be 300 merks, or 400 merks, or such other sum between the two as seems most suitable; and shall fix the amount of such salary by a resolution, to be signed by the preses of the meeting, and delivered to the schoolmaster, as his authority for collecting the same; which amount is to be paid by the several heritors, in the same manner as is prescribed by the former Act. But it is also provided—"that no salary at present payable to any schoolmaster shall be diminished," and in cases where any portion is payable in grain or meal, "it is so to be continued, with such additions in money as the meeting shall deeni proper," and in determining the amount of such additions, the grain or meal making part of the salary is to be estimated at the rate of 200 merks per chalder. The salaries so fixed and determined, are to continue payable for five-and-twenty years after the passing of the Act; and within three years after the expiration of that period, the average price of a chalder of oatmeal for all Scotland is again to be ascertained, and is to form the rate according to which the schoolmasters' salaries are then to be fixed; and so on, for every succeeding twenty-five years—thus providing for the adjustment of whatever changes may take place in time successive periods.

The Act further directs, "that in every parish where a commodious house for the school, and a dwellinghouse with a garden for the schoolmaster have not been provided, the heritors of every parish shall provide the same—the house for the residence of the schoolmaster not consisting of more than two apartments, including the kitchen, with a portion of ground for a garden from fields used for the ordinary purposes of agriculture or pasturage, as near and convenient to the schoolmaster's dwellinghouse as reasonably may be; which garden shall contain at least one-fourth of a Scots acre,' and be enclosed with such fence as is generally used for such purposes in the district where it is situated." The expense of providing schoolhouse dwellinghouse and garden, and supporting the same, is to be defrayed in like manner as is prescribed for providing a schoolhouse by the preceding Act of William's reign. Where a garden "cannot be allotted to the schoolmaster without great loss and inconvenience," the heritors, with the consent of the kirk session, may assign to the schoolmaster in lieu of such garden, an addition to his salary at the rate of eight bolls of oatmeal per acre." If the heritors neglect or refuse to provide the schoolhouse dwellinghouse and garden, or in case of the schoolmaster's not being satisfied with the accommodation afforded him, he may represent the same to the quarter sessions, whose judgment thereon is to be final—"provided always, that no justice of the peace who shall be an heritor in the parish of such schoolmaster, shall vote upon such representation."

The schoolmaster is to be appointed by the heritors owning lands of not less than 1001. Scots, valued rental, and the minister of the parish, at a meeting assembled after due notice; and every schoolmaster so elected, is to carry the minute or a certified copy of the minute of his election to the presbytery, with an attestation of his having taken the oath of allegiance ; 49 and the presbytery shall thereupon take trial of his sufficiency for the office, in respect of morality and religion, and of such branches of literature as shall be deemed most necessary for the parish." And provided they are satisfied with the same, he is to be furnished with an extract from their minutes, "bearing that he had appeared, produced the attestations required, and had been found on trial duly qualified for discharging the duties of the office to which he had been elected, which extract shall complete his right to the emoluments provided by the Act." The school fees are to be fixed as the heritors and minister shall from time to time direct, and a table of such fees is to be hung up in the schoolroom; but the schoolmaster is nevertheless bound to teach such poor children as the heritors, qualified as above, and the minister of the parish shall recommend.

It is also provided that the presbyteries, in their visitations, shall have the power of regulating the hours of teaching, the length of the vacation, or anything that may be wrong or complained of in the management of the school; and the schoolmaster is required to conform to and obey all regulations so made, "under pain of censure, suspension from or deprivation of his office, as to the presbytery shall seem proper." The presbytery are also empowered, on complaint from the heritors minister or elders, charging the schoolmaster with neglect of duty, or immoral conduct, or cruel and improper treatment of the scholars, to take cognizance of the same, and either to acquit, or pass sentence of censure suspension or deprivation, as shall to them appear proper—"which judgement shall be final, without appeal to or review by any court civil or ecclesiastical."

It is impossible to read these carefully framed enactments for securing competent schoolmasters, and for providing them with suitable salaries and convenient dwellings in every parish, without feeling that the authors of the measure were earnestly solicitous for the education of the people, and for establishing a system that would be universally and at all times effective for the purpose. This was surely an enlightened policy, productive of a large amount of present good, and holding out a promise of still greater good in future—a promise which has been amply fulfilled, in the intelligence and general high character of the Scottish people.

The working of the present Act, and of the preceding Act of 1696, is described in the Report from the General Assembly to the Select Committee on the Poor Laws in 1818. There is, it is said, "reason to conclude from the reports of the ministers, that there is a school in every parish, competently endowed, as provided for by law, and in general supplied with a suitably qualified teacher. And the schools being under the immediate jurisdiction of the presbyteries, are regularly visited and examined each year by committees of their number." Few cases, it is stated, can exist, "where those who are willing to be taught, and reside within reach of a school, are left without the means of common education. The schoolmaster is by law obliged to teach gratis poor scholars recommended by the session; and it is added, that "it is but justice to the schoolmasters to state, that many reports mention and applaud their disinterested readiness to receive indigent children on their list without fees." The practice in regard of education appears therefore to have come fully up to what the law required, whatever may have been the shortcomings in this respect with regard to the relief of the poor.

The stagnation of trade which took place in 1819, led to a general dearth of employment, and was the cause of much distress in all parts of the country. This was more particularly the case in the manufacturing districts, and at Paisley great numbers who were thus thrown out of employment, applied to the parish for relief. The heritors and kirk session however refused to comply with the application, on the ground that the applicants, being able-bodied, "did not fall within the class of poor for which the law provided." Application was then made to the sheriff, who adjudged the heritors and kirk session to meet and assess themselves for the relief of these persons. But on appeal to the supreme court, it was ruled that the determination of the questions—"1st, whether claimants of parochial aid are of the description of persons that are entitled to such relief, and 2ndly if they be of this description of persons, what shall be the amount of the assessment and relief—is vested in the heritors and kirk session of the parish, and that no control on the proceedings and determination of the kirk session in those particulars is committed to sheriffs or other inferior judicatures."

This decision was considered to determine the rule of law with respect to other powers conferred upon heritors and the kirk sessions, and to have established the general principle, that in all "matters committed to their determination in the first instance, they are free from control by inferior judges, except where power to that effect is specially given by the legislature." However intense or enduring the distress may be, or from whatsoever cause arising, its being relieved in any way depends therefore, we see, solely upon the will of the heritors and kirk session. There is no recognition of a right to relief, neither is there any power to enforce its being administered. The sufferers are restricted from begging, whilst they are without the means of living. They cannot obtain work, and they will hardly submit to starve. The alternative is obvious—property if not life will be put in jeopardy; and the danger can only be effectually met, by affording such aid as the occasion requires, subject of course to the condition of its being so given, as that whilst sufficient, it shall not be a temptation for resorting to it unnecessarily.

But to afford all the aid which would be required in cases similar to that which occurred at Paisley, even if its legality were admitted, would require a general assessment for the purpose, and to every form of assessment there was then the strongest objection. The General Assembly in their Report of 1818, declare their conviction "of the pernicious tendency of these compulsory taxations," the progress of which, they say, ought to excite the alarm of all who take an interest in the welfare of the country. Yet it is clear that the relief of general distress arising from the revulsion of trade, or any other wide-spreading and general cause, can only be fairly and fully met by a general taxation. Relief on these occasions is not a matter of charity, but is rather an effort of enlightened policy for the prevention of a greater evil; and to rely upon voluntary or purely charitable contributions in such a case, would be at once erroneous in principle and futile in practice. It would also be partial and unjust, for it would impose a burden upon the free and liberal minded, and would screen the selfish and the niggardly.

It may perhaps be said that stagnation of trade is not an uncommon occurrence, and that it ought to be provided against by the exercise of forethought and provident habits on the part of the working classes—No doubt it ought, as it ought also to be guarded against by the master and merchant class; yet how many of these do we see involved in difficulties on such occasions?—The law affords them a certain amount of relief and protection in their distress, and ought it not to be at least as careful of the operatives, who may be and often are great sufferers at such times, not so much perhaps through faults of their own, as through imprudent speculation and over-greediness of gain on the part of their employers. That the working classes are, as is asserted, less provident than they ought to be, may however be admitted, without removing the necessity for their being relieved when reduced to actual want—relief being then almost as essential for the general tranquillity, as it is for the distressed operatives themselves.

In rural districts, where the population is not excessive, and where employment is generally steady and continuous, it may perhaps be possible to dispense with assessment, and to rely upon voluntary contributions for the purposes of relief, without its leading to an extreme amount of suffering by any considerable portion of the people. But in districts where a dense population depends for its daily subsistence upon mercantile and manufacturing operations, changes in policy or in fashion, the discoveries of science, the inventions of the mechanist, or the outbreak of war, may suddenly and without warning plunge vast numbers of persons into deep and unavoidable distress, unavoidable at least by any effort or forethought of their own; and for these people there is surely a claim upon the community which has derived benefit from their exertions, for help to carry them through the present difficulty, and to prevent their sinking into desperate or evil courses, by which the public peace might be endangered and the community suffer injury.

Such however was not the view taken of this question in Scotland. Notwithstanding the growth of manufactures, and the consequent gathering together of large masses of the people into one focus, the non-relief of the able-bodied poor was strenuously maintained as the governing principle of the Scottish Poor-law, and was only so far departed from in practice, as when on some very peculiar occasion the kirk-session might deem it right to afford temporary relief to an individual sufferer of that class. But for general or extensive distress, no means of relief existed, either by law or established practice, notwithstanding the advance of the country in wealth and population, the latter having gone on progressively increasing at the following rates

During the interval of nearly a century between 1755 and 1851, the population of the county of Lanark increased from 81,726 to 532,114, or to upwards of six times the amount at the first-named period; and there can be no doubt that this was accompanied by a corresponding increase of wealth, both the one and the other having their origin in the same cause, that is, the extension of manufacturing industry and commercial enterprise in the district. A great change has therefore evidently taken place, and a system of relief which may possibly have been sufficient at an earlier period, would be found insufficient at the latter, and would require to be adjusted to the altered circumstances in which the population was then placed, the two periods being in fact so dissimilar as to call for a very different mode of treatment.

It is not unlikely, that the dread ;which prevailed in Scotland of the consequences that might ensue from recognising a right to relief on the part of the able-bodied poor, was in some degree caused by a knowledge of the abuses which had followed such a recognition in England. It is quite certain that the comparatively small amount expended on relief of the poor in Scotland was viewed with approbation, and aided the establishment of an amended system in England. In both instances however there was much exaggeration, as well as a disregard of the different circumstances of the two countries. It did not follow, because no relief was provided for the able-bodied poor in Scotland, that relief should not be provided for them in England; neither does it follow that because a lax and faulty administration of such relief was productive of mischievous consequences in England, similar consequences would necessarily ensue in Scotland. The superior wealth and population, and the nature and general organisation of society in England, combined with injudicious legislation, certainly did there lead to extravagant and ultimately even to fraudulent practices in administering relief. p But these abuses might have been avoided—they were excrescences rather than the natural or necessary growth of the system; and in Scotland, far poorer and less populous, and where the economical and prudent habits of the people are so marked as to be almost proverbial, needful relief in seasons of pressure and difficulty might surely have been imparted, free from the danger of such occurrences. Sound policy and humanity might have been satisfied by the mitigation of distress at the common charge, and the public might thus have been relieved from the frequently recurring spectacle of extreme destitution, not only without entailing evil consequences, but with positive advantage to all parties, to the contributors as well as the receivers of the relief.

Doubts as to the sufficiency of the Scottish Poor Law for accomplishing the object for which it was designed, and dissatisfaction at the practice which prevailed under it, had been for some years becoming stronger and more general ; and after the passing of the English Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834, and the Irish Poor Relief Act in 1838, together with the extensive inquiries by which these measures were preceded, and the numerous publications and the frequent discussions both in and out of parliament to which they gave rise, it was found no longer possible to avoid instituting an inquiry into the working of the Scottish law, with a view to its better adaptation to the wants and circumstances of the times. This inquiry was no doubt hastened by the distress which again occurred at Paisley, in the years 1840, 1841 and 1842, and which was so severe and so protracted as to call for the interference of government, and eventually for the raising of contributions in other parts of Scotland as well as in England for its relief. The funds thus obtained were confided to a local relief committee specially appointed, and the government sent a confidential agent to assist in the application of the money, and also to investigate the circumstances connected with the distress. Mr. Twisleton, the gentleman to whom these duties were confided, was well prepared for the task by the experience he had acquired as an assistant commissioner under the English Poor Law; and a comprehensive Report which he made on
the occasion (and which my official position at the time enabled me to be cognisant of, although it was not published or generally known), affords proof of the efficient manner in which the task was executed by him. To a few of the matters contained in this Report, which is dated in June 1842, I will now advert; and there can be no- impropriety in so doing, as although withheld from publication at the time, no inconvenience can possibly arise from its now becoming known, and it has an important bearing on the subject in hand.

The population of Paisley at the census of 1841 amounted to 48,416, nearly the -whole of whom were engaged in the shawl manufacture, an occupation peculiarly liable to be affected by changes in fashion and fluctuations in trade. In 1819 we have seen that there was great distress at Paisley. In 1826-27 severe distress again prevailed there, and also in 1837; and now the commercial difficulties which occurred between 1838 and 1843, again subjected the manufacturers of Paisley to great pressure and privation. On all these occasions, recourse was had to extraneous aid, the local rates and contributions being insufficient for relieving the prevalent distress. The subscriptions during the preceding twelve months are stated in the Report to have amounted to upwards of 25,000l; and it is remarked that "nothing can more clearly show the inadequacy of a voluntary local subscription to meet such exigencies, than the simple fact that although it was agreed upon at a public meeting of the inhabitants in July last year, that the ratepayers should voluntarily assess themselves at the rate of 15 per cent. on their parochial assessment, the whole amount raised in this manner was only 5741. 1s. 11d., and only 473 of the ratepayers contributed anything at all." It is further stated, that the whole sum raised in Paisley in the last year, whether by voluntary assessment or subscriptions, did not excoed 1,227l. 14s. 8d., whilst the number of persons depending for subsistence upon what they obtained from the relief fund, amounted in January 1842 to 12,703, and in June to 10,417.

Under such circumstances, we cannot feel surprised that the persons appointed by the relief committee to visit the dwellings of those to whom relief was afforded, should make representations of the following nature—

In many of the houses there is no furniture of any kind, except perhaps merely a box to sit upon—a great number of them have no regular bed or bedding, merely straw to lie upon on the bare ground. Another says, "I have visited 326 cases of females—In some of the houses there is no furniture at all—There is merely a small stool or a box to sit upon, and in two or three instances merely a large stone—The widows with families seemed the class worst off." Another says, "I have visited about 500 cases of men and women —The people are wretchedly poor—I have been in houses where there is not a single article, not a bed nor blanket— They are very wretched—The cases of the weavers are the worst; but the misery is very general." And the representations of the other visitors are all of similar import. The people are described in the Report as depressed in manner, and speaking despondingly of the future, and with the spirit of independence seemingly quite broken down—"the world was not their friend nor the world's law"—Their privations were extreme, their sufferings urgent and unavoidable, and there was no quarter to which they were entitled to look for assistance--how could they therefore be otherwise than spiritless and desponding?

After noticing the general intelligence of the Paisley operatives, the Report states it to be universally admitted and deplored in Paisley, that the character of the weavers, particularly those of the rising generation, is much deteriorated, and this is said to be a consequence of the depressing circumstances in -which they have for a long period been placed; for although adversity may under certain conditions lead to the improvement of character, it may, as is well remarked, "be doubted whether continued suffering in a community, when their physical comforts are curtailed by the operation of circumstances independent of their will, has not almost inevitably a tendency to impair their character." Under the influence of long-continued privations, it is further remarked "men lose self-respect, and become desponding and reckless. But this mood of mind is likely to prolong those privations, and is ill suited for steady industry thrift and foresight. The prolonged privations again reciprocally affect the mind; and the result is a vicious circle of action and reaction, in which the embarrassments and complications become at length so numerous, that escape seems hopeless"— and there is, it is added, reason to fear that the Paisley weavers are in this stage of downward progress. To what extent this social declension has been caused by the want of adequate relief in seasons of stagnation and pressure, it is impossible to say; but that such want was a prominent if not a principal cause, can hardly admit of question.

The management of the poor at Paisley was by law vested in the magistrates and the kirk session, but an arrangement had been made by which the latter retained the distribution of the church collections, mortuary fees, &c., and the former administered the money derived from assessments. But as under the Scotch Poor Law, able-bodied persons are not recognised as objects of relief, the funds derived from these sources were little affected by the severe distress which prevailed in the town, the average number of poor on the monthly roll during the year ending in June 1842 being somewhat over and the entire cost of their relief amounting to 3,682l.--in neither case materially exceeding the ordinary amounts.

To maintain the exclusion of able-bodied persons from legal relief in cases like this of Paisley, is practically withholding it from the most distressed, who nevertheless must be supported in some way.—They cannot be left to starve; and such a system of exclusion will speedily become untenable, under the rude pressure of necessity. May we not ask then, whether provision ought not to be made for doing with equity and order, that which will otherwise be done inequitably and with disorder—whether relief should be provided promptly efficiently and fairly, rather than tardily partially and unequally?—The case of Paisley seems conclusive as an answer to the question ; but however this may be, it undoubtedly hastened the inquiry into the general working of the Scottish Poor Law, which took place in the following year, and which now demands our attention.

In January 1843 a commission under the great seal was issued, appointing seven gentlemen of acknowledged competency to make "a diligent and full inquiry into the practical operation of the laws which provide for the relief of the poor in Scotland; and whether any, and what alterations amendments or improvements, may be beneficially made in the said laws, or in the manner of administering them, and how the same may be best carried into effect." As in the case of the English Poor Law inquiry, the commissioners were armed with powers to summon witnesses, and to require the production of accounts and other documents, and they were allowed a year for making their Report, which was not however delivered until the 2nd of May 1844; and to a consideration of this Report we will now proceed. In conducting their inquiry, the commissioners state that they examined either the minister or the session clerk of every parish, and any other persons who were suggested to them as likely to furnish information; and they have, they say, every reason to believe that the evidence taken by them" affords a fair general view of the state of pauperism and mode of managing the poor in each district." The witnesses whom they examined may, they remark, be considered as representing every class of society---Members of parliament, clergymen, country gentlemen, lawyers, medical practitioners, farmers, manufacturers, tradesmen, artisans, and labourers, all differing in education, feelings, habits and interests, and although exhibiting much diversity of opinion, yet substantially agreeing as to facts. The commissioners state that they personally visited the houses of many of the paupers in one or more parishes in each district, "to ascertain the condition of the inmates, and inquire into their means of subsistence," and they made notes of all such cases, which are appended to their Report: but the condition of the poor as described in these notes must, they observe, be judged of with reference to the condition of the working classes in the district, for "if this is not attended to, the notes, particularly those relating to cases in the Highlands and Islands, will convey an exaggerated impression of the discomfort of the poor."

With regard to the description of persons receiving relief, there is, it is said, a general uniformity of practice throughout Scotland. "The persons entitled to parochial relief, are those who are either wholly or partially disabled on account of age or infirmity, so as to be incapable of working and earning for themselves a sufficient maintenance --- `cruiked folk, blind folk, sick folk, impotent folk, and weak folk,' in the terms of the Act of 1503 —or `aged, pure, impotent and decayed persons,' according to the Act of 1579"--all persons in fact who do not come under the denomination of able-bodied." The commissioners accordingly found, that persons broken down or disabled by old age, or afflicted with any permanent disease incapacitating them for work, or who were insane or fatuous, and young children, whether orphans foundlings or deserted by their parents, or deprived of support from their father by his death transportation or imprisonment, were all considered proper objects of relief. But with respect to illegitimate children, the burthen of maintaining them was considered to be properly thrown upon the parents; and "unless constrained by the urgent necessity of the case, and the extreme poverty of the applicant, the parochial authorities do, as a general rule, resist all claims made on behalf of illegitimate children, from a desire to avoid the encouragement of vice by too ready advances made at the public expense."

In addition to the class of persons above enumerated, who are mostly termed the regular or permanent poor, from their being placed on the regular parish roll, there is another class usually denominated the occasional poor, who "being at other times able-bodied, receive occasional or temporary supply, when unable to work from sickness or other cause, during such time as their inability to work continues." The commissioners state, as the result of their inquiries respecting this last class, "that except in cases of fever or other epidemics, relief is seldom afforded, and when given, it is rather expietate than exlege, more as a matter of compassion, than a matter of right." With regard to the labouring classes generally, the commissioners state, that "the instances in which parish relief appears to "have been afforded to able-bodied persons, on account of their inability to find employment, are of rare occurrence;" and they further say, that "the recent depression of trade, caused the question as to the right of able-bodied persons to demand relief, to be frequently agitated: but they found that the universal practice, with a few exceptions in one or two country parishes, has been to refuse relief in such cases; and the pressing wants of the able-bodied have been met by other means, such as subscriptions, or work furnished by proprietors in their neighbourhood at a reduced rate of wages." On this statement, it may be remarked, that the few exceptional cases in which relief was afforded to able-bodied persons "on account of their inability to find employment," might be expected rather to have taken place in towns than in country parishes; but "the work furnished by proprietors at reduced wages," may possibly in these rural instances have served as an inducement for breaking the rule.

The parishes in Scotland are distinguished into burghal, landward or rural, and those of a mixed character, partly burghal partly rural. In burghal parishes, the duty both of raising the funds and of relieving the poor rests with the borough magistrates, who generally devolve the management upon a committee chosen for the purpose, the authority remaining nevertheless legally vested in themselves. In rural parishes, the kirk session and the lieritors or landowners of the parish have conjoint control in all matters relating to the poor—They meet twice a year, the minister is ex-officio chairman, and the votes of the majority govern their proceedings. In parishes partly burghal partly rural, the administration is also vested in the heritors and kirk session, the borough magistrates taking part therein as heritors. It is said however that although legally the administrative body is the same in all parishes, whether purely landward, or partly landward and partly burghal, yet in practice, the management is different in different parts of the country."

The fund from which the relief of the poor has been chiefly derived in Scotland is the church collections, the practice of contributing to which is said to be universally maintained, however small may sometimes be the amount realised. "Throughout the northern and western Highlands, and nearly, the whole of the parishes in the synods of Shetland, Orkney, Sutherland, and Caithness, Ross, Glenelg, Argyle and Moray—comprising in extent almost one-half of Scotland, the church collections, with such small sums as may accrue to the kirk session from fees fines &c., aided in a few instances by occasional donations from heritors or casual visitors, form the only public fund to which the poor can look for relief." In other parts of the country, besides the church collections and sessional funds, many parishes derive a certain amount of income from mortifications, that is, money or land given in perpetuity by benevolent individuals. And in some parishes, the commissioners found that a small capital had been accumulated from donations or legacies, or savings in former years when the demand did not exhaust the income, the interest of which added to the church collections, formed a fund for the support of the poor.

Where the moneys arising from these various sources proved insufficient for relieving the wants of the poor, the most obvious course would appear to be, as the commissioners remark, "to take immediate steps for raising the required sum by an assessment, regularly imposed, and leviable from the parties liable by law to contribute." But it is added, "a strong feeling in opposition to a legal assessment has existed in Scotland, and the clergy in general have strenuously exerted their influence, to prevent recourse being had to any compulsory mode of raising funds for the relief of the poor." In most of the unassessed parishes, all parties are said to regard assessment as an evil -which ought to be avoided; and where the church collections and other ordinary funds prove inadequate, the heritors arrange to subscribe voluntarily among themselves, in order to supply the deficiency. Hence, it is remarked, have originated "the various forms of what is not unfrequently called a voluntary assessment," the contributions to which by individual heritors are sometimes said to bear little proportion to the value of their properties. Most frequently however, the money is, we are told, raised by the heritors agreeing to pay rateably, according to the rentals of their respective estates.

Notwithstanding what is said above, the commissioners state that the number of legally assessed parishes has been annually increasing, and they express their belief that the feeling -against assessment is gradually diminishing. In most of the cities and large towns, they observe, "it has long been found absolutely necessary to resort to this mode of raising th required funds; and there is now hardly a considerable town or populous parish in Scotland, in which an assessment is not either in existence, or in contemplation. Even in Inverness, where an assessment was long resisted, it was in 1843 found to be inevitable." The mode of levying the assessment, is however said to be very different in different burghs; and in some instances, considerable difficulty is found in laying on an assessment that would in all respects be in strict conformity with the law.

After thus describing the mode in which they conducted the inquiry, the class of persons to whom relief was afforded, and the source whence it was derived, the commissioners next explain the nature and extent of the relief actually given.

In some of the larger towns, "where the number of aged and helpless individuals whose friends are unable or unwilling to undertake the charge of them is always considerable, it has (the commissioners say) been found desirable to provide a place into which persons of that description might be removed, and put under proper care and treatment." Such poor-houses, it is added, are under the control of the ordinary managers of the poor, and the expense attending them has been held a proper charge upon the poor's fund. A list of these establishments is given, amounting to thirteen in number, and their management is described, -which appears to be very similar to that of the old English poor-houses; but in addition to these, the commissioners found "some approximation to a poor-house" in several other parishes, in which the more helpless of the poor were lodged and maintained.

The Scottish system is said however to be essentially one of out-door relief, administered in various ways, the most common mode being by an allowance in money, "either by the week, fortnight, month, half-quarter, quarter, or half-year." In fixing the allowance, the circumstances of individuals are separately considered —their claims on relations, the assistance they may receive from private charity, and every other possible source of income are taken into account. The relief given in the western Highlands is, the commissioners say, so small, as not to be of any material assistance in providing for the support of the poor. In the county of Sutherland such relief " was considered as an acknowledgment of poverty--that is, a sort of recognition of the claim of the party receiving it, to obtain charitable aid in whatever other way he can, from the benevolent individuals in the neighbourhood." In those districts, the allowances are sometimes as low as 2s. annually, and they seldom exceed 10s., even in cases of special ; necessity In other tarts of Scotland, where the relief " is intended to be a real and substantial assistance to the recipients," there is a great diversity in its amount, and even - within the same presbytery, the allowances given in one parish vary considerably from those in another. In some parishes there are two distinct classes of poor, who are under separate management. Thus in Glasgow there are "sessional poor," and "hospital poor," the former being under the kirk sessions of the several city parishes, who grant relief to the extent of 6s. per month ; but if more be required, the applicant is transferred to the class of " hospital poor," who are under charge of the managers of the town's hospital.
The helpless and infirm poor, who are unable to take care of themselves, are usually boarded with relations or friends if they have any, or if not with other persons willing to take charge of them. Orphans foundlings and deserted children are usually provided for in the same way, and are represented as being generally well taken care of. Lunatics and fatuous persons are either sent to a lunatic asylum, or boarded in private houses--the latter mode being the least expensive, is generally adopted. ''here the relief if given in money is likely to be misapplied, it is frequently given in victuals or clothing; and it is sometimes applied in payment of rents, which many persons consider an eligible mode of granting relief, although by others it is condemned. The commissioners however "do not find that any evil has arisen from this practice, or that it has been carried to such an extent as to afford encouragement for speculators to build pauper cottages, as is said at one time to have been the case in England." In Shetland the poor are said to be relieved by what is called "quartering," that is, by any one who is deemed a fit object for relief being assigned to a particular district of the parish, on which he is quartered; and it is considered obligatory on the inhabitants of that district, in rotation, to furnish him with board and lodging for a certain number of nights, according to their several means. This is in fact equivalent to the levying of a poor-rate, and the practice is said to be strongly disapproved by the better class of householders.

Another mode of providing for the poor is, by licensing them to beg within the limits of their own parish, in conformity with the Act of 1672; and the commissioners accordingly found "that begging is in many places a recognised means of subsistence for paupers." In the parish of Campbleton, they say "forty-nine persons were in October 1842, struck off the roll by a committee of managers of the poor, and badges were given to such of the number as chose to receive them as a licence to beg." And even without such badges, the commissioners found " that in most of the burghs and smaller towns the paupers are allowed to beg on one or more days in the week, as in Inverary, Dingwall, Thurso, Perth, Kirkcaldy, and many others."

The foregoing statements apply chiefly to the ordinary poor, who require regular relief, and are entitled to be placed on the permanent roll. But allowances are also granted occasionally out of the poor-fund for relief on account of sickness, for payment of funeral expenses, and for defraying the charge connected with removals.

There is said to be scarcely any provision for medical relief in Scotland. This species of relief seems to be left almost entirely to private clarity. Yet the commissioners state that the poor do not suffer materially from want of medical aid, there being in all the large and in many of the smaller towns, dispensaries supported by voluntary contributions, which supply the poor with medicines, and the officers of which give their attendance gratis. In rural districts the sick poor are generally attended without charge by the medical practitioners, who also in the great majority of cases furnish medicine—"extra diet and vine, if needed, must be obtained from the charity of wealthier neighbours of the poor." The medical men are naturally dissatisfied with this state of things. They are said not to be unwilling to give their attendance gratuitously, but they complain of being called upon to furnish medicine as well, and they moreover complain of the difficulty often experienced in procuring the necessary diet and stimulants for the sick. With regard to funeral expenses, it may be remarked, that the kirk session and other managers of the poor are held to be entitled to the effects of deceased paupers; but where the relations or friends undertake the expense of the funeral, the right is not enforced. This latter condition is however seldom attended to, and it may be said that the funeral expenses are almost invariably defrayed out of the poor-fund.

Although there is in Scotland no power of removing a person against his will, from a parish in which he may have become destitute without having a settlement in it, the commissioners yet say that " considerable sums are expended yearly in sending home English and Irish paupers, and paupers belonging to other parishes in Scotland," the expense of which is charged to the poor-fund. The usual practice is to furnish the party with a pass, on the authority of which he proceeds to his parish, wherever it may be; and all the parishes on the road by which he travels, are expected to give him something for his support by the way. "Whole families are sometimes transmitted in this manner, and if there be invalids or children of the party they are removed in carts, and the expense of the conveyance is borne by the different parishes through which they pass on their road homeward." Passes of this description are said to be extensively granted in some parts of the country, and they are sanctioned by the Act of 1579, as well as by the proclamation of 1692.

The foregoing is a brief summary of the practice described by the Commissioners of Inquiry, as actually pursued in Scotland with regard to the relief of the poor. The commissioners next proceed, in the terms of their commission, "to consider whether any and what alterations, amendments, or improvements may be beneficially made in the law, or in the manner of administering it, and how the same may be best carried into effect."

The commissioners commence this portion of their subject by stating, that the points upon which they find it necessary to animadvert, do not arise so much from defects in the law itself, as from its being in many parishes either altogether inoperative, or else administered in a very insufficient manner. And therefore it has, they say, been their object to consider in what way the present law maybe made to work most efficiently, without making any very material changes either in its letter or its spirit—keeping in mind that where a system of law and practice is in operation, to which a very large proportion of the inhabitants of the country have long been accustomed to look with respect, great caution is necessary in recommending measures the tendency of which might be entirely to subvert the existing order of things. They think it advisable therefore, that the efforts of the legislature should, at all events in the first instance, be directed to amend and repair the existing system, rather than to introduce what is altogether new and foreign to the habits and feelings of the community; and they would, they say, "consider that they were actuated by a false and ill-directed philanthropy, were they to recommend any measures likely to create an abatement of exertion on the part of the labouring classes, or a less independent feeling than that which now exists, or which would lead them to rely on any other means of support than those derived from the exercise of their own energies—being convinced that such measures, however specious at first sight, would not be calculated ultimately to contribute to the happiness of the poor, or to promote their welfare."

After this exposition of their views, and the principle on which they purposed that any recommendation they might make should be founded—They first took into consideration the adequacy or otherwise of the relief then afforded to the indigent poor.

On comparing the condition of the paupers on the roll, with that of independent labourers, the commissioners state that they found it but little inferior. The allowance made by the administrators of the poor's fund, it is observed, gives in most cases an imperfect notion of a pauper's means of livelihood. In the country parishes, there are few receiving relief who are not able in some way or other to earn a little; and the standard of living is said to vary so much in different parts of the country, "that with Is. a week in one parish, a pauper may be in fully as good a condition compared with the independent labourer, as he would be with 2s. a week in another." But nevertheless there undoubtedly is, the commissioners remark, "abundant evidence to prove that the allowances are - often inadequate, both in town and country parishes, and that the amount of relief given is frequently altogether insuflicient to provide even the commonest necessaries of life." There the funds are solely obtained from the church collections, the amount is often inconsiderable, and the same may be said of many of the assessed parishes, where the money raised is often inadequate to meet the claims on the fund. In the Highlands and Western Islands, when the poor have exhausted their small crop of potatoes, they are "forced to cast themselves on the charity of their neighbours, many of whom are nearly as poor as themselves. In other districts they may get assistance from the more wealthy classes, and in towns they generally have recourse to common begging." There can, the commissioners observe, be no question that it was the intention of the law that the poor should have adequate relief; and they now declare it to be their opinion

"That the funds raised for the relief of the poor, and
"the provision made for them out of the funds
"raised for their relief, is in many parishes through-
"out Scotland insufficient."

The commissioners then remark, that since the commencement of the present century, great changes have taken place in the circumstances and general condition of the people. The impetus given by manufactures of various kinds, and the extended operations in the coal and iron districts have, they say, created an entirely new order of things. The annihilation of the kelp trade, and the alteration of the system of farming in the Highlands have also, it is observed, tended greatly to increase the amount of pauperism; and the sympathy which used to exist between the poor and the occupiers of land, exists no longer. Under these circumstances, a ready and accessible court of appeal might appear to be one of the first and simplest remedies for providing against the inadequacy of relief, and such a power has, the commissioners say, been recommended by many of the witnesses: but a right of appeal in regard to the sufficiency of relief, whether to the local magistrate or any other authority, would they consider be attended with very serious evils. They refer to the example of England, where for a long time the local magistrates exercised an appellate jurisdiction in regulating the amount of relief, the effects of which were found to be so prejudicial that the power was abolished, and there is now no appeal from the decision of the boards of guardians in England.

The commissioners finally declare themselves "so opposed to any court of appeal as to the amount of allowances, that instead of investing any new tribunal or board with jurisdiction in such matters, they are inclined to suggest that the appeal to the court of session should be taken away." If it be asked by what means due attention to the wants of the poor is to be secured, when the power of appeal is taken away, it may they think be answered, that the influence of good feeling, and the power of public opinion, which in many parishes have led to the poor being adequately provided for, will do this without the aid of compulsory measures, and they accordingly come to the conclusion:-

"That it is not desirable that there should be any
"appeal from the decision of the parochial managers
"as to the amount of advances."

Some persons had suggested the establishment of a compulsory assessment in every parish, in order to create a certain fund for the relief of the poor, which it was thought would lead to the allowances being fixed on a more liberal scale. But this, the commissioners observe, "would be an entire change of one of the leading characteristics of the Scottish system, which adapting itself to the varying circumstances of particular parishes at different times, admits of an assessment being either imposed or not, as the managers of the poor may judge expedient; and such a change, without some certainty of its being productive of beneficial results, they are not disposed to recommend." A pauper has, they say, the same right to relief whether his parish be assessed or not, and there are many un= assessed parishes in which the allowances are more liberal than they are in others where an assessment has been established. On the whole therefore, they consider that it ought to be left to the parish authorities to provide the finds :for': the relief of the poor, either by assessment or otherwise, as they may deem expedient—at the same time remarking however, "that the voluntary method of providing these funds, to which a preference is still given by a large portion of the intelligence of the country, has appeared to them in a great variety of instances to work in a satisfactory manner, and to be productive of beneficial effects."

The commissioners are of opinion, that means should be taken for subjecting the proceedings of parochial managers to a strict review at stated periods. Hitherto, they say, the necessary facilities have not been afforded for enabling the public to form a judgment as to the working of the present system, and the influence of public opinion on the management of the poor has therefore not been practically felt. The present inquiry has, it is observed, already proved beneficial, by "fixing the attention of many influential parties on the important subject to which it refers, and thus causing the actual state of pauperism to be thoroughly investigated, and the provision made for its relief to be carefully inquired into." There would, it is considered, be no difficulty in establishing a board of supervision in Edinburgh, on some such footing as the present General Prison Board, to which reports from every parish might be made at stated periods, and the board itself reporting annually to the secretary of state. The commissioners do not think it expedient that such board " should have any power of interfering with the management of the parochial boards, except by representation or advice; but they are decidedly of opinion that it should have full power to require the parochial boards to furnish it with every information regarding the management of the poor in their respective parishes "—and they therefore propose:-

"That a board of supervision, all the members of
"which should be unpaid, shall be established
"for a limited period, to which
"board 'reports shall be made at least twice in the
"year from the parochial boards, stating specially
"the numbers and condition of the poor in each
"parish, and the amount of relief, in such form as
"shall be prescribed by the board of supervision;
"that complaints may be made to such board, and
"that such board shall have the fullest power of
"inquiry and remonstrance. That the board of
"supervision shall make a report annually to the
"secretary of state on the condition and management
"of the poor throughout Scotland."

If such a board of supervision be instituted, it will be necessary that a responsible officer should be appointed in each parish to make the requisite reports, and give the information which may be required. The advantage of having such an officer, would it is believed be great, "as he would be -officially bound to have a knowledge of the whole poor, and to make himself acquainted with the circumstances in each case." The feeling of responsibility which would attach to him would also, the commissioners consider, be in the highest degree beneficial; and they accordingly further suggest:

"That the heritors and kirk-session or other
"managers of the poor in each parish,
"shall be bound to appoint a salaried clerk
"or other officer, who shall be required
"to make the reports to, and to conduct the
"correspondence with, the general board of supervision;
"and that the remuneration which such
"officer shall receive shall be fixed by the parochial
"board of management."

The constitution of the several parochial boards of management next occupied the commissioners' attention. In the unassessed parishes of the rural districts, "where a primitive simplicity of manners continues to prevail," the present administrative body must, it is considered, generally speaking, be the parties best fitted for performing the duties of a responsible board of management; and in such parishes the commissioners therefore "doubt the propriety of removing the funds for the relief of the poor from the control of the heritors and kirk-session, under whose joint management they at present are." But where an assessment is levied, some alteration may it is thought be advantageously made in the constitution of the board, by allowing those who pay assessments, but who are not heritors, to have a voice in the administration of the funds. If the ratepayers as a class were permitted to have a voice along with the heritors and kirk-session, it might tend to inspire confidence; but such an alteration would, it is said, require to be accompanied with some provision "by which the number of persons entitled to vote as heritors at the parochial meetings may be limited." The "feuars," or owners of small tenements, are in some places very numerous, and if assessed they would all be entitled to vote equally with the heritors. The commissioners consider it expedient therefore, that in matters concerning the poor there should be a limitation in this respect, and they recommend

"That those persons only are to be considered
"heritors, and held entitled to vote as such, who
"have a valued rent to the amount of 5l. Scots."

And subject to this limitation, the commissioners also recommend:-

"That in rural parishes in which assessment is
"raised, the body to be entrusted with the power
"of imposing such assessment and administering
"the funds, shall consist, in addition to the heritors
"and kirk-session, of a certain number of persons
"to be chosen by the ratepayers, not being heritors
"as above defined."

The law applying to parishes of a mixed character, partly burghal and partly rural, is the same as in the case of purely burghal parishes. They are subjected to one managing body, consisting of the heritors and kirk-session, the burglial magistrates being entitled to act and vote as heritors. But in Dundee and certain other places, this mode of administration having been found inconvenient, had been abandoned, and committees of management were appointed in its stead by the heritors and the magistrates. Without expressing any opinion as to the expediency or legality of these changes, the commissioners "assume it to be generally admitted, that in places where the population has become excessive, the separate parochial system can be no longer effectively carried out." A person may, they observe, reside for many years in a town consisting of two or three different parishes, without acquiring a settlement in any one of them, the individuals most likely to come on the poor-roll being in the habit of frequently shifting their residences from one part of the town to another. The commissioners are therefore of opinion:-


"That it is desirable that all parishes which either
"in whole or in part, are situate within
"the parliamentary boundaries of any
"burgh, should be united and held to be
"one parish for the purposes of providing for the
"poor, and of settlement."

And they further recommend:-

'"That the managers of the poor in such united
"parishes, should consist wholly or chiefly of
"managers to be elected by the ratepayers, and
"also of the provost or chief magistate ex officio-
"The number of votes which each ratepayer shall
"have, being regulated by the amount of the property
"on which he is assessed."

Having stated their views with regard to the constitution of the managing boards in rural and town parishes, the commissioners next advert to the question of poorhouses. In parishes having no poorhouse, paupers incapable of taking care of themselves are, it is said, usually boarded with relations, or other persons disposed to take charge of them, but in neither case are they always properly treated. The same may be said with respect to orphans foundlings and deserted children, who in populous places are moreover exposed to the influence of bad example, and the risk of contracting evil habits. Cases of the above description can only, it is considered, be properly treated within a poorhouse, and the commissioners therefore think it "highly desirable, that in every parish having above a certain amount of population, a poorhouse should be established under proper regulations, for the reception of aged and helpless persons, incurables, orphans and deserted children, and the dissipated and improvident poor." No precise amount of population is named, but where a parish contains more than 6000 or 8000 inhabitants, the necessity for a poorhouse will it is thought be generally apparent; and it is added "indeed there are few parishes having a population of upwards of 5000, in which an establishment of this nature is not desirable." The commissioners nevertheless do not propose to make the erection of poorhouses compulsory, as they "confidently anticipate that the administrative bodies constituted as has been proposed, and acting under the influence of public opinion, will of themselves take steps for the accomplishment of this object in all the more populous parishes." This recommendation of poorhouses, is however qualified by the commissioners declaring, that they do not wish to do away with the present system of out-door relief to helpless individuals who can otherwise be properly cared for, their object being, they say, "to provide for the greater comfort of the paupers, and to secure for them the certain means of proper treatment, if they cannot obtain it elsewhere." A poorhouse will also, it is observed, be advantageous in another respect, as it will assist the parochial board in determining the amount of allowance for out-door relief. The pauper's right to be relieved extends to nothing beyond " needful sustentation," and the rate of out-door relief ought therefore never to exceed the cost of maintenance in the poorhouse. On all these considerations, the commissioners recommend:

"That requisite powers should be given for two or
"more contiguous parishes to unite for the
"purpose of building a poorhouse."

The question of medical relief is next considered. The defective practice in this respect which prevails in all parts of Scotland, has been already noticed. But the authority for affording medical aid to persons afflicted with temporary sickness, out of funds raised by assessment, is deemed to be very questionable; and the commissioners consider it necessary that "the managers of the poor in each parish should have full discretionary power by law, to afford medical relief in all cases where it may seem to them desirable." Parishes might, it is said, be often gainers by promptly granting efficient medical aid, as temporary sickness may else grow into a permanent malady, and become an occasion of expense to and a burden on the parish funds. The commissioners wish medical relief to be understood as comprising "the supply of nutritious diet, wine, or cordials, where deemed necessary for the proper treatment of the case; and also the vaccination of children when necessary;" and they propose

"That medical relief should be supplied more
"extensively to the poor, and that this should form a
"proper charge upon the poor-funds."

They also further recommend

"That in those parishes in which it is found expedient
"to build poorhouses, the managers of the
"poor should in connexion with the poorhouses
"provide accommodation for dispensaries for the
"poor."

The next subject to which the commissioners direct their attention, is the condition of the pauper lunatics. Great improvement has, they say, taken place in the treatment of insanity in Scotland within the last twenty or thirty years, lunatic asylums having been erected in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and several other towns; but the accommodation is nevertheless still very inadequate. In some of the parishes which they visited, the commissioners found pauper lunatics under most improper treatment, and they describe a few of the most flagrant cases, which are exceedingly revolting. They think it important that the parochial boards should take measures for sending insane paupers to an asylum, immediately on the appearance of the disease, and they recommend

"That where an insane person is in receipt of
"parochial relief, it shall be imperative on the
"managers of the poor to send such insane person
"forthwith to a lunatic asylum, unless authorised
"by the board of supervision to treat him other
"wise."

The commissioners next advert to the case of "applicants for relief, who have no settlement in the parish to which they apply, but are otherwise proper objects for parochial aid." The rule in such cases is understood to be, that the managers of the poor are bound to relieve persons in distress, even although they have no settlement in the parish ; but the commissioners express themselves satisfied from the inquiries they have made, "that the practice is often at variance with this rule." The practice in the larger towns has been, (as is before stated a) if the applicant appeared to belong to some other parish, to give him a pass or certificate, under authority of which the bearer is held to be entitled to pass from parish to parish on his road homeward, and to obtain such assistance as he can from the different parishes through which he travels. These passes, it is observed, are subject to great abuse, and they serve as a cloak for vagrancy and imposition. Their number is also very great. Those given by the city parish in Edinburgh during the year 1843 amounted to 771, and from Dundee alone during the year 1842, the inspector of the ,poor stated that he had given no less than 1913. "The complaints against them are loud and general, especially on the part of the country parishes." Although the system of passes is sanctioned by the Act of 1579,b and the proclamation of 1692,b it cannot, the commissioners observe, be supposed that the legislature intended to countenance the abuses to which it has given rise. Before granting a pass, they consider that means ought to be taken for ascertaining the parish to which the applicant belongs, and in cases of sickness a medical certificate ought to be obtained before the applicant is removed. The law, they say, provides that the parish furnishing interim relief, may recover the outlay from the parish liable for his maintenance; and they therefore consider "that there can be no hardship in enacting, that the parish in which a person is found destitute shall be bound to afford relief, until the parish of his settlement be ascertained." Wherefore it is recommended-

"That in all cases the parish in which a pauper
"is found destitute, should be required to relieve
"him forthwith, provided he be a proper object of
"parochial relief; and that such relief shall be
"continued until the pauper's parish of settlement
"be ascertained, and his claim admitted or
"established, the expenses of interim maintenance
"and other expenses being recoverable from the
"parish ultimately found liable."

In order to enable a parish which has advanced money by way of interim relief to a pauper belonging to another parish, to recover the amount without delay, some additional facilities are considered to be necessary. Several cases were submitted to the commissioners, in which applications for repayment of such outlay have either been left unnoticed, or refused on the ground of want of funds. "It appears indeed from the statement of several of the clergy in the Highlands, that it is a common practice there to pay no regard to such applications." The commissioners therefore recommend

"That an officer should be appointed for each
"parochial board, in whose name the managers of the
"poor should pursue and defend actions."

In connexion with this subject, it is further stated, that a considerable number of English and Irish immigrate into Scotland in search of employment, some of whom occasionally become objects of relief before they have acquired a settlement; but such persons cannot at present be removed without their own consent---"there being no means of compelling them to return home, and seek relief in their own country." It is also felt to be a hardship, that an Englishman may by an industrial residence of three years acquire a settlement in a Scottish parish, while a Scotchman can never by mere residence acquire a settlement in England. The commissioners consider therefore, that if the power of removal now possessed by parishes in England be continued, a reciprocal power ought to be vested in the parish authorities of Scotland; and it is accordingly proposed

"That a power of removing English and Irish paupers
"should be introduced into Scotland, similar to that
"which now exists in England with respect to
"Scotch paupers."

With respect to the education of pauper children, the commissioners remark—"it may seem surprising that any doubts should exist as to the legality of dedicating a portion of the poor-fund to purposes of education, for the culture of the mind would appear to be as necessary, where a destitute child is dependent on the parish for relief, as the supply of food and raiment is for the body." Such doubts did nevertheless appear to exist, although in most parishes provision of some kind or other, is said to be made for the education of pauper children. But the commissioners think that there should be a regular and certain provision for the education of these children, and that the parochial boards should be empowered to make the necessary arrangements for this purpose; and they accordingly recommend-

"That in each parish the board of managers should
"be required to defray from the funds provided
"for the relief of the poor, the expenses of educating
"pauper children."

Cases of desertion of wives and families are said to have increased of late years, and an additional burden has thence been thrown on the parochial funds. "The law at present provides no means of punishing criminally a husband guilty of an act of this kind. When a family is abandoned by their father, and relief supplied by the parish, there is no other mode of proceeding against the father than by a civil action, at the instance of the parish authorities, to recover the amount expended;" and this proceeding is said to be seldom attended with success. The commissioners therefore recommend-

"That in addition to such civil remedies as now exist,
"husbands or fathers neglecting to maintain their
"wives or families, be punishable criminally by a
"summary process, in the event of the wives or
"families becoming chargeable on the parish. And
"that in like manner, fathers of illegitimate
"children, where such fathers admit their liability,
"or have been found liable by decree of a competent
"court, shall be punishable criminally by a summary
"process, if they neglect to pay the aliment, and
"the child become chargeable."

The commissioners next proceed to offer suggestions in certain other matters connected with the subject of their inquiry, commencing with the church collections, one half of which may, it is observed, be by law applied to occasional purposes, whilst the other half merges in the common poor-find. "The evidence of all who have had practical experience in the management of the poor, (they say) demonstrates the advantages which arise from affording assistance to persons who have been reduced by temporary calamity, so as to save them from sinking in the world, and losing their position in society. Small sums, bestowed privately by the minister or elders, whether by way of charity or loan, will often help to rouse the dormant energies, and sustain the drooping spirit; and by such well-timed assistance a man may be enabled to get over his difficulties, and resume his station in the world, without the consciousness of having been degraded to the state of a pauper." The commissioners can conceive nothing more correct in principle, than that the means of relieving such cases should be furnished by voluntary benevolence, "nor could any more fitting almoners be found for dispensing such charity than the ministers and elders of the church:" wherefore they are of opinion

"That in every parish where an assessment for the
"poor is imposed, the collections in the churches
"should be left at the disposal of the kirk session
"of each congregation."

Where the church collections are entirely separated from the funds raised by assessment for the poor on the common roll, and their administration is entrusted to the kirk session, the commissioners confidently anticipate that the amount of such collections will be greatly enlarged, "and that the results in regard as well to the character as to the condition of the poor, will be highly beneficial." Wherefore they propose, firstly:

"That all capital sums whatsoever, and all other
"funds than church collections, in the hands of
"the heritors and kirk session, or either of these
"bodies, for the use of the poor, not specially
"destined to other purposes, should, where an
"assessment is imposed, be transferred to the
"managers of the poor, and be at their disposal."

And secondly-

"That all funds for behoof of the poor arising from
"mortifications or bequests, as to which no special
"mode of investment is prescribed, and that all
"floating funds not required for immediate use,
"should be lodged either in a chartered bank, or
"invested in government or .heritable security."

The subject of settlement is next considered, and it is regarded by the commissioners as "one of the most important questions submitted to them." The present law establishing settlement by a residence of three years in a parish is, they say, complained of by a large class of persons, as being partial and unjust. It is alleged that there is a constant influx from rural parishes into the towns and large villages, which thus become unduly burdened. To this allegation however the commissioners attach little weight, the inquiries which they have made as well as their own observations having led them to the conclusion, that generally speaking the condition of the poor in the Lowland parishes is superior to what it is in the towns, and that even in many parts of the Highlands the poor are better provided for than in Edinburgh or Glasgow. Wherefore they consider that there is nothing to induce such an influx into the towns, and that the allegations that such is the case are unsupported by evidence, and without foundation. With regard to the period of residence for conferring settlement, and a right to relief in a parish, the commissioners observe, that it was fixed at seven years by the Act of 1579,E which was altered to three years by the Act of 1672, and although seven years is again named in the proclamation of August 1693, it has, they say, "long been established that three years' residence is sufficient to constitute a settlement." They adduce various reasons however in favour of the longer term, and recommend-

"That the period of residence for acquiring a
"settlement be extended to seven years; and that
"industrial residence by means of which a settlement
"may be acquired, shall be understood to mean
"residence, where a party maintains himself without
"parochial relief, or having recourse to 'common begging,
"either by himself or his family."

And they further recommend

"That a settlement by residence shall only be acquired
"by natives of Scotland."

There are two other points connected with the law of settlement which were at that time involved in some uncertainty, and with respect to which the commissioners recommend

Firstly—"That a child foris familiated, after the age
"of fourteen, shall, in the event of the father
"having acquired a new settlement by residence,
"be held to have a settlement in the parish of the
"father's settlement at the period of foris fanailiation,
"and that illegitimate children shall, under
"all circumstances, follow the existing settlement
"of the mother, until they have acquired a new
"settlement for themselves."

Secondly—"That a child whose father is dead, shall,
"while under fourteen and unemancipated, follow
"the settlement of the mother, if she shall have
"acquired a new settlement, either by residence or
"by subsequent marriage."

In illustration of the practice for which the last recommendation is intended as a remedy, the commissioners state the case of an Irishman, who had died without having acquired a settlement, leaving a widow and children. The widow, it is said, continued to maintain herself and her family for upwards of three years, and then applied for relief on account of her children. But as the father had no settlement, the children were not held to have any claim, and the parish authorities offered to remove them to Ireland. "Had the mother been also removed to Ireland, she might have been refused relief there on the plea of her Scotch settlement, and the result would have been a separation of the children from their surviving parent."

The commissioners here conclude their observations on the several points with regard to which they think it desirable that some change should be made in the existing law; but there are, they say, two questions remaining which they cannot pass over unnoticed, although they are not prepared to make any suggestions respecting them. "The first and most important of these questions is, the propriety of granting relief to able-bodied persons when unable to procure employment. The second is, the expediency of making a change in the present mode of imposing assessments for the relief of the poor."

With respect to the first question—The relief of the able-bodied poor, it is observed, "involves points deeply affecting the fundamental principles of the whole system of Scottish Poor Laws;" and at the present time, owing to long-continued depression of trade, the question is invested with peculiar interest. The claims of the impotent poor to be relieved, are said to be recognised as a right, but there is no such recognition with regard to the able-bodied poor, neither are the parochial boards authorised to levy assessments on their account. The commissioners then enter into an elaborate exposition, filling seventeen closely printed folio pages, of the various arguments connected with this question; and they finally arrive at the conclusion, that on the whole, as regards the rural parishes, "the present law makes as hear an approach as is attainable under existing circumstances, to the system of relief which sound principle points out as applicable to the case of the able-bodied poor." Whilst with regard to town and manufacturing populations, they consider "that the present laws, if amended as they have proposed, will be found sufficient for their purpose, and therefore that relief to able-bodied persons from funds raised by assessment, is neither necessary nor expedient."

With respect to the second question, that of assessments—it is admitted that they are raised in a very irregular and disorderly manner. "Almost every burgh has some peculiar established usage as to the mode of carrying the general law into effect; and as might be expected, there are in every burgh parties ready to express their dissatisfaction with the existing order of things." The commissioners however see great difficulty in applying any legislative remedy in this case. There will always, they say, be found persons ready to complain of the principle on which a tax is imposed. But they consider the prevalence of any usage for a length of time, sufficient to create a presumption of its being in accordance with the feelings of the majority; and influenced by this sedative, and seeing that parishes are at present enabled to raise the requisite funds for the relief of the poor, the commissioners "are. not prepared to 'recommend any alteration with regard to the mode of imposing assessments."

The Report would seem naturally to end here; but the commissioners cannot close it, without adverting to the great prevalence of mendicity in Scotland. The evil they say is most observable in towns. In some of the country districts it has been checked by the establishment of a rural police, but it is still very prevalent in many parts of the country. The law relating to vagrants is said not to be clearly defined, and the practice varies in different counties, which it is thought may have some influence in preventing the application of an effectual remedy. Few things, it is remarked, operate more strongly in promoting immorality, than the encouragement of common begging, with all its train of self-abasement, dissimulation, and fraud. "The low lodging houses which beggars frequent, and the bad habits of the class of persons with whom they necessarily associate, soon farniliarise their minds with vice and debauchery; and if such (it is asked) be the effects upon those of mature years, what must be the result with children, whom it is the common practice for the parents to send to beg?" —Begging is, the commissioners observe, often a profession, and frequently a very lucrative one; and it will never be altogether abandoned, until people are induced to refrain from indiscriminate charity, which (it is added, quoting from evidence in the cases of Selkirk and Kelso) "they will always do, if they can excuse their consciences by knowing that the parties have a place of refuge to go to."

Some observations are then made in reference to publichouses, pawnbroking, savings-banks, friendly societies, emigration, and lastly education. But it is not necessary to follow the commissioners on either of these subjects, with respect to which they advance nothing new, or which has an important bearing on the general question.

The commissioners conclude by declaring that they cannot expect their recommendations will give universal satisfaction, neither can they hope that a cornplete remedy for the evils complained of will be provided by legislation. They have, they say "been unwilling rashly to propose innovations which they did not feel convinced would be improvements, and they have rather been anxious to preserve what are deemed the peculiar merits of the Scottish system." They believe "the suggestions which they have made to be both safe and salutary, and at the same time calculated to relieve much of the wretchedness which had been brought under their notice."

Thus ends the Report of "The Poor Law Inquiry Commission for Scotland," of which it has here been endeavoured to give a faithful although necessarily a condensed summary. The original wording of the most important portions has been adhered to as closely as possible, in order that nothing of the spirit and intention might be lost or perverted; and with respect to the entire Report, it is hoped that enough will have been retained to enable the reader fully to comprehend its import, and to form a judgment on the several points which it seeks to establish.

It is however necessary to state, that the Report did not receive the signatures of all the seven commissioners. Mr. Twisleton, one of the number, and of whom mention has been made in connexion with the distress at Paisley in l_841-42,d not only declined signing the Report, but he recorded his reasons for dissenting from his colleagues in the conclusions to which they had come. These reasons are stated under eight separate heads, and it is right with regard to the important bearing which they have upon the recommendations made in the Report, as well as due to the part taken by Mr. Twisleton in the investigations on which it is founded, to place his dissent in juxta-position with the foregoing summary of the Report itself, in order that both may be considered together.

Reasons of Dissent from the foregoing Report.

First.—"Because the proposed alterations in the Scotch Poor-Law are, I am afraid, insufficient to remedy the defects which are admitted to exist in their administration.

Secondly.—"Because, while it is admitted that the provision at present made for the relief of the aged and infirm poor is in many parishes of Scotland inadequate, the main reliance for the supply of this deficiency seems to be placed on a proposed board of supervision, or standing commission of inquiry, with ample powers of inspection, but with no administrative control or direct authority. But it appears to me, that the striking inadequacy of the allowances at present made to the aged and infirm poor in a large proportion of the unassessed rural parishes of Scotland, arises not so much from ignorance of facts as from want of funds, which again is owing in no small degree, to theories respecting the effect of any provision for the poor, even when it is restricted to the relief of the aged and the infirm. And any statements made annually in reports tending to show that this class of poor are in a destitute condition, will he met by the usual answer, that the only cure for such evils is in the moral and religious education of the young; and that a provision for the poor creates much of the misery which it relieves, but does not relieve all the misery which it creates.

Thirdly.—"Because no proposal is made for requiring the managers of the poor in unassessed rural parishes to assess themselves for the relief of the destitute aged and infirm boor, using these terms in the most comprehensive sense, as including all those who are entitled to relief under the present law. It appears to me that the mischiefs which have been attributed to assessments for this class of poor have been remarkably exaggerated, even although they may not be altogether visionary. On the other hand, this mode of providing for the aged and the infirm is the most equitable which can be adopted; its general tendency as distinguished from its invariable result, is to ensure an ampler supply of funds than can be raised by voluntary contributions; and it reaches non-resident heritors, and others who may Clive either nothing or comparatively little, in aid of the church collections.

Fourthly.----"Because it is not proposed to render it compulsory on managers of the poor to provide medical attendance for paupers. The arrangements for medical relief and the power of fixing the scale of remuneration to medical practitioners, are to be left exclusively to the local authorities, who may deem that they have a direct pecuniary interest in fixing the scale of remuneration as low as possible, or in throwing altogether upon medical practitioners, as is frequently the case at present, the burden of attending the sick poor ,gratuitously.

Fifthly.—"Because it is not proposed to authorise, or to render it compulsory upon the managers of the poor in large towns, to provide houses of refuge or poorhouses, with wards for able-bodied persons. But establishments of this kind, which are in fact identical with English workhouses, appear to inc essential to the proper management of the poor in large towns ; and without them I do not see how the begging which prevails to such a great extent in the chief towns in Scotland can ;be suppressed, consistently with humanity, or in accordance with public feeling.

Sixthly.—"Because, while in reference to towns with a population above 5000 inhabitants, the advantages of poorhouses for the reception of certain classes of poor, entitled to assistance under the present Scotch Poor Law, are clearly pointed out, as subsidiary to out-door relief ; yet the erection of such poorhouses is proposed to be left entirely to the discretion of the local authorities. But while I admit that the arrangement of various details may be safely vested in the managers of the poor in each particular town, it is my opinion that the principles of dealing with a subject so difficult as that of administering relief, should be settled by the enlarged wisdom of parliament. And a matter of such importance as the erection of poorhouses, ought not to depend either on the honest judgment, or possible caprice, partial knowledge, or narrow views, of accidental majorities in particular localities.

Seventhly.—"Because no proposition is made for dealing with the case of large towns, when during seasons of depression of trade, large bodies of operatives are thrown out of employment, and become dependent for subsistence upon public charity. It seems to me desirable that in all large towns which have a poorhouse with wards for able-bodied men, the managers of the poor should have a discretionary power, with consent of a board of supervision, to assess the inhabitants for the purpose of setting to work destitute unemployed persons, without requiring them to enter such poorhouse. The aid of a poorhouse with wards for able-bodied persons, materially facilitates the operations of those who, in periods of depression of trade, undertake the duty of giving out-door relief to a certain number of that class.

Eighthly.—"Because no alteration is proposed in the Scotch law of rating, which is peculiarly anomalous and defective. The usual mode of Ievying the rate on what is called ` means and substance,' is similar in its main features to the income-tax, but it is unaccompanied by those safeguards with which the levying of the income-tax has been surrounded by the wisdom of parliament. Either, therefore, safeguards should be introduced for the purpose of ensuring secrecy and fairness, or the attempt to assess supposed means and substance should be abandoned, and the mode of levying poor-rates in Scotland should be assimilated with that which is in operation in all other parts of the United Kingdom."


 


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