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A History of the Scotch Poor Law
Chapter IV


The lord advocate's speech on introducing the bill 'for the Amendment and better Administration of the Laws relating to the Relief of the Poor in Scotland' — Summary of the Act — The board of supervision constituted --- Its first, second, and third Reports.

Tim' commissioners' Report, of which a summary is given in the last chapter, together with the appended dissent of one of their number, must be presumed to have received from the government all the consideration which the importance of the subject demanded; and in the following session (1845) a bill for I the Amendment and better Administration of the Laws relating to the Relief of the Poor in Scotland' was introduced by the lord advocate, who in an able speech very clearly explained the existing state of the law, the mode of its administration, and the defects which the bill was intended to remedy. In doing this, he relied almost exclusively on the commissioners' Report, which he highly commended as comprising all the information that could be desired on the subject, and on which the bill was accordingly founded. The dissent appended to the Report was not once noticed, and little weight appears to have been attached to its representations in framing the measure.

The several portions of the subject were discussed by the lord advocate in the same order in which they stand in the Report. They were likewise handled in the same spirit. He made the same admissions as to the defects, and the same assertions as to the merits of the existing system; and he also proposed the same remedies for the one, and the same means for extending and perpetuating the other. His speech was in short little more than a lucid summary of the Report itself; and it is therefore not necessary, as it else might have been, to go through it in detail, or to do more than extract the sketch which he gave towards the conclusion of his address, of what was intended to be the operation of the measure. He believed, he said, that the leading benefits it was calculated to confer on the poor, were-

The bill for effecting these several objects, was introduced on the 2nd of April, and after considerable discussion was read a second time and committed on the 12th of June. It was considered in committee and various amendments were made on the 3rd, 11th, 17th, and 21st of July, on the last of which days it was read a third time and passed. On the 28th of July the amended bill was, on the motion of the duke of Buccleugh, considered and read a second time in the Lords, and on the following day it was read a third time and passed without further amendment. On the 4th of August the bill received the royal assent, and became law, under the title of ' An Act for the Amendment and better Administration of the Laws relating to the Relief of the Poor in Scotland' (8th and 9th Vict. cap. 83.)

This Act, like the English Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, was founded on the recommendations of a commission, specially appointed to inquire into and report upon the subject in all its details; and it would seem impossible to devise a better mode of procedure for effecting the object, or one less open to objection. The chief difference between the circumstances into which the two commissions had to inquire was, that in one case there had been a profuse and lavish administration of relief, whilst in the other relief had been insufficiently administered, or altogether withheld; and against these opposite defects of stringency and laxity, of parsimony and profusion, it became in each case the commissioners' duty to devise a remedy. In the case of England, what was done in the way of amendment has already been shown ;b and with regard to Scotland, it is now in the first place proposed to give a summary of the new Act (in framing which the Irish Poor Relief Act was obviously kept in view), and then to describe the steps taken for carrying its provisions into effect, together with a detail of the results from year to year down to the end of 1852-3.

Summary of the 8th and 9th Victoria, cap. 83, (4th August 1845,)

For the Amendment and better Administration of the Laws relating to the Relief of the Poor in Scotland.

Section 1.---Contains the preamble, declaring it to be "expedient that the laws relating to the relief of the poor in Scotland should be amended, and that provision should be made for the better administration thereof;" and also the interpretation of certain words and expressions used in the Act.

Section 2.—Appoints a "Board of Supervision for Relief of the Poor in Scotland," consisting of the lord provost of Edinburgh, the lord provost of Glasgow, the solicitor-general of Scotland, the sheriffs depute of the counties of Perth Renfrew Ross and Cromarty, together with three other persons to be appointed by the crown.

Sections 3, 4.—Provide that one member of the board of supervision, to be named by the crown, shall be paid a salary, and likewise the secretary ; but that all the other members are to act gratuitously.

Sections 5, 6.—The board of supervision are to hold two general meetings in each year, on the first Wednesday in February and August respectively, and may adjourn and hold meetings from time to time as they shall see fit, three constituting a quorum. The board may also appoint two or more of their number as a committee for the purposes of the Act. The paid member is not only to attend the general and special meetings, but is also "to give regular attendance for the purpose of conducting the business of the board."

Sections 7, 8.—The board may, subject to the approval of one of her Majesty's principal secretaries of state, make general rules and regulations for conducting the business, and for exercising the powers and authorities thereof: A record of all their proceedings is to be kept, and once in every year they are to submit a general report, to be laid before parliament, containing "a full statement as to the condition and management of the poor throughout Scotland, and the funds raised for their relief."

Sections 9, 10, 11.—The board are empowered "to inquire into the management of the poor in every parish or burgh in Scotland," and to require answers and returns on all matters connected with or relating to the same ; and also to summon and examine upon oath such persons as they think fit, "and to enforce the production of all books, contracts, agreements, accounts, and writings in any wise relating to any such question or matter." The board may appoint one of its members to conduct any special inquiry, with power to summon and examine witnesses on oath, and may likewise with consent or by direction of a secretary of state or the lord advocate for the time being, appoint one or more persons (not being members of the board), "to act as commissioners for conducting any special inquiry, for a period not exceeding forty days;" and may delegate to the persons so appointed, such powers as the board shall deem necessary.

Sections 12,. 13, 14.—The board may allow such expenses of witnesses,, and with regard to the production of books &c., as they think reasonable. Persons giving false evidence are to be deemed guilty of perjury; and any person who shall refuse to produce books &c., or shall disobey any summons or order, "or be guilty of any contempt of the said board or committee or member or commissioner," is for the first offence liable to forfeit 51., and for the second and every subsequent offence will be liable to forfeit not exceeding 201, nor less than 51.—The board are moreover empowered to appoint "such clerks messengers and officers as they shall deem necessary," the salaries being regulated by the treasury.

Section 15.—The members of the board and the secretary are authorised to attend the meetings of parochial boards for the management of the poor, and to take part in the discussions, but not to vote; and the same privilege is extended to any clerk or officer of the board duly authorised by them for the purpose.

Section 16.—Where the parochial boards of two or more parishes deem it expedient to combine for the administration of the laws for the relief of the poor, and where the board of supervision is satisfied of the expediency, the board are empowered "to resolve and declare that such parishes shall thenceforward be combined, and shall be considered as one parish, so far as regards the support and management of the poor, and all matters connected therewith." But it is provided that any adjacent parish may, upon application, be added thereto, if the board of supervision see fit, "due regard being had to the circumstances of the case."

Sections 17, 18.—In every burghal parish or combination of parishes, there is to be a parochial board of managers of the poor, in whom the whole administration of the laws for the relief of the poor is to be vested, and on whom is devolved all the powers and authorities in this respect hitherto exercised by magistrates or other functionaries. The managers are to be elected by the persons assessed to the relief of the poor, and the parochial boards are to consist of such number of managers not exceeding thirty, and possessing such qualifications, "as the board of supervision, having due regard to the population and other circumstances, may from time to time fix, such qualification being in no case fixed at a higher annual value than 501." The magistrates of the burgle, and the kirk session of each combined parish, are likewise severally empowered to nominate four persons to be members of the parochial board. The board of supervision are to fix a day for the election of managers, and are also to fix the time for the magistrates and the kirk sessions "to nominate the persons to be by them respectively nominated to be members of the parochial board," all of whom "shall be entitled to act for the period of one year, and may be re-elected or re-appointed."

Section 19.—At the election of managers of the poor, the votes are to be taken in such manner as the board of supervision may direct, every person assessed for the support of the poor being "entitled to vote, whether such assessment be made in respect of ownership or occupancy of lands and heritages, or in respect of means, and substance." The number of votes is regulated according to the following scale-

Persons assessed as the occupants of lands and heritages, or assessed on means and substance, are each to have the same number of votes as an owner of lands and heritages assessed to the same amount would have. Where an occupant is also the owner, and assessed in both capacities, he will be entitled to vote as well in respect of his ownership as of his occupancy; and so likewise where a person is assessed on his means and substance, if he be also assessed as an owner of lands and heritages, lie will be entitled to vote in respect of both—provided that no person shall have more than six votes, and that no one shall be entitled to vote who has been exempted from the payment of his rates, or who shall not have paid the rates clue from him at the time of voting.

Sections 20, 21.—The board of supervision are empowered to divide a burghal parish or combination into wards, for the election of managers and to apportion the number of managers to be elected by each ward, "having due regard to the population and the value of property therein." But residents only are entitled to vote for managers in the ward, or have a right to vote in respect of ownership or occupancy of lands and hereditaments within it—neither shall "any person give in the whole of the wards into which a, parish may be divided, a greater number of votes than he would be entitled to give if the parish had not been so divided." The books of the collector of the assessment for the poor are to be taken as evidence for ascertaining the number of votes to which each person is entitled.

Sections 22, 23, 24.—Parochial boards for the management of the poor, are also to be constituted in the parishes which are not burghal or in combination. Where no assessment has been made, the parochial board is "to consist of the persons who, if this Act had not been passed, would have been entitled to administer the laws for relief of the poor in such parish." Where an assessment has been made, the parochial board is to consist of the owners of lands and heritages of the yearly value of 20l. and upwards, and the provost and bailies of the royal burgh, if any, and if assessed in such parish, and the kirk session of the parish (not exceeding six)) together with a certain number of elected members. All persons who are assessed in the parish, and who are not members of the parochial board, are to elect so many of their own number to be members thereof as shall " be. regulated and fixed from time to time by the board of supervision, due regard being had to the amount of the population, the number and residence of the other members of the parochial board, and the special wants and circumstances of each particular parish." The scale of voting is the same as prescribed in Section 19.

Sections 25, 26.—Corporations and joint stock companies may vote by their officer, or one of their body nominated for the purpose. Any member of the parochial board, being a heritor, may appoint another to act and vote for him in his absence, and husbands are entitled to act and vote in right of their wives.

Sections 27, 28, 29.—All disputes touching the election of a member of the parochial board are to be determined by the sheriff of the county, and pending such decision the person returned is entitled to act. A returning officer wilfully making a false return, is liable to a penalty of 50l.

Sections 30, 31, 32.—Parochial boards are to fix certain (lays and places for holding general. meetings, and may adjourn such meetings as they think fit; but two general meetings at least must be held yearly, one on the first Tuesday of February, and the other on the first Tuesday of August, or as soon thereafter as may be, "or at, such other stated times as may be approved by the board of supervision." Special meetings may also be held, and power is given to appoint committees to act on behalf of the whole board. A chairman is to he elected annually, and is to have both an original and a casting vote in case of equality. "A roll of the poor persons claiming and by law entitled to relief, and of the amount of relief given or to be given to each," is to be made by every parochial board. These boards are also t.o appoint inspectors of the poor, and fix the amount of their remuneration, and report the same to the board of supervision.

Sections 33, 34, 35.—Parochial boards may, after due notice, resolve that the funds required for relief of the poor shall be raised by assessment, reporting the same to the board of supervision ; and thereafter "it shall not be lawful to alter or depart from such resolution without the consent and authority of the board of supervision." The parochial board may resolve that the assessment shall be imposed half upon the owners and half upon the tenants or occupiers within the parish, or one half upon the owners and the other half upon the whole inhabitants according to their means and substance —or may resolve that the "assessment shall be imposed as an equal percentage upon the annual value of all lands and heritages within the parish, and upon the estimated annual income of the whole inhabitants from means and substance;" and in either case the resolution is forthwith to be reported to the board of supervision for approval. If the same be disapproved, the parochial board are "to meet and resolve upon another mode of assessment consistent with the law," and report as before; and if the board of supervision shall then approve, the resolution is to be acted upon, and not thereafter altered or departed from without the board's consent. If the assessments have hitherto been imposed under any local Act, "or according to any established usage," the parochial board may resolve that the same shall continue, subject in like manner to the approval of the board of supervision.

Sections 36, 37.—The parochial board, with consent of the board of supervision, may classify lands according to the purposes for which they are used, and may fix such rate of assessment upon each class respectively as seems just and equitable.

In estimating the annual value of lands and heritages, the same shall be taken to be the rent at which, one year with another, such lands and heritages might in their actual state be reasonably expected to 'let from year to year, under deduction of the probable annual average cost of the repairs, insurance, and other expenses, if any, necessary to maintain such lands and heritages in their actual state, and all rates taxes and public charges payable in respect of the same."

Sections 38, 39, 40.—Where assessment is adopted, the parochial board is to cause a book to be made up "containing a roll of the persons liable to payment of such assessment, and of the sums to be levied from each of such persons, distinguishing the sums assessed in respect of ownership or occupancy, or means and substance; and the book or roll so made up shall be the rule for levying the assessment for the year or half-year then ensuing." The parochial board is also to appoint a collector or collectors, and fix the amount of remuneration; and the same person who is an inspector of the poor may likewise be appointed collector of the assessments. After the assessment roll is made up, the collector is to intimate to each person the amount to be levied from him, and the time when the same is payable. Parochial boards may correct any error or omission in the assessment, and persons aggrieved may obtain remedy by law, as before the passing of the present Act.

Sections 41, 42, 43, 44.—If the assessment in any year or half-year proves insufficient, the parochial board may impose such further assessment as is necessary; and they may exempt from payment of the assessment, or any part thereof, "to such extent as may seem proper and reasonable, any person or class of persons on the ground of inability." Where half the assessment is imposed on the owners and half on the tenants, the collector may levy the whole from the latter, "who shall be entitled to recover one half thereof from the owners, or to retain the same out of their rents." And where houses have been built under a building lease, the tenant is to be deemed the owner.

Sections 45, 46, 47, 48, 49.—Where a canal or railway is situate in more than one parish, the value on which assessment is to be made "shall be according to the number of miles or distance which such canal or railway passes through or is situated in each parish, in proportion to the whole length." The same property is not liable to assessment in more than one parish. Where an assessment is imposed on means and substance, individuals or companies carrying on business in a parish, are liable to be assessed on their means and substance derived from such business, although none of them may be actually resident in the parish; but they are not liable to be assessed upon the same means and substance in any other parish; and if any person shall be liable to be assessed as an inhabitant of more than one parish, he may determine in which he will be assessed on his means and substance derivable elsewhere. No person is liable to be assessed on means and substance, unless the estimated annual value thereof exceeds 30l ; and clergymen are not liable to be assessed in respect of their stipends.

Sections 50, 51.—The privilege of exemption from assessment heretofore enjoyed by the members of the college of justice, and the officers of the queen's household in Edinburgh, is not to apply to assessments under the present Act; and no assessment is to be rendered void by "any mistake or variance in the naive or designation of the person chargeable therewith."

Sections 52, 53, 54.—Parish property of every description, whether heritable or moveable, "or under any law or usage, or in virtue of gift, grant, bequest or otherwise, for the use or benefit of the poor," is to become vested in the new parochial boards, and be by them administered for behoof of the poor of the respective parishes. All sums of money or other funds given, mortified, or bequeathed for the use of the poor, if not specially directed otherwise, are to be lodged in a chartered bank, or placed at interest on government or heritable security; and the board of supervision may require returns from time to time as to all such money or funds. But all moneys arising from ordinary church collections in a parish, whenever an assessment has been imposed, are to be at the disposal of the kirk session, who are however "bound.to report annually or oftener if required to the board of supervision, as to the application of the moneys arising from church collections."

Sections 55, 56, 57, 58.—The inspector of the poor is to have the custody of all books writings accounts and other documents relating to the management or relief of the poor, and is to make himself acquainted with the circumstances of each of the poor persons receiving relief, and keep a register of such persons and of the sums paid to them, and of all persons who have applied for and been refused relief, with the grounds of refusal; and he is to visit and inspect personally, "at least twice in the year (or oftener if required), at their places of residence, all the poor persons belonging to the parish in receipt of parochial relief—provided that such poor persons be resident within five miles of any part of such parish." But in populous and extensive parishes, the duties of inspecting and visiting the poor may be performed by assistant inspectors, for whose conduct and accuracy the inspector of the poor is nevertheless responsible to the board of supervision, who may suspend or dismiss any inspector deemed by them to be incompetent. An action may be brought, and may also be defended, on behalf of a parish by the inspector of the poor, and actions brought by or against any inspector of the poor in his official character, are to be continued by or against his successors in office.

Section 59.—The inspectors of the poor are required to report to the board of supervision all cases of insane or fatuous persons chargeable as paupers, who are to be conveyed to and dodged in some establishment legally authorised to receive lunatic patients ; and if this be not done within fourteen days, the board of supervision are empowered to take measures for effecting the same, and to recover the whole expense from the parochial board.

Section G0, 61, 62, 63.—"For the more effectually administering to the wants of the aged and other friendless impotent poor, and also providing for those poor persons who from weakness or facility of mind, or by reason of dissipated and improvident habits, are unable or unfit to take charge of their own affairs" —it is enacted, that whenever the inhabitants exceed 5000, the parochial board may, subject to the approval of the board of supervision, erect a new or enlarge an existing poorhouse. And with the concurrence of the board of supervision, two or more contiguous parishes may unite in building a common poorhouse, the expense to be borne proportionally, as shall be agreed upon. The parochial boards are likewise empowered to borrow money for building and enlarging such poorhouses, and to charge the future assessments with the amount; but the principal sum so borrowed is in no case to exceed three times the amount of the assessment raised for the relief of the poor during the year preceding, and the loan borrowed is to be " repaid by annual instalments of not less in any one year than one-tenth of the sum borrowed, exclusive of the payment of the interest on the same." But no poorhouse is to be built, altered, or enlarged, nor money borrowed for such purpose, unless the plans be approved by the board of supervision.

Sections 64,. 65.—The parochial boards are required to frame rules and regulations for the management of the poorhouses, for the discipline and treatment of the inmates, and for affording them religious assistance, such rules and regulations being subject to the approval of the board of supervision. Poor persons of one parish may be accommodated in the poorhouse of another, on payment of such a rate of maintenance as the beard of supervision approve.

Sections 66, 67.—The parochial board are to appoint a properly qualified medical man to attend the inmates of the poorhouse, and assign him a reasonable salary; and are to make arrangements for dispensing and supplying medicines to the sick poor, under regulations to be approved by the board of supervision, who are moreover empowered to suspend or remove any medical man that appears to be "unfit or incompetent, or neglects his duty." Parochial boards may likewise subscribe such sums as to them may seem reasonable or expedient, "to any public infirmary dispensary or lying-in hospital, or to any lunatic asylum or asylum for the blind or deaf or dumb."

Sections 68, 69.—All assessments levied for relief of the poor, are applicable to the relief of occasional as well as permanent poor—"provided that nothing herein contained shall be held to confer a right to demand relief on able-bodied persons out of employment." The parochial boards are required "to provide for medicines, medical attendance, nutritious diet, cordials and clothing for such poor, in such manner and to such extent as may seem equitable and expedient." They are also empowered "to make provision for the education of poor children, who are themselves or whose parents are objects of parochial relief."

Sections 70, 71, 72, 73.—Inspectors of the poor are bound to furnish applicints for relief who are legally entitled thereto, but who have not a settlement in the parish, with sufficient means of subsistence until the next meeting of the parochial board, and such interim maintenance as may be adjudged necessary is to be continued, until the parish to which the poor person belongs is ascertained, or until he is removed. The amount disbursed on behalf of such poor persons is recoverable from the parish of their settlement, provided it do not exceed the rate expended for relief of the poor in the relieving parish. If relief be refused, application may be made to the sheriff, who if he consider the poor person "legally entitled to relief," may make an order upon the inspector of the poor, directing him to afford relief until he have stated in writing why the relief was refused, and until such statement be answered on behalf of the applicant. But the sheriff has no power "to determine on the adequacy of the relief afforded, or to interfere in respect of the amount of relief in any individual case."

Sections 74, 75.--If any poor person considers the relief granted him inadequate, he may lodge a complaint with the board of supervision, who are required to investigate the case, and if the complaint appears to be ;well founded, the board "shall by minute declare that in the opinion of the board such poor. person has a just cause of action against the parish from which he claims relief;" and a copy of such minute being furnished to such poor person, will entitle him "to the benefit of the poor's roll in the court of session." But no court of law can entertain or decide any action relative to the amounts of relief granted by parochial boards, "unless the board of supervision shall previously have declared that there is just cause of action, as hereinbefore provided."

Sections 76, 77, 78, 79.—No person is to be held to have acquired a settlement by residence in any parish, unless he has resided for five years continuously therein, and "have maintained himself without having recourse to common begging, either by himself or his family, and without having received or applied for parochial relief." And a person who has acquired a settlement by residence in a parish, "shall not be held to have retained such settlement, if during any subsequent period of five years lie shall not have resided in such parish for at least one year." Settlements acquired previous to the passing of the Act, are specially exempted from its operation. Natives of England, Ireland, or the Isle of Man, not having acquired a settlement, and who are "in course of receiving relief in any parish in Scotland," may upon complaint by the inspector of the poor, and after examination before the sheriff or any two justices of peace, and by order under their hands, be removed at the expense of the complaining parish, to England Ireland or the Isle of Man respectively—a certificate by a regular medical practitioner that the health of the parties will admit of such removal being first obtained, and the removing officer is to have the power of a constable whilst effecting the removal. If any person who has been so removed return to Scotland, and apply for relief, or again become chargeable, "such person shall be deemed to be a vagabond under the provisions of the Act of 1579, cap. 74," and may be apprehended and prosecuted criminally at the instance of the inspector of the poor of the parish to which he shall have so applied or become chargeable.

Section 80.—Every husband or father who deserts, or neglects to maintain his wife or children, being able so to do, and every mother and every putative father of an illegitimate child, after the paternity has been admitted or otherwise established, who refuses or neglects to maintain such child, being able to do so, whereby such wife or child becomes chargeable to any parish, "shall be deemed to be a vagabond under the Scottish Act of 1579, cap. 74," and may be prosecuted criminally at the instance of the inspector of the poor of such parish, and if convicted is punishable by fine or imprisonment with or without hard labour, at the discretion of the sheriff.

Sections 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86.—The penalties imposed by this Act may be recovered by summary proceeding in the name of the secretary to the board of supervision, or of any agent appointed by the board. And the sheriff by whom any such penalty is imposed, is to award the same to the poor of the parish where the offence was committed, and order the amount to be paid over to the inspector of the poor. Ratepayers are to be deemed competent witnesses in any proceeding for the recovery of a penalty, and any person summoned to give evidence in any matter under the provisions of this Act, who neglects or refuses to attend, or to be examined on oath for that purpose, is to forfeit a sum not exceeding 51. for every such offence. No proceeding for recovery of penalties under this Act is to be set aside for want of form, nor be removed by appeal or otherwise into any superior court. Actions are to be brought within three months after the fact committed, and at least one month's notice of action and the cause thereof is to be given to the defender; and no pursuer is to recover in any action for irregular or wrongful proceedings, if tender of sufficient amends be made.

Section 87.—In case any parochial board shall refuse or neglect to do what is by law required of then, or in case any obstruction arises in the execution of this Act, the board of supervision are empowered to apply by summary petition to the court of session, or in its vacation to the lord ordinary, "which court and lord ordinary are authorised and directed in such case to do therein, as to such court or lord ordinary shall seem just and necessary."

Section 88.—All the powers and rights of issuing summary warrants and proceedings, and all remedies and provisions for collecting and recovering the land, assessed, and other public taxes, are made applicable to assessments for the relief of the poor; "and the sheriffs, magistrates, justices of peace and other judges, may grant the like warrants for the recovery of all such assessments in the same form, and under the same penalties, as is provided in regard to such land, assessed, and other public taxes." In cases of bankruptcy or insolvency, assessments for relief of the poor are to be paid out of the first proceeds of the estate, in preference to other debts of a private nature.

Section 89.—If any parochial board finds it necessary to make disbursements for the relief of the poor, beyond the amount received of the assessment for the year, or the half-year, the board may borrow on security of such part as is still due, not exceeding one half the amount of such part; and until this be repaid, no money is to be borrowed on any future assessment.

Section 90.—In all cases where notice or intimation is required to be given by this Act, without prescribing the particular form, the board of supervision are empowered "from time to time to fix the form of such notice or intimation, and the manner in which the same is to be given."

Sections 91, 9.2.—All laws statutes and usages, so far as they are at variance or inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are repealed, but they are to continue in force in all other respects. "The debt owing by the charity workhouse of the city of Edinburgh" is exempted from the operation of the Act. And section 92 provides that the Act may be renewed or repealed during the present session.

The Act, of which the foregoing is a comprehensive summary, contains many important provisions, and no doubt goes far to remove some of the uncertainties, and to supply several of the deficiencies, which existed under the old Scottish law with regard to the relief of the poor. By establishing regularly constituted parochial boards of management, and a board of general supervision, a machinery is moreover created competent to the discharge of all the duties imposed by the Act, and of still more extensive duties should such hereafter be required; whilst the power of levying assessments, and of combining parishes for the erection of poorhouses and providing medical relief, together with the appointment of inspectors, and the more certain provision for relief of the lunatic casual and unsettled poor, and for the purpose of education, are all exceedingly valuable additions to the former system, and cannot fail of being productive of much benefit.

The Act makes no change in the description of persons legally entitled to relief under the old law. In England all destitute persons are so entitled, but in Scotland the right is still, in conformity with the recommendation of the commissioners of inquiry, limited to the aged and infirm poor. The functions of the board of supervision are chiefly suggestive or corrective —the commissioners may inquire and call for returns, or may recommend a course of procedure, but are not empowered to take the initiative. If invoked, they may combine parishes- for providing a poorhouse; but unless applied to by the local boards they have 'no power to direct this to be done, and can only require them to meet and consider the question; and so in other matters. Their usefulness in securing an effective administration of relief, must therefore be necessarily less than it would be if they were not so restricted, and the new law will perhaps work less efficiently in consequence. With respect to the vexed question of settlement, the term of residence for conferring a right, is fixed intermediately between the three ,years of the former practice, and the seven recommended by the inquiry commissioners; and the continuance of the right, is made to depend upon the party not applying for relief or resorting to common begging, and also on his residing in the parish continuously for one year at least, during any subsequent five years.

No further observations appear to be at present called for in regard to the provisions of this important Act, and we will now therefore proceed to describe the steps which were taken for carrying it into effect, and the general results attending its application.

The 'Act for the Amendment and better Administration of the Laws relating to the Relief of the Poor in Scotland,' was passed on the 4th of August 1845; and on the 4th of September following the board of supervision constituted under it met in Edinburgh for the transaction of business, Sir Johan McNeill, G. C.B. being appointed the paid commissioner and chairman of the board, and William Smythe Esq. secretary. At the end of a year, that is in August 184G, the board, as required by the 8th section of the Act, made their Report, in which they give a full statement of the proceedings for bringing the law into operation. Of this first Report, and of the others subsequently made in like manner, it is proposed in the following pages to give a summary, omitting only the merely technical and less important matters; but still affording such explanations as will enable the reader to judge of the progress and the effects of the new law.

One of the first duties required from the board of supervision, was to afford assistance and information to the several parishes in constituting the new parochial boards, and in appointing inspectors of the poor, there being, it is said, "in many parishes a misapprehension as to the objects of the legislature in respect to these matters, and a diversity of opinion as to the mode of proceeding to effect them."

The constitution of the parochial boards, on whom the administration of relief to the poor exclusively devolved, was no doubt an object of primary importance; and although provided for with great minuteness in the 17th and following sections of the Act, there were yet certain things left undetermined, and subject to the directions of the board of supervision, who lost no time in preparing the necessary instructions and regulations on every point requiring the exercise of their authority. The board opened its communication with the several parishes by addressing a letter to each, pointing out what was required under the 32nd section of the Act, and advising the parish authorities as to their holding meetings, making up a roll of the poor, appointing inspectors, and settling the mode of raising the necessary funds. Most of the persons named as inspectors, were necessarily unacquainted with the duties of the office, and the system of management they were called upon to carry out was new to then all." The commissioners therefore framed rules for their guidance, and to which after being approved by a secretary of state, the inspectors were bound to conform. At the end of the first year, every parish-in Scotland had, we are told., named an inspector ; and the commissioners observe, that due allowance being made for inexperience, the duties have generally been well performed.

After making up the poor's roll, and appointing an inspector, the parochial boards had next to determine whether the funds required for the relief of the poor should be "raised by voluntary contributions or by legal assessment." Both modes were practised under the old law,.but the former was the one most generally adopted. Out of the 878 parishes into which Scotland was then divided, only about 230 were legally assessed in 1842-3. The number which however, at the date of the commissioners' Report, had resolved to raise the funds for relief of the poor by assessment, was increased to 448, being something more than one half of the entire number.

Under the old law, all the inhabitants of purely burghal parishes were assessed "according to the estimation of their means and substance," in terms of the statute of 1579; but in landward parishes "half the burden was laid on the owners of lands and heritages within the parish, and the other half on the whole inhabitants according to their means and substance." By the new Act three modes of assessment are provided, and it is left to each parochial board to adopt whichever of the three may be considered best suited to the circumstances of the parish. Half the assessment may be imposed upon the owners, and half upon the occupiers; or one half upon the owners, and the other half upon the whole inhabitants, according to their means and substance; or the whole may be imposed as an equal percentage on the annual income derived from both sources indifferently. Whenever the first mode is adopted, the 36th section empowers the parochial board "to distinguish lands and heritages into two or more classes according to the purposes for which they are used or occupied, and to fix such different rates of assessment on the tenants and occupants of each class as may seem just and equitable." In all these modes, the commissioners remark, "that which may be regarded as the national principle, that each man shall be assessed in proportion to his means, has in effect been preserved." And they further add, that "none of the modes established by usage are opposed to the principle of the old law under which they were adopted, neither are any of the local Acts at variance with the principle on which the law was founded."

In determining the mode in which a parish should be assessed, the parochial board had not therefore to consider the principle as to whether each man should be assessed according to his means, but whether the assessment should be imposed directly upon his estimated means and substance, or indirectly by assuming that the house or lands occupied by him represented his means and substance proportionally with the other ratepayers. In a great majority of parishes, the commissioners say, the indirect mode of estimating means and substance, by taking annual value or rent as the criterion, has been preferred, the numbers being 379 for that mode of assessment, and 66 for the other modes; and they "think it not very unlikely that the second and third modes of assessment mentioned in the Act, may gradually be abandoned, and the first mode, with or without classification, adopted by all or nearly all the parishes in Scotland."

At the date of the Report., all the parishes in Scotland bad either by assessment, church collections, contributions, or other means, provided the funds required for the relief of the poor, and it is satisfactory to find that in no case had the commissioners found it necessary to avail themselves of the power given them by the 87th section, of applying by summary petition to the court of session in case of refusal or neglect in doing what the law requires.

The 16th section of the Act empowers the board of supervision, either on application or otherwise, to require the parochial boards of two or more adjoining parishes to meet and consider the expediency of their combining for the management of their poor, and if it be resolved that it is expedient and proper for them so to combine, the board of supervision may declare such parishes to be thenceforward combined accordingly. It appears however that only two applications had yet been made for this purpose, and that the commissioners were enabled to exercise the power confided to them in one only of these, by combining the three parishes of the island of Islay which belonged almost exclusively to one proprietor. The requisite consent of all the parishes was not given in the other case.

The practice of giving passes to poor persons, authorising them to ask relief in the places through which they passed in their way to their own parish, had long prevailed under sanction of the Act of 1579. But there was no certainty that the person receiving the pass had a settlement in the parish to which he represented himself to belong, and the pass often became a cover to fraud, and a warrant for mendicancy. A poor person legally entitled to relief has, under the new law, a right to claim such relief in any parish where he may apply for it;'` and the relief is to be continued until the parish of his settlement be ascertained, by which parish the cost of such interim relief, and the expense of the pauper's removal, is to be borne. The ground for granting such passes therefore no longer existed, and steps were taken for putting an end to the practice. The commissioners say that the rule they endeavoured to enforce was, "that a poor person, who has applied for relief in any parish, is not to be removed, or provided with the means of -removal, to any other parish in Scotland than that which has been ascertained to be the parish of his settlement." English and Irish paupers will, they add, under this rule, "be removed from the parish in which they may apply for relief, to their native country, instead of being passed on as heretofore from parish to parish." But to protect English and Irish paupers from unnecessary hardship in their removal, a letter was addressed to the inspectors of the poor of the parochial boards, recommending attention to the health,, and comfort of all such paupers, and also recommending that those who are to be removed by sea, should be conveyed to a port with which there is such regular communication as may afford the greatest likelihood of their speedily reaching the place of their destination.

The facility of obtaining relief under the new law by persons legally entitled to it, elsewhere than in the parish of their settlement, is said thus early to have considerably increased the charge of the casual poor. The cost of the relief afforded to non-settled Scottish paupers, is recoverable from the parishes to which they belong. The number of English paupers is noticed as being comparatively small. "But the number of natives of Ireland, or of their families, who receive casual relief, and who are removed to Ireland at the cost of the different parishes in Scotland, especially Glasgow and other towns on the `vest coast, is very considerable." A table in the appendix to the Report shows the number of persons so removed from Glasgow, between August 1845 and 25th July 1846, to have been 1949, at a cost of 133l. 16s. 9d.

With respect to the important question of poorhouses, the erection and management of which are provided for by the 60th and four following sections of the new Act, it is stated that several parishes, either singly or conjointly with contiguous parishes, have taken into consideration the expediency of erecting poorhouses; but hitherto, the commissioners say, "no resolution to erect a poorhouse has been transmitted to us by any parochial board." It appears however that certain parishes in the counties of Caithness and Ross proposed to erect poorhouses, if the commissioners were prepared to admit the right of the parochial boards to refuse relief to any poor person who might refuse to enter the poorhouse. But the commissioners were of opinion, that they "had no power to sanction the abolition of out-door relief in any parish, and that they must judge of the propriety of refusing to relieve a pauper otherwise than by admitting him into the poorhouse, with reference to the circumstances of each case." The question whether a parochial board could legally refuse relief except in the poorhouse might, the commissioners believed, come to be decided in a court of law, and therefore it would be wrong in them to give an opinion with regard to it. [A case involving this question did in fact subsequently arise at Glasgow, —a person entitled to relief was offered admission to the poorhouse, and was refused other relief. An action was brought against the parish for illegally refusing relief, but the sheriff held that the parish had not acted illegally in the matter, and dismissed the case. It appears therefore, as the commissioners remarked at the time, that the only question the sheriff has to decide is, whether the claimant is or is not entitled to relief—he is not empowered to judge of its adequacy or fitness.] Some communications which had taken place with certain parochial boards on the subject of poorhouses are then noticed, after which the commissioners conclude this head of their Report by declaring, that although they have been strongly impressed with the advantages which both the poor and the ratepayers in many parishes would derive from the erection of poorhouses, they have nevertheless abstained from pressing this opinion on any parochial board—"We do not," they say, "doubt that experience will lead them to the same convictions that have forced themselves upon our minds, and in any event we are satisfied that it is more advisable to leave them to pursue the course that may to them appear the most expedient, than to press upon them measures involving a considerable present expenditure, to remedy evils which they have either not yet experienced or not fully appreciated, and for which. it will not be too late to provide a remedy when they have become urgent."

By the 69th section of the new Act, parochial boards are required to provide medicines, medical attendance, nutritious diet, cordials, and clothing for the sick poor, "in such manner and to such extent as may seem equitable and expedient." Before this there was no provision for medical relief, and the assistance the sick poor received, was for the most part afforded gratuitously by the resident practitioners in the several parishes. The commissioners very early called the attention of parochial boards to this section of the Act, and they likewise, in framing the rules for the inspectors of the poor, made it their duty "in all cases of sickness or accident befalling persons entitled to relief," and also "in every case of sickness or accident of any person in receipt of parochial relief," not only to take measures for procuring without delay such medical aid as can be obtained, but as soon as may be, and from time to time afterwards, "to visit the home of such sick person, and supply him with such articles as may seem necessary, until the case shall have been reported at the next meeting of the parochial board." This was probably, under the circumstances, all that the commissioners could directly do towards securing needful relief for the sick poor, although their influence would no doubt be still further exerted in forwarding that object. It appears that in a large majority of the parishes, no salary had yet been assigned to a medical officer. In a considerable number this had however been done, and in some instances parishes situated near towns in which there were hospitals or dispensaries, had subscribed thereto on behalf of their sick poor. The commissioners are, as was to be expected, far from thinking "that the medical relief afforded to the poor in Scotland, more especially in the rural and remote parishes, is on a satisfactory footing." In some of the town parishes, and in a few of the rural parishes, medical relief is, they say, adequately provided for; but in a great majority of parishes much yet remains to be done. They hopefully add however, that "the intention of government to contribute from the public funds a considerable sum towards defraying the cost of medical relief in Scotland, will afford an opportunity of revising the whole system, and of placing it on a much more satisfactory footing than it has hitherto been."

Parochial boards are required by the 59th section of the Act, to remove all insane or fatuous paupers to an asylum, unless the board of supervision, under special circumstances, dispense with such removal, in which case the paupers are to be provided for in such manner as the board of supervision shall approve. By returns which the commissioners obtained, it appears that the number of lunatic paupers not accommodated in any asylum, amounted to 1621, whilst according to another return, there was only available accommodation for 82 in public asylums, and for 52 in private establishments, making together 134 vacancies; so that not even a tenth part oft the entire number of pauper lunatics could be dealt with as required by the Act. The cominissioners therefore insisted on the removal of such only, as they had reason to believe from the reports of the medical men were likely to be benefited by being sent to an asylum, or who might become dangerous or offensive to decency; and they expressed their regret "that the accommodation in Scotland for lunatics generally is so limited, and that the existing asylums are for the most part filled with incurable patients, to the exclusion of recent cases, many of which are curable."

It is impossible not to participate in the regret here expressed. The state of the lunatic asylums is everywhere the same. In England and in Ireland, as well as in Scotland, they are not only insufficient in number, but those which exist are clogged with incurable cases, to the exclusion of numbers who by suitable treatment in a well-managed asylum might be restored to health, and again become useful members of society. The obvious if not the only remedy for this state of things, would be, to establish subsidiary asylums for chronic and incurable cases, in connexion with the ordinary asylums, which would then be left free for the treatment of the curable, and for the application of whatever medical science could devise in mitigation of one of the heaviest afflictions with which humanity is visited.

If in any case the relief afforded to a poor person is deemed by him to be inadequate, the 74th section of the Act provides that he may "lodge or cause to be lodged a complaint with the board of supervision," which is without delay to investigate the same; and if the complaint appears well founded, the board is to record, a minute declaratory of its opinion that such poor person has a just cause of action against his parish, which will entitle him without further proceedings "to the benefit of the poor's roll in the court of session." The board of supervision is thus made the channel through which the person complaining of inadequate relief has to seek redress, and it became the duty of the commissioners therefore to afford every facility for the transmission and adjudication of such complaints. Forms of application were accordingly prepared, and placed in the hands of the inspectors of the poor, with directions to deliver one to every poor person on the parish roll who might demand it, and also if required to fill up the form in any terms the applicant might desire. After the form has been filled yip with the statement of the applicant, it is to be delivered open to the inspector for him to insert such remarks thereon in the way of explanation as he may think fit, and it is then to be transmitted to the board of supervision for decision or further inquiry as may be judged expedient.

When the information thus obtained led the commissioners to consider that the relief complained of was inadequate, the case was remitted to the parochial board for reconsideration.' If the relief was then adequately increased, the ground of complaint was held to be removed; but if the relief was not increased, or was not adequately increased, the parochial board was then called upon to state the grounds on which they held the relief to be adequate; and if they failed to do this, or if the grounds stated were deemed insufficient, it was then intimated to them that unless the relief were adequately increased, a minute declaratory of the board's view in the matter would be recorded against them. In all the cases thus remitted to the parochial boards, the commissioners have, they say, been satisfied by the information furnished to them, that the relief complained of was adequate, or that the additions subsequently made thereto were such as to remove the grounds of complaint. It is ,then with great propriety remarked, that these decisions on complaints of inadequate relief, not only affect the comfort and well-being of the applicants, but must also influence the scale of relief to the poor generally; and the commissioners declare that they have felt the full weight of this responsibility, and have given the most careful consideration to the cases that have come before them. "To have sanctioned illusory or inadequate relief, would (they say) have been unjust to the poor. To have exacted more than needful sustentation, would have been unjust to the ratepayers and to the independent labourers, and injurious to the community."

The condition and habits of the people, and the cost of their ordinary subsistence, are so different in different parts of Scotland, that no unvarying rule could be laid down for adjusting the amount of relief. A weekly allowance which would be fully adequate in the Highlands and Islands, would be inadequate in the southern counties. Even in the same parish, the commissioners observe, it rarely happens that any two cases are precisely similar; and they are satisfied therefore, that the only safe course is to consider each case with reference to its own peculiar circumstances. But although it might be impossible to fix any one standard of adequacy for the whole country, it was necessary to endeavour to ascertain the cost of subsistence in the different districts, so as to enable the commissioners to judge of the adequacy or inadequacy of the allowances in case they should be complained of. After much anxious deliberation and inquiry on this point, they have, they say, "come to the conclusion that the safest guide to a right estimate of what constitutes 'needful sustentation' in any parish, is to be derived from a knowledge of the earnings on which industrious labourers are able, in that parish, to maintain themselves and their families without parochial aid;" and they add, "that it would be a fatal error, even in Scotland, where such persons only as are incapacitated by physical or mental disability from maintaining themselves are entitled to parochial relief, to make the condition of the pauper more desirable than that of the independent labourer"—a proposition which no one will be disposed to controvert. The number of cases of paupers complaining of inadequate relief which had come before the board of supervision, down to the date of the Report, was 597,—of these 303 were dismissed on the information contained in the schedules, and 94 after communication with the parochial boards. In 182 cases remitted to the parochial boards, the allowances were so far increased as to remove the ground of complaint; and 18 cases remained undisposed of. The discontent which led to the transmission of so many complaints was, the commissioners say, "not caused by urgent destitution, and still less by any unfavourable change in the complainants' condition since the new Act came into operation, for their condition had been greatly improved; but was to be attributed chiefly to the exertions of certain persons to excite discontent amongst them, and to the extravagant expectations that had been raised of the advantages which the Act provided for them."

According to a return of the applications made by poor persons to the sheriffs in the several counties, under the 73rd section of the Act, on account of their being refused relief, it appears that the entire number of such applications during the fifteen months in which the new law had been in operation, amounted to 456, of which 184 were from the counties of Ross, Sutherland, and Caithness. Upon this the commissioners remark, that where the change was greatest, the applications would necessarily be the most numerous, and the labours of the sheriffs are said in some instances to have been very considerably increased thereby. The duty of deciding moreover, the commissioners observe, must often be painful and perplexing. Where the applicant is both wholly disabled and wholly destitute, a parochial board can hardly fail of at once affording the relief which there is then no -ground for refusing. But it is in cases of doubt as to the applicant's right to be placed on the roll, that the sheriff is likely to be applied to, and these are generally cases of partial disability, or partial destitution, in which it is obvious that questions of• extreme nicety must occasionally arise, in ascertaining the precise point at which an individual may have become entitled to relief. The commissioners suggest what would seem the right method. of solving such questions, by remarking, that "were poorhouses universally established, they would afford a ready means of testing the exigency of such claims;" and they support this suggestion by declaring that in parishes where poorhouses exist, the same difficulties have not been experienced in dealing with applicants of whose claims doubts were entertained by the parochial board, an offer to receive an applicant into the poorhouse having been held to be sufficient to justify the refusal of other relief. This testimony as to the insufficiency of individual judgment, and the importance of an established test, for determining the claims of applicants for relief, is of great value, coming from such a quarter; and we may presume, can hardly fail of leading eventually to an increase in the number of poorhouses, the want of which thus appears to be already felt.

Accuracy and uniformity had not yet been established in registering the poor who were in receipt of relief, nor in the accounts of the expenditure for that purpose; but according to the best returns which the commissioners could obtain from the several parishes,

The shortness of the time since the new Act came into operation, and especially since arrangements were made in accordance with the 54th section, for placing certain funds at the disposal of the kirk sessions, made it impossible to obtain separate returns of the expenditure by that body, and the whole amount expended on relief of the poor, from whatever source derived, is therefore included in the above statement.

It appears from returns obtained in 1843, that the money raised from all sources for the relief and management of the poor in Scotland, amounted-

In February 1846 the amount expended is above stated to have been 295,232l; but the amount raised in that year was 306,044l, being, as compared with 1836, an increase in ten years of 135,002l., or nearly 79 per cent., upwards of a fourth part of which increase had, it is to be remarked, taken place in the last year.

The annual value of real property in Scotland, according to returns laid before parliament in 1843, was 9,320,794l.

The population of Scotland at the periods of the census in 1831 and 1841 was-

Thus exhibiting an increase of population in ten years equal to 10.7 per cent.

The number of poor on the rolls of all the parishes for the year ending 1st February .1845, was 63,070, or about 1 in 42 of the population. For the year ending the 1st of February 1846, the number on the rolls was 69,432, or about 1 in 38 of the population ; but the imperfect mariner in which the parish rolls were kept, deprives these numbers of any pretension to exactitude.

The commissioners conclude. this their, first Report with the declaration, that they are deeply impressed with the importance of the duties assigned to them, and the weight of the responsibility involved in the administration of the Poor Law. They have however, they say, felt that the responsibility did not rest with them alone, but was shared by the parochial authorities of the country; and they bear, testimony to the honourable and humane spirit in which the heritors and parochial boards generally, have endeavoured to give effect to the provisions of the 'Act for the Amendment and better Administration of the Laws relating to the Relief of the Poor in Scotland.'

Such was the first Report of the board of supervision, of which it has been here endeavoured to give the condensed substance, and on all material points as far as possible in the words of the Report itself; for it was felt to be important that in a matter so peculiar and beset with so much difficulty as the new Scottish Poor Law, the views of the commissioners charged with the duty of superintending its introduction should be so stated, as to leave no doubt of the grounds of their proceeding in any case, or of their decision upon any point, whether of practice or principle.

The first year's experience of the working of the new law, was generally held to be satisfactory. The administration of relief was more orderly, its amount approximated more nearly to the wants of the recipients, and the charge was more equally spread over the whole community. The means of further improvement had been provided for by the organisation of parochial boards with inspectors of the poor, and by the various regulations promulgated by the board of supervision—all tending to the establishment of one comprehensive system throughout the country, varied only in its application by the different circumstances of the districts where it had to be applied. For the details of such application in carrying out the law, and for the results which ensued, we must turn to the second and subsequent Reports of the commissioners.

The second Report of the board of supervision was made in August 1847. The period was one of much distress and difficulty, owing to the almost universal failure of the potato crop. Some details of this calamity, as it occurred in England and Ireland, are given in the Histories of the English and Irish Poor Laws. In Scotland the pressure caused thereby was exceedingly severe, especially in the Western and Highland districts, which were again reduced to a state similar to that which occurred in 1783. The Report states that "the failure last year of the potato crop which had hitherto furnished probably about two-sevenths of the food consumed by the population of Scotland, and the high price of every description of grain, demanded increased allowances to the poor." As soon therefore as it was ascertained that the failure "had been almost universal and complete," the commissioners called upon the parochial boards to consider the propriety of increasing the allowances, and recommended that the increase should be made in the form of a separate extraordinary allowance in food, rather than an increased allowance in money. They were aware, they say, that in certain of the poorer parishes, advantage might be taken by dealers to exact exorbitant prices, or to adulterate the food; and they therefore recommended the parochial boards of such parishes to lay in stores of meal on their own account, from which the extra allowances should be issued to the poor: but as the commissioners had no means of ascertaining in what parishes a regular supply of food at fair prices could be safely relied upon, they left each parochial board to the exercise of its own discretion as to laying in stores, or trusting to the ordinary course of trade for a supply.

The Appendix to the Report contains long and minute statements made by officers whom the board of supervision, on the failure of the potato crop, had sent to the distressed districts of the western Highlands and Islands, with directions to visit the several parishes, and examine into the condition of the poor; and it appears from these statements, that although the labouring classes endured much privation in most of the parishes, "the poor who were dependent on parochial relief had been provided with the necessaries of life at least as amply as in the most abundant of former years." The commissioners also remark, that "taking into consideration the shortness of the time that has elapsed since any systematic attempt has been made to give effect to the legal provision for the poor in those districts, and the very severe test to which the efficiency of the law and of the machinery by which it is to be carried out have been exposed during the last year, they think they are justified in expressing a confident hope that the recent statute will be found adequate to accomplish the benevolent objects contemplated by the legislature." They further express their satisfaction at being able to state, "that after a careful investigation they have been unable to discover any case in which it can be clearly established that want of food was the immediate cause of death" doubtless a subject of gratulation, as the reverse was to be expected under the very trying circumstances of the period. But considerable mortality did nevertheless ensue, want and disease having on this as on other occasions maintained their accustomed relations of cause and effect; and the commissioners express their regret at having "to report the death of several very efficient inspectors and assistant-inspectors, and more than one medical officer, from fever caught in discharge of their duty amongst the poor."

The Scottish Poor Law, we have seen, excluded able-bodied persons, that is in fact all the class of labourers, from participating in its benefits, or availing themselves of its protection in seasons like the present. It is true that famine, or a failure in the usual supply of food, is an event so far exceptional as scarcely to admit of being provided against by any description of Poor Law; but like other visitations it has its degrees of severity, and the sufferers under it have their different claims for sympathy and assistance. To exclude formally and entirely, whatever might be the circumstances, any one class or section of the people, whilst all requisite support is furnished to another section, does not seem to be consistent with justice, and can hardly be defended on the score of policy.

The failure of the potato crop was known so early as the month of August in the preceding year. The failure was very general, but in the western Highlands and Islands where the potato constituted the chief food of the people, it was nearly entire, and the distress was there proportionally great. The board of supervision, as already stated, took steps for securing a sufficient supply of food for those of the poor who were legally entitled to relief ; but with regard to the rest, for all were poor, assistance had to be sought elsewhere. Government was early applied to, and an experienced cornmissionary was sent to ascertain the state of things, in the western districts, and to organise the means for supplying the wants of the population. Extensive inquiries were likewise instituted into the state of the crops, and the condition of the people, in other parts where a dearth of food was apprehended. The distress was referred to with expressions of "the deepest concern" in the Royal speech on the assembling of parliament, and in answer to inquiries afterwards made, the home secretary stated that in order to mitigate the distress, government had made advances under the Drainage Act of last session (9th and 10th Viet. cap. 101), which in their results were highly beneficial, increasing the value of the land to the proprietors, and affording extensive relief to the distressed labourers. The government had moreover, lie said, established depots for the sale of food, one at Tobermory and one at Skye, in addition to which commissariat officers had been sent in government steamers to make inquiries, and to give such assistance as was necessary. These measures had, he believed, been the means of supplying the people of those districts with food, who otherwise would have been in want of the necessaries of life. Grants had moreover been made in a few instances "to meet local subscriptions, and to relieve distress, where the Scottish poor law had been found to be inefficient; and lie hoped that by these means the severity of the calamity in Scotland might not only be mitigated, but that by the exertions of the landed proprietors, who showed every disposition to meet the misfortune, Scotland would be brought safely through the present crisis. [q See Sir George Grey's speech on the 1st of February 1847, as given in Hansard. I have examined the voluminous correspondence which took place at this time between the government and various parties in Scotland, and extracts might be given as in the case of 1783 (see ante, p. 117) showing the extent of the distress, and the sad condition to which the people were reduced, in the Highland districts especially; but all that is necessary for our present purpose seems to be comprised in the speech of the home secretary, the substance of which is here given. "The British Association " remitted 77,G831. for relief of the distress in Scotland, that being one-sixth of the amount of subscriptions received by them. The other five-sixths were appropriated to Ireland. The conduct of the landed proprietors of Scotland on this occasion was generally admirable. They appeared to feel the duties appertaining to their position, and promptly and liberally responded to its claims.]

Of the 880 parishes existing in Scotland, the number which, down to the end of June in the present year, had resolved to raise the funds for relief of the poor by assessment was 558; of these 431 were assessed according to the first of the three modes prescribed by the recent Act, 37 according to the second, 34 according to the third, and '6 according to local Acts or established usage; whilst 76 of the parishes assessed according to the first mode, had classified lands and heritages in the terns of the 36th section of the statute. The commissioners had sanctioned changes in the mode of assessment at first adopted in several of the parishes, and also in regard to the classification; and on a review of the number of parishes assessed according to the different modes, and of the changes from one mode of assessment to another -which had been resolved upon by the parochial boards, they are, they say, led to the conclusion, "that the general feeling of the country is not yet favourable to the application of one mode of assessment to all the parishes in Scotland."

In the great majority of the assessed parishes the elections appear, notwithstanding the novelty of the operation, to have been conducted in a satisfactory manner. The managers were generally returned without opposition, and no instance of irregularity or confusion was reported to the commissioners, who moreover remark that "they have reason to believe the introduction of a limited number of elected members into the parochial boards, has afforded greater facilities for obtaining an accurate knowledge of the condition of the poor, and has generally been conducive to the better administration of the laws for their relief and management."

The inspectors of the poor are highly important functionaries in Scotland, and on their zeal integrity and efficiency the successful administration of the law must mainly depend. The inspector has to perform the duties of the clerk, the relieving officer, and indeed of all the other officials of the English unions, for he is the sole executive of the parochial board. The commissioners say that the inspectors have generally performed their duties in a creditable manner, although there were some instances to the contrary. Several of them had resigned, some on account of the onerous nature of their duties, and some from impaired health or other causes. There was however reason to believe that some of the inspectors were interested in supplying provisions and other articles to the poor, and an order was therefore issued, prohibiting these officers from deriving any profit or emolument directly or indirectly from such dealings; and in transmitting the order to the several parishes, the commissioners took advantage of the opportunity to point out to the parochial boards "the very questionable propriety of employing their own members to supply food or other necessaries to the poor, or any articles to be paid for out of the parochial funds of which they had the control." There could be no doubt as to the impropriety of such a practice, and it might perhaps have been better at once to prohibit it, as in the case of the inspectors; but the commissioners seem to have been doubtful either of the power of enforcing, or of the policy of issuing such an order with regard to the members of parochial boards, and therefore only ventured to call attention to what they designated the "questionable propriety" of the practice.

The distress in the western Highlands engaged the commissioners' earnest attention, and the inquiries which they instituted made them aware, that in some of the more remote parishes and islands, the inspectors were not only very imperfectly acquainted with the details of their duties, but were also "under the impression that distance and the unfrequency of intercourse placed them beyond the reach of observation." Yet the commissioners declare their gratification at finding, that except in a few of the more remote parishes, "the parochial boards and the inspectors, in the midst of the distress and suffering with which they were surrounded, and the difficulties attending the first introduction of compulsory systematic relief to the poor, had discharged their duties in a spirit that does them credit. The inquiries which had been made however tended, the commissioners think, to establish greater regularity in conducting the general business connected with the relief of the poor than had before prevailed, and they are of opinion that it may be necessary to institute similar inquiries from time to time in all parts of the country.

The dearth of food in Ireland, and in some parts of Scotland, has this year it is said "greatly increased the number of casual applicants for relief; first in those towns on the west coast which have a regular communication with Ireland, and next in almost every considerable town in the country, as well as in some of the rural parishes, to which these immigrants had proceeded in quest of work or alms." The sickness which generally prevailed, particularly among the Irish labourers on some of the lines of railway, had also caused a considerable increase of this class of paupers in Edinburgh, and in most of the towns in the neighbourhood of those lines, everywhere bringing an increased burden upon the rates. The want of suitable accommodation for the casual sick poor, is said to be a serious evil in many places. "The dread of infection shuts against them the doors of those houses in which the parochial officers have usually found temporary accommodation for the casual poor, and hitherto few parishes have provided any separate house for their reception." The consequence has been "that some have remained in their huts by the railway, and some have unavoidably been lodged in outhouses and other places unfavourable to their recovery, and from which their condition made it impossible to remove them." The parochial boards where these difficulties have occurred, ought not, the commissioners think, to be blamed because they, were unprepared, for such a state of things, although it is doubtless their duty to take measures for preventing its continuance; and several parochial boards had accordingly, on finding that they could not get the casual poor accommodated, "applied for and obtained the commissioners' sanction for the erection of a. building at the cost of the parish, in which this class of paupers may be lodged and attended to."

The increase of the casual poor, almost necessarily led to an increase of vagrancy. The commissioners say that they have no means of ascertaining the number of vagrants in Scotland, but they believe it to be large. It is only with those who are in receipt of relief, that the poor-law authorities have any power to interfere; and these will notwithstanding sometimes resort to vagrancy, through early habit or immoral tendencies. In some of the remote parishes also, where the Poor Law is imperfectly administered, begging within the parish is said to be still sanctioned by the, parochial boards; "but the great body of vagrants in all parts of Scotland, and almost all those who pass from parish to parish, and county to county, are not recipients of parochial relief." Where vagrancy occurs among those who are in receipt of relief, it has, the commissioners say, been found extremely difficult to put an end to the practice. Some parochial boards have attempted to check it by diminishing the allowance, with a promise of its being again restored when the pauper relinquished begging; but the diminution was found only to give the pauper an additional pretext for following the practice. Other parochial boards proposed to withhold the allowance altogether, unless the pauper desisted from mendicancy; and this course appears to be sanctioned by the law, which makes provision for the poor in order that they may not be driven to be But if the allowance be withheld, the pauper will' necessarily be thrown upon the charity of the public, and he will thus probably be enabled to indulge the inclination to vagrancy with a better chance of making it a profitable occupation. To remove from the roll a pauper who has a habit of begging, would therefore, it is said, "be in many cases a reward rather than a punishment."

The commissioners close this head of their Report by declaring, that the only efficient means of checking vagrancy in poor persons already on the roll of a parish, without the aid of the police, would be to erect a poorhouse, in which habitual beggars amongst the poor on the roll could be relieved, and restrained from wandering through the country." But it is added, that as no parish whose population does not exceed 5,000 can raise by assessment funds for the erection of a poorhouse, unless in combination with some of the adjoining parishes, there are "many cases in which the parochial authorities cannot effectually check vagrancy even amongst the poor on the roll." Such is no doubt the case, and where the want is so obvious, and the remedy so easy, we must believe that sooner or later it cannot fail of being applied; and that in Scotland as in England, parishes will be united for effecting an object in common, which could not be so well accomplished by them singly, or which might be too weighty for them singly to undertake or sustain.

Some progress seems to have been made towards a more efficient provision of medical relief for the poor, although in most parishes it is said to be still very defective, whilst in some of the remote parishes where there is no resident practitioner, the means of affording medical relief do not exist. The amount expended for medical relief had however increased from 4,055l. in 1846, to 12,879l. in 1847, thus showing that the want had to some extent been supplied, and showing likewise how urgent it must previously have been.

The mode in which the board of supervision dealt with complaints of inadequate relief has been already explained. The number of such cornplaints in the present year amounted to 673. Of these 226 had been dismissed on the information contained in the schedules, and the commissioners state that in 22 cases remitted by them to the parochial boards, the allowances had been increased to such an extent as to remove the ground of complaint; whilst in one case, the ground of complaint not having been so removed, they had issued a minute declaring that the applicant had a just ground of action against the parochial board. The matter was however subsequently arranged without further proceedings, and the result of these appeals seems on the whole to be satisfactory.

It appears that between the 1st of July 1846, and the 30th of June 1847, the number of applications at the sheriffs' courts under the new law was 1043, of which 778 were so far substantiated that an order for interim relief was made. In 305 of these cases the order must have been acquiesced in, as in 473 only were answers lodged by inspectors. In 287 the answers lodged were successful, and in 174 the proceedings were either abandoned or no decision had been pronounced. The commissioners here remark, "that although it cannot be argued upon the data thus furnished, that there has been any unnecessary opposition on the part of parochial boards or their officers to the admission of claims, where the parties were justly entitled to parochial relief, the results show that the provisions of the statute which confer on sheriffs a power to give redress, and order immediate relief, are neither injudicious nor unnecessary"—and it seems impossible not to concur in the justice of this observation.

The commissioners express their satisfaction at the effective working of the 80th section of the Act. The greater number of the prosecutions under this section have, they say, been instituted against the fathers of illegitimate children, and against husbands for deserting their. wives and families, but chiefly the former. Attempts were frequently made to throw the burden of maintaining illegitimate children upon the parish, and if the parochial authorities had not strenuously resisted these attempts, and enforced the law, the evil might have grown to a serious amount. As it was, there appears during the year ending on the 30th of June to have been 370 prosecutions, and 224 convictions. Both these numbers however fall short of the actual number against whom proceedings in some shape were taken, the parties having in many cases settled with the parish, either before or immediately after the commencement of the prosecution; and the commissioners declare their belief, "that the law has been brought to bear upon offenders in even a more powerful and extensive manner than the returns exhibit, and that the operation of this portion of the statute has been highly beneficial."

In order to secure uniformity in the returns connected with the relief of the poor, which is so essential for affording accurate means of comparison, the commissioners issued minute regulations on the subject, and directed that the returns should be made up at Whitsunday, or the 15th of May in each year. The following statement will therefore be for the year ending on the 14th of May 1847, the interval between the 1st of February and the 15th of May 1846 being on this occasion altogether omitted:-

Thus showing a continual increase both in the actual and in the proportional amounts, an increase still however falling short of what the necessities of the poor required, and the order and social well-being of the community called for.

The church collections in assessed parishes during the year ending 14th May 1847, amounted to 17,095l, one half of which or 8,587l. is stated to have been expended on the relief of the poor. In many parishes these funds were, it is said, handed over to the parochial boards, although under the recent statute the whole of the church collections are left at the disposal of the kirk sessions, in parishes in which assessments are established. A portion of the above 8,5871. must therefore be included in the amount of receipts returned by the parochial boards; but the precise amount, or what was the additional relief derived from church collections, there were no means of ascertaining. —It is remarked however, that "the recipients were probably for the most part not strictly speaking legal objects of parochial relief."

In the latter year the number of casual poor, or persons relieved by the inspectors without orders from the parochial boards, was 60,399 ; but these were not cases of regular or permanent relief, and therefore cannot be ranked with the above. It may moreover be remarked, that the returns of the numbers relieved do not appear to have been made with such exactitude as to entitle them to implicit reliance, although they may be sufficient for the general purposes of comparison.

In reference to the foregoing statements, the commissioners observe that "the large increase in the amount expended on the relief and management of the poor in Scotland, exhibited in the returns for this year, may be regarded as sufficient evidence of the readiness with which parochial boards generally have met the demands caused by the failure of the potato crop and the high price of grain;" and they further observe, that "after deducting the portion of this increase which may fairly be attributed to the increased cost of food during six months of the year, there will remain a large amount which cannot be attributed to that cause, and which must be regarded as a permanent addition to the sum annually expended on the relief and management of the poor."

Such were the results at the end of the second year of the new law. It is impossible to deny that it was put to a severe trial by the scarcity which occurred, or that the credit claimed for it by the commissioners of being successful within the limited sphere of its operations is well founded; and for an account of its further development and more effective working, we must continue our examination of the reports annually made by the board of supervision, the third being the next in order.

The commissioners' third Report is dated in August 1848. In a great majority of the cases in which elections had taken place in the past year, the parties nominated for managers of the poor are said to have been unanimously elected. Some of the parishes had been divided into wards for the purpose of election, and a more equal representation of the ratepayers was thus obtamed, especially where one estate happened to comprise a majority of the votes, or where the urban ratepayers outnumbered the rural population, and excluded them from a fair share in the management. The rapid increase of the expenditure for relief of the poor is said to have raised the value, in the estimation of the ratepayers, of their right to elect their own representatives; and the commissioners express their conviction, "that the introduction of a limited number of elected members into parochial boards, had been conducive to the better administration of the law;" although the result of their investigations in certain suburban parishes in Glasgow and Edinburgh, satisfied them that it will be necessary to extend their inquiries to other parishes similarly situated.

The inspectors are again reported to have generally performed their duties in creditable manner although there were some instances of misconduct and inefficiency. Of the many complaints inspectors which the commissioners had been called upon to investigate, the great majority proved to be unfounded, or to have proceeded from misapprehension; and with great propriety it is observed, that "in the difficult and often invidious position in which these officers are sometimes placed, they require protection and support, as well as control and supervision."

Since the date of the last Report, 44 parishes in which the funds for relief of the poor were raised by voluntary contributions, had resolved to raise the money by assessment. The number of parishes assessed was now 602, and the number unassessed 278. The parochial boards of 27 parishes had requested the commissioners to sanction a change in the mode of assessment or of classification previously adopted. In 15 of these cases the request was complied with, and in 12 it was refused. The manner in which the funds for relief of the poor were now raised in the different parishes, is stated to be as follows--

The commissioners had approved the plans and specifications for eight new poorhouses, to be erected for twenty-three parishes singly or in combination, having an aggregate population of 175,065. The houses collectively were designed to accommodate 2,310 inmates, so that poorhouse accommodation would thus be provided for 1 in 75 of the population in these parishes. Plans and specifications were likewise approved for adding to and enlarging poorhouses in Edinburgh and Glasgow; and five other parishes containing a population of 20,986, are also said to have resolved to erect poorhouses, but had not transmitted their plans for approval at the date of the Report.

The want of suitable accommodation for the casual sick poor, had been remarked upon in the last Report, and the 'ant was now more urgently felt on account of the spread of fever, the invariable accompaniment of distress among the poor. The commissioners therefore addressed a circular to the several parochial boards, calling their attention to this particular portion of the Report, and pointing out that poor persons disabled by sickness "cannot with propriety be placed in common lodging-houses, where they rarely meet with the quiet and attention their cases require; and that to place paupers suffering from fever in a lodging occupied by the healthy poor, or by independent labourers, would be altogether unjustifiable." The inspectors of the poor were also at the same time directed to call the attention of the parochial boards to the recent Act 9th and 10th Viet., cap. 96, for the removal of nuisances, and to the duties required from them under its provisions for preventing the spread of fever and other contagious diseases.

The parliament had granted 10,000l. in aid of the medical relief of the poor in Scotland, and it was important to make this grant as conducive as possible to the improvement and extension of the existing system of relief for the sick, which was admitted on all hands to be faulty and insufficient. The commissioners accordingly prepared a scheme for apportioning the grant, governed in some measure by the area and population of the several parishes, but at the same time providing that no parish should participate which had not expended in medical relief in the past year, a sum at least equal to double the amount apportioned to it from the grant; and if any parish declined to participate on these terms, its share of the grant was to be distributed among the other parishes in proportion to their actual expenditure. Another condition was, that legally qualified medical officers, at fixed salaries, should be appointed to attend the sick poor, and to vaccinate children, the board of supervision retaining the power of dismissal in case of neglect or incompetency. It appears that 494 parishes complied with these conditions, and thus became entitled to receive their shares of the grant respectively apportioned to them. From 240 parishes no intimation had been received, and 146 parishes declined to comply with the conditions. The commissioners had expected that some of the parishes would so decline, as a participation in the grant would involve an increased expenditure on medical relief in those parishes where the relief was most defective. But the primary object being, they say, to obtain adequate medical relief for the sick poor, "it appeared just and reasonable that each parish should be required to expend from its own funds, a sum at least equal to the share of the grant apportioned to it." Meantime however, medical relief was, as appears by the returns, rapidly extending—the amount expended on it for the year ending February 1846, was 4,055l. 17s.—for the year ending 14th May 1847, it was 12,879l. 9s., and in the present year ending 14th May 1848, the expenditure on medical relief amounted to 30,33l. 12s. It is probable, the commissioners observe, that nutritious diet and other things not strictly chargeable as medical relief, may be included in this last amount; but after making every allowance, there can, it is thought, be no doubt that the supply of medical relief has been greatly improved.

The commissioners say that they have "completed their inquiries into the condition and circurnstances of all the lunatic paupers in Scotland who were not in an asylum, and whose cases had been reported, up to the 1st of July last." The number of these cases is 2,003, in 1960 of which removal to an asylum was dispensed with, and in 38 cases such removal was enforced. The commissioners declare that they have not dispensed with removal to an asylum in any case, in which it was not certified by a competent medical authority that the lunatic was harmless, that his disease was not likely to be aggravated thereby, that the accommodation was suitable, and the attendance sufficient; and in all cases where lunatics were not residing with relations, the allowance by the parish was required to be sufficient for their subsistence, and for securing proper treatment from the persons in whose charge they were. It is then remarked, with a feeling that may well be envied, that "they have thus endeavoured, not unsuccessfully, to improve the condition of this the most helpless class of paupers, and hitherto in many cases the most neglected." The deficiency of accommodation in asylums and licensed houses, still however made it necessary to sanction the continuance of very many lunatics in private residences, whose removal to an asylum would on many accounts be preferable.

The number of complaints of inadequate relief made to the board of supervision during the year, is stated to have been 793; of these 297 were dismissed on the information contained in the schedules, and 112 after reference. In 305 cases remitted to the parochial boards, the ground of complaint is said to have been removed, and in 8 cases, the ground of complaint not being removed, a minute was issued declaring that the applicants had a just cause of action against their parishes in the court of session. Fifteen cases of complaint remained undisposed of.

The number of applications to the sheriffs by persons refused relief, during the year ending 30th June 1848 was 1,334, being 291 in excess of the previous year. In 1,039 cases interim relief was ordered to be given, and in only 582 of these did the parish authorities lodge answers in contravention of the statements made by the applicants. On this the commissioners remark—"We cannot but fear there is too frequently on the part of inspectors of the poor, a delay or refusal of relief which is not justified by the circumstances of the cases, and that applicants are thus driven to seek the assistance of the sheriff, in order to enforce their legal rights." It further appears that in 261 cases in which the right to be admitted on the roll was disputed, decisions had been pronounced in favour of the applicants, while in 372 cases the right had not been affirmed. But in many cases, it is observed, in consequence of arrangements between the parties, no further proceedings are taken after the first or second stage, and the final result of many of the applications is not therefore made known. During the year, there had been 275 prosecutions, and 173 convictions, under the 79th and 80th sections of the Act, and the commissioners continue of opinion that these enactments are salutary, and their operation generally satisfactory, notwithstanding the difficulties frequently experienced by parochial boards in convicting and punishing offenders under them.

The condition of the poor in the Shetland Islands caused the commissioners much anxiety, and they deemed it necessary to send one of their officers to inquire into the manner in which the duties of inspection and relief were there conducted. A summary of his journal is given in the appendix of the present Report, and exhibits a state of things which, although not altogether satisfactory, 11 yet leaves no reason to fear that. the distress presses more severely upon the paupers, than upon the labouring population." It appears that the relief of the poor in Shetland, is chiefly derived from a system which is there known by the name of 'quartering.' A parish is divided into a certain number of quarters or portions, and the poor persons disabled by old age or infirmity are severally appointed to each quarter,. and authorised to beg from the inhabitants, obtaining in this way a supply of meal, wool, potatoes, fish, and other necessaries. Such contributions in kind are less felt than money payments would be, the inhabitants being generally occupiers of small portions of land, as well as fishermen and owners of cattle. The town of Lerwick however differs from the other parishes in Shetland, the poor being there relieved with money. One class is paid 1s. to 2s. per week, another class is paid Is. 4d. to 2s. 8d. per month, and the third class is paid 2s. 6d. to 5s. quarterly, but begging in the street is very common. The mode of relief in the Orkney Islands does not differ materially from that practised in Shetland, and the commissioners were assured " that the poor are there well provided and cared for."

The persons thus "well provided and cared for" in Orkney, are the aged and infirm poor. There is no care or provision for the poor who are not aged and infirm, however urgent their necessities may be. This was always, we have seen, the governing principle of the Scottish Poor Law, and by way of making it more clear and certain, the 68th section of the late statute expressly declares "that nothing herein contained shall be held to confer a right to demand relief on able-bodied persons out of employment." The prevalence of distress through the failure of the potato, and from other causes, seems now however to have raised doubts as to the possibility of maintaining this principle in unmitigated strictness; and the commissioners, while holding the opinion that able-bodied persons out of employment had no right to demand relief, appeared to consider that the entire wording of the 68th section "removed the doubts which had hitherto been entertained, as to the legality of applying the funds raised by assessment to the relief of the occasional as well as the permanent poor; and that able-bodied persons out of employment might, if destitute, come under the denomination of occasional poor, and might be relieved out of the funds raised by assessment." This would, if it were established, be an important advance in the way of amelioration ; and the commissioners consulted the lord advocate and the dean of faculty on the subject, who were of opinion "that the late Act 8th and 9th Vict., cap. 83, does not confer on or recognise in able-bodied persons out of employment any right to demand relief, and that such persons are not within the scope of the provisions for enforcing and rendering effectual claims for parochial relief." But on the other hand, they were of opinion—"that the statute removes all doubt as to the legality of affording relief to occasional poor from the funds raised by assessment, as well as from the collections at the church door;" and they were further of opinion—" that able-bodied persons accidentally or unavoidably thrown out of employment, and thereby reduced to immediate want, may be regarded as occasional poor to whom temporary relief may lawfully be given out of the funds raised by assessment, but that such persons cannot be admitted on the roll of poor entitled to parochial relief."

Fortified with this opinion, the commissioners now declared their understanding of the law "as regards the relief of able-bodied persons to be, that while they have not in any circumstances a right to demand relief, and cannot therefore by any legal proceeding enforce that demand—parochial boards may legally, when they think it advisable, apply the funds raised by assessment to the temporary relief of destitute able-bodied persons who are out of employment, and that half the collections at the church door are applicable to the same purpose." And they further add, by way of commentary—" to this unrestricted discretionary power conferred by statute on the parochial boards, and to the voluntary contributions of the public in extraordinary emergencies, is entrusted the relief of such cases of destitution as may occur among the classes not by law entitled to demand relief."

In connexion with the relief of the casual poor, the question as to the consequences of relief when afforded to unemancipated children was now also raised. It has been hitherto held that relief to a child was equivalent to relief to the parent, who was thereupon bound by all the conditions legally imposed upon recipients of relief, the same as if the relief had been granted to himself. The obligation to support his children naturally devolves upon the parent, and if his children were relieved by the parish, the relief was held to be given to him for the purpose of enabling him to fulfil this obligation. He was considered chargeable to the parish, because he required aid from the parish for enabling him to do that which he was legally and morally bound himself to do. A decision however recently pronounced by the sheriff of Lanarkshire, and which was supported on appeal before the lord ordinary, went to enforce the legal right of children to be relieved independently of the parents, "on the ground that being unable to do anything for their own support because of their tender years, and being destitute by reason of their father's destitution and inability to find employment, they fell under the class of persons entitled by law to parochial aid." The effect of this decision, it is said, would be, that children living with their father might become chargeable, whilst their father himself is neither chargeable nor subjected to the conditions imposed on the recipients of relief; and as it is doubtful whether the children could be separated from their father without his consent, the parish might also, it is said, " be required to relieve the children in their father's house."

The decision pronounced by the sheriff of Lanarkshire was carried before the court of session, and pending any final adjudication thereon, and as similar cases might arise, the commissioners deemed it right to address a circular to the parochial boards informing them of the circumstances, and recommending, in the event of their being so called upon to relieve an able-bodied man, or the children of an able-bodied man on the ground that he cannot find employment, that the ground of the claim should be removed by providing employment for the parties. "The poorhouse," it is said, "probably affords the only safe test in such cases," but as it is not certain that a parochial board could require an able-bodied man who thus obtained relief for his children to enter a poorhouse, and as moreover many parishes are not provided with poorhouses, "the board of supervision is of opinion, that for the present it would be advisable to have recourse to a labour test, giving in return relief in food sufficient for his and their subsistence, and where the necessary arrangements can be made, cooked food ought to be preferred."

We here find indications of a nearer approach to the principle of the English Poor Law, than has before appeared in the administration of that of Scotland. It is true the rig/it of the able-bodied to relief when destitute is still denied; but a claim to relief on the ground of destitution is practically recognised, and the necessity of some test for proving the existence of the destitution, is also admitted. These constitute in fact the foundations of the amended law in England, and if adopted in Scotland, and acted upon with good faith and efficiency, there will be little to complain of, even although the question of an absolute rig/it to relief be left as at present.

The sum expended on the relief and management of the poor for the year ending 14th May 1848, including 10,971l for erecting poorhouses and fever-hospitals, was 544,333l. 15s. 6d.—being an increase of 110,419l. as compared with the expenditure of the previous year, and averaging 4s. 11d. per head on the population at the period of the census in 1841, and equal to 5l. 14s. 4½d. per cent. on the annual value of real property in Scotland, according to the returns laid before parliament in 1843. The number of regular poor on the roll on the 14th of May 1848, was 77,732, equal to 1 in 33. of the population. The number of casual poor relieved in the year, was 126,684. The casual poor relieved last year amounted to 60,399; and they have therefore more than doubled in the present year. In Lanarkshire alone 81,938 persons were casually relieved. This increase of the "casual poor" is attributed to three causes—first the influx of destitute persons from Ireland, next the want of employment through the general depression of trade, and lastly the suspension of railway operations. The new law is therefore, we see, exposed to a continuance of pressure and difficulty, which must be largely felt by its administrators, as well as by the poor and the labouring classes generally.


 


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