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A History of the Scotch Poor Law
Chapter V

Fourth Report of the boar& of supervision — Occurrence of cholera — Fifth and sixth Reports — Distress in the Highlands and Islands; Sir John McNeill's Report — "Crofters," "Tacksmen," "Tenants," and "Cottars" — Kelp manufacture — Results of the Croft and Cottar system — Emigration the only remedy— Administration of relief in the western districts — Seventh and eighth Reports --- Sir John McNeill's Reports on Caithness, and on the free and pauper colonies in Holland — Divergence between the English and Scottish systems of relief — Present practice in Scotland —Approximation of the Scottish and English systems—Conclusion.

The fourth Report, like those preceding, is dated in August, and is arranged in similar order. The elections are said to have been everywhere conducted satisfactorily, and "to have terminated without litigation, except in the city parish of Glasgow, where the contest was unusually keen." The commissioners had deputed two of their officers to inquire into the proceedings of the inspectors, and the condition and management of the poor in certain urban, suburban, and other parishes; and the Reports of these officers, although for the most part favourable, yet brought to light some defects and abuses which are said to have been corrected, and which it is hoped would not again occur.

Since the last Report, 23 parishes which had raised the funds for relief of the poor by voluntary contributions, resolved to raise these funds by assessment. The number of parishes now assessed was therefore 625, and the number unassessed 255. Twenty-four parishes resolved to change the mode of assessment or the classification previously adopted, and in 20 the proposed change was sanctioned, but in 4 the sanction was withheld. In two parishes, the commissioners say, the discussions which arose about changing the mode of assessment between persons interested in real property on one side, and the rest of the ratepayers on the other, have led to dissensions in the parochial boards. Differences of opinion, it is remarked "are natural and perhaps inevitable, when questions affecting different interests are discussed by popular bodies representing those interests ;" but regret is expressed that the discussions in these two parochial boards should have been conducted in a manner not calculated to promote harmony amongst the ratepayers, or to facilitate the administration of the law.

Plans and specifications for the erection of three new poorhouses had been approved. The number of inmates which these houses were calculated to accommodate was 1,974, and the population of the six parishes for which they were intended was 141,082, so that there would be poorhouse accommodation in these parishes for 1 in 71 of their population. A table is appended showing that the available poorhouse accommodation in Scotland, either permanent or temporary, was adapted for 4,360 persons at the date of the Report; and that when the plans which had been sanctioned were all completed, there would be room for 2,728 more, making altogether poorhouse accommodation for 7,088 inmates, out of a population of 693,558, which is equal to 1 in 97.82 of the inhabitants.

The parliamentary grant (10,000l.) in aid of medical relief in Scotland, was distributed in conformity with the plan described in the preceding Report. 53 5 parishes resolved to comply with the prescribed conditions, but of these only 438 established their claim to participate in the grant by proving the required expenditure from their own funds. The commissioners remark, that the medical relief of the poor which was formerly hardly recognised as a duty, had since the new law came into operation continued to increase in efficiency, and with the aid of the parliamentary grant may now, they hope, be placed on a satisfactory footing. The expenditure for this purpose in the present year amounted to 33,010l. 12s.11 d., or 2,671l. above what it was returned as being last year; but as nutritious diet and other matters are supposed to have been included in that year's expenditure, and as everything not strictly appertaining to medical relief has been carefully excluded in the present, the increase has probably been far greater than the above figures indicate. Five years ago this description of relief was provided in a few parishes only, and it must therefore be admitted that considerable progress has been now made towards remedying the deficiency. There are still however many parishes in which medical relief is said to be very imperfectly administered, and few in which it is administered with the regularity that it ought to be, and that it might be without entailing additional cost; and the commissioners express a confident expectation that "they shall have the ready co-operation of a great majority of the parochial boards, in carrying out the rules by which it has been endeavoured to give more uniformity and regularity to the system, and to place its administration under such checks as may afford the parochial authorities and the public a reasonable security that the duty is adequately performed."

In connexion with medical relief, it is necessary to state that cases of malignant cholera occurred in Edinburgh early in October 1848, and the commissioners thereupon made application to the general board of health for the directions which that board was empowered by the 11th and 12th Vict., cap. 123, to issue, "for the prevention as far as possible or mitigation of epidemic, endemic, or contagious diseases." But without waiting for the receipt of such directions, a circular was addressed to the several parochial boards calling their attention to the 69t/i section of the Amendment Act, by which they are required out of the funds raised for the relief of the poor, to provide medicines medical attendance, nutritious diet and cordials for the sick, and pointing out the necessity of their providing for the proper medical treatment "of all poor persons suffering from symptoms indicating the probable approach or presence of cholera." If their ordinary means were not sufficient, they are recommended to increase them forthwith, the necessity for immediate relief in cases of cholera being too urgent to admit of delay. The relief necessary to preserve life must, it is said, be promptly given—the inquiries as to the right to demand it, may be made afterwards.

As soon as the directions of the board of health were received, copies of these directions were forwarded to all the parochial boards, together with suggestions in reference to the duties required from them. A great responsibility they were told devolved upon the parochial boards, "who are bound if other parties fail in performing their duties, to see that none of the directions issued by the board of health are left unperformed." The formidable scourge appeared first in Edinburgh, but it soon spread to the neighbouring towns, and early in November it reached Glasgow, and the manufacturing towns and villages in the south and west of Scotland. In Dumfries the disease burst forth with great violence, 269 deaths from cholera having occurred there within a month after its first appearance. At Glasgow the deaths from cholera in one week amounted to 829. "During the height of the epidemic indeed, all Glasgow appears to have been affected." d Edinburgh suffered less severely, although it was first visited, the deaths from cholera recorded there (including Leith and Newhaven) from the commencement to the 18th of June following, amounted to 554. The disease appears to have subsided in the spring, but during the summer and autumn of 1849, it again assumed its former virulence, attacking most of the principal towns, as well as certain other localities both in England and Scotland.

The first great outburst of cholera occurred in India in 1817, and after raging there with fearful virulence for some time, it extended its ravages over nearly all the rest of the world. In each of its subsequent visitations, in that of 1831-2 as well as in the present 1848-9, the cholera also appears to have commenced or had its origin in India, whence it travelled westward by successive and well-ascertained stages. On this latter occasion it made its appearance first at Caubul in 1845. Bombay, Kurrachee and Scinde were attacked in 1846. Afterwards the epidemic extended over Persia and Syria, reaching Astrakhan at the mouth of the Volga in June, and Moscow in September 1847, Petersburgh and Berlin in June 1848, Hamburgh in September, and Edinburgh in the beginning of October. On this last occasion the epidemic travelled at the same rate, and by almost precisely the same route as in 1831-2. Its effects in the two instances of Glasgow and Dumfries are noticed above, but there are no means of ascertaining the number of deaths from cholera in the whole of Scotland. This can however be done with respect to England through the Registrar-General's Reports, by which it appears that in London above 14,137 persons died of cholera in 1849, and that the deaths from cholera throughout England and Wales in that year amounted to 53,293,—"The decline of the epidemic was more rapid than its increase. While it was fatal to 20,379 in September, 4,654 died of it in October, 844 in November, and 163 in December."  The pestilence has been far more fatal on this than it was on the former occasion, the deaths in 1831-2 amounting to 30,924, whilst in 1848-9 the deaths amounted to 54,398.

This notice of the effects of the cholera in England, may assist in estimating the effects of the epidemic in Scotland. In both countries these effects are closely connected with the condition of the people, and have an important bearing on Poor Law administration, not only as regards the relief of the poor, but likewise with regard to the sanitary measures, for the due execution of which the Poor Law functionaries are under the Nuisances Removal Act made responsible.

The season under consideration was one of great pressure and difficulty. The high price of food, a near approach to actual famine in some districts through the failure of the potato, the stagnation of trade, the dearth of employment, and the spread of pestilence—all pressing at one time, seem enough to have embarrassed the resources and paralysed the energies of the country. But happily the several parts of our social fabric hang so well together, its gradations are so harmoniously adjusted, and afford such mutual support, each upholding and assisting the other, that events which would almost cause the disruption of society under other circumstances, are here sustained with comparatively little difficulty; and as soon as the season of trial or privation has passed, the efforts and the sacrifices which it exacted are no longer thought of, and the marks of the visitation melt away and disappear before the combined exertions of a free and united people.

The Report states that the number of applications complaining of inadequate relief during the year amounted to 863, of which complaints, 447 were dismissed on the information contained in the schedules, and after being referred to parochial boards. In 256 cases remitted to the parochial boards, the grounds of complaint were removed; and in 4 cases, the ground of complaint not having been removed, the commissioners issued minutes declaring that the complainants had just ground of action against their respective parishes in the court of session. Of the 863 cases submitted to the commissioners, there remained only one, they say, undisposed of, a circumstance highly creditable to their zeal and industry.

The applications in the sheriffs' courts during the year ending 30th June 1849, under the 73rd, 79th and 80th sections of the Amendment Act, amounted to 1,198. Of the whole number of cases in which the claims of persons applying for relief were resisted, a final order in the applicant's favour was made in 251, while out of '72 cases in which answers were lodged, 426 were either dismissed on the merits, or abandoned by the applicants themselves. As poorhouses increase in, the different districts, they will, it is observed, "furnish parochial boards with a simple method of testing all cases in which there is reason to doubt the disability or the destitution of applicants for relief," and a confident hope is then expressed " that much of the expense of litigation will thus be saved to the parochial boards, and that the sheriffs will at the same time be relieved to a great extent of what is to them at present a most troublesome and anxious duty."

The amount expended on the relief and management of the poor for the year ending 14th May 1849, including 14,775l. expended on poorhouse buildings, was 577,044l.—being an increase of 32,710l. as compared with the preceding year, and averaging 4s. 4d. per head on the population of 1841, and equal to 6l. 3s. 9d. 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 May 1849 was 82357—being 1 in 31.8 of the population; and the number of casual poor relieved in the year, was 95,686. While the number of regular poor has thus increased, the casual poor have we see sensibly diminished in the present year, as compared with the last; but this diminution has chiefly arisen from there having been a smaller number of immigrants from Ireland.

The fifth Report makes no mention of the elections, and they may therefore be presumed to have been properly conducted, as was for the most part the. case in preceding years. The commissioners considered it necessary to send one of their officers to inquire into the condition and management of the poor in the county of Galloway, and the result was they say, on the whole satisfactory, although abuses requiring to be redressed were discovered in some of the parishes.

Of the parishes which previously raised their funds for relief of the poor by voluntary contributions, 19 had, since the date of the last Report, resolved to raise those funds by assessment. The parishes assessed therefore, now amounted to 644, and the number that raised the funds by voluntary contributions to 236. In 21 parishes the parochial boards resolved to change the mode of assessment or classification formerly adopted, 13 of which changes were sanctioned by the commissioners, but in 7 the sanction was refused, and one was still undecided.

The progressive change from voluntary contributions to assessment, during the five years since the amended law came into operation, has been as follows-

The funds for the relief of the poor in the several parishes were raised in the following manner---

The plans and specification for one additional poor-house only had been approved in the present year, but it was for a combination of ten parishes, with an aggregate population of 23,133, and was calculated for 362 inmates, so there would be poorhouse accommodation for one in 64 of the population. The several parochial boards had been called upon to frame regulations for the management of their respective poorhouses, in conformity with the 64th section of the Act; but these, were found to be for the most part so defective, that the commissioners determined to frame such a complete set of rules and regulations for adoption by the parochial boards, as would secure uniformity and efficiency in this highly important. part of parochial management. These regulations had, it is said, with slight adaptations to local peculiantics in a few instances, been generally adopted, and were then in force. They conform very closely to the English workhouse regulations, and in transmitting them to the parishes having poorhouses, the cornmissioners addressed a letter to the parochial boards, pointing out the objects and the importance of these institutions under the new law, and the altered circumstances of the times in which they were to be applied. So long, it is said, as relief to the poor was looked upon as the fulfilment of a charitable rather than a legal obligation, poorhouses were naturally regarded in the light of almshouses for the reception of the infirm or friendless poor. The inmates were generally persons of whose destitution and disability there could be no doubt., and by whom admission to the poorhouse was regarded as a boon. They had their liberty days once a week, "and it was not uncommon to find some of them begging in the streets and highways." Once a week also persons were freely admitted to visit them in the poorhouse. Such of the inmates as were able, or could be induced to engage in any industrial occupation, received a weekly payment for their work, which they spent as they liked on their liberty days; "and one of the first petitions presented to the board of supervision was from the male inmates of a poorhouse, complaining that the weekly sum allowed them as pocket-money was unreasonably small."

Under such circumstances it was, the commissioners observe, unnecessary to establish strict regulations in the poorhouses, as any misconduct might be punished by expulsion. But poorhouses must now, it is said, be prepared to receive a new and wholly different class of inmates—"The altered feelings of the poor in regard to parochial relief, their more perfect knowledge` of their rights, and the facilities which the law now affords for enforcing them, have caused a strong pressure upon parochial boards from a class whose claims it would be unsafe to admit, without testing the truth of the allegations on which they are founded." For this purpose a well-regulated poorhouse is declared to be the best of all tests—"while it furnishes sufficient, and even ample relief to the really necessitous, it affords the only available security that the funds raised for the relief of the poor are not perverted to the maintenance of idleness and vice." But a poorhouse will, it is added, "be wholly useless as a test, or rather it will not be a test at all, unless it is conducted under rules and regulations as to discipline and restraint, so as to render it more irksome than labour to those who are not truly fit objects of parochial relief." This is so complete an exposition of the workhouse principle, as recognised and practised in England, that I give it in the commissioners' own words, in order to show more clearly the advance founded on experience, the surest of all guides, which had been made in poor-law administration in Scotland during the preceding five or six years.

The proper objects for admission to a poorhouse are described as being of two classes—First all destitute persons incapacitated by youth or old age or by disease, whether mental or physical, from contributing in any way to their own support; and who from being friendless, or weak in mind, or from requiring more than ordinary attendance, cannot be adequately maintained and cared for by means of out-door relief, except at a cost exceeding that for which they can be maintained in the poorhouse. Secondly, all persons applying for or receiving relief whose claims are doubtful, such as persons suspected of concealing or misrepresenting their means and resources, or persons who although not able-bodied, are yet not so disabled as to be incapable of maintaining themselves; but more especially all persons of idle immoral or dissipated habits, who if allowed out-door relief would squander it in drunkenness and debauchery, or otherwise misapply it—For all such, the poorhouse is held to afford the fittest means of relief. Poor persons, it is added, "may not be allowed to starve, because they or their parents are vicious; but the law leaves to the bodies to whom its administration is entrusted, a choice as to the manner of affording relief; and if parochial boards desire. to discourage indolence, to detect imposture, to check extravagance, and to reform or control vice, they must make work, confinement, and discipline, the conditions upon which paupers of this class are relieved."

For persons not comprised in. one or the other of the above two classes, the commissioners are of opinion that it will be more to the advantage both of such persons and of the parish, that they should be furnished with out-door relief; "for any systematic attempt to refuse all relief except to such as may be relieved within the walls of a poorhouse would, they say, excite a baneful spirit of discontent amongst the poor and that part of the population with which they are most closely connected, without effecting any saving to the funds of the parish; and far from being countenanced, would scarcely be tolerated by public opinion in this country." The commissioners are probably right as to the state of feeling in Scotland on this point, and it might not have been then expedient to press the subject further ; but it seems clear that the principle which they have with so much force and truth laid down in their instructional letter, must eventually, and perhaps at no distant day, lead to the unrestricted use of the poorhouse, without specific preference or exception of any particular class, although poorhouse relief may not be applied in every case, nor its acceptance be universally made a condition on which any relief whatever should be afforded.

The arrangements for distributing the parliamentary grant in aid of medical relief, are said to have worked satisfactorily. 569 parishes had resolved to comply with the required conditions, but of these only 498 established their claims to participate in the grant by furnishing the necessary amount of expenditure from their own resources. The sum returned as being expended on medical relief in the current year, was 26,574l. 7s.

With respect to insane and fatuous paupers, returns had been received, accompanied by medical -certificates, of all those whose removal to an asylum had been dispensed with; and all the new cases reported, as well as those in which the medical certificates annexed to subsequent returns did not appear satisfactory, had been investigated. In 141 new cases the commissioners dispensed with removal, and in two cases they required that the lunatics should be placed in an asylum. A considerable number of pauper lunatics, mostly fatuous and harmless, were now, it appears, kept in the different poorhouses, and the commissioners are of opinion that for such persons a well-regulated poorhouse is the best place of refuge. Not only, they say, is the cost of maintaining such persons in a poorhouse less than half what it would be in an asylum, but if all the pauper lunatics were to be placed in asylums, the whole of the accommodation it would be practicable to provide, would be occupied by a continually accumulating number of incurables, and the difficulty of obtaining admission for recent and curable cases would be greater even than it is at present. There are, the commissioners observe, certain legal objections to placing harmless pauper lunatics in poorhouses, which might however be overcome by obtaining licences for these establishments; but if this were done, it may be feared that some of the parochial boards would, on the score of convenience and economy, be induced to place in the poorhouses lunatics susceptible of cure, and who ought to be sent to an asylum. The commissioners have they say no authority in the matter; "but the sheriffs of counties, without whose licence no lunatic can legally be detained, are vested with power to determine this question in each case, and can require that any lunatic for whom a licence is granted, shall be placed in an asylum and not in a licensed house."

The number of complaints of inadequate relief made to the board of supervision in the year amounted to 788, of which 439 were dismissed on the information appended to the schedules of complaint, and 97 after reference to parochial boards. In 114 cases the parochial boards removed, the ground of complaint, but in two cases, the ground of complaint not being so removed, the commissioners issued minutes in the terms of the Act, declaring that the applicants had just cause of action against their parish in the court of session. No case, it is said, remains undisposed of; and upon the whole, with reference to these applications and complaints, the commissioners regard the results of the past year "as exhibiting a marked improvement, not only as showing a decrease in the number of . applications, but as evincing a jester exercise of discretion on the part of relieving officers, in dealing with those demands upon the parochial funds which seemed either groundless or unreasonable."

The returns of the applications made in the sheriffs' courts in the present year by persons refused relief, show that they amounted to 739. In 389 of these cases, answers in resistance of the claims were lodged on the part of the parochial boards. The number of cases in which the applications were either dismissed by the court on the merits, or abandoned by the parties themselves, is stated to have been 332; so that the resistance made to the claims for relief appears to have been successful in 314 out of 389 cases, and to have been unsuccessful in 75.

The amount expended on the relief and management of the poor in the year ended 14th. May 1850, was 538,738l. 5s. 0½d.; to which must be added for expenditure on poorhouse buildings 42,814l. 19s. 3d., making a total expenditure of 581,553l. 4s. 3½d. The number of regular poor on the roll on the 14th of May 1850, was 79,031—being 1 in 33.15 of the population; and the number of casual poor relieved in the year, was 53,070. Many of the casual poor are however said to be relieved more than once in the same parish, and sometimes repeatedly in several different parishes. Persons moreover who are subsequently relieved by order of the parochial board, are in/the first instance relieved temporarily by the inspector, without such order; so that the numbers of the casual poor given in the returns, represent the number of successful applications to the inspector for temporary aid, rather than the number effectually relieved. The total number of casual poor and vagrants relieved on the 1st of July 1850, was 4,267, of whom 1,542 were males, and 2,725 were females. By adding these to the regular poor on the roll on the 14th of Alay, it will appear that the number of persons receiving relief at one time in one of the summer months was 83,298, or 1 in 31.40 of the population, according to the census of 1841.

It appears from the foregoing statements, that there was a continual increase in the expenditure, as well as in the numbers relieved, until towards the end of the present year, when a decrease took place in both, especially in the number of casual poor. 9 This result the commissioners consider to be highly satisfactory, not only as indicating improvement in the condition of the working classes, but also as being calculated to allay the apprehensions excited by a continual increase of expenditure, and in the number of the poor seeking relief, during several preceding years. It likewise, the commissioners consider, affords ground for believing, that while the late Act was designed and has tended to increase the amount of relief, and to facilitate the means of obtaining it, the administration established by that Act has been able to regulate such tendency, and to adjust the expenditure to the actual necessities of the poor. The establishment of well-conducted poorhouses will, the commissioners add, contribute materially to confirm this power of regulating expenditure, without injustice to the poor; and they express a hope "that experience and observation of the many advantages derived from possessing the means of affording relief in this form, not only in urban but also in rural parishes, will lead to the erection of a greater number of such houses, notwithstanding the present reduction in the expenditure."

The sixth Report of the board of supervision is dated August 1851. Since the last Report, 9 parishes which had previously raised the funds for relief of the poor by voluntary contributions, have resorted to assessment. The number of assessed parishes was now therefore 653, and the number unassessed 228, the total number of parishes having been increased to 881, instead of 880, by Firth and Stennis in Orkney which were formerly considered one parish, being declared separate parishes for poor-law purposes. Of the 653 parishes at this time assessed, there were only 79 which assess "means and substance."

Plans for the erection of two poorhouses, and for the enlargement of others, were approved. Six parishes, containing a population of 8,814, have agreed to combine for the purpose of providing a poorhouse with accommodation for 80 inmates; and two other parishes, having together a population of 7,798, also agreed to combine for a like purpose; but after the arrangements were nearly completed, and the plans prepared, one of them withdrew, and the measure was therefore abandoned, at least for the present. In addition to the parishes which had provided or resolved to provide poorhouses for themselves, there were 48 other parishes, with a population of 289,048, which had made arrangements for placing their paupers in neighbouring poorhouses, under the 65th section of the Amendment Act; and the commissioners remark, that "the total population to which poorhouse accommodation for paupers is now more or less available, amounts to 1,062,993, or nearly 2-5 the of the entire population of Scotland."

In the current year, 508 parishes appear to have established their claim to participate in the Medial parliamentary grant in aid of medical relief. relief. The entire sum expended in this species of relief was 20,3111. is. 9d. The population of the parishes which complied with the conditions entitling them to participate in the grant was 2,071,478, and of the parishes that had not so complied 548,706. The expenditure on medical relief by the former was 17,257l: 16s. 11d., being about 2d. per head on the population, and by the latter it was 3,053l. 5s. 8 d., equal to about 11d. per head on the population. The parliamentary grant seems therefore, in accordance with the benevolent intentions of the legislature, to have led to a more liberal administration of medical relief.

The number of applications to the board of supervision in the present year complaining of inadequate relief was 764, of which number 472 were dismissed on the information contained in the schedules, and 72 were dismissed after being remitted to the parochial boards for explanation; in 184 the ground of complaint was removed, and in 3 cases minutes were issued declaring that the complainants had just cause of action against their parishes.

The returns of applications on account of the refusal of relief, continued to exhibit a progressive decrease in the number of those cases to which the jurisdiction of the sheriffs extends, as compared with the returns of former years. After pointing out certain discrepancies in preceding returns, the commissioners observe—"When we look at the number of cases in which an order was made by the sheriff for interim relief, which we consider to be an index of the cases calling for the sheriff's intervention, far more to be relied on than the number of applications made, the real decrease is apparent. We find a reduction from 739 to 539, being somewhat more than one-fourth of the whole number." There is a like diminution under all the other heads of the return, and the general result is considered to be very favourable, as affording indications of the satisfactory working of the law.

The decrease of expenditure on account of the relief of the poor, which for the first time the commissioners had last year the satisfaction of reporting, still continued, the entire amount expended in the present year, including 21,576l. 1s. 8d. for poorhouse buildings, being 535,943l. 13s. 6d., whilst the number of regular poor on the roll on the 14th of May was 76,906 and the number of casual poor relieved in the year was 42,093. The number of casual poor and vagrants relieved on the 1st of January and 1st of July respectively in the present year (1851), has been 5,148 and 6,366. On the 1st of July in the preceding year the number of such persons relieved was 4,267. While the number of casual poor relieved throughout the year has thus been considerably less than in the last, the numbers relieved on each of the two days for which the returns were made, have we see considerably increased. The increase is said "to be chiefly attributable to the distress prevailing in some districts of the Highlands and Islands, and to the temporary relief there afforded to destitute able-bodied persons who are classed as casual poor."

In consequence of the distress in the Highlands and Islands above noticed, and which had prevailed with greater or less intensity since 1846,h the board of supervision were directed by government to cause an examination to be made into the state of those districts, and to report on "the means of rendering the local resources available for the relief of the inhabitants." The chairman of the board undertook the investigation, on which he was engaged from the beginning of February to the middle of April; and the results of his inquiry were embodied in a comprehensive Report, to the most prominent portions of which we will now advert.

The first step taken on all occasions throughout the inquiry, Sir John McNeill observes, was to call a meeting of the parochial boards, which consisted everywhere of the most intelligent persons of the district, and to explain to them that the object sought for was the application of local resources, and not the providing of extraneous aid. Their attention was " directed to the obligation imposed upon them by the statute, to give adequate relief to all disabled and destitute persons who apply for it, and to the necessary consequence, that destitute persons who, from want of sufficient food, ceased to be able-bodied, had a right to relief." They were told, that although the recent Act did not give able-bodied persons out of employment a right to relief, it gave to parochial boards a discretionary power to afford temporary relief to casual poor, including able-bodied persons in absolute want; and that viewed merely as a question of economy, it was well for them to consider whether it might not be more advantageous to give temporary aid to such able-bodied persons, than to withhold it until disablement arises through the pressure of absolute want. The discretion with which they are invested would, they were told, afford the means in any emergency of applying their local resources to the temporary relief of destitution, however arising; "but it was for them to determine in what manner they would use that power, the exercise of which was left entirely to their own discretion."

The inquiry included a portion of the mainland, and extended to the islands of Mull, Skye, Lewis, Uist, Harris, Long Island, Barra, Tyree, and Coll. Sir John McNeill bears testimony to. the, uniform civility and good conduct of the working classes in all the places he visited, and this under circumstances calculated to excite feelings of disappointment; for they appear, he says, to have formed exaggerated notions as to their right, under the new Poor Law, of being provided with employment and the means of subsistence at home, without being compelled to seek for either elsewhere. They believed that they were legally entitled to the aid they had been annually receiving from the destitution fund and other sources since 1846, and its continuance was confidently reckoned on in the present year. If all else failed, they thought the government, which had hitherto they said done nothing for the Highlanders, 44 could not refuse to provide the comparatively small amount of assistance they required, when so vast an amount had been given to Ireland." Everything he had to state on these points, was calculated to disappoint the expectations of the people, yet he remarks —I did not anywhere observe a tone, a look, or a gesture, that indicated resentment or irritation. They frequently argued freely, sometimes with considerable ability and subtlety, never with rudeness, and often with a politeness and delicacy of deportment that would have been graceful in any society, and such as perhaps no men of their class, in any other country I am acquainted with, could have maintained in similar circumstances. Many went away dejected, but none without some parting expressions of personal kindness and obligation."

The first point to be ascertained was, whether any distress existed or was likely to arise, so urgent and extreme as to require assistance beyond what the local resources could supply. The alarm of famine appeared to be general, and a belief everywhere prevailed that many persons had perished from want of food, and that the relief which had been derived from the destitution fund during the'fout4receding years continued to be still necessary. But on the other hand, the condition of the inhabitants in regard to health was seen to be generally good, and not to indicate suffering from want, although such relief had now been delayed considerably beyond the usual period. This seemed an important fact, and was deemed to be satisfactory as regards the present state of the population; and with respect to the future, it was ascertained that all the parochial boards had authorised the inspectors "to afford temporary relief iii urgent cases to persons not entitled by law to demand it"—in fact the parochial boards in the islands had, it is said, "begun to exercise their discretionary power to give temporary relief to able-bodied persons in absolute want, from the commencement of the distress in 1846; had suspended that description of relief while the destitution fund was in operation; and had spontaneously resumed it, on a limited scale, when the fund was understood to be exhausted." The authority which was thus given to the inspectors, made them responsible for the due administration of relief in every case. They were liable to be proceeded against criminally, if from failing to afford "needful sustentation," they allowed any fit object of parochial relief to perish for want of food; and this liability would, in the ordinary course of law, operate as a protection to the poor, and prevent the occurrence of such a painful contingency, although instances of severe distress might not be altogether prevented.

With the advance of the season and the exhaustion of the last year's crop, the number of persons requiring relief would be certain to increase; but it was by no means certain that many of these persons might not. maintain themselves by employment elsewhere, and which employment they would probably have sought after, but for the expectation of finding relief of some kind or in some way at home. The means of employment in the western districts, is generally insufficient for the maintenance of the inhabitants throughout the year, and distress in some part of it must therefore be regarded as the natural condition of the people, to be remedied only by a decrease in their number, or by an increase in the means of employment; but both the remedies are attended with difficulty. The population of these districts chiefly consists of three classes, each holding land directly from the proprietor. The 'Crofters' are persons occupying lands at a rental not exceeding 20l. a year, and are by far the most numerous class. The ' Tacksmen' have leases or `tacks' generally paying a rent exceeding 50l. a year, and in point of circumstances are the most considerable of all the classes. Intermediate between these is another class paying rent of from 20l. to 50l., and who not having leases are not 'Tacksmen,' and not liking to be classed with the `Crofters,' are called 'Tenants.' Besides these three classes, who hold land directly from the proprietor, there is another called Cottars,' who are numerous in some districts, and who either do not hold land at all, or hold it only from year to year as sub-tenants. There are no manufactures except a little knitting, and the 'Crofters' and 'Cottars' constitute the great bulk of the population.

At one time, nearly all the land in the western districts appears to have been held by 'Tacksmen' (generally kinsmen or dependants of the proprietor) with sub-tenants under them. But many of the lands formerly held by tacksmen, came afterwards to be held directly of the proprietor by joint tenants, who grazed their stock in common, and cultivated the arable land in alternate ridges or `rigs,' hence called 'runrig.' Each person thus got a portion of the better, and a portion of the worse land; but no one held two contiguous ridges, or the same ridge for two successive years. Since the early part of the present century however, the arable land has mostly been divided into fixed portion -among the joint tenants, who thus became `Crofters,' the grazing remaining in common as before. This division of the arable land into separate crofts, no doubt led to improved cultivation; but it also led to other consequences, to which it is necessary to advert.

Whilst the land was field by joint tenants, no one could -appropriate to himself any particular share or portion, his co-tenants having a concurrent right over the whole; but on the division and absolute appropriation of the arable land, the crofters generally established themselves each on his own separate allotment. Their houses were and still are of the simplest construction, erected by themselves of stone earth or clay, with a covering of turf and thatch. The furniture consists of a bed, a table, a few stools, a chest, and some cooking utensils. At one end of the house is the byre for the cattle, at the other end the barn for the crop. The peat which the crofter cuts from the neighbouring moss, gives him fuel. His capital consists of his cattle, his sheep, and perhaps a horse or two; of his crop that is to support him- till next harvest, and provide seed and winter provender for his animals; of his furniture, his implements, the wood-work and rafters of his house, and sometimes a boat or share of a boat, nets and other fishing gear; with barrels of salt herrings, or bundles of dried cod or ling for winter use. His croft supplies him with food and most of his clothing. The sales of cattle pay his rent, and he lives or rather did live in a rude kind of abundance, comparatively idle, and knowing little of the daily toil by which labourers elsewhere obtain a livelihood. Once established on his small farm, the crofter does not expect to be removed so long as his rent is paid, and the occupation of the croft becomes in fact hereditary, the son succeeding the father as a matter of course.

The crofts appear to have been originally apportioned with a view to the maintenance of a single family. "But when kelp was largely and profitably manufactured, when potatoes were extensively and successfully cultivated, when the fishings were good, and the price of cattle high, the crofter found his croft more than sufficient for his wants, and when a son or a daughter married, he divided it with the young couple, who built themselves another house upon it, Iived on the produce, and paid a part of the rent;" and thus many crofts which still stand in the rent-roll in the name of one tenant, became occupied by two three or four families, the population continually increasing, and a large part of the increase having in this way accumulated on the crofts.

The kelp manufacture, which at one time gave employment in the western districts to great numbers of the inhabitants, contributed to a like result. The process lasted for no more than six weeks or two months, but it was necessary to provide the people employed on it with the means of living throughout the year; and small crofts were assigned to them for this purpose, on the produce of which, with their other earnings, they were enabled to live and increase. But this entailed another serious evil, for when the manufacture of kelp was put an end to by the substitution of a cheaper commodity, the people engaged in it were thrown out of employment; and as they differed in habits and language, and had little intercourse with other parts of the country, they were not disposed to go in search of employment elsewhere, and clung to their wretched homesteads with a tenacity found only among the very poor. It is true that emigration to some extent did take place, and was promoted by the proprietors, who became justly alarmed at the excess of population beyond the means of employment. But those who emigrated were for the most part the better description of tenants and crofters, whose lands were then in most cases let for sheep-farming, by which higher rents were obtained adding at the same time to the disproportion between population and employment, and by consequence tending to depress the condition of the bulk of the people; and thus to render them less capable of bearing up against extraordinary privation, whether arising from failure of the crops, the. inclemency of the seasons, or any other cause.

The foregoing explanations may be regarded as applying to the islands and western districts generally, and are probably sufficient for enabling the reader to form a pretty accurate notion of the state of things existing there. There would of course be shades of difference between different parts of these districts; but on the whole, the description above given of the social condition of the people, as well generally as with particular reference to the proceedings under the Poor Law, will with little exception be found applicable to all. As however Sir John McNeill in the course of his investigation examined the principal islands, as well as portions of the , main land, and reported separately on each, it may be well to give the substance of a few of these Reports by way of further illustration.

The population of Skye and the adjacent islands of Raasay Rona and others parochially connected with it, according to the census of the present year (1851) is 22,532. The number of families is 4,335 which gives about five and one-fifth to a family. The annual value of real property returned to parliament in 1843 was 22,103l. 15s. 5d., thus giving an average of about 20s. per head on the population. Besides the higher-rented `tachsmen' and 'tenants,' there are about 1,900 'crofters' at rents not exceeding 10l, the aggregate of whose rents amounts to about 8,000l., and the average of each taken singly to 4l. 4s. 1d. The produce of a croft of this description will not provide a family with food for more than half the year, so that the crofter must provide for the remaining half by other means. In addition to these 1,900 families of crofters, there are 1,531 families of `cottars' making together 3,431 families, or 17,842 individuals, depending either wholly as in the latter case, or during half the year as in the former, on employment other than the cultivation of their holdings for the means of subsistence. With the exception of a little knitting introduced by the committee for the relief of destitution, there is no manufacture of any kind in Skye, and the only employment is such as prevails in pastoral and agricultural districts, with occasional fishing. The rents have nevertheless been generally well paid, and without the necessity of distraining, as have likewise the poor-rates. A large quantity of meal has been purchased by the inhabitants annually, since the potato failure in 1846; and in the year ending 10th October 1850, according to the returns of the excise, the whisky duty paid by retailers amounted to 10,855l., which is "considerably more than double the amount expended on relief by the destitution fund during the same year, and more than double the consumption of whisky returned for the same district in 1845, the year before the distress commenced."

With these facts before us, it is, as Sir John McNeill remarks, impossible to resist the inference that the destitution fund could have done little towards supplying the deficiency of local means; and even when to the relief derived from the fund, is added the expenditure under the Drainage Act, together with the produce of the crofts and whatever else could be earned in the district, the amount would still be insufficient to account for the people being able to pay rent and poor-rates, to purchase large quantities of meal, to keep themselves well clothed and the men well shod, and likewise to pay 10,855l. for whisky and probably half as much for tobacco. The fact is, the labourers of Skye, like the harvesters of Ireland, paid their rents and provided what extra articles they wanted or wished for, by the earnings which they occasionally obtained elsewhere. "From the Pentland Firth to the Tweed, from the Lewis to the Isle of Man, the Skye men sought the employment they could not find at home." Previous to 1846, the young men only went, but since then the older men have found it necessary to go. Both old and young however, whether crofters or cottars, return for the winter, and remain at home mostly in idleness, consuming their earnings and the produce of their croft, "till the return of summer and the failure of their supplies warn them that it is time to set out again."

Those whose means are insufficient to maintain them through the winter, are necessarily exposed to much privation, and to these the relief from the destitution fund has been chiefly afforded; but although this relief is said to have been " administered with remarkable ability and caution," it is universally considered to have had a prejudicial effect on the character and habits of the people, by inducing them to misrepresent their circumstances with a view to participating in the relief, and causing them -to relax their exertions for their own maintenance. Indeed with reference to the whole of these districts, but more particularly to Skye, where the working classes depend more upon what may be called foreign employment than in any other, it is said to be the general opinion, "that the effect of the continued relief after the unforeseen calamity of the first year had been provided for, was on the whole to diminish rather than to increase the means of subsistence in succeeding years." That the population became less frugal, is proved by the greatly increased consumption of whisky.

The aggregate population of Hull with the smaller islands of Iona, Ulva, Inchkenneth, and others parochially connected with it was, 8,294 according to the census of 1851. In 1821 the population amounted to 10,612, but it has since then been reduced by successive emigrations. The annual value of real property returned to parliament in 1843 was 17,576l. 16s. 2d. The ownership of property is more than usually divided in Mull, the three parishes of which it consists belonging to no less than twenty-one proprietors, the majority of whom are non-resident, and all with the exception of four or five have acquired their property within the last forty years. On all the recently acquired properties the population has decreased considerably, owing to improvements in agriculture, the formation of large farms, and the conversion of the land into pasturage. But on the old hereditary properties there is still a numerous population of crofters and cottars, and there as well as in the village of Tobermory much distress has prevailed. The chief produce has always been cattle and sheep, but previous to 1846 large quantities of potatoes and barley or bere were annually exported. In 1845 from the port of Tobermory alone, 15,410 barrels of potatoes were exported, at an average price of 4s. 6d. per barrel. There is no information of the quantities sent from other parts of the island, "but it is probable that the total export of potatoes in that year from the three parishes of Mull exceeded 30,000 barrels, and brought to the producers at least 6,750l."—Since 1846 no potatoes or bere have been exported, but a large quantity of meal, probably not less than 15,000 or 20,000 bolls of 140lbs. has been annually imported, which at 18s. per boll would amount to between 14,0001. and 18,000l.; and if to this be added the value of the former exports, which have ceased since the failure of the potato crop, there will appear to be a loss arising out of that failure of some 20,000l. or 25,000l. annually. Yet the consumption of whisky has increased since 1845, the quantity of undiluted spirit sold in that year according to the excise returns, having been 8,701 gallons, whilst in 1850 the quantity sold has been 10,212 gallons. The expenditure on ardent spirits in 1848 was estimated by the minister of Tobermory to have amounted to 6,100l.; and as the value of the meal distributed by the destitution committee in that year was 3,202l., it follows "that there was expended on ardent spirits by the inhabitants of Mull in 1848, a sum equal to double the amount of extraneous aid furnished to relieve destitution in that year.

The united parish of Kilfinichin and Kilvickeson in the south-western part of Mull, includes the islands of Iona and Inchkenneth. In 1755 the population was 1,685. In 1841 the population had increased to 4,113. Since which year, and in consequence of the abandonment of the kelp trade, it had been decreased by successive emigrations, partly voluntary and independent, partly with the aid of the proprietors; and according to the census of the present year (1851), the population of the united parish amounts only to 2,999, or one-fourth less than it was in 1841. The number of crofters is now 160, and the number of cottars about 250; so that there are 410 families or 2,132 individuals iii the parish depending on wages for the whole or the greater part of their living, the only employment being agricultural, with, occasional fishing for cod, ling, and lobsters. These employments are ordinarily inadequate to affording subsistence for the labouring population, and in the four years since 1846, the duke of Argyle appears to have expended in gratuities and wages 1,790l. 11s. 4d. in addition to the revenue derivable from his property in this parish—"Yet all classes concur in stating that the condition of the people has progressively declined since 1846; and in 1850, after the emigration, there were at one time of the inhabitants of this property, not fewer than 1,000 individuals receiving relief from the destitution fund."

'1'llc united parish of Kilninian and Kilmore, cornprising the northern part of Mull, includes the islands of Ulva and Gornetra as well as some smaller islands. The land in this parish is divided among nine proprietors, most of whom have acquired their property within the last twenty years. The population in 1755 was 2,590, and it went on increasing till 1831, when it was 4,830; since which it has continued to decrease, and by the census of the present year (1851), it is 3,952. On all the recently acquired properties except the village of Tobermory, the population has decreased. In Ulva it has been reduced from 500 to 150, the proprietor having, as he states, "no alternative but either to surrender his property to the crofters, or to remove them." Nearly the whole of their rents were paid from the wages they earned in manufacturing kelp, and when that failed they were neither able to pay rent, nor to maintain themselves. In four years there had been expended in wages labour and gratuities, with a view to giving employment, not only all the revenue derived from the property, but 3671. in addition. In short, it is declared that wherever the crofters have remained undisturbed, there distress prevails, or is only averted by the interposition of the proprietor, often at a cost exceeding the rental of the property. Many of the labourers of Mull, like those of Skye, go to the south for employment in summer, and the number that do so is said to be increasing. The amount of imports, and the expenditure on whisky, while the biome produce has so materially decreased, show that their gains must be considerable. They all however, like the other islanders, return home for the winter, their attachment to their native soil and repugnance to mingling with strangers, keeping them from settling among their southern neighbours, notwithstanding the frequent intercourse which has of late years been maintained with them.

On the Gairloch property, situated on the mainland nearly opposite to Skye, an attempt was made five years ago to enable the crofters to maintain themselves, by introducing improved anodes of cultivation. The Gairloch tenantry appear to have occupied the grazing land in common, and to have cultivated the arable land in 'runrig,' down to 1845 or 1846, when separate crofts were allotted to each. Their number was then about six hundred, but as the land previously in cultivation would not furnish each crofter with a sufficient quantity, waste land was reclaimed for the purpose by the proprietor, the principle proceeded upon being, that a croft of four or five acres properly cultivated, with hill grazing for cattle and sheep, was sufficient for the maintenance of a family and the payment of rent. The land was successively trenched and drained, the crofters meanwhile subsisting on the wages they received for performing the work. In about four years the operation was completed, at an outlay of 6,000l. in improving the crofts, and 7,000l. more in road-making draining and trenching on other portions of the estate, making together 13,000l. expended in payment for labour on this property in course of four years. Of this amount 3,000l. was, we are told, furnished by the destitution fund. The crofters were required to adhere to a four-shift rotation of crops, the house-feeding of cattle, and the preservation of liquid and other manures, and an intelligent overseer was appointed to superintend and direct their proceedings. The result however has fallen far short of what was expected, for although the Gairloch crofters have undoubtedly benefited by the money expended among them in wages, and their crofts yield a greater produce, and their mode of management is generally improved, they are yet unable to maintain themselves by their crofts for more than half the year, and for the other half are still dependent on other sources. The improvements made in the crofting system at Gairloch, at so large an outlay, have therefore failed in producing results materially differing from those which have attended the system wherever else it has prevailed.

The state of things exhibited in the foregoing details, which apply generally to the whole of the western districts and islands, is unknown in other parts of Scotland. There must therefore be something peculiar in the circumstances which caused so great an amount of distress in those districts on the failure of the potato crop, while a similar failure was comparatively little felt in other parts of the country. The potato no doubt constituted a larger portion of the food of the, inhabitants of those districts than was the case elsewhere, but this alone will not account for the continuance of distress, after other crops might have been and actually were substituted for it; neither will it account for the failure of the efforts which were made to enable the crofters cottars and labouring classes generally, to produce enough for their own maintenance—" efforts (it is remarked) so great and persevering, and involving so large a sacrifice of personal interest on the part of the proprietors, that they reflect credit not only on those who made them, but even on the country in which they were made." One of the reasons usually assigned for this failure is the small size of the crofts, the land which was sufficient to produce food for a family while the potato flourished, being insufficient to supply corn enough for the purpose ; and this is doubtless true, but it is not the whole truth. A man must have the means of living whilst lie is cultivating his croft, and he must have sufficient seed, implements, and cattle to make the land productive, so as to enable him to pay rent. If he has not the menus of providing these things, or the skill to apply them, he will not be able to obtain a subsistence from his croft, and the larger it is the more of these things will he require.

But independently of capital and skill, which are always necessary to success whether the quantity of land occupied be large or small, the quality or the soil and the nature of the climate are also important considerations. Some land is so poor that with the best management it will yield but a very scanty return, and there are districts where the climate is so precarious and ungenial that the ripening of corn crops is far from certain. Both these unfavourable circumstances of soil and climate prevail to such an extent in the western districts of Scotland, that oatmeal produced on the eastern coast at the same or a higher latitude, can be supplied to the inhabitants of the west at a fourth less cost than it can be produced at there. The nature of the soil and the uncertainty of the climate are therefore circumstances which materially add to the difficulties of the crofter's position in the western districts, and these difficulties are still further increased by the tendency to an excess of population which the crofting system necessarily gives rise to. The distress existing wherever that system prevails cannot be attributed to the failure of the potato alone, since no such severe and continued distress has been produced where there were no crofters; and it must therefore be regarded as a consequence of the potato failure taking place, concurrently with the prevalence of a system by which men are led to depend for subsistence on the food produced by their own labour, on land occupied by themselves.

If the occupancy of land were to be made the sole means of subsistence for the population, as the crofting system implies, and if it were possible to furnish every crofter with the necessary capital for this purpose, the plan advocated by some persons of giving to each family land sufficient to maintain them and pay rent, would still be found impracticable. For instance, in the case of Skye, with its 3,431 families—To provide each of these with even as much land as is now Iet in Skye for 10l., would require more land than both the islands of Skye and Lewis could furnish, and would require every one paying a rent above 10l. to be removed; so that even if the requisite capital could be procured for establishing each family on its own croft, the division of land into crofts of a size sufficient to supply the families with food throughout the year, would necessitate the removal of the larger part of the present population, including all those who employ labour, or who possess the means of giving employment. This shows the great disproportion existing between the population and the ordinary means of subsistence, not only in Skye but in the western districts generally, the inhabitants of which are said to "have neither capital enough to cultivate the extent of land necessary to maintain them if it could be provided, nor have they land enough were the capital supplied them."

Under these circumstances, the only remedy seems to be emigration. The question is not new, nor the emergency altogether unforeseen. Distress prevailed in the same districts in 1837, and again in 1841, and on both those occasions the necessity for emigration was strongly advocated, as a means of averting the evils that were otherwise certain to ensue. The recommendation was partially acted upon, but not to a sufficient extent, as the present state of these districts abundantly proves.

In commenting on the circumstances of these western districts, Sir John McNeill remarks—"It is curious, and perhaps mortifying to observe, how little the difference of management and the efforts of individuals appear to have influenced the progress of the population, and how uniformly that progress corresponds to the amount of intercourse with the more advanced parts of the country, and the length of time during which it has been established." The proprietor no doubt has it in his power to promote or retard advancement, "but the circumstances (it is observed) that determine the progress of such a people as the inhabitants of these districts, in the vicinity and forming a part of a great nation far advanced in knowledge and in wealth, appear to be chiefly those which determine the amount of intercourse between them. Where the intercourse is easy and constant, the process of assimilation proceeds rapidly, and the result is as certain as that of opening the sluices in the ascending lock of a canal. Where the intercourse is impeded or has not been -established, it may perhaps be possible to institute a separate local civilization, an isolated social progress; but an instance of its successful accomplishment is not to be found in these districts."

This proposition is exemplified by a reference to the Highland parishes on the borders of the Lowlands, which, although still inhabited by the original race, are said to be "hardly distinguishable by their aspect or the condition of their inhabitants from those which bound them to the south or east. Proceeding northward and westward, the change is gradual and uninterrupted, till the utmost limits are reached in the outer Hebrides, where it is complete." The extent and urgency of the distress, it is added, increase in like manner with the distance from the centre of civilization and industry, and are greatest where the intercourse is least. "The state of the population is most advanced where the intercourse has been longest established, and there too the distress is less severe, and the prospect of extrication more hopeful." It follows therefore, that whatever tends to facilitate and promote intercourse between these districts and the more advanced parts of the country, ought to be encouraged, as being the most certain if not the only way of bringing about a state of things similar to that which exists in other parts, where less than a century ago the people were as badly situated, but are now self-sustaining and prosperous. Every attempt at improvement that is opposed to or inconsistent with this progress of assimilation, will not only be unsuccessful, but will, it is observed, tend eventually "to subject the people involved in it to another process of painful transition." Of the correctness of this opinion there can be no reasonable doubt, and it behoves the proprietary and influential classes to keep it constantly in view, in whatever efforts maybe made for ameliorating the condition of these districts.

With respect to the administration of the Poor Law in the western districts, it is said to be "on the whole creditable to the local boards, when the difficulties they have had to contend with almost since their foundation are taken into account." The composition of the boards is said to be generally good, and the election of a certain number of the members by the ratepayers has here as elsewhere given confi dcnce to their proceedings, and increased their efficiency. The defects are such as almost necessarily arise from the great extent of the parishes, the difficulty of communication, and the limited choice of efficient officers. The funds now raised, are far greater than were raised in 1845, and seem sufficient for meeting the ordinary calls for relief under the statute. They appear moreover to be fairly assessed, and are collected with less difficulty and fewer arrears than was to be expected, considering the number of small ratepayers and the distress that has prevailed. The parochial boards in the distressed districts, are now, it is said, relieving all able-bodied persons who are in a state of destitution, and Sir John McNeilf concludes his Report by declaring, that "there is good reason to hope that this season (1851) will pass away, not certainly without painful suffering, but without the loss of any life in consequence of the cessation of eleemosynary aid." If hereafter however, the population should be left entirely dependent on their own resources, "some fearful calamity" will, it is added, probably occur, unless a portion of the inhabitants remove to where the means of subsistence are obtainable in greater abundance, and with greater certainty, than where they now are.

The foregoing description of the distressed districts of the west, chiefly abstracted from Sir John McNeill's comprehensive Report, will it is hoped not be deemed irrelevant or unimportant. The circumstances of these districts are in no , small degree exceptional, and as the Poor Law applies to them in common with the rest of Scotland, some account of their actual state appeared to be necessary for judging of the operation and applicability of the law; and from no other source could such an account be so appropriately drawn.

We will now turn to the Report of the board of supervision, the seventh of the series being the next in order. It appears that several of the parochial inspectors had either failed to perform their duties, or been negligent and irregular in the execution of them, and the board of supervision had found it incumbent upon them to dismiss six, and to accept the resignation of others whose conduct it would otherwise have been necessary to bring under investigation. Several of the inspectors likewise were admonished on account of their failing to observe the regulations, more especially that which prohibits their deriving any profit or emolument directly or indirectly from dealings with paupers. Indeed it would seem that the members of the parochial boards were not themselves altogether faultless in this respect, there being, it is said, reason to fear that in some cases the prospect of a preference in executing work, or in furnishing supplies, had served1 as an inducement for seeking a seat at the board. This is obviously and perhaps unavoidably a weak point in the system of parochial management, and it requires a vigilant watchfulness on the part of the superintending authority. Experience showed that a frequent examination into the proceedings of the parochial boards was necessary for securing efficiency and preventing malversation, and a visiting officer was accordingly appointed, whose duty it was to visit the different parishes, and report upon the manner in which the law was administered in each. For this purpose the country was divided into districts, to be visited in succession, somewhat in the way that the inspectors' districts are attended to in England.

Since the last Report, 18 parishes which had before raised the funds for relieving the poor by voluntary contributions, resolved to raise them by assessment. The number of parishes now assessed was 671, and the number still adhering to the voluntary system was 211, the total number having been increased to 882 by the parishes of Stronsay and Eday in Orkney, previously conjoined, being now declared separate parishes. The parishes assessed on "means and substance" were 5 less than last year, although the number of parishes assessed is we see considerably greater.

Four parishes in the Isle of Skye, containing a population of 13,569, had combined for the purpose of erecting a poorhouse, the plans of which have also been approved, as have likewise the plans for improving and enlarging several others. The number of permanent poorhouses in operation was 24. The number of parishes that have poorhouses either singly or in combination with others, was 44; and besides these, there were 119 parishes with a population of 529,761 which take advantage of the existing accommodation by boarding their paupers in the poorhouses of other parishes. The whole of the population to which poorhouse accommodation is thus in some way available, amounted to 1,283,805, or nearly half the entire population of Scotland.

In reference to a communication from Lord Selkirk, describing the successful operation of the Kirkcudbright poorhouse, and which is given in the appendix to the present Report, the commissioners observe, that "the result has been not only a considerable pecuniary saving to the combined parishes, but a great diminution of labour to the persons engaged in the management of the poor; and what is even more important, a great diminution of the demoralizing effects produced on certain classes by the temptations of out-door relief, in the absence of sufficient means of checking abuse by applying an adequate test." The opinion thus expressed by the commissioners, Will not cause surprise to those who have attended to the progress of the Poor Law in England; but that the conclusion should have been drawn from the experience acquired in administering the law in Scotland, is peculiarly gratifying, and is calculated to give increased confidence in the soundness of the principle on which the English workhouse system is founded.

With respect to medical relief, it appears that 599 parishes have complied with the conditions entitling them to participate in the parliamentary grant, being 41 more than last year. The whole amount expended on medical relief in the present year has been 21,436l. 6s. 9d.; last year it was 20,311l. 1s. 9d. Some of the parochial boards are said to be in the practice of electing their medical officer annually, which so far as the commissioners have had opportunity of observing appears, they say, "to have been prejudicial both to the harmony of the board and the interests of the poor." The annual election, they observe, "is apt to degenerate into an annual contest between rural practitioners, in which the most respectable and worthy are unwilling to engage. Each candidate is supported by partisans, in whose estimation professional skill or fitness for the office is not always the primary consideration ; and the fact that the election is only for one year, apparently tends to produce recklessness in the choice."---It seems impossible to deny the truth of these observations, or to doubt the inexpediency of such annual elections. The right mode of procedure, as proved by all English, and now likewise by Scottish experience, is to make the appointment permanent, subject only to good behaviour and efficiency on the part of the medical officer.

The number of applications to the board of supervision complaining of inadequate relief, during the year ending 30th June 1852, was 684, of which 415 were dismissed on information contained in the schedules, 66 were dismissed after reference, 32 for other causes; and in 164 cases the ground of complaint was removed by the parochial boards. The increase and decrease in the numbers complaining of inadequate relief, are said to follow the increase and decrease of the registered poor; although as the Poor Law functionaries gained experience, and were able to meet such complaints by an offer of relief in the poorhouse, the proportion of cases in -which the commissioners considered the complaint well founded, has they say, progressively diminished. The applications in the sheriffs' courts of persons refused relief by the parochial boards, and claiming a right to be relieved, have likewise continued to decrease. The number of interim orders issued in the present year has been 503, of which 267 were afterwards disputed by the parish authorities; and of these, the applicants in 137 instances were ultimately ordered to be admitted on the roll.

The amount expended on the relief and management of the poor during the year ending 14th May 1852, including 21,186l. expended on poorhouse buildings, was 535,868l. 3s. 10d., being 75l. 3s. 8d. in excess of the expenditure the year preceding. The number of regular poor on the roll or registered on the 14th of May 1852, was 75,111, being a decrease of 1795 since the same date last year. The number of casual poor relieved in the year was 46,031, being an increase as compared with the last year of 3,938. The casual poor and vagrants relieved on the 1st of January 1852, amounted to 5,294, or 146 more than on the 1st of January 1851. On the 1st of July 1852, the number was 5,070, or 1,296 less than on the 1st of July 1851. The registered poor thus appear to be decreasing, while the casual poor rather show a tendency to increase.

With regard to the expenditure and the numbers relieved, the commissioners remark—When the statute of 1845 came into operation, the relief afforded in many of the parishes was merely nominal, and in the great majority inadequate. The more efficient administration of the law which was then established, led to an immediate -increase in the expenditure, which was accelerated and augmented by the dearth of food in the succeeding years, and by want of experience in the parochial management. In the year ending May 1849, that expenditure had reached the highest point it has attained, and since that time has annually decreased; but for the last year the diminution has been so inconsiderable, that the expenditure may be regarded as stationary, and may perhaps have arrived at its ordinary amount. The average for the last seven years has been about 500,000l.—for the last two years, exclusive of the outlay on poorhouse buildings, it has little exceeded that sum; and it is probable, if nothing should occur materially to affect the condition of the working classes, that it will for some years fluctuate but little above or below that amount."

The eighth Report like those preceding it is dated in August and commences by declaring that the representations of the visiting officer who was appointed last year, and who had been actively engaged in investigating the manner in which the law was administered, had satisfied the commissioners that the poor were generally well provided for. A special inquiry regarding the administration of the law in Caithness had been made by the chairman of the board, whose Report thereon will hereafter be noticed.
Since the last Report, nine parishes which had previously raised the funds for relief of the poor by voluntary contributions, have resolved to do so by assessment. The number of parishes now assessed was therefore 680, and the number voluntarily contributing was 202. The progress of the change from voluntary contributions to assessment, in the eight years since the amended law came into operation, has been as follows:---

The funds for relief of the poor in the several parishes are now raised in the following manner:-

The parishes assessed on "means and substance," are three less than they were last year although the total number of parishes assessed is greater by nine. This particular mode of assessment, in favour of which little can be said, is obviously on the decline, and will probably ere long be altogether abandoned.
In course of the present year resolutions had been adopted, and the plans have been approved, for erecting poorhouses in the parishes of Inveresk, Latheron, Dundee, and Kelso, and in the combination consisting of nine parishes in Upper Nithsdale, and in the Linlithgow combination of eight parishes—making together twenty-one parishes, with a population of 129,319. The number of parishes which now have poorhouses, either singly or in combination with others, is 62; and when the buildings at present in progress are completed, the number will be 88. There are also 120 parishes which, under the 65th section of the Amendment Act, have arranged to board their paupers in the poorhouses of other parishes. The population to which poorhouse accommodation is now available amounts to 1,442,735, or one-half the entire population of Scotland, which at the census in 1851 was found to be 2,888,742.

Complaints having been made respecting the religious instruction of the orphan and deserted children maintained in the poorhouses, it became necessary for the commissioners again to interfere with this delicate question. They had on a previous occasion given it as their opinion "that all children ought to be registered as belonging to the religious persuasion of their parents or surviving parent, when that is known or can be ascertained; unless in cases of desertion by their parents or surviving parent, who in that case appeared to have voluntarily abandoned the natural right to conduct the religious instruction of their offspring." To this opinion the commissioners now deemed it right to add—"that when the religious. persuasion of a child, even though deserted, has once been inserted in the register, the parochial board has not the power to alter the register for the purpose of describing that child as of another religious persuasion, without the child's consent; and that with reference to religious instruction, effect must be given to the original registration in the mariner described by the statute, and the rules and regulations for the management of poorhouses." [See the 64th section of the Amendment Act, and the 23rd, 40th, 50th, 5Ist, and 52nd sections of the ' Rules and Regulations for the Management of Poorhouses,' in which provision. appears to be made for every case of this nature that can arise.]

The conditions on which a participation in the parliamentary grant in aid of medical relief was conceded, were complied with by 560 parishes, being eleven more than in the last year. The whole amount expended on the medical relief of the poor in the present year is 21,737l. 6s. 8d., equal to 1d. and 8-10ths per head on the entire population. The amount expended in the 560 parishes entitled to participate in the grant, is 19,577l. 5s. 6d., which is equal to about 2d. per head of the population of those parishes; and the amount expended in the 322 parishes not so entitled, is 2,160l. 1s. 2d., which is equal to less than 1d. per head on their population—thus showing that the medical relief of the poor in the parishes participating in the parliamentary grant is, rateably on the population, double the amount of that which is afforded in the parishes not so participating; and consequently, it may be presumed, doubly as effective.
During the present year, application had been made to dispense with the removal to an asylum of 169 lunatic paupers. In 165 of these cases the commissioners dispensed with the removal, and in four cases they enforced it. In the preceding year there were 194 of such applications, of which 191 were conceded, and three were refused. Although the instances of refusal are here so few, there can be no doubt that the requiring applications to be made and reasons assigned for dispensing with the removal of pauper lunatics to asylums, has secured for these unfortunates greater care and better treatment than they would else have received, and their condition under the new system is altogether a great improvement upon what it was under the old.

The applications to the board of supervision complaining of inadequate relief, amounted this year to 705—of these 430 were dismissed on information contained in the schedules of complaint, 101 were dismissed after being remitted for explanation, 34 for incompetency and other causes, and in 140 cases the ground of complaint was removed by the parochial boards.

The returns which were obtained of proceedings in the sheriffs' courts, show that the number of interim orders for relief issued in course of the present year, amounted to 426, with respect to 202 of which the parish authorities lodged answers objecting to the order, and of these 92 were ultimately directed to be admitted on the roll. These numbers are all less than in the previous year, when also they were less than they had been in years preceding. This may be taken as a proof of progressive improvement, and of a better knowledge of their duties by the local administrators.

The expenditure for the relief and management of the poor in the present year ending 14th May 1853, including 22,176l. 15s. expended on poorhouse buildings and for sanitary purposes, has amounted to 544,552l. 19s. 9d., being an increase of 8,684l. 9s. 10d. over what had been expended for like objects in the previous year. The commissioners then considered, that the expenditure had reached what was likely to be about its average in succeeding years; but the amount of relief is liable to be affected by so many circumstances general and particular, by revulsions in trade, unfavourable seasons, a change in prices, the prevalence of disease, and other causes, independent of the more or less efficient administration of the law, that it is impossible to reckon with confidence upon a steady or equable action in this respect. In England all these causes had been more or less in operation, and produced corresponding fluctuations. Thus we see that between 1818 and 1853, the rate of expenditure for relief of the English poor had varied from 13s. 3d. per head on the population in the former year, to 5s. 6d. per head in the latter; and there were very considerable variations during the thirty-five intermediate years m In Scotland also, as was to be expected, having regard to the recent operation of the amended law, the variations had been considerable; from 2s. 3d. to 4s. 5d., and in the present year 1852-3 to 3s. 9d. per head on the population. This last amount contrasts favourably with the rate per head in the same year in England, which was two-thirds more; and the Scotch people have so far an advantage over their neighbours-in the south, on whom a remnant of previous malpractice still heavily pressed.

It may be convenient for the purpose of comparison, to exhibit a statement of the expenditure during the eight years since the passing of the Scotch Amendment Act. This is shown in the following table, arranged under appropriate headings, together with the rate per head on the population, and the rate per cent, on the annual value of real property as returned to parliament in 1843—

The number of the poor on the roll or registered on the 14th of May 1853 was 75,437, which is 326 more than on the same day in the previous year. The number of casual poor relieved on the 1st of January 1853 was 4,951 and on the 1st of July 1853 the number was 4,706 being respectively 343 and 364 less than on the corresponding days of 1852. It will be convenient by way of illustrating the table of expenditure just given, to insert here a corresponding table showing the number and class of persons annually relieved during the same period...


The only points in the above tables calling for remark are—the decrease in the number of the casual poor—the decrease in the number of removals to England Ireland or to other parishes—and the increase in the number of orphan or deserted children under charge of the parochial boards. The two first must be regarded as indications of improvement in the general condition of the people, perhaps also of improvement in the administration of the law; and although the same cannot be predicated of the latter circumstance, it may still be looked upon as manifesting increased care for the preservation of infant life, which is usually characteristic of improved civilization.

The Report on Caithness by the president of the board which has been before referred to, is a very interesting document. Sir John McNeill's visit to Caithness appears to have been undertaken, partly with the view of giving the parochial authorities there the benefit of his advice in regard to their administration of the Poor Law, and partly also for the purpose of ascertaining how far the conclusions at which he had arrived with respect to the Islands and districts of the West, and which are stated in his previous Report,° were borne out by the state of things existing in the neighbouring county of Caithness.

The inhabitants of Caithness are it appears divided into two portions, the Highland and the Lowland, the origin language and habits of the two being markedly different. The Highland population occupy the hill country bordering on Sutherland, and are in language and modes of life similar to their neighbours further west. Their occupations are almost exclusively agricultural and pastoral. They are very poor, their dwellings are far from the coast, and few of them engage in fishing. They seldom work in the quarries, and they are not good agricultural labourers. The Lowland population occupy the more fertile part of the country, extending from the hills to the sea. They are of Scandinavian origin, do not speak Gaelic, and are hardly distinguishable from the more southern inhabitants of the east coast. They are active and laborious, and are occupied in fishing, in agriculture, and in quarrying. At the end of the last century, the value of the cured fish annually exported from Caithness did not exceed 13,000l. The cured herring cod and ling exported in the last ten years, give an annual average of not less than 130,000l., whilst the whole land of the county is only valued at 66,000l. in the parliamentary returns of 1843. The quarries of Caithness also afford considerable employment, and conduce to the well-being of the population, which at the census in 1841 amounted to 36,343. Agricultural improvements appeared to be everywhere in progress, and the condition of many of the farms would be deemed creditable in any part of the kingdom. The small "crofter" has almost disappeared, and has been replaced by the farmer and the labourer for wages. A limited number of small farms of from 30l. to 60l. rental, have however been retained, which industrious and frugal labourers may hope to acquire the means of occupying. These small farms are, it is said, so many prizes for industry frugality and good character, and form a ladder by which the agricultural labourers may ascend to the level of the class above them.

Inquiries were made in Caithness, similar to those which had been made in the west Highlands, as to the extent of land on which a Lowland Caithness man could maintain a family, and pay rent from the produce of his farm or croft. The difference in climate, in the facilities of intercourse with the more advanced districts, and in the greater length of time these facilities have been enjoyed, all led to the expectation of a considerable difference of result in the two cases; but it was found that the answers given in Caithness on these points, were almost identical with the answers given in Skye and other places on the west coast. Without the addition of a considerable range of hill pasture, a man in Caithness was unable to maintain a family and pay the customary rent, from the produce of ten acres of arable land of average quality. To enable him to do so without hill pasture, would require twenty acres; and whenever persons holding less land are able to maintain themselves "because agriculture is not their principal occupation, or the main source of their subsistence."

With respect to the proceedings under the Poor Law, it was impressed upon the several parochial boards, that the successful administration of the law depended upon the careful examination of each case by themselves and their officers, not only in the first instance, but upon the occurrence of every change of circumstance subsequently. If those upon whom the legislature had imposed the duty of administering the law, and whose interests as ratepayers were involved in its operation, evaded the performance of that duty, and found that their interests suffered, they were told not to attribute to the law a result which was the consequence of their own neglect. One of the most efficient means of protection against abuse, they were told, would be the erection of poorhouses, which they had not yet provided; and they were cautioned against the thriftless practice to which many parochial boards, not in Caithness only but throughout Scotland had resorted, of appointing inefficient officers at inadequate salaries.—In conclusion, Sir John McNeill expresses a hope that his visit to Caithness will have tended to remedy some defects, and to the introduction of some improvements in what had been the previous system of management. We have seen that it led to the determination of erecting a poorhouse in the parish of Latheron.

There is another Report by Sir John McNeill which on account of its importance requires to be noticed. It appears that a considerable number of the parochial boards had latterly become desirous of devising some plan for the employment of the partially disabled poor, and by many it was thought that the labour of such persons in agriculture, would be more profitable than it could be made in a poorhouse. Repeated applications were made to the board of supervision on this subject, and the pauper colonies of Holland were referred to as showing the advantages of such a system. In the spring of this year therefore, the president of the board of supervision resolved to visit the colonies in the north of Holland, with a view to satisfy himself by personal observation and inquiry whether such a system might be adopted with advantage in Scotland.

After describing the origin and management of the free colonies, the average number of persons located in which during the last ten years was 2,G40, consisting of about 425 families, Sir John McNeill observes, that " regarded as an attempt to make these families maintain themselves by agricultural labour, the free colonies after an experience of thirty years are not only a complete failure, but there is no reason to believe that the scheme could possibly have succeeded." The most intelligent of the officers were of opinion, that even if the colonists had been selected from the class of agricultural peasants, the colonies could not have been made self-sustaining, so long as maintenance was secured to the colonists irrespective of what was produced by themselves. The persons employed in manufactures, and in some of the handicrafts, whose labour is said to be profitable, are exclusively women and children, or persons who have not strength for agricultural labour. The persons employed in agriculture, are the able-bodied men and ,women, whose labour is found to be so unprofitable, that besides swallowing up the assumed profits of the others, it entails a large amount of annual loss on the institution.---"The failure of an experiment conducted with so much care, by men of the highest intelligence, with means so large, supported by the government and the nation, established on a scale so extensive, and persevered in for so many years among a people remarkable for business habits, agricultural skill, and industry - is (it is justly observed) a valuable lesson."

Having, as it was at the time supposed, provided for the indigent persons of good character by the establishment of the free colonies, it was determined to establish other colonies for the reception of paupers and mendicants who were not of good character. By the law of Holland, begging is an offence punishable by imprisonment ; and it was resolved that persons found guilty of mendicancy vagrancy or similar petty offences, instead of being imprisoned, should be sent for a certain number of years to one of the penal or pauper colonies. Ere long however, it was found that many persons resorted to begging for the purpose of being sent to these colonies; and to prevent this mendicants were subjected to a certain term of imprisonment, before being sent thither. On admission, the person's name, description, cause of committal, and the commune chargeable, are entered in the register. His hair is then cut close, next comes a bath, after which the dress of the colony is put on, quarters are assigned, and work is commenced. The sexes occupy separate apartments. They all rise at a quarter past 5 in summer, and an hour later in winter, and are allowed three-quarters of an hour for dressing, washing and breakfast. They have dinner at half-past 11, with rest till 1, supper at 6, at 7 roll-call, and to bed at half-past 8.—The grounds are surrounded by guards to prevent the escape of the inmates, and there are veteran pensioners attached to each colony, ready to repress any disturbance. The punishments consist of imprisonment, solitary confinement with or without irons, not exceeding fourteen days, beating with a stick not exceeding forty blows, and finally flogging.

The object proposed in establishing these pauper colonies, was to train the persons sent thither to habits of industry and economy, by subjecting them for a time to rigid discipline, by holding out inducements to exertion in a maximum and minimum, rate of wages according to the work executed, and by enabling the pauper to obtain his discharge when he had saved a certain sum, with a view to which part of his wages are set aside for his support until lie could find employment. It must be admitted that these arrangements are all good in themselves, and seem calculated to attain the desired object; but they were nevertheless found to be practically ineffective. It was estimated on apparently sufficient data, that it required fifteen of these pauper colonists to perform the field-work of one good day-labourer; so that if the paupers in a colony amount to 1,500, the labour performed by them will not exceed what would be performed by 100 good day-labourers, the whole of whose wages at the usual rate in Holland of 1s. 3d. per day, or 7s. 6d. per week, would not maintain three of these pauper colonists on the average of their annual cost to the country. It may therefore well be questioned whether habits of industry and economy are promoted by a residence in these colonies. The moral effect can perhaps be best estimated by observing the number who are again sent back, after having been discharged from the colonies. Now with respect to this point, it appears that on the 31st of December 1851 the number of pauper colonists in Omerschans and Veenhuisen was 4,250. Of these, 1,923 were there for the first time, 1,163 for the second time, 721 for the third time, 458 for the fourth time, 190 for the fifth, 42 for the sixth, 14 for the seventh, 3 for the ninth, and one for the tenth time. It is plain therefore, as stated in the Report, that a part of the population is here fluctuating between mendicancy and the colonies, as elsewhere between vagrancy and the workhouse ; and that the training in the former has failed to reclaim this class, which despite of every effort for their improvement appears destined to subsist on the labour of others.

In the pauper colonies of Holland, each colonist is said to cost the country on an average more than 61. 13s. 4d. annually, in addition to the produce of his labour. The average cost of paupers on the roll or registered in Scotland, during the seven years for which there are official returns, is about 41., and in England does not amount to nearly so much as in the Dutch colonies. On the other hand, the scale of living among the labouring classes in Holland is said to be considerably lower than in Scotland. " The wages of a good agricultural labourer in the Netherlands during the summer months, do not exceed Is. 3d. per day, or 7s. 6d. per week; the same man would receive in most parts of Scotland 10s. per week. The proportion is therefore as 3 to 4, and would raise the proportional cost of paupers maintained on the Dutch colonial system in this country, to 8l. 17s. 8d." Neither the lodging nor the food in those pauper colonies is such as would be tolerated in Scotland, and the means of coercion are such as could not be here lawfully resorted to.

The foregoing summary of facts in connexion with the Dutch pauper colonies, shows how totally unsuited the system is for being introduced into Scotland; and Sir John McNeill's Report could hardly fail to set the public mind at rest on the subject, and to remove whatever desire may have been felt for entering upon the experiment of extracting profit from, pauper labour. The information conveyed in that Report, perfectly accords with what was obtained by the author, when he visited Holland in 1838, as do likewise the views expressed with regard to the free and pauper colonies. An examination of these colonies was not the immediate object of my visiting Holland at that time, but being there, it was natural, that I should make inquiries respecting them; and such inquiries could only lead to conclusions similar to those stated by Sir John McNeill.

Having now brought the account of the Scottish Poor Law down to the period at which my 'History of the English Poor Law' terminates, I here close this portion of my labours, which although I have found not to be without difficulty in the execution, has yet been on the whole more interesting and more instructive than I had ventured to expect. The interest and the instruction have in great measure arisen from tracing the almost identity of origin in the Poor Laws of England and Scotland, as well as the almost identity of their progress, down to the passing of the Act of James Gtla q in 1579. The power of assessment for relief of the poor conferred by that statute, was not however, we find, generally acted upon, if acted upon at all; and in time got to be considered as supplemental only to the voluntary contributions, as a kind of last resort in absolute necessity, and on the failure of all other means. Whilst in England, on the contrary, after the 14th Elizabeth in 1572, assessments in some form were frequent, and after the 43rd Elizabeth they became a regularly organised means of relief in every parish throughout the country, and have so continued to the present day. The voluntary contributions relied upon in Scotland, were chiefly collected at the church doors, and were dispensed by the kirk session, less according to the actual wants of the poor, than to the amount of the collections received. To contribute to the relief of the poor was not a legal obligation, as in the case of assessment, but was urged by the clergy upon their respective congregations as a religious duty; and the dispensing of the contributions thus obtained, naturally devolved in a great measure if not entirely, upon the clergy themselves.

The systems established and relied upon for relieving the poor in the two countries, thus markedly diverged from 1579 .downwards. downwards. In the one it was imperative, in the other voluntary ; in one it was a duty imposed upon all and enforced by law; in the other it depended on the depth of religious feeling in the people, and on the zeal character and influence of their pastors. It is impossible to deny that the people and clergy of Scotland fulfilled their duty in these respects for a series of years, and that too in a manner that has perhaps never been surpassed in any country. Yet it is equally impossible to deny, that the reliance solely upon voluntary contributions for the relief of destitution, has latterly, under the altered circumstances of the country, been the cause of great suffering and privation, which might be and which ought to have been prevented.

The rigid economy observed in everything connected with the relief of the poor in Scotland, was no doubt a meaxs of preventing many of the evils which occurred in England from practices directly the reverse. But either extreme is to be deprecated, and the. pertinacity with which the able-bodied poor had been excluded from relief, however urgent their necessities, has now been so far modified, that able-bodied persons in immediate want may be relieved as occasional poor, and the board of supervision have felt warranted, under the provisions of the Amendment Act of 1845, in suggesting to the distressed parishes in the Highlands, that as a question of economy it was well for them to consider, whether it might not be more advantageous to give temporary aid to able-bodied persons, than to withhold it until disablement arises through the pressure of absolute want. It appears moreover that the parochial boards in these districts did afford relief to all able-bodied persons who were in a state of destitution. Not only therefore do we find that assessment has become the rule instead of the exception, as was formerly the case in Scotland, but we also find the policy of relieving the able-bodied poor under certain circumstances admitted, and the practice adopted.

The divergence which took place between the theory of the Poor Laws in England and in Scotland, as well as in their practical application, appears now therefore to have been in a great degree corrected, and the systems of relief in the two countries are again approximated, although still far from being identical. The able-bodied poor continue to be formally, and for the most part actually excluded from relief in Scotland; but as poorhouses are increased in number, and placed under proper management, we may expect that the approximation in the two countries will become closer, and that in Scotland as in England destitution will be held to constitute a claim for relief, and that the actual necessity of the claimant will be tested, at least in all doubtful cases, by the offer of Indoor Relief.


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