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Colin Barker Manchester Polytechnic, 1988
(revised version of 1984 paper for course on Industrialization and Social Theory) Do not cite without permission
1. THE ROYAL COMMISSION REPORT AS SOCIAL SCIENCE
The Royal Commission was a means regularly used by 19th-century British Parliaments as a "fact-finding" device, intended to provide evidence to guide government in the formulation of suitable legislation. Indeed, like empirical sociology, the Royal Commission Report was a 19th century invention:
it is a device barely met with before 1832. By 1849 more than 100 had been set up, and every major piece of legislation between 1832 and 1871 was ushered in by this type of inquiry (1).
Numbers of procedures were developed by the different Commissions which were to feed into the methods of modern social science. Many of these Royal Commissions, in practice, were part of a very extensive process of revision and reconstruction of 19th-century government. In this sense, The Report on the Poor Laws of 1834 is an early example of a series of path-breaking documents. Running through the Report is an assumption which is fundamental to that reconstitution of the state: the existing machinery of government is inadequately informed about the real condition of the society it rules. Hence its legislation is either ineffective or, worse, its effects are actually pernicious. A more effective government must be a better-informed government, a government guided in its deliberations by better theory and better evidence. But a new type of information is needed. Classical Political Oeconomy was, in the hands of its greatest exponent, Adam Smith, "a branch of the science of legislation". Its aim was to provide systematic knowledge of the workings of national society, in order to guide the law-making institutions. But the kind of knowledge produced by the classical political oeconomists was essentially deductive: their aim was, fairly consciously, to come to an understanding of the social structure by working outwards, from a small number of a priori principles whose status was generally taken to be "natural". Adam Smith himself expressed some disdain for "fact-gathering", an activity he called "political arithmetic". What the 19th century developed, in part, was just this side of social inquiry, the collection of "factual evidence" on social and economic phenomena. This was to involve a change in the notion of the appropriate method for the construction of knowledge - associated, in theoretical methodology, with the development (above all, initially in France) of "positivism". No longer could the understanding of society and its workings be based solely on "deductive reason": the method of "induction", the testing of hypotheses against "facts", must guide the would-be scientist of society. And, ultimately, this must involve precisely the development of what Adam Smith had termed "political arithmetic", or what the modern age would learn to call "statistics" (from "statist": one with state knowledge).
The implication of this new approach - brought out most clearly in French positivism was that government must increasingly be conducted, or at least effectively guided, by experts in the new science of society. And, further, the process of legislation - the framing of general laws to apply equally without distinction to all persons - must be complemented by the growth of administration, that is, expert agencies directly regulating specific persons and activities. The generalised, law-making activity of Parliaments requires to be supplemented by informed groups of administrators empowered to issue direct and detailed regulations to govern a variety of spheres of social life. The "legal state" which takes the centre of the stage in 17th and 18th century political theory is replaced, increasingly, by a more interventionist, bureaucratic, administrative state. Mann (2) distinguishes between two aspects of the power of the state: "despotic" power refers to the capacity of a state elite to act without institutionalised negotiation with groups in civil society; while "infrastructural" power refers to the state's ability to penetrate civil society and implement policy decisions throughout its realm. The rise of the new, interventionist and bureaucratic state may be associated with a reduction in "despotic" power, but it most certainly involves an enhancement of the state's "infrastructural" capacities. The modern state does not simply sit on top of society, as an armed and tribute-extracting mechanism - a "capstone state" as Hall has recently termed it (3) - it penetrates deeply into the fabric of everyday social and economic life, and contributes to its detailed shaping. This new kind of state power, expressed in a multitude of administrative apparatuses, depends for its functioning on the development of quite refined instruments of intervention. Like the tools and machinery of modern industrial production, these are constantly tested, renewed, replaced and elaborated, in the form of regulations, curricula, timetables, schedules, plans, exercises, examinations, inspections, assessments, instructions, interventionist strategies and tactics. They are shaped to improve efficiency, to reduce resistance, to coordinate, to normalise. Their targets are simultaneously collective and individual action. The growth and elaboration of the mechanisms of modern bureaucracy is associated with the emergence of a new set of intellectual "disciplines" (sociology, psychology, psychiatry, administrative and educational theory, scientific management, penology and the like) which embody the knowledge which forms a central aspect of this new kind of power. Foucault, who has anatomised this development in 18th and early 19th century France (4), suggests that the rise of the intellectual "disciplines" is an essential part of the production of a new "disciplinary society", in which a "micro-physics of power" is developed and exerted continuously in a variety of institutional settings (armies, factories, schools, hospitals, prisons, work-houses) to train and shape the body and mind of the subject, to fit the individual to the requirements of power.
The human body was entering a machinery of power that explores it, breaks it down and rearranges it. A "political anatomy", which was also a "mechanics of power", was being born: it defined how one may have a hold over others' bodies, not only so that they may do what one wishes, but so that they may operate as one wishes, with the techniques, the speed and efficiency that one determines. Thus discipline produces subjected and practised bodies, "docile" bodies. Discipline increases the forces of the body (in economic terms of utility) and diminishes these same forces (in political terms of obedience). In short, it dissociates power from the body; on the one hand, it turns it into an "aptitude", a "capacity" which it seeks to increase; on the other hand, it reverses the course of the energy, the power that might result from it, and turns it into a relation of strict subjection (5).
Foucault descries a double movement in the Enlightenment. On the one hand, the political theory and jurisprudence of the 18th century (along with the classical political oeconomists like Adam Smith) develops an account of the state and society as founded on the free, rational, abstract individual, subject to laws of general and universal scope. But, on the
other hand, there was also a "dark side" to modern development: the emergence of a lessnoticed but equally important set of "disciplinary" theories and procedures aimed at minutely classifying, shaping and subjecting individuals to fit the machineries of modern society. Parallel with "the liberty of the subject" and "legal equality" there grew up "all those systems of micro-power that are essentially non-egalitarian and asymmetrical that we call the disciplines" (6). Central to what Mann and Foucault, in different ways, are discussing is the development of the modern bureaucratic state, a form of state whose construction - in Britain at least - was first seriously begun precisely in the period when, officially, doctrines of "non-intervention" came to prevail. 19th century "laissez-faire" governments in practice developed new mechanisms of "interference" in everyday life, mechanisms for controlling and harnessing human energies to specific projects, in a way that was much more consciously "planned" and "directed" than anything previously known. The same movement of reform in government both expanded the suffrage, extended a variety of civil and legal rights, and opened the way to the development of modern bureaucratic methods of "steering" society. In retrospect, the early decades after the Napoleonic Wars appear as a watershed. Before then, what marked the British state had been its essential differences from continental models [See below, Section 3:C, on "Magistrates"]; afterwards, similarities of development become more marked. The "civil" state apparatus expands, and with it the means to the elaboration of state directive involvement in everyday life. Not least among these means are the developing social sciences. The development of "infrastructural" and "disciplinary" power has its basis in modern, capitalist relations of production. In pre-capitalist societies, the predominant process of production and extraction of surplus from dependent classes rested on two inter-connected elements: a labouring class (typically a "peasantry") who controlled the immediate process of production, and an exploiting class whose power of extracting surplus depended on their possession of "extra-economic" means of coercion. Those who ruled and exploited stood, for the most part, outside and above the immediate process of production. Control of that process and of the material means for its accomplishment remained largely in the possession of the direct producers. What marked the rise of capitalism proper was, on the one hand, the separation of the direct producers from this possession of the means of production and, on the other hand, the direct involvement of the exploiting classes in the organisation and control of the production process. To put the matter another way, previously exploitation occurred as it were after production; in capitalism it occurs simultaneously, within the very act of material production. The detailed direction of labour, its organisation, its classification, is now a prime function of the act of ruling and exploitation (7). The development of capitalism is also associated with the "freeing" of labourers, and their conversion into the self-directing "individuals" and "citizens" of economic, political and legal thought. The characteristic productive individual is involved in continuous daily movements into and out of disciplinary settings, into and out of relations of dependence and independence; he or she is involved in free contractual bargaining at one moment, and subjection to the will of others at another. This poses problems for the Foucaultian "disciplines": the productive usefulness of labour is a function in part, not only of the mechanisms of direct control developed in workplaces, schools and other semi-closed institutional settings, but also of broader ideological influences, intellectual and practical capacities, moral and political views and "morale". The "disciplines" have to be elaborated into broader societal mechanisms, capable of producing adequately "self-disciplined" individuals whose private, self-directed lives will not conflict with the requirements of their performances in more immediately directed settings.
All this implies self-conscious reflection by power-holders about the design and sanctioning of institutions to produce adequate behaviours from the individuals who move through them. The state must identify and classify "social problems", barriers posed by its subjects' existing social organisation and patterns of activity which make difficult the managed achievement of desired goals; adequate accounts of these barriers must be provided, and means developed to surmount them by the deliberate application of forces and resources. The process of development of "infrastructural" powers is a complex practical learning process for states. One of the interesting features of the 1834 Report on the Poor Laws is that it was composed in a period when such issues were emerging into conscious prominence for the first time in Britain. The Report catches many of the features of this new trend, and urges them forward. As we shall see, the substance of the Report is as much concerned with the machinery of government as it is with the specific problem of "pauperism" that it sets out to discuss. Heclo (8) points out that, by comparison with previous formulations of national policy, the 19th century's deliberations on Poor Relief exhibited considerable novelty in the attention they directed to questions to do with social relations. In this sense, the Report on the Poor Laws is an important part of what Polanyi called the 19th century's "discovery of society" (9). There was a new concern to understand social conditions and motives, in order the better to manipulate them through state policy. Precisely in the period of "laissez-faire" there was a shift in thinking about state policy away from largely negative state prohibitions and towards attempts at "deliberate social engineering". Heclo in fact refers to the New Poor Law as "a heroic attempt at social planning in the broadest sense". Deliberate social engineering requires knowledge, and means of gathering it. If the Report is innocent of statistical methods, the concern with "facts" runs through the whole of its text. The Commissioners gathered their materials, in part, through lengthy questionnaires sent out to 15,000 rural and urban parishes, of whom just over ten per cent replied. The Royal Commission employed 26 Assistant Commissioners to carry out an early version of "field work"; the work of these Assistants was first mapped out by two of the Commissioners, who carried out a "pilot study". Questionnaires and interviews produced a mass of evidence, out of which the Commissioners then had to construct an adequate picture of the state of Poor Law administration in Britain. The Commissioners express the trust that, on this urgent question of the day, they are able to provide "the most extensive, and at the same time the most consistent, body of evidence that was ever brought to bear on a single subject" (p. 72). Much of what we know about British society today is in fact based on documentary knowledge, a good part of which is itself gathered by state agencies of various kinds. What is too easily forgotten is that the very process of framing, collecting, and organising this knowledge is also a part of the procedures of the state, and is itself shaped by state purposes and needs (10). Administrative and managerial needs and practices themselves help to form this knowledge. One recent discussion of the issue points out,
Our "knowledge" is thus ideological in the sense that this social organisation [of documentary reality] preserves conceptions and means of description which represents the world as it is for those who rule it, rather than as it is for those who are ruled (11).
Certainly, the language in which the 1834 Report is presented is anything but "innocent" of administrative concerns: the social world is classified, and its members labelled, in terms of a very specific politico-moral outlook. And, while the Commissioners seek to deploy "factual evidence", they do so in anything but a spirit of mere disinterest. Their aim, from the first page to the last, is to argue a specific case for the reform of the Poor Laws and, above all, for the reform of the administration
attached to them. They present their evidence, not merely as neutral description, but rather as advocacy for a definite case. Their aim is to frighten, to warn and then to recommend. They select striking cases and present them either as typical or - quite commonly - as threatening to become typical. At times, they unabashedly present what appear to our eyes to be highly prejudiced statements as if they were simple pieces of factual reportage. A single example must suffice here:
"At Nuneaton the solicitor to the parish, Mr Greenaway, stated that his house looked into the churchyard; that he was in the habit purposely of watching the persons resorting to the church for marriage, and that he could confidently state that seventeen out of every twenty of the female poor who went there to be married were far advanced in pregnancy." (p.268)
We may wonder at such numerical precision! In retrospect, some of the Report's essays at the new social sciences seem rather primitive, and sometimes wonderfully naive. In that sense, it is a work of "transition" in social science. It is, undoubtedly, the pieces of local reportage, which run through the whole Report, which provide the document with much of its colour and interest. Through them, albeit through a very distorted glass, we can grasp something of the character of social relations in rural areas in the early decades of the 19th century, at least as these were perceived by many of the propertied classes. The local reports also add immensely to the Report's persuasive power. At the same time that the Report brings a mass of "factual evidence" to bear on the problem it sets out to investigate, it is most certainly not lacking in "theoretical" assumptions. The doctrine explored and advanced by Adam Smith and others in the 18th century had, by the 1830s, hardened into a set of dogmas whose status the authors of the Report take for granted, under the title of "political science". As we shall see, a specific and highly "Benthamite-utilitarian" political economy provides the framework for the account of the "evils" besetting the regulation of pauperism in England and the recommendations of the Commissioners. A powerfully formulated, taken-for-granted theory - an "ideology" in the proper sense - underpins both the diagnoses of the Report and its recommendations for change. One of the weaknesses of much recent sociological theorising about power has been the way that power has been disconnected from practical social settings and concerns. The "meta-theory" behind both the revival of "Weberian" historical sociology - in the work of Mann, for example - and of work like that of Foucault has been Nietzschean in inspiration: social life is conceptualised as a universal and everlasting struggle for power for its own sake. Yet in practice power, however precisely we conceptualise it, is a means for achieving social goals. It does not exist "in itself", but always in the context of collective and individual projects. What must be explored are not only the mechanisms of power, but simultaneously the human purposes for which power is deployed - the end-desired state, the ideal, the vision (however partial) in the minds of its would-be users. Understandably, a good part of the literature on modern power relations is concerned implicitly or explicitly - with the problems posed by "totalitarianism", in large and small settings. Yet, if we consider only the most terrifying and obvious examples from our own century - the regimes of Stalin and Hitler - neither is surely comprehensible without reference to the social, political and economic goals which those who ruled saw themselves as pursuing. Likewise with the elements making up Mann's "infrastructural power", or Foucault's "micro-physics". These exist always in the context of distinct social projects, themselves shaped by a definite social context which sets their parameters and their limits. In the case of the 1834 Report on the Poor Laws, the proposed techniques of classification and control which led to the re-shaping of that instrument of social terror, the
This mal-administration is the root cause. Here is the point on which the main fire of the Report will be directed throughout: those responsible for administering the Poor Laws in the parishes up and down the country are providing relief to "able-bodied paupers" . Under the Elizabethan Poor Law. or receive rates relief. (2) The morals of the labouring class are being wrecked by the abuses in administration.000 pounds (3)". 2. This seems to have reached its height in the period after the Napoleonic Wars. or have their wages made up with supplementary payments. and a large volume of inter-parish litigation over the costs of and responsibility for relieving paupers developed. some are subsidising those who provide employment for the paupers. The key. and still more to the spirit of that law. the burden of relief was thrown onto the parishes. is applied to purposes opposed to the letter. 82). DIAGNOSIS OF THE DISEASE The Commissioners begin by reviewing the existing law. and in the necessary relief of the impotent. is "the out-door relief afforded to the able-bodied on their own account. . (3) The "welfare of all" is being threatened as a direct result of the first two evils. This is "one among the many modes in which the Law of Settlement and the practice of relief narrow the market and interfere with the proper distribution of labour". 82). some are paying allowances to them for their children. And "the great source of abuse". appear three major elements in the argument of the Report. The legislation provoked what one modern historian calls "great severity and even brutality" (2): parishes were empowered to eject immigrant paupers. and subsequent legislation. when agricultural prices collapsed: "Lawsuits between parishes were incessant. immediately. It is through the Report's enumeration of these various evil effects that we can grasp the essentials of the Commissioners' theoretical system (1). is the administrative abuse. attempted to define a parishioner . Some are paying the paupers' rents. and the removal of paupers reached the gigantic figure of 287. some are making up their wages according to an administratively defined standard of need. this is the root cause of all the problems. each of which is illustrated with reports from different parishes. the poor have their rents paid. who lacked entitlement to relief. Here. and then state their main theme: It is now our painful duty to report that in the greater part of the districts which we have been able to examine. But no such relief is provided for those labourers who do not have residence rights in that parish under the old Law of Settlement. to unemployed and semi-employed labourers .workhouse. But who was to count as a member of a parish? The 1662 Act. only make full sense if we also explore the underlying concerns and aims of those who fashioned it. the Report argues. clearly.and thus also a non-parishioner.while permitting them to live in their own homes. the root of all these evils. and destructive to the morals of the most numerous class. or on that of their families" (p. The Law on Settlement was introduced in 1662. of a whole series of evil effects. Those parishes which provide relief in workhouses are not managing these establishments properly. the fund which the 43 Elizabeth directed to be employed in setting to work children and persons capable of labour but using no daily trade. A. DISTORTIONS OF THE LABOUR MARKET In large numbers of parishes. to which the Commissioners return again and again: (1) The law is being badly administered. and to the welfare of all (p.in other words.
who may be a poor worker. condemns those elements in the administrative system that prevent the development and free working of a national labour-market. Adam Smith attacked the Settlement Laws . and to the detriment of the good worker who happens to have been born in a different parish. What they dislike about it is chiefly that it prevents the development of a free market in rural labour. Smith regarded the power of the parish to remove from its bounds any labourer who lacked Settlement rights as a threat to natural liberty: To remove a man who has committed no misdemeanour from the parish where he chooses to reside is an evident violation of natural liberty and justice. 0d 1.0d. The Report. have now for more than a century together suffered themselves to be exposed to this oppression without a remedy. "To a Woman big with Child to help her on the Road 1s. as it had been a target of political oeconomy for many decades before." This whole system attracts the critical attention of the authors of the 1834 Report. those sudden and unaccountable differences in the wages of neighbouring places which we sometimes find in England. Indeed. as the parish could thereby save itself the expense of both mother and child. because the parishes force local employers to take on settled labourers. The common people of England." And the 1833 accounts for Wool (Dorset) show the following sad but far from extraordinary example (5): 20 July Relieved a travelling woman and her two children 22 July The above woman being in the family way.. Expectant mothers were commonly sent on their way. however.. The interests of the free labourer himself are threatened by the Poor Law system: . The parish overseer's accounts for Eynsham (Oxon.because of the restrictions the Laws placed on the free mobility of labour.. It is these unnatural restrictions on labour mobility which are the cause of . The system operates to the seeming benefit of the locally-based labourer.. Back in 1776.. This subverts employers' right of free choice of workers in the labour market: they get rid of good workers they cannot afford to hire. but like the common people of most countries never rightly understanding wherein it exists. having refused to leave the parish gave her to leave Paid Christopher Brown for conveying her to the next parish 1. 0d 2. continuing a line of criticism developed within political oeconomy.paupers were moved across parish boundaries like pawns in a game of chess: as late as 1849 13.867 removal orders were issued by justices of the peace in England and Wales.as "this disorder. and with the 1662 Laws of Settlement. covering perhaps 40. natural boundaries which sometimes separate very distinctly different rates of wages in other countries (7). 0d Poynter writes that "The Law of Settlement divided the kingdom into a multitude of little principalities in matters of poor relief. they equally force them to dismiss labourers who come from other parishes. where it is often more difficult for a poor man to pass the artificial boundaries of a parish than an arm of the sea or a ridge of high mountains. the greatest perhaps of any in the police of England" . so jealous of their liberty. each with its own citizenship and each willing to beggar its neighbours rather than increase its own local financial commitment (6). and thus inhibits the proper disciplining effects on labour that such a free market ought to have. the authorities take no responsibility for the labourer who lacks settlement rights in that parish. is the target. In those parishes where rate-payers are made to provide employment for the local unemployed (the Labour-Rate system). and have to employ local workers they would not freely choose (pp. or nearly 4 per cent of all those relieved (4). Here the entanglement of the Poor Laws with the parish system. 323-5).) include the item for 20 January 1788.000 paupers.
A central part of the charge brought by the Commissioners against the existing Poor Law administration is precisely that it hinders the proper development of the necessary social supports for the free market. The body of the people must not find the principles of natural subordination by art rooted out of their minds. within that contract's constraints. The Report is concerned to identify just what is required as far as the labouring population is concerned: "free" and "independent" labourers. or perhaps to be put up by the parish authorities to auction..to function effectively.. a week... (pp. 103) But the problem is not only the incompatibility of such forms of semi-slavery with a properly functioning capitalist labour-market. the working of the labour market will be subverted if labourers themselves tend. Northamptonshire. and forced back to his settlement to receive as alms a portion only of what he was obtaining by his own exertions. Hastings. to seek ties of dependence other than those created through the wages-nexus. or 14s. prices varying. for markets . only. 166-7) The Report also follows Adam Smith in doubting that the labourers properly understand their own interests. and is offered road-work.6d. They must labour to obtain what by labour can be obtained (8). They must respect that property of which they cannot partake. . The labourers themselves must also possess specific sets of attitudes and behaviours. (p. all the unemployed men are put up to sale weekly. the people. In particular this is true of the "roundsman system" adopted by many parishes: the parish hires out its paupers to local employers. RESTRICTIONS ON THE FREEDOM OF THE LABOURER The political economists had a tendency. according to the time of year from 1s. men who enter the contract of employment and who. and that the clergyman of the parish told him that he had seen ten men the last week knocked down to one of the farmers for 5s and that there were at that time about seventy men let out in this manner out of a body of 170. Capitalist market society vitally requires particular legal. to treat the institutions of the market as "natural" and conforming to a pre-given "human nature". In reality. the old and infirm are sold at the monthly meeting to the best bidder. He is driven from a place where he was earning. and sold to the farmer who will take him at the lowest allowance. and an employer to whom he is attached. and makes up their wages. as a pauper. remarked on very critically by Marx. One of the effects of the present administration of the Poor Laws is. the laws their authority. pursue their own self-interest and act self-reliantly.not least labour-markets . must be tractable and obedient. The magistrate must have his reverence. along with appropriate attitudes and social relations. by a labour-rate or some other device against non-parishioners. spontaneously. without being servile. that at Yardley. that it actually places many labourers into a situation of semi-slavery. The full working of the free market is incompatible with any form of forced dependence of the kind found in serfdom or slavery. very specific kinds of people are needed. Mr Richardson states that in Sulgrave. In particular. the Commissioners are determined that very active steps shall be taken to enlighten the labouring class wherein their liberty is to be found. putting flesh on a point already made by Burke in 1790: Good order is the foundation of all things. To be enabled to acquire. in a sense. the Report argues. 12s.The enterprising man. as a free labourer. who has fled from the tyranny and pauperism of his parish to some place where there is a a demand and a reward for his services. The Commissioners are. institutional and moral bases. In many places the roundsman system is effected by means of an auction. unlike Smith. is driven from a situation which suits him. a week to 3s. at sixpence a day. and these kinds of people are themselves socially constructed. B.
3s. the same as the parish.. and to leave the roads finally at four.): The notion of wages as a contract beneficial to both parties seems to be nearly obliterated. an hour. and he pays it without asking whether the workman has been one hour or one day in performing it. C. We asked what wages the farmers gave." "You mean that men would do too much work if employed by the piece?" "That is just what I mean. but pauper labour presents quite special problems. 161 My emphasis) Work discipline is severely threatened where the parishes attempt to provide employment for pauper labourers. where the wages system operates to bring an employer together with a wagelabourer. (p. his strength and habits considered. It is the business of the . The overall effect is to snap the link the Commisioners believe should "naturally" exist between reward and work. and where the work is piecework. whether he has in fact performed the amount which. to leave at twelve for dinner. then the Parish must superintend the work. to a single man under twenty.. the Commissioners explain. in fact no work is done. Reward and effort are linked together by the market. but what is a fair day's work for a given individual. to send him upon some part of the parish roads. he need not even make that inquiry. my emphasis) Under the system adopted by many parishes. he would be able to earn the sum necessary for his and their subsistence. upon the man's applying to the overseer for work. since normal market considerations determine neither the wages paid nor the work done.. at what rate of pay for that work. It will easily be anticipated that this superintendence is very rarely given. or whether it exceeds or falls below his wants. DISTORTIONS OF THE WAGES SYSTEM In a proper wages system. But the superintendent of pauper labourers has to ascertain not what is an average day's work. In normal circumstances. and want to employ them. is to corrupt this system of relating effort and reward for the labouring class. Those who framed the Poor Laws intended." "Why not?" "We have got too many people. Messrs Wrottesley and Cameron state that in West Wycombe (Bucks. and so on. the number of his family considered. In ordinary cases. and that in far the greater number of cases in which work is professedly required from paupers.Only. In other words. 4s. after taking all these elements into calculation. One of the effects of the provision of outdoor relief. all that the superintendent inquires is whether the workman has performed an average day's work. labourers are paid according to an administratively determined notion of "need". allowances are paid to labourers according to the size of their families." (p. the Report argues. but to begin at eight. but in practice they do not: "to afford relief gratuitously is less troublesome to the parochial authorities than to require work in return for it. married men without children. The practice of his trade fixes the market price of his work. above twenty. rather than as a reward for diligent work. and lastly. the payment of wages acts as a "natural" means of disciplining labourers. where he is expected to work . it appears that he ought to have performed. or anything like them. The rate of weekly wages paid by the parish is. 5s.not the farmer's hours. it does not answer. rather than in return for the work they do. 107. the answer was." If work is to be paid for. Over and again the Report tells of the unsatisfactory behaviour of "pauperised" labour forces: the following is but one of dozens of examples cited: The plan generally in use in the agricultural villages (of Northamptonshire) is. We asked if piece-work was common: "there is very little of it. or what is the market price of a given service. this problem of superintendence is not a severe one. that the parishes should make their able-bodied paupers work. in 1834 the Poor Law Commission was searching for more precise means to achieve this general end.
(p. repeatedly. If his labourers. In the management of live and dead stock much must always be left to his judgement. without doubt. want the skill and intelligence necessary to enable them to execute those details for which no general and unvarying rules can be laid down. Indeed.. if there is a wood near. nor his own skill or diligence. and. and it must understand clearly that no other source of livelihood can be available to it. "Ultimately.in those areas where the Poor Law administration has not been reformed. Whatever the previous character of a man may have been. they run into the wood to steal firing. and that not a very large portion. the men bestir themselves a little. the Commissioners argue. but that is not until allowance has destroyed the industry and morals of the labourers who were bred under a happier system. I would not be such a fool as to work . if they have not the diligence necessary to keep them steadily at work when their master's eye is off: if they have not sufficient honesty to resist the temptation to plunder when the act is easy and detection difficult. and thus lacks all motive to skill. The whole farm is the farmer's workshop and storehouse. which they hide and carry off at a convenient time. That labour force must be trained and constrained properly to the incentives and disciplines of the market. 144-5) But. has his own business to attend to. or any little thing of that sort that comes to hand. and its extent generally makes it impossible for him to stand over and personally inspect all the labourers employed on it. therefore. whether you work or not. and the farmers take credit to themselves for riding up once or twice a day to the roads. While he is present. His property is scattered over every part. The question of the adequate disciplining of labour is of especial significance in the particular conditions of the labour process in agriculture.blast work . This condition is not currently being met. "You must have your 12s. paid or not.damn me if I work. as at Glapthorne and some other places round Oundle. of course. Much more is at stake than merely a reduction in the burden of the poor rates: the whole functioning of the economy depends on its possessing an adequately regulated and motivated labour force. or posts.overseer or the surveyer of the roads. of the results of ordinary farm labour is susceptible of being immediately valued so as to be paid by the piece. the Report suggests. against the existing system of Poor Law administration is that it is woefully inadequate as a means of providing discipline and regulation among the labouring population in the rural areas of England and Wales. And the local farmers report that the quality of labour available to them is actually declining . whereby wages are made up on the allowance system. under these circumstances.. with scarcely any protection against depredation or injury. a week or." &c. honesty or diligence. 111) One of the key charges that the Report brings. As the overseer at Kettering told me. all these absolutely necessary qualities in the labourer are subverted by the present system in the agricultural counties. your 10s. 149). whatever its price.. . their remark is. he is frequently obliged to leave it. The worker receives his wages regardless of his performance. a week. and dishonesty" (p. except on extremely unfavourable terms. it follows that neither the excellence or abundance of the farmer's agricultural capital. the existing administration positively encourages the production of bad character and "demoralisation". the farmer finds that pauper labour is dear. Only a portion. ignorance. a man who gives himself any trouble is laughed at by his companions. For the farmer is utterly dependent on the skill and care exercised by his workers: The services of the labourer are by far the most important of all the instruments used in agriculture. two years occasional employment there ruins the best labourer. and universally they are in the habit of stealing turnips. can save him from loss or perhaps from ruin. who. a farmer or a tradesman. they do anything but work. or economy. but the moment his back is turned. and has educated a new generation in idleness. (pp. he is seldom able to withstand the corruption of the roads. and has no partner on whom he can devolve its care during his absence.. to see that the men are actually working.
but because he is a parishioner.. the whole pattern of the local economy is thrown out of balance by the Poor Laws. and where it is. In the workshop or factory. Nor is there any way. may flourish like the funguses that spring from corruption. Our inquiries have convinced us that it is only by keeping these things separated. so that its abstraction would be very hazardous. that anything deserving the name of improvement can be hoped for.of remnants of a way of thinking to which the Commissioners are implacably opposed: a paternalist tradition that . and which constant repetition has made mechanical. skill. The wages partake of relief. in terms of high poor-rates.sometimes. the effect is to distort the whole pattern of wages in that district. the Commissioners suggest. 325. and by the almost universal adoption of piece-work.Interestingly. and by other manufacturers who do not have access to pauperised labour. and thereby is also corrupted.. the means of disciplining labour are in part built into the very fabric of capital. The urgency with which the case is argued is a function. 152) In the manufacturing districts. in consequence of that better administration" (p. and the relief partakes of wages. and the previously "independent" labourer is himself forced to turn to the parish. or in one inclosure. of the continued presence in the countryside . my emphases) Along with the local wage-system.. the only rational method of allocating resources is via the market.among both labourers and also gentry and farmers . not because it is the fair value of his labour. Judgement or intelligence are not required for processes which can be performed only in one mode. who actually benefit from the cheap labour-supply. for local employers can get cheaper labour from the parish. Honesty is not necessary where all the property is under one roof. Diligence is insured by the presence of a comparatively small number of over-lookers. in consequence of the abuses which are ruining all the other interests of the places in which they are established. but because it is what the vestry has ordered to be paid. on account of the different work environment. The Report foreshadows much of the "labour process" literature of the 1970s (9): The effects of the system on the manufacturing capitalist are very different. Overall wage-levels drop. and cease to exist in the better administered districts. the real price of pauperism is not paid directly by the employers. their own children. He receives a certain sum. and the present Poor Law administration interferes with this and prevents its proper working. farmers are forced to employ workers they do not want. diligence. the effect of using pauper labour in one district can spread through a whole industry. Where wages are supplemented out of the poor rates. (p. must be to destroy the distinction between pauperism and independence. in which the system could be made to produce equitable effects. The most serious effect is that the distinction between "independent labourer" and "pauper" is broken down. The ultimate effect of a labour-rate . But under the labour-rate system relief and wages are confounded. so that the wages available to "independent labourers" tend to fall and the taint of pauperism spreads to them as well. and by making relief in all cases less agreeable than wages. the Report argues that the problem is much less in manufacturing. by its incomplete state. destroying those businesses that depend on proper wage labour: "Whole branches of manufacture . and to turn off workers they do want . and separated by as broad and as distinct a demarcation as possible. often through the manipulation of the vestry by sinister interests. The object of machinery is to diminish the want not only of physical. all become valueless. In many cases it enables the master to confine him to a narrow routine of similar operations in which the least error or delay is capable of immediate detection. partly. For them. but of moral and intellectual qualities on the part of the workman. but by all those who carry the costs. The rate-burden falls unfairly.. Can it be supposed that they will be preserved? (p. not because he is a good workman. therefore. Because of the manufacturers' need to remain competitive. difficult of sale. Good conduct. 155). The labourer is employed.
and demand it as their right. They must be cured or converted rapidly. who value parish support as their privilege. is a besetting sin of the pauperised labourer: "Knowing they must receive a certain sum per week. also pp. only "contracts". as his subsistence does not depend on his exertions. his answer . they are uninterested in that classic economist's virtue. "came under my observation. 168. is not husbanded with a carefulness which would be given to the results of industry. Still no steps are taken. bear witness to the depraved state into which England's labouring population is falling.. but wasted in the intemperance to which his leisure invites him. taken together." says Mr Okeden. needless to say. (pp. The constant war which the pauper has to wage with all who employ or pay him. the scale is referred to. utterly subversive world. and if you remonstrate with them you only get abuse". in the market. the upset of decent society. criminality. The character and habits of the labourer have by this scale been completely changed. such terms had no place.spoke of "rights and obligations" as between rich and poor (10). and generally from November to March. thrift: Mr Cowell and Mr Bishop found a parish on the Bedford Level. They are. in which the overseers knew that the wages and parish allowances were spent in two nights at the beer-houses. His pay. is destructive to his honesty and his temper. with bad effects on the situation of the "independent labourers" and the local employers. 167-8. And. its association with reward. or even violence. THE DEMORALISATION OF LABOUR Not only is the labour-market and the whole local economy distorted in its operations. and the parish actually supports and pays for the drunken excesses of the labourers. denied the benefits of living up to the finest precepts of advanced political economy and the morality that it presumes. of course. my emphasis) What the Report calls "demoralisation" has various manifestations: all of them. (p. but the person most injured is the person whose principles have been corrupted. Paupers represent moral leprosy. they seldom come to work till seven o'clock. from which the market and its strict principles must be protected. The shares of Land. or sharply separated off from the rest of society. 167) The centre of the case for the reform of the Poor Law administration is its destructive effects on the "morale" of the labouring classes. and the average yearly earnings of a labourer's family are from 60 pounds to 70 pounds. with all the reluctance of a slave. almost every labourer comes on the parish. earned by importunity or fraud. and gets through his work. and generally leave by four. When they commented on these facts in a conversation with a resident magistrate. under the present system. In that world of the market. Capital and Labour (the "Trinity" as Marx termed them) were fixed by supply and demand. And the market recognised no "rights and obligations". he loses all that sweetens labour. 329).. but "the severest sufferers" are those paupers who are actually relieved by their parishes. 104) Idleness. No man's principles can be corrupted without injury to society in general. pollution. Paupers drink too much beer: "Hundreds of instances. in which a recently drained tract of fertile land requires more labour than the settled inhabitants can provide. paupers had no place: they represented the invasion of another. reports a witness from Wiltshire (p. For they . In the new moral dictionary of political economy. which ought to have been the week's subsistence of the whole family. D. but during a frost. such as it is. or that some sort of labour or confinement is exacted in return. 94. have become callous to their own degradation. and complain only that it is limited in amount." (p.
was." (p. and when once a family has applied for relief. the whole Report offers an early version of the "culture of poverty" and "cycle of deprivation" theories which gained a degree of popularity in postwar Britain and the USA (11): Whether in work or out of work. In some parishes I believe the account is settled once a week instead of once a fortnight. the children are allowed to go about the streets in a vagrant condition. The change that is made in the character and habits of the poor by once receiving parochial relief. The paupers reveal their demoralisation in other ways too: their habits are filthy and their children allowed to run wild: Are the two classes externally distinguishable in their persons. Those who depend on parish relief or on benefactions. 170.. the fact that parishes will not give relief to persons with savings positively discourages the thrifty. or behaviour? . Even the least contact with parochial assistance seems to be degrading. I could tell. no solicitude. the vilest and the most barefaced falsehoods are uttered. which were paupers' cottages and which were the cottages of the independent labourers. that ruins people. The pauper and charity-fed people do not care what becomes of their children. are dirty in their persons and slothful in their habits. they invariably apply again and again. The regular applicants for relief are generally of one family. and I think they might be distinguished by any one who paid attention to them. I state it confidently." (p. No further retrospect is ever taken either for or against the claimant. The independent labourer is comparatively clean in his person. when they once become paupers. and by which they pride themselves in the clear claims to the parish money and the workhouse. is quite remarkable.. they are pressed down for ever. he never afterwards lays by sufficient to buy a pair.."The wives of paupers are dirty and nasty and indolent. houses. as the result of my experience. in nine instances out of ten. and the children generally neglected and dirty and vagrants.. and the hereditary pauper . All the tricks and deceptions of which man is capable are resorted to. the difference is so striking to me. and you must relieve them. she and her children are clean. the calculation is confined to the earnings of the past fortnight. that if once a young lad gets a pair of shoes given him by the parish. 99) Indeed. which are handed down from father to son with as much care as deeds of freehold property. The marks of degradation are then inherited. Indeed." How are the cottages of the independent labourers as compared to them? . for the purpose of exciting a favourable feeling in their behalf. The child remembers his father's actions." "In our vestry. what are we to do? They spend it all.. the demoralisation that affects those who come to depend on the poor rates for their subsistence." says Mr Russell."The wife is a very different person. I have had very extensive opportunities of observing the difference in my visits. will receive it also. and the children go to school. as the result of my experience. "which meets every Monday. it is to be expected that their descendants. (p. their children are eye and witness to all this. for some generations. in passing along a row of cottages. no thought. and immoral. the disease is hereditary. and her cottage tidy. and then come and say they are starving. on the contrary. except the old musty rent-roll of receipts or an old dirty indenture of apprenticeship. so if we give to the fathers or mothers of children clothing or other assistance. on account of the future. that. his wife and children are clean. The man who earns his penny is always a better man in every way than the man who begs it. I can easily distinguish them. my emphasis) The assistant overseer of Windsor examined: What is the characteristic of the wives of paupers and their families? . 169) It is pauperism itself. "Why. that when once a family has received relief. they have no care. I can decidedly state. they are. The industrious labourers get their children out to service early. the house is in better order and more cleanly.Yes. it can only be by a sort of miracle that they can be broken off. and all the worst characteristics of human nature are called into exercise..
and that they lived in lodgings at 6d. are to be seen in the destruction of ties of domestic affection among those who receive parish relief. compensating the family for the effects of punishment. without even the question being asked.increases his ranks by instruction as well as by example. and thereby only tends to worsen the situation of the population as a whole. must be paid by some one for idleness and improvidence.threaten to abandon an aged bed-ridden mother. from which the farmers each year became great sufferers. 174-5: emphasis in original) Perhaps the most horrifying effects of pauperism. 89) . he must hear the pauper threaten to abandon his wife and family unless more money is allowed him . he will no longer consider the pecuniary pressure on the rate-payer as the first of the class of evils which the Poor Laws have entailed upon the community. it grows in insolence and becomes incorrigible. since the Poor Laws pay better maintenance to married than to single men. that the penalty which. which are their children by their husband.must enter workhouses. as it afforded them time for depredations of various sorts. and witness women in cottages quietly pointing out. to turn her out of his house and lay her down at the overseer's door unless he is paid for giving her shelter. actually encourages early marriages. and examine the inmates . not less expensive. but on the proprietors of the lands and houses encumbered by his settlement. Illegitimate children are paid for: what an incentive to deliberate immorality among pauperised females. And all this evidence of the disgraceful lives and morals of the bottom section of the labouring class. they threaten to throw their children on the parish unless they receive allowances for them: A person must converse with paupers . he must hear parents threatening to follow the same course with regard to their sick children. (p. a week. my emphasis) Pauperism. or the husband for that of the wife: that no one shall lose the means of comfortable subsistence.. the overseer of Alverston stated that there were young men receiving 2s. who deliberately get themselves pregnant in order to be eligible for relief. (pp.. and is. It appears to the pauper that the Government has undertaken to repeal. 135. Benefit is paid to paupers for their children: what incentive is there here to persuade them to delay marriage. Their numbers will. They will only nurse each other in sickness if the parish pays them.. and when he finds that he can scarcely step into a town or parish without meeting with some instance or other of this character. to enact that the children shall not suffer for the misconduct of their parents. the Report suggests. 179. or vice: in short. my emphasis) E.6d. he must see mothers coming in to receive the reward of their daughters' ignominy. prodigality.. after all. not on the guilty person or on his family. and which by other men previous to marriage. in the end. before he can form a just conception of the moral debasement which is the offspring of the present system. whatever be his indolence. In the Stratford division. and that though it was barely sufficient for their support. yet they greatly preferred it to more pay with labour.. and to hold back from having children? The Poor Law authorities pay maintenance to the wives and children of convicted men. (p.must attend at the parish pay-table. the result proves a bounty upon idleness and crime. as a matter of course. and 3s. a week. THE THREAT TO ORDER A pauperised population is prone to crime and disorder. is to fall.. is attributable to the evil effects of the present administration of the Poor Laws. in his favour. (p. the ordinary laws of nature. those who are subject to the disease of pauperism. the wife for that of the husband. The object in view is to save trouble and present expense. still increase while these laws exist in their present form.
and he was obliged to withdraw. he would say. A third offence of poaching still made the miscreant liable to Transportation. and we if take them into the house or place them at farm-houses. and who will soon fight for these supposed rights and income. and doing as little as I like.. (p. in which a man came out of Craven..a belief in which. 109) One witness reported his summary view: Industry fails. is now converted into an insolent. 168) What finally pushed Parliament into setting up the Commission on the Poor Laws. and was insolent in his demand. but the threat of rural disorder and rebellion. 175-6) Among the paupers. (pp. and into carrying the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. and claimed relief a few weeks after marriage. too many responsible and respectable persons have been prone to encourage them. and sometimes with insolence. who tried to earn his money and was thankful for it. nor any concern for the simply moral failings of the poor. moral character is annihilated and the poor man of twenty years ago. There was a regular rural war between landowners and poachers. 95) The prevalent mis-management in some of the agricultural districts "has created in the minds of some of the paupers a notion that it is their right to be exempted from the same degree of labour as the independent labourers" (p. discontented. was not so much the rising cost of the Poor Laws. Among these . feels his bondage.The deterioration in the character and habits of persons receiving parochial relief pervades their whole conduct. The English countryside was far from being a centre of idyllic cooperation between social classes. puts off his generous feelings of industry. the younger learn from the older all their malpractices and are ready enough to follow them.briefly noted in the Report . 109). "I can have 12s. they become idle. in which a man came and said. R. unfortunately. but they threatened to drown him.were conflicts over property in firewood and game. (p. and independence. Relief is demanded as a matter of right. Some rude efforts he may. who talks of "right and income"." (p. but was riven with conflicts over a variety of issues. "We have been getting married. unless some step is taken to arrest his progress to open violence. surly pauper.A. An instance is mentioned as occurring some years ago.. in the debate on the second reading of the Poor Law Amendment Bill. the Liberal MP for Shrewsbury.Slaney. can you find us a house?" and another instance occurred two years ago. declared his support for it because . between 1827 and 1830 1. at first.. At Pateley Bridge. a seventh of all convictions in those years (12). a week by going on the roads. and an integral aspect of the whole process of the development of capitalist relations there (13).to suit His manner with his fate. puts on the brute.. under the existing system. If a man did not like his work. In 1834.. make to shake off his state of servitude: but he finally yields to the temptation of the pay-table and the scale. But in 1830-1831 there occurred the "Captain Swing" riots in the southern rural areas (14). and . reckless.500 persons were convicted under the Game Laws. there has grown up the wrong notion that they have a "right" to the relief payments they receive . These rural labourers' riots seared themselves into the imaginations of the propertied classes. and gratitude. and possessed of this fond belief the paupers threaten violence against any who would try to make them work: In Rancliffe they employed a man in the winter of 1830-31 to look over them. Disorders and riots of varying degrees of intensity had been endemic in the English countryside for centuries. and saucy.
their very occurrence is attributed to the mal-administration of the Poor Laws.) rioted against a new work-scheme being imported from Baldock. many of the inhabitants in both towns were under strong apprehensions of the rising of the very people amongst whom the poor rates and charities are so profusely distributed. and when the flames were raging at the highest. but at the same time landlords would have dug deeper into their pockets had they believed that this was the price they had to pay for social stability. at Selborne and Headley. and thus . and ensures proportionate disappointment and hatred if that expectation is not justified. Whatever addition is made to allowances under these circumstances excites the expectation of still further allowances. coinciding apparently with the widespread use of the allowance system. were seen silently looking on. the peer his coronet and the squire his estate. during the agricultural riots. wherever the objects of expectation have been made definite. What doomed the old Poor Law was that despite paying seven million pounds a year there still occurred the frightening Swing Riots of 1830. the unemployed of Bassingbourne (Cambs. (15) Fraser and other historians suggest that it was these rural riots that settled the question. This is certainly true. The violence of most of the mobs seems to have arisen from an idea that all their privations arose from the cupidity or fraud of those entrusted with the management of the fund provided for the poor. on 15th November.indeed the rural populace had become disaffected and desperate.. labourers in West Sussex. The overseer at Brede (Sussex) was taken on 5th November 1830 in the parish cart and dumped over the parish border.. won the removal of permanent overseers. The riots recur as a theme in the Report. employment has again produced content. during a three-day riot. an action repeated elsewhere. on 22nd and 23rd November. the labourers. and dragged the rector "thru' the pond". Those who work though receiving good wages. and yet. where wages. and the false expectations that have been raised in the minds of the poor. The Poor Law had not eradicted distress . Elizabeth Studham of Birchington was transported to Tasmania in 1831 for setting fire to an East Kent workhouse (17). the local workhouses were demolished . the poorhouse at Forncett in Suffolk was partly pulled down. and kindness become again a source of gratitude. increases the conception of the extent of the right. convinced authority that reform must come. (16) In fact. in a meeting with the largest local landowner. (p. in 1831. On the other hand. and classed with the really indigent. The burning of hayricks and the threats of spoliation in the south of England. and forced the Baldock overseer back over the Hertfordshire border. upon the performance of work. of the need for reform of the Poor Laws: It has often been said that had it not been for the increased demands of poor rates there would have been no new Poor Law. among the targets of the Swing rioters had been the institutions of the Poor Law in their own localities. If it cost seven million pounds a year to preserve the King his crown. think themselves entitled to a share of the "poor funds". Indeed. what they have actually done is to raise expectations beyond reasonable limits. forced the vestry to discuss their claims for a wage rise and a reduction in tithes. for rural propertied interests. being called poor. in short. instead of helping to extinguish them. 123) If the propertied have attempted to buy themselves out of trouble by their generosity. at Attleborough.at Headley only the room containing the sick children was left standing. demanded money and drink with menaces. no village or hamlet was safe from the work of the incendiary. the labourers marched on the workhouse and forced the governor to give them bread and cheese (they also broke machines at local farms.. have been substituted for eleemosynary aid. so be it. In Newbury and Reading the money dispensed in poor's rates and charity is as great as could be desired by the warmest advocate either of compulsory or of voluntary relief. and those wages have been allowed to remain a matter of contract.
but that of the majority of the persons who contribute to their support. It is not uncommon for men to be imprisoned despite their denials of paternity: At Exeter. should either be made to pay for the upkeep of his child. for the fathers are punished for something which is not a crime in English law. not merely the diet of the independent labourer. Workhouses had existed in England since Tudor times. There is no proper "classification" of inmates into different categories. the Commissioners suggest. but all are lumped together indiscriminately. and looking to their cleanliness. without government or classification. with consequent ill effects on the young and on the aged. A. (p. this is probably the case. Their managements are "extravagant". . This is entirely wrong.. It is a common remark among our paupers that they live better in the house than they ever lived before. but the Report expresses grave dissatisfaction with the way in which most existing work-houses are administered. who are then gaoled for their offence. INDOOR RELIEF Central to the proposals that the Commissioners are to make in the latter part of their Report is the extended use of the "deterrent workhouse". and probably ruined for ever. in by far the greater number of cases (the work-house) is a large almshouse. and are often drunk.. Wages must return to being a "matter of contract" alone: only then will "content. in effect. (p. and with whom he denied having had any intercourse.. 125) The discipline imposed on the inmates is lax: they come and go too freely. it also attacks a couple of other features of the existing Poor Law administration. and vice. if he can be found. the aged and more respectable exposed to all the misery that is incident to dwelling in such a society. and thus the boy is taken from his work.to stoke up the fires of discontent. the able-bodied maintained in sluggish sensual indolence. in which the young are trained in idleness. What is needed is to lower popular expectations (18). is confined five or six months among persons of all classes. the goodness of the beds and bedding.. thus making the work-house an attractive place in which to live: at St Pancras. 127. (p.and gratitude" again characterise the labouring classes. and the whole body of inmates subsisted on food far exceeding both in kind and in amount. which has produced this dangerous disorder in the labouring class (19). the airiness and roominess of the apartments. The system encourages the mothers of bastards to lie about the fathers. and the wholesomeness and quantity of the food. OTHER EVILS Although the main focus of the Report is on the provision of outdoor relief to "able-bodied paupers". Prostitutes use workhouses as a base for their operations. The woman stated that she was only three months gone with child. BASTARDY The existing law demands that the father of an illegitimate child. but the overseers said that he had been brought for punishment. as do notorious thieves. ignorance. or be punished. It is the distortion of the laws of political economy. 260) . on the oath of a person with whom he was not confronted. my emphasis) B. an apprentice under eighteen years of age was recently committed to the house of correction for want of security. It was admitted that there was no chance of his absconding.
the modern reader has the sense of a rural social structure that is only dimly revealed in the authors' often highly prejudiced remarks.. among other complaints. clearly alien to the gentlemen who conducted the inquiries for the Report and the clergymen and others from whom they gathered their materials. As with so much else in the Report. For women. where a man to whom a child had been affiliated by a woman of loose character.Men can avoid gaol by marrying mothers-to-be. he was kept under lock and key. was gained by the transfer of the female's settlement to another parish. It is difficult. are ill-founded. the existence of bad laws actually promotes immorality and unsound marriages. An aggravated case of this sort was related to me by a clergyman. without any proper domestic affection. since the parish must support them.. The object. As soon as the ceremony was over he quitted the neighbourhood. in order to avoid the punishment with which he was threatened. become a source of income: thus a premium is placed on "want of chastity. lurking behind the Commissioners' denunciatory prose. 270-1) Marriages formed in this way. concealed unfortunately behind the administrative and moralistic concerns of the Commissioners (20). without detailed social-historical material on actual family and marriage patterns among rural labourers. consented to marry her. the Report claims that mothers set out to get their daughters seduced so that they can get them married. Women are. 265). . and the parish officers use the threat of prison to force them into marriages that they don't really want. bastard children. incidentally. perjury. (pp. and extortion" (p. declared "most to blame" for the high level of rural illegitimacy. to know what to make of the materials assembled in the 1834 Report on bastardy and on marital and sexual practices in villages. and ultimately led handcuffed to the church-door. It may well be that there are all manner of interesting courtship and marriage customs. The parochial motives for this kind of action are extremely dubious. In effect. Implicit in the Report is a whole sociology of parish life in the early nineteenth century. but lest he change his mind and abscond before a special licence was obtained.. however.
. being myself a tradesman.. Generally. Many.3. and who also have to assess and collect the necessary funds from those who pay the poor-rates. for the system of accounting and control exercised over parish funds is highly inadequate. is highly unsatisfactory. and who . Others are local tradesmen who have an interest in the incomes of the poor. they may be summoned before the justices to defend themselves against the charge of inhumanity . from giving the time necessary to the vigilant and effectual performance of their duties. "I have dealt with you a many years. or a "trifle". and the paupers themselves below. apart from self-interest.are unpaid..in line with a long tradition of English local government . the Report suggests. they will never lay out another farthing with you. supposing that such knowledge would be desirable. the Report suggests. to show partiality to his own circle of favourites. When I served the office of overseer I was incessantly importuned by persons that I knew had no need of it for assistance. (p. in any case. I consider a great portion of the evils now found to exist in the operation of the Poor Laws may be ascribed to the discretionary power placed in individual irresponsible hands.. overseers are local farmers or tradespeople. use their office to line their own pockets fraudulently: certainly. the overseer cannot properly get to know the character of his "clients" and judge the worth of their claims for assistance. three groups of persons are charged with responsibility for the running of the Poor Law machinery of England and Wales. their own selfinterest is too weak a motive to make them very active in seeking controls over parochial funds. Some overseers... A SYSTEM OF MAL-ADMINISTRATION Central to the problem of pauperism is the way that it is actually fostered and maintained by the existing Poor Law administration. emphases in original) Being in office only for a short period. are themselves local employers with an interest in the system that gives them cheap labour.. and it is nothing out of your pocket". and whose functions cease by the time that they have begun to acquire a knowledge of them. it is not surprising that they should often fall well below the mark: Such agents must often be prevented. within each parish. THE OVERSEERS The overseers are those persons. Each of these groups. Some are illiterate. A. But. or some article of clothing. the inadequate checking system makes it possible. with this universally used argument in support of their claim. or grant less than the applicant thinks himself entitled to. . Under the existing law. in its own way. 181) Their period in office is too brief for it to make much difference to their own ratespayment whether they save a few pounds or shillings for the parish: thus. (p. who are appointed to the office on an annual basis. Given these conditions. 185. never lay out a farthing any where else. and they give pretty broad hints that if you do not comply with their requests. I look upon the tradesman that fills the office of overseer as holding a place of temptation to serve his own interests. there are no other effective checks on them. by their other avocations. who are charged with the actual distribution of relief to paupers. And the overseer's independence of action is strongly limited from two different directions: from the magistrates above.. neither diligence nor zeal are to be expected from persons on whom a disagreeable and unpaid office has been forced. and I never did have anything from the parish. and even when zealous and diligent. I say this much from personal proofs of its operation on a tradesman. if the overseers refuse relief. or a pair of shoes. they must often fail from want of experience and skill. as they would say. I know you can do it if you like.
relations. not by summons and distress. who are exposed to every form of solicitation and threat. The "open" vestries' work is a case of sheer administrative chaos. employers enjoying cheap labour for their enterprises. It is difficult to get people to attend the meetings regularly. their position is quite hopeless: But. who have little time. the wife of another. the law only permits. where they exist. The "open vestries" provide no limit at all to the tendency for the poor-rates to spiral upwards. but by violence and conflagration.and oppression. persons who profit from pauper rents. 200). parishes are permitted to appoint paid. on whom every temptation to misconduct has been accumulated. The conditions in the parishes before 1834 are not. and neighbours. the applicant who has been refused relief has frequently recourse to a much more summary remedy than the interference of the magistrates. second. for example. (p. and their proceedings are minuted. The wrong sort of people are too often elected to the select vestry: at Morpeth. unhappily. hoping to gain from the existing system: "jobbers" in workhouse supply. a person whose only source of income is the salary attached to their office. who are rewarded for profusion by ease and popularity. full-time Assistant Overseers. friends. but at the beershop. or are over-borne by the crowd of hostile interests. the form is in decline. unless indeed when their object is fraud. parsons and landlords are either not represented at all. and these. and danger to their properties. eleven of the twenty members have an interest in the sale of beer. nothing good can be said for the last. dependants. odium. and even their persons? (pp. etc. persons who want to hurt the local parson. The "select" vestries are better. aunt and cousins of a third are paupers" (p. THE VESTRIES The vestries are the parochial bodies charged with supervision of the administration of the Poor Laws. At the meetings of the "open" vestries.it compels obedience. "select". and punished for economy by labour. The tribunal which enforces it sits. B. There are too many interests present at their meetings. for attention to its duties. and. 187-8) Under the existing law. they are punishable by indictment or fine. They cannot resist their masters' folly. Altogether. not at the petty sessions. which is liable to be made up of persons who are "extravagant" and quite possibly "jobbers" (p. such as to allow such crucial figures to emerge in any numbers: the "professionalisation" of public service required a whole series of developments in the state which the 1834 Report merely prefigures. perform their duties rather better than the annual overseers. however. First. the Report claims. 189). Of these. what could have been expected from functionaries almost always reluctant. the clergyman is present at their meetings. but who is given latitude to carry out approved policy precisely on the grounds of their superior knowledge. debtors. There are three kinds: "open". and . What the Commissioners set up as an ideal manager of the poor is what will later be called a "professional". greed and waste. farmers who expect to cut their rents to their landlords if the poor-rates rise. and if they do not comply with the magistrates' order. Despite the advantages of the select vestry. customers. and the uncle. who neither came to their office with knowledge. and "the mother of one. for three reasons: they are freer from interference by the magistrates. and "self-appointed". But even they suffer from two major disadvantages. . rather than requires. And. But they are also open to corruption. their appointment. 182) The Report cites numbers of cases of popular threats and of actual violence against the persons and the property of strict overseers.. nor retain it long enough to acquire knowledge.. and still less motive. who have to give or to refuse public money to their own workmen. they are unfortunately in a "perfect state of subserviency" to the local vestry.
(1) By comparison with the continental absolutisms. The institution of the local Justice of the Peace has its roots in medieval English history. THE MAGISTRATES The section on Magistrates is the longest single section of the Report. an essential part of a system that was identified in the minds of many people with a traditional notion of "English liberties". the state bureaucracy was tiny. A key result of the English Revolution of the 17th century was the consolidation and enhancement of this particular set of internal state arrangements. For the local Justices of the Peace were a key element in the whole inherited structure of the English state. or expose themselves to the vengeance openly threatened against the persons or property of those whom the rioters chose to consider active in the administration of the parochial funds. the Civil War decapitated not only Charles I but also this evolving central administration. its administration conducted throughout the country by an unpaid and highly independent set of local gentry. this process of state-building involved the decay of "parliamentary" institutions (the "estates" in France. etc. was left intact to function with supreme power until Britain's 1832 reforms. among other things. In choosing to attack the system of magistrate control of the Poor Laws. 18th century England appeared to be a very haven of "liberties": the power of the Crown was limited by Parliament. Rather. the development of the state from the 15th century onwards took the form of the rise of "absolutist monarchies" whose agents were salaried administrators under the direct control of the Crown. 201) C. which was responsible. And here the Crown did not develop a paid and dependent bureaucracy attached directly to itself as a means of provincial and local government. largely privy councillors who served irrespective of changes in monarch and reviewed poor law information from all parts of the country. Throughout most of continental Europe. But the English state's path of development was unique. proud of their freedoms and enjoying a substantial degree of autonomy from central state power. in the form of local justices of the peace and parish officers. government was carried out under the sign of Law.membership of the select vestry makes its participants prime targets for lawless attacks by the demoralised poor: Many (in Surrey and Sussex) were abandoned at the time of the riotous proceedings in the winter of 1830-31. the unpaid Justices of the Peace were crucial parts of the "peculiar constitution" of England. the "Staende" in Germany) in the face of the rise of royal power. the authors were selecting a target of considerable political and historical significance. and disinclined other members to incur the odium. it depended on the loyalty of the local gentry . who held office on an honorary basis under appointment by the Crown. It was the uniquely "free" constitution of England. Here the process of state centralisation under the Tudors occurred in a form which enhanced the influence of Parliament. produced an intimidation and fear of consequences which paralysed the exertions of some.to maintain its peace and to provide it with such means as it had for waging war. (p. The Justice was. Between 1590 and 1640 the centralising tendency reached its climax with the emergence of national Commissioners for the poor. for the rapid economic expansion that the country enjoyed by . The early Stuart monarchs did attempt to set up the beginnings of a "continental absolutism" in England. it seemed. In effect. typically. but they were defeated by Parliament.as Lieutenants and Justices of the Peace in the shires . and in some instances their attacks upon the vestry. a member of the landowning gentry. Together with Parliament. the trunk. typically. when the lawless and outrageous meetings of the agricultural labourers.
(4) At the same time. but that their mode of life inclined them to be rather dim! When the public deliberates concerning any regulation of commerce or police. protected by the law from responsibility and by his own ignorance from doubt. had suggested that the country squires who formed such an integral part of the constitution were worthy men. Mr Robinson. indeed.. and the next week they disappeared to a man.6d. a rod. as it were. were altogether more scathing in their criticism of the magistracy. fond of business. the old poor laws gave power such as no aristocracy before ventured to assume. and he regrets some unpleasant words spoken to him very lately by one of the bench. the magistrates have the power to over-rule the overseers should the latter refuse relief to a claimant. too often defective in this tolerable knowledge. of its own accord.. influence and popularity.. and thus very diffuse in its structure. that is. in criticising the magistrates in 1834. a village not far from Cottenham. but incapable of that application of mind which is necessary in order to foresee and understand the consequences of any public regulation. will never be afforded again. The authors of the Report on the Poor Laws. but comes to them. a principal farmer in that place. sometimes in the actual presence of the pauper. was the poor laws. they earned that week only about 7s. Fraser suggests that the great strength of this administration was that it was rooted in the localities. the Poor Law became nationally the combined rationalisation of accumulated local wisdom. They side with the pauper against the overseer. anxious to promote extensive administrative reform... expressed the predominant view of the Commissioners some years later: To the magistrates. They could indulge their love of power without appeal and their benevolence without expense. if they have any tolerable knowledge of that interest. An active country magistrate in a pauperised district. and. That indolence. they point out. they are always against him. They are. though they might have earned 12s. (2) Not that the system of magistrates' government was immune from criticism. Mr Robinson found twelve married men on the box.. each.. whose influence over the Poor Laws was a key impediment to the introduction of an efficient administration.. not only ignorant. On one occasion he had refused payment of their money to . the terror of the overseers. Under the existing law. They are the only one of the three orders whose revenue costs them neither labour nor care. the Commissioners must have been aware that they would be treading on some influential toes. which is the natural effect of the ease and security of their situation. renders them too often. enjoyed a field for the gratification of local ambition and vanity such as never was given before. At Over. He complains bitterly of the obstruction given to these exertions by the decisions of the magistrates. Coming into office this year.. the Benthamite Nassau Senior. the idol of the labourer for twenty miles around. at least. in 1776. we trust. is now serving the office of overseer for the fourth time. at least in terms of the tax resources it consumed. The very men whom (sic) Parliament correctly deemed knew most about the specific problems of their localities were the men who continually adapted statute law to meet their own local difficulties.comparison with the "feudal" states of the Continent. The most important single branch of the domestic administration. And they use this power far too freely. with a view to promote the interest of their own particular order. (3) But this criticism was relatively mild. and independent of any plan or project of their own. One of the Report's key authors. some of the best men in the parish. between the middle classes and the lower classes. and decided what the one party should pay and the other receive.a person of great judgement and experience. and thereby threaten the very bases of order and authority in local administration.. he set them to work digging a piece of land of his own at 3d.. Adam Smith. he knew they could get work if they chose at that time. They sat as mediators between the employers and the employed. With each parish a sort of petty kingdom with its own sovereign will. and that care would be needed in the presentation of their argument. the proprietors of land never can mislead it.
the rural gentry were lacking in "tolerable knowledge". for market forces alone would rapidly have solved the problem that the magistrates sought to address: Wages would have risen to meet the depreciation of money. It would have been better if they had left well alone. although its existence was universally complained of by the overseers. I was informed that on a recent occasion a pauper. and who are therefore far too generous in the allowances they give. but it often procures two. (p. 207) . magistrates are not the best persons to form it. as the industrious poor would be to regulate the weekly expenditure of the magistrates.. hurraing and cheering. who conducted him in triumph to his home. especially of the principles of political economy. which are among the last acquisitions of political science and experience. they complained to the bench at Cambridge. I believe. as Adam Smith had noted..which should be empowered to enforce charity and liberality by summons and fine" would be likely to be a bad one. from their ignorance of the habits of the labouring classes.. 221." (pp. unacquainted with the poor in their daily lives. but to "the better knowledge which they possess of the real wants of the applicants.. But things were not left to take their own course. "distinguished for the greatest strictness. 227) At St Petherton. returned throwing his hat into the air. At the time of the system's introduction. (p. the Report suggests. and the magistrates adopted and enforced a "scale" of wage-supplements. who had gained his point (before the magistrate. "a shilling appears an extremely small sum.. and the labourer would have earned the same or nearly the same amount of raw produce.. The worst feature of the magistrates' administration is the "Speenhamland" system of poor relief they introduced into the rural counties in the early years of the Napoleonic Wars. one of his Majesty's deputy-lieutenants for Berks.. "To a gentleman". that the magistrates. and a larger amount of manufactured commodities. "Any tribunal. no knowledge is so rare as the knowledge when to do nothing. wearing favours in their hats and button-holes. who lack the requisite knowledge and experience of the lives of the poor.. said he. food prices were rising sharply. (p. a confidence in their truth.some men who would not keep their proper hours of work upon the road... 222-3) The magistrates do not make proper inquiry into the real habits and needs of the poor. unacquainted with the domestic economy of the applicants for relief. Unhappily. and beat him as usual. and hence the most benevolent men commonly make the most profuse and injurious allowances. (p. It is noteworthy. or even three days' subsistence to a labouring man. and of the nature of the means of satisfying them" (p. are extremely unfit judges as to the amount of relief to be administered. when given responsibility for administering relief. the magistrates also lack knowledge of the moral worth of the applicants who come before them. near Taunton. and which has been maintained ever since that time. CB). but even supposing that such a body ought to exist. It requires an acquaintance with general principles. as unfit from their own associations "to settle what ought to be the weekly incomes of the industrious poor". 229) Part of the problem is precisely that the magistrates are gentlemen. 207) But. and returned to Over. and in the evening a body of them collected in front of his house. and shouted in triumph. and the estimates they make of these needs vary wildly for lack of proper scientific evidence. 225). . and that he was joined by many others. they are men of fortune. It was observed by Colonel Page. that "commonly persons who have themselves risen from the ranks of labouring men" are. which they ordered parishes to pay to labourers.. and a patience of the gradual process by which obstacles are steadily but slowly surmounted. but cases in which this feeling was so decidedly expressed are. Being gentlemen. which others decry as harshness": this is not due to bias on their part. of rare occurrence.
as an institution for their advantage. CB) NOTE: The Hammonds (7) offer a judgement of the Speenhamland system that is partly influenced by the standpoint of the 1834 Report. and misapprehending the consequences of its exercise. and to persons who must always form a small minority in any tolerably regulated society . or timidity or negligence. the honest and the knavish alike. But this whole attempt at paternalist regulation of the poor. It made no promises of comfort or happiness. has been a great error.. but was. or alternatively that the high food prices would create serious privations for the labourers "to which it would be unsafe to expose them" (p.The magistrates' reasons (5) for the course they adopted were several. If a labourer was in private employment. peculiar to this country. and the whole structure of society and of property is threatened. and of the jurisdiction which was confided to them. and all unsatisfactory: first. the difference between the wage his master chose to give him and the recognised minimum was made up by the parish. 215).they held out nothing but work and necessary relief. the magistrates' unwarranted interference with the free workings of the market-economy has come to be seen by the poor as their "right". and those only to the impotent. Crabbe has described the roundsman system: Alternate masters now their Slave command. (p. and partly by early 20th century Fabian assumptions: The Poor Law which had been the hospital became now the prison of the poor. for "A prevalent opinion. Their intentions have been benevolent and honest. they thought it wise "to present the Poor Laws to the lower classes. as objects of relief. they feared that if wages rose they would never fall again. and still appear to prevail among the majority. in part. and using no daily trade" (p.. And when his age attempts its task again. Those labourers who could not find private employment were either shared out among the ratepayers.. armed with power from which there is no appeal. carefully. it was now his bondage.. that by this means their own share in the property of the kingdom was recognised" (p. second. the necessary consequence of their social position.. precluded all alarm" (p. the parish contributing what was needed to bring the labourers' receipts up to scale. As it is." The promises of the original legislation were "unalluring. Nonetheless. . Now. that it is not the personal fault of the magistrates. the tone of the final paragraph ishighly condemnatory of their administration: . that population was itself a source of wealth. persons having no property. initiated by the magistrates... 212). 241: my emphasis. Designed to relieve his necessities. and in part arose from the errors respecting the nature of pauperism and relief which prevailed among all classes at the time when the allowance system and the scale were first introduced. and represents a serious breach of the original legislation of Elizabeth. The Report concludes. 212) (6). A more dangerous instrument cannot be conceived than a public officer. all get relieved. supported by high authority. and to encourage an opinion among them. they did not worry about the effects of the allowances they ordered on the size of labourers' families. which "never contemplated. Urge the weak efforts of his feeble hand.that is. the mischief which they have done was not the result of self-interest or partiality. 212). Under the influence of such opinions even good intentions may become mischievous. or else their labour was sold by the parish to employers. industrious persons. third. supported and impelled by benevolent sympathies. and has become "the common law of the district" (p. 217). at a low rate.
The labourers. were instead given a universal system of pauperism. of lazy poor complain. refused a minimum wage and allotments. stripped of their ancient rights and their ancient possessions. .With ruthless taunts. The meshes of the Poor Law were spread over the entire labour system.
The burden of the poor rates is "steadily and rapidly progressive". 399) Not only agriculture but also manufacturing industry is. the less rent." (pp. is the landowning interest . All grow poor together. In the joint view of a Farming and Grazing Society President and a JP: If a system of allowances is adopted in a parish. ..150) The rise in the poor-rates threatens property itself. other occupiers will send the labourers to the parish officers. the rest do the same." the Commissioners declare themselves happy to report (p. because they cannot employ their own shares and pay the rest too in poor-rates. the consequences are. "too often think the more poor-rates.. "Not many cases of the actual dereliction of estates have been stated to us. One impoverished farmer turns off all his labourers. 141). and the tenants feeling that they do not in effect pay the rate. Owners are finding difficulties in getting tenants for their farms. for if one occupier employs labourers that have an allowance. it requires even the assistance for two years of rates in aid from other parishes to enable the able-bodied." (And other replies are quoted:) "I think the Poor Laws have not diminished the capital.a sharp point to put to a Parliament still considerably made up of just such men! "Tenants at will". the expense of maintaining the poor has not merely swallowed up the whole value of the land. says Mr Cogshill. Weeds increase in the fields. (p. "Capital is decreasing from the loose manner the laws are administered. threatened by rampant pauperism. I have witnessed a great deal of this. I know that in the surrounding parishes capital is fearfully diminishing and property deteriorating. If this is an extreme case. and the aged and impotent must even then remain a burthen on the neighbouring parishes (p. declares the Report. 137-8) The vision of a ruined English countryside runs all through the Report as a grim warning of what will ensue if adequate and rapid action is not taken. and one can only be increased at the expense of the other". offering little horror stories to exemplify the theme: One gentleman the other day mentioned to me that lately. the whole of the labourers are made paupers. The section of society which is most bound to suffer economically if the disease is not rapidly treated. The first and most prominent is that from neglect of single men. Confidence between landlord and tenant seems quite lost. THE PROGNOSIS The Report warns sternly: the evils which afflict social. economic and moral life are gaining increasing hold. The disease of pauperism is spreading like a cancer through the body politic.141). in consequence of the heavy burthen of the poor's rates. Rising rates are being passed on by the farmers in the shape of lower rents.. in the Commissioners' view. (p. I cannot otherwise account for the apathy with which they view. At least one witness foresaw a still more dangerous outcome from the Poor Laws: The results of this system (of its illegality I need not speak) are now become apparent. In the parish of Cholesbury in Buckinghamshire. So are the other abuses. the tendency in numbers of other parishes points in the same direction. but rather the rent of the landlord. but they immediately proceed to give a full paragraph of detail on one such case. to support themselves. he had thrown up that farm and gone to another parish which was not yet so heavily burthened with poor's rates. and the tenacity with which in many instances they defend abuses. otherwise he pays part of the other occupier's labour. as the tenant considers rents and rates as payment for the farm.. Often the Commissioners allow their witnesses to speak for them. but the landlord. and the lower place to which they have . by which for the last two or three years he had lost upwards of a hundred a year upon the farm his family had held for upwards of two centuries.. after the land has been given up to them. and vices in the population.4.
The present race. are playing the game of cunning with the magistrates and overseers. for the avowed purpose of increasing income. for them. doubts that any merely empirical critique of the data in the Report "can decisively disturb the crisis claims of a reality report" (2). in ten years another generation will be hastening on. until a generation of superfluous labourers has risen up. it is difficult to see how empirical criticism alone could shake them. he suggests. Green. inter alia. For it is part of the argument of the Commissioners that a moral breakdown is part of the "crisis" . a fearful and bloody contest must ensue. was both badly collected by modern standards of statistical research. the "crisis" consists. Also. which this illegal perversion of the Poor Laws has created. . The evidence the Commissioners collected. all demanding work or pay from the scale. and did not bear the weight of the conclusions they developed from it. give them ten years. (p. by contrast. If this system continues. and they will convert it into the dreadful game of force. My humble opinion is that if some measure be not adopted to arrest the progress of the evil.been and are forced in the scale.and that is inherently difficult to measure by normal "empirical-quantitative" measures. a series of early marriages has ensued. 219) NOTE: Blaug (1) has questioned the empirical backing for the Commissioners' "crisis" arguments. in the fact that proper distinctions (like that between the "pauper" and the "independent labourer") are not being maintained. since these distinctions are themselves constructs of the Commissioners' own thinking (and no doubt of many others of their contemporaries).
empty cottages being . the more powerful farmers dominate the vestry: Unfortunately the power is often vested in the very class which has the least inducement to make a good use of it . and must be put an end to at any risk or any sacrifice" (p. the costs of the system are shifted from agriculture to trade. and a system of "false consciousness" resting on everyday experience has obscured the true principles of political economy. to the detriment of their neighbours: "The practice seems to be not a sharing in fair proportions of the burthen amongst all. One "sinister interest" the Commissioners. Trades-people are threatened with the loss of the wealthy farmer's custom if they do not vote with him. Modern historical research suggests that Parliamentary acceptance of the Settlement Laws was not due simply. onto the local clergyman). that the parish poor-rates will pay the paupers' rents. SINISTER INTERESTS It is not only the increasingly demoralised pauper labourers who have developed an interest in the existing system. from the large arable farms to small grass farms or to householders and tradespeople. the Report suggests. "Paupers have thus become a very desirable class of tenants (1)" (p. settlement in the latter was closely controlled. as they do. 84). 313). and that no rates are charged on paupers' dwellings. for the operation of these Laws benefitted many landowners. the costs are loaded onto the tithe-lessee (i. it is quite otherwise with those parishes which have high populationacreage ratios. In many cases. A. One effect of the labour-rate system is that large farmers get the labourers they want at half-price. in an interesting reflection on the sociology of early 19th century villages. they fill their pockets by charging high rents on these houses at the expense of their fellow rate-payers. 296). for their rate-burdens are low and their rateable values high. or with the dangerous costs of offending his powerful neighbour. In some parish schemes.those who hope to find in paupers an abundant supply of cheap labour (p. some rate-payers benefit. They build poor quality housing for paupers in the parishes.5. ignored. These gentlemen were able to deploy local power to keep down their own rates-burdens while enjoying a plentiful supply of cheap "pauperised" labour from neighbouring parishes. So have a variety of local commercial and employing interests. but a shifting of the burthen from one class to another" (p. Often. why has no general feeling arisen "that these abuses are intolerable. 132)? The Commissioners offer two fundamental reasons why reform has not already been achieved: a bundle of "interests" have got themselves tied up with the existing system. in some. who reckon that they gain more than they lose from the preservation of the current maladministration. One such interest consists of local house-builders. Parishes as a whole vary in the degree to which they benefit or lose by the system: those with low ratios of population to land do quite well. The English countryside was a contrived patchwork of "open" and "closed" parishes. WHY DOES THE SYSTEM CONTINUE? Given both the immense list of abuses and the dangerous condition into which the whole country threatens to slide. The large farmers effectively intimidate the locality to get their way.e. while others in the parish have to make up the other half of the wages through the poor-rates. as the Report suggests. Knowing. perhaps politickly. to "tolerance nor ineptitude". and the small farmer is threatened with the loss of his farm. Where the "Labour-Rate" system is used.
139) The passage is notable as a summary statement of the essential beliefs of the Report's authors. however. (p. in 1861 the poor rates in the same county ranged from three farthings in the pound to almost 6s. Thus. the actual implementation of the New Poor Law in rural England was much dependent on landowning interests (3). with a population of 891. it seems. under pressure from local landowning interests. for example. those who supply goods to the workhouses expect to gain from the transactions. the more so if the regimes within the workhouses are "liberal". how else life might be organised. In 1801. farmers in open parishes found themselves subsidising the running of great estates (2). reflecting the main-line economic theories of the period. that he is bound to exercise any sort of prudence or economy. as we have seen. in Warwickshire. had a population of 41. but £469 for Tysoe. IGNORANCE OF POLITICAL ECONOMY Part of the problem is that people have become so accustomed to the corruption and demoralisation associated with the existing Poor Law regime that they cannot imagine.4d. With this variety of interests bound up with the existing mal-administration. They cannot perceive the essential truths of political economy. the highest to 12s. are views which many of those who have long resided in pauperised rural districts seem to reject as too absurd for formal refutation. the lowest parish poor-rate amounted to a halfpenny in the pound. under conditions of free competition . in his classic study of the English utilitarians (5). for they have become habituated to a set of false ideas by their constant experience of mal-administration. The fact that this problem of "false consciousness" exists. The Earl and his tenants in Compton Wynates only paid the (low) cost of wages. what is to be done? Halevy. the parish of Compton Wynates. who helped to design the boundaries of the "Parish Unions" in ways favourable to themselves. that anything is to be hoped from voluntary charity. while passing on the burden of poor relief to their neighbours. not his wants. His argument helps point up the practical historical implications of the Report. it is not surprising that "many are to be found who think that they shall suffer some immediate injury from any change which shall tend to throw the labouring classes on their own resources" (p. that the welfare of that family naturally depends on his conduct. suggested that the inherited tradition of classical political economy contained a contradiction. To return to the Report. they reckon they can abate their rents to the landlords if the poor-rates are high. Farmers as a whole. and they get cheap labour into the bargain. owned by numerous freeholders. in 1847. The Poor Law relief bill in 1785 was £9 for Compton Wynates. often. In Norfolk. tend to be favourable to the system. For. even.deliberately pulled down in order to restrict the population. owned by the Earl of Northampton.6d (4). 132). This distinction between "open" and "closed" parishes was maintained after 1834. Not least among these are the owners of the beershops. It poses the question: if men generally cannot see the error of their existing ways. It was a central part of Adam Smith's argument in The Wealth of Nations that if each individual pursued his own private economic interest. To suppose that the poor are the proper managers of their own concerns. although this matter runs beyond the remit of this paper. Likewise. B. that a man's wages ought to depend on his services. those trades-people who conduct much of their business with the paupers themselves have a strong interest in seeing the paupers' purses full. it is also notable for its easy intermingling of moral "oughts" and assumptions about what is "naturally" the case. that the earnings of an ordinary labourer are naturally equal to the support of an ordinary family. nearby was the parish of Tysoe. is of some significance.
in a sense. All. and thereby drag themselves and the whole of society downwards. for whatever reason. for the theory of government. of dropping that simple assumption were considerable. Smith argued. Questions about who should govern. if we cannot make this second assumption. First. And in that case. and in what relation to the members of civil ("commercial") society such persons should stand. matters stand rather differently: here. the obstructions to progress erected by men in their folly would anyway be swept aside. it should also counteract the one major disadvantage he perceived in the "natural system of liberty": since workers' minds were narrowed by the specialisation of tasks associated with the extension of the division of labour. as the master had outlined them. But.is competent but utterly untrustworthy! Those who followed after Adam Smith did not doubt the benefits of the "natural system of liberty". And. the utilitarian goal of "the greatest happiness of the greatest number" would be best achieved through each individual pursuing his own interest. two are worthy to govern but incompetent to do so. it will be the duty of those who know what people's real interests are to be active and energetic in informing them of their real interests. are simply not discussed. Let us assume that if all men do indeed pursue their own real interests. then a rising level of general prosperity . then the greatest happiness will be achieved. This is the optimistic doctrine in political economy. The interests they pursue may well be false ones. Adam Smith. One notable lacuna in The Wealth of Nations is the absence of any discussion about the form that the state should take. But on one point they tended to be less sanguine than the author of The Wealth of Nations. almost willy-nilly. then. the third . On the whole. there is no real problem: there will exist what Halevy terms a "natural identity of interests" between the individual and society. Second. it should provide a framework of national defence.with others. There will indeed be little for the state to do. If what Adam Smith termed the "police" of government were limited to these questions. indeed. suggested that even if government policy were inadequate.Smith's ideal "progressive state" . to create the conditions in which men will learn what their real interests are: it becomes part of the duty of the state to create an "artificial identity of interests".merchants and manufacturers . the "natural system of liberty" must be systematically and wisely imposed on society. .in particular state-supported monopolies and restrictions on freedom. men do not know what their real interests are. it should clear away impertinent obstacles to the free functioning of the economic machine . The role ascribed to government in Smith's theory was essentially minimal.would be achieved. then the general interest of society would be achieved. In some sense. their own real interests. that Adam Smith offers is the paradoxical conclusion to Book One: of the three classes of commercial society. or discover. for the effect of men's natural tendency to improve their own condition provided such an impulse to social development that. But what if they could not? The implications. Adam Smith tended to assume that men would not have difficulty in perceiving their own true interests: his system was "simple and obvious" (6). ruining economic life in the process. expressed for example by McCulloch: It is plain that each in steadily pursuing his own aggrandizement is following that precise line of conduct which is most for the public advantage (7). since a "natural identity" cannot be relied upon. Otherwise. In this sense. there is a real danger that the people may pursue utterly wrong projects. and a framework of law and order in order to protect people's property. it must be the task of government to educate and correct the people. the government should support public education programmes. In this latter case. yet the "progressive state" would still tend to emerge. If we can assume also that men will spontaneously know.
or Godwin) points towards liberal anarchism. All this demanded a much more active. David Hume . CB) contrasted favourably in every respect with the historic patchwork of local franchises and parishes that served in England for the exercise of local government. cheapness. prefer the happiness of the greater to that of the lesser number" (8). Bentham himself had recognised the problem clearly. it was by no means sufficient to await the slightly mysterious workings of Adam Smith's "hidden hand": the whole machinery of government required radical overhauling. The 1834 Report on the Poor Laws is a product of men of this school. through dealing wholesale and in organising largescale production. It was in just this more "pessimistic" direction that utilitarian theory moved in the halfcentury that followed the publication of The Wealth of Nations. equally. Jeremy Bentham. towards statist interventionism. precisely in the interest of developing the conditions for "the greatest happiness of the greatest number". in his formula: "In case of contest. Utilitarianism became a reforming doctrine.tended to a rather quietist and relatively satisfied conservatism (9). but a carefully designed system of administration which would educate the people in their real needs and interests. "the greatest happiness of the greatest number" is the best that may be hoped. a crusade for the reshaping of the machinery of state to be accomplished in the light of reason and against the backward and ignorant inhibitors of progress. in the optimistic version. The achievement of that "greatest happiness" . happiness of each party being equal. we might do better to consider them as an early . under the influence of Bentham. from fear or self-interest and in complete independence of the centre. and which would force them . To a middle-class Radical.referred to in the Report as "the welfare of all" or "the good of society" . in a sense. mal-administered the vital social services of justice. was the position adopted by the later Utilitarians. interested in promoting legal reform. The problem was. In the first case. Adam Smith's own politics like those of his friend. and uniformity" in law and government that they had learned to value in managing businesses and factories. than Adam Smith had foreseen. but his account of the ethos of the early 19th century Utilitarians seems correct (12). for the early nineteenth century Utilitarians. the new administration (which he sought. not a passive "laissez-faire" politics. Finer (10) suggests that this development within Utilitarianism is linked to the rise of an industrial middle class.could not be left to the free workings of natural impulses within society: rather. Poor Law. Hence they must be created. Belief in the principles of political economy implied. moral and administrative machinery must be constructed. the utilitarian doctrine assumes that the "greatest happiness of all" is the (theoretically attainable) goal. under the guidance of their chief mentor. For them. But the utilitarians of the early nineteenth century were very different: they developed a school of radical criticism of the English legal and political constitution. and in a sense "interventionist" state machine. public health.Or. an adequate legal. and highways throughout the countryside. and impediments must be pushed aside.if necessary . But there is another possibility: some individuals in pursuing their own interests may damage the interests of others. the latter. to provide the necessary props and constraints for the "happiness" principle to work properly. a "natural identity" is created since everyone will benefit from the free pursuit by all of their own interest. (11) Finer's account of the "class basis" of the movement seems a bit crude. The political logic of the two positions is very different: the former (witness Tom Paine's The Rights of Man. And this. If we are looking for a "class base" for the utilitarian radicals. looking for the same "efficiency. and with the chaotic effects of unprofessional officials and self-elected bodies who. police.to pursue their own "independence" whether they liked it or not. that the "system of natural liberty" Adam Smith had postulated did not create its own conditions of existence automatically. Part Two. again. in the latter case.
example of a "new intelligentsia". . "new middle class" or "service class". tying their interests to the expansion of national state machines (13).
but the Commissioners advise that they will not provide a universal panacea. Given this background. they have to go farther for their manure. But these benefits are outweighed by the disadvantages. the key Commissioners (Nassau Senior and Edwin Chadwick. anyway) were in favour of large-scale. A NATIONAL CHARGE? Should the existing parochial system of relief be replaced by a national system. B. Such a scheme is operated. before turning to their own proposals. The key weakness in the scheme is that it assumes the maintenance of the present system. and they object to the increased independence of the labourers. the "re-peasantisation" of the rural labour force cannot have had any great appeal to them. The recommendations are made against a background of some fifty years of earnest debate about the administration of the Poor Laws in Parliament. The workhouses. highly-capitalised farming rather than the "Irish peasant system" (3). and the whole labouring class would be forced into a system of national pauperism. though they do not mention this. in the press. the Commissioners turn to the question of the remedies to be applied. in parts of North Wales. ALLOTMENTS FOR LABOURERS? If the first possibility is condemned outright. and too much to permit them to be labourers". shows that it would be extremely expensive in income tax. in pamphlet literature and the like (1). A LABOUR RATE? . only on an enlarged scale." (p. The fundamental presupposition of the existing system would be maintained. the Commissioners are more cautious in their approach to a second proposal. then the solution proposed must fail. The farmers in the locality will object strongly: "They are jealous of such deductions from their holdings. Such schemes may be useful in some parts of the country. And experience from elsewhere. No private interest would stimulate the authorities into "vigilance and economy". They remain. A.6. for whose opinion we have a great respect". only now the central government would take responsibility for offering a (wrong) promise of "subsistence for all": thus nothing would be done to achieve the clear separation of the "independent labourer" from the "pauper". "objects of terror". funded out of something like income tax? This has been recommended by "many persons. uncharacteristically. For the subsistence that labourers can obtain on their own plots is often very low. 283)} The supply of land is ultimately limited. and it would involve the equal treatment of the married and unmarried. WHAT IS NOT TO BE DONE? Having set out the character of the evils afflicting the nation's system of handling problems of pauperism. In any case. for example. that paupers should be given small plots of land on which they can grow their own crops and thus maintain themselves without any need to go to the parish (2). the Commissioners are obliged. even more than at present. where labourers are given land which is "not enough to make the tenants farmers. rather indefinite in their views on this issue. and if the population should continue to grow. C. to distance themselves from some alternative schemes for reform. would cease to be what they ought to be: namely. It would certainly have the advantage of nullifying the existing "settlement" system. the destitute and those with small property of their own. notably the island of Guernsey which operates such a system. it would encourage the free movement of labour.
and with increasing confidence. 333) Political economy. the principles of administration and legislation. ensured a comfortable existence. without subverting the whole national economy and public morality? The Commissioners now proceed to set forth their own proposals. on what principle can relief be given. the Report rejects this extreme approach. must be forced to be "independent". It would involve enforcing all the worst elements of the system. can be given qualified support. should be private charity. and to pay them wages. and. especially to the "ablebodied". and England need not be different. In practice. under two main heads: first. in a summary statement of its objections to the whole Labour-Rate system: The line between the pauper and the independentlabourer would be pro tanto obliterated.The proposal that local rate-payers be compelled to provide employment for labourers who cannot obtain it for themselves. The Report concludes. can retain its prosperity. adequately enforced". is subjected to a savage attack by the Commissioners. second. had indeed become a hard and an uncompromising doctrine! D. it had been argued widely. But we do not believe these evils to be its necessary consequences (p. or even its civilisation. and every man. (p. 334) It is sufficient to ensure that such relief is only given "under strict regulations. or evils resembling or even approaching them. TOTAL ABOLITION OF POOR RELIEF? In the run-up to the establishment of the Royal Commision. even at the cost of some of them dying of starvation. though not out of lack of sympathy with it: If we believed the evils stated in the previous part of the Report. to be necessarily incidental to the compulsory relief of the able-bodied. Every civilised community makes some provision of this kind. The only means available for the relief of want. if the Commissioners had not come up with their own specific proposal. so strong had this sentiment become that it is not utterly implausible to suggest (4) that. that the only solution to the problem of pauperism was immediate abolition of all forms of public poor relief to the "able-bodied". Indeed. by the 1830s. "The common sentiments of mankind". The only question is. and we do not believe that a country in which that distinction has been completely effaced. The labouring classes. other than that obtained through wages and savings. which would suggest giving assistance to the truly needy. whatever be his conduct or his character. the reform of the machinery of government. we should not hesitate in recomending its complete abolition. this might have been the line adopted by government. many political economists asserted. .
is an absolutely vital element in the functioning of modern society. the means of subsistence. Muddy definitions must be purified. Arthur Young that the lower orders "must be kept poor.would have given delight to that earlier reader of British government Blue Books. Certainly. Rather. "Poverty" for the majority. Jeremy Bentham declared: "As labour is the source of wealth so is poverty of labour. Rather. and is notable for its frankness. likewise the Rev. Their lack of enthusiasm for an "allotments" scheme shows this. And "poverty" is defined in terms which .is most certainly to remain. 334) This distinction is fundamental to the whole argument of the Report. . The Report's frank statement is important. Bernard Mandeville roundly declared that "to make society happy. A VITAL DISTINCTION No progress is possible without intellectual clarity. "initiative" and "self-help" among the labourers. being "forced to have recourse to labour. in no part of Europe except England has it been thought fit that the provision. (p. To read some modern commentators. The cause of "poverty" .. or that their dependence on employers should end. as the Report discusses it. in return for his labour. Banish poverty. that is. To attempt such a course of action is.. that is. but the sort of "independence" the Report has in mind is not that of the self-employed or selfsufficient. PRINCIPLES OF ADMINISTRATION AND LEGISLATION A. It is not the Commissioners' intention that the labouring class should cease to exist as such. the "independent labourer" is continuously held up as a model. to subvert the very bases of the capitalist economy. necessarily. the state of a person unable to labour. proper demarcation lines must be drawn in language and in life. in exactly this sense.. the existence of a class of wagedependent labourers . For example. Townsend and Patrick Colquhoun (2). And the precise distinction the Report offers between "poverty" and "indigence" was made by Bentham.namely. is that an effort has been made to achieve something no other country has attempted. or unable to obtain. in order to obtain a mere subsistence". yet this is not what they say. The central mistake in the English system. on which the Commissioners lay so much value. should be applied to more than the relief of indigence. the term "independence" has a specific and restricted meaning throughout: it denotes nothing more than lack of dependence on public relief. What is permissible. And in all this. Karl Marx.had he noticed it . by Colquhoun and others at the turn of the century (5). J. the Report declares. or of the wealthy. It is by no means the job of the Poor Laws to remove the great mass of the labouring population from the essentials of their condition: from. in order to obtain a mere subsistence. Part of the whole problem. you banish wealth" (3). is forced to have recourse to labour. for it clarifies exactly what is meant by the "independence" of the labourer. labourers should be restricted to that form of dependence alone. namely the relief of poverty: . It has never been deemed expedient that the provision should extend to the relief of poverty. it is necessary that great numbers should be wretched as well as poor". and have nothing beforehand" (4). or they will never be industrious". But never "poverty". is that "indigence" should be relieved. that is.7... The authors of the 1834 Report were not by any means original in their formulation.. The essentials of their case had been argued by political economists for the previous century and a half. one might imagine that what the authors of the Report wish to see develop in England is a spirit of "self-respect". nothing has been worse that what the Report terms "the mischievous ambiguity of the word poor". had the heroine of a novel declare: "There must always be poor in every society. the state of one who. Harriet Martineau. persons who can live by their industry. has been what Green terms "taxonomic confusion" (1). in 1833.
"Every penny bestowed that tends to render the condition of the pauper more eligible than that of the independent labourer. 335). an attempt to establish that line theoretically and to maintain it institutionally. As Himmelfarb comments: "The whole of the report was. "the first and most essential of all conditions" is that the situation of the person who is relieved under the Poor Laws "shall not be made really or apparently so eligible as the situation of the independent labourer of the lowest class" (p. is a bounty on indolence and vice" (p. to shape the "slope" between "pauperism" and "independence" so that the natural slide is away from the former and towards the latter. B. on the one hand. while on the other hand the "mendicant and vagrant" may be "repressed" by disarming them of their principal weapon . in line with Utilitarian principles. the immoral poor have been living it up at the expense of society: a complaint that is still repeated 150 years after the 1834 Report! But this wastefulness. in other words. Those who distribute it know little or nothing about the real living standards of independent labourers. If this condition is not met.Within that class. in effect. then labourers will tend to become paupers. The key to achieving this. this bounty on vice and indolence. 335). at this moment in time. these parties may be unaware of their real interests and of the real advantages which Poor Law reform will bring them. at least the labourers should experience a negative repulsion from public relief. is entitled to impose conditions on the provisions of relief of a kind that "are conducive to the benefit either of the individual himself. Each of the "remedial measures" was intended to make the social reality accord with the principle. the evidence points to the fact that many independent labourers . For the general standard of living of independent labourers is above the level of mere subsistence: the general average of mortality is dropping in the country.. then paupers will tend to become independent labourers. that it is always worse to be a pauper than to to be an independent labourer. There has been too little application of empirical science to the awarding of relief. that the diet of the workhouse almost always exceeds that of the cottage.even if. what has been happening under the existing Poor Law regime is that several millions of pounds have been spent each year on just such a bounty. This distinction is not to be achieved by mere preaching: practical rules and institutions must enforce it. True. 335). but if this positive acceptance of the institutions of capitalist society cannot be achieved. the Report assumes. to separate pauper and poor in practice just as they were separated by definition" (6). and thus encouraging. THE KEY PRINCIPLE The "public". the Commissioners would be happy to see the labouring class develop a positive wish to be "independent" and live through the institutions of the labour market alone. What is needed is a method which will. as it were. away from demoralisation and towards virtue.. in practice the intention of the Commissioners is that both parties will actually benefit . and besides. and as a result the standards of relief have been far too high: . and the diet of the gaol is generally more profuse than even that of the workhouse (p. at whose expense he is to be relieved" (p. is unnecessary. if it is met. The aim of this ingenious adaptation of the Benthamite pleasure/ pain principle must be.their plea of impending starvation. The country has been subsidising. 336) In short. ensure that no one need actually perish from want. so little has their situation been made a standard for the supply of commodities. In effect. an exercise in definition and distinction. there must be created "a broad line of distinction between the class of independent labourers and the class of paupers". vice. or of the country at large. Although this proposition offers the possibility that either the individual or the country at large will benefit. Things must so be arranged.
but are re-moralised as well: In Welwyn. it is possible to give relief to paupers at a level below that of the worst level achieved by independent labourers. but for the discipline and habits of the poor-house they would in all probability have been ruined.What might have seemed to be a problem of shortage of work turned out not to be so. where the lives of paupers are restricted and disciplined. 336-7). for the source of evil has been removed. the principles the Report proposes are being applied. it will be seen that the process of dispauperising the able-bodied is in its ultimate effects a process which elevates the condition of the great mass of society (p. The Friendly Societies. the @I(Report) suggests. But the argument goes further than this: . So. whose conduct is several times referred to with approval by the Commissioners. the labourers are less disposed to throw themselves out of work. where paupers are kept within well-regulated workhouses and denied relief unless they enter the workhouse. Further. there are few new paupers. and have returned to work.The paupers are not only reduced in number. -. already. or at least helping to support. went away and found work. and a consequent drop in parish expenditure on them. Mr Clutton states that . are extremely strict in the provision they make for giving relief to their members. not applying to the parish on every emergency. for it enables the authors to turn back any potential charge that they are class-bound in their recommendations (8). within the few parishes that have consistently adopted it. 343) -. themselves and their families. Several of the girls who came into the house when it was first opened have obtained respectable places. 337) The key Utilitarian claim is made: if the proper administrative regime is followed. In these few parishes. then indeed the greatest happiness of the greatest number will actually be increased. These parishes. There everything and everyone flourishes. Some of those who had been on the parish as permanently sick for years have partially recovered. Those who were refused relief. where "irksome" conditions are imposed upon paupers. drawn from the small number of parishes where. C. and still ensure them a healthy existence (pp. always applying the Commissioners' own principle of "less eligibility" to the recipient of relief. are often influenced in their strictness by persons who have themselves risen from the labouring classes. consists of a list of the wonders achieved by reform. (p. WONDERFUL EXAMPLES FROM MODEL PARISHES The account given of the effects of the proposed strict administration.The introduction of strict administration leads to an immediate fall in the numbers of paupers. the results of the system were very soon perceived. This positive account is central to the Report's success with its readers. a veritable utopia is being practically created.earn enough to put something aside in savings (7). supporting. The Report devotes a number of pages to a series of exemplary cases.Since the alteration. And what marvellous changes this wrought in the habits of the labouring classes: they really knuckled down to work! . except in the work-house. The Rev. These are parishes where any welfare benefits are kept below the standard of local wages. and have turned out well. The benefits of reform are truly astonishing: -.. This evidence of the behaviour of the Friendly Societies is important for the Report's case. the strictness such people apply to parish spending reflects precisely the policy applied by the labouring classes themselves to the management of their own Friendly Societies..
The reason is . for which they expressed more gratitude than I expected. and he was sent to the tread-mill.. the poor live more decently. I employed many of them in the winter of 1830. surrounded by the devastation committed by machine-breakers and incendiaries. 353). We were in the midst of the disorder. "how. the prudent and the thoughtless. and when they had an indistinct impression of unknown and indefinite changes. "You will be surprised to find how soon the impossibility will dwindle down to an improbability. for the Poor Laws now provide no motive for having lots of children.. and that again to complete success. before the change of system took place.The proper distinction is maintained between "the frugal and the prodigal. "All were paupers alike" (p. in the present scarcity of work. James David." I was also told that industry and frugality would increase.I did not advise the introduction of the plan till I had read much and thought much. insolent and in a state bordering upon riot. and they're more well-behaved.in line with early 19th century theory . attempting any resistance. The point is illustrated with some small moral tales (pp.Since the farmers can no longer get labour on the cheap from the parish. . the industrious and the idle. morality improves. 367) -. nor had I the most distant hope.that the "fund" for the payment of wages rises. In Uley and Southwell parishes crime has similarly ceased. We proceeded against him. by complaint before the bench. -. (p. and in the spring I let them go. can those employ or support themselves who are now receiving parish pay?" The answer was.The level of criminality among the labouring classes declines: In Bingham. they keep their houses cleaner. and when hired. but when the winter came very few claimed my promise. and that crime would become less. and during the two years preceding 1818. local wages rise. they openly acknowledged that they would rather live on the parish pay in idleness than work for full labourers' wages.The population stabilises. and we have never since had occasion to resort to coercive measures. -. nor any single instance of malicious injury to property (p. They even save. Before the expiration of his sentence the parish officers solicited a remission of his remainder. and till I had removed many doubts by private correspondence with those who had witnessed its beneficial effects for several years. At the end of a long account of the improvements in the parish of Swallowfield. Our vestry was established in 1829. Russell reports: Even among the labourers themselves the change was productive of little discontent. but I promised them work again the next winter. The money that is saved through the reduction in the poor-rates goes on higher wages. seven men of the parish were transported for felonies. yet there was neither a riot nor a fire in the parish. previously. The agricultural disturbances took place in the following year. One man only. -. rather than when the new system had actually been put in force." Whereas. the improbability to a distant hope. but I never was told. that the success would have been so complete. now there is scarcely any disorder in the place. 344-5. their behaviour was such that they could not be continued in work. "Improvident marriages" decline. In the dispauperised districts. When it began the poor were idle. 359-61). Among those doubts the most important was. emphases in original) -.The contentedness of the labourers increases as their industry grows. the Commissioners' correspondent. a Mr. Now all are glad to get work. they were in work which they had found for themselves.351) For an orderly administration is productive of order among the poor. What alarm they did show was when the select vestry was first talked of. (pp. scarcely a night passed without mischief.
3. but this is justified: "it appears from the evidence that it is a hardship to which the good of society requires the applicant to submit.Those labourers who lack Settlement Rights have always behaved in a more disciplined manner than the settled. either wholly or partially..The number of improvident and wretched marriages has diminished. with the rest of the parish. We have seen that in every instance in which the able-bodied labourers have been rendered independent of partial relief or of relief otherwise than in a well-regulated workhouse: 1. D. 376). its introduction has been beneficial to the class for whose benefit poor laws exist.The permanent demand for their labour has increased. 5. 378) will then be applied to all applicants for relief.Their discontent has been abated. 6. to pay rates.Where. all relief given to children should be regarded as being afforded also to their parents. (p. and display their rate-bills in the windows of their cottages .the poor themselves learn to regard paupers with hostility.And the increase has been such that their wages. have in general advanced. The advantage of the new system will be that "a self-acting test" (p.Frugal habits have been created or strengthened. and their moral and social condition in every way improved. he must accept assistance on the terms. participating freely and even with pleasure in the marvellous machine of the market. apart from medical attendance. harmonious capitalist society. -. except within well-regulated workhouses. for .so far from being depressed by the increased amount of labour in the market. 368) -. indeed.and in effect what is achieved by reform . The new measures make all those who pay rates "jealous of any one receiving relief".for these are testimonials of their independence! (p. Requesting to be rescued from that danger out of the property of others. Second. 4. no relief should be given to the able-bodied and the families. There will be no need for the authorities to attempt the difficult task of assessing the worth of an applicant's claim: everyone will be treated the . 374) There is a dream involved in all of this: the dream of a perfectly functioning. The Commissioners summarise the wonders that have been achieved: . where each player knows his proper station and duties. not by law. then Parliamentary legislation is needed to compel all the other parishes to behave correctly.. True.is the placing of the settled labourer in the same condition as the unsettled. feels the proper sentiments attached to that situation and follows the appropriate motives. the poor are now required. The Report belongs to the literature of Utopia as much as any Phalanstery of Fourier or any hymn to Stalin. that he is in danger of perishing from want.they had no choice but to be independent. in some (rare) cases this will involve the imposition of hardship. 2. What is needed . First. Two principles must inform the legislation.-. which the common welfare requires" (p.Their industry has been restored and improved. The only way of assisting @I(hardship) must be via individual private charity. THE NEEDED LEGISLATION If the wonders achieved in a few parishes are to be extended to the whole country.lacking the right to parish relief . they become proud to do so. The express or implied ground of his application is. whatever they may be. it appears that wherever the principle which we have thus stated has been carried into effect.
As Finer (11) has shown. and finding them work according to their ability. One Mr Atkinson. Chadwick (9) stated: By the workhouse system is meant having all relief through the workhouse. is the only safe ground of relief" (p. but so soon as an arrival of stones has been announced they find work for themselves again. and cease for a time to be troublesome. "Our intention is to make the workhouses as like prisons as possible. an inch is given. and there made to work. All element of personal discretion will be removed from the system of poor relief. or the whole proposed reform will collapse (pp. and those who are really in need will select themselves for aid if they really need it. the "Panopticon". the plan for the workhouse was based. This fact is in itself sufficient to show the nature and causes of pauperism. 386-7. 393) . in parochial relief. If. and the worst paymaster. to be maintained constantly. I sincerely believe. and to deter the indolent" (p. 392). then the paupers will largely disappear. once introduced. For pauperism is an avoidable evil: as the evidence of the wonders from the model parishes showed. they have. not merit. while the bare mention of it is quite sufficient for others. then it will become the rule everywhere. provides the evidence: In Salford. preventing any of its inmates from going out or receiving visitors. 378). again. and with that will depart all the frauds and the turbulence that it is capable of promoting (pp. in one single parish.same. (p. 386). else there is a danger that the old evils of pauperism will soon flourish again. that the idle and dissolute can apply to. Hence the fascinating remark: One of the most encouraging results of our inquiry is the degree in which the existing pauperism arises from fraud. 393). thus making the parish fund the last resource of a pauper. and the overseers have been obliged to give them relief. employment to break stones on the highway has saved the township several hundred pounds within the last two years. for any element of local discretion regarding the giving of relief. on Jeremy Bentham's famous proposal for a model prison. the regime must be "salutary restriction and labour" (p. applied again for relief. 396-7). Such legislation will enable the problem of pauperism to be attacked at the roots. without a written order to that effect from one of the Overseers. for this would threaten the situation of the labourers outside the workhouse (not to mention the private employers!): "The true purpose of parish labour is to form industrious habits in the young. No room must be allowed. unemployment is not a problem arising out of any flaw in the economy. although it is a singular fact that when the stock of stones on hand has been completely worked up before the arrival of others. there will be "parishes where profuse management prevails". If this regime is maintained. instead of giving money in relief. The true basis for accounting. and in less than twenty years nearly annihilate it. within the legislation. but out of a weakness in the moral fibre of the pauper. or improvidence (p. for the terms on which it is offered will be strict. that if. making this workhouse an uninviting place of wholesome restraint. "Destitution. Only if they are in extreme need will they seek aid. They all manage to find employment for themselves. almost to a man. and have no other benefit than a bare maintenance. is not monetary profit. the strict regime will have. often almost word for word. Within the workhouse. The Commissioners and their supporters were to spell out elsewhere just what they had in mind. Dr Kay told a public meeting. and to make them as uncomfortable as possible" (10). comptroller of accounts for the township of Salford. for very few indeed will remain at work more than a few days. that would almost immediately reduce pauperism one third. disallowing beer and tobacco. all persons were taken into workhouses. indolence. Then. Of course. but moral regulation.as it was sometimes in the 18th century to attempt to make a profit. 384) The purpose of workhouse labour must not be . and rendering the person who administers the relief the hardest taskmaster. "Uniformity" is a vital necessity.
very frankly. if regrettable. proper. an inevitable feature of life. About that. for that is. and necessary for the legislature to do something urgently. not of any deficiency in the economic machine. but of moral failure. for it is a product. it is indeed possible. But pauperism is another matter: that can be ended.The Commissioners have already explained. . that there is no question of attempting to relieve poverty.
as the Report has argued. the parishes cannot be expected.' 'The members of the vestry are so jealous of each other that they can do nothing. the absence through illness of the great Mr Whately soon showed itself at the vestry. appointed and empowered to superintend" the new laws. That agency must proceed gradually in developing and enforcing the needed new regulations." "We have no one who will take upon himself the responsibility. good or bad management would depend. A NEW ADMINISTRATION However good it may be. and made inquiries of persons connected with that and other adjacent parishes why they did not adopt the means of reducing their heavy rates. given the number of parishes in the country. all discretion is to be removed from the local authorities. Thus the conclusion is inevitable. (p." "We have no one to take the lead. In short.. But if the . There would. and how wide or long? Yet on details of this sort. True. or to determine whether the old women's underpetticoats should be flannel or baize. beneath the dignity of grave legislators. In any case. which (as they were well aware) had been found so efficient and salutary in Cookham. to manage the reform by themselves. There is needed "an especial agency. A national law. a new kind of agency is required: a full-time Central Board of Control. wellintentioned legislation has been introduced. even though they recognise the need: The Commissioner who examined Cookham (one of the model parishes. The key is to remove from the local officials all possibility of discretion: then it will become apparent to the local labourers that there is no point any more in attempting to frighten the poor law officers into submission (1). 417) If. and a national administration. need to be "a perpetual succession of upwards of fifteen thousand men of firmness and ability agreeing upon a system and conducting it voluntarily". For Parliament cannot be expected to concern itself with all the details of the day-to-day running of the Poor Law: Who would think of applying to Parliament to determine whether four or five ounces of butter should be used as a ration in particular cases.may hope to intimidate a vestry. new legislation by Parliament will not suffice. is needed to strengthen and stiffen the local authorities: "The complaining pauper. In many local parishes. but he cannot dare to oppose a government" (p." "It never can be done unless we have among us a man of the talent and influence of Mr Whately. And for this purpose. So. the local controllers themselves need controlling. "and some of the members of the select vestry were convinced that the safety of the reformed system depended upon his restoration to health" (p. and applied area by area across the country." (p. Nor can reliance be placed on the local efforts of the parochial authorities. 400) Even in Cookham itself. 410). the local propertied classes cannot find means to act together. and whether the butter should be Irish or Dutch? or... a specific arm of the executive branch of government charged with the development and enforcement of the legislation. but only through the "accident" of an active local parson or overseer (p. They need to be considered carefully. as the Report has glowingly described. Previously. or required. the best of the local officials want to lose their discretionary power. major improvements have been introduced into some parishes. 399). if Irish. 401).. Private interests must be ruled out of the local parochial authorities. The answers were usually to this effect: "The farmers are so disunited and unwilling to stir. and all possibilities of intimidation of the local authorities prevented. This is no basis on which a reformed administration of the Poor Laws can be conducted. but has been defeated by "unforeseen obstacles". CB) visited Bray. then indeed central government will have to concern itself with such questions. whether Cork or Limerick.8.
would form a depository of comprehensive information to guide the local officers" in difficult cases. Nonetheless. Yet it was exactly this state of affairs that the Poor Law Commissioners were now proposing to end (2). families -husbands and wives.at least in the area of Poor Law administration . Bigger units . previously limited to Parliament alone. it must be armed with a full complement of effective powers. (Thus. making them work. and use its powers to spread these. In this way.) Specialised institutions should be created for particular kinds of paupers: lunatics. the free labour market manned by independent labourers. who can pool their resources to ensure a cheaper and more efficient regime. was precisely the lack of a strong central government.that one of its crucial preconditions. the local authorities should drawn on additional assistance from middle-class volunteers who can do charitable work among the paupers. was a constitutional revolution from above. Just such an executive agency was needed. The new Central Board will need to encourage the formation of "Unions" of parishes. immoral and crime-breeding mixing up of paupers that currently prevailed in too many poor-houses. What was being proposed. Only. and through this activity should itself become increasingly well-informed. At the very least. whose activities included labelling the paupers with special clothes.control of such details must be handled centrally. the Commissioners suggest that suitable superintendents for such places could be sought among the widows of Non-Commissioned Officers or of poor clergymen. they proposed. It should learn about good practices developed in one part of the country..a matter that was to provide a focus for the mass resentment against the new system when it was introduced. in order to make the free economy work. turning their children into good servants. For a century and a half. and other worthy activities of re-moralisation. the new executive body should be given the power of legislation. then the case for a new branch of the executive to take charge of these matters is clear. Local government must be reorganised for its new tasks. the absence of executive bureaucracy. and to amend these regulations as seemed necessary in the light of further experience. and Parliament is unsuited to such work. could be quite small and cheap. The new agency. Where possible and appropriate. so that they would be "known and liable to special observation" in the neighbourhood. in effect. government would become . not in opposition to the "laissez-faire" principles of liberal political economy. with the proper classification of paupers into their different types. It is vital that the workhouses are well-managed. they argued. able-bodied females and able-bodied males should be kept distinct. and educative: "The central agency. Thus its function should be both regulatory. parents and children . fallen women and the like. the blind. and separated from each other. to overcome the indiscriminate. It should oversee all the regulations applied up and down the country. but in support of them. the Commissioners were making their proposal. and their separation from each other: such measures being necessary. although the Report does not draw out this implication. children.are to be kept apart from each other in the workhouse . a sign of the liberties of their countrymen and a source of the nation's economic strength. All these benefits are unobtainable within the existing parishes. it had been widely taken for granted that one of the brightest jewels in the British constitution. by ensuring .forcibly . Thus.. the four classes of aged and impotent.government based on expert knowledge. The Report provides an account of a (Benthamite) ladies' committee. as the Commissioners must have been very aware. Where special workhouses for women are established. The Central Board should set maxima for spending in workhouses. It should be free to issue regulations to cover almost every imaginable detail of the administration of pauper relief. gaining from economies of scale. was provided. and help them to abandon their disabilities.
The Board should also carry out further investigations into the present rules governing apprenticeship.pay back the relief they receive in the winter out of the their summer earnings. studies the processes and organisational means through which the nascent working-class movement shaped and formed itself. and propose any further amendments to the legislation that seem necessary. full-time officers on salary introduced. Such labourers have become habituated to "alternations of dissipation and of privation". in a deliberate and forceful . corrupted or intimidated by the paupers (4).sit will there be any need either for a full theoretical grasp or for the exercise of more than mere automatic power.. Their whole lifestyles make them unsuited to the proper operation of the labour market.regulations should be introduced to insist on the use of the public-contract tender system for such matters as supplying the workhouse. who work for wages in the summer. for fear that the Central Board will become an agency with patronage at its disposal . P.that "strongest and most successful opposition to improvement" . but the Board should lay down the qualifications to be sought by local authorities in making appointments.here the influence of Bentham's Panopticism is very evident . under the title The Making of the English Working Class). The amateurism of local administration must be ended.half-labourers. Most of those operating this machinery will need to do no more than follow a set of national instructions. where the theorists and designers . It should havethe power to appoint and remove its own Assistants and theirsubordinates. what the Report on the Poor Laws of 1834 reveals is how other forces were being brought to play.should frame appropriate regulations. This can be achieved by attaching their wages by agreement with their employers. and a proper set of appointed. Thompson's great work on the early 19th century. The Commissioners recommend that such men as retired sergeants from Guards regiments (3) should make good overseers of the poor. and will permit the employment of more permanent officials. But whoever is appointed. by the method of consistent application of state power in a determined policy-direction. The solution proposed is to make such workers . One problem will require special treatment: the regulation of casual labourers. that person should not be someone with local connections. and a proper system of inspecting and checking the accounts of the local authorities must be introduced by Board regulation. E. The whole process of reform outlined in the Commissioners' arguments involves the reshaping and disciplining ("remoralising") of the working class's habits and attitudes.a feature of the 18th century state that was much resented by the Philosophic Radicals. and . One advantage will be that such people's spending at the "ginshop" will thereby be reduced. In order to end the dominanceover local Poor Law authorities of "private interest" . more cheaply and with a properly organised division of labour. It should report annually to Parliament.will mean a reduction in the expense of litigation between parishes. A uniform accounting system. and it should draw up and enforce new rules for the treatment of vagrants and discharged prisoners.which will achieve its good ends by largely automatic means. half-paupers . Only at the centre. but then fall back on the Poor Law in the winter. The Central Board should be empowered to initiate prosecutions against persons or authorities who failed to regulate the poor law administration according to the new rules. The whole is to consist of a "machinery" . This last proposal in a sense epitomises the whole concerns and purposes of the Report. with appopriate inspections and sanctions built in to keep everything running smoothly and as planned. who can be influenced. Only at the centre will discretion and variation of the rules be permitted.those with full comprehension ...after obtaining further knowledge on this subject . It should not be the responsibility of the Central Board to appoint such officials.
The bastard should be "what providence appears to have ordained it should be. The New Poor Law. so that the advantages of the "natural" economy may be realised. and especially of its individual members. however loosely defined. Adam Smith had urged the development of state provision of education for the working classes. take upon itself the responsibility of being an active. 483). domestic state policy was centred on "classify and control". aimed at creating a working class suited to the political economy of capitalism. but for the Commissioners in 1834 it is "moral and religious" steering of the labouring classes that is the problem. 496). however. a burthen on its mother" (p. and leave it to "nature" to assert itself. and the mother made responsible alone.. rather. . and powerful. "the most important duty of the legislature is to take steps to promote the religious and moral education of the labouring classes" (p. as way of removing "obstacles" to instruction. but to prevent" (p. it is a definite intervention in the contested process of shaping the culture. and will reduce the numbers of illegitimate children. they conclude. Once a "good administration of the the Poor Laws" has been settled by Parliament.fashion. the programme proposed by the Report will "afford a freer scope to the operation of every instrument which may be employed. defined the social policy of the state. If carried into effect.. the motive is no longer Adam Smith's: he sought to counteract the deadening influence of the division of labour on the labourer (and assumed that various public benefits would flow from such enlarging of the labourer's imagination and intellect). writes Harrison. The issue was more than the replacement of a lenient by a strict administration of the laws governing relief: it was the announcement that henceforth the labouring poor must abandon many of their traditional attitudes and expectations and conform to new standards of social and economic rectitude. 482). though the key thing is to make them redundant through the "less eligibility" principle: if this is systematically enforced. Moral Guardian. Not that what the Commissioners have proposed is unimportant. "the able-bodied will cease to avail themselves of any settlement whatever" (p. 497). Only.armed with the principles of "political science". which is to include public education as a vital element. in line with Benthamite principles. Now. whether by the (negative) means of the strict application of the principle of "less eligibility" or by the (positive) means of state education. On the other hand. Theirs is a plan for the reconstruction of society. what diffuses "right principles and habits" is not "economic arrangements and regulations" so much as an even more vital factor:"the influence of a moral and religious education" (p. in a new way. If later colonial policy was to be based on the principle of "divide and rule". . The central purpose of their whole approach is Moral Regulation of the working classes. The Bastardy Laws should simply be scrapped. 476). The Settlement Laws should certainly be reformed. for elevating the intellectual and moral condition of the poorer classes". as it affected the majority of the population. (5) The final pages of the Report propose other means by which the same fundamental aim may be achieved. The 1834 Report is a battle-plan for one side. the attitudes and values. to participate in that process of the "making" of a working class. The Report concludes by remarking that. in the end. It is no longer sufficient for the State to stand back. But still more is really needed. the possibilities that were to be open to the labouring classes of 19thcentury Britain. it must . This will tend to promote the "natural state of things". the parents of bastards should not be punished: "the object of the law is not to punish. the Commissioners are developing a programme. but nothing had been done as yet.
etc? Have not the "overseers of the poor" . it perhaps needs emphasising that this Report. education. and a host of what the Commissioners of 1834 condemned as "outdoor relief" . But given the sentimental halo that has developed round the visage of the British welfare state. is indeed a significant document of modern welfare policy. There is a widespread tendency among some modern historians of the welfare state to suggest that. squalor. Was not the "Poor Law" legally buried by the postwar Labour Government? In place of the dreaded poorhouse of the 19th century. we risk missing essential elements in the constitution of the modern "welfare state". medicine. grants to expectant mothers. its demands for "strictness" and "deterrence". government training centres and youth training schemes for the unemployed. etc. all seem out of key with the working assumptions of the much more kindly and sympathetically concerned world of modern welfare. not of a failure in the economy. its "Victorian" moralism.long been replaced by trained. State and semistate agencies concerned with welfare have proliferated enormously. so far as possible to preserve individual initiative (1). Hence the significance of the "less eligibility" . there has been no change in official policy and activity directed at the problems of poverty and unemployment.poverty. do we not have old people's homes. to curtail and ultimately to abolish the "Five Giants" with which the Report is chiefly concerned . with its famous "Three Principles": first. was later to be deeply involved: public health. one of the 1834 Report's moving spirits. housing. There has indeed been a vast elaboration of the apparatuses of government concerned with these matters. Space permits only a very crude review of a few aspects of the continuities. Its harshness. Even so.unemployment benefit. it is important to recognise the continuities as well as the discontinuities between 1834 and 1944 (when the main outlines of postwar welfare policy were worked out in the wartime coalition Cabinet) or today. Family Income Supplement. with all its unabashed talk of directing "repression" against paupers. its open avowal of the need to relieve "indigence" but not "poverty". the Report recommended. The contours of policy have likewise been altered enormously. its direct belief in the exploitation of labour. of employment and the management of labour. thirdly.as the 1834 Report would have assumed . belong to the "prehistory" of modern welfare policy. second. be merely stupid to suggest that.9. Even the reference to "idleness" in the second of the Beveridge aims is not . concerned and compassionate social workers? Surely. really. This might. in the century and a half since 1834. Otherwise. ignorance. the Report of 1834.an aim the Commissioners of 1834 would have regarded both as highly reprehensible government interference and also as unnecessary (since unemployment for them was a sign. seem obvious. but to the need for government action to prevent mass unemployment .to be recruited. at one level. CONCLUDING REMARKS The 1834 Poor Law Report is one of the founding documents of the "welfare state" in Britain.. and idleness. family allowances. One concern of the 1834 Report was that the labouring class's "motivation to work" should not be subverted by public welfare.to the supposed moral failing of paupers. supplementary benefit. disease. a better place to look for a founding document of the modern welfare state is in the pages of the wartime Beveridge Report. of course. and the Poor Law Amendment Act that followed it. as well as with other issues in which Edwin Chadwick. from retired regimental sergeants! . but of laziness among the poor). It would. its straightforward support for the principles of the capitalist economy. that the wishes of any one section of the community are not given undue weight as against those of other sections (what one is tempted to call "the acknowledgement to Equality").
have changed today. certain ways of thinking about and experiencing the social world are promoted. especially the polar distinction between the "independent labourer" and the "pauper". but the "labouring class" has expanded massively and its "state" is still at root the same. It is not simply that "the state" alone determines what language. There is no real sense in which the fundamental presupposition of the recommendations of the 1834 Report . and it has extensive resources at its disposal for which people have needs.. to be applied to the pauperised labourer. Goffman and others how mental hospitals and prisons look for submission to their classifications as a demonstration of "recovery" (4). classifying. the same point: Resources we need involve us in relations we don't. there are all manner of goods that we seek from the state. The education system is organised around processes of labelling. all those complex sets of processes that we here call "classification" are not uni-directional. State classificatory activity has a particular significance. Numbers of recent studies repeat. And with them go active efforts by state and other agencies to police such persons. The material level of that "mere subsistence" has certainly risen. yet getting these things somehow puts us in an undesirable position (3). so too have the state's forms of classification : in education. it was about the only "benefit" that the state supplied to the great mass of the population in any organised way. are of immense significance in the shaping of its subjects' lives. through approved channels and according to crucial processes of classification and definition. As the state's sphere of activity has enlarged.has been abandoned by those responsible for the shaping of state welfare policy in Britain in the succeeding 150 years. is forced to have recourse to labour". for a whole period to impose on the definition of the working class. just because the state is such a powerful agency. the "early leaver" and the associated problems of discipline that these involve. Cockburn describes how Lambeth Council responds to and constructs the needs of "families". But. or services . Today. in order to obtain mere subsistence.things we cannot do without. The complexity of the mechanisms has increased. or in modern accounts of "problem families". The sociological literature on "deviance" and "mental health" is replete with examples of the processes of classification and "labelling" and their social consequences. but the Report's definition of "poverty" now applies to a still larger proportion of the population than it did when Edwin Chadwick formulated it: "the state of one who.the need to provide adequate support for the functioning of the capitalist economy . Land and others how our family and gender roles are recreated and reinforced through state agencies. therefore. public housing agencies distinguish between "respectable" and "rough" tenants. what distinctions and what definitions shall be operative in that part of social life that its officials .remarkably successfully. and "wages stops" and similar administrative limits are still applied to benefit provision (2). Its classifications and labels. and others declared "deviant". and the character of "labour" has changed considerably. which it can deploy extensively to sanction behaviours and stances that it disapproves. in different ways. or would rather have from the state than from any ready alternative source. we can still see the same processes of administrative description at work. benefits. The classifications that the Report sought . to be sure. marking. "welfare scroungers" and the like. we are familiar with the "truant". This principle still informs modern policy: unemployment pay and supplementary benefit levels are still deliberately held well below the normal wage standard.. in later 19th century distinctions between the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor. but they come only in certain forms. the child with a "low IQ". It has at its disposal means of coercive force. examining. In the process of state classification and administrative provision. a vital necessity of life. from the standpoint of those who sought it.principle. "Poor relief" was.. The state's institutions offer certain needed goods. Wilson. Of course. in the 1830s.
Along with the development of this new cadre of specialised administrators. too. What the 1834 Poor Law Report should remind us is that the process of influence between society and the state is a two-way street. its individual members. in the sociology of politics and the state. its deployment of power and other resources. and to make continuous recommendations for improvement in the regimes they manage. And this was as true of the "laissez-faire" state as of the modern "interventionist" state: "laissez-faire" was a policy. "unemployment" (5): that official recognition was shaped in part by the struggles of the unemployed themselves. it is deeply implicated in "making" society. to carry out research into the functioning of the institutions under their control. Just as every subject of the state has a vital interest in seeking to shape and influence the pattern of state activity as it affects their lives. of full-time and salaried personnel. What this suggests is that the apparent antithesis between "laissez-faire" and "planning" policies . its classes. arising out of "civil society" and shaped in its evolution by the development of the social structure. . its classes. to the shaping of social relations in every sphere of life. What perhaps distinguishes the proponents of "laissezfaire" is a belief in the "naturalness" of market relations. unreservedly. its communities. to attempt to understand the development of the state as a "secondary" or "superstructural" element. Both involve the imposition onto society of complex statedependent visions and programmes. in part because of its very power. to oversee the work of these men and women. its values. But the "natural".) In another sense. there has been a vast expansion in the official agencies determining and allocating a huge variety of state benefits: it is remarkable how closely the evolution of the modern administrative state has followed the recommendations of the Commissioners of 1834. Through its policies. its purposes. They must re-shape the people from their current unreliability. it was not until the last years of the 19th century that any British government agency officially recognised the existence of the category.and agencies reach: these matters are themselves subjects of social controversy. in practice. The "symbolic order" is itself a subject of "negotiation". only one way of understanding society. to act as permanent controllers of the lives of those who depend on the state to meet needs they have. and an active policy. For the state is more than simply a passive effect of social actions: it contributes. The same issues arise for those who who would press forward the "freeing of society from artificial restraints" as for those who wish to engage in directive "development" planning. insist that theirs is the only possible path to progress ("There is no alternative"). through its classificatory activities and the like. Fortunately. for the establishment of a "professional" service. (For example. A final point. of struggles. the Report of 1834 foreshadows later developments. It calls. its units. which absolutely required the reshaping through struggle of everyday life. to inspect their work. they never win for ever. its language and its systems of understanding. In the century and a half since the Report.is somewhat unreal.an antithesis around which much of the rhetoric of contemporary political argument is organised . compromises. There is a tendency. so too they have an interest in shaping its impact on the lives of others. has to be moulded and produced. it advocates the establishment of a central buraucracy.
London: Guild Books. 1952. Finer. p. For example. 372 9. and those of the numerous local witnesses whose evidence they cite. pp. The Wealth of Nations. Cambridge University Press. p. Powers and Liberties: The Causes and Consequences of the Rise of the West. The Sources of Social Power. Dorothy Smith. Charles Wilson. England's Apprenticeship. 44. Hugh Heclo. 1969 7. 245 8. p. Note that my order of presentation is not the same as that of the Report. New Haven: Yale University Press. Polity. D. p. cited in Bryan S. 1974. P. p 138 6. op cit. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Labor and Monopoly Capital. Karl Polanyi. 11. a sorting procedure that is widely relied on by contemporary empirical sociology. Modern Social Politics in Britain and Sweden: From Relief to Income Maintenance. For some interesting remarks on some of the problems involved. Poynter.NOTES Section 1: The Royal Commission Report as Social Science 1. The Village Labourer. New York: Rinehart. One modern example of this is the classification of the population by the office of the Registrar General into "five social classes". no distinction is made here between the direct remarks of the Report's authors. 17 Section 2: Diagnosis of the Disease 1. 39 2. 1965 3. 1760. 267. Pamela Horn. p. 222 7. London: Methuen. 1974. J. The Great Transformation: Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. These general methodological remarks cannot substitute for a concrete historical account of the development of "infrastructural" and "disciplinary" power. S. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. p. 1986 4. Making History. p. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. for. Foucault. A History of Power from the Beginning to A. 33 10. 1983. Knowing the Poor: A Case-Study in Textual Reality Construction. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1984. Vol I. vol 25. J. 60-61 9. European Journal of Sociology. Reflections on the Revolution in France. "The moral economy of the English crowd". 176 4. London: Hutchinson. see Alex Callinicos. E. NY: Pantheon. 1603-1763. & Barbara Hammond. L. Adam Smith. Harmondsworth: Pelican. 1986 3. December 1971 . Also. Foucault. The Life and Times of Sir Edwin Chadwick. Harry Braverman. Michel Foucault. Ibid. Edmund Burke. Green. John A Hall. Michael Mann. 1974. 1980 5. 50. Thompson. 240. The Rural World 1780-1850: Social Change in the English Countryside. "The social construction of documentary reality. pp. which would have to take account of the development of these mechanisms in such diverse settings as the (feudal) absolutist state armies as well as in capitalist factories." Sociological Inquiry. New York: Monthly Review Press. op cit. Society and Pauperism. 1987 8. 1974 10. 1944. 1982. 100 6. with a small number of specific exceptions (notably in the section on "Magistrates"). Vol I. London: Longmans. 2. Past and Present. Penguin. with little or no critical attention to its underlying logic. 1978 5. Something of the character of that tradition is discussed in E. p. "The autonomous power of the state". the authors treat the evidence they quote as entirely supportive of their own argument.4. 1948. R.
Op cit. 1973 15. A. 78-79 5. 1978. 1984) 19. there was also the element of fear. Derek Fraser. "Poaching and the Game Laws on Cannock Chase". 357 4. The Evolution of the British Welfare State. Popular Disturbances in England 1700-1870. but unfortunately does not have much to say about marriage and family patterns. in Douglas Hay et al. Yet in a country that was under great tension. op cit. London: Orbach and Chambers. Finer. "Introduction". The Early Victorians 1832-1851. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Section 3: A System of Mal-Administration 1. op cit. 30-31 3. F. The Idea of Poverty: England in the Early Industrial Age. & E. Past and Present. 167. The Making of the New Poor Law: The Politics of Inquiry. 8 20. p. . This prevalent opinion was one of the elements of "mercantilist" theory. 50.Thompson. 105. Albion's Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth Century England. See. 1971. London: Longman.C. p. op cit. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Whigs and Hunters: The Origin of the Black Act. p. Douglas Hay. Vol. p. not by multiplying them that the capacity of population is increased. Pamela Horn. 93 13. pp. Harrison.11. Blaming the Victim. 1973. 50 2.11.P. Hugh Heclo. J.in C A Valentine.F. E. op cit. pp." (Cited by Gertrude Himmelfarb. London: Hutchinson. cited S. pp. Checkland. The Hammonds remark that the system was not introduced "for the mere pleasure of its creations. Cited by Anthony Brundage. 1974. 1975. 1971 12..Thompson. John Stevenson. 119." S. In 1795 there was a fear of revolution. Captain Swing. and the upper classes threw the Speenhamland system over the villages as a wet blanket over sparks" (op cit. it was prudential to immobilise the poor and to provide them with a minimal standard of living. The best history of these is Eric Hobsbawm and George Rude. p. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson." J. p. Remarks on the Opposition to the Poor Law Amendment Act 1841. 1968. The editors of the Pelican edition of the Report echo this judgement: "It was the duty of princes both to cherish their people and to impose order among them. 13 6. II. E. 55 16. London: Penguin. London: Macmillan. C. for example. 1971. with no standing army. 1979 14. provides a very useful social history of the period. E. 1975.Harrison. op cit. p. Derek Fraser. But Adam Smith also shared the opinion. 158. "The Moral Economy of the Eighteenth Century Crowd".. seen for example in Bernard Mandeville's The Fable of the Bees.a style still being offered as late as the 1970s by no less than Sir Keith Joseph . Pauper Management Improved (1798): "It is by diminishing wants. p. op cit. Enactment and Implementation. The Poor Law Report of 1834. 241 18. Jeremy Bentham. Harmondsworth: Penguin. London: Faber & Faber. 111. University of Chicago Press. and William Ryan. Hobsbawm and Rude.. 38 17. But. G. p. There is a growing modern literature on this.. O.. Harrison makes the useful comment that "Historians have exercised considerable ingenuity is showing why Britain was unique in avoiding a violent revolution in the nineteenth century. 33. There are useful modern critiques of the style of theorising about the causes of poverty and "pauperism" found in the 1834 Report . Nassau Senior. Culture and Poverty: Critique and Counter-proposals.to the early Victorians it seemed a matter of touch and go.P. Adam Smith.
op. Social Class and the Division of Labour. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. pp. passim 4. Journal of Economic History. op cit. op cit. There are interesting observations on such classes and their ethos in eg Tony Cliff.. op cit. for the rents paid on their behalf were easy to collect and were generally higher than could be obtained otherwise.For the authors of the Report. 500-1 8. "The new middle class". 5 3. Speculators were known to lease cottages from landowners. op cit. Green. were "a very desirable class of tenants. 3. There are some suggestive discussions of the political outlooks of early nineteenth century social classes in Britain in two books by R. 162 Section 4: The Prognosis 1. at least as a means of solving the problem of destitution among handloom . however. The Origins of Modern English Society 1780-1880. Mark Blaug. 1969. Malthus was taken to be the authority on matters of population. London: Faber & Faber. "Deflected permanent revolution".S. June 1963 and "The Poor Law Re-examined". 20. Journal of Economic History. Elie Halevy. op cit. S. "The Mythology of the Old Poor Law". Pamela Horn. Journal of Economic History. Bryan S. Anthony Brundage. also valuable is the discussion in Harold Perkin. 1983 Section 6: What Is Not To Be Done 1. 1978 10. 7. Finer. International Socialism. 111 5.. International Socialism.Neale: Class and Ideology in the Nineteenth Century. 1934 6. J H Goldthorpe. 1982. Finer. op cit. pp.1. Paupers. op cit. June 1964. The most complete account of this debate is to be found in J. especially chapters VII and VIII 13. op cit. Vol. 87 Section 5: Why Does the System Continue? 1. A modern historian of the period reports that two fifths of the pauper expenditure in Llanidloes took the form of payment of pauper rents." John Frost: A Study in Chartism. "The Myth of the Old Poor Law and the Making of the New". 12. Anthony Brundage. E. Cambridge. 2. 83 2. 1972 and Class in English History 1680-1850. especially Part I. p. eds. pp. 17 12. The Growth of Philosophic Radicalism. R. ibid. says David Williams. 24-25 9. 1981. On occasion. cit. cited above. Cited by Elie Halevy. Smith does suggest that men might not recognise their interests: see his remarks on the inability of the English common people to perceive the true source of their liberties and his view of the landed classes' sluggish intelligence. Cited by S. 7. p. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. pp. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. in order to let them to paupers at a profit. p. Alex Callinicos. Cambridge University Press. See the excellent study by Donald Winch: Adam Smith's Politics: An Essay In Historiographic Revision. Poynter. Oxford University Press. 1963 . 1969 2. 1939. echoing the Report. At least one modern historian suggests that such a scheme had more merit than was often allowed for it. p. 12ff 11. op cit. see also Gertrude Himmelfarb. however. His approach and conclusions were themselves challenged by James Taylor. new series. p. E. "The service class" in J H Goldthorpe and Gavin Mackenzie.
66) that what the rural rioters wanted was "wages and good employment".. 1979 4. and who argued that the trade unions were politically discriminated against! Sometimes one wonders if his "followers" have ever read him. its counsellors are always the masters. There is some correction of the standard view in Gertrude Himmelfarb. 122 2. 3. Furniss. Capitalism and the Rule of Law. with Smith as the great innovator who broke up the old mercantilist school and opened the way for liberalism. Radical Philosophy. . Cited in Gertrude Himmelfarb. also be taken of the remark by Hobsbawm and Rude (op cit.. E. Patrick Colquhoun. Finer.. p. op cit.weavers in this period: Paul Richards. op cit. no property but what is derived from the constant exercise of industry in the various occupations of life. and in Noel Parker. who did not criticise the "luxuries" of the poor.and connected with it the issue of poverty and pauperism . political economy and social discipline" in Bob Fine. 1920. Treatise on the Wealth and Resources of the British Empire. see also J. however.. discussing Harriet Martineau. A Tour Through the East of England. 96ff 4. 30. consequently. 1832-48" in Philip Corrigan. in The Village Labourer. Finer. it is always just and equitable. As far as the labour question . Op cit. op cit. op cit. et al. 1771.. or in other words it is the state of everyone who must labour for subsistence. p. Cited in John Annette. The Position of the Labourer in a System of Nationalism. Note should. London: Quartet Books. suggests that the Malthusian 'abolitionists' were apparently won over quite easily by the Report's arguments. as did Smith himself: Wherever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen. Gertrude Himmelfarb (op cit. 1814. who preached the virtues of high wages and improved working conditions. When the regulation. The one great exception to this dismal parade was Adam Smith. who never attacked the principle of public relief of poverty. p.49-78. 43-4. spring 1982 3. A Treatise on Indigence (1806): Poverty is that state and condition in society where the individual has no surplus labour in store. London: Hutchinson."State formation and class struggle. 1714. ed. is in favour of the workmen.there is far more continuity than many histories recognise between the predominant ideas of the mercantilists and those of the classical political economists. op cit. "What's So Right About Adam Smith?". 170 5. Respectively in The Fable of the Bees. but it is sometimes otherwise when it is in favour of the masters. and. Section 7: Principles of Administration and Legislation 1. State Formation and Marxist Theory: Historical Investigations... 170-1). There is an excellent discussion of the older writers in Edgar S. eds. who supported taxes on the rich. The "odd man out" in the whole development is Adam Smith. Capitalism. 1785. Bryan S Green. We shall wait some time to hear the "Adam Smith Institute" argue. 1980. R. Dissertation on the Poor Laws. S. pp. pp. also make much of allotments as an alternative. pp. therefore. Poynter. Part I. "Bentham's fear of hobgoblins: law. There is a grossly misleading orthodox 'history' of economic thought according to which first there was 'mercantilist' thought (characterised among other things by its demand for wages to be kept at rock-bottom) and then came classical liberal political economy (with a new and enlightened view of labour and its rights and rewards). pp. As does S. The Hammonds. E.
op cit 6. 160-166 9." (pp. it was decided that its constables should be deliberately recruited from outside London and housed separately from the population they were to police. As for their economic orientation: "They made no appeal whatever to the grey. In 1826. deployed the language of continental absolutism and of Asiatic despotism to describe the new institutions: the workhouses were referred to as "Bastilles".. pp. it is the state of anyone who is destitute of the means of subsistence. not to fundamental rights. lower third of the working class. London: Michael Joseph. 3. F. Gertrude Himmelfarb. The Commissioners' own arguments sound rather unconvincing at this point: they suggest that "upwards of 29. it was immediately suspected by the paupers that I was opposed to their interest. L. The Chartist Movement in its Social and Economic Aspects (1916). 78) For a similar view from Bentham's unpublished Essay on the Poor Laws (1796) see John Annette. 1966. 409-10) 2. op cit." It was they who killed Canon Blackley's scheme for old-age pensions in 1887. Given the size of the agricultural labour force in the early 1830s. CB) 7. In 1829. (cited Gertrude Himmelfarb. after 1834. but to indefinitely progressive forms of training." Bentley Gilbert. & Barbara Hammond. irrespective of the benefits offered". p.the Metropolitian Police Force . and had long maintained regular parliamentary agents. at present it would be consummated in a riot or a fire. Finer. Friendly Society membership was the badge of the skilled worker. for "they feared any competition for the limited savings of their working-class clientele. 1967. but to the meticulously subordinated cogs of a machine. 169 4."When in the parish of Mayfield it was rumoured that I intended interfering to reduce the rates. were conservative politically.was established.. E. and not poverty. reports. 83 Section 9: Concluding Remarks . 114 10. They strongly supported the capitalistic system.. and the Poor Law Board as "the three Bashaws of Somerset House"." Michel Foucault. S. not to the general will but to automatic docility. faceless. and hardly one on which to found a secure argument that labourers are earning more than sufficient for subsistence! 8.. op cit. Harrison. but to permanent coercions. p. p. op cit. is the evil. this seems to be a very low figure. Rosenblatt. there was no antagonism between the friendly societies and the employers. 163 (my emphasis. p. 1947. not to the primal social contract. 47 11. its fundamental reference was not to the state of nature. but there was also a military dream of society. a threat of that kind was readily disregarded. A historian of welfare policy writes of the Friendly Societies at the turn of the 20th century: ".. F. and on rather the same grounds as the New Poor Law.in contrast with the unions. "Historians of ideas usually attribute the dream of a perfect society to the philosophers and jurists of the eighteenth century. 5. and that these are mostly heads of families. London: Frank Cass. J. J. It is that condition in society which implies want. It's notable that the opposition to the New Poor Law. misery and distress. 75 Section 8: A New Administration 1. p.000" agricultural labourers have deposits in savings banks. when another of the new 19th century state agencies . p.Indigence therefore. The Evolution of National Insurance in Great Britain. Frank. The Bleak Age. On the door of the first vestry I attended I found affixed a notice that they intended washing their hands in my blood. Mr Day. p. C. Harmondsworth: Pelican Books. op cit. A magistrate. Op cit.
"Women. 5. From Peter Archer.. Harmondsworth: Pelican. These are modifications and developments in our industrial system which cannot be ignored. C. London: Tavistock.. Green. as a structurally induced element.. was sufficient to cope with able-bodied pauperism in agricultural districts. Journal of Social and Economic Administration. Geoffrey Kay and James Watt. 1977. 26 4. Elizabeth Wilson. work and social security". 1961 5. Forces have come into operation affecting unemployment. Social Welfare and the Citizen. Erving Goffman. "Social Security and Labour Discipline" 3. even then. p. op. Political Order and the Law of Labour. when either out of employment or in distress. p. it was not uncommon for theorists to suggest that "unemployment". London-Edinburgh Weekend Return Group." 1909 Majority Report on the Poor Laws. Kincaid. the material influences regulating employment and industry have changed both in their character and scope.. There is a good discussion of some of these matters in J. Asylums. Hilary Land.133 . was a new phenomenon. Poverty and Equality in Britain: A Study of Social Security and Taxation.. especially chapter 12. 1973. and their products and wreckage. Cynthia Cockburn."Whilst the moral causes contributing to pauperism and unemployment remain much the same as before. In and Against the State. 1979.which are quite beyond local control. 8 2. p. ed.1. New York: Anchor. thus permitting the continued existence of the old explanations . The Local State: Management of Cities and People. cited Brian S.. require a treatment more elastic and varied than the simple method which. 1957. London: Arnold. 1971.. 1982.3. eighty years ago. 1977. London: Conference of Socialist Economists.cit. London: Pluto. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Women and the Welfare State.
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