The Slippery Slope/Some Early History of Poor Relief in England

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Most modern treatises upon the poor law confine themselves to the period about and subsequent to the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, and comparatively little attention has been paid of late to the earlier history of the subject. The later period is, undoubtedly, the most striking phase of our poor law history, and no one would wish to minimise its importance. Yet the Elizabethan poor law had been in operation for some 230 years previous to that time, and the record of those years is quite as instructive to students as that of the years which succeed them. It is true that few early figures or statistics have been preserved, but there is abundant contemporary evidence to show that the main problem was the same in the earlier stages as in the later.

In England it dates from the decay of feudalism and the emancipation of the serf, when, as Professor Henderson of Chicago says, "the liberated labourer became free to be a pauper" ("Modern Methods of Charity," p. x.). In the Middle Ages undoubtedly pauperism was largely fostered by the abbeys, "dispensing," says Fuller, "mistaken charity, promiscuously entertaining some who did not need it and many who did not desire it: yea! these abbeys did but support the poor whom they themselves had made." At the dissolution of the abbeys these poor people were thrown again upon the world, and not only they but a large number of monks and lay brothers and servitors employed in and about the abbeys. Soon after came the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601, under which for the first time a compulsory assessment was made for the relief of the poor and which is the basis of our present Poor Law. It is with the period succeeding 1601 and up to the reform of the Poor Law in 1834 that this chapter will deal. It is impossible to give more than a very imperfect sketch of it within the compass of an article.

The compulsory assessment or "fund set aside for the relief of the poor" in 1601 was to be applied to two main purposes, viz., "the relief of the impotent and the setting of the able-bodied to work." Doubtless the authors of the measure believed that they had solved the problem, and it may be conceded that the Act does appear to cover the whole ground. Looking back on it now by the light of 300 years' experience, we may say that its first object has been largely realised but that its second is as far off as ever. The suggestion of the time was that the able-bodied poor should be set to work by means of "parish stocks," or as they would now be called, "municipal workshops." Stores of hemp, flax, and wool, and other materials were to be collected in every parish to be spun and woven and worked up by the poor, and for the next 200 years that was the method adopted in many places.

The Act of Elizabeth had not been long in operation when the difficulties began to show themselves, and from that time forwards hardly a year passed without the issue of some pamphlet or scheme for better methods of helping the poor. The writers are all agreed upon the facts as to the "growing misery and numbers of the poor," the growth of the poor rates, the need of better means for setting the poor to work, the "nuisance of beggars," and so forth. Sir Frederick Eden, in his "State of the Poor," gives a list of some 300 publications of the sort, and their chief interest lies, first, in their numbers; secondly, in their unanimity as to the facts and the failure of existing methods; thirdly, in the evidence they afford of the solicitude for better social conditions even in these early days. A strong vein of humanity runs through them all, and many of the best men of the day, whose names are even now household words, applied their minds to the subject. To us at the present time it is especially curious to notice that almost all the arguments used nowadays on the one side or the other, were used again and again in these pamphlets, that most of the remedies proposed nowadays were proposed in substance one and even two hundred years ago. The causes alleged for the increase of pauperism were almost identical with those which we hear nowadays from every platform, and which we read of in every publication upon the subject—on the one side the "engrossing of farms," or, in other words, the consolidation of landed property, the cruelty of the rich, the substitution of machinery for hand labour, and even foreign competition; on the other, drink, imprudence, idleness, and the relaxation of discipline. What strikes one chiefly about it all, and that with a feeling of despair, is the want of finality, the constant fluctuation of opinion, and the never-ending action and reaction.

It is clear that the second object of the Elizabethan Poor Law, namely, the "setting of the poor to work," was, probably owing to its inherent difficulty, allowed gradually to lapse early in the day over a great part of the country, and the easier method of relieving the poor by allowances of money without labour, adopted in its place. This, as will presently appear, was rather the fault of the system than of the administration, though it is constantly alleged as a ground of complaint by a succession of writers. The experience of 300 years has shown the impossibility of creating work for the unemployed outside of that which is required by the economic demands of the community. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, parish authorities were reduced to such expedients as making men stand in the parish pound for so many hours, or of making them dig holes and fill them up again, as a condition of relief. The Central Unemployed Body is at the present time confronted with similar difficulties. Generally speaking, the system became one of outdoor relief either entirely without labour or coupled with labour which was purely nominal and absolutely useless.

It is not proposed to do more than to glance at a few of the pamphlets in question, which have special interest either from the eminence of the writers, or intrinsically. It may be interesting to note that, even before the Elizabethan Poor Law, as early as 1552, there was complaint of the "intolerable hurts to the nation from tippling houses," and "tippling in alehouses" was made an offence by a statute of James I. A pamphlet published in 1614, entitled "England's Way to Win Wealth," contains a project for the establishment of herring fishing as a means of employing the poor, and concludes, "wherefore, seeing that we can excel all other nations wastefully to spend money, let us in one thing learn from other nations to get thousands out of His Majesty's seas."

In 1622 a pamphlet called "Grievous Grones of the Poore by a Well-wisher who wisheth that the Poor of England might be so provided for that none need go a-begging," complains that the statutes were not enforced. "Though the number of these poore do daily increase … many of these parishes turneth forth their poore, yea, and their lustie beggars that will not worke … to begge, filche, and steale for their maintenance, so that the country is pitifully pestered."

In 1646 there was published "Stanleyes Remedy, or How to Reform Wandering Beggars, etc.; wherein is showed that Sodomes Sin of Idleness is the Poverty and Misery of this Kingdom." This pamphlet is entitled "The Cantation and Conversion of Mr Stanley, formerly an Innes of Court gentleman; he afterwards by lewd company became a highway robber. Having his life pardoned, he loaths his wicked course of life, and writes to King James shewing a meanes and remedy by which the poore of this Kingdom may be greatly relieved by means of workhouses in all cities and parishes ; and how by this means wandering, beggary, idleness, and a certainly shameful end, will be prevented amongst manie."

In 1669 Sir Joseph Child published his "Discourse on Trade." He conceives that the "sad and wretched condition of the poor" is owing to a radical defect in the laws, and proposes to set up "Fathers of the poor after the manner of the Familiars of the Inquisition in Spain." A pamphlet of 1673 entitled "The Grand Concern of England Explained" estimates the poor rate at £840,000. This it says "is employed only to maintain idle persons. Doth great hurt rather than good. Makes a world of poor more than there would otherwise have been … men and women growing so proud and idle that they will not work but lie upon the parish where they dwell for maintenance." It proposed that instead of giving parish allowances both old and young should be set to work upon spinning, weaving, lacework, etc. It further ascribes the increase of the poor to the introduction of stagecoaches and consequent decrease of employment in connection with saddle-horses, an argument which foreshadows numerous arguments as to the effects of the introduction of machinery in later times.

In 1677 one Andrew Garranton proposes a heavy duty upon foreign commodities as a means of giving employment to the poor. The title of his work is "England's improvement by land and sea. How to outdo the Dutch without fighting, to pay debts without money, to set at work all the poor in England with the growth of our own lands." Andrew Garranton was the first of the Tariff Reformers.

Thomas Firmin, a philanthropic merchant of London, published in 1678 a letter to Archbishop Tillotson on "proposals for employing the poor." He had established a house of industry in Aldersgate in which he laid up "hemp and flax" for spinning and weaving, which he commends for imitation. He answers various hypothetical objections to his scheme, but there is one which he confesses himself unable to answer, viz., how to dispose of the manufactured goods. Sir F. Eden tells us that Firmin's workhouse had not a prolonged existence. Four years later Firmin confesses that it had "not been able to bear its own charges," and had been largely supported by charitable people. One feature of his scheme was that the work should be done in people's own homes. It would be "altogether unreasonable and unprofitable to bring people to a public workhouse," an early anticipation of the aversion to indoor relief. Firmin would "badge" all parish poor, "by virtue of which badge they are permitted to go into the parish at such an hour of the day and receive such broken bread and meat as their neighbours have to give … neither should these poor people go under such a dishonourable name as beggars but be called invited guests." A similar objection is now often raised against the use of the name "pauper."

About the same time Sir Matthew Hale published "A Discourse touching Provision for the Poor." Of the Act of Elizabeth he makes the pithy remark, "The plaster is not so large as the sore."

In 1685 Dr Davenant, in co-operation with Gregory King, the statistician of the day, published his political essays. He points out that "one limb of the body politic is drawing away the nourishment from the other," and that "the poor laws seem only to encourage vice and sloth in the nation." He proposes the formation of a corporation with a capital of £300,000 for employing the poor.

John Locke, the author of the "Essay upon the Human Understanding," was asked to draw up a report upon the subject for the Board of Trade in 1697. The "multiplying of the poor and the increase of the poor rate," he says, "has proceeded neither from scarcity of provisions nor from want of employment since God has blessed these times with plenty … it can be nothing else but the relaxation of discipline and the corruption of manners." The chief remedy proposed by him are "working schools" for the children of the poor, with maintenance for children between three and fourteen years of age. Of his proposals Eden says a hundred years later "that they will at least afford this consolation to the many patriotic, though unsuccessful, philanthropists who since his time have attempted the arduous work of repairing this portion of the legislative fabric, that even so great a man as Mr Locke attempted it to but little purpose."

Richard Dunning, a Devonshire gentleman, published at Exeter in 1696 a pamphlet "Bread for the Poor." He points out that in some Devonshire parishes the poor rate "had in a few years advanced from 40s. to £40 and was likely to double in a short time." The cause of this, he says, is (1) profuseness of diet, paupers drinking nothing but strong beer, and bread of the finest wheat flour; (2) idleness. "Persons receiving parish pay presently become idle alledging that the parish is bound to maintain them, and that in case they should work it would only favour the parish, from whom they say they shall have no thanks." His pamphlet is of special interest because it is one of the first which definitely advocates the adoption of the workhouse test—"Careless surly sorts," he says, "now (that is to say when offered admission) find themselves at a loss: they must either humour and comply with the tradesmen who have stocks and serve them, or work in the workhouses and submit to that government. Being reduced to that dilemma they will choose the first and rather comply with a master of their own choosing than of the Mayor's."

A Mr Cary of Bristol about two years later published an "Essay on Employing the Poor" very much upon the same lines. He, like Dunning, ascribes the increase in the poor rates to idleness, to alehouses and idle tippling, and "to games and sports which draw men away from labour." He proposes the establishment of workhouses as a restraint upon idleness, and that rates be made with more equality in cities and great towns, as under existing conditions "their chief dependence must be upon these but one step above their own conditions." He is probably the earliest advocate of equalisation of poor rates and the first to point out that the burden of maintaining the paupers falls chiefly upon the poor. Cary's description of his own experience in Bristol where he took the leading part in poor law reform, and of his difficulties with the mayor and others has a curiously modern flavour; similar difficulties are now met with every day by poor law reformers. His efforts resulted in "a great abatement" of the number of the poor, but the workhouse was not financially successful, and in three years made a loss of £600.

Towards the end of the seventeenth century and at the beginning of the eighteenth there was a reaction in the direction of indoor relief which was probably chiefly due to the examples at Exeter and Bristol. Up to this time the word workhouse was ambiguous. It might either be a place from which work was given out to be done in the home as was the case with that of Thomas Firmin, or it might be a place in which the poor received their board in return for work done or by way of maintenance. From this time forward the word began gradually to be accepted in the latter sense. Shortly afterwards many other places followed suit with workhouses upon the Bristol lines. In 1725 "an account of several workhouses" was published by Mr Matthew Marryett of Olney in Bucks, who was the chief mover in the matter. The effect of these workhouses in reducing rates was immediate and striking, and showed itself in all cases within two or three years.

In St Andrews, Holborn, the rates fell from £1000 to £ 750
„  St Paul's, Bedford 300  „ 177
„  West Ham the rates were reduced by one half
„  St Albans the rates fell from 566  „ 200
„  Hemel Hempstead the rates fell from 730  „ 388
„  Chatham 845  „ 574
„  Maidstone the rates fell from 1062  „ 530
„  Tunbridge 570  „ 380
„  Market Harborough the rates fell from 170  „ 100
„  St Martins, Leicester 200  „ 100
„  Bradford-on-Avon 700  „ 400
„  Chertsey 595  „ 395
„  Bristol they paid oft debts and saved £3000

Of these workhouses Eden says that "they spurred on many to labour for a livelihood who would not work as long as they were permitted to receive a weekly allowance from the parish." In Beverly, Yorkshire, of 116 receiving parish pay only eight came in when the out-relief was stopped. In Oxford the rates were reduced one-half, and a contemporary writer says "some who received alms of the parish appear to have money of their own and strive to work to keep themselves out of these (as they call them) confinements." By an Act of George I. the overseers were authorised to refuse other relief to those who declined the workhouse.

In 1704 Daniel Defoe presented a petition to Parliament entitled "Giving Alms no Charity and employing the Poor a Grievance to the Nation." Recent legislation, he urges, has been mischievous to the nation, tending to the "destruction of our trade and to increase the number and misery of the poor." He contends that the object of all statesmanship should be to enable men to live by their labour and to raise the poor out of their poverty. He points out that good husbandry is "no English virtue." The English are "the most 'lazy diligent' people in the world. … The English get estates, the Dutch save them, an Englishman earns 20s. a week and just lives, a Dutchman grows rich and leaves his children in a good position. An Englishman works till he has his pockets full of money and will then go and be idle, or perhaps drunk, till it is all gone. … From hence comes poverty, parish charges, and beggary." The real cure is to make drunkards take care of wife and children ; spendthrifts lay up for a wet day ; idle, lazy fellows diligent ; and thoughtless, sottish men provident." If this were done there would be no need to "transpose our manufactures and confound our trade. … For every skein of worsted spun in a workhouse there must be a skein the less spun by some poor person or family that spun it before … to set poor people to work in the same thing that other poor people are employed upon before is giving to one what you take away from another, putting a vagabond in the honest man's employment." Defoe was the first to lay his finger upon the central difficulty of manufactured employment, which is even now very imperfectly understood by the public in general. It is a difficulty which has been very obvious to all those who are engaged in the administration of the Unemployed Workmen's Act.

The next writer of note who dealt with the question was Mandeville, who in 1733 published "The Fable of the Bees," in which he attacks Charity Schools, which were the favourite panacea of his day. He anticipates the present reaction against purely intellectual education. Education, he says, should fit a man for his position in life, and his language is vigorous. "Going to school is, in comparison with working, idleness, and the longer boys continue in this easy sort of life the more unfit they will be when grown up for downright labour both as to strength and inclination." Moreover, "the poor have nothing to stir them up to labour but their wants, which it is wisdom to relieve but folly to cure."

Henry Fielding, police magistrate and novelist, wrote in 1754 his "Enquiry into the Causes of the late Increase of Robbers," with a chapter upon the Poor Laws. He says, "It must be a matter of astonishment that in a country where the poor are beyond all comparison more liberally provided for than in any other part of the habitable globe there should be found more beggars, more distress and miserable objects than are to be seen throughout all the states of Europe." He quotes, though not to agree with him, the opinion of a Mr Shaw—a forerunner of Mr Bernard Shaw?—which is to this effect: "There are few, if any, nations where the poor are more neglected or in a more scandalous nasty condition than in England, whether this is owing to that natural inbred cruelty for which Englishmen are so much noted amongst foreigners or to that medley of religions which are so plentifully sown and so carefully cherished, amongst us, who think it enough to take care of themselves and take a secret pride and pleasure in the poverty and distresses of those of another persuasion." Fielding, like Defoe, is of opinion that the cause of the evil is to be found in the "improper regulating" of the poor. He says that the second object of the 43rd Elizabeth, namely the employment of those able to work, has never been carried out. "To say the truth, as this law hath been perverted in execution it were perhaps to be wished that it had never been made." Unlike Defoe he believes that it is possible to find work for the poor, though he admits its great difficulty. In a subsequent pamphlet he produced a scheme for the construction of huge workhouses which does not appear to have received any attention from the legislature. Of the existing poor rate he says that it is a question whether the rich or poor are more dissatisfied since " the plunder of the one sends so little to the real advantage of the other, for while a million yearly is raised from the former many of the latter are starved, many more languish on in want and misery." In another chapter he speaks of a "new kind of drunkenness unknown to our ancestors which is lately sprung up amongst us and which if not put a stop to will infallibly destroy a great part of the inferior people—that, namely, which is acquired by the strongest intoxicating liquors and particularly of that poison called gin."

In 1761 we come across another aspect of the question. In that year an Act was passed for the registration of children under four years of age received into workhouses. The Act was passed largely owing to the exertions of a Mr Hanway, the mortality amongst parish children at that time being enormous. Mr Hanway gives instances in which every child received into workhouses under a twelvemonth old had died within the year. Child desertion reached an appalling figure owing to the facilities provided by the Poor Law and by the Foundling Hospital. Of the latter we are told that the admissions increased from 100 in 1756 to 4000 in 1760. "Infants were sent to them from villages 50, 100, or even 200 miles distant." The conditions were the same in Paris, where they had their Hospices des Enfants Trouves. Of 18,000 children baptised in Paris in 1768, 6000 were received in the Foundling Hospital. Arthur Young tells us that of 100,000 received in this manner in sixteen years, only 15,000 survived. Speaking of Foundling Hospitals, he says that they "encourage that vicious procreation which from its misery will not deserve the name of population … an encouragement of vice and inhumanity, and a public premium given to the banishment of the best feelings of human nature." Child desertion is still a very burning question, as everyone who has administered the Poor Law will know, but at least we can say that we have nothing approaching such conditions in these days. Infantile mortality is also a serious question, which is now engaging a large part of the public attention, but here again we can say that the present conditions are as dust in the balance compared with those of 150 years ago.

In 1764 Dr Burn published his "History of the Poor Laws": his proposals contain little that is new except that it should be made a penal offence to give money to beggars.

In 1772 Baron Maseres published a "Proposal for establishing Life Annuities in Parishes for the Comfort of the Poor," upon a contributary basis, and his scheme is very similar to that put forward by Mr Chamberlain some years ago, so we see that there is nothing new even about Old Age Pensions.

Lord Kames, the Scottish judge, published his "Sketches of the History of Man" in 1774, and in them deals with the Poor Law question. "If," he says, "it should be reported of some foreign nation that the burden of maintaining the idle and profligate is laid upon the frugal and industrious who work hard for a maintenance for themselves, what would we think of such a nation ? Yet this is literally the case in England."

Only one more pamphlet remains to be noted, and that because it takes a different view of the causes of the increase of the poor from all the other writers cited. It is entitled "An Investigation of Mr Pitt's Speech," and was written by a Mr Howlett and published about 1796. Mr Howlett denies that the Poor Laws have had the effect attributed to them. He quotes the old song:

"Hang sorrow, cast away care,
 The parish is bound to maintain us,"

in order to contend that no one but "a sot in his cups" would be influenced by such motives. The increase of the poor he attributes partly to the increase in the price of provisions and partly to—the growth of Methodism. Sir F. Eden's comment upon Mr Howlett's views is as follows:—"The real case, however, is that in every part of England, I had almost said in every parish, instances may be found of persons preferring a pension from the parish and a life of idleness to hard work and good wages."

Towards the end of the eighteenth century the value of Friendly Societies began first to be appreciated. In 1784 Mr Acland published a scheme for partly compulsory insurance through Friendly Societies, or "Box Clubs" as they were then called. Sir F. Eden devotes a special chapter to this subject of Friendly Societies, whose object he defines to be "that by an association of the many the few may be assisted, and to promote the most laudable of charities—that of securing to the industrious, from the surplus or part of the surplus of their savings, an equivalent reserve during their incapacity to labour." Sir F. Eden's approval of Friendly Societies has found abundant justification in the history of the nineteenth century. All experience shows that it is comparatively rare for members of a Friendly Society to apply for relief to the parish. He says, "Whether Friendly Societies will eventually contribute to reduce the poor rate the limited extent of my enquiries does not allow me peremptorily to decide. That, however, these institutions increase the comfort of the labouring classes who belong to them will be evident by comparing the condition of those who are members of them and those in the same parish who are contented to rely upon the parish for relief. The former are in general cleanly, orderly, and sober, and consequently good and happy members of society, while the latter live in filth and wretchedness, and are often by the pressure of casual sickness or accident, which incapacitates them from working, tempted to the commission of improper acts, not to say crimes, against which the sure resource of a Benefit Club would have been the best preservation." These words are as literally true to-day as when they were written. Any visitor amongst the poor can judge of this for himself. The member of a permanent Friendly Society—though not, perhaps, of a sharing-out club—is altogether on a higher plane, and has taken the first step upwards out of the crowd.

In 1782 a measure was passed which had momentous consequences and contributed more than anything else to bring matters to a head. It has already been pointed out that in various parts of England and at various times, but especially towards the end of the seventeenth century, the utility of what is now known as the workhouse test as a restraint upon pauperism had been proved by experience. In the early years of George I. an Act was passed sanctioning the unconditional offer of admission to the poorhouse—for as yet workhouses, as they are now understood, were few and far between. By 1782 the pendulum had swung in the opposite direction, and the Act passed in that year, usually known as Gilbert's Act, provided that no one should be sent to a workhouse who was physically capable of labour. That Act may be looked upon as the removal of the last barrier against the onrush of pauperism. From that time forwards the pace became fast and furious. The rates, which in 1785 were £1,912,000 per annum rose in 1817 to £7,870,891. Statistics of pauperism there were none except such as can be extracted from old parish books which were often ill-kept, but there can be no doubt that at least in the south and west of England nearly the whole agricultural population was on the rates. Land was fast going out of cultivation because it no longer paid to work it. The misery of the poor became more and more intense, as anyone who reads the history of the time, such as the writings of Arthur Young, William Cobbett, or Harriet Martineau, can see for themselves. At last, in 1832, the Royal Commission was appointed whose Report was the basis of the new Poor Law. The Commissioners, at least, were quite clear in their views as to the causes of the evil. The poor rate, they say, had up to that time "been applied to purposes opposed to the letter and still more to the spirit of the Elizabethan Poor Law and destructive to the morals of the most numerous class and the welfare of all." All incentives to industry and self-reliance had been removed by the fact that the working classes could claim as a right to be supported at their homes out of the rates. "The aim of the old Poor Law had been to attempt to repeal pro tanto that law of nature by which the effects of a man's improvidence or misconduct are borne by himself and his family. The result of that attempt had been to repeal pro tanto the law by which each man and his family enjoy the benefit of his prudence and exertion. In abolishing punishment we abolish reward." The principles laid down by the Commissioners as essential to a proper administration of public relief are:—

(a) That the position of the pauper should be less eligible than that of the lowest class of independent labourer who has to bear the charges.

(b) That the functions of State relief should be limited to the relief of destitution, such destitution to be tested by the willingness to enter a workhouse or institution.

(c) That remedial relief, as opposed to the relief of destitution, should be left to voluntary charity.

The above is a rough sketch of some of the literature dealing with Poor Law questions between 1602 and 1834. Much has been omitted, and especially that which deals with the period immediately preceding the Act of 1834. For the conditions of that time, we must refer to the Report of the Commissioners itself, concerning which it is of the utmost importance that every one should inform himself. The literature of the earlier period is not so well known or so easily attainable. Nevertheless, it is of great importance to any one who will follow the evolution of the subject, and will apply it as a test to many questions which are now before the public. Scrappy and disjointed as it is, there is yet a thread running through it, which, if rightly followed, will give the clue to the way out of many difficulties. There are several points which especially call for attention. The first and most important is that of the effect of relief upon character, an effect which is as potent to-day as it was a hundred years ago, as it has been through all history. Next, we must observe the gradually growing conviction that in all public relief there must be an element of deterrence, and some check or test as an alternative to a general pauperism. It was long before even this much was understood ; it was longer before reformers hit upon the solution of what is now known as the "workhouse test," of which Mr Cary at Bristol was the first important exponent. The principle was decisively adopted by legislation of George I., and as decisively rejected by legislation of George III. It was finally adopted by the Commission of 1834, and remains the underlying principle of the English Poor Law. The principle more fully stated is as follows, viz., that, whereas nature ordains that a man must either support himself or starve, no civilised community can, for its own sake and credit, allow such an extremity of hardship. On the contrary, all will agree that the necessaries of life must be provided for every one who is in need of them ; but that they must, so far as the State is concerned, be given upon terms, and the terms hitherto accepted as the basis of our Poor Law have been the conditions laid down by the Commission of 1834. There must be devised somehow an element of deterrence in public relief, and the Poor Law must be, as the Commissioners put it, "centrifugal, not centripetal." We had 200 years of a centripetal Poor Law, with results which may be summed up in a sentence, "ruin to the poor, ruin to the country." Another point of some importance which stands out from a study of these pamphlets is that, for almost 200 years, every writer except Daniel Defoe, and perhaps Sir F. Eden, seems to have believed, in spite of constant failure, in the possibility of making artificial work. The belief in its possibility is apparently as strong as ever at the present moment. All the best wits of nearly three centuries have applied their minds to the problem, but no one hitherto has been able to supply a solution. The authors of the Unemployed Workmen's Act are in no better plight. All the old difficulties are recurring ; all the old fallacies are being put forward as new ideas ; many of the old failures are being renewed under the guise of "experiments," and all the old arguments on either side repeated almost ad nauseam. After the lapse of yet another century, we may once more recall the words of Sir F. Eden, "that it will at least afford satisfaction to the many patriotic but unsuccessful philanthropists who have attempted to repair this portion of the legislative fabric, that even so great a man as John Locke attempted it with but little success."