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THERE is no question now agitating the public mind in which the spirit of party should less in- trude than the reform of the Pooi Laws. It should be discussed with a temper and modera- tion due to the magnitude of the interests it involves, and without reference to any political section by which its present condition was sug- gested. A very able article in the last number of the Edinburgh Review has, we think, satisfactorily proved that the early legislation with regard to the poor was in the highest degree oppressive. That from the Acts of Edward III. to those of Elizabeth, the poor laws were only parts of a systematic attempt to restore villanage, to confine labourers to their parishes, to regulate the price of their labour, to punish the assertion of their free agency, and to render them as effectually ascripti glebce as the Polish serfs. To these laws the labourers dict not very readily submit, and the English Statute book is disgraced by enactments, inflicting punishments of the most barbarous kind on the refractory. Then came the Acts of Elizabeth, making, it is true, a kindly provision for the impotent poor, but mercilessly directed against the able bodied, and making no provision for the industrious who were willing and able to labour, but could not procure work. These acts gave, for the first time, Justices the power of taxing at their discretion those who refused to contribute to the relief of the impotent, and to supply work to the able bodied. From the time of Elizabeth to the passing of the Poor Law Amendment bill, the acts of the Legislature seem to have been directed to the relaxation of the rigour of previous laws, but the moral condition of the labourer was not improved,âhe was con- fined to his parish, maintained according to his wants, not to the value of his services, restrained from misconduct by no fear of loss, and therefore stimulated to activity and industry by no hope of reward. The workhouse system was contained in a clause of the 9th Geo. I., enabling the over- seers, with the consent of the inhabitants, to purchase or hire a house, and to keep and main- tain therein any poor of the parish desiring relief, and enacting that no poor who refused to be lodged and kept in such houses, should be enti- tled to ask or receive parochial relief. This is the foundation of the present Poor Law bill-and had the clause of the 9th Geo. I., which we have quoted, been carried out in the spirit of its enactment, or with the success which attended the first years of its experiment, we question if the more recent laws would have been necessary. â"Theory" says the Bishop of Llandaff, "never was verified so promptly and unequivocally by practice as in the early declension of these institutions, (poor houses) and in their utter in. efficiency when left to themselves, or which is nearly the same thing to any body of rulers, how- ever wisely framed." We have only to recall to thememoryof our readers the state and condition of the labouring poor, and the amount of the rates that was necessary to maintain them, to show the necessity for a revision of the law. The former were a generation of pauperised labourers," and the latter had grown to the enormous annual sum of nearly seven millions. A commission was appointed to enquire, and the Poor Law Amendment Act was the consequence. That law we think is still but an experiment, and as such, if it be vigorously watched so ought it 190 to be fairly tried. Its operation in particular cases may be severe, and the jealousy of entrust- ing guardians with a discretionary administration may be pushed too far-yet upon the whole this is expedient. Too great a relaxation of principles would replunge the country into, pauperism. The danger of making expeptions, in what may seem particular cases, is, that such exceptions would soon form the rule. If for example an employer should from any cause deduct two shillings a week from the wages of his labourer, and send him to a Board of Guardians fQ, Gufc-.door relief, their compliance would be established as a prin- ciple, the example would spread, and the old detestable plan of pauperising labourers by part payment in wages and part in rates would be restored. It is always with deep regret. that we see the admixture of politics ir^ the, discussion, of this great legislative measure. It was, we admit, the measure of a Whig Administration, but it had the support an,d approbation of all the leading members of the present Cabinet, AND Q them devolves a full share- of the responsibility. I Its continuance is now limited to a year, and it I will undergo a strict investigation in the enatisg Session of Parliament,âwhat we demand for it t is a clear stage. We can forgite the mistaken views of a sincere but falsa humanity, but we j deprecate the intrusion of motives sometimes political and often factious. Let the law be tried, and stand or fall on its own merits. That it is capable of amendment there is but little dispute. If it be found to have fulfilled one of its great purposes the elevation of the moral character of the labouring classes, more especially in the agricultural districts, let it have the praise. If it j have pressed with severity on the suffering poor, 1 -if if have dealt pitilessly with human frailty, and urged suffering into crime and despair,âif.it j has too much disregarded the cry of the widotf and the orphan let it bear the blame. Let us all ) conspire in the spirit of kindness towards those for whose benefit it is intended, to remedy its J defects, and to perfect its purposes for good. We are sincerely of opinion that the internal peace and tranquillity of the country are involved in the issue.

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