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the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned Labourers, at Barn-Elm Farm, in the parish of Barnes, in the county of Surrey,
Most humbly showeth,
miserable rags; by degrees, they have To been reduced to the necessity of living upon miserable potatoes, instead of having their bellies filled with bread and with meat, as their forefathers had; by degrees, they have been brought down to this low and wretched state; that, according to the reports laid before Parliament, the honest labouring man is allowed less to live on than is allowed to a felon in the jails; but stilling people out of the country, upon the ground,
they must live, or else there would be nobody to do the work: and without their work, the land is worth nothing. Scheme after scheme has been tried to make them live upon less and less; till at last, the bow has been strained so tightly, that there was danger of its breaking. It never seems to have occurred to those who have had the making of the laws, that it would be better to take off the taxes, and to make a new application of the tithes. This never seems to have come into their heads. They have seen the poor increase, in proportion as the taxes increased; and yet they never seem to have thought, that, to reduce the taxes, was the natural and effectual way of putting a stop to the increasing poverty. On the contrary, they have gone on increasing the taxes; they have gone on increasing the number of the soldiers and sailors, though in time of profound peace; of the placemen, the pensioners, the sinecure people; the half-pay people; they have increased these to numbers prodigious; they seem to grudge them nothing, while the amount of the poor-rates seems to alarm them beyond all description. Last spring, my labourers at Barn-Elm, in Surrey, having heard of this project for sending a part of the working people out of the country, presented an humble petition to the two Houses of Parliament upon the subject, a copy of which petition I here insert, begging you to read it with the greatest attention. It was presented to the House of Commons by Mr. PALLMER, the member for the county of Sussex: that which was their case is the case of you all therefore, read this petition with attention.
That your petitioners have perceived that there is a proposition before your honourable House, for mortgaging the poor-rates, and for imposing taxes, in order to raise money for the purpose of sending a part of the workthat, owing to their excessive numbers, they cause a charge upon the land so great as to threaten to swallow up the whole of the rents.
That your petitioners have heard, and they believe, that, out of about eleven thousand parishes in England and Wales, there are one thousand and four, the population of which is, on an average, under a hundred souls to a parish; and that they know, that you have, in the evidence given before your committees, the statements of experienced farmers, that there are not too many work-people to cultivate the laud properly, but that the taxes take from the farmer the means of giving the work-people wages sufficient for their proper maintenance; and that from this cause the land is not cultivated so well as it used to be, and does not yield so much as it used to yield, while the labourers are compelled to resort to parish relief.
That, deducting the amount of the countyrates, militia-charges, highway-rates, churchrates, and the law expenses, the poor-rates, that is to say, the money actually paid in the if we deduct the salaries paid to hired overof relief to the poor, does not, especially seers, amount to six millions of pounds in the year; while the other taxes, imposed by the Parliament and collected by the Government, amount to about sixty millions a year; and that, therefore, your petitioners cannot but think it strange, that your honourable House should be alarmed at the prospect of seeing the rents absorbed by these six millions, while you appear to be under no apprehension at all of those rents being absorbed by the sixty millions, especially as they cannot for the life of them imagine how it is that your honourable House can fail to perceive, that it is the burden of the sixty millions, which is the real and evident cause of the necessity of raising the six millions; daylight not being more evident than the fact, that it is the enormous taxes which disable the farmer and trader and manufacturer to pay sufficient wages to his work-people.
That your petitioners have been told, that of late years, one million and six hundred thousand pounds, or thereabouts, have been voted by your honourable House, out of the taxes, for the relief of the poor clergy of the church of England; and that they have just seen millions upon millions voted by you for the support of half-pay people and their widows and children; that they have been told, that
there are numberless women and children as of similar idlers; and that to your petitioners well as men, maintained as pensioners and it does seem most wonderful, that there should sinecurists; that there are many of these men be persous to fear that we, the labourers, (who have no pretence to have rendered any shall, on account of our numbers, swallow up service to the country), each of whom re- the rental, while they actually vote away our ceives more, every year, than would be suffi- food and raiment to increase the numbers of cient to maintain two or three hundred la-those who never have produced and never will bourers and their families; and that, while all produce any-thing useful to man. these are all supported in part on the fruit of our labour, while all these, who do not work at all, have our dinners, in fact, handed over to them by the acts of your honourable House, we cannot very patiently hear of projects for sending us out of our native land, on the ground that we threaten to swallow up the whole of the rental.
But that, as appertaining to this matter of check marriages and the breeding of children, the vote, recently passed, of 20,9861. for the year, for the Royal Military Asylum, is worthy of particular attention; that this Asylum is a place for bringing up the children of soldiers; that soldiers are thus encouraged and invited to marry, or, at least, to have children; that That your petitioners have recently observed, while our marrying and the children proceedthat many great sums of the money, part of ing from us are regarded as evils, we are comwhich we pay, have been voted to be given to pelled to pay taxes for encouraging soldiers to persons who render no services to the country; marry, and for the support and education of some of which sums we will mention here; their children; and that while we are comthat the sum of 94,0001. has been voted for pelled, out of the fruit of our hard work, to disbanded foreign officers, their widows and pay for the good lodging, clothing, and feedchildren; that your petitioners know, thating of the children of soldiers, our own poor ever since the peace, this charge has been children are, in consequence of the taxes, annually made; that it has been, on an clad in rags, half-starved, and insulted with average, 110,9007. a year, and that, of course, the degrading name of paupers; that, since this band of foreigners have actually taken the peace, half a million of pounds sterling away out of England, since the peace, one have been voted out of the taxes for this purmillion and seven hundred thousand pounds, pose; that, as far as your petitioners have partly taken from the fruit of our labour; and learned, none of your honourable members if our dinners were actually taken from our have ever expressed their fear that this detables and carried over to Hanover, the pro-scription of persons would assist to swallow cess could not be to our eyes more visible than it now is; and we are astonished that those who fear that we, who make the land bring forth crops, and who make the clothing and the houses, shall swallow up the rental, appear to think nothing at all of the swallowings of these Hanoverian men, women, and children, who may continue thus to swallow for half a century to come.
up the rental; and that they do not now learn that there is on foot any project for sending out of the country these costly children of soldiers.
That your petitioners know that more than one-half of the whole of their wages is taken from them by the taxes; that these taxes go chiefly into the hands of idlers; that your petitioners are the bees, and that the tax-reThat the advocates of the project for send-ceivers are the drones; and they know, ing us out of our country to the rocks and further, that while there is a project for sendsnows of Nova Scotia, and the swamps and ing the bees out of the country, no one prowilds of Canada, have insisted on the necessity poses to send away the drones; bat that your of checking marriages amongst us, in order to petitiouers hope to see the day when the cause a decrease in our numbers; that, how-checking of the increase of the drones, and ever, while this is insisted on in your honour- not of the bees, will be the object of an Enable House, we perceive a part of our own glish Parliament. earnings voted away to encourage marriage, amongst those who do no work, and who live at our expense; that 145,2677. has just been voted as the year's pensions for widows of officers of the army; and that your petitioners cannot but know, that while this is the case, few officers will die without leaving widows, especially as the children too are peusioned until of a certain age; that herein is a high premium given for marriage, and for the increase of the numbers of those who do not work; that for this purpose more than two millions of pounds sterling have been voted since the peace, out of those taxes, more than the due share of which your petitioners have had to pay; that, to all appearance, their children's children will have to pay in a similar manner for the encouragement and support
That, in consequence of taxes, your petitioners pay sixpence for a pot of worse beer than they could make for one penny; that they pay ten shillings for a pair of shoes that they could have for five shillings; that they pay seven-pence for a pound of soap or candles that they could have for three-pence; that they pay seven-pence for a pound of sugar that they could have for three-pence; that they pay six shillings for a pound of tea that they could have for two shillings; that they pay double for their bread and meat, of what they would have to pay, if there were no idlers to be kept out of the taxes; that, therefore, it is the taxes that make their wages insufficient for their support, and that compel them to apply for aid to the poor-rates; that knowing these things, they feel indignant at hearing
themselves described as paupers, while so many thousands of idlers, for whose support they pay taxes, are called Noble Lords and Ladies, Honourable Gentlemen, Masters, and Misses that they feel indignant at hearing tbemselves described as a nuisance to be gotten rid of, while the idlers who live upon their earnings are upheld, caressed, and cherished, as if they were the sole support of the country.
That your petitioners know that, according to the holy Scriptures, even the ox is not to be muzzled as he treadeth out the corn; that God has said that the labourer is worthy of his hire; that the poor shall not be oppressed; that they shall be fed out of the abundance of the land.
That, about twelve years ago, an Act was passed by your honourable House changing the mode of voting in parish vestries, and another Act, about eleven years ago, establishing select vestries; that, by these two Acts, your petitioners were deprived of a great part of their rights; that, by the latter Act, hired overseers, strangers to the parish, were introduced with salaries, to be paid out of the rates destined for our relief; that these overseers are generally paid much in proportion as they give little in relief; that hence have come oppressions and insults on us without end; that, in some cases, the labourers wanting relief have been compelled to draw carts and wagons like beasts of burden; in others they have been compelled to carry large stones That according to the laws of the Christian backwards and forwards in a field, merely to church in England, according to the canon give them pain and to degrade them; in others law, according to the statute law, the poor of they have been shut up in the parish-pounds, every parish were to be relieved out of the and, in short, they have been fed and treated tithes; that they ought to be relieved now; far worse than the dogs of those who live in that, at any rate, the laws of England say, luxury, on those taxes, a large part of which that no one shall perish from want; that, if are wrung from the sweat of your petitioners.; unable to work, or to obtain work, a sufficiency and that at last, we have seen a bill passed of food and raiment and other necessaries of by your honourable House, authorising these life shall be furnished to the indigent persou overseers to dispose of our dead bodies for the by the parish; and that, therefore, your peti-purpose of being cut up by the surgeons, tioners have, in case of need, as clear and thereby inflicting on poverty the ignominy good a right to parish relief as the landlord due to the murderer. has to the rent of his land; and that, if your 'honourable House choose to continue to take the sixty millions a year in taxes; if you choose to cause the working people to be made poor in this way; if you choose to reduce us in this manner to appeal to the parish-rates to support our lives; if you choose to continue to compel us to give more than the half of our wages to the tax-gatherers; if this be your decision, we hope that you will not blame us for pressing on the rates and the rental.
That while we know that we have a clear right to relief, in case of need we wish not to be compelled to apply for that relief; we desire not to hear the degrading name of pauper; we wish to keep our wages for our own use, and not to have them taken away to be given to idlers; we wish to be well fed and clad, and to carry our heads erect, as was the case with our happy forefathers; we are resolved, at any rate, not to be treated like beasts of burden, and not to be driven from our country; and, therefore, we pray that your honourable House will repeal the two Acts above-mentioned; that you will take from our shoulders and from those of our employers, the grievous burden of taxes; and that you will be pleased to begin forthwith by relieving us from the taxes on malt, hops, leather, soap and candles.
And your petitioners will ever pray.
That your petitioners are constantly liable to be called out to serve in the militia; that they are compelled to give in their names to the parish constable in order that they may be called out whenever the Government may choose; that they are thus liable to lose their time in the prime of life; to quit their homes, their aged parents, their wives, and helpless children; and to submit to military command, military law, military punishment, and if need be, loss of limb or loss of life in fighting; Now, my friends, this is your case, that they are thus compelled to serve and to and I advise you to draw up petitions suffer on the ground that it is necessary either in the same or similar words, and to to the defence of the country against foreign foes, or to the security of property against internal commotion; but that we possess no property but in our labour, which no foe, foreign or domestic, can take from us; and that, if we be to be regarded as having no right to a maintenance out of the land in exchange for our labour, if we be to be looked upon as a nuisance to be gotten rid of, is it just, we would ask, that we should be torn from our homes, and compelled to waste the prime of our lives, subjected to military command and military punishment, for the purpose of defending that land?
give them to the members of your different counties to be presented to the Parliament. Having placed all these matters clearly before you, let me next describe to you the nature of the bill or law which it is now proposed to pass, in order to get you to go out of the country. When I have done that, I shall explain to you the perfect right that you have to remain here, and to have a good living here, in your native
country;provided you honestly labour, it is proposed to put in pawn the whole
you have as much right to this as any lord or other man has to his estate, and that in case of your inability to labour sufficiently for the maintenance of your family, you have as much right to relief out of the poor-rates as any man has to the rent of his estate or profits of his trade or calling. Then I shall con-not a straw. And observe, my good clude with describing to you the natural consequences which will arise to you, if you consent to be sent away out of your country; and here I shall speak of the different countries to which it may be intended to send you. These three subjects, then, I have to request you to hear me remark on with all the attention of which you are masters; for, on your due attention to them may depend your future happiness or misery.
of the land and houses of England, in . order, to raise money to hire ships to carry the working people out of the country; yes, my friends, to carry away those without whose labour the houses could not be kept up for ten years, and without whose labour the land is worth
friends, while the Government is making this proposition, it makes no proposition for sending away one single soul of those who live upon the taxes and the tithes, and whose monstrous havings it is that are the cause of these very poor-rates, which the Government proposes to send you away in order to diminish.
The SECOND great point to which I have to beg your attention is this, that FIRST, what is the nature of the bill you have a right to live in England; or law intended to get you out of the that, if you labour honestly, you have country of your birth? It is, that a a right to have, in exchange for your part of you shall be induced to give labour, a sufficiency out of the produce your assent to be sent away; to be put of the earth, to maintain yourself and on board of ships; to be carried to a family well; and, if you be unable to foreign land; and that, after being labour, or, if you cannot obtain labour, landed in that foreign land, if you ever you have a right to a maintenance out return to England again, you are to be of the produce of the land; and that cut off from all relief from the poor- these rights are as complete in you as rates; and, of course, are to be left to the right which the land-owner has to starve on the highway or under the the use of his land. Before men enhedges if you should be unable to pro- tered into civil society, the earth, and vide for yourselves, or if you should not all upon the earth, belonged to them be able to find any one willing to re- all in common. Every one took, aclieve you voluntarily out of his own cording to his strength or his skill, that purse. So that you see the dreadful which he needed. When men entered penalty, in case you return; you see into civil society, and subjected themthat, if you be induced to go, you selves to laws, then property arose, and abandon England and parents and the laws protected the weak against the brethren and friends, for ever! In strong; but were never intended to order to raise the money to hire favour the strong at the expense of the the ships, to put you on board of weak. Certain portions of the land them, and to land you in those fo- became the property of certain perreign parts of which I shall have to sons; but still the right of enjoying life speak more particularly by-and-by, it was not taken from any body: the is proposed to MORTGAGE THE right of starving thousands never was POOR RATES! That is to say, to given to scores of men. Men entered enable the parish-officers to borrow into society to better their lot, and not money of some of the rich people who to make it worse; not to put it into the receive vast sums out of the taxes. It power of the few to starve the many, is intended to authorize the parish-or to make them lead miserable lives. officers to borrow money of these peo-Accordingly, as long as England conple, and to pay the interest and principle sisted of lords and vassals; that is to out of the poor-rates. That is to say, say, of great proprietors of the land,
and of people renting or working under] Such is the history of the Poor-laws, them, the lords naturally took care that from which you will clearly see that the the vassals should not suffer from want. relief which they give is your right, in When Christianity was introduced into case of necessity, in exchange for that England, a new mode of taking care of which was taken from you by the abovethe working people was established. mentioned transfer of the revenues of A tenth part of the produce of the earth, the church. And it must also be clear together with large parcels of land, to you, that your rights to relief out of was given to the clergy. But not for the poor-rates is as perfect as that of them to consume themselves; but it any man to the fruits of his estate. All was given in trust to them for these the houses and all the land in England purposes: first, for the relief of the and Wales are charged with the poorpoor, the aged, the infirm, the widow, rates, as much as any man's estate can and the orphan; second, for the build- be charged with a mortgage or an aning and reparing of the churches, and nuity. Nay, the very measure which furnishing every-thing necessary for this imbecile ministry now propose, and baptisins, burials, and the other rites and which I have described to you above, ceremonies of the church; third, to clearly shows, that a part of every real provide the priest of the parish with a estate belongs to the poor; for they promaintenance for himself and his rela- pose to mortgage all those estates; and tions, if he had any, and for the pur- for what, and for whom? Why, for pose of keeping hospitality and reliev- your use; for you. They propose to ing strangers within his gates. This borrow money on all the land and was the law and this the practice in houses in England, in order to furnish happy England for nine hundred years. the means of your going to live in some At last, when the Catholic religion, other country. Let them not, after which had raised all our churches and this, deny that you have a lien upon the cathedrals, and under which our fathers land. Let them not, after this, deny had lived so happy, and had seen their that you are part proprietors of the country so great; when this religion houses and lands. It is, therefore, a was destroyed and the present establish- right, an imprescriptible and indefeasied in its stead, a large part of the church ble right that you have, in case of nelands and other revenues was taken by cessity, to a maintenance out of the the nobility, and the rest given to par-poor-rates. It is not alms that is given sons, who, being allowed to marry, took you out of these rates; it is not as the whole of the tithes to themselves, beggars that you apply for relief in case leaving the necessitous poor to starve, of need. It is as men having a right to or to be relieved by mere casual charity. what you ask for, and as having legal Our fathers rose in rebellion against this redress if your application be refused. alteration. Long and bloody was the And as to the amount, if you require strife, till, at last, a law was made to much, let those who manage the affairs provide for the indigent poor (some of of the country, so manage them as for whom there must be in all countries), by you to require less. They complain, an assessment on the houses and the there are men insolent enough to comland; and a law was also made to com- plain, that you make this great demand pel the people, instead of the parsons, in consequence of your carly mar to build and repair and provide for the riages," and your having so many chil churches. Hence, my friends, arose dren. They forget, that when you are the poor-rates and the church-rates; married, you join the parson and the and hence arose the hateful and degrad- clerk in prayer that your wives may ing name of pauper, the sound of which bring forth numerous children, and that our free and happy fathers never heard. the parson reads to you 'that beautiful They, whose ashes swell up the earth passage of the Seriptures which says in the church-yards, had the happiness that Little children are as arrows in to die before the name of pauper was" the hands of the giant, and that blessheard in their country.