Slike strani
PDF
ePub

between 30 and 50 per cent.; and the same may be said of the boot trade. In each case, no doubt, there are other economical causes for the fall in wages.

But it is difficult to resist the conclusion that excessive supplies of labour have had disastrous effects upon the conditions of life to which the British-born workers were formerly accustomed.

Ratepayers in certain districts of London have now the opportu. nity of spending their money on the support of pauper foreigners. The Whitechapel Union maintained the traditions of England in 1887 by extending the hospitality of the parish to 340 foreigners. In Mile End foreign paupers unable to speak a word of English have become during the past year inhabitants of the workhouse. Pauper foreign children are now boarded out from the Paddington Union.

The manifest and manifold evils arising from the immigration of poor Jews are so great, that in the last published report of the Board of Guardians for the relief of the Jewish poor they state that they had determined upon taking exceptional means for striving somewhat to stem the influx from abroad.'

Notifications printed in the vernacular were prepared and circulated as prominently as possible in most of the places from which the poor Jews come to this country. These advertisements set forth the desirability in their own interests of ceasing to emigrate hither in the hope of finding employment, and pointed out how useless was a journey undertaken without any pre-arranged prospect of work here. The Board, moreover, proceed to state that the congestion in London had become a real difficulty, and threatened to become a danger; thereby corroborating the evidence of the labour correspondent of the Board of Trade given in the September following the publication of this report.

On the 15th of December, 1887, the Home Secretary stated that the evils of pauper immigration, as explained to him by a deputation from the East End, were of the greatest importance.' Here we have the Jewish Board of Guardians stating that the congestion in London—through immigration—threatens to become a danger. The evidence of Mr. Burnett and of Dr. Hermann Adler complete the case against the incoming pauper when it was already sufficiently strong. The time has, therefore, come for the British Government to replace the unsuccessful endeavours of the Jewish Board of Guardians to stem the rising tide of immigration. The time is opportune. Within the last few months the Russian Governor of Tiflis has expelled the Jews, numbering some thousands, from the town, and it is expected that this action of the authorities will be repeated in other portions of the Caucasus.

Having regard to all the facts of the case, a resolution was carried all but unanimously at the Conference recently presided over by Lord Herschell on the distress of the working classes, in which the Government was asked to take measures forth with to arrest the influx of pauper immigration. A deputation was received by Lord Salisbury early in February, but the Prime Minister relieved himself from the necessity of action by seven statements which need but record to discover their fallacy. There may be weighty reasons of foreign policy why England cannot or dare not do what the United States have done—without cavil or remonstrance—for the past six years. Or there may be grave reasons of home policy for not irritating or alienating the wealthy portion of the Jewish community. On these contingencies I will not venture to speculate. But it is improbable that if thousands of pauper English were tainting the lives of poor native workers in Berlin or St. Petersburg, Prince Bismarck or M. de Giers would condescend to employ such arguments as those used by the Prime Minister on the 1st of February.

Lord Salisbury refuses to act, or to arrest the flow of pauper immigration

1. Because too much importance is attached to the matter.

2. Because, although the right to exclude the pauper exists, it would be exceedingly difficult 'to exercise the right.

3. Because the paupers do not arrive marked with notes' such as enable the Americans to exclude them.

4. Because they are not physically incapable to support themselves.'

5. Because they are not sent here by any domestic or poor-law authority.'

6. Because it would be difficult to include in an Act of Parliament which should enable you to exclude the ones you wish to exclude without excluding a great many others too.'

7. Because they are not so very many after all.

For convenience of space the replies to Lord Salisbury's seven points of objection may also be recorded in a tabular form.

1. The East End, the Home Secretary, the Jewish Board of Guardians, and the Board of Trade consider the matter, in the words of Mr. Matthews, of the greatest importance.'

2. The difficulty of an enterprise offers no inherent obstacle to undertaking it-even in the case of a little country like England, which exists on the reputation she has acquired by overcoming difficulties.

3. Lord Salisbury is wrongly advised on the facts. We wish to exclude those now excluded by the Americans. If we cannot recognise them, let us hire a few Americans for the purpose.

4. Neither are the Chinese ; but the question is whether the pauperisation and ruin of native workers are not too high a price to pay for the advantages of mere physical fitness.

5. But if they are paupers driven for bare existence to underbid the poor English, the origin of the force or motive that impelled them to compete for starvation wages is immaterial.

6. The intellectual capacity and technical skill of British lawyers, if unequal to the task of drafting an Act of Parliament, might be reinforced by the American who drew the Act 376 of 1882.

7. This argument, proceeding from anyone but the Prime Minister of England, might be regarded as disingenuous. It is at least ignoratio elenchi. The foreign paupers are sufficient to bring ruin onthousands of English workers. Does Lord Salisbury await the ruin of millions from this one cause before action is justifiable ? The question is, not how many immigrants are there, but what is the effect produced by those who actually settle among us. The answer to this question is given in no uncertain voice by a department of State.

Gibbon says that one of the most dangerous inconveniences of the introduction of barbarians into the palace was felt in their correspondence with their countrymen, to whom they imprudently or maliciously revealed the weakness of the Roman Empire. Whether the decline of the British Empire will be dated from the time when barbarians were first introduced into her workshops, is a matter for the historian of the future. But there is little doubt that the language employed by the First Minister in referring to these barbarians is inconsistent with the traditions of the England familiar to William Pitt, and that the use of such language marks the existence of decline.

ARNOLD WHITE.

POSTSCRIPT.

Since the above was in type the Government has agreed to the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the case against the pauper foreigner.

A. W.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT.

The Duke of Wellington is reported to have said, in answer to a question of Mr. Babbage, that the difficulties of war were proportioned to the number of combinations involved, and Mr. Babbage seems to have considered that the same law of difficulty applied to almost every subject which falls under the consideration of man. Measured by this standard, local government is perhaps the most difficult problem which presents itself for solution to the English statesman. Take one county alone for an example. The county of Somerset contains 497 parishes, 11 boroughs, 22 unions, 10 local government districts, 17 rural sanitary districts, 66 School Board districts, besides numerous highway districts. Each of these divisions is governed by a separate body with distinct powers, and elected with but few exceptions by separate constituencies, separate modes of voting, and at different times of year. Multiply these authorities by 52, the number of counties in England—and bear in mind that a scheme of local government involves a knowledge of the particulars of each of the above-mentioned authorities, and in many cases an alteration in their status—and some idea may be formed of the difficulties to be overcome. Such being the conditions of the problem, the first step towards arriving at a true conclusion as to the changes to be made in local government is to ascertain with precision the organisation of the existing system; and this knowledge can best be acquired by carrying back our minds to the original divisions of the country and the authorities by which they were ruled, and having discovered the causes which led to those divisions and the advantages or disadvantages thence arising, to pass to the changes they have undergone, and the new authorities which have been established, with a view of satisfying the needs of an ever-increasing population.

The largest and most important area of local government is the county. Its origin is lost in the depths of an unknown antiquity. Different counties probably arose from different causes. Kent is as old as the time of the Romans, and possibly derives its name and its boundaries from the name and location of a British tribe—the Cantii. Other counties may have been Anglo-Saxon kingdoms or Earldoms; while here and there a county may be a memorial of the territory

occupied by an early colony of Germans or Northern people. Whatever its origin, the county in Anglo-Saxon times was divided into hundreds and tithings. Mythologically the hundreds are said to have contained a hundred families, and the tithing ten families. The administration of justice, comprehending in those times the control of all the needs of a simple society, corresponded with the territorial divisions. There was the county court, the hundred court, and the court of the tithing. At these courts the suitors or persons belonging to the several divisions were bound to attend and try all cases and transact all business connected with the county, hundred, or tithing. If any suitor did not keep up the roads which he was liable to maintain by reason of tenure, he was brought before the county court and fined for his neglect. If a suitor fouled his neighbour's stream, he was tried by his suitors, his peers, and compelled to cease from committing the nuisance complained of. The court itself took cognisance of any injuries or nuisances to the community of which no private complaint was made. Theoretically the AngloSaxon system is the most perfect scheme of local government ever constructed by man: the unit was the tithing, the hundred an exact multiple of the unit, while the hundreds completely filled up the area of the county. Further, each of the county divisions had its popular government, and local powers commensurate with its area, and varying in importance in proportion to the extent of the division.

The borough may also trace its pedigree back to Anglo-Saxon, and in some cases to Roman, times. It can scarcely be doubted that London, York, and probably many other towns, had from the earliest times an organisation separate from that of the counties. What this organisation was cannot now be successfully discovered. It is possible that the designation of counties of towns and counties of cities applied in modern times to London, York, and other towns and cities, may be a survival, showing that the constitution of the great towns was practically that of a county, giving powers coordinate with those of a county authority to some municipal authority. If so, it will be seen in the sequel that modern legislation will not improbably follow in the ancient track, and that a return to the customs of our ancestors may prove the best tribute we can offer to their wisdom.

Local taxation, which occupies so much of the attention of the legislature in modern times, seems to have been almost unknown in the period of which we have been treating. Its place would appear to have been taken by a system of fines. If an individual committed a criminal or civil offence against his neighbour, he had to pay in purse or in person. If a community failed in its duty to keep up its roads or comply with any other public requirement, it was amerced as a community, and its headmen had to recover the contribution

« PrejšnjaNaprej »