[The Daily News, 13. August und 6. Dezember 1868]

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The Daily News. Nr. 6952, 13. August 1868. S. 4.
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[The Daily News, 13. August 1868]

OUR unpaid Magistrates seem to have become suddenly possessed by a fanatical spirit of severity. From several distant points we receive simultaneously accounts of sentences being passed upon defendants in revolting disproportion to their offences. On Saturday a poor woman named SARAH JONES was brought before the Mayor and two magistrates of Chester for “stealing” “wheat,” a crime which appears to have consisted in gleaning cars in a field after the final operations of the harvest had been completed. The prosecutor, Mr. ROBERTS, said that he saw JONES picking up wheat, and sent a boy to her to tell her to desist. She appears to have been, as many of her class are, under the impression that gleaning is a legal right of the poor, and continued to pick up the ears. Mr. ROBERTS thereupon went to her himself, and took a handful of wheat from her. The prosecutor was asked by the magistrate whether there was any wheat crop on the ground where the prisoner was, and said, “No, it had been raked there.” This served to show that, at the most, the poor woman was only gleaning. Mr. ROBERTS added, however, as his reason for prosecuting, that “he wanted to” make an example of someone.” We take this, in connection with his other statements, to mean that he wished to elicit from the bench such a declaration of the law, accompanied with some slight penalty, as would remove a prevailing misconception from the minds of his poorer neighbours, and save him future trouble. That this was his intention appeared plainly afterwards, when he asked for mitigation of the sentence. We cannot, therefore, agree with those who on the strength of the sessions report have blamed him as if he were a cruel man, willing to bring any amount of suffering upon the poor woman for the sake of protecting his property. The subject of gleaning is one as to which it is very easy to be misled by sentiment. The practice is a very ancient one, and connects itself with some exceedingly pleasant ideas of social economy. But the propriety and advisability of retaining it under all circumstances is open to question. The fact that in many cases gleaning is merely an excuse for stealing may make the kindest farmer resolve not to permit it in his fields. But be this as it may, in the present case the Mayor of CHESTER, after the woman had expressed her sorrow, and pleaded that she did not know she was acting illegally, said to her, “You must go to gaol for seven days.” This excessive and irrational severity shocked Mr. JOHNSON, another magistrate, who declared that “he would be no party” to the sentence. The woman burst into tears, and said, “Seven” days for that? Do not send me to gaol from “my four children, and one sucking at the “breast.” The prosecutor, too, said that “he did” not ask for so much as that” and afterwards the prisoner was ordered to pay a fine and costs amounting together to 13s. 8d. or go to prison for three days. As the money was not forthcoming, to prison the woman went. This is a sentence which no man who had had any experience of the administration of justice would have pronounced. An observation of the magistrates’ clerk, “There is no other way of putting this “sort of thing down,” expressed, no doubt, the honest belief of the convicting magistrates; but it only shows their unfitness for the office which they unfortunately fill. A qualified police magistrate considers what punishment is sufficient to deter from the repetition of an offence, and does not exceed it; moreover, in thus judging he distinguishes between offences which have their origin in prejudice fostered by time and usage, and an obstinate defiance of the law. The blind and blundering honesty of many of our unpaid magistrates is unequal to the task of drawing such distinctions, and hence with the best intentions they continually outrage public sentiment.

Daily news August 68 Anmerkung von Jenny Marx

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The Daily News. Nr. 7025, 6. Dezember 1868. S. 5.
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WINTER PROSPECTS IN EAST LONDON.

Even amid the excitement and turmoil of the parliamentary elections there is amongst those most familiar with the social condition of East London a considerable amount of uneasiness respecting the prospects of its myriads of unemployed poor during the coming rigorous of winter; and, to say the least, there are numerous cogent reasons for entertaining disagreeable forebodings. An unusually fine and prolonged summer, an exceptionally early and abundant harvest, and the briskness of trade in various parts of the kingdom, have all failed to produce any perceptible diminution in the existing vast amount of metropolitan pauperism. Whether this constantly-augmenting amount of pauperism is the result of a depression of local trade, or of increased habits of intemperance and improvidence amongst the labouring classes, or of some equally effectual predisposing cause, may be a matter for dispute, but there everywhere exists a singular unanimity of opinion that the evil must be promptly met, whatever be the cost. But how is this to be done? This forms the problem which the East London parochial authorities are now attempting to solve, although, in their perplexity, they scarcely know in which way to begin. The more they extend the means of relief the larger becomes the mass of destitution with which they have to deal. It is as if poverty begat poverty. The number of metropolitan paupers during the last week of July in the present year was no less than 127,119, an increase of 7.7 per |3 cent on the number during the corresponding period in 1867. Of this great pauper army by far the largest proportion belonged to the eastern metropolitan districts, including Poplar, in which parish there are at the present moment something like 7,000 persons in receipt of parochial relief, the number three years ago not exceeding 700! It is sad to note the seeming helplessness of the East London poor. They seem to have become as mere children evincing little willingness or ability in seconding the efforts to rescue them from the abyss of poverty into which they have fallen; in fact, they appear to have acquired much of the fatalism characteristic of the Asiatic race, and to have tacitly accepted the curse of pauperism as their unavoidable destiny. Even the very children seem to have become affected with the social taint, for they no longer taunt each other with their parent’s acceptance of the workhouse dole. The Poplar guardians recently sent a deputation into Lancashire for the purpose of investigating the various modes of relief adopted during the cotton famine; but there is this difference between the distress formerly existing in the cotton-manufacturing districts and that now prevailing in East London—the former was of an exceptional and temporary character, while the latter bids fair to become permanent; various causes, amongst which must be named the indiscriminate bestowal of charity, having converted what, under a more systematic system of outside relief, would have proved merely a limited mass of destitution, into a corresponding amount of chronic pauperism.

Coincident with the steady increase of the pauper population, a fresh, but not unexpected evil is also beginning to manifest itself. Much of the relief afforded to the poor, although sufficient to maintain life, is utterly insufficient for the purpose of preserving the body in a state of health. Hence the increasing prevalence of sickness and fever amongst the East London poor. The generally debilitated condition of these poor creatures almost exceeds belief. A glance at the shivering crowds which daily cluster round the doors of the relieving officers shows how easy would be the triumph of pestilence if it once attacked the thin, emaciated forms which tremble like aspens in the cold November wind. Nothing but the numerous sanitary improvements effected during recent years, together with the unceasing vigilance of the various medical officers of health, has hitherto prevented London from falling a victim to the ravages of a terribly fatal epidemic. Even as it is, there exists no lack of danger. The increasing amount of pauper fever is painfully illustrated, not merely by the overcrowded state of the workhouse infirmaries, or the daily increase of applications at the local dispensaries and hospitals, but also by the fact that while the number of recipients of parochial relief is constantly receiving fresh accessions, the proportion of able-bodied paupers exhibits a steady decline. A few days since, Mr. Orton, the Limehouse medical officer of health, had his attention directed to several cases of fever in Ratcliff. On the matter being inquired into, it was found that the disease was less the result of sanitary deficiencies than the effect of low living produced by extreme poverty. Similar experiences have been obtained in Shadwell, Bethnalgreen, Whitechapel, and elsewhere. In Mile-end Old Town, a family, consisting of a father, mother, and five children, the eldest a girl of fourteen, were discovered by the relieving officer living in a small and wretchedly furnished room. They were all suffering from fever. The man and woman lay helplessly in one corner of the cheerless apartment, the eldest girl was crouching before the almost fireless grate, while three other children were huddled together on an old and rickety sofa, where a thin shawl was made to act as blanket and counterpane. Food, clothing, and other necessaries were immediately supplied, and within a few hours afterwards the father and three of the children were being conveyed to the Fever Hospital. Unfortunately in one case the assistance arrived too late, the head of the family, succumbing to the effects of the fever, dying in a day or two afterwards. Numerous other instances of fever are reported from the same district, no less than 32 cases having been sent during a single week to the Fever Hospital, the demands upon which institution are growing so excessive that the scale of hospital charges has recently been increased. The fever, it should be observed, is confined almost wholly to the outdoor paupers.

As if this increase of local pauperism and the widening spread of pauper sickness were not sufficient, the luckless East-end ratepayers find themselves threatened with fresh financial burdens, in consequence of their parochial representatives having been commanded by the now almost omnipotent Poor-law Board to erect new infirmaries, schools, and workhouse buildings. The buildings certainly are much needed; but the present is a most inconvenient time for adding to the rapidly rising amount of local taxation—the more so considering that the time cannot be far distant when the equalization of metropolitan taxation will have become an accomplished fact. In Poplar the present workhouse is to be pulled down, and a new one erected in its stead, at a cost of 50,000l. A similar sum is to be expended in Shoreditch on the erection of a new infirmary and schools. But who is ultimately to pay the piper? Large numbers of the smaller class of shopkeepers, affected by the surrounding poverty of the districts in which they reside, can scarcely manage to pay the rates; while as for the compound householder, his abolition is everywhere proving a prolific source of loss and trouble to the different parishes. In some places it is said that not a penny has yet been obtained from the new rate-paying class, and that the parish officials dare not put in the brokers, least the defaulters should be driven to the workhouse. Moreover, large numbers of these people are recipients of parochial relief. How seriously these things affect local taxation is shown by the circumstance, that the amount of poor rates to be collected in Hackney for the half-year ending Lady-day, 1869, is 36,161l., or more than was collected during the whole year ending Lady-day, 1868, when the amount was 35,368l. The standard of revolt which has been raised by the ratepayers of St. Pancras will speedily find adherents from other parishes, where the people are becoming tired of paying for public improvements at the West-end, and, at the same time, having to bear singlehanded their own heavy parochial expenses.

Such facts, however, only serve to stimulate the energies of the numerous earnest-hearted, men engaged in the praiseworthy task of supplementing work of parochial relief; but, as in former years, the old difficulty arising from the multiplicity of independent relief organizations is again being severely felt. The number of philanthropic funds, annuity societies, charitable associations, and the like, in East London, is enormous. They annually absorb vast sums of money without effecting any corresponding amount of good but, |4 on the contrary, assisting largely in the evil labour of increasing the amount of pauper feeling amongst those whom they are professedly intended to relieve. The East-end Central Relief Committee, the head-quarters of which are in Poplar, desirous of doing something towards putting an end to this anomalous state of things, are endeavouring to effect an arrangement with the East London Mission and Relief Committee, whereby some degree of co-operation might be secured for the purpose of detecting imposture. The latter body combines religious instruction with the administration of relief, a circumstance which seriously impedes its real effectiveness. The East-end Central Relief Committee, on the contrary, base their operations on the system so successfully pursued in Lancashire during the cotton famine. It aims principally at relieving the really deserving poor, especially those on the verge of pauperism; and is its committee including several of the local parish guardians, any attempt at fraud is speedily detected. The recent letter of the Rev. J. F. Kitto, one of its members affords ample proof of the wise and enlightened manner in which the operations of the committee are conducted, and one cannot help regretting that its example should not be more extensively imitated, especially at a moment when the eastern portions of the metropolis are threatened with an amount of distress and privation compared with which all previous visitations of a like character must inevitably appear tame and insignificant.

Inhalt:

  • Social cases. 1869