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THE POOR LAW AND THE POLICE COURTS
time past* [*Quoted from The Times] monthly returns of the number of persons in
receipt of relief in England and Wales have shown a decrease in comparison with
the corresponding months of the previous year, but at length in December the
scale has been turned, and whereas at the close of 1859 the number was 827,461,
it was 835,129 at the close of 1860, an increase of 7,668, not far from 1 per
cent. This increase is chiefly due to the midland counties and the metropolis,
Wales and the eastern counties adding in a less degree to it; but the
manufacturing districts in the north continued to show a considerable decrease
in the number of paupers relieved. Thus far as to the comparison between
December, 1859, and December, 1860; but another comparison may be made-namely,
between the beginning and the end of December last, to show to what extent the
poor law had then met the distress caused by the severe weather which set in in
the middle of that month. Now, these returns show that [-314-]
the numbers relieved at
the end of the first week of last December were 807,187, and at the end of the
fourth week 835,129, an increase of only 27,942, or 3.46 per cent. In fact, the
increase of relief in that extraordinary weather was not so very much more than
always takes place in December. In December, 1858, the numbers relieved at the
end of the fourth week were 13,146 more than at end of the first week; in
December, 1859, 22,051 more; in December, 1860, 27,942 more. Taking all England,
fewer persons by 23,533 were receiving relief at the end of December, 1860, than
at the end of December, 1858, and fewer in every week of the month; and fewer
persons received outdoor relief in every week of December, 1860, than in the
corresponding week of December, 1859. In the metropolis, where the cry of
distress seemed so great, 95,237 persons were in the receipt of relief at the
close of the fourth week of December, 1860, 91,665 at the corresponding period
of 1859, an increase of 3,572; but in every week of December, 1860, the numbers
relieved were fewer than in 1858; and the number relieved at the end of the
fourth week of last December was only 3,920 more than at the end of the first
week, when the cold weather had not begun.
end of the fourth week in December, though the cold had already become so
severe, the number of persons receiving relief (835,129) was not at all
extraordinary for the time of year; but the continuance of the inclement weather
then began to tell, and at the end of the third week in January the number had
risen to 948,379, more than 14 per cent. above the corre-[-315-]sponding period of 1860,
and even at the end of the month, with changed weather, it was still 10 per
cent. above the previous year. But we find that the highest numbers here
reported as relieved only show an increase, for all England and Wales, of
118,382 above the numbers in January, 1860, which was a month of mild weather.
The distribution of this increase is not less remarkable. In the metropolis it
was no less than 42 per cent. above the previous year, the numbers relieved were
more by 38,851, and the large demands upon private charity seem to prove that
this did not meet the necessities of the case; but in the country the increase
was not to be compared with this. In the South-Western district it was not 2 per
cent. That district has at all times a greater proportion of its population
pauperized, and there may be a smaller body for sudden pressure to affect. The
difference, again, in the way in which the additional relief was dealt out in
different districts is remarkable. In London it was nearly all outdoor relief;
at the end of the third week of December the indoor poor were 28,740, and a
month later they were only 29,959, though above 37,000 persons more were then
receiving relief. On the other hand, in the eastern counties, with not near half
that additional number of persons receiving relief at the end of the third week
in January, the increase of indoor poor was more than double what it was in the
[-316-] Now comes
a diary of the charitable work at some of the London police-courts, extracted
from the newspapers. It shows how the applications for relief, and the funds for
relieving, ceased with the approach of fine weather.
To what extent the knowledge that no more money was to be given away acted upon the different crowds who flocked round the magistrates, will always, perhaps, remain a mystery. One thing may, however, be safely assumed: the degrading public exhibition of so much mixed poverty and imposition, and the knowledge that they had only to ask to have, must have had a very demoralizing effect upon the poor.
31st, 1860.--An immense number of poor and destitute creatures, principally
widows with families, and old women whose misery was apparent, applied at the
Thames Police-court, in the course of Saturday, for a little relief from the
poor-box fund. The want of employment, and the unusual severity of the weather,
combined with the dearness of fuel and the high price of provisions, have caused
an enormous amount of distress in the densely populated district assigned to the
court. Mr. Selfe said he was compelled to limit his assistance to those whose
honesty and good character were verified by the clergy of the district, and he
could only relieve the most deserving of those. A poor shipwrecked sailor boy,
thinly clad, and very ill, was presented to the magistrate in the most
deplorable condition. He was half starved, and in danger of perishing. Mr. Selfe
directed Howland, 83 H, an officer of the [-317-] court, to provide the boy with food, a
suit of warm clothing, and pay his railway fare to Newport, in Wales, where his
friends are residing.
January 1st, 1861.-A poor woman named Sarah Smith, dwelling in Poplar, came before Mr. Yardley, and stated that, owing to the inclemency of the weather, and to her husband being out of employ, she was in great distress, and upon applying to one of the relieving officers of the Poplar Union, he refused to relieve her and her family.
Mr. Yardley: Upon what grounds did he refuse?
Applicant: He said there were too many of us.
Mr. Yardley: How many children have you?
Applicant: Seven, sir. The eldest is fifteen years, and the youngest eleven months old.
Mr. Yardley could hardly believe that any relieving officer would assign as a reason for refusing relief the number of a family. It was a most unlikely story, indeed. If the relieving officer had given as a reason for not relieving a man and his family that they were nine in number, he was a most inconsistent and unreasonable person. It was the first time he had ever heard of relief being denied to a man and woman in distress because they had a large family. That was an additional reason, in addition to the ordinary ones, for administering relief. He would write a letter to Mr. Jeffreys, the principal relieving officer of the Poplar Union, calling attention to the case, and he was quite sure if the family were deserving, and the parents were persons of good repute, that they would be promptly and effectually relieved.
Mr. Yardley said he wished it to be distinctly under-[-318-]stood that it was no part of his duty to relieve the poor of the district, or to perform the functions of a relieving officer. The poor-box fund was applied to peculiar cases of destitution and distress in the court, to cases of a peculiar nature springing out of the investigations in the court. He could not attempt to relieve the destitution in the district, which he had no doubt was very great.
Mr. Selfe has opened about 3,000 letters of recommendation, and afforded temporary relief to about 600 persons in the course of the last five weeks. Yesterday numerous destitute widows and others came to the court with recommendatory certificates, certifying their poverty and good character, and were informed it was useless for them to wait, and that they had better apply on Thursday next, when Mr. Selfe will preside.
January 4th, 1861.-Mr. Selfe said he could only return thanks through the medium of the public journals for the liberal donations forwarded to him on behalf of the poor. He quite agreed with the observations of his learned colleague, Mr. Yardley, that it was only a subsidiary portion of the duty of the magistrate in the police-courts to relieve cases of distress, and that they were not relieving officers; but the system had grown with the police-courts, and had been productive of incalculable good. He also agreed with his colleague that the administration of the poor-box fund ought not to be allowed to interfere with the ordinary business of the court. It was true, as was observed by his colleague, that there was not a proper organization, and no relieving officers appointed to inquire into cases of distress presented in that court; but they did their [-319-] best; and every one who had watched the administration of relief must be aware that very little imposition was practised. Everything possible was done to guard against imposition. If the magistrates erred at all, it was on the side of over-caution. He had turned away more urgent cases of distress than he had relieved, or than it was possible to inquire into. The relief at police courts was administered, and the money disposed of, without one farthing of expense. There were no treasurers, secretaries, collectors, inquiring officers, or rent of offices to pay. The principal contributions forwarded to the poor-boxes of the police-courts were subscribed by the nobility and gentry of the West End, a few of the influential Livery companies of the City of London, and some of the large firms both in the City and West End.
January 12th, 1861.-A great number of unemployed coalwhippers, dock labourers, lumpers, hammermen, and others, have been loitering about the court for the last two days, in expectation of obtaining some relief from the poor fund. They were all evidently in a state of great distress, and many stalwart men, anxious to obtain a living by honest industry, were suffering from cold and hunger, and very thinly clad. On Thursday evening Mr. Yardley directed Mr. Livingston, the chief usher, to relieve twenty poor fellows with 2s. 6d. each. After the business of the court had terminated yesterday evening, Mr. Yardley directed Mr. Livingston to distribute 20l. in small sums among poor men in want of employment who were assembled in the waiting-room and the avenues of the court. After the magistrate left the bench, the chief usher presented [-320-] 150 of the poor men with 2s. 6d. each, and a few with 1s. 6d. each, until the 20l. was expended.
January 14th, 1861.-On Saturday, soon after the night charges were disposed of at the Thames Police-court, a great number of unemployed coal-whippers, dock labourers, lumpers, and others, began to assemble in the street opposite the court, in hopes of obtaining some relief from the poor-box fund. At four o'clock the applicants for relief had increased to 700, and the gates of the station-house yard were thrown open, and ample room found for the poor fellows there. Mr. Yardley, the presiding magistrate, believing the numbers would not exceed 600, directed Mr. Livingston, the chief usher, to obtain 50l. worth of silver, and distribute the same among the crowd at his discretion. Every person among them was in a state of great distress and in want of food. A majority of them were married, with wives and children at home actually starving. Of course, with such a number assembled to crave a little assistance, inquiries were out of the question; but, in addition to the chief usher, there were other astute officers in attendance, who could tell, at a glance, whether the person soliciting aid was what he represented himself to be, and the only questions put were the following:-- What are you? Are you married or single? How many children? And to some who were well known those questions were avoided. The number of destitute labourers increased every minute, and when the 50l. of silver was exhausted, there were at least 500 more clamouring for a bit of bread in the station-house yard. The chief usher took hasty counsel with his brother officers, and finding it impossible to send any of the [-321-] destitute creatures away empty-handed, procured an additional 30l. worth of silver, and distributed that also to the best of his judgment. About 100 received 2s. 6d. each; a second hundred, 2s. each; a third hundred, 1s. 6d. each; 300, 1s. each; and 400, 6d. each. The total number relieved was exactly 1,500, including 50 women, and at least 1,000 of them were Irishmen, who always suffer naturally by the suspension of business in the docks, on the wharves, and on the river, and whose precarious earnings at all times are very small, though engaged in the most laborious and roughest work of the port of London. It was intended to confine the relief to unemployed labourers only, Mr. Selfe having relieved about 800 destitute women in the course of the last three weeks; but fifty half-starved seamstresses got into the station-yard behind the men, and it was impossible to send them away without a shilling or a sixpence. It is believed that on Saturday there were 26,000 labourers out of employ in the district of this court.
January 16th, 1861.-Yesterday the applicants for relief from the poor-box were again very numerous, and Mr. Yardley, on hearing that a vast number of unemployed labourers were assembled in front of the court, gave instructions to Mr. Livingston, the chief usher, to obtain 80l. worth of silver, and distribute it among them to the best of his judgment. A few words of inquiry only were addressed to each individual, but imposition was almost impossible. Mr. Livingston gave 100 1s. each; 100, 6d. each; and about 200 more, 2s. and 2s. 6d. each. There were upwards of 100 poor women craving relief in attendance, and they were [-322-] directed to attend with letters of recommendation from persons known to the magistrate, and their cases would be seen to.
January 17th, 1861.-The magistrates of this court have each adopted a different system of administering relief to the unemployed and destitute population of the district. Mr. Selfe commenced by relieving poor women whose poverty and misery were verified by the clergy of all sects in the district, and others of repute known to him, and in this way gave temporary relief to about 700 women, principally widows, and a few men. Mr. Yardley commenced by relieving a few unemployed labourers on Thursday evening last, and their numbers increased daily until Tuesday, when 1,100 out of 1,500 assembled were assisted; about 300 with 1s. each, 100 with 6d. each, and another 100 with 2s. or 2s. 6d. each. It was announced on Tuesday that women only would be relieved on the following day, and that letters of verification from the clergy or from ladies and gentlemen known to the magistrates only, would be attended to. At noon, a vast assemblage of poor women thinly clad, many suffering from cold and hunger, assembled in the street. They continued to increase until they amounted to at last 2,000, and as they completely blocked up Arbour-street East, directions were given to admit them into the station-house yard, the great gates of which were thrown open for that purpose. About 1,000 letters were handed to Mr. Selfe in the course of the day by the half-famished creatures. A selection was absolutely necessary, and the letters from tradesmen and landlords not known to the magistrate, and not a few of whom were suspected [-323-] of recommending applicants for the purpose of obtaining payments of debts and arrears of rent, were thrown aside. Soon after four o'clock not fewer than 3,000 women and about 200 men had assembled.
January 18th, 1861.-Mr. Selfe said the conduct of the police and the officers of the court, during a very trying period, was beyond all praise, and he was much indebted to Mr. Griffin and Mr. Hayes for their attention, and the excellent manner in which they had carried out a most difficult duty. He asked how many there were assembled in the street now?
Mr. Griffin: Upwards of 2,000 men and women.
Mr. Selfe: I am sorry there are so many. I do not intend to relieve the men to-night. I cannot do it, but as many as possible will be provided by Mr. Livingston with a loaf of bread.
Soon afterwards all the females, about 1,100 in number, were admitted into the yard, and, under the direction of the police, found an entry into the court in batches of twelve or fifteen at a time. The letters and recommendations of great numbers were from persons of whom the magistrate knew nothing. Others were satisfactory, and in the course of the evening 300 women were relieved at a cost of 45l., in sums of from 1s. to 7s. each. 340 bread tickets were given away, one woman was relieved with 10s. 10l. was given to a Protestant minister for the relief of destitute persons belonging to his flock, and 20l. to a Roman Catholic priest for a similar purpose. The men, principally Irish labourers, and without employ, waited in the street opposite to the court until nearly eight o'clock, and finding there was nothing for them except the [-324-] bread tickets, which only a small portion of them obtained, they departed sorrowfully enough.
January 19th, 1861.-The assemblage this day of destitute people seeking relief from the poor-box fund was greater than ever, and among them were several cases of appalling distress. Creed and country were not considered in the distribution of relief. The representatives of the High Church, Low Church, and Broad Church were on the bench at one time, soliciting aid for the humble members of their flocks who were in want. At three o'clock upwards of 4,000 men and women were assembled, and a large force of police of the K division were in attendance, under the direction of Mr. Howie, superintendent, and Inspectors Griffin and Hayes, of the K division. The greatest eagerness was manifested by the people, many of whom had been waiting several hours to obtain relief; and if it had not been for the great care, forbearance, and firmness of the police, numerous accidents, if not loss of life, would have occurred. The rush occasionally was tremendous. About 200 at a time were admitted into the yard between the station-house and the court, and, under well-managed regulations, were admitted into the court thirty and forty at a time. Mr. Selfe personally inquired into and ordered relief to those who produced the printed forms filled up. Nine-tenths of them were poor women, the rest were coal-whippers and labourers, recommended by that well-known philanthropist, Mr. Gowland.
January 22nd, 1861.--Notwithstanding the favourable change of the weather, and the partial resumption of business on the river and in the docks, great numbers [-325-] of poor and hungry persons besieged the Thames Police-court in hopes of obtaining relief.
Mr. Yardley said the cases he wished to relieve were those of poor men who had been thrown out of employment by the stoppage of business on the river and in the docks. He was in hopes the whole of them would have been employed with this favourable change in the weather, but it was not so, and the magistrates were overwhelmed with applications, and with letters containing money. It was impossible to go on day after day relieving, or attempting to relieve, unemployed workmen and labourers from all quarters, who flocked to the court. Relief had been given to many thousands last week, and there must now be some limit to it.
Mr. Selfe was engaged in a private room for several hours in making inquiries, and relieving persons who presented the printed forms issued by the court, properly filled up by trustworthy and honourable persons who had been supplied with them by the magistrate. Mr. Selfe attaches great value to this system of giving relief, as preventing the possibility of imposition, for he not only makes every person responsible for the accuracy of the statements made in those papers, but he inquires of each person calling upon him with them whether they are fit objects of relief or not. He relieved 150 deserving persons of both sexes yesterday in sums varying from 3s. to 7s. each.
January 23rd, 1861.-In the afternoon Mr. Livingston, the chief usher, relieved 500 unemployed docklabourers, coalwhippers, and workmen, by order of Mr. Yardley. Some received 2s., others 2s. 6d., and the remainder 3s. each. In all 75l. worth of silver was [-326-] distributed. There were at least 400 hungry and destitute men turned away empty-handed.
January 25th, 1861.-There was an immense gathering of poor and destitute persons in the vicinity of this court yesterday, to solicit relief from the poor-box, and incessant applications were made in the course of the day by clergymen of various creeds, deputations from relief committees, and others, for assistance. Mr. Selfe shortly investigated their various claims, and awarded upwards of 400l. among those who waited upon him. Mr. Selfe relieved about 500 persons with sums varying from 3s. to 20s. The average was about 5s. each applicant. The forms revealed an appalling amount of distress in every conceivable shape, and many of them contained such entries as their family starving, not an atom of furniture, children huddled together on the floor or on straw, and other similar details. Mr. Selfe more than once remarked that many of the cases ought to be visited and relieved by parochial officers, and effectually dealt with by them, as they were beyond the range of the temporary relief that could be afforded by a police-court poor-box. The magistrate, whose patience, perseverance, and humanity, during a very trying season, has been above all praise, did not terminate his useful and humane labours until midnight, when he retired in a most exhausted state.
January 26th, 1861.-A considerable number of poor individuals collected in front of the court, in expectation of obtaining some relief from the poor-box fund, but they were of a very different class to those who have hitherto sought for and obtained assistance. There were few coal-whippers and labourers among them, and [-327-] it was reported to Mr. Selfe that the various dock companies were now employing a great many hands, and that the Victoria Dock Company, at Plaistow, sent "over the border" to Middlesex for 500 labourers yesterday. The large engineering firms and proprietors of chemical works in Ratcliff, Limehouse, Stepney, and Poplar, are about to resume their operations on the same scale as before the frost commenced, and there is no doubt that should the present mild weather continue, 10,000 workmen and labourers, in addition to those who have been taken on in the course of the last three days, will resume their industrial occupations. Mr. Selfe announced that, for obvious reasons, there would be a discontinuance of the general relief of the poor after to-morrow evening, and that he should attend to no applications for temporary relief (urgent and pressing cases of want excepted) unless the applicants produced one of the printed forms issued by the court, properly filled up by some honourable and trustworthy gentleman known; and he expected, before they recommended any one, they would make themselves personally responsible by visiting, and inquiries about the applicant's position, character, cause of distress, and number of family.
Mr. Selfe relieved upwards of 100 destitute persons. In the course of the last five weeks his labours have been often protracted until nearly midnight. He has opened upwards of 4,000 letters recommending deserving persons as objects of temporary relief, examined 3,000 printed forms, received numerous clergymen of all creeds, committees, laymen, and others soliciting, and has been engaged day after day in corresp-[-328-]onding with various persons on the necessities of the district.
The amount received and distributed at this court during the month of January, 1861, was about 3,000l.
WORSHIP- STREET POLICE- COURT
14th, 1861.-Mr. Knox was again engaged the greater part of the day in listening
to and relieving the numerous melancholy cases introduced to him by the warrant
officer and other dependable persons. Sergeant Gee, of the H division, brought a
wretched-looking man into court for assistance under these circumstances:--It
appeared that, at an early hour that morning, some market people engaged in
Spitalfields saw the old man standing with a basket on his head. Suddenly he
fell to the ground, was picked up, and taken to the station-house. The immediate
attendance of Dr. Edmunds, the divisional surgeon, restored him, and that
gentleman then announced that the patient was perishing for want of sustenance.
This was, of course, at once afforded, and when able he was brought to this
The poor creature stated that he was eighty-two years of age, lived by carrying heavy loads in the market, but he had not had food for many hours.
The sergeant said he had visited the old man's lodging in Bowl-court, Shoreditch, where he found a young girl, a niece with a piece of bread she had procured from the workhouse for her relative.
Mr. Knox ordered instant relief in this instance.
[-329-] January 19th, 1861.-Again Mr. Knox devoted hours to inquiries into applications for relief from the poor-box fund, and the minute questioning of this worthy gentleman elicited much that was satisfactory on one hand, and most distressing on the other. A large sum is now laid out in the purchase of coals and bread, which is supplied by tickets, and this is essentially the most prudent course to pursue. Despite the relief that has been bestowed, hundreds flock to the doors of this court, bearing with them indisputable evidence of sickness and destitution. Mr. Knox took the opportunity of observing that above 300 letters were received daily on behalf of the bearers, and there were but four persons to open them. Under such circumstances, all he could do was to devote every minute possible to spare from the general business to their consideration. This evening great difficulty was experienced in clearing the court from those applicants who asserted that they had been in waiting day after day - some weeping, and others seeming resolved to remain.
January 23rd, 1861.-Mr. Knox, at the conclusion of the day's business, made the following remarks relative to the disposal of the poor-box funds, and the district over which he presided :-- "The course I and my colleague, Mr. Leigh, have followed, has been this-the district has been divided into four portions for the purpose of facilitating the duty of serving warrants, summonses, notices, and such like, and one officer is appointed to the charge of each of these portions. Now each of these officers, Farrall, Bull, Haynes, and Edis, at the end of a long and heavy day's work in the court, [-330-] has each night visited the homes of as many poor persons as he could at all accomplish in the time, reporting the result of each visit to the magistrate the next day, and in every case which he has so verified adequate relief in money and bread has been immediately granted. And here I should be very imperfectly discharging a moral duty if I did not most sincerely render my cordial thanks to those officers, for their exertions have been not only willingly made, but the extra duties so imposed upon them, trying and arduous as they were, have proved most effective and satisfactory. Indeed, I may truly say that, without their assistance, the vast amount of relief granted to the starving population of this district would have been entirely lost sight of. Every shilling disbursed has been so after a house to house visitation by them, and my most sincere thanks are due for the services they have rendered me. The chief destitution of this district appears to me to have fallen upon three great classes-dockyard labourers, shoemakers, and weavers. The thaw which has now set in may be the means of at once restoring the two former, but, with regard to the Spitalfields weavers, it is different, I greatly fear. I am informed that in this district alone there are 20,000 persons who follow this trade, their average earnings being only from 7s. to 10s. per week, and for seven or eight weeks past these have been almost entirely deprived of all occupation. Whether the system of relief by police-courts is to become one of the regular duties of such tribunals is not a point upon which I as one of the younger magistrates upon the bench can express any opinion. I only trust that we may receive some positive rule for our own guid-[-331-]ance, which may enable us to carry the business through in a proper and efficient manner, or that we may be enabled to state to the public that it is considered injudicious that police magistrates should be any longer charged with such a responsibility. The relief given by this court has been partly in the form of bread, coals, and blankets, and part in sums of ready money, and I most sincerely hope that a real amount of good has been effected with as small as possible a per-centage of that rascality and imposition which is and ever must be inseparable from such proceedings. The number of cases attended to since about the 19th of December, when the frost set in with such severity, I find to embrace no less than one thousand four hundred persons, and this, taking the usual average number that families are found to consist of, gives a total number so assisted over want and starvation of about 5,600 persons, who, but for the funds so left at our disposal, must have been left to themselves in misery and want."
9th, 1861.-Alderman Allen, having disposed of the ordinary business of the day,
devoted the whole of the afternoon to the investigation of the numerous
applications for temporary assistance from the funds of the poor-box. Upwards of
one hundred letters of recommendation were opened and examined, and although
some were evidently attempted impositions, and others from interested persons,
such as landlords, bakers, and other tradesmen with whom the poor people dealt, [-332-]
the number relieved with amounts, varying, according to circumstances, from 2s.
6d. to 1l., or 1l. 10s. each, was between eighty and ninety. The
majority of these were old women, almost on the verge of the grave either from
sickness or old age, and some apparently from starvation. One poor creature said
she was seventynine years of age, and had upon her hands a son fiftyeight years
of age, who was paralyzed, and unable to do anything for a living. The
magistrate kindly advised her to go into the union; but, like all the
respectable poor, she entertained an aversion to entering an institution which
would have separated her from her helpless son. She said she had 3s. per week
from the parish, and if she could obtain a trifle to help her over the bad
weather, she would attend her son "very carefully," and work for both.
Another case was that of a very decent-looking woman, eighty-seven years of age,
who said she got her living by hard work as a charwoman.
January 10th, 1861.-From an early hour this court was literally besieged by poor persons of all ages applying for some temporary assistance from the poor-box.
Alderman Allen very carefully investigated every case in which the applicant came with a letter of recommendation from some respectable person known to the court, and whose position placed such person above the influence of interested motives; but from the number of poor who were arriving in a continuous stream throughout the afternoon, it became obvious that it would be utterly impossible to relieve them all, and the magistrate, therefore, after he had assisted about seventy of those who appeared the most deserving with small sums, according to the circumstances of their cases, [-333-] announced publicly that the remainder of the applications could not be attended to unless the parties came better recommended. He wished also to impress upon the poor people who came here for charity that he could not accept the recommendation of a landlord or petty tradesman, as he feared that such recommendations were more often given with the view of settling back scores and arrears of rent rather than that of satisfying the craving appetites of the starving tenants and their famished children, and it was evident that this rule could not be too widely known or too rigidly adhered to, as he had already noticed some half-dozen names of persons, landlords of small tenements, who had issued their recommendations wholesale.
January 11th, 1861.-Alderman Allen directed the officers to admit the poor, who thronged every avenue of the court, in order that their applications for assistance might be heard, and such as were deemed deserving relieved. The worthy alderman was engaged from one until nearly six o'clock in the evening, during which nearly three hundred letters were opened; but although the suggestions thrown out on the previous day with regard to the class of persons from whom letters of recommendation should be obtained had been complied with to a very considerable extent, there were yet a vast number whose recommendations were unavailable in consequence of the writers not occupying any of the positions which would bring them within the knowledge of the magistrate or the officials connected with this court. Notwithstanding the intimation from the bench that any one recommended by inspectors of police would be certainly relieved, not more than two or three have [-334-] been received, and in the course of the afternoon Inspector Cole explained that the class of deserving persons that they generally came in contact with were not without friends, to whom their first application for a recommendation would naturally be made; but there was another class of persons, if anything, more deserving --equally respectable, but suffering from destitution far beyond what any one unacquainted with them could conceive. A class of persons neither seeking nor receiving relief either from the parish or private individuals, except their own friends, and who would rather exist upon a crust of dry bread or starve than venture to supplicate alms of a stranger. Many cases of that kind came under his observation, which would never be heard of unless visited in the wretched localities where they obtained a shelter.
January 12th, 1861.-Alderman Allen was engaged until past six o'clock in the evening in administering the funds placed at his disposal for the relief of the distressed poor of the district. At one time during the afternoon there could not have been less than 600 or 700 persons waiting for assistance, and among them were recognized many who were evidently prepared to exercise all their powers of dissimulation to impose upon the magistrate; but every recommendation was most carefully scrutinized, and the applicants closely interrogated, and any discrepancy in their statement, when compared with the letters of recommendation, proved fatal to their application, unless there were circumstances apparent to the magistrates which rendered them, if not so deserving as many others, fit objects for the sympathy of the benevolent.
[-335-] January 15th, 1861.-Alderman Mechi, as soon as the ordinary business was disposed of, stated that as the applicants for relief were so numerous and daily increasing, and the funds at present in the poor box for the relief of the poor were very much diminished-in fact, all but exhausted--it behoved him to distribute pecuniary aid only to those who were in most urgent need of immediate relief. The alms given away during the past week amounted to nearly 300l.; but to continue assistance at the same rate for one day would be sufficient to swallow up the remaining balance in hand. A notice was posted up outside the court stating that no relief would be given that day, but that all letters of recommendation might be left, which would be examined, and those who were deserving, after due inquiry into their cases, would be relieved at their homes, which had the effect of dispersing a crowd of strong, able-bodied Irishmen who have assembled during the last few days, and kept back many of the deserving English poor by force, in order that their countrywomen might be relieved before the money ran short.
January 17th, 1861.-Alderman Mechi was engaged for several hours administering the relief placed at his disposal to about seventy poor and distressed families, and as every case had been previously visited and fully inquired into by the police, there was no possibility of imposition. It was found necessary to confine the distribution to the City poor belonging to this district, as, in many instances, the parties relieved at this court proceeded immediately after and endeavoured to get relief at the Mansion House, and those relieved [-336-] at the Mansion House repeated their application at this court.
January 18th, 1861.-Alderman Phillips, who attended this day for the purpose of assisting Alderman Conder, while the latter disposed of the criminal charges, in the relief of the poor, was engaged the whole of the day administering temporary assistance to such as came provided with a recommendation from an inspector of police, certifying that their cases had been inquired into and found deserving. During the day no less than 250 distressed women were relieved with various sums, amounting in the aggregate to between 70l. and 80l., but although this number is greater than the numbers who have hitherto been relieved at this court in one day, it must not be taken as a fair criterion of the actual amount of distress now existing. Hundreds of families have within the last two or three weeks been relieved.
January 23rd, 1861.-Alderman Phillips and Alderman Conder, the latter having disposed of the ordinary night charges and summonses between the usual hours of twelve and two, were engaged the rest of the day in relieving about 250 poor families, whose circumstances had been previously inquired into by the police-the amount distributed being about 70l., exclusive of bread and soup, and coal tickets.
January 25th, 1861.-Alderman Mechi opened the court at an early hour this morning, and with the exception of a short interval, during which he disposed of the ordinary criminal business of the day, was engaged the whole time, up to half-past six in the evening, in relieving the distressed applicants whose [-337-] circumstances had been previously investigated by the police, and whose cases were certified by the inspectors of the different police divisions in this district as deserving. The number of families relieved during the day was nearly 200, and the amount disbursed about 80l. The total sum received and distributed at this court during January, 1861, was about 900l.
MANSION HOUSE POLICE-COURT
17th, 1861.-The number of application at this court for relief continues very
great, and the benevolence of the public still enables his lordship to afford
relief to a great number. Yesterday no less than 300 applied for assistance, and
after strict inquiries had been made, all who were found deserving received, to
the number of 180, sufficient for the relief of their present wants.
January 26th, 1861.-His lordship, in the course of the day, stated that the necessity for subscriptions for special charity had passed, and that by a merciful Providence we had been allowed to get back into the ordinary condition of things, that all those people who were thrown out of work by the late severe weather, are now in most cases enabled to continue their labours; consequently there was no more necessity for him to solicit the public assistance, or to keep up that machinery by which he had been enabled to dispense public charity. During the last few weeks no less than 3,000 persons had been relieved from the funds so liberally supplied by the benevolent public, all cases having first [-338-] been strictly inquired into. No case of distress had been brought to that court that had not received the fullest investigation, and the result went to show that while there were a great number of cases of extreme distress, there had been also a great many cases which were totally undeserving. He was sorry to state that even now there were still a vast number of applicants, and probably there might be some few who might require to be attended to, and he should for the next two days continue to relieve those who were really in distress, and whose cases would bear investigation, and that after that he should not consider it necessary to afford relief except in cases of the most urgent necessity.
The sum received and distributed at this court during the month of January, 1861, was nearly 2,000l. At the Southwark police-court, during the same period, nearly 1,400l. was received and distributed, and at the Westminster police-court about 850l., besides coals, soup, and bread were distributed to about 2,000 applicants. The accounts of the other police-courts are not published.