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National Uniformity in United Kingdom

National Uniformity and the 1834 Report

In this issue about national uniformity, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: The most revolutionary principle of the Report of 1834-the fundamental basis alike of the Act of 1834 and of the policy of the Central Authority-was that of nationaluniformity in the treatment of each class of destitute persons. It was this principle that was in most marked contrast with the previous practice, under which each parish or union had pursued its own Poor Law policy. It was this principle that furnished the ground for the very existence of a Central Authority. The Commissioners recommended that there should be uniformity in the administration of relief in the different parts of the country, in order-

(a) To reduce the “perpetual shifting” from parish to parish;

(b) To prevent discontent among paupers; and

(c) To bring the management more effectually under the control of Parliament.

For this among other reasons the recommendation seemed to the Commissioners to follow, “as a necessary consequence, that the Legislature should divest the local authorities of all discretionary power in the administration of relief.” But they did not put this recommendation into large type. What they put into large type was the recommendation that there should be a Central Authority to control the administration, directed to frame and enforce regulations, “as far as may be practicable … uniform throughout the country.”

It is to be noted that the uniformity proposed by the Commissioners was a geographical uniformity in the treatment of particular classes of paupers, both indoor and outdoor, in different places, not an identical treatment of all paupers, or of all the paupers in any one place. We shall deal presently with their varying recommendations with regard to particular classes. But in two categories they proposed a further uniformity, a uniformity in the treatment of different individuals in a class. They emphatically pointed out that any attempt to discriminate according to merit, in the award of outdoor relief, is dangerous and likely to lead to fraud. This proposed further uniformity of treatment among individuals in a class, it will be seen, is expressly limited to the amount to be given as outdoor relief. It is not repeated in that part of the Report which deals with classification in institutions, nor does it apply to the decision as to whether or not outdoor relief should be given at all. A further uniformity recommended by the Commissioners was that of identity of treatment of the able-bodied, whether deserving or undeserving. To this we shall refer in connection with the able-bodied. It is to be noted that the Commissioners do not explicitly apply it to any but the able-bodied.

National Uniformity, the Act of 1834 and its Amendments

In this issue about national uniformity, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: Prior to 1834 there were many authorities legally entitled to order relief from the rates. The Act of 1834 made for national uniformity by confining this power, subject to certain exceptions as regards special classes, to the boards of guardians when formed; and until these were formed, to the select vestries or bodies formed under local Acts; to the exclusion, in these places, of the Justices of the Peace and the overseers. The new relief-giving local authorities were made subject to the control of a Central Authority, to be exercised by rules having the force of law.

Two of the great classes of relief were singled out for special reference in the Act. The Central Authority was expressly empowered to make “rules, orders and regulations to be observed and enforced at every workhouse.” The Central Authority was also expressly empowered to make “rules, etc., to regulate the relief of the able-bodied and their families.” With regard to all other classes of paupers (e.g. the aged and impotent; orphan and deserted children; widows and deserted wives, with their children; and the sick-unless any of these can be supposed to have been included by Parliament under the term able-bodied) the Central Authority had general powers only; the administration of all poor relief was made subject to its direction and control; and it was empowered and directed “to make rules for the management of the poor, the government of workhouses and the education of the children therein … for the apprenticing the children of poor persons; and for the guidance and control of all guardians, vestries and parish officers so far as relates to the management or relief of the poor.”


Notes and References

  1. Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb, “English Poor Law Policy” (1913), Longmans, Green and Co., London, New York, Bombay and Calcuta.

See Also


Notes and References

  1. Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb, “English Poor Law Policy” (1913), Longmans, Green and Co., London, New York, Bombay and Calcuta.

See Also

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  • Article Name: National Uniformity
  • Author: Bernard Schwartz
  • Description: National Uniformity and the 1834 Report In this issue about national uniformity, the book English Poor Law Policy [1] reads [...]

This entry was last updated: January 17, 2017


Revolution of 1834

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