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Principles of 1907 in United Kingdom

Principles of 1907

In this issue about principles of 1907, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: It is unnecessary to attempt to summarise the policy of the Central Authority from 1847 to 1907, in the manner adopted for the inaugural period, 1835 to 1847. The policy of the last sixty years is so complicated and diversified that we could hardly compress it further than is already done in the foregoing analysis, without making it unintelligible. We propose, therefore, to end this report by examining to what extent, in our opinion, the Central Authority has, in 1907, departed from “the principles of 1834”; to what extent it has evolved other methods of dealing with its problem-methods based on principles that were neither advocated nor condemned, because they were not thought of, by the little group of ardent doctrinaires who conceived and carried out the reforms of the new Poor Law; and, finally, to what extent it has left the local authorities without guidance as to which of the competing principles they should adopt in their everyday task of relieving the destitute.

The Principles of 1907 and the Majority Report of the Royal Commission of 1905-1909

In this issue about the principles of 1907, the book “English Poor Law Policy” [1] reads as follows: We turn first to the Report signed by the Majority of the Commissioners, including those members who were, or had been, members of the Charity Organisation Society. It is not easy to be sure what are the principles which the signatories of this Report wish to see accepted by the public. The whole wording of the lengthy document points in one direction, and nearly all its definite proposals in another. Thus, in the drastic criticism of the present Poor Law; in the phraseology running all through the Report, and in some of the detailed recommendations, we find a very definite, if generally tacit, abandonment of the “Principles of 1834,” and a seeming adoption of what we have called the “Principles of 1907,” as set forth in the preceding chapters. Indeed, the Majority Report is in one place explicit in its repudiation of the “Principles of 1834,” arguing that, whatever may have been their validity three-quarters of a century ago, they are no longer applicable even to the able-bodied. “The administrators of the present Poor Law,” it was expressly declared without dissent from any Commissioner, “are in fact endeavouring to apply the rigid system of 1834 to a condition of affairs which it was never intended to meet. What is wanted is not to abolish the Poor Law, but to widen, strengthen, and humanise the Poor Law, so as to make it respond to a demand for a more considerate, elastic, and, so far as possible, curative treatment of the Able-bodied.” This interpretation of the Majority Report finds support in the fact that what we have termed the “Principles of 1907” are repeatedly endorsed. Thus, the Principle of Curative Treatment is expressed almost on every page. It is, in fact, owing to the assertion and reassertion of this principle that the Majority Report owed its instantaneous popularity with the benevolent public. In sharp contrast with every previous Poor Law Report, this one urged that the children were to be brought up in the best possible way; the sick were to be given the most curative treatment; the mentally defective were to be treated solely with a view to their amelioration; the physically defective and the infirm were to have the specialised treatment and the appliances best calculated to remedy their defects; even the able-bodied, whether the unemployed or the vagrants, the honest working-men or the wastrels, were to be dealt with by home treatment or in establishments of which the aim was to be training and reform. The Principle of Curative Treatment was made, in fact, the basis of all the methods proposed for the treatment of all the different sections of the pauper host.

The Principle of Compulsion,-alien, as we have shown, to the whole spirit of the Report of 1834-had, by 1907, only been adopted here and there. The Majority proposals of 1909, far from reverting in this respect to those of 1834, not only heartily adopt such compulsion as has already entered into the Poor Law, but also carry the principle much further. These proposals involve the compulsory enforcement of pauperism on whole sections of the community who are considered to need public assistance, but who do not wish to accept it-on the helpless and friendless aged who get into an insanitary condition; on the children of “Ins and Outs,” and of other parents who are leading improper lives; on the feeble-minded who are, nevertheless, not so mentally defective as to be able to be certified as of unsound mind; on sick persons not properly cared for in their own homes; on children suffering from ophthalmia or other contagious diseases; on persons of either sex suffering from venereal diseases; on “unmarried mothers” resorting to the workhouse in their hour of need; and on able-bodied men and women who become repeatedly chargeable owing to their own misconduct. All these persons so diverse in their characters, their circumstances, and their needs, ought, it is expressly recommended, to be compulsorily detained in a Poor Law Institution or at the Poor Law expense, at the instance of the new Poor Law Authority. Whenever deemed necessary, they are to be made subject to what is euphemistically called “An Order for Continuous Treatment,” under which their compulsory detention may extend to as long as three years. “The term detention,” it is said, “is perhaps, however, infelicitous. It is generally associated with the idea of punishment by imprisonment. Our primary object in proposing detention is neither punishment nor imprisonment. We aim at affording opportunities for applying ameliorative treatment to particular individuals over a continuous period. We desire to substitute for the present system of incontinuous and inefficacious relief a continuity of care and treatment which shall benefit both the recipient and the community…. All these cases have this common characteristic, viz. that the absence of power of continuous treatment constitutes a danger either to the individual or the State.”

Finally, the third of the “Principles of 1907”-that of Universal Provision-far from meeting with objection, receives repeated endorsement. The Majority accept, without a word of criticism, the provision of national pensions for all the persons over seventy years of age below a certain income-limit, and they do not even suggest the maintenance of the present temporary disqualification of those who have received parochial relief since January 1, 1908. They endorse the universal provision by the Local Education Authority of medical inspection and diagnosis for all children in attendance at the public elementary schools; though they think that the contemplated provision of medical treatment for these children should not be a function of the Local Education Authority. They even recommend the universal provision of medical attendance for every sick person who applies for it, with free choice of doctors; though it is urged that inquiry should be subsequently made as to the applicants’ means, and that such as may be found to be able to pay for the service rendered to them should be required to do so. Hospital accommodation and treatment is, moreover, to be provided at the public expense, without charge and without disfranchisement wherever it is deemed to be required, including whatever is necessary for the proper treatment of phthisis. Finally, the National Government is to undertake an entirely new service; to be available without charge to every one who cares to use it, irrespective of his affluence; and to be as ubiquitous and as universal as the Post Office. By a national system of Labour Exchanges, the present disjointed efforts of innumerable seekers after jobs are to be replaced by a public organisation, the business of which will be to know all the vacancies and all the applicants, and to find a man for every job, if not a job for every man. All this represents, not only the endorsement of the Principle of Universal Provision so far as it has already gone, but also a considerable further increase of the communistic activity of the State.


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: Principles of 1907
  • Author: Valentine L. Korah
  • Description: In this issue about principles of 1907, the book English Poor Law Policy [1] reads as follows: It is unnecessary to attempt [...]

This entry was last updated: May 1, 2017


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