Concept

Opposition to the English Poor Laws

Summary
Mr. Canning was once asked by Mr. Tierney why he did not touch the Poor Law? To which question Mr. Canning replied:— "Why do not Governments decide offhand a question growing out of the usages of centuries—interwoven with the habits, and deeply rooted in the prejudices of the people? Of all subjects of legislation on which Governments ought not harshly or prematurely to interfere, without ascertaining, and, if possible, carrying with them the prevailing sentiments of the country, this of the Poor Law appears to me the one on which it would be most undesirable to take a precipitate course." From the reign of Elizabeth I (reigned 1558-1603) until the passage of the Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834 relief of the poor in England was administered on the basis of a Poor Law enacted in 1601. From the start of the nineteenth century the basic concept of providing poor relief was criticised as misguided by leading political economists and in southern agricultural counties the burden of poor-ra
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