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Art. VI. Objections to Mr Brougham's Bill for Inquiring into
Abuses in Charitable Donations, with a Proposal for introducing a Sysiem into the Management of those Funds that shall prevent or detect future Abuses, and preserve the property from loss or diminution. By Francis CHARLES Parry, Esq. X. M. London, Anderson. 1819.
referred to, in relation to Publick Charities, demanded a more particular consideration; and we delayed, until another opportunity, giving any account of the very excellent Letter on Grammar Schools, which appeared in the Pamphleteer. It is proper that we should now supply the omission ;-and the Tract by Mr Parry, which had not then reached us, affords an occasion of renewing the discussion, and of examining also his plans of reform. We shall begin with this examination, both because Mr Parry's publication stands at the head of the present article, and because it naturally precedes that of the Letter on Grammar Schools.
Mr Parry's. Objections' were published before the Ministers had brought in the last Bill, in which they adopted almost the whole of Mr Brougham's original measure; and his purpose is chiefly to show the inefficacy of that measure, and to extenuate, for he cannot wholly defend, the rejection of it in the Session 1818. As the plan has since been sanctioned by the Legislature without a dissentient voice, we might spare ourselves the trouble of minutely considering these objections, in so far as they only touch that plan : But they lead to the proposal of Mr Parry's own views of reform; and as these are not incompatible with the subsistence of the present Commission of Inquiry, we must enter somewhat more at large into his remarks upon it.
The first and principal objection urged by Mr Parry is, that the measure is one of inquiry only; that it applies no remedy to the evils detected, and affords no preventive against their recurrence. It gives us, he says, a mere account, upon oath, of the charities in the kingdom, and leaves them as it found them; it satisfies curiosity, and nothing more; and he seriously doubts, whether, after the investigation has been completed, the subject may not lie dormant during another thirty years, as it did after the returns under Mr Gilbert's Act. He admits, however, that the measure of simple inquiry is an acceptable boon' to the country, because it may lead to the temporary 'correction of
some irregularities, preparatory to the expected approach of • the Commissioners.'
The next objection arises out of the former. Our author is apprehensive that the publick will grow weary of the protracted inquiry, and that a state of apathy towards the subject of Charities will succeed the present lively interest excited by it. « Though some little good may be effected by the preparation • of a decent statement on the part of some trustees, to be sub• mitted to the Commissioners, yet there is nothing in the pro
posed measure which can, in the slightest degree, prevent the o immediate practice of any the grossest abuse as soon as the • Commissioners shall have closed their inquiry into any parti
cular charity. In this point of view, the inquiry will be a mere palliative: The paroxysm may be subdued; but the dis• order is ready to break out with redoubled virulence on the • first opportunity: There is no security for the future; and if it • shall happen that any vicious administrators of charitable funds
may, by specious statements, elude the vigilance of the Com• missioners, they will have secured indemnity for the past, and 6 will calculate on license for the future.
He then speaks of the delay necessarily arising from the wide field of the Inquiry into all Charities. He reckons 50,000 as the lowest number of charitable donations that can be assigned; but he thinks they may probably amount to nearer 100,000; and he enumerates all the particulars of the proceedings which must in each case be instituted, in order to show (what indeed no man living can doubt) the impossibility of completing the Inquiry in two years, the time limited for the duration of the Act.
The last complaint of Mr Parry refers to the difficulty of having any effectual measure of reform and prevention carried into execution, while the Inquiry is pending. Indeed, he considers it to be out of the question. He argues, that to any application for such a measure, the answer would be irresistible
Wait until the investigation is finished; because, if the plan were framed upon one Report of the Commissioners, the next Report might bring new cases to light, and render other measures necessary. ?
Now, before proceeding to Mr Parry's own plan, let us examine a little the validity of these objections. That the Inquiry will extend beyond the time limited by the acts, no one can doubt. But is our author so ignorant of the subject, as to imagine that the statutory limitation was intended to be final, if the experience of two years should prove the measure to be advantageous ? Every such Inquiry, indeed almost all the most important amendments of our law, have been at first enacted for a short period, and adopted, as it were, experimentally. So it
was with the Grenville Act; more recently with the Scotch Jury Act; and so it was with the Commissions of Publick Accounts, and of Naval and Military Inquiry. The reasons are obvious. A new machinery is about to be erected; and, until it is put in motion, no man (except he be endowed with the happy powers of a Cartwright or an Hobhouse) can presume to foretel how all its parts will work. Besides, it is useful that a necessity should be imposed, of reconsidering both the principle, after We have had the lights of experience, and the minute details, many
of which beforehand could not have been considered at all. But no one ever thought that the Legislature which first passed the bill for two years, either pledged itself to let it expire at the end of that period, whether the investigation should be completed or not; or gave any assurance, or even an opinion, that it would probably be closed at that time. Here, as in the former cases, there was almost a certainty of the measure being renewed when the limited time expired, and renewed with all the improvements which experience might have suggested.
Such being our opinion upon this point, we must at the same time express our belief, that Mr Parry has greatly exaggerated the number of charitable endowments, for the purpose of his argument. He says, that they probably amount to 100,000; but that 50.000 is the lowest estimate which can be made of them. Now, from Mr Brougham's statement at the end of last Session, it appeared, that in a portion of England containing nine counties, near a million and a half of inhabitants, and 1829 ecclesiastical districts, there were only 805 endowments connected with education. This would give an average of four such endowments to nine parishes or chapelries; or about five thousand for all England: And this estimate is perhaps rather over than under the truth; for the counties of Middlesex and Lancaster, with a population of near two millions, are understood to have fewer than 400 endowments; which deficit must materially affect the general average. We have been informed, that the whole number is under 4000. Taking it, however, at 4000, it can hardly be supposed that the charities wholly unconnected with education amount to 46,000; for most of the considerable charities, everywhere, have some connexion with education ;there being a very large proportion of endowments all over the country directed to the support of children, one of the helpless, and certainly the most numerous and prominent of the helpless classes. We cannot believe that more than 40,000 are unconhected with education; and consequently we deem any estimate as exaggerated, which carries the total higher than from 40,000
to 4.4,000. Mi Parry's notion of 100,000, is indeed wild and hecdless beyond description. It is grounded in complete ignorance of the facts; and involves the monstrous supposition, that for every endowment connected with education, or the support of poor children, there are twenty-four wholly devoted to other purposes.
The labours of the Commissioners may not only be abridged much more than Mr Parry imagines, but they may in future be rendered more easy and expeditious, by such devices as practice will certainly suggest. Abuses range themselves under classes ; from the similarity of endowments, and the identity of the motives to pervert or neglect them, always at work. The investigation will thus become easier and shorter as it proceeds; and the sisting of one case will often save inquiry into another. Above all, it may be hoped that discretionary powers will be given to the Commissioners, to abandon certain inquiries altogether, when they have ascertained that the object of the Charity is extremely small. A rent-charge of ten shillings may demand as much investigation, as any of the important abuses brought to light by the labours of the Education Committee; but as soon as it can be ascertained that nothing more is due to the Charity, than this, or some such trifling income, with its arrears, the Inquiry should be dropt at once; and be left to the crdinary course of law, if any private individuals choose to pursue it. Some unthinking persons proposed, when the Bill of 1818 was before Parliament, to exclude from the jurisdiction of the Commissioners all very small endowments; wholly forgetting, that, before inquiry, it is impossible to tell whether the low revenue of the endowment be not itself the result of its mismanagement.
* The following details on this subject may be interesting to Statistical Inquirers, and they serve to confirm the estimate in the text. By the returns under Mr Gilbert's Act, printed by order of the House of Commons in 1816, it appears that in five counties, Bedfordshire, Berks, Bucks, Cambridgeshire and Cheshire, there are 4041 charitable donations of all kinds. The endowments connected with education in the same counties are 346. Supposing this proportion, in the rest of England, to be the same, we should have about 45,000 for the number of charitable donations all over England. The endowments connected with education, however, are by far the most considerable. Those endowments, in the first four of the above countics, have, by the Returns referred to, a revenue of 66261. year the whole endowments for the same counties having only an income of 19,3761. The education endowments are therefore each about seven times richer than the others.
Another of Mr Parry's objections appears to be extremely unfounded. We allude to the apprehension which he entertains, that the public will grow weary of the Inquiry. If abuses are from time to time detected, and if the good effects of the investigation, in tacitly preventing abuses from continuing, are constantly made apparent, we can have no doubt, that as much interest will be kept alive in the community, as is sufficient to watch the proceedings of the Commissioners, and as much as the success of the Inquiry demands. A measure may be pronounced positively bad, which cannot carry itself into execution, but depends upon a constant renewal of the popular feeling in which it originated. That feeling might be very useful at first; it might be indispensable to the commencement of the plan : But its continued operation would most probably do mischief; and a scheme must be useless, or worse, which depended for its success upon the repeated exertion of such an influence.
The other evil effect ascribed by our author to the protracted Inquiry, that no practical remedies can be applied till its conclusion, is wholly chimerical, and could only have been suggested by a very hasty view of the subject. Every one who has made himself conversant with its details (and we are far from denying their complicated and multifarious nature), must have perceived, that the prevailing abuses are reducible to a few very general classes. The defects in ancient endowments are nearly the same everywhere, arising from a change in the circumstances of society; and the manner in which advantage has been taken of these defects, or of certain ambiguities in old foundations, either by the negligence or the malversation of trustees and agents, is alike in almost all cases. To take a prevailing example-Grammar schools are found in situations where originally there was a demand for instruction in the learned languages, either from the size of the places, or from the kind of learning required by the Catholic Church, supplied with ministers as it was from the inferior classes of the community. Many of these towns have in process of time decayed and everywhere the demand for persons capable of reading the Ritual in Latin has ceased. Hence many, if not most of those schools, are reduced to a mere shadow of their ancient prosperity. The abuse operates everywhere in exactly the same manner- A person is chosen, who finds the title of Endowed Master' advantageous in attracting private pupils to his school. Eight or ten, and sometimes none at all, apply to be taught Latin upon the foundation; but the master offers to teach it, if any schoVOL. XXXIII. NO, 65.