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ANCIENT POOR LAWS.
The poor, previously to any parliamentary enactments being made for their relief, derived their common support from voluntary charity. Kings and the nobility, and especially the clergy, emulated each other in this good work. The "venerable Bede" mentions, as a custom of the early days when he wrote, the prelates and superior clergy having at mealtimes an alms-dish always on the board, into which, before themselves ate, they carved from every dish a portion for the poor; and he tells a story of one prelate who in a time of difficulty, not having wherewith to allow the usual dole, sold the alms-dish itself (which was of silver,) and distributed the produce in charity.
Stowe, relates that, in a time of dearth, Henry II. himself, fed daily 10,000 poor. And Henry III. in a similar period of scarcity fed 6000 necessitous persons.
Richard Redman, Bishop of Ely, (1501,) was liberal to the poor. manner," Godwyn says, was in travelling to give unto every poor person that demanded alms of him, a piece of money, sixpence at least, and lest many should lose it, for want of knowledge of his being in town, at his coming to any place, he would cause a bell to ring, to give notice thereof unto the poor."
West, Bishop of Ely, (1515,)" kept daily in his house a hundred servants, of which, to the one-half, he gave yearly four marcs, wages, and to the rest forty shillings, every one being allowed four yards of cloth for his winter livery and three yards and a half for a coat to wear in summer. Daily he gave at his gate warm meat and drink to 200 poor folk, and in times of dearth divers sums of money."
Edward, Earl of Derby, about the year 1532, fed upwards of 60 poor and aged persons every day, besides all comers three times a week (appointed for his doling days,) and on every Good Friday supplied 2,700 persons with meat, drink, and money.
Cromwell, Earl of Essex, at his gate, in Throgmorton-street, served 200 persons twice every day with bread, meat, and drink.
Corrodies were allowances of provisions common to all the monasteries in the Catholic times, where a table was likewise always kept for the relief of the poor and travellers.
The first sign of legislation on this subject, appears in acts of parliament to restrain and punish beggars and vagabonds. In the act 23 Edward III. it is ordained thus: "Forasmuch as many valiant beggars" or as another reading still more quaintly gives it, “many right mighty and strong beggars" (meaning simply persons who were able to work)" as long as they may live of begging, do refuse to labour, &c.: None, upon pain to be imprisoned, therefore shall under color of pity or alms, give anything to such which may labor, or presume to favor them; so that thereby they may be compelled to work for their necessary living."
An act in the 7th of Richard III. confirms the statute of the 5th of Edward III. and states " that the statutes, made in the time of Edward the King's grandfather, of Roberdsmen and Drawlatches be firmly holden and kept" and orders moreover" that to refrain the misconduct of divers people, feitors and wanderers from place to place, running about the country, it should henceforth be lawful for Justices to take up all such vagabonds and feitors and send them to the county_gaol."
An act in the 12th of Richard II. ordained that persons who went begging should be imprisoned, (except people of religion and hermits having letters testimonial of their ordinaries ;) and that the beggars impotent to
serve should stay at home; and if the people of cities or other towns where they were, would not suffice to find them, they were then to draw them to other places or towns where they were born, within forty days after proclamation made, and where they were to abide all their lives. "All
Ferdinando Pulton who wrote an abstract of the statutes 1586 says idle persons feigning to have a knowledge of phismomie, palmestrie or other abused sciences, whereby, they bear the people in hand, they can tell their destinies, deaths, and fortunes, &c.; and all fencers, bearwardes, common players in interludes, &c., and all scholars of the Uuniversities of Oxford and Cambridge that go about begging; not being authorised under the seal of the said Universities and all shipmen pretending losses by sea are declared vagabonds."
In the 18th of Richard II. an act ordained that in every licence thenceforth to be made in the chancery, of the appropriation of any parish church, it should be expressly contained and comprised, that the diocesan of the place, upon the appropriation of such churches, should ordain according to the value of such churches a convenient sum of money, to be paid and distributed yearly of the fruits and profits of the same churches, to the poor parishioners of the said churches in aid of their living and sustenance for ever.
The Act of the 22nd of Henry VIII. allowed poor persons under certain restrictions to beg, but provided no better mode of relief. To idle beggars it is particularly severe-yet it empowered magistrates to make distinctions, and allowed the aged poor to beg within certain limits; and that they might be known to be so tolerated, their names were registered in an indented bill or roll, and to which there was to be a counterpart.
By an Act in the reign of Elizabeth, it appears, if any city or town corporate had more impotent and poor folk, not able to labour, than the same was able to relieve, and the said city or town corporate being a county of itself, or situate in one county and immediately adjoining to another, the Mayor or other head officers were allowed to grant licences to beg elsewhere.
All persons having charge of any voyage or passage boat from Ireland, or the Isle of Man, were forbidden to transport any vagabond, rogue, beggar, (or other person living* by contribution), into England or Wales, they being born in Ireland or the said Isle of Man, under the penalty of 20 shillings, for every such manske, or Irish rogue, or beggar, or other person, to the use of the poor of the parish in which they were set on land.
Among the ancients, a portion of most sacrifices seems to have been allotted to the poor. A specimen of ancient mummers going about on holidays to collect trifling charities, is preserved by Athenæus. It may prove amusing to observe their resemblance to the chaunters at this day in honor of Bishop Blaize, the saint of wool-combers, &c., and collectors of small gifts on the eves of several holidays. Athenæus Deipnosoph, 1. viii. c. 15, t. iii. page 326, ed. Schweighauser.
"Have the goodness, friend Ulpian, or any of you gentlemen philologists, to explain the allusion of Ephippius in the verse addressed to the Coronista or Crow Mummers,
'To-morrow we'll dine on the veal of the crow.'
"It refers," said Plutarch, "to a Rhodian custom, which is particularly mentioned by Phoenix of Colophon, a writer of Iambics, who describes certain men going about to collect donations for the crow, and singing or saying,
'From the poor man a grain of his salt may suffice,
'Come my lad, to the door, Plutus nods to our wish,
'And send her a husband of noble degree,
And a boy to be danced on his grand-daddy's knee;
'God bless you dear hearts, all a thousand times o'er !
And we treat all who give, or give not, with a song.
"And the song ever concludes
'My good worthy masters, your pittance bestow,
Do but give as you can, and the gift will suffice.'
Chelidonizing, or swallow-singing, was another method of collecting eleemosynary gifts among the Rhodians; of which Theognis, speaking of sacred rites practised at Rhodes, says, "the collection of alms, which the Rhodians call Chelidonizing, takes place in the month Boedromion, or August. It is so named from the customary song :”
The swallow, the swallow is here,
With his back so black, and his belly so white;
He brings on the pride of the year
With the gay month of love, and the days of delight.
Come, bring out your good humming stuff;
Of the nice tit-bits let the swallow partake;
Of good bread and cheese give enough,
And a slice of the right Boedromion cake;
So give, and give quickly, good masters I
And ecod! we'll steal young madam away,
And faith! 'twill be easy to carry her hence;
And toss us down freely a handful of pence.
And loosen your purse-strings so hearty;
No crafty old grey-beards are near,
And the Swallow, the Swallow is here!'
"What news-what news?" said the regicide priest→
Why it seems," quoth NOLL, (by the Times at least)——
* This was usual with Noll, when any thing particularly pleased him, as we learn from the satirical writers of his time, (Cleaveland and others,) with whom the Bardolphlike quality of the Protector's nasal organ, was a constant subject of jocular allusion.
+ This sanguinary ruffian, was one of the few regicides whom the law overtook at the Restoration. The miscreant was as dejected when going to his own execution, as he had been inhumanly exulting, when bringing his sovereign to the block. Yet, to read his "Dying Father's Legacy to an only child," written while he was in prison, and published after he was hanged, one might suppose the reverend firebrand was all meekness and piety. His conduct at his trial was despicably pusillanimous.
Edward Whalley, one of the fifty-eight who "sealed and subscribed" the warrant for the execution of Charles. The present member for Marylebone, Sir Samuel Saint Swithin Burden Whalley, boasts that he is lineally descended from this man. At the Restoration, he fled to America, in company with Goff and Dixwell, the former having also signed the warrant. Hutchinson, in his "History of Massachuset's Bay," gives a curious account of their arrival and subsequent adventures.
§ Bradshaw presided at the King's trial, and the insolence of his manner towards the unfortunate monarch is well known. He died just before the Restoration (October, 1659,) and declared, a little before he left the world, "that if the King was to be tried and condemned again, he would be the first man that should do it.”
Henry Marten, (another of those who signed the warrant,) lingered out a captivity of thirty years in Chepstow Castle, where he died. The present poet laureate, Dr. Southey, in the Gallic fervour of his youthful days, wrote an "Inscription" for the apartment in which he was imprisoned, which elicited from the wits of the "AntiJacobin," the well-known admirable parody—" For the door of the cell in Newgate, where Mrs. Brownrigg, the Prentice-cide, was confined previous to her execution.'
|| Colonel Pride, one of the King's Judges, and who also signed the warrant for his execution, was a stern republican upon principle, and opposed Cromwell's design of being declared King.
BY THE "SILENT MEMBER" OF BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE.
[I am no politician myself. I care so little about factions and parties, whigs and tories, radicals and reformers, destructives and conservatives, that I seldom read any thing in a newspaper except the advertisements. I know I cannot prevent what is to take place; neither can I bring about that which I should prefer; and I make it a rule never to trouble myself respecting matters which are thus beyond my control. I consider that I am only a passenger in the State Coach; and whether I am to get safely to the end of my journey, or be overturned, and perhaps break my neck, does not depend on me, but upon the coachman and his horses. If the former is to happen, so much the better: if the latter, why so much the better, too, possibly; for I am somewhat inclined to optimism, and think Voltaire was as bad a philosopher as he was a Christian, when he employed his wit and argument in many parts of his works, besides his Candide and Philosophical Dictionary, to destroy the notion that "whatever is, is best." But the world, generally, is not of my mind; and the world may be the wiser of the two though if I thought so, I would embrace its creed and renounce my own. Reflecting, then, that it is my business to try and please so much of the world as I hope to engage in favor of this undertaking, I saw that it would be necessary to have something political in each number of the CANTERBURY MAGAZINE, and that I could not do better than obtain, for that purpose, the same pen as had found favor with my cousin, CHRISTOPHER NORTH; a name never to be mentioned without honor, for the service he has rendered to the best interests of our common country. I hope my readers will see reason to entertain as good an opinion of the " SILENT MEMBER," as I do.-GEOFFREY OLDCASTLE.]
The machinery of the Constitution has been so deranged, by the removal of some parts and the addition of others, that it is impossible it should henceforth work well, without further removals and additions; and the only real question, (no matter what plausible shape it may assume,) is, how much more of that which remains shall be taken away, and how shall the old and new parts be made to work together?
To the decision of this momentous question we are hastening with accelerated speed. The House of Commons, from being a part of the govern