Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

these Tables shall be laid before the House, an ample foundation will be prepared for the legislative measure, which, sooner, or latter, I am convinced must be adopted ; for they will indicate the kind of districts where parish schools are most wanted, and enable us to frame the provisions of the law, so as not to interfere with the exertions of private charity, and to avoid unnecessary, and, what is the same thing, hurtful legislation.' p. 19, 20.

In proposing, however, a commission of inquiry, Mr Brougham took his usual comprehensive range. As the funds destined for education, were not the only charitable funds existing in the nation, nor the only charitable funds which had become subject to abuse, he who was of opinion, that as, wherever abuses existed, they ought to be searched out and removed, the commissioners, when they were to be appointed, might as well perform two services as one; that, not confining themselves to charitable funds for education, they should inquire into the abuses of charitable funds in general. I am persuaded,' says he, • that the House will feel with me the necessity of adopting this measure, when I state a few particulars to show the large amount of these funds, and the abuses to which they are liable.'

• The returns, in pursuance to the 26th Geo. III, commonly called Mr Gilbert's Act, are known to be exceedingly defective ; yet they make the yearly income of charities about 48,000l. from money, and 210,0001. from land, in the year 1788. It appears from evidence laid before the Committee, that in one county, Berkshire, only a third part of the funds was returned. If we suppose this to be the average deficiency in the whole returns, it will follow, that the whole income actually received by charities was between 7 and 800,000/. a year. But this is very far from an accurate estimate of the real annual value of charitable estates. Several circumstances concur to keep the income down. In the first place, the trustees have, generally speaking, very insufficient powers for the profitable management of the funds under their care. They are thus prevented from turning them to the best account. I know of many cases where, for want of the power to sell and exchange, pieces of land in the middle of towns lie waste which might yield large revenues. The right honourable gentleman opposite (Mr Huskisson), connected with the department of the land revenue, is perfectly aware how important an increase of income might be derived from an addition of this sort to the powers of trustees. It is a power which the donors would in almost every instance have conferred, had they foreseen the change of circumstances that renders it so desirable. Another source of diminution to the revenue of the poor, is the loss of property through defects in the original constitution of the trusts, and a consequent extinction, in many cases, of the trustees, without the possibility of supplying their places. Negligence in all its various branches is next to be named, including carelessness, ignorance, indolence, all the sins of omis

sion by which men suffer the affairs of others to perish in their hands, when they have the management of them gratuitously, and subject to no efficient check or control. Add to all these sources of mismanagement, the large head of wilful and corrupt abuse in its various branches, and we shall probably underrate the amount of the income which ought now to be received by Charities, if we say that it is nearer TWO MILLIONS than fifteen hundred thousand a year; by far the greater part of which arises from real property.' p. 20-22.

After some further observations, showing the great importance of the investigation, and the peculiar fitness of the present time for the undertaking, Mr Brougham mentions a number of cases, for the purpose of exhibiting a specimen merely of the mode in which charitable funds have been misapplied. The passage is somewhat long; but the matter is too important to be abridged, and the whole is too striking to be given in any language but that of the speaker himself.

• As the mass of evidence examined by the Committee cannot for some time be accessible to the members of this House, I think it may be useful if I now state a few cases of mismanagement and abuse, to serve for a sample of those which may be found in every part of the country. I shall not at present name the particular places, but only the counties whence the cases have come; because inaccurate reports of the charges made here against individuals are apt to get into circulation. When the whole details shall be presented in the Committee's Report, the persons accused will be pointed out; but they will then have an opportunity of seeing the statements on which the charges rest, and knowing the names of their accusers. A strange neglect, to say the least of it, has appeared in the administration of some Berkshire charities. In Charles the First's reign, the sum of 4000l. was left to be laid out in land for the use of a school; and in 1660, the purchases were completed, for 39001., the remaining 1001. having probably gone for the expenses of the conveyance. What rent does the House think these lands have yielded? In 1811 it was only 1967. a year, five per cent. on the original purchase money a century and a half ago, and only 101. more than was received a few years after the Restoration. The good and diligent trustees in Charles the Second's time dealt wisely and well with the estate, for they very soon made it yield 5 per cent. ; but the less careful, I will not say less honest, stewards in George the Third's reign, granted a sixteen year's lease at a rise of ten pounds above the rent in the seventeenth century. In 1811, indeed, the rent was doubled; though there is every reason to believe that it is still very inadequate. To another school in the same county belongs an estate, let at 4501.

, which the surveyors value at above 1000l. a year. And the income received from lands purchased seventy years ago, by different charities, with sums amounting in the whole to 22,0001., is now only 3791., being little more than one and a half

per cent. on the purchase money. A certain corporation in Hampshire has long had the management of estates devised to charitable uses, and valued at above 20001. a year by surveyors. They are let for 2 or 3001. a year on fines. How are the fines disposed of ? No one knows ; at least no one will tell. Those interested in the application inquire in vain. The corporation wraps itself up in a dignified mystery, and withholds its books from vulgar inspection. The same worshipful body has obtained possession of a sum of 1000l., part of a bequest, well known by the name of White's Charity. In former times Sir Thomas White, a merchant in London, left certain cstates to form a fund for assisting poor tradesmen with small loans, somewhat according to the plan adopted by Dean Swift, but which his peculiar temper

frustrated, and rendered a source of great uneasiness to himself. The corporation to which I allude, became entrusted with 10001. of this money; and what they have done with one half of it I know not; they may have lent it to poor traders; but I am aware that the other 500l. has not been so lent, either with or without interest, but applied to pay a corporation debt, and in this ingenious manner :-It has been lent without interest to the creditors of the corporation in satisfaction for the present of their debt, and a truly marvellous recommendation has been entered on the corporation books to their successors, to do the same as often as the demands of the creditor might require the operation to be performed. I hold in my hand forty or fifty more instances of abuse, extracted from the numerous returns made by the resident clergy. The Committee Room is directed to be opened to every member of the House ; gentlemen will there see the returns arranged in piles, under the heads of the several counties; and the praiseworthy zeal of the two learned gentlemen (Mr Parry and Mr Koe) who assist the committee, will help them to find any of the particular cases to which I am now referring, as well as many others which I am obliged to omit. At a place in Devonshire, the question, What funds exist, destined to the purposes of education, is answered by a statement, “ that the funds of the Foundation School are known only to Mr Such-a-one. In another return it is said, that no account whatever can be obtained of the funds ; and in a third, the estate belonging to the charity is alleged to have been let on a ninety-nine year's lease. Now this lease, of itself, I hold to be an abuse. To let and take a fine is an abuse; to let for so long a term without taking a fine, is a gross mismanagement of the property. What, then, will the House say of leases for eight and nine hundred years? We have evidence of both; and in one case for a peppercorn rent. In the county of Norfolk, a school was founded in 1680, for educating forty children ; but none are now taught there at all. The reverend author of this return observes, that great mystery hangs over this charity—a remark the less surprising, when we find that the estates produce 3001. a year, and that the accounts have not been audited for thirty years. A school was anciently endowed in

Derbyshire, and the lands produce 80l. a year, but no children are taught; and the return describes the management of the funds to be “ most shameful and abominable.” The master has done nothing for ten years; the trustees are all dead, and no successors have been appointed. In Essex a school was founded many years ago; and at one time it had fallen into such mismanagement, that only a few boys were taught, I believe, by a mechanic whom the master appointed. The present incumbent provides for the education of 70 children ; but so ample are the funds, that he receives about a thousand a year, after paying all the expenses of the establishment. Owing to the neglect of the trustees, the whole management of another school in that county has lapsed to Magdalen College, Cambridge ; and the clause in the present bill, exempting all charities under the control of Colleges, will prevent the Commissioners from inquiring into the causes of this devolution, for which no blame can attach to Magdalen, but certainly the greatest neglect must be imputed to the trustees. In one place in Leicestershire, the property belonging to a school has lately been offered for sale, by what possible right or title I am unable to divine. A surplus fund is stated, in another return, to have been pocketed by the trustees. In Nottinghamshire there is a free school, the funds of which our reverend informant scruples not to say are grossly abused. The scholars are wholly neglected, and hush-money is given to the master. The income is stated to be 4001. a year. In Worcestershire a charitable foundation, which existed a few years ago, is said to have entirely disappeared. In the same county there is a school endowed with an income of 10001. a year ; and timber was lately cut upon the estates which sold for 3701. By the deed of foundation, all the inhabitants of the place are entitled to have their children educated; but the master bas made so many exceptions and restrictions, that only eight boys belonging to that place are taught. In the North Riding of Yorkshire is a school, the revenue of which amounts

to 13001. a year: six boys are taught. The master of a school in the East Riding receives his salary, and lives in the West Riding ; he has done so for thirty years past: It is needless to add, that “the school is a sinecure, and the funds grossly misapplied." In one of the Northamptonshire returns, the clergyman says, he can learn nothing of the application of a school estate of 751. a year, which never was registered ; and he adds, that other charities in his parish are misapplied, and more in danger of being lost, “in consequence of the parish clerk having been plundered of all writings relative to charities.” In Derbyshire, one return gives this answer to our question, What funds exist in your parish for education? “ None; my Lord Such-a-one and his ancestors have withheld the rent of certain lands of considerable value from the grammar-school.” A similar case seemed to be presented to our notice, by a remark in a county history: The author says, that in a certain parish (in Westmoreland) a school was amply endowed and begun; “ but being only in its probationary state, it was thought fit by the owner of the estate to be discontinued. In other words, the scholars were (to use the technical phrase) dismissed ; the school broken up; and, since that time, no man had heard any thing of it. Pursuing this hint, we caused the Probate Office to be searched; and there found a will in 1700, devising a manor, a capital messuage, the tithes of a parish, and the tithes of a hamlet, for the establishment and support of a sehool. Yet this school had never passed beyond “its probationary state, It is true, that some of those to whom the estate devolv. ed, have lately, as an act of their own charity, founded a small school in their own name. But it is fit that all persons should learn one lesson: When funds are given to the poor, gratitude is due, and, I trust, is always rendered: And then the funds belong to the poor, who are not to be called upon a second time to thank those from whom by piecemeal the same property is again doled out, which had been given entirely, and once for all, above a hundred years ago. I know another instance, in the northern parts of Yorkshire, where, for an income of near 5001. a year, the master teaches four or five scholars, when, within the memory of many now living, the same endowment used to educate forty or fifty.' p. 23—30.

After urging the ground for the legislative inquiry which he proposed, in so remarkable an exhibition of incontrovertible facts, upon which it may be thought that he might with some confidence have rested his case, Mr Brougham

goes on to recapitulate and to answer all the objections by which the enemies of the measure had endeavoured to oppose it.

First of all, he states the objection which is drawn from the idea of property; and treats it with a considerable degree of indignation. • Únder the flimsy pretence,' he says, of great tenderness for the sacred rights of property, I am well aware that the authors of the outcry conceal their own dread of being themselves dragged to light as rcbbers of the poor; and I will tell those shameless persons, that the doctrine which they promulge, of charitable funds in a trustee's hands being private property, is utterly repugnant to the whole law of England.'

It is to be remarked, that a fallacy, grounded upon the importance which ought to be attached to the rights of property, is very apt to be employed to defend and perpetuate ihe existence of abuses. There is hardly any misapplication of public money, provided the evil has been of some duration, or, in other words, has been carried by accumulation to a certain magnitude, which has not been defended, as if all security of property would be shaken by its redress.

There is no distinction, therefore, which it is of more importance to draw, and to keep firmly in mind, in all our discussions respecting the property of the State, than that which is here drawn by Mr Brougham, between the property which

« AnteriorContinuar »