Слике страница

In the latter case, some under one order of the poor-law board, some under another. The arrangements at Everton, at West Derby, at Kirkdale, at Bootle and at Fazakerley all differ one from the other. This applies to the rate department; whilst the out-relief department has no effectual supervision, and all kinds of irregularity, not to say peculation and plunder, may go on undetected until the half-yearly visit of the auditor, who is expected then to do what the officers of the union declare the whole half-year does not afford one person time enough to get through.

My suggestion, therefore, is that there should be, instead of the present system, a paid chairman or head-superintendent with a salary of say £700 or £800 a-year, and an efficient staff of clerks. All the collectors and relieving officers should be directly accountable to him. He should devote his whole time to the duties of his office and report monthly to a meeting of deputies from each township in the union. With an apparent increase of cost, there would in the end be found a real saving of money, and the work of all the officers be far better done.

The changes which have already taken place, and which must and will shortly be effected, will naturally result in an end being put to the office of overseer—the last pretence for continuing it since the passing of the Union Assessment Committee Act being the still existing and discreditable law of settlement.

In the year 1819, by the Act of the 59th George III, cap. 5, the office of assistant overseer was created. I shall only say with regard thereto, that its functions, powers and duties are to this day undefined. By that statute the appointment rests with the vestry, but there are assistant overseers appointed under certain orders of the poor-law commissioners, which orders it required an ex post facto statute to legalize. Upon the whole, the law relating to this office is a perfect muddle,

and to show how it may be amended demands a larger space than I can venture to appropriate in a paper such as this.

A long discussion has lately occupied the public press, in relation to criminal lunatics; and it is proposed by Her Majesty's Goverment to alter the law as to the powers given to the Home Office in this matter. There is, however, another point which has, in the course of the last three years, forced itself upon my attention. By a statute passed about 36 years ago, the maintenance of criminal lunatics was made a charge upon the settlement parish ; and under this law, or rather under one which in 1840 took its place, the rates of a small parish in North Lancashire are increased about threepence in the pound annually. Recently the charge for maintaining pauper lunatics has been transferred from parishes in unions to the common fund; but, strange to say, criminal lunatics, whose maintenance ought in fact to follow that of other criminals, remain a charge upon the parish. I may state that by great exertion I have succeeded in bringing this matter so urgently under the notice of the poor-law board, that the blunder may possibly be rectified during the present session.

I have a large mass of matter with reference to that most important subject, the Audit of Public Accounts, to the utilizing which I purpose devoting a portion of my present temporary exemption from official duties. The subject is so large as to be inadmissible into this paper; but I may be excused if, by way of illustrating the impropriety of leaving with public bodies the power of appointing their own auditors, I state the following fact :-Up to Michaelmas, 1845, the accounts of the parish of Liverpool had been periodically examined by an auditor appointed by the select vestry. Whether that gentleman had ever noticed or not the circumstance I am about to mention I do not know. He may have noticed it, but perhaps did not remedy the evil from want of power. The fact is, that the rate book contained a large amount of property

of a certain class assessed, but in respect of which no collection was attempted. After my appointment as district auditor, I called upon the overseers to account for these assessments-informing them that it would be my duty to surcharge them if they did not collect them. The issue was that not less than £14,000 per annum has been for many years added to the revenue of the parish.

It would not be very difficult to show that the appointment of district auditor, under the 7th and 8th Victoria, cap. 101, has benefited the parish of Liverpool and the adjoining townships to the extent of more than £20,000 per annum. The experience of nineteen years has, however, proved to me the expediency of an alteration in the mode of appointment to the office as well as in that of exercising its functions.

The great advantage which its existence has accomplished consists in its affording a solid basis upon which to rest any efforts to arrest the peoulations and frauds which every now and then appear in the newspapers with reference to public companies and savings banks. A clumsy enactment of last session, with reference to the latter, is simply a futile attempt, upon a most erroneous basis, because a basis of compromise, to arrest an enormous evil.

My suggestions for amending the law, both as to assistant overseers and to district auditors, must be reserved to another opportunity; and I have now only to thank the Society for their patience in listening to a dry paper, for the tediousness of which the importance of the subject discussed is the only apology.





By the Rev. A. Hume, LL.D., D.O.L., F.S.A., &c.,

Honorary Secretary.

At the close of three centuries, in which the English nation has been, on the whole, prosperous and progressive, we are assembled to do honour to the memory of one of her people. It so happens that this Society is one of the earliest to take action on the subject; and it is in consequence of an application from its Council, resolved upon in my absence, that I occupy my present position. It is true that my heart would prompt me, at any time, not only to embrace an opportunity for honouring the memory of Shakspeare, but to seek for it; yet I should have shrunk from the present prominence and publicity, had I not felt that the request was equivalent to a command.

Who does not know Shakspeare, or who is not familiar with his writings in whole or in part ? Happily, they have not been laid aside, like the poetry of Chaucer, by the tide of language flowing on in its changes and leaving them almost stranded ; nor have they reached that condition in which words are substituted for things, when men gravely discuss the qualities and merits of an author's writings of which they have not read a line. Yet how few, on the contrary, know Shakspeare as he ought to be known; for, it is one thing to float with the current of public sentiment, applauding its favourites, or pouring contempt on the despised, and it is quite another thing to give utterance to the matured result of independent judgment, as the spontaneous confession of our own faith.

His principal writings are of the class called Dramatic, a familiarity with which is thought by some to be inseparably connected with play-going, though the two are wholly distinct. In studying the literature of our country we find that the Dramatic occupies a large section, and that it is peculiarly important, as illustrative of language customs and manners. But we find that it occupies a higher place still. A tendency to dramatic narrative, or to the recounting of incidents in dialogue form, is inherent in all men, and is sometimes an improvement upon every other form. And, in like manner, the tendency to representation is seen in the mimicry of an infant; or in the gesticulations of a foreigner, who knows that he can thus repair, in a great degree, his deficiencies of speech. But we ought not to defend dramatic writings on this ground only or mainly, supposing they required defence. However they may have degenerated in any country or at any period— and what theme of the muses, say poetry, music or eloquence, has not been employed to injure as well as to elevate ?—they come down to us encircled with the most solemn associations. The oldest of the sacred writers, the historian of creation, drops the dry narrative after the first few sentences, and adopts the dramatic first person to describe the creation of light. Nor was it by mere accident that the wisest of men selected this form as the vehicle for his Song of Songs. It is a dramatic poem, though the characters or speakers are not formally shown by the printer; and it consists of a series of dialogues. The chief speakers are the Bridegroom and Bride ; but there are also the Companions, and a Chorus of Virgins. Nor should it be forgotten that before the art of printing was known, the principal facts of Scripture were given to the people in dramatic form, as in the Mystery Plays of Chester.

« ПретходнаНастави »