chapter  IX
20 Pages

THE ABSORPTION OF A SURPLUS POPULATION

THIS chapter may fitly begin with a quotation which records a very favourite argument employed by Sir E. Chadwick as to the bearing of the Malthusian theory on the problem of the Poor Law.'

He declared, says Sir B. VV. Richardson, vol. i. p. 127, that he had never known anyone investigation "which did not reverse every main principle and almost every assumed chief elementary fact on which the general public, parliamentary committees, politicians of high position, and often the Commissioners themselves, were prepared to base legislation." In order to prove this startling proposition, the following illustrations were supplied :-

"1. As regards pauperism, the prevailing doctrine, founded on the theory of Malthus, was that the general cause of pauperism was the pressure of population on the means of subsistence, and that the chief remedy for pauperism was extensive emigration. But the evidence brought before the Commission on Poor Law Administration showed that this was not the case, and afterwards, when, through the advocates of the Malthusian theory, provisions were made for the emigration of paupers from over-burdened districts, the demand was not shown as had been expected. In one district, where there were full 30,000 recipients of

out-door relief before the passing of the Poor Law Act, there was afterwards great difficulty, and notwithstanding all the exertions of the emigration agents, to fill two emigrant ships; and those persons who were removed by emigration were, except in a few cases, above the classes for whom the Act was intended."