chapter  XVIII
37 Pages

THE COTTON FAMINE AND THE RELIEF OF THE ABLE-BODIED

THE most serious crisis with which the English Poor Law has ever been called on to grapple was probably that known as the Lancashire Cotton Famine. Hitherto we have been considering the administration of the law under normal conditions. The events which have been chronicled seem to show that in the opinion of those who were responsible for the regulation of Poor Law administration, the powers of guardians were more than adequate for the relief of such destitution as is likely to arise in normal times. Indeed, the defect of the law would seem to have been that the authority of guardians was excessive. The whole work of the central control had been to induce the guardians to use their powers more sparingly. Out-door relief to the able-bodied was discouraged and even declared illegal, and the advice of the central board was in favour of making out-door relief, in all cases, the exception and not the rule.