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application should be refused. A case of this kind occurred once during the early part of Mr. Chamberlain's administration; but those who know him will not be surprised to learn that it did not occur again, though it was instructive to note that within a month of his resignation an attempt was made to revert to the old practices. But I am glad to believe that things are different now, and that the relations between the permanent heads of both offices are such as should prevent any undue friction in the future. I have left my old office at peace, I trust, with all men, not excepting the ‘ My Lords of the Treasury. I have known them behave ' quite decently,' as a schoolboy would put it, in cases where this might have been least expected, and I bear no grudge against them now.
Some attention has been attracted during recent years to the question of the interchange of appointments between members of the Colonial Office at home and members of the Colonial service abroad; and the views of various persons of more or less authority have lately been published in the newspapers. The idea, in the abstract, can hardly fail to commend itself to everyone; but it is a very much more difficult question than is generally supposed. There
course, the usual number of well-informed outsiders who see no difficulty at all about it. 'It is as easy as A B C, they will say;
make the two services interchangeable and there you are.' This is all very well, but the chances are that they fail to realise what it actually means. To begin with, it probably does not occur to them that the two services are paid from entirely different sources—in the one case from Imperial and in the other from Colonial funds—to say nothing of such minor but none the less important obstacles as Civil Service certificates, pension regulations, etc., which have all got to be considered. The many difficulties in the way have been clearly summarised by Lord Milner, who, while decidedly in favour of the idea, has evidently come to the conclusion that any general scheme is for the present out of the question. But, without going into details, it may be sufficient to point out that the existing conditions on both sides are not sufficiently elastic to admit of any systematic variation of the existing procedure, and that these conditions will have to be extensively altered before any new departure of importance can take place. The question has not failed to attract the attention of various Secretaries of State, who so far, however, have been unable to devise any satisfactory solution of the difficulty. The very few cases that have occurred within my recollection, where it has been found possible to make an arrangement of this kind, have been the result of exceptional circumstances, and cannot therefore be regarded as affording precedents for what might occur in the future. Personally, I confess that to a certain extent I am inclined to agree with the Duke of Marlborough, who has himself had some experience of the Colonial Office, but who has expressed his doubts whether on the whole the end would justify the proceedings, and whether the advantages to be derived from an interchange of appointments would really be so great as is generally imagined. In any case, it seems to me that it would be of no practical advantage in the case of the self-governing Colonies, for the very reason that they are self-governing. The experience gained in either case would no doubt be most useful and interesting to the parties concerned, but beyond this it could hardly be expected that their individual impressions during a given period would be likely to have any great influence on the subsequent policy of their respective Governments. I am inclined to think, in fact, though it may appear somewhat of a paradox, that a flying visit of a few months, if undertaken with some definite object in view, may be likely to produce as satisfactory results as a more prolonged residence. The case of the Crown Colonies is, of course, somewhat different, and if the difficulties to which I have referred could be got over, and some mutually satisfactory arrangement could be arrived at, it can hardly be doubted that the result would be of more or less advantage to all concerned. The question cannot fail to receive the attention it deserves ; and in the meantime further speculation on the subject seems uncalled for.
But it is time for me to bring these fragmentary reminiscences and lucubrations to an end. If I have in any case spoken too plainly or strongly, I ask forgiveness ; and my excuse must be my love for the old office where I have spent the best years of my life, and my consciousness that it has not always received the recognition and consideration it has deserved. But it is indeed a satisfaction to me to think that, after many ups and downs, my youthful aspirations have been at last, if somewhat tardily, realised, and that the service I have left is one to which I can feel honestly proud to have belonged. I can indeed imagine no department of State that now holds out greater attractions to those who are prepared to make the most of the advantages offered to them, and the work of which can afford a deeper and more engrossing interest; and it is a further source of satisfaction to me to feel that, both as regards its political and permanent chiefs, I could not have left it, if I may venture to say so, in more sympathetic or more capable hands than it is at present.
W. A. BAILLIE HAMILTON.
THE GREAT INQUEST
Is it well with the body politic ? To this question the recently published Report of the Poor Law Commission supplies an exhaustive and not too reassuring answer. For some time past cautious men have hesitated to speak confidently on the matter. On the contrary, there has been a growing uneasiness in the public mind as to the economic and social condition of the lower strata of the population, and particularly as to the administration of the laws governing the relief of destitution. In regard to the latter, much criticism, convergent in effect, has proceeded from diverse quarters. Stern economists have complained that the system is woefully extravagant; philanthropists that it is wantonly harsh ; skilled administrators, that it is grotesquely unscientific ; while social observers have pointed out, more in grief than in anger, that the English Poor Law, once the example and envy of the world, has fallen hopelessly behind the best models afforded by the continental systems."
The whole situation is in truth replete with paradox. During the last half-century wealth has increased with unexampled rapidity, yet millions of the population are in poverty, and nearly one million are actual paupers. Had the increase of wealth been monopolised by the few rich this paradox would be resolved. But according to all the best authorities the reverse is the case.
The rich have become more numerous but not richer individually; the poor' are, to some small extent, fewer ; and those who remain ‘poor' are individually twice as well off on the average as they were fifty years ago. The poor have thus had almost all the benefit of the great material advance of the last fifty years.”
The conclusion reached by Sir Robert Giffen in 1887 is, on the whole, confirmed, twenty years later, by the Board of Trade experts employed by the recent Commission.
During the same period prices, particularly in those commodities consumed by wage earners, have fallen. "The rise of nominal wages has been accompanied by such a fall of wholesale and of retail prices as implies a rise of “real ” wages, or wages as measured in commodities,
1 Cl., e.g., Miss Edith Sellers' Foreign Solutions of Poor Law ·Problems. 2 Giffen, Economic Enquiries and Studies, vol. i. p. 382 ; quoted Report, p. 308.
considerably greater than the rise of money wages. But despite the increase of wealth and the rise of wages, the number of paupers is greater than it ever was, and at least one person in every twentyfive of the population comes, every year, under the operation of the Poor Law. But the most startling feature of the situation remains to be noted. The increase of pauperism is greatest among the class who ought to have benefited most by recent economic developments, namely adult male workers. The ten years ending 1906, as compared with the cycle 1871-80, exhibit a decrease in general pauperism amounting to 3.9 per cent., but an increase in adult male pauperism amounting to no less than 184 per cent. This alarming increase is due no doubt to a large variety of causes. Two coincidences are however especially emphasised by the Commissioners. One is the fact that the first of the long series of Workmen's Compensation Acts was passed in 1896. A large number of witnesses pointed out that these Acts have made it more and more difficult for a man to obtain work when thrown out in the later years of his working period of life.' The other is the fact that the Local Government Act of 1894' changed the character of the Poor Law authorities by the abolition of the property qualification for membership of Boards of Guardians and of the ex officio members whose influence had previously been considerable.' The Commissioners hesitate to draw inferences, but the coincidences are sufficiently eloquent. That pauperism should have increased most, or rather only, among adult males during a period when wages have risen and prices have fallen is a phenomenon sufficiently startling to arrest attention.
But paradox does not end here. It might have been expected that after the Elementary Education Act had been in force for a full generation, and when expenditure under this head had reached 20,000,0001., the cost of poor relief would show proportionate signs of diminution. Unhappily it is otherwise. Poor Law expenditure has nearly doubled since the passing of Mr. Forster’s Elementary Education Act of 1870. Amounting in 1871-2 to £8,007,4031., it rose in 1905-6 to 14,685,9831., while the rate per head of the population increased during the same period by ls. 7d. (from 78. 01d. to 88, 71d.). Still more disquieting is it to learn that, despite the enormous growth of population, the expenditure on pauperism is only 74d. less per head than it was before the amendment of the old Poor Law in 1834. Thus neither increase of wealth nor diffusion of education has solved the problem of pauperism.
There remains the paradox of unemployment, and connected with it, but distinct from it, the new problem '--so styled by the Com
, missioners of 1909—of chronic under-employment.' Never have the economic causes of unemployment and under-employment been analysed so thoroughly and so relentlessly, so skilfully and so convincingly
Report, Part VI. o. i. f. 309.
as in this Report. But the paradox remains. Despite the fact that in most of the important groups of skilled industries the number of men employed has increased in the last twenty years far more than proportionately to general population, there has nevertheless never been a year 'without an appreciable number of skilled and organised workers out of employment.'Experts
4 like Mr. H. W. Beveridge (whose recently published work on Unemployment is a notable contribution to the discussion) attribute this disturbing phenomenon partly to the seasonal fluctuations incidental to particular trades, such as the building trade; partly to the cyclical depressions to which trade in general is increasingly liable; partly to the loss and lack of industrial quality on the part of the workers themselves,' and most of all perhaps to the demand for ‘reserves of labour' which has of late become a marked feature of modern industry. But be the causes what they may it is this phenomenon, more than any other, which differentiated the task set before the recent Royal Commission from that which confronted their predecessors of 1834.
It is, therefore, clear beyond possibility of dispute, that the prevailing uneasiness and perplexity had some justification in fact, and that Mr. Balfour's government did admirable service to the nation when, with their last breath, they ordered an exhaustive inquiry into the social and economic condition of the people.
It was on the 4th of December 1905 that the King issued a Commission to inquire :
(1) Into the working of the laws relating to the relief of poor persons in the United Kingdom ; (2) Into the various means which have been adopted outside of the Poor Laws for meeting distress arising from want of employment, particularly during periods of severe industrial depression ; and to consider and report whether any, and if so what, modification of the Poor Laws, or changes in their administration, or fresh legislation for dealing with distress are advisable.
To a reference already wide, the Commissioners have given the most liberal interpretation, with the result that after three years of indefatigable labour they have presented a Report which will indubitably take high rank among the sources of English social history. How far the practical proposals of the Commissioners can with safety be adopted is a matter for patient and prolonged consideration. But, apart from this, Lord George Hamilton and his colleagues deserve and will enjoy the gratitude not merely of their countrymen, but of students of social economics throughout the world. They claim to have accumulated' a unique mass of information relating to the condition and environment of those who seek public relief or who are unable to maintain themselves out of their own resources.' This
* See Unemployment, A Problem of Industry. By H. W. Beveridge. 1909.