Thursday, 11 February 2010

More from Blackstone

Picking my way through Blackstone's Commentaries, I find much of value. Here he comments on the unfortunate growth of legislation concerning the poor:

"These are the general heads of the laws relating to the poor, which, by the resolutions of the courts of justice thereon within a century past, are branched into a great variety. And yet, notwithstanding the pains that have been taken about them, they still remain very imperfect, and inadequate to the purposes they are designed for: a fate that has generally attended most of our statute laws, where they have not the foundation of the common law to build on.

When the shires, the hundreds, and the tithings were kept in the same admirable order in which they were disposed by the great Alfred, there were no persons idle, consequently none but the impotent that needed relief: and the statute of 43 Eliz. seems entirely founded on the same principle. But when this excellent scheme was neglected and departed from, we cannot but observe with concern what miserable shifts and lame expedients have from time to time been adopted, in order to patch up the flaws occasioned by this neglect.

There is not a more necessary or more certain maxim in the frame and constitution of society, than that every individual must contribute his share in order to the well-being of the community: and surely they must be very deficient in sound policy, who suffer one half of a parish to continue idle, dissolute, and unemployed, and at length are amazed to find that the industry of the other half is not able to maintain the whole."

Blackstone's Commentaries Bk 1, Cap IX


James Higham said...

An interesting angle. I presume there'll be more posts on this.

Trooper Thompson said...

Certainly. I'm only in the first of four volumes, so expect more.