Poor Law

Topics: Workhouse, Poverty, Poor Law Pages: 6 (2368 words) Published: March 18, 2007
1.Explain why the New Poor Law Amendment Act (1834) was so controversial.

There were many arguments raised about the poor law amendment act of 1834, this Act was thought to be the most contentious piece of legislation passed during the era of the Whig's. At the time, it was a lot about saving money, the upper class did not want to pay towards the poor law, as they believed they were lazy and unworthy. The taxpayers, and ratepayers believed it to be wrong they should be paying to help the poor. The workhouse system was one of the most inhumane of all time, humiliating and demeaning all the poor people that entered it. When families' entered the workhouse, the husband, wife, and children would be separated from each other, allowing the mother very little contact with her children. The men would be dressed in a uniform, for all to know he was destitute, and in the hope, it would bring shame to him and his family. The workhouses were such a dreadful and appalling place, people would try all ways to survive rather than enter one of these places. These places were opened for one reason, not to help the poor, but to help the rich to stay rich. The parish council helped the poor in many ways, but the new poor law had taken away the help they received from them. The speenhamland system was one way the parish council helped the poor, they would make up their wage, but the rich did not like this system, as it was costing them too much money. Therefore, the New Poor Law Act was simply brought out to make the workhouse conditions as dreadful and appalling as possible, in the hope the poor would not enter into one. This would save the money of the Landowners and Gentry, as they would not have the responsibility of feeding these families. They had a prevailing attitude to the poor, believing it to be their own liability to look after their family. There were many, who were not on the side of the poor, including Edwin Chadwick, who had a great say in the organization of the workhouses.

The Whig's regarded the New Poor Law Amendment Act, as one of their major achievements while in power, arguing it to be beneficial. For example, farmers were obliged to increase the wages of agricultural labourers. There was also a financial saving, in 1834; poor relief cost nine shillings per head, falling to six shillings by 1854. This Act was strongly opposed by J.R. Stephens; he reflected much contemporary opinion, especially of the workhouses, he called the measure "the law of devils. It was the rich, which enacted this New Poor Law Act, thinking only of themselves and their money, their desire was to get richer, as the poor got poorer.

2.Explain why groups/individuals wanted reform of the factory system in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Many people wanted reform in the factories in the first half of the nineteenth century; this was due to the atrocious working conditions they endured. Men, women, and children tolerated long working hours in slum conditions, with no restrictions or controls of any kind. Machinery was not fenced off and small children were often used to clean the spinning machines and looms, while they were still in motion. There were many serious accidents and sometimes loss of life in the factories. The children also developed weak, curved legs, and arched backs due to standing and bending for such long periods. Respiratory disease was another health issue caused by the long working hours in hot and humid environment of textile mills, were the air was contaminated by microscopic cotton dust. The mines also lacked safety precautions, resulting in recurrent gas explosions due to the davy lamp not being obligatory. Men, women, and children were employed to work underground, some worked naked or semi naked, this had a soul-destroying effect on the women and girls. There were children as young as four, working exceptionally long hours hauling trucks of coal, or opening and...
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