POOR BARBARA DUGGIN.
Tral following Police report is a sample of what we sometimes sleet with two or three times a week. It is impossible to read such things without painful feelings and melancholy reflections.
QUEEN SQUARE.—A poor creature almost starved to death, named Barbara Dnggin, with an infant at her breast, and three small children without shoes or stockings, and scarcely sufficient clothing to cover their nakedness, were brought before Mr. Gregorie by a policeman - Who said, that about two o'clock in the Wiorning, he found the woman and lier children lying on the pavement in Hem- vning's Row, St. Martin's-Lane. She told him that she had no home, and he -tOok her. to the Station-house.
-Iiranswer to several questions, the unfortunate woman said, that her husband lid deserted her, and she was quite destitute ; that both herself and children -were nearly starved. She had applied to the Overseers of- the parish for re- lief, and they gave her a loaf and a piece of cheese; but she had nowhere to 'kV! her head. The child at her breast was very ill ; and she wanted to be
to her own parish in Cumberland, but the Overseers would-not pass
Mr. Gregorie said, lie would send her to the House of Correction for four- teen, days, and the children should be taken care of at the Workhouse. At the end of that time, the children would be given up to her, and then the Visiting liditgistiates of the prison would pass her to her parish. The child in her arms - she might take with her to prison. • The unfortunate woman said that they had not tasted food for some time, and begged that her children might have something to eat; which the Magi- strate immediately ordered. . Such is the manner in which the laws for the relief of the poor .axe-administered. It passes as a matter of course, without censure Aot remark; and yet what an amount of evil does-it produce I
Under the system of the Poor-laws, the public is taught to be- lieve, in the words of BLACKSTONE, that " there is no man so in-
icligent or wretched, but he may demand a supply sufficient for all
the necessities of life from the more opulent part of the commu- nity? This impression sadly contracts the stream of private cha- .Tity. When we meet, in our streets, objects of the deepest com- passion, we stop not to relieve them, but "pass on the other ." or, if our feelings cannot resist the silent appeal of a poor inotier and. her shivering infants, we hastily give our mite, and 4ee1 as if weiwere doing a wrong thing.
• Wegive by stealth, and blush to find it fame ;"
but our feelings are not those meant by the poet. Our blush is not that of modesty, nor is our concealment rewarded by inward pleasure. Weal* ashamed of a weakness ; because we think, -that, instead of relieving distress, we are only encouraging vu-
A system Whiehithus prevents the operation of private charity, labould-pravidaa,mtbstitute for it, and care ought to be taken that it be effectually acted upon. But look at the case of this poor BARBARA DUGGIN.
Totally destitute, and with three starving infants, she takes the proper way to "demand a supply sufficient for the necessities of life." She goes to the parish-officers; who give her a little bread and cheese. She asks to be conveyed to her own parish in Cum- berland; but the Overseers refuse to pass her. Without, as she says, a place to lay her head, she wanders about the streets, tilt she is found, with her children round her, lying on the bare stones at two o'clock in the morning. Now, we would ask, have not these Overseers grossly failed in their duty? When this poor woman came to them, were they not bound, either to give her suf- ficient relief, or to take the proper steps for having her passed to her own parish? They were bound to do so. Overseers of the poor must relieve those who apply to them: if they have no settlement in the parish, the Overseers must have them removed to their own pa- rish, and the law provides means for that purpose. But this duty, imperative as it is, the Overseers of the poor are in the habit of refusing to perform; and hundreds of the wretched vagrants we meet begging in the streets of all our towns, are constrained so to beg, because they cannot get themselves passed to their own parishes. Does Lord MELBOURNE ever read the newspapers? Does it never occur to him, when such cases as that of BARBARA DUGGIN meet his eye, that he is somewhat concerned in the mat- ter, and that the Secretary of State for the Home Department is responsible for the miseries arising from the negligent execution of the laws?
There is another great abuse of which this case affords an in- stance—the punishment of mere poverty as if it were crime. This poor woman, because she was found lying in the streets at two in the morning, is sent for fourteen days to the House of Correction. A mother of a family, guiltless of the shadow of a crime, is sent, as a criminal, to herd with the most abandoned of her sex—to be debased in her own eyes, and to suffer the moral contamination of vicious intercourse. We are not inclined greatly to blame Mr. GREGORIE. He seems to have felt humanely, and probably administered the law against vagrants in the usual way. He would have acted better, however, had he acted differently. He could have committed this poor woman only as a disorderly as well as an idle person ; and it is difficult to say how a female who is found lying with her children in the street, because they have nowhere else to lay their head, can come under this descrip- tion. The Vagrant-laws proceed on the principle that idleness is a crime; but then, the idleness must, in common reason, be volun- tary; and, before this woman was sent to a bridewell, it should have been shown that she had the means of working, but chose, in preference, to be idle. It is only such idleness as this that can be called disorderly, or considered as criminal. This reckless way of executing the Vagrant-laws is one of the things which most increases the prevailing bitterness of spirit among the people.