Wednesday, August 24, 2022

J.W. Logan MP on the sufferings of the rural poor in 1892

The first major speech my hero J.W. "Paddy" Logan made after winning Harborough for the Liberal Party in 1891 was on the Small Agricultural Holdings Bill the following year.

Take it away, Paddy:

In our villages we find men who, after working honestly and well for 50 or 60 years, and who during that time have done their utmost to save, are compelled to husband out life's tape by a pauper's pittance. In the Division I have the honour to represent the number of such cases is very great. 
If the House will bear with me I should like to mention one by way of illustration. Samuel Atkins, of Great Easton, was 75 last November. This man began work at the age of 7 and ceased at 72, having been in the employ of one farmer for 30 years. When he attained to man's estate he earned 7s. per week, then 10s., next 11s., and at last 12s., but never got higher than that. 
He is described to me as having always been a steady, industrious, careful man, who worked honestly and well for 65 years without a chance to save a penny; now he is rewarded by the parish with 2s. 6d. per week and a loaf, is called a pauper, and is, in consequence, deprived of some of the rights of citizenship. 
Out of his 2s. 6d. per week he pays 1s. for rent and 9d. for coal, leaving him 9d. and a loaf for a week's subsistence. 
Hon. Members may wonder how the old man manages to exist, and I will, Sir, with your permission, use his own words - When I get the loaf home I cut it into seven pieces, so that I may not eat too much on any one day. 
That is the reward of 65 years of incessant toil. Can the House be surprised that with such an object-lesson before them every young man of that countryside with a spark of manhood in him decides to try his fortune elsewhere?

I am reminded of the more radical writings of Richard Jefferies, another of this blog's heroes, who had died five years before Logan made this speech.

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