Edwin Chadwick.

Report on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain. A supplementary report on the results of a special inquiry into the practice of interment in towns. Made at the request of Her Majesty's principal secretary of state for the Home department online

. (page 10 of 27)
Online LibraryEdwin ChadwickReport on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain. A supplementary report on the results of a special inquiry into the practice of interment in towns. Made at the request of Her Majesty's principal secretary of state for the Home department → online text (page 10 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

150_l._ in the public funds, if a member in the first class admitted
ten years, 12_l._ will be allowed; and if a member admitted ten
years in the second class, 6_l._ will be allowed, deducting all
arrears on the books; and for the credit of the society, the
committee shall see the undertaker’s bill discharged.”

The publican is secured by a provision that the box shall not be removed
to any other public house; and the office of “J. Scotcher, undertaker
and founder of the Society,” is made permanent. An arbitrary rule, in
such terms as the following, is so couched (the officers being judges)
as to suppress complaint. This rule is common to other societies:—

That if any member charge the committee, or any member thereof, or
trustees, or secretary, with any improper practice in the management
of the society, and cannot make it appear just, he or she shall be
fined 5_s._, or be excluded.

It is to be observed that the high and exclusive spirit of some of the
rules would seem to show how little the body of the members are
consulted in the preparation of them. Thus, in the “Ancient Friendly
Society,” it is provided that “if any man sits down to drink with the
stewards to pay sixpence, whether a member or not.” It is provided in
the rules of the “Loyal United Friends,” that “if any person sit down to
drink with the committee he is to pay sixpence;” and it is the same with
a large proportion of the others.

In what is called an “improved burial society,” of the date of 1841,
called the East London Burial Society, held at the Swan public house,
Bethnal Green, the terms are:—

That the members of this society shall pay their contributions
weekly or monthly, and shall pay 1_d._ per quarter extra, to defray
other expenses attending the society. Every member shall pay 1_d._
per week for the first class, from two to fifty-five years; the
second class, from ten to fifty-five years, 2_d._ per week; the
third class, from ten to fifty-five years, shall pay 3_d._ per week.

Richard Crafer appears to be the president, and William Duggan
secretary; then Richard Crafer afterwards appears as the undertaker.
With respect to him the following is inserted as a fundamental rule of
the society:—

That Richard Crafer, being the founder of this Society, shall be the
undertaker, and no future articles shall remove him, so long as he
gives general satisfaction to the society, and in case of his death,
his eldest son shall claim the same for the benefit of the widow,
and at her decease the same shall devolve on the eldest son living.

Mr. William Duggan is appointed secretary, and for his attendance
and services he shall be allowed the sum of 1_d._ per quarter, for
as many members as there are on the society’s books: he will assist
the society with his best advice, and register good and healthy
members, and post the books. He shall be allowed 3_d._ each for all
notices he may deliver on the society’s business, but not obliged to
go more than two miles from the club-house.

This is preceded by the usual rule, that—

Any member _coming_ to the society’s meeting-house in liquor, so as
to disturb the proceedings, shall be fined 1_s._, and ordered to
leave the room; and should any member charge the committee,
secretary, president, trustees, or landlord with any unjust
proceedings relative to the society, and cannot substantiate the
same, he or she shall pay a fine not exceeding 10_s._ to the stock,
or be excluded.

In the society of “United Brewers and Draymen,” of which J. Guy is
secretary and undertaker, one of the fundamental rules is, that—

At the funeral of a member, the secretary shall provide fittings for
porters and six pall bearers, for which he shall be allowed 1_l._,
whether they are used or not, provided such member dies and is
interred within three miles of any meeting-house.

The particulars of the provision commonly held out, is stated in the
following rule of the General Burial Society:—

That the landlord for the time being shall be treasurer, and when
there is sufficient cash, above what is necessary to supply the
exigencies of the society, the same shall be vested in the public
funds, in the names of the trustees appointed by the committee. The
landlord, as treasurer, &c., shall give proper security for the due
performance of his offices.

An evil entailed beyond the excessive amount of subscriptions paid for
an object that is but poorly obtained, is the impulse given by it to the
vice of drinking; to the destruction of real friendly sympathy amongst
the working classes, by making the announcement of the death to be
received as the demoralizing announcement of a coming carousal. Such
expenses can only be incurred in the absence of proper feeling, in the
face of destitute orphan children. The secretary of one of the better
ordered burial clubs, a working man, thus speaks of the regulations
which tend to drinking. He was asked—

What number of members have you?—Two hundred, who pay sixpence per

What is the publican’s advantage out of this?—The allowance is
sixpence spending-money from each committee-man. I do not like this,
and have wanted to change the place of meeting to a coffee-house,
for the members frequently add a shilling to the sixpence
spending-money, and are then not in a condition to begin business;
but I find it is part of the rules of this, as well as of the other
societies, that they shall be held at public houses.

On the occasion of the funeral is there no drinking?—Yes, there is;
that is another great evil, and I wish there was a way of remedying
it. The family provide themselves with drink, and the friends coming
also drink. I have known this to be to such excess, that the
undertaker’s men, who always take whatever drink is given them, are
frequently unfit to perform their duty, and have reeled in carrying
the coffin. At these times it is very distressing. The men who stand
as mutes at the door, as they stand out in the cold, are supposed to
require most drink, and receive it most liberally. I have seen these
men reel about the road, and after the burial we have been obliged
to put these mutes and their staves into the interior of the hearse
and drive them home, as they were incapable of walking. After the
return from the funeral, the mourners commonly have drink again at
the house. This drinking at the funeral is a very great evil.

Besides the regulations of meeting which lead to expenditure for
drinking, besides express regulations for allowances of drink, the
“funeral allowances” are sometimes read by the publican to mean
“expenditure” with him. The officers of a club in Liverpool having been
summoned before Mr. Rushton, the magistrate, for the non-payment of a
sum allowed by the rules, for funeral expenses, the steward of the club
attended, and in answer to the claim, stated that the complainant had
refused to take 4_s._ worth of whiskey at the house where the club
meetings were held, a quantity which had been used and allowed in that
and other clubs, as forming part of the “funeral expenses.”
Notwithstanding the usage, the magistrate refused to sanction the
steward’s reading of the term; and decided that the whole of the payment
of expenses must be in money and not in whiskey.

It is difficult to ascertain the amount spent in drink, but it appears
from the amount cited of the expenditure in the 90 societies at Walsall,
that the required allowance was 2_d._ per month, in others 3_d._, and
the aggregate sum spent in those clubs (if it were only limited to the
rule), must have amounted to 981_l._ 13_s._ 4_d._; but besides these
prescribed portions of drink, there are prescribed annual feasts, at
from 2_s._ 3_d._ to 3_s._ 6_d._ per member, amounting to an annual sum
of 257_l._ 10_s._, making a total of 1239_l._ 3_s._ 4_d._ per annum,
expended in such expenses. Besides these, there are decoration expenses,
in which one society alone expended between 70_l._ and 80_l._ Seventeen
of the societies had lost 1500_l._, and one of them 600_l._, through
various causes (such as the defalcations of secretaries), either
directly or indirectly, attributable to an inefficient system of
management. If the one year’s expenditure on drink, feast, and
decoration money, were placed out in the savings’ bank, at interest,
together with the amount of losses from mismanagement, the amount due to
the contributors, to this small group of societies, would, at the end of
10 years, have amounted to the sum of 5328_l._ 19_s._ 3_d._

§ 57. To prevent frauds, some of the rules provide that the secretary
shall see the body. For this service, in the society called the “Frugal
Society,” where 7_l._ is allowed for the interment, a fee of 2_s._ 6_d._
is allowed to him, and 4_s._ if he have to go from two to five miles for
the purpose. It is to be observed, that this is the usual fee provided
by such societies for any inspection of the body.

The publican is generally made the treasurer, and usually the money is
placed by him into the hands of his brewer, by whom from four to five
per cent. interest is paid for its use as capital. In other instances it
forms a capital for the publican himself; in some instances it is lent
to other tradesmen. Though failures of societies have occurred from the
failure of those to whom their funds have been lent, they do not appear
to have been so frequent as the failures from the erroneous bases in
respect to insurance on which they are generally founded.

§ 58. Believing that if the sums insured for burial in most of the
burial clubs were received in money, the premiums paid by the members of
these clubs are excessive, as compared with the premiums paid in the
higher classes of insurance offices, I have submitted a number of their
regulations, which may be considered specimens of the common terms of
assurance, to Mr. Jenkin Jones, the actuary of the National Mercantile
Life Assurance Society. His conclusions, which are confirmed by Mr.
Griffith Davies, the actuary of the Guardian Office, show that for a
risk, for which, if the Northampton tables were taken as the basis of
the assurance, that in the large society at Preston, where an annual
premium of 3_s._ 9_d._ would be taken for one risk by an assurance
office, 7_s._ 10_d._ is taken from the contributors by the club. The
General Friendly Society, for a risk for which 3_s._ 9_d._ would suffice
on the Northampton table, receives 11_s._ 5_d._ Instead of an average
premium of 5_s._ 2_d._, the “Friendly Society” takes 11_s._ 1_d._ If we
add 25 per cent., to the premium that would be charged according to the
Northampton rate (which is supposed to represent a higher mortality than
the average) for expenses of management, including books, stationery,
&c., and to cover the loss of interest occasioned by weekly or monthly
contributions, instead of annual premiums payable at the beginning of
each year, in nearly all these clubs the poor man pays an excess for
burial of, at least, one-third,—besides the expense of liquor more than
he would otherwise drink, which he is induced to take at the time of his
multiplied attendances to pay his weekly subscriptions. There are
various causes (which it would require a long report to specify) for the
failure of these clubs, and for the loss of the savings devoted to their
objects. The chief manager, the undertaker, has commonly an immediate
interest in the admission of bad lives, which bring him quick funerals.
The younger members often begin to perceive that they are subjected to
unduly heavy charges, and when they are in the majority, they break up
the society and divide the stock among them equally, and the older
members who have contributed from the commencement are mercilessly
deprived of the consolation for which they have during a great part of
their lives made the most constant sacrifices. Independently of the
excessive rates charged by these societies, the principle upon which the
charges are made is a very unjust one, viz.—that of charging the same
rate to each member, without reference to age.

§ 59. It will be seen from the following table that the “Friendly”
Society’s premium (11_s._ 1_d._) is rather more than double the average
of the Northampton (5_s._ 2_d._), and the premium by the Northampton
rates for ages 15 and 45 are 3_s._ 10_d._, and 7_s._ 9_d._; the premiums
of the “Friendly” Society, therefore, according to their own average,
ought not to be more for these ages than about twice these amounts, or
for age 15, 7_s._ 8_d._; age 45, 15_s._ 6_d._; but members between these
ages pay alike (11_s._ 1_d._), the younger member therefore pays 3_s._
5_d._ _more_ than he ought, and the older member 4_s._ 5_d._ less than
he ought.

│“Friendly” Society │ Average Premium │ Premium according
Age. │ Premium. │ according to the │to the Northampton
│ │ Northampton Rate. │ Rate.
│ _s._ _d._ │ _s._ _d._ │ _s._ _d._
7–45 │ 11 1 │ 5 2 │
15 │ │ │ 3 10
45 │ │ │ 7 9

And by the Northampton rate (upon the principle adopted by the society),
the younger member would have to pay 1_s._ 4_d._ more and the elder
member 2_s._ 7_d._ less than he ought. As an exemplification of the
instability of such societies, Mr. Tidd Pratt mentioned to me that at a
recent election of a poor man to a vacancy in the Metropolitan Benefit
Societies’ Asylum, a condition of which is that the candidate must be
above sixty years of age, and have been a member of a benefit society
more than ten years, there were 32 candidates, from whose documents it
appeared that the societies of no less than 14 out of the 32 had been
dissolved, and that some of them had belonged to two societies, and that
both had failed them. Such societies are nevertheless constantly renewed
on the old and unsafe foundations; and so intense is the prevalent
feeling on the subject of respectful interment, that to secure it, a
large proportion of the working population pay the same extravagant
premiums to several of these clubs, in the hope that one, at least, may
at the last avail them. On the death of a mechanic, the first business
of an experienced undertaker is to ascertain of how many societies the
deceased was a member, and to arrange the funeral accordingly. I am
informed that it is not unfrequent that such sums as fifteen, twenty,
thirty, and even forty pounds’ expenses are incurred for a mechanic’s
funeral under these circumstances. When two or three of the undertakers
of different clubs meet on the same search, and when they cannot agree
to “settle” between them their shares in the performance of the
funerals, very complex questions arise, which, it is stated, the
magistrates have great difficulty in settling.

§ 60. The exercise, on the parts of the lowest classes, of the feeling,
in itself so laudable and apparently susceptible of great moral good,
under proper guidance, has, in those districts where the burial
societies are conspicuous and numerous, led to dreadful incidental
consequences, displaying, amongst other things, the dangers of
disturbing natural responsibilities, and allowing interests to be placed
in operation against moral duties.

§ 61. The insecurity of the burial societies has, under the anxiety of
feeling of the working classes, lest they might fail of their object
from the failure of the club, led to multiplied insurances for adults,
thence for families, and for children; and thence has arisen high gains
on the death of each child,—in other words, a bounty on neglect and
infanticide. Those who are aware of the moral condition of a large
proportion of the population, will expect that such an interest would,
sooner or later, have its operation on some depraved minds to be found
in every class.

§ 62. Mr. Robert Hawksworth, the Visitor to the Manchester and Salford
District Provident Society, recently stated to me,—“Here, the mode of
conducting the funerals—the habits of drinking at the time of assemblage
at the house, before the corpse is removed, renewed on the return from
the funeral, when they drink to excess, the long retention of the body
in the one room, are all exceedingly demoralizing. The occasion of a
funeral is commonly looked to, amongst the lowest grade, as the occasion
of ‘a stir;’ the occasion of the drinking is viewed at the least with
complacency.” A minister in the neighbourhood of Manchester expressed
his sorrow on observing a great want of natural feeling, and great
apathy at the funerals. The sight of a free flow of tears was a
refreshment which he seldom received. He was, moreover, often shocked by
a common phrase amongst women of the lowest class—“Aye, aye, that child
will not live; it is in the burial club.”

The actual _cost_ of the funeral of a child varies from 1_l._ to 30_s._
The allowances from the clubs in that town on the occurrence of the
death of a child are usually 3_l._, and extend to 4_l._ and 5_l._ But
insurances for such payments on the deaths of children are made in four
or five of these burial societies; and an officer mentioned to me an
instance where one man had insured such payments in no less than
nineteen different burial-clubs in Manchester. Officers of these
societies, relieving officers, and others whose administrative duties
put them in communication with the lowest classes in those districts,
express their moral conviction of the operation of such bounties to
produce instances of the visible neglect of children, of which they are
witnesses. They often say—“You are not treating that child properly; it
will not live; is it in the club?” and the answer corresponds with the
impression produced by the sight. Mr. Gardiner, the clerk to the
Manchester Union, in the course of his exercise of the important
functions of registering the causes of death, deemed the cause assigned
by a labouring man for the death of a child unsatisfactory, and on
staying to inquire found that popular rumour assigned the death to
wilful starvation:—

The child (according to a statement of the case) had been entered in
at least ten burial clubs; and its parents had six other children,
who only lived from nine to eighteen months respectively. They had
received 20_l._ from several burial clubs for one of these children,
and they expected to receive at least us much on account of this
child. An inquest was held at Mr. Gardiner’s insistence when several
persons, who had known the deceased, stated that she was a fine fat
child shortly after her birth, but that she soon became quite thin,
was badly clothed, and seemed as if she did not get a sufficiency of
food. She was mostly in the care of a girl six or seven years of
age: her father bore the character of a drunken man. He had another
child, which was in several burial clubs, and was a year old when it
died; the child’s mother stated that the child was more than ten
months old, but she could not recollect the day of her birth; she
thought its complaint was convulsions, in which it died. It had been
ill about seven weeks; when it took ill, she had given it some oil
of aniseeds and squills, which she had procured from Mr. Smith, a
druggist. Since then she had given it nothing in the way of
medicine, except some wine and water, which she gave it during the
last few days of its life, when it could not suck or take gruel. It
was in three burial clubs; her husband told her that they had
received upwards of 20_l._ from burial clubs in which the other
child had been entered; none of her children who had died were more
than eighteen months old.

A surgeon stated, that he made a _post-mortem_ examination of the
body of deceased; it was then in an advanced state of decomposition,
but not so far gone as to interfere with the examination. There was
no appearance of external violence on the body, but there was an
extreme degree of emaciation. The brain was healthy, and gave no
indication of convulsions having been the cause of death; the
process of teething had not commenced; had such been the case, it
might have led to the supposition that fits might have occurred; the
lungs, heart, stomach, and intestines were in a natural and healthy

The jury having expressed it as their opinion that the evidence of
the parents was made up for the occasion, and entitled to no credit,
returned the following verdict:—“Died through want of nourishment;
but whether occasioned by a deficiency of food, or by disease of the
liver and spine, brought on by improper food and drink, or
otherwise, does not appear.”

No further steps were taken upon this verdict; and the man enforced
payments upon his insurances from ten burial clubs, and obtained from
them a total sum of 34_l._ 3_s._ for the burial of this one child. Two
similar cases came under the notice of Mr. Coppock, the Clerk and
Superintendent-Registrar of the Stockport Union, in both of which he
prosecuted the parties for murder. In one case, where three children had
been poisoned with arsenic, the father was tried, with the mother, and
convicted at Chester, and sentenced to be transported for life, but the
mother was acquitted. In the other case, where the judge summed up for a
conviction, the accused, the father, was, to the astonishment of every
one, acquitted. In this case the body was exhumed after interment, and
arsenic was detected in the stomach. In consequence of the suspicion
raised upon the death, on which the accusation was made in the first
case, the bodies of two other children were taken up and examined, when
arsenic was found in the stomach. In all these cases payments on the
deaths of the children were insured from the burial clubs: the cost of
the coffin and burial dues would not be more than about 1_l._, and the
allowance from the club is 3_l._

§ 63. It is remarked, on these dreadful cases, by the Superintendent
Registrar, that the children who were boys, and therefore likely to be
useful to the parents, were not poisoned; the female children were the
victims. It was the clear opinion of the medical officers that
infanticides have been committed in Stockport to obtain the burial
money.[12] Cases of the culpable neglect of children who were insured in
several clubs had been observed at Preston. The collector of a burial
society, one of the most respectable in Manchester, stated to me strong
grounds for believing that it had become a practice to neglect children
for the sake of the money allowed. The practice of insuring in a number
of these clubs was increasing. He gave the following description of the
frauds to which the clubs were exposed:—

A great number of individuals have themselves and family in two or
more societies, and by that means realize a great sum of money at
the death of any one of them; and I have no doubt at all in saying
that a great many deaths are occasioned through neglect, when there
is a great sum to be obtained at their decease. Such cases as these
generally happen amongst the lower orders of society.

In reference to cases of undoubted imposition, I will just name a
few out of a great many. A person residing in Manchester wished to
enter herself and grandchild into our society. We went to the house,
and there were from ten to twelve individuals present, the greater
part of them children,—two of them somewhere about three months old.
I asked who it was that was going to enter? The mistress of the
house spoke up, and said it was herself and her grandchild. I asked

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Online LibraryEdwin ChadwickReport on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain. A supplementary report on the results of a special inquiry into the practice of interment in towns. Made at the request of Her Majesty's principal secretary of state for the Home department → online text (page 10 of 27)