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JUNE 1876





. UIUC '


The subject of Boarding-out Pauper Children was brought
before a meeting of Ladies and Gentlemen at the house of
Sir Charles Trevelyan, Bart., K.C.B., at Grosvenor Crescent,
London, on the 10th of June 1876, and addresses were made
as to the actual work, and the results of it on the children so
trained. Among those present were Baroness Burdett Coutts,
Countess Ducie, the Honble. Mrs, William Lowther, Ladj
Holland, Sir Fowell and Lady Victoria Buxton, Sir Stafford
and Lady Northcote, Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Hollond, Miss
Octavia Hill, Miss Collett Poor Law Guardian, Miss Allen
Secretary to the Nottingham Guild of Charity, Mr. Hedley
Metropolitan Poor Law Inspector, the Bev. R. J. Simpson,
the Bev. J. F. Kitto, Mr. Melville Portal, Mr. W. Pole
Carew, Mr. W. M. Wilkinson, and many others.

In opening the meeting Sir Charles TREVELYAisr said —
The best return I can make for the great kindness you have
done Lady Trevelyan and me in honouring us with your
company is to detain you as short time as possible from the
practical details which will be given by the speakers who are
to succeed me. The object for which we are assembled is not
to promote the interests of a single orphanage, but to make
suitable provision for all pauper orphans in England and
Wales — children who have a double claim upon our Christian
sympathy, both as being destitute and as being orphans.
About the mode of providing for them a great controversy
arose. All were agreed that they should not be brought up in
the workhouse ; but two alternatives jn-esented themselves — one
that the children should be herded together like sheep or oxen ;
the other that they should be brought up in small family groups,
according to God's appointment for the human race. This

forms one of the main distinctions between the human race and
the lower animals. We are not met here to-day to revive the
controversy as to these alternatives. We shall not say a word
against the Metropolitan District Schools, which are now
managed as much for the benefit of the children as the system
allows ; but we may speak without offence of the transforming
influence of the divine institution of the Family and of the
Home. This is by no means limited to the ordinary relation
of parent and child, for nature has armed children with such
a sweet attractive grace that they rapidly insinuate themselves
into the affections of foster-parents, and many a lone elderly
widow has had her existence cheered by a boarded-out child.
Those who have passed part of their lives in the East require
no argument to convince them of this, for, time out of
mind, the adopted child there has been as much loved and
cared for as the child born in the ordinary course of nature.
It is also well known to Anglo-Indians that their children
become like sons and daughters to the persons by whom they
are brought up in England. The power of a real family home
comes out by comparison with the opposite ' aggregate ' system.
In the Home, or Family system, the children are educated
in their affections and bodily health, as well as in their
intellects. They are brought into contact with actual prac-
tical life at every point — household arrangements in all their
details — the productions of nature in their various seasons —
the animal creation with their different habits. Then the
children have intercourse with persons of every age and rank,
and they get more than usual benefit from the village school,
because their regular attendance is secured, and the school
profits in return by their example. When they are of
an age to earn their own living the boys have a choice of
employments, instead of being consigned, as pauper boys gene-
rally are, to some special occupation; and the girls are assisted
by their foster parents and superintending ladies to obtain
places in respectable families.

But, you will ask, what particular end we have pro-
posed to ourselves in inviting your presence this day.

The trutli is, that after having spent more than seven
years in discussing the subject, we think it is high
time to take effective action upon it. If boarding-out is
founded upon the sound principle claimed for it, the practice
ought to be extended throughout the country ; while, on
the other hand, if this high pretension cannot be admitted,
the practice ought to give way to some better system. We
also wish to collect in one point of view all the scattered
efforts which are in progress in various quarters, so that those
who look favourably upon the movement may take heart, know
who their friends are, and see how they can best aid the good
cause. In Scotland the Boarding-out system has been in opera-
tion for more than a hundred years. There are no pauper schools
there — neither 'workhouse,' ' separate,' nor 'district' — but the
whole of the pauper orphans and deserted children are depauper-
ised and absorbed into the mass of the population by means of
this system. This is done through the agency of their excel-
lent Parochial Poor Law officers, supervised by the three
inspecting officers. In this country, under Mr. Goschen's
comprehensive and well-considered order of November 1870,
the pauper orphans of England are commended to the care
of the ladies of England. The plan is that small committees
of ladies, clergymen, and others, should take charge of the
orphan and deserted children of their respective unions, and, as
far as local circumstances allow, of London and the other large
towns ; that they should select the foster parents, superintend
the bringing up of the children, and assist in placing them
out in life when they arrive at a suitable age. In these
days, when * woman's work ' is so much discussed, can there be
a work more truly beneficent, more entirely feminine, than this,
to eno;ao;e the energies of the wives and dauc^hters of Ensf-
land ? A great deal has been said about safeguards. If our
ladies throughout the country, with the aid of their husbands
and brothers, would take the matter in hand in their respective
unions, this would in itself be the highest safeguard. But,
besides this, there is the responsibility of the Guardians,
who of coui'se satisfy themselves that the children for whom

they are responsible are properly cared for ; and there is, in
addition, the general superintendence of the Local Govern-
ment Board, conducted by its admirably efficient staff of
Inspectors. We knoAv by experience that it is no mere
pretence on the part of the Guardians, for we have seen the
Guardians of St. George's, Hanover Square, in the West of
London, and of Whitechapel, Bethnal Green, and other
unions in the East, take the most active interest in the ques-
tion of boarding-out. They never place out their children
until they have satisfied themselves that the children will
be properly cared for, and they keep up their supervision
by personal visits. I have just seen a report by the Bethnal
Green Guardians of a visit made by them to Windermere
and Troutbeck, where that parish had placed out some
children as boarders in families. The report is extremely
favourable to the system, and shows that it is no idle assertion
to say that the Guardians Avho board out children will look
after them from time to time. And as for the Poor Law
Inspectors, it is not for me to say what an efficient and con-
scientious body of officers they are ; and supposing that some
are so overworked at present that they could not undertake
new duties, nothing would be easier than to tell off two or
three for this special work. I had hoped that Mr. Skelton,
the Secretary of the Scotch Poor Law Board, would have
been present to give us the experience they have had of the
boarding-out system in that country, but, being unable to
come, he has written me this letter : —

' Board of Supervision, Edinburgh :
%thJune, 1876.

' Dear Sir Charles Ti'evelyan, — It is with extreme regret
that I find it will be impossible for me to be present at your
drawing-room party on Saturday. I hope that it may prove
most successful, and that many of those who attend may be
induced to take part in a work the good effects of which in
Scotland it is almost impossible to overestimate.

' So far as we in Scotland are concerned, no further evi-
dence is needed to prove that the system has been an unquali-

fiecl success. The returus which I obtained from upwards of
900 Inspectors of Poor* throughout Scotland prove that, for at
least five-and-twenty years, multitudes of orphan and deserted
children have been rescued from pauperism, have been trained
to become decent citizens, and have been beneficially absorbed
into the general population of the country. It seems, indeed,
to be very generally admitted, even by the opponents of the
system, that, where proper supervision can be obtained, the
practice is conducive to the wellbeing of the children them-
selves. If this be so, surely a grave responsibility rests on
those who oppose it solely on the ground that its introduction
into England may affect the prosperity of the institutions in
which these unfortunate children may have been hitherto
placed. I cannot see, for my own part, that we are entitled
to sacrifice a single child to the necessities of the Metropolitan
District Schools ; and I should be sorry to think that the use-
fulness of these schools depends upon such a sacrifice being

'An experienced and eminent Inspector of the English
Local Government Board writes to me, " The boardinor-out of
pauper children is being tested in my district under varied
conditions. I have no doubt that the children will gain both
physically and morally." If this be admitted, what more is
there to be said ? But my correspondent fears — and this is
another objection which has been constantly urged — that the
system may lead to the desertion of children by those legally
or morally bound to support them. You will recollect that
Mr. TufFnell stated, in support of this view, that the number
of orphan and deserted children in Scotland chargeable to the
rates was greatly in excess of the number in London. The
fact is that last year there were only 6,000 of these children in
all Scotland as against nearly 8,000 in the metropolis alone. But,
apart from statistics, I confess that I have never been able to
follow the reasoning on which the argument is based. Why
should boarding-out be an inducement to desertion ? What

• Otherwise called ' Parochial Poor Law Officers.' They are local officers
eombining the duties of Eelieving Officer with those of Clerk to the Guardians.


is the motive which it supplies to persons who are proposing
to desert their children? These persons, I should suppose,
are not much accustomed to conduct an argument to its logical
conclusions; and I doubt whether one mother in a thousand
deserts her child because she happens to be an intelligent
advocate of the boarding-out system, or because she has
seriously considered what is likely to prove most conducive to
the ultimate wellbeing of her offspring. Were we to analyse
the motives which animate the class of people who desert their
children, it would be found, I think, that the prospect of a
child being lodged in a palatial edifice, more or less under the
mother's eye, and within her reach, will prove a stronger
inducement than the prospect of a child being taken away to
an unknown part of the country and boarded in a labourer's
cottage. (Hear, hear.)

' Then it is said that you have no fit class of people in
England to whom to entrust the children. You, Sir Charles,
know more about the social and moral condition of rural
England than I do ; but I have recently heard from persons
residing in various districts that in their own counties no
difficulty on this score need be anticipated. (Hear.)

' Let me say in conclusion that close, habitual, and vigilant
supervision is the key-note of the system. If you can get
district committees to undertake the work, and if you can put
upon these committees ladies like Mrs. Senior or Miss Hill, I
see no reason why the system should not succeed in England
as it has succeeded in Scotland.

' I am, dear Sir Charles,

* Yours very truly,

' John Skelton.'

As to certain persons having said that we have in rural England
no fit class of persons to whom to entrust the children, those who
say this libel rural England. Everybody who knows rural Eng-
land knows that there are thousands of persons who can be safely
trusted with the care of children, and that whatever the faults
of our agricultural population may be, they are remarkable for

their kindness to one another. This letter tells its story so
clearly that it is unnecessary for me to enlarge upon more
than one point — that with regard to the relatives of the
pauper child. A crucial test of the soundness of the boarding-
out principle is the light in which it is regarded by the rela-
tives of the child, for although best for the child, this system is
least attractive to the relatives. Under the ' aggregate school '
system the poor see a vast institution, in which the children are
dressed in uniform, and the whole managed on a very expensive
scale. They hear the institution highly praised, and they think
it a fine thing to have their children brought up in such a place
—in fact they regard the getting of their children into these
aggregate or ' district ' schools much as the upper classes regard
sending their boys to Eton or Harrow. When the children of
the poor are got into these district schools their friends are con-
sidered to be absolved from all responsibility, and they are re-
lieved from all care regarding them beyond an occasional visit
to them, which can be easily paid, because the children are all
in one place in the neighbourhood of a great town. But when
the children are put out as boarders it is a totally different thing,
for the children remain in the face of day, and their presence in
the homes of other persons of the class from which they came
is a constant protest against their desertion and abandonment ;
and it must be said for our poor people that, corrupted as
they have been by the Poor Law, they are not, after all, sunk
so low as to permit their children to be entrusted to their equals.
This, then, is at the bottom of this singular problem — the poor
vnW. not allow their children to be boarded-out in their own
class, though they are quite willing to hand them over to
large aggregate schools to be brought up in the uniform of an
institution. Here is an illustration, written in idiomatic
English, by one who has had practical experience : —

' The three children, two girls and a boy, belong to one
family. Their mother has been dead some years ; their father
" one fortnight and nearly another," as they told my cook.
They had not been a fortnight in their Union when a nurse and
a Guardian brousrht them down here to be boarded-out under


the care of the Penn Committee. When the children found
they Avere to be left here^ the oldest girl, who had got very-
confidential Avith my cook, said that her uncle would be very
angry when he kncAV it, for that he never would have let the
gentlemen have them if he had not been promised that
they should go to a beautiful school at Penge. My cook,
knowing nothing of the matter, said, " You mean Penn, my
dear ; that's Avhere you are come to ;" but the child insisted it
was Penge they were to have gone to — " ever such a nice
place," she said, " near the Crystal Palace, and Avhere uncle "
told her " all the children wore a uniform." The poor child
seemed very unhappy, and the cook asked her if her uncle was
kind to her. She replied, " Yes, very," and that he had three
children of his own, and Avould have taken them home too only
the school they Avere going to was such a fine one ; and he had
promised to come and see them there. He told them, too,
their grandfather was a rich man, and would, most likely, " do
a deal " for them, Avhen they left Penge, if they Avere good
children. The eldest girl cried A'^ery much, saying her uncle
noAv Avould never find her, for he Avould go to Penge and
she Avould not be there. The children are pretty and attrac-
tive, and my maids Avere charmed by their manners. The
cook told me this conversation as soon as they were gone,
sympathising most deeply with them, and evidently thinking
of them as children Avho had been kidnapped, and AA^hose rich re-
lations Avould be down upon us sooner or later.'

I Avill now read a letter from a lady avIio has requested
that her name may be withheld, and all I Avill say about her
is that she has very ably promoted boarding-out, and that she
combines with the finest Irish humour the best English common
sense. She says :—

' You ask me to give you some boarding-out experiences ;
but mine, compared with Miss Hill's, are so few and in-
significant that, excepting that " every little makes a mickle,"
they would not be worth your reading. I never thought there
was much in the fear I have heard frequently expressed that
boarded- out children Avere liable to illtreatment. It happens


that for many years I have had a great deal to do with a
large Ragged School. Occasionally among our very poor
children an apparently vrell-cared-for upper-class child ap
peared. On inquiry I constantly found the child was a
" nurse child " (boarded-out, in fact), and usually further
investigation (made, you must note, because we Avished to
exclude better-class children from the school) elicited, " Oh,
the mother has paid me nothing for a long time, but we have
got fond of the child, and would not let it go to the Work-
house." Xext as to my own experiences. I think my iSrst boarded-
out child was a puny, delicate, wretched-looking little fellow,
whom I took from his drinking mother. She told us " she had
had fourteen children, and buried eleven ; thought soon to bury
this one. Ill; he was always ill. What was the use of a
doctor for a child who constantly woke up in the night
screaming with pain."' This amiable w^oman excused the
cruel way in which she beat the little fellow by saying
that she "really could not help beating him, he was so like
his father^ You can guess whether such a child, puny,
sickly, and as dirty as you can imagine from the care of
such a mother, would be likely to be at first sight attrac-
tive I I sent him down to a gardener and his wife, living
in the country. As to how it answered, I will remark that
when, in order to get better schooling than the village afforded,
I sent him to school elsewhere, it was to the foster-parents the
little fellow confided he was not happy (not to me or to his
drinking mother). On this advice I moved him. Xow, at
eighteen years old, he spends all his holidays with them
(he is a pupil teacher), and these country folk are as proud of
his achievements and the little distinctions he gets at
examinations etc. as if he were their own boy.

' But this, of course, is a case of private boarding-out. The
system under the Local Government Board does not, however,
differ in its results. We have now twelve little children boarded-
out under the Local Government Board regulations in one vil-
lage. A lady there writes : " You cannot think what love seems
to have awakened, not only in the heart of the foster-parents, but


in the villagers generally, to the little orphans. One little girl
is with two middle-aged women, who live with an old mother.
When the old woman was dying, I proposed to move little
May for a time. ' Please don't : she is like a bit of sunshine
in the house.' Another pair of old maids thought they should
like two boarded-out girls ; but the house, a trim tidy cottage,
looked as if no boy had ever set foot therein, and they ' did
not Avant a boy ; oh, no I' Circumstances made me desire to
send the brother of the little girls into the same village. I
telegraphed to the clergyman to know if a certain family, who
had already two boys, would take another. The reply was,
' No ; but Wheatley, where the little girls are, would take
him for a time ; of course not permanently.' The little fellow
was not an attractive child, I thought. We could not get word
or look or smile from him, and but for an energetic ' Please '
when I proposed moving him from the district school, I might
have thought him dumb. When I went into the country, a
week after he had been sent down, I went to see all the
boarded-out children. This little 'Harry' still looked glum,
quite unlike the others. On inquiry, I found the poor little lad
had thought that on my advent he would be moved. ' But you
don't want to keep him, Mary ?' said I to one old maid. ' Oh,
yes, please ; all he is anxious about is lest you should move him.
We should like to make a home for him even when he gets big
enough to work on a farm. We have got him a nice little
room, all to himself, and he says if you move him he shall get
up in the night and run back to his aunt Mary ' — an aunt of a
week's acquaintance. You should have seen the child's look
of delight Avhen I said, ' All right, Harry, I shan't move you
if you are a good boy.' 'Oh! he is a good boy !' said the
fictitious aunt eagerly, and half aifronted. One woman said,
' Are not the London children like little princes ? ' We feared
some jealousy because their clothes were new, and answered,
' Its having all things new at once.' ' I didn't mean their
dress, ma'am ; their manners are so pretty ; they run up and
kiss you.' " Everywhere the same tale ; while the children
seemed in a state of happiness, like purring cats. But I have


little to say against the management of the large schools. I
happened to go over some a few years ago, and thought, " Oh !
all these tremendous expenses may, after all, be right ;
children brought up with such advantages must do well." But
in consequence of inquiries made for Mrs. Senior, for the
report to the Local Government Board, I regretfully saw that
all that glittered was not gold. I now know several children
taken from these schools, and it is evident that, to quote
Mrs. Senior's words, " They want mothering." '

The next letter I have is one of a dozen lines from Mr.
George Moore, of Bow Churchyard, Kensington Palace
Gardens, and Cumberland. After expressing his regret at his
inability to be present OAving to his going abroad, he says : —

* I have had considerable experience during the past ten
years in my native county, Cumberland, and after a good deal
of uphill work and most ignorant prejudice, which it has been
necessary to contend against and overcome, I have succeeded
in getting all the orphans in most of the unions boarded out :
indeed I may say " all," as one or two of the smaller unions
have no orphan children in their Avorkhouses. Now it is my
intention to see if it be possible to get all those children who
are deserted boarded out.'

If other ladies and gentlemen would undertake for their
respective unions what Mr. George Moore has undertaken
for his county we should soon get the thing done. I have
also received other letters — one from Miss Preiisser, con-
taining practical suggestions for ladies or gentlemen proposino-
to assist in this work ; another from Mrs. Archer, of Swindon ;
another from Colonel Grant, of Bath — that good man who has
been working for many years at this and other poor-law
matters. Among those Avho have taken the deepest interest
in this question, besides Dr. Goodeve of Clifton, and Miss
Smedley, I must allude to one who is no longer among us — a
name to be mentioned with the deepest feelings of sorrow and
respect — Lady Augusta Stanley. She was not only interested
herself, but she deeply interested Her Majesty, which was a
matter of no great difficulty ; and I feel certain that if this work


is undertaken by the ladies of England, it will not want the
highest support and the most powerful patronage. What is
wanted is, not vast orphanages, with their costly buildings and
establishments of officers of various descriptions and grades,
but a return to God's ordinance of the family and home.
There is gathered on this table the literature of the last ten
years upon this subject for the use of the visitors who have
honoured Lady Trevelyan and me with their presence. I
would particularly commend to your notice the short col-

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Online LibraryOklahoma. Constitutional Convention (1906-1907)Report of a drawing-room conference on boarding-out pauper children : June 1876 (Volume Talbot Collection of British Pamphlets) → online text (page 1 of 5)