William Pitt’s Poor Law Reform Bill

The Poor Law Bill was proposed by William Pitt the Younger to parliament in 1796. The law was put forth in order to ostensibly aid the plight of the poor citizenry while also quelling concerns of proletariat uprising. The revolution in France worried many, but others were concerned about the effect that the law would have on inflation. The law was based in large part on the Speenhamland System that was being practiced locally across the nation.  The law failed to pass parliament and while the Speenhamland system would persist in certain areas for decades, this failure at a national level would delay other poor law changes until 1834. The proposal also included allowing children to work at the age of five years old with long hours which was controversial at the time leading to the failure of the bill as well.



Deane, Phyllis, The First Industrial Revolution (Cambridge Press, Cambridge; 1965)

Nicholls and Mackay, A History of the English Poor Law (1899)


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