The power and the purse : aspects of the genesis and implementation of the Metropolitan Poor Act 1867
This thesis examines the genesis and implementation of two provisions of the Metropolitan Poor Act 1867: rate equalisation and the appointment of central government nominees to local poor law bodies. It is contended that while the Act pointed towards the twentieth-century state in that it led to a growth in government and to redistribution of the public spending burden, a new type of gentlemanly safeguard against elected power underpinned these developments. A radical call for redistribution of wealth in the metropolis, coming largely not from the East End but from the west, the south and the City, played a significant part in the genesis of the Act's innovatory restraining step of appointing Poor Law Board nominees to metropolitan bodies. The aim, it is argued, was to dilute the representative base of these bodies as some of their poor law spending came within the compass of the new metropolitan common purse: a step taken in the same year that the representative base for parliament was widened by the passing of the Second Reform Act. The thesis examines the manuscript records of the major metropolitan movement for rate equalisation,analyses decision-making on the Act's largest and longest-running poor law body, the Metropolitan Asylums Board, in its first four years, and presents a census-based socio-economic comparative study of this board's elected and elite nominated managers. The role of central government (ministers and officials) in the state growth that arose out of the Act is also considered. The conclusion reached is that in the metropolis in the 1860s the conscious, planned and more centralised growth of poor law services, and the accompanying partial redistribution of wealth from richer to poorer areas, both arising largely as a result of insistent reformist and radical pressure, took place within a context of gentlemanly ingenuity in finding new ways of retaining influence and power.