Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-gvh9x Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-20T22:19:02.512Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

A ‘most imperial’ contribution: New Zealand and the old age pensions debate in Britain, 1898–1912*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 May 2014

Edmund Rogers*
Affiliation:
E-mail: edmund.rogers@utoronto.ca

Abstract

The extent of imperial influences upon nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British life, including in the development of social policy, has attracted significant scholarly interest in the past decade. The bearing of New Zealand's 1898 Old-Age Pensions Act upon the British debate over elderly poverty exemplifies the contested transfer of social policy ideas from settler colony to ‘Mother Country’. Reformers in Britain hailed a model non-contributory pension system with an imperial pedigree. However, the widely acknowledged distinction between ‘old’ countries such as Britain, and ‘new’ countries of English-speaking settlement, characterized the New Zealand example's reception. While progressives identified the colony as a ‘clean slate’ lacking the obstructive historical inheritance of the Poor Law, critics of state-funded pensions warned against drawing policy-making lessons from New Zealand. Yet when a reformist Liberal government introduced an Old Age Pensions Bill in 1908, it used Britain's age to justify the legislation's relative conservatism.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Footnotes

*

The author acknowledges the generosity of the Economic and Social Research Council for the doctoral award that made this article, and the thesis from which it derives, possible. He also thanks the organizers of the Social Policy Across Borders conference, his fellow conference participants, and the editors and anonymous readers at the Journal of Global History for their encouraging comments and constructive feedback.

References

1 Reeves, W. Pember, ‘Old age pensions at work: I – New Zealand’, Local Government Review, 1, 1899, pp. 2930Google Scholar. The same material appears slightly altered in

Reeves, William Pember, State experiments in Australia and New Zealand, London: Grant Richards, 1902Google Scholar, vol. 2, p. 251.

2 ‘Old age pensions’, Daily News, 22 September 1898, p. 6.

3 On the meaning of progressivism in the British context, see Clarke, Peter, ‘The Progressive movement in England’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 24, 1974, pp. 159181CrossRefGoogle Scholar;

Thompson, James, ‘The genesis of the 1906 Trade Disputes Act: Liberalism, trade unions, and the law’, Twentieth Century British History, 9, 2, 1998, pp. 192193CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 The Act of 1908 covered Ireland as well as Great Britain, of course. This article focuses on the British – and arguably primarily English – debate. See Gilbert, Bentley B., The evolution of national insurance in Britain: the origins of the welfare state, London: Joseph, 1966, pp. 188189Google Scholar, 215;

Williams, Patricia Mary, ‘The development of old age pensions policy in Great Britain, 1878–1925’, PhD thesis, University of London, 1970, pp. 114–115Google Scholar;

Thane, Pat, ‘Non-contributory versus insurance pensions 1878–1908’, in Pat Thane, ed., The origins of British social policy, London: Croom Helm, 1978, pp. 9596Google Scholar;

Coleman, Peter, Progressivism and the world of reform: New Zealand and the origins of the American welfare state, Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1987, p. 82Google Scholar;

Hennock, E. P., British social reform and German precedents: the case of social insurance 1880–1914, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987, pp. 138139Google Scholar;

McBriar, A. M., An Edwardian mixed doubles: the Bosanquets versus the Webbs – a study in British social policy, 1890–1929, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987, p. 46Google Scholar;

Goodman, Dave, How the old age pension was won – the forgotten story: no thanks to Lloyd George, London: Third Age Press, 1998Google Scholar, ch. 5;

Macnicol, John, The politics of retirement in Britain, 1878–1948, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 158CrossRefGoogle Scholar;

Rodgers, Daniel T., Atlantic crossings: social politics in a progressive age, Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1998, p. 228Google Scholar;

Thane, Pat, Old age in English history: past experiences, present issues, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 205207Google Scholar;

Burton, Antoinette, ‘New narratives of imperial politics in the late nineteenth century’, in Catherine Hall and Sonya O. Rose, eds., At home with the empire: metropolitan culture and the imperial world, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp. 226228Google Scholar

5 Webb, Sidney, ‘Impressions of New Zealand’, The Echo, 7 October 1898, p. 1Google Scholar;

Alessio, Dominic, ‘Promoting paradise: utopianism and national identity in New Zealand, 1870–1930’, New Zealand Journal of History, 42, 1, 2008, p. 26Google Scholar.

6 Mann, Arthur, ‘British social thought and American reformers in the Progressive era’, Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 42, 4, 1956, pp. 672692CrossRefGoogle Scholar;

Clarke, ‘Progressive movement’, pp. 159–160Google Scholar;

Keller, Morton, ‘Anglo-American politics, 1900–1930, in Anglo-American perspective: a case study in comparative history’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 22, 3, 1980, pp. 458477CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Rodgers, Atlantic crossings; Coleman, Progressivism.

7 Lester, Alan, ‘Imperial circuits and networks: geographies of the British empire’, History Compass, 4, 1, 2006, pp. 121141CrossRefGoogle Scholar;

Potter, Simon J., ‘Webs, networks, and systems: globalization and the mass media in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century British empire’, Journal of British Studies, 46, 3, 2007, pp. 621646CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 Porter, Bernard, The absent-minded imperialists: empire, society, and culture in Britain, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004Google Scholar;

Thompson, Andrew, The empire strikes back? The impact of imperialism on Britain from the mid-nineteenth century, Harlow: Pearson, 2005, pp. 144146Google Scholar;

Burton, ‘New narratives’, pp. 226–227Google Scholar.

9 Report from the Select Committee on aged deserving poor, House of Commons Papers, 8, 1899, pp. 193–203; Sellers, Edith, ‘Old age pensions in Denmark’, Contemporary Review, 78, 1900, pp. 430441Google Scholar;

Levine, Daniel, ‘The Danish connection: a note on the making of British old age pensions’, Albion, 17, 1985, pp. 181185CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

10 Hennock, British social reform, p. 138Google Scholar.

11 Burton, ‘New narratives’, pp. 226–227Google Scholar, 229.

12 Macnicol, Politics, ch. 6. England & Wales, Scotland, and Ireland all had distinct Poor Law systems. The debates covered in this article overwhelmingly concerned the English Poor Law, although the 1908 Old Age Pensions Act applied to the whole of the United Kingdom.

13 Edmund Rogers, ‘The impact of the New World on economic and social debates in Britain, c.1860–1914’, PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 2009.

14 Reeves, William Pember, ‘The New Zealand Old-Age Pensions Act’, National Review, 32, 1899, pp. 820821Google Scholar;

McClure, Margaret, A civilised community: a history of social security in New Zealand 1898–1998, Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1998, p. 23Google Scholar.

15 On the New South Wales and Victorian systems, see Asquith papers: Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Asquith (henceforth Bod. Lib. MS Asq.) 75, fols. 80–106.

16 For an example of the hindrance created by the need for translation, see Edith Sellers’ evidence on Denmark in Report of the Select Committee on the Aged Pensioners Bill, House of Commons Papers, 393, 1903, p. 410.

17 Potter, Simon J., ed., Newspapers and empire in Ireland and Britain: reporting the British empire, c.1857–1921, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2004Google Scholar.

18 >The Times, 26 October 1898, p. 7; Woman's Signal, 19 January 1899, p. 46; Galloway, William Johnson, Advanced Australia: a short account of Australia on the eve of federation, London: Methuen & Co., 1899Google Scholar, ch. 8.

19 Macnicol, Politics, p. 138Google Scholar.

20 Burton, ‘New narratives’, pp. 223–227Google Scholar.

21 Hennock, British social reform, pp. 123–125Google Scholar;

Macnicol, Politics, p. 145Google Scholar;

Gilbert, Evolution, pp. 188–196Google Scholar;

Orloff, Ann Shola, The politics of pensions: a comparative analysis of Britain, Canada, and the United States, 1880–1940, Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993Google Scholar, pp. 77, 181–2, 194, 211.

22 ‘Old-age pensions’, Daily News, 21 November 1898, p. 9; Gilbert, Evolution, pp. 188–189Google Scholar;

Macnicol, Politics, p. 145Google Scholar.

23 Stead, Francis Herbert, How old age pensions began to be, London: Methuen, 1909, pp. 1214Google Scholar.

24 [Committee on Old-Age Pensions], Old-age pensions, London: Macmillan, 1903, p. 232.

25 The Times, 26 January 1899, p. 12; A four years’ fight for old age pensions as a civil right, National Committee of Organised Labour (henceforth NCOL) pamphlet, [1902], p. 1; Sires, Ronald V., ‘The beginnings of British legislation for old-age pensions’, Journal of Economic History, 14, 3, 1954, p. 242CrossRefGoogle Scholar;

Goodman, How the old age pension was won, pp. 13–15Google Scholar;

Thane, Old age, pp. 205–207Google Scholar.

26 ‘Old age pensions’, Daily News, 11 May 1899, p. 8.

27 Stead, How old age pensions began to be, p. 215; Hennock, British social reform, pp. 124–127Google Scholar.

28 Stead, How old age pensions began to be, pp. 16–18Google Scholar; The Times, 26 January 1899, p. 12; Ten years’ work for old age pensions, London: NCOL, 1909, first item; NCOL, First Annual Report, 1900, pp. 5–6; ‘Conferences on old age pensions’, Daily News, 26 January 1899, p. 6; The Times, 26 January 1899, p. 12; Manchester Guardian, 27 February 1899, p. 10; ‘Old age pensions’, Daily News, 11 May 1899, p. 8;

Rogers, Frederick, Old age pensions, London: NCOL, 1900, pp. 35Google Scholar; letter from Frederick Rogers, ‘The question of old-age pensions’, The Times, 28 July 1899, p. 10;

Williams, ‘Development’, pp. 114–115Google Scholar;

Hennock, British social reform, pp. 123–125Google Scholar;

Orloff, Politics, p. 159Google Scholar;

Macnicol, Politics, pp. 145–146Google Scholar.

29 The Times, 21 November 1901, p. 4; NCOL, Second Annual Report, 1901, pp. 14–17.

30 ‘The New Zealand Old-Age Pensions Bill’, Bankers’ Magazine, 66, 1898, pp. 804–6.

31 Sellers, ‘Old age pensions’, p. 430.

32 The Times, 21 November 1901, p. 4.

33 ‘Old age pensions’, Daily News, 11 May 1899, p. 8.

34 Stead, How old age pensions began to be, p. 12Google Scholar.

35 Rogers, Frederick, The care of the aged in other countries and in England, London: Co-operative Printing Society, 1905, p. 15Google Scholar.

36 Thomson, David, A world without welfare: New Zealand's colonial experiment, Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1998, pp. 1833Google Scholar;

Thomson, David, ‘Old age in the New World: New Zealand's colonial welfare experiment’, in Paul Johnson and Pat Thane, eds., Old age from antiquity to post-modernity, London: Routledge, 1998Google Scholar. On the Scottish Poor Law, see

Daunton, Martin, Wealth and welfare: an economic and social history of Britain, 1851–1951, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007, pp. 524525Google Scholar.

37 Rogers, Care, pp. 15–16Google Scholar.

38 Rogers, Old age pensions, pp. 6–7Google Scholar. See also the resolution of W. C. Steadman, Trades Union Congress, Annual Report, 1900, pp. 71–3.

39 McClure, Civilised community, pp. 16–17Google Scholar.

40 Burgess, Joseph, ‘The labour world’, Manchester Times, 26 October 1900, p. 6Google Scholar.

41 Rogers, Care, p. 4Google Scholar.

42 The Times, 14 February 1907, p. 6.

43 McClure, Civilised community, pp. 14Google Scholar, 19.

44 ‘Ireland’, The Times, 29 August 1902, p. 8.

45 ‘The legislation of New Zealand’, The Times, 23 July 1906, p. 3; ‘Suffragist demonstration in Liverpool’, The Times, 7 September 1908, p. 15.

46 Committee on Old-Age Pensions, Paper No. 1, pp. 3–4; Mowat, Charles Loch, The Charity Organisation Society 1869–1913, London: Methuen, 1961, pp. 158159Google Scholar;

McBriar, Edwardian, p. 67Google Scholar; Macnicol, Politics, ch. 4.

47 [Committee on Old-Age Pensions], Old-age pensions, p. 233; letter from Bridges, J. H., ‘Old-age pensions’, The Times, 5 June 1899Google Scholar, p.4; ‘Universal outdoor relief for the aged’, The Spectator, 24 November 1906, pp. 812–14; letter from W. Chance, The Times, 3 January 1908, p. 4.

48 [Committee on Old-Age Pensions], Old-age pensions, ch. 20. On Loch, see Mowat, Charity Organisation Society, ch. 4Google Scholar.

49 Letter from Wilson, Henry, ‘Old-age pensions’, The Times, 28 August 1899, p. 9Google Scholar.

50 Bod. Lib. MS Asq. 74, fols. 149–50.

51 Fawcett, Henry, Pauperism: its causes and remedies, London: Macmillan, 1871, pp. 5456Google Scholar;

Bryce, James, ‘American experience in the relief of the poor’, Macmillan's Magazine, 25, 1871, pp. 5465Google Scholar;

Bosanquet, Helen, ‘Review of John Cummings, Poor Laws of Massachusetts and New York, Economic Journal, 6, 21, 1896, pp. 9495CrossRefGoogle Scholar; C. S. Loch, ‘Some features of public relief in American states’, Charity Organisation Review, n.s. 8, 1900, pp. 93–102.

52 Chance, William et al., ‘The cost of old-age pensions: does foreign experience justify an English experiment?’, Financial Review of Reviews, 5, 28, 1908, pp. 68Google Scholar. See also letter from

W. Chance, The Times, 3 January 1908, p. 4Google Scholar;

Mowat, Charity Organisation Society, p. 84Google Scholar.

53 Letter from ‘H. E. M.’, ‘Old-age pensions’, The Times, 10 October 1907, p. 6.

54 On New Zealand's conditions and the clamour for pensions there, see McClure, Civilised community, pp. 14–16Google Scholar.

55 Letter from Crosthwaite, C. H. T., ‘Old-age pensions’, The Times, 23 May 1908, p. 7Google Scholar.

56 Letter from Sinclair, J. G. T., ‘Old-age pensions’, The Times, 9 October 1899, p. 3Google Scholar; letter from

Worsfold, W. Basil, ‘Old-age pensions and tariff reform’, The Times, 4 August 1903, p. 3Google Scholar; ‘Old-age pensions in Australia’, The Spectator, 22 September 1906, pp. 392–3; letter from

Coghlan, T. A., ‘Old-age pensions’, The Times, 18 September 1907, p. 13Google Scholar;

Thane, Pat, ‘The Old Age Pensions Act, 1908’, Journal of Liberal History, 60, 2008, p. 10Google Scholar.

57 Letter from Sinclair, J. G. T., ‘Old-age pensions’, The Times, 9 October 1899, p. 3Google Scholar. For figures on New Zealand, see

Hill, Henry, ‘National pensions: a proposed scheme’, Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 31, 1898, p. 699Google Scholar; Annual Report of the Old-Age Pensions Department in Appendix to the Journals of House of Representatives, H-18, 1904, p. 10.

58 Letter from Wemyss, Lord, ‘New Zealand socialist finance’, The Times, 16 November 1901, p. 9Google Scholar; [Committee on Old-Age Pensions], Old-age pensions, ch. 23; Charity Organisation Review, n.s. 20, 1906, p. 290. On Wemyss and the League, see

Bristow, Edward J., Individualism versus socialism in Britain, 1880–1914, New York: Garland, 1987Google Scholar.

59 Report of the Select Committee on the Aged Pensioners Bill, p. 426.

60 Gilbert, Evolution, p. 229Google Scholar.

61 Letter from Coghlan, T. A., ‘Old-age pensions’, The Times, 18 September 1907, p. 13Google Scholar; Neville Hicks, ‘Coghlan, Sir Timothy Augustine (1855–1926)’, Australian dictionary of biography, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A080053b.htm (last accessed 22 March 2012);

Arndt, H. W., ‘A pioneer of national income estimates’, Economic Journal, 59, 236, 1949, pp. 616625CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

62 Parliamentary Debates (PD), 4th ser., 173, 25 April 1907, cols. 269–70; Bod. Lib. MS Asq. 74, fols. 86–7, 25 April 1907; PD, 4th ser., 174, 10 May 1907, cols. 486–8; Chance et al., ‘Cost of old-age pensions’, pp. 5–10.

63 T. A. Coghlan, ‘Australia’, in Chance et al., ‘Cost of old-age pensions’, pp. 14–16.

64 PD, 4th ser., 190, 15 June 1908, cols. 598–602.

65 Letter from Anson, W. R. et al., ‘Old-age pensions’, The Times, 19 March 1908, p. 4Google Scholar; Bod. Lib. MS Asq. 75, fols. 197–8.

66 Reeves, ‘New Zealand Old-Age Pensions Act’, pp. 823–824Google Scholar;

Reeves, State experiments, vol. 2, p. 249Google Scholar.

67 Sutherland, William, Old age pensions: in theory and practice with some foreign examples, London: Methuen, 1907, pp. 133137Google Scholar.

68 The National Archives, Kew, CAB 37/92/54, ‘Old age pensions’, 1908.

69 Secrist, Horace, ‘Old age pensions: English Act of 1908’, American Political Science Review, 3, 1, 1909, p. 70CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

70 Thane, ‘Non-contributory’, pp. 99–104Google Scholar;

Rodgers, Atlantic crossings, p. 230Google Scholar.

71 Hamer, David, The New Zealand Liberals: the years of power, 1891–1912, Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1988, pp. 146149Google Scholar.

72 PD, 4th ser., 170, 7 March 1907, col. 953, and 174, 10 May 1907, col. 502; Report of the Royal Commission on old-age pensions, 56, 1907, pp. 863–72; letter from Haslam, Lewis, ‘Old-age pensions’, The Times, 23 December 1907, p. 10Google Scholar.

73 PD, 4th ser., 188, 7 May 1908, col. 505.

74 ‘Old age pensions made easy’, Fortnightly Review, n.s. 65, 1898, pp. 448–9. PD, 4th ser., 188, 7 May 1908, cols. 513–14; Rogers, Old age pensions, p. 6Google Scholar.

75 Beatrice Webb, Our partnership, ed. Barbara Drake and Margaret I. Cole, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975, p. 379.

76 PD, 4th ser., 174, 10 May 1907, col. 478.

77 PD, 4th ser., 190, 15 June 1908, cols. 598–602.

78 The Maori were included in the 1898 Act, although owing to their communal form of ownership they were subject to different property criteria, and magistrates’ discretion. Asians, however, were explicitly excluded. McClure, Civilised community, pp. 19–20Google Scholar, 22, 24–7. Cox cited Reeves in his discussion of character testing.

79 Report of the Select Committee on the Aged Pensioners Bill, p. 425.

80 PD, 4th ser., 189, 25 May 1908, cols. 878–9.

81 ‘Old Age Pensions’, April 1908, Bod. Lib. MS Asq. 75, fols. 200–5; PD, 4th ser., 190, 15 June 1908, cols. 575–6.

82 Secrist, ‘Old age pensions’, pp. 68–73Google Scholar;

Gilbert, Evolution, pp. 222–224Google Scholar.

83 PD, 4th ser., 188, 7 May 1908, col. 471.

84 PD, 4th ser., 190, 15 June 1908, cols. 584–5.

85 Semmel, Bernard, Imperialism and social reform: English social-imperial thought 1895–1914, London: Allen & Unwin, 1960, pp. 136137Google Scholar;

Porter, Bernard, Critics of empire: radical attitudes to colonialism in Africa, 1895–1914, London: Macmillan, 1968, p. 223Google Scholar;

Jordan, Gerald H. S., ‘Pensions not Dreadnoughts: the Radicals and naval retrenchment’, in A. J. A. Morris, ed., Edwardian Radicalism 1900–1914: some aspects of British Radicalism, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974Google Scholar; PD, 4th ser., 190, 15 June 1908, col. 574;

Wilson, Arnold and McKay, G. S., Old age pensions: an historical and critical study, London: Oxford University Press, 1941, p. 40Google Scholar.

86 PD, 4th ser., 192, 9 July 1908, cols. 152–3; Harrison, Brian, The transformation of British politics, 1860–1995, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 69CrossRefGoogle Scholar;

Thompson, Empire strikes back, p. 145Google Scholar.

87 H. Samuel, ‘Imperialism in relation to social reform’, 17 January 1900, in Freeden, Michael, ed., Minutes of the Rainbow Circle, 1894–1924, London, 1989, pp. 7374Google Scholar.

88 PD, 4th ser., 188, 7 May 1908, cols. 512–13; PD, 4th ser., 174, 10 May 1907, col. 486; letter from Crosthwaite, C. H. T., ‘Old-age pensions’, The Times, 23 May 1908, p. 7Google Scholar;

Offer, Avner, ‘The British empire, 1870–1914: a waste of money?’, Economic History Review, 46, 2, 1993, pp. 228231CrossRefGoogle Scholar;

Porter, Critics, p. 223Google Scholar; Jordan, ‘Pensions’.

89 Semmel, Imperialism, pp. 136–137Google Scholar; ‘The cost of conscription in New Zealand’, The Economist, 2 August 1913, p. 225;

Kendle, John Edward, The Colonial and Imperial Conferences 1887–1911, London, 1967, p. 190Google Scholar.

90 W. W. Palmer, Earl of Selborne, Mr. Lloyd George and the land, London: National Unionist Association, [1912], pp. 13–14; Short, Brian and Godfrey, John, ‘“The Outhwaite controversy”: a micro-history of the Edwardian land campaign’, Journal of Historical Geography, 33, 1, 2007, pp. 4571CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

91 Alden, Percy, Democratic England, New York: Macmillan, 1912, pp. 2224Google Scholar.

92 Rose, Jonathan, The intellectual life of the British working classes, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001Google Scholar, ch. 10;

Porter, Absent-minded imperialists, pp. 188–192Google Scholar, 222, 246–7, 284–7.

93 See May Tennant's forward in Markham, Violet R., The Factory and Shop Acts of the British Dominions, London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1908Google Scholar, pp. v–vi.

94 Hennock, British social reform.

95 Rogers, ‘Impact of the New World’.

96 Rogers, Edmund, ‘International transfer of ideas in historical perspective: the New World in British economic and social debates from the late 19th century to the First World War’, Policy & Politics, 37, 3, 2009, pp. 353362CrossRefGoogle Scholar.