Charles Richmond Henderson.

Introduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment online

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are several strong denominations which cheerfully cooperate in
philanthropic enterprises of a local nature. Many of the insti-
tutions and societies which are set down in statistics as secular,
are, in fact, simply associations formed by members of several
churches, who desire to work together for the same object.

Deuominatio?ial and Interdenominational Ai^j^angenients for the
Support and Control of Philanthropic Works. — Local denomi-
national charity is found in two stages, that of the parish or
congregation, and that of the town or city. Churches take up
collections for the indigent members of their congregations and
missions, and have officers or relief committees to whom the dis-
tribution of gifts is intrusted. In the South, where the system

Voluntary Charity. 145

of outdoor public relief is still relatively undeveloped, and the
churches are relatively very influential, this form of organization
is general and important. In the states where public relief is
somewhat lavish, the gifts of congregations is a smaller factor in
the beneficence of cities. Those churches and missions which
are located among the poor often have very limited funds, while
the opulent congregations have in their membership few of the
very poor. The burden falls heaviest where there is least ability
to bear it. Hence the need of some kind of cooperation.

All the congregations of a particular denomination in a city
often combine to establish institutions for children, the aged and
infirm., and hospitals. The United Jewish Charities of the
great cities are admirable examples of complete organization and
system, and they deserve the careful study of Protestant people.

General Denominational. • — In some instances a charitable
enterprise is too large for the resources of a single community,
and the demand for it is very wide. For these reasons we find
denominational societies establishing orphanages, child-saving
societies, hospitals, homes for invalids and the aged. Funds are
solicited from the entire territory, frequently including several
states, which is served. The philanthropic educational work
and medical service of the home and foreign missionary societies
are examples of this class.

Interdenominational, Local. — Many of the non-ecclesiasti-
cal benevolent associations are actually composed of the mem-
bers of churches, and their governing boards and working
committees have representatives chosen from the various coop-
erating churches. The chief reason for selecting this form of
organization is that the enterprise is too great for the resources
of one denomination in the place, while all acknowledge the
obligation. An obvious advantage is that such a society, while
earnestly religious, is not suspected of sectarian bias and prose-
lyting motives, and so has more free access, not only to givers,
but also to the people who require aid of many kinds. No
doubt, a part of the motive is the growing desire of Christians to

146 Relief and Care of Dependents.

manifest real unity of life in some tangible expression which will
not compromise them in points on which they conscientiously

Interdenominational, General, State, or National. — Where the
philanthropic movement demands vast resources, and the pur-
pose is common to the people of several denominations, this
mode of organization is called for as suitable to the situation.
We may cite as illustrations : the temporary committees or
societies for aiding famine sufferers in Russia or India, as
expressions of the spirit of humanity. Movements to aid the
negroes to secure schools and reformatories in the South have
been promoted in this form.

Orde7'-s and Societies. — In the Roman Catholic Church
there are brotherhoods and sisterhoods devoted to all forms of
charitable service, as hospitals, orphanages, and homes for old
people. The members of these orders take vows of celibacy,
and consecrate their lives to this labor.

There are also societies for mutual benefit, for visiting the
poor, for rescuing children, composed of men and women who
do not leave the ordinary occupations of life. The society of
St. Vincent de Paul is an association well worth study.

In the Lutheran Church in the United States the associations
of deaconesses have been formed on the model of those in Ger-
many connected with the Inner Mission. The women who form
these societies do not take vows of celibacy, but they do not
become full members until they have passed a period of proba-
tion and have resolved to devote years to the service. In the
Methodist Episcopal Church a similar movement has grown up.

In other denominations the tendency to form such separate
orders is not so strong, and there is a disposition to form a
membership of supporters, who employ agents for salaried
positions requiring continuous service.

Perils, — The regulative principles of relief methods have
been discussed, and may be used here as critical tests. Viola-
tions of these principles are followed by serious evils. Mendi-

Voluntary Charity. 147

cancy and hypocrisy are fostered. A hungry person is greatly
tempted to lie and profess any faith, and even a variety of creeds
each day, if the hope is held out to him of thereby securing food,
and especially drink. One tramp declared to a member of my
class that gentlemen of his profession often support themselves
all winter by "working the missions." This tramp knew one
comrade who boasted of having been "saved " about fifty times.
Such moral evils arise from neglect of cooperating with the
Charity Organization Society. The smallest part of the damage
lies i-n money lost on impostors; and the most serious evil is the
hopeless degradation of the recipients, who are encouraged to
live by fraud. By using the aid of the Charity Organization
Society such abuses are reduced to a minimum.

Religious charity has a great advantage. If wisely conducted,
it goes deepest into the spirit. Elizabeth Fry said that "Charity
to the soul is the soul of charity." Religion teaches the alms-
giver to regard the poor, not as objects of patronage, nor as mere
animals who have no other needs than food and warmth; but as
brothers, children of the same Divine Father, heirs of the eternal
life, capable of endless development in all qualities of humanity.
Religious teaching always has been, and ever must be, in the
nature of the case, the most profound and enduring motive to
beneficent gifts and services. There is no conceivable substitute
for it.

7. Endowed Charities ; the Demand. — There are relatively per-
manent needs of old communities which require a secure income.
Assuming that some of these wants should be met from the income
of private property, and that those who have accumulated large
wealth, partly by social permission and help, are under obligation
to give back to the community a fair part of their estates at death,
it is natural to expect that rich persons should establish funds
for charitable uses. Private charity is somewhat impulsive and
irregular in action, and the cost of gathering contributions is
considerable. Certain classes of persons and certain districts
are apt to be forgotten in the ordinary gifts of benevolent people,

148 Relief and Care of Dependents.

since many overlook those whose distresses are hidden in obscure
and unfrequented places, and who suffer far away from the com-
mon walks of the prosperous. For such reasons it is very con-
venient and desirable to have large endowments yielding a steady
supply for wants of the indigent.

But experience has shown that these endowments are liable to
abuses of a grave character. The original direction of the
bequest may have been unwise. Or, granting that the primary
purpose of the donor was good, the conditions may so change
that the income of the fund is no longer required for the purpose
designated. The fund may even create a demand for itself far
beyond the power of society to meet. It may call to a locality
a class of immigrants whose purpose in coming is to qualify
themselves for enjoyment of the gratuitous aid, and so increase
the burdens of that town by the presence of an excess of
undesirable elements of population.

The neglect of trustees, or their extravagance, may be greatly
increased by the certainty of large income and by the irrespon-
sible position which they occupy. All these facts make it evi-
dent that social regulation is necessary to secure the good and
avoid the evils of endowments.

Public Regulation. — Legal protection of endowments is
reasonable, just, and expedient. If the law and the courts do
not respect the wishes of donors the number of benefactors will
tend to diminish. But legal protection itself is subordinate to
the interest of the community, — the end it serves. The right
of the "dead hand" to control forever the use of gifts must be
limited by the commonwealth. The living world cannot be ruled
from the grave. Respect for the dead and for public documents
must not work ruin generation after generation. Endowments
are presumably and professedly for the public good; if they
become evil in effect, considerations of general welfare must
prevail. The state must reserve the right to control endowments.

If the state does pursue the policy and principle of correcting
unforeseen abuses which gradually grow up about endowments,

Voluntary Charity. 149

so far from discouraging large bequests such action will really
stimulate them. Reasonable men of a genuinely philanthropic
disposition are anxious to have all their wealth go to a useful
end, and not work injury to any class of the community. When
such men discover a state policy of conservative, careful, and
discreet direction of income from old trusts, they are all the
more inclined to commit their wealth to society. Investments
made by ignorant fanaticism and insane caprice rarely do good,
and may as well be dissipated first as last.

There are legal difficulties in the way of regulating endow-
ments in the United States. Our constitution has a clause which
forbids the states to pass laws impairing the obligation of con-
tracts. Unless a state in giving a charter has reserved the right
to modify or repeal it, the charter is a contract with the state,
which the latter cannot alter without the consent of the corpora-
tion. These difficulties have in part been overcome by inserting
in many state constitutions a provision that all charters under
general or special acts shall be subject to amendment or repeal
by the state.

It may be found possible and expedient to establish in each
state an administrative board, which shall annually inquire into
the condition of all charitable bequests and trusts and report
facts and recommendations to the legislature. This duty might
be assigned to state boards of charity. They should have power,
perhaps with certain judicial aid and limitations, to forbid, for
good causes, the establishment of an endowment, and, at inter-
vals, to revise the direction and application of the income of
trusts already established.

8. Voluntary Aid to Public Administration. — In the United
States there is great freedom for private activity even in relation
to public offices. The theory of our political life is, that every
citizen has a right and is bound by duty to exercise influence
upon offices of the state. Only as philanthropy is generally
studied and understood will it be supported by gifts and by

150 Relief and Care of Dependents.

These convictions have found expression in various confer-
ences for investigation, discussion, agitation, and education.
These charity conferences are held by the representatives of
various societies in cities, by delegates of public and voluntary
institutions in several of the states, and by the National Con-
ference of Charities and Corrections, whose reports already
constitute a valuable library in themselves.

In a few states independent associations have been formed to
represent the watchfulness, interest, and sympathy of charitable
people in connection with county, municipal, and state institu-
tions. While the spoils system continues to work we cannot be
too vigilant to prevent the perversion of public funds to the
injury of the helpless. But such interference of non-official
philanthropy must itself be organized and regulated by respon-
sible persons, so that it may actually voice the best intelligence
of the age and recognize good work done by officials.



The title of this chapter is, perhaps, the most general and
distinctive name for associations having a common principle of
organization. Other names for the same species are Associated
Charities, Society for Organizing Charities, Bureau of Charities,
Association of Charities. In 1869 the Society for Organizing
Charity and Repressing Mendicity was established in London,
and among its earliest supporters were the Bishop of London,
Bishop of Winchester, Cardinal Manning, Mr. Gladstone, John
Ruskin, the Earl of Shaftesbury, and the Duke of Norfolk. From
England the incentive was derived which led, in 1877, to the
formation of the first kindred organization at Buffalo, New York.
Afterward the movement was taken up in Philadelphia, Brook-
lyn, Syracuse, Newport, Poughkeepsie, and many other cities.
At the present hour similar societies are found in most of the
cities of importance in Great Britain and the United States. A
special section of the National Conference of Charities and Cor-
rections is devoted to this branch of philanthropy, and the prin-
ciples for which it stands are more generally recognized than ever

1. Characteristic Principles. — We distinguish here between
charity organization and ordinary relief agencies, and we seek
at once the characteristic mark and the justification of an organ-
ization in addition to other forms of charity. The specific
reason for charity organization will not be found merely in the
methods of alleviating distress, common to all charitable work
which is wisely conducted; nor in any peculiar and novel devices


152 Relief and Care of Dependents.

or machinery. There is necessarily and properly much in com-
mon with all agencies of relief. Charity organization is made
necessary by the fact of dependence, and is born of the same
social sympathy and sense of duty which inspire all benevolent

But the characteristic, differentiating mark is the end or p'ur-
pose which was expressed by the founders of the parent society
in London in 1869 : "Its main object — the cure, as distinguished
from the mere alleviation, of distress." The manual of the Lon-
don society says, "The principle aim is improvement in the
condition of the poor." But even this is a totally inadequate
characterization of the scope and aim of the actual work of
these societies. Charity organization aims not only to help a
class, but to protect and promote the welfare of all the commu-
nity, to anticipate the forces which depress and injure all mem-
bers of the community, and to counteract them by positive effort
to remove evils which threaten health, vigor, creative energy,
and prosperity.

It is sometimes said that the field of charity organization is
with the "helpable." If by this is meant that personal ministra-
tion in outdoor relief should be concentrated on families when
there is enough physical and moral stamina to justify reasonable
hope of restoration to self support, the phrase may be accepted.
It is impossible for voluntary visitors to reach all the indigent,
and those who are utterly broken down beyond restoration should
be placed in asylums and almshouses.

Many of the "helpable " are temporarily placed in homes, or
hospitals, and their fortunes are followed and guided by the
workers of the Charity Organization Society until they are
finally reestablished in normal situations.

But charity organization does not neglect even those who are
in public asylums, and it sends to them visitors and workers, and
watches over the legal rights of all. Even those who are referred
to public outdoor relief are not forgotten, and measures for their
benefit are fostered. In the hopeful creed of charity organiza-

The Charity Organization Society. 153

tion there are no human beings who are absolutely excluded
from the "helpable" class.

The charity organization movement stands and acts for the
belief that there is a rational possibility of radical cure of pauper-
ism. Its hope, its belief, its ideal are characteristic. The
necessity of permanent pauperism is denied. It has a method,
a practical working programme, for making its principle effective.
This programme is not a code of ready-made rules; it is not a
closed and finished system; but it is a method based on experi-
ence, on a study of motives in psychology, on economic, political,
and sociological analysis of facts and forces.

The immediate, daily reward of the workers lies chiefly in the
actual restoration and redemption of numerous individuals and
families, to them personally known, and in the repeated instances
of victory over venerable abuses and deep-rooted evils. These
gains illustrate the method, and are prophetic of larger triumphs.

In its general outlines this method includes the education of
the educable, segregation of the unemployable, incorrigible,
uneducable, and so the gradual extinction without pain of all
the unfit; alleviation by humane means of all who are helpless,
but so as not to interfere with education and segregation; and
discovery and reduction of the causes of distress by individual
and social action, directed upon the dependent and upon the
entire community.

Since misery and suffering from destitution are with us, charity
organization, in common with other charitable enterprises, aims
at alleviation. Its methods secure the most prompt, adequate,
and suitable relief of any known. Its method of cooperation is
the best yet devised for such conditions as prevail in Great
Britain and America.

2. Forms of Organization to Realize these Ends. — The types
of organization will be more or less complex according to the
size of the city population. In small towns charity organization
may be easily connected with several other movements to pro-
mote local welfare, as village improvement societies, library

1^4 Relief and Care of Dependents.

associations, or others. But in large towns and cities a more
complex organization is necessary, and the specific field must be
narrowed, without, however, losing touch with kindred agencies.
A fully developed society in a large city may show elements of
organization like the following: —

The Association. — The local society is composed of mem-
bers who manifest their practical interest by contributions of
money or by personal service. A large membership is desir-
able for these reasons : charity organization requires for its suc-
cess a considerable contribution of money, for which it returns a
full equivalent in lightening the burdens and diminishing the
perils of the community. It depends for its success on having
a large number of workers in all parts of the city. It is stronger
for the interest of many persons who can influence the sentiments
and customs of sympathetic and kind people.

The association elects directors, and for such elections or
other purposes it should meet once each year, and upon call of
the directors. The directors define the policy of the association
in application to changing conditions; appoint and discharge
administrative ofiflcers; supervise the process of administration;
represent public interests and opinions; and report to the asso-
ciation and to the public the methods and results of the work.
The directors should meet at stated times, and at call of the
executive committee or president.

The executive committee is a small body of persons appointed
by the directors. Its function is to supervise, by immediate
study and frequent intercourse with the general office, the spe-
cific actions of the administrative officers, and to advise with
them regarding questions requiring immediate determination.
It should meet regularly and frequently, and report its actions to
the directors. It should also refer important decisions, involving
new elements, to the directors.

The administrative officers are the superintendent, sometimes
called the general secretary, and the office assistants. These
officers are responsible for the processes of the general office and

The Charity Organization Society. 155

of any district offices which may be maintained. They should
be salaried persons, with special training for their calling. In
small towns such duties may be performed by the executive com-
mittee or by a representative, who serves without salary ; but in
cities this is not possible. Where the work is large and compli-
cated very high qualifications and entire devotion are required,
and an adequate salary must be offered to secure and retain
officers of sufficient ability and training.

Unlike an ordinary relief society, charity organization cannot
render its characteristic social service without a corps of vol-
untary visitors and other workers, in addition to members of

In the larger cities it is found necessary to maintain district
offices. These tend to become societies akin to the mother
society, though on a smaller scale, and should be subordinate in
control to the central organization, in order that the community,
as a whole, maybe served without confusion, neglect, or collision.
The district may have its association of members, its executive
committee, its administrative officers, and its visitors. To
secure the largest and best results, even in smaller cities, various
neighborhoods should be encouraged to form groups for study
and labor, since too great centralization enfeebles the sense of
responsibility. At the same time, all parts must be organized
to secure unity and harmony, and to care for those most needy
parts of the town, which merely local interest would overlook.
The constitution and by-laws should carefully provide for central
control and for decentralized interest and initiative.

Another form of organization has been found best adapted to
the local conditions in some cities, that form which is based on the
principle of delegation and close federation. Under this system
the governing membership of the society is composed of persons
delegated to act for the community from the city government, the
various benevolent societies, the churches, and allied organiza-
tions. This body of delegates may then elect officers and con-
duct the affairs of the society. Even when the association is

156 Relief and Care of Dependents.

formed by the union of contributors, there may be ex-officio
officers or representatives in the board of directors.

3. Material Relief. — The principles of relief, public and
private, have already been discussed; and they apply in full
force to such relief as the Charity Organization Society may be
compelled to give or secure. A much disputed subject is the
question. Should a Charity Organization Society give relief?
With entire respect for those who hold a different opinion, and
with full personal knowledge of the great difficulties of acting on
the right principle, the writer holds that a Charity Organization
Society, in American cities, should not collect and disburse funds
for material relief. For this conclusion the following reasons are
offered: (i) If such a society comes to be recognized as a relief-
giving society, its own members and the public are liable to
forget its distinctive objects and reasons for being. (2) Com-
petition with older agencies of relief is almost inevitable, and
rivalry is precisely what should be avoided by those who seek to
promote cooperation. (3) If the energies of the officers and visi-
tors are absorbed in relief work, individual interest in the poor is
diminished and wholesale methods are brought back. (4) It is
not necessary that the Charity Organization Society should take up
this task. There are in all cities numerous sources of aid for all
classes of the indigent, relatives, churches, neighbors, charitable
societies, hospitals, asylums, benevolent individuals, ready to honor
drafts upon their means and appliances. (5) And if there is any
class of persons not adequately provided for, it would be well to
secure the organization of an auxiliary society which would act in
harmony with the measures employed to restore the dependents
and to prevent their fall. (6) If agents representing the society
are known to give material rehef, the attitude of the family toward

Online LibraryCharles Richmond HendersonIntroduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment → online text (page 13 of 35)