Charles Richmond Henderson.

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

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health. Decaying particles of organic matter are with difficulty
disinfected, since ventilation and sunshine are necessary to kill
germs of disease. The atmosphere which people breathe is cor-
rupted by the inmates, and cannot be renewed with sufficient
rapidity to meet the demands of health. Darkness oi interior

General Conditions. ^^

rooms is depressing to the spirit, and depression of spirit causes
loss of vitality, power of endurance and resistance, and appetite
for stimulants rises with inevitable certainty. Earning power is
diminished; and slender income is an inducement to select
living rooms at still lower rent, still less fit for human habitation.

Crowding, absence of privacy, sub-renting to boarders, lead to
sexual vice and excess, illegitimate births, disregard for family
honor and child life, contempt for moral judgments of society,
disease, weakness, intoxicants, beggary, death. The friction
and conflict of enforced communism lead to crime, and a com-
munistic sentiment thrives in the social state which easily adjusts
itself to pilfering or resorts to charity.

In the first ward of New York City the death rate, that ther-
mometer of vitality, in houses standing singly on the lot, was
29.03 to each thousand of the living, and where there were rear
houses the rate rose to 61.97. The infant death rate rose from
109.58 in single tenements of the same ward to 204.54 where
there were rear houses.

Rarely are bathing facilities provided in such habitations.
Filthy habits are natural under such circumstances. The Jews
are quite as crowded in New York City as others, but their rate
of mortality is lower, because their religious and social code
requires them to be moderate in the use of alcohol, to use only
inspected food, and to wash their bodies, rooms, and garments
at definite times.

U^ifavoi'able Industrial Conditions. — The literature of the
labor question is crowded with pictures and facts which demon-
strate the tendency of defective arrangements of industry to
reduce laborers to weakness and want.

We may follow the effects of accidents in the reduced status
of the family. The workmen on railroads are daily and hourly
exposed to unusual danger from the movements of trains. If the
corporation has no system of insurance of employees, or if the
trade union funds are low, then man, wife, and children are
plunged into distress. Miners, quarrymen, sailors, coast fisher-

^6 The Phenomena of Dependence.

men, powder makers, belong to crafts which must be regarded as
extra hazardous.

It is easy to cite occupations injurious to health. In some
instances the work place is filled with corrosive fumes, which
attack throat, lungs, and eyes, and in other shops the dust-laden
air is charged with irritating particles or fiendish bacteria.
Inspectors report tin can factories where acids eat through shoes
and clothing, causing sores, and volatile gases inflame the lungs.
Men employed in digging drains, canals, and ditches in malarial
regions lose health and means in long illness. The dust which
rises from hackling flax affects the strongest, so that, without
protective appliances, they can live but few years. Those who
work with emery powder sometimes die in a month. Poisonous
paints used in the manufacture of wall paper produce sores,
blindness, and paralysis. "Painters' colic" brings workmen to
sickness and want. In bleaching rooms chlorine gas chokes and
burns. The fumes of phosphorus used in making matches cause
the teeth to fall out.

Both in Europe and America the evil effects of employing
women in unsuitable places, long hours, and at improper tasks
have engaged the attention of philanthropists and statesmen.
The employment of married women away from home tends to
introduce defective cooking and housekeeping, while their toil
at home becomes "sweating," and the residence becomes a
crowded and dirty shop. Mothers suffer from the excessive
strain of factory toil, and their offspring, ill-nourished and
neglected, grow up rickety, feeble, inefficient, even if they
survive infancy.

Young children, compelled by poverty to rise early and labor
all day with adults in the close air of factories, are sure to be
dwarfed in stature, feeble in lung and heart force, nerveless, and
prematurely broken. The effects of such early taxing of the grow-
ing child have been so marked and serious in all modern coun-
tries that factory laws have been framed to restrict and repress it.

Irregular employment has a demoralizing effect on the habits of

General Conditions. 37

working-people. Those who are forced to be idle at intervals
afterward take the habits of vacant days, the loitering, drinking,
and indolence, into the busy months. Habits are tyrants, and
the way to voluntary shiftlessness is prepared by involuntary

Sickness and shortening of life are found in higher degree in
occupations and grades of labor where wages are excessively low
and irregular. The explanation is complex. Men are hired at
low wages because their earning power is inferior, because they
are under the average in body and mind. The inadequate
income provides insufficient food, clothing, and shelter. Physi-
cal energy is reduced, children are untaught. The symbol of this
vicious circle of cause and effect is the serpent with his tail in
his mouth. One finds it difficult to find a beginning, and there
is no end, save in extinction of the family.

The merchants, bankers, and manufacturers view a season of
depression and suspension with anxiety, and they trim their sails
to avoid disaster; but the unskilled laborer must take the full
force of the storm which follows over-speculation in his little
boat, without power to reach safe harbor. To one a crisis means
loss of capital; to the other, despair.

Society is always partly responsible for the existence of
paupers and criminals, and pays a heavy bill for their support.
The primary condition of general economic prosperity is security
of life and property. Feeble and boneless governors and mayors,
demagogues in place of authority, encourage lawless riot until
suspension of trade involves thousands in misery. Until society
can learn, perhaps of little New Zealand, a method of peaceful
arbitration of labor disputes before lawful tribunals, the present
private warfare of employers and employees will go on, the weapon
of the capitalist managers being starvation, and that of the work-
men, brutal violence. Purely repressive use of law is not worthy
of a great commonwealth.

3. Defects in Education. — The common schools are one of
the chief barriers against pauperism and crime, but they are not

38 The Phenomena of Dependence.

yet as effective as they can be made. In the absence of adequate
physical examinations by physicians, many poor children grow
up with decayed teeth, imperfect eyesight and hearing, and with
various diseases which medical men could correct if they were
called in at the right time. The skill which modern industry
demands could be promoted in a higher degree and on a wider
scale during the plastic years of childhood, if the literary instruc-
tion were correlated with sloyd and manual training methods
already in use in the more advanced institutions. Suitable
instruction in relation to the care of the body, food, drink,
bathing, would secure the efficiency and prolong the lives of
multitudes. Playgrounds about city schools are sadly lacking,
and the boys are thrown upon the streets for amusement, only to
be driven to violation of ordinances. Neglect of such matters
is one of the aggravating causes of pauperism.

An instructive illustration of the pauperizing influence of
public institutions, carelessly administered, is given in the
Eighteenth Annual Report of the Charity Organization Society
of the City of New York. "A West Indian negro, who is
quite capable of supporting his family, left them to their own
resources, with the result that at least one of the children has
been committed as a public charge. The father, whose where-
abouts were unknown for a time, has been located as a student
in a university in a neighboring state, the president of which
writes concerning this student: 'He is in our sophomore class.
He is diligent and successful in his studies. We regard him as
a very reliable and promising man. He appears to be under the
control of good principles, and we are glad to cherish toward
him a growing confidence.' "

4. Immigration of Defectives. — This is not an original cause
of dependency. But the importation of the insane, the beggar,
the feeble minded does increase the burden of a land which has
so long been the refuge of the oppressed. The evil was noted
even during the colonial times, and was resisted from those days
before our independence. That is not a recent development of

General Conditions. 39

a form of pseudo-philanthropy, which relieves the old country
by sending the inmates of almshouses and prisons to the new
country. It has been estimated that the foreign population has,
directly and indirectly, contributed nearly three fifths of the
inmates of almshouses in the United States.

Immigration increases dependence in several ways. The
excessive influx of unskilled laborers, at certain congested
points, even if they are of good character, presses the working-
men to the wall by direct competition. A gentle rain, long
continued, will enrich the meadow, while a flood after a storm-
burst will ruin the soil with gullies and sand. If the immigrants
have a low standard of life and wages, their competition is all
the more severe. The families which had reached a tolerable
social condition are depressed and discouraged. The efforts of
trade unions to secure advance are rendered nugatory. But
many immigrants have been unfit even for competition, and
have almost at once placed themselves as burdens on private and
public charity.

5. Reflection. — This discussion of general causes of depres-
sion might be carried back indefinitely even to the beginnings of
human life. Indeed, we have already marked the unity of all
life, the flow of general forces revealed by natural science. But
the attempt to trace effects to causes has an important bearing
on our attitude to social responsibility. If we are just in
thought and feeling, we shall take account of the pressure of the
powers of nature, the institutions of men, and the customs and
laws which shape our individual lives outside our wills. The
consideration of social causes, set up by human action, leads to
hope; for if man has made evil institutions he can destroy them
and replace them with better. The fatalism of despair and
neglect will not appear reasonable. Such broad and compre-
hensive views of causation will modify and chasten hasty, rash,
and superficial optimism, which rushes into revolutions without
considering the depth to which the roots of misery and degrada-
tion have sunk in the soil of history.


Social Organization for the Relief and Care

of Dependents.

We pass at this point from the theoretical or explanatory discussion to
a consideration of the practical social arrangements for dealing with persons
who are in some degree a charge upon the commonwealth.



1. The End. — Following the wise statesman, Aristotle, we
seek for the ends which determine the means. Modern systems
of relief aim to promote the real welfare of dependents and also
of the living and coming race. This aim is not always con-
sciously before the mind, and it is frequently obscured by senti-
mentalism, impulsive sympathy, and fear, in the presence of
suffering. But the tendency of reflective thought is in this

2. Forms of Organization. — There are three classes of phil-
anthropic organization. In the first class we place those move-
ments and institutions which seek to further the well being of the
entire group of unskilled workers, industrials of meagre income.
Examples are found in the associations and boards for the
improvement of sanitation and housing in the crowded parts of
cities, better school accommodations for the poor, popular schemes
of insurance, and the penny savings banks. In a second class
we mention such agencies as the clubs for working girls, friendly


Directive Aims of Philanthropy. 41

visiting, rent collecting, and home libraries, whose distinct func-
tion is to anticipate trouble in the case of particular families or
groups. And, again, we may set in a distinct place the meas-
ures taken for direct material relief of those already dependent.

3. The Grounds which Justify and Require Relief of the Indi-
gent. — Much charity flows from a race instinct of sympathy.
This is the special mark of charity which responds to the sight of
suffering or to vivid appeals which visualize pain or deprivation.
It seems probable that this race instinct, like the maternal
instinct which is born with the child, is a condition of survival.
A nation which did not respond to suffering with help would die
out. Think of the hardening of feeling toward children which
would come upon a people which did not care for the destitute.
All men need help at times, even the millionaire before he gets
his teeth and after he loses them. Many of the most vigorous
and useful citizens have been, at certain hours of life, utterly
dependent on strangers for health and life. This instinctive
sympathy is the nature basis of the ethical demand for charity,
— part of our moral view of the world. We cannot "prove " its
claim to one who has no corresponding disposition of benevo-
lence; and, on the other hand, the cruel and selfish have no
logical weapons that avail against it. But a consideration of the
conditions necessary to race survival and progress may be part of
the reasoned ground of charity.

Reasoned charity grows out of the intellectual effort to account
for the instinct, and trace its origin and course in social experi-
ence, and to justify it by showing its relation to the common
welfare. Reasoning charity is enforced by social teaching and
respect for goodness. Religious arguments sanction the sense of
duty, and a great part of Jewish and Christian instruction tends
to benevolence. Charity, being socially useful and admired, is
sometimes counterfeited. Social consideration, political ambi-
tion, even mercantile enterprise, become secondary incentives to
giving relief, though they do not deserve the title of charity.

The basis of public relief is partly the race instinct of sym-

42 Relief and Care of Dependents.

pathy, partly reasoned benevolence, religious belief and ethical
philosophy, partly a deliberate measure of social protection, partly
a socialized form of mutual insurance against misfortune and
accidental misery, to whose fund all citizens contribute, and by
which all who need are entitled to profit. The motive is always
complex, and various partial statements can be cited from dif-
ferent writers. Spinoza said: "A private man's wealth is no
match for such a demand. Also, a single man's opportunities
are too narrow for him to contract friendship with all. Where-
fore, providing for the poor is a duty that falls on the whole
community, and has regard only to the common interest." The
economist, J. S. Mill, wrote ; " It will be admitted to be right
that human beings should help one another, and the more so in
proportion to the urgency of the need; and none need help so
urgently as one who is starving. . . . The claim to help, there-
fore, created by destitution, is one of the strongest which can
exist, and there is prima facie the amplest reason for making
the relief of so extreme an exigency as certain to those who
require it as by any arrangements of society it can be made."

The basis of legal relief by the state is sometimes laid in the
benevolence or humanity of society, which finds expression in
official care. " Every society upon arriving at a certain stage of
civilization finds it positively necessary for its own sake, that is
to say, for the satisfaction of its own humanity, and for the due
performance of the purposes for which society exists, to provide
that no person, no matter what has been his life, or what may be
the consequences, shall perish for want of the bare necessaries
of existence" (Fowle, "The Poor Law," p. lo).

"Is state relief charity?" It is sometimes urged that money
raised by compulsory tax cannot be called benevolence. This
is only in part true. All depends on individual motive. Of
course those citizens who pay the tax grudgingly can lay no claim
to the title of benevolent, because of their enforced gifts. But
there is unquestionably a diffused sentiment of humanity in a
community which votes taxes for such purposes. Those who

Directive Aims of Philanthropy. 43

favor an entirely voluntary method of raising funds for poor relief
must admit that even personal contributions to the relief of dis-
tress are sometimes drawn out, as teeth are, with much inward
pain and protest from the flesh. One may even go farther, and
say, with Dr. Nathan Allen, "The instances where individuals
give liberally of their substance for this purpose afford noble
examples of benevolence and philanthropy; but when, by wise
and humane legislation, great numbers are relieved in the best
possible manner, too, it shows, in the aggregate, a higher state
of humanity and morality."

Admitting that relief of the weak is a duty of the community,
must we conclude that this duty can be discharged only in one
way and by one agency, the government? Society is more than
state, and government is not the only social organization. All
that follows from the admission of a social duty is that the com-
munity is morally bound to use the most suitable and efficient
means. By experience and study we learn whether voluntary or
political agencies, or both combined, are best.

There is a theory of public relief based on a doctrine of state
insurance against extreme need, a guarantee of the commonwealth
to all citizens that they may of right share in the provisions of
law when urged by necessity. Thus Dr. F. H. Wines says, "The
hospitals [of Illinios] are entirely free; there is no charge to
any individual, on the ground that when a taxpayer pays his tax
to maintain the institution, he is entitled to the benefits of the
institution if the occasion ever arises." This view assumes that
the government is more than a mere police force to keep order,
and that it is an organ of society for the convenience of all the
people whose creature government is. This is not paternalism,
for government is not a benevolent lord or father, above and alien
to the people, but simply the instrument of public reason and

Nicholls, in his "History of the English Poor Law," quotes a
passage from Babbage, which involves a different idea, but not
inconsistent with the other : " Whenever, for the purposes of gov-

44 Relief and Care of Dependents.

ernment, we arrive, in a state of society, at a class so miserable
as to be in want of the common necessaries of life, a new prin-
ciple comes into action. The usual restraints which are sufficient
for the well fed are often useless in checking the demands of
empty stomachs. Other and more powerful means must then be
employed; a larger array of military or police force must be
maintained. Under such circumstances, it may be considerably
cheaper to fill empty stomachs to the point of ready obedience,
than to compel starving wretches to respect the roast beef of their
more industrious neighbors; and it may be expedient, in a mere
economical point of view, to supply gratuitously the wants even
of able bodied persons, if it can be done without creating crowds
of additional applicants." Sir Matthew Hale is quoted as declar-
ing the relief of the poor to be an act of great civil prudence and

And Nicholls concludes, "It is, accordingly, an admitted
maxim of social policy, that the first charge on land must be
the maintenance of the people reared upon it."

Granting that it is a social duty to give public relief, does it
follow that the indigent have a right to lay a claim upon society?
Theoretically, this question presents delicate points for the
moralist and statesman. Advocates of exclusively voluntary
charity urge strongly that the admission of such a right is socially

Practically, society, by admitting the legal obligation, makes
the indigent secure as with the certainty of law. If a pauper
institute legal proceedings to enforce his assumed rights, he
must still confront the legal condition, show that he is depend-
ent, and he must submit to the discipline of an administration
designed to prevent abuse. It is not the private, individual, and
prejudiced opinion of the pauper which defines his rights, but
the declaration of the statutes.

Another point of more than speculative interest is : Does the
obligation of support extend farther than to those actually living?
It is a social duty, we admit, to protect every citizen, without

Directive Aims of Philanthropy. 45

regard to character, from extreme misery and death. But no one
can rationally support the claim that society is bound to support
those who are in danger of propagating defect, under circum-
stances which make such propagation certain. As soon as a per-
son becomes dependent and casts himself upon the charity of the
community, from that moment the law may fix the terms on
which aid may be granted. Assistance may be supplied in a
workhouse or isolated asylum; and thus society gains control
over the defective person and is able to prevent the further con-
tinuance of the family stock which has begun to bear such noxious

4. Principles of the Poor Laws of the United States. — The
regulations of legal relief adopted by the American colonies
previous to the Revolution were naturally borrowed from those
of the mother country. For this reason a complete understand-
ing of the forms and expressions of our law would require a care-
ful analysis of the English laws, especially as they stood in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The laws of the states more recently formed were largely imi-
tations of those of the older communities of the Atlantic coast,
with many special adaptations to the more primitive conditions
of pioneer life. The later developments took a more indepen-
dent course, with great variety, not to say contradiction and
confusion, in working out details. That conservatism which
characterizes all law has consecrated and embalmed many of the
evils which England herself has long since thrown off by reforms.

The poor laws in our country do not emanate from the supreme
legislation of Congress, but from the legislatures of the several
commonwealths. Congress regulates public relief in the District
of Columbia, but does not have power to interfere with local
administration. There is no such centralizing agency as we find
in the English Home Office. Uniformity is impossible, save as
it is secured by discussion and conference. There are some
advantages in having many experiments going on at the same
time, and under similar conditions. We may hope that agree-

46 Relief and Care of Dependents.

ment will be reached, so far as it is desirable, and that the
peculiar wants of each district will thus be met.

A fundamental regulative principle of all legislation on the
subject was admirably stated in the famous report of the English
Commission which formulated the reforms of the third decade of
the nineteenth century : "The fundamental principle with respect
to the relief of the poor is, that the condition of the pauper
ought to be, on the whole, less eligible than that of the indepen-
dent laborer. The equity and expediency of this principle are
equally obvious. Unless the condition of the pauper is, on the
whole, less eligible than that of the independent laborer, the law
destroys the strongest motives to good conduct, steady industry,
providence, and frugality among the laboring classes, and induces
persons, by idleness or imposture, to throw themselves on the
poor rates for support. But if the independent laborer sees that
recurrence to the poor rates will, while it protects him from des-
titution, place him in a less eligible position than that which he
can attain to by his own industry, he is left to the undisturbed
influence of all those motives which prompt mankind to exertion,
forethought, and self-denial. On the other hand, the pauper has
no just ground for complaint if, at the same time that his physi-
cal wants are amply provided for, his condition should be less

Online LibraryCharles Richmond HendersonIntroduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment → online text (page 4 of 35)