Charles Richmond Henderson.

Modern methods of charity; an account of the systems of relief, public and private, in the principal countries having modern methods online

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of this legislation. Swiss authorities themselves differ widely on the
subject. Many competent persons declare that instead of a "whiskey-
plague" a "beer-plague" has invaded the land.

Thoughtful people are looking to more effective and radical meas-
ures. The strict abstinence movement is significant, and has in
Switzerland 350 societies, with 8,500 members and 5,900 associates,
a relatively higher number than shown by surrounding countries.

Accident and Sickness Insurance. — The administrative authori-
ties, who best understand the needs of the poor, made careful prepara-
tions and calculations for submitting a system of insurance of wage
earners. The plan was rejected by a referendum vote in May, 1900,
337,000 to 147,000. Therefore for some years this form of substi-
tute for poor-relief must be deferred. In October, 1900, a new
article was introduced into the federal constitution by a vote of
283,000 to 92,000 which requires the establishment of sick and ac-
cident insurance. It is said that the defeat of the proposed law was
due to the opposition of the peasant voters, who fear that their little
properties may be taxed for the advantage of the urban workingmen.

Insurance Against Unemployment. — Switzerland has had the
courage to act as the pioneer of modern society in making experi-
mental provision for the support of men out of work. The schemes
have not succeeded, but the experience gained may be utilized in
future efforts on some modified plan.^

Beginning with the city of Bern, the main facts in the matter are
these : After prolonged calculations and certain voluntary experi-
ments, the municipal council of Bern in 1895 adopted regulations,
according to which every working man sojourning or settled there
might join the fund. A man could become a member by giving his

^ Ref. W. H. Dawson: Social Switzerland, p. 167; Willoughby: Working-
men's Insurance.


name to his employer, the trade union or the director of the fund.
The sources of the fund were to be contributions of members and
employers, private gifts and municipal subsidies. The rate of pre-
miums was about lo cents monthly. The municipal subsidy at first
was to be 7,000 fr. per year. Members who had paid contributions
regularly were entitled in event of being out of employment, during
the months of December, January, and February only, to receive
benefits not more than two months during the severe winter. Mem-
bers must be insured six months before they could receive
benefits. Benefits paid weekly, were : For the first 30 days out of
work pay of 1.50 fr. to unmarried members, and 2 fr. to married
members and others having persons dependent on them. Members
who refused to work, who were lawless or on a strike might not re-
ceive help. At first the administrators expressed great hopes of suc-
cess in diminishing the need of resort to public charity on account of
unemployment. But there were serious defects in the scheme and the
hopes have not been realized. It was a plan for voluntary member-
ship and no person was obliged to belong to the association, whereas
in the successful method of Germany membership is legally required.
Professor Adler says that in the course of the first year only 404
members were admitted and of these 50 lost their rights by non-
payment of dues. Of the 354 active members 216 in winter an-
nounced themselves as unemployed; 50 were set to work and 166
were paid daily allowances. The total indemnity paid was 6,835 ^^-y
while only 1,124 ^^- were paid in dues. The deficit was covered by
gifts and a state subsidy of 4,735 fr. In the second year, the mem-
bership fell to 333 ; the number of unemployed rose to 226, of whom
7 were set to work and 219 received daily allowances. Some of the
men were given work on a prison wall and in clearing away snow,
but gifts and subsidies were still necessary.

There was a similar result in St. Gall.

The city of Basel sought to profit by the mistakes of Bern and
St. Gall. On November 23, 1899, after long discussions, a plan
worked out by Professor Adler was accepted by the Greater Council
and proposed to the people for a referendum vote. The law required
that in the canton of the city of Basel all resident persons capable of
work, who are employed in factories or building or on earth works,
after the 14th year of age shall be insured against unemployment,
when it is not from their own fault. In the nature of the case some


exceptions are made, as when one is already adequately insured in
an association for this purpose. The insured fall into four groups :
(i) Workmen least exposed to being out of employment, in occupa-
tions protected by factory laws, not in the building trades; (2) the
other workmen not in building trades and under factory law protec-
tion ; (3) building workmen least exposed to unemployment; (4)
other building and earth workers who live chiefly outdoors and who
suffer from the vicissitudes of weather. The groups are further di-
vided into wage classes according to the amount of their weekly
wages, beginning with 12 fr. or less up to more than 24 fr. The
weekly contributions of the insured are :

In wage classes : I 234

For the first group 2^ centimes 5 ct. 10 ct. 15 ct.

For the second group 5 centimes 10 ct. 15 ct, 20 ct.

For the third group 10 centimes 20 ct. 30 ct. 40 ct.

For the fourth group 15 centimes 25 ct. 40 ct. 50 ct.

The contribution of the employer for each of his insured work-
men of the first and second groups is 10 ct., and for each of the third
and fourth groups 20 ct. weekly. The state pays the cost of admin-
istration, and gives a subsidy of 30,000 francs annually. Every
member of the insurance association has a right to indemnity when
he is not employed. This claim is not valid when: (a) The un-
employment is the result of a strike; (b) when the unemployment is
the result of abandoning a place, unless there is good ground for the
act; (c) when the unemployment is the consequence of conduct
which justifies the discharge of the person according to the ordi-
nances of the factory laws ; (d) when the unemployment is the result
of accident or sickness, during the period of incapacity ; (e) when the
person at the time of beginning of unemployment has not fulfilled the
requirements; (f) when the person refuses to accept employment
without satisfactory reasons. The insurance association may not
offer places to the unemployed which have become vacant on account
of a strike or a lockout. The amount of the indemnity is graduated
according to the wage class to which the person belonged for 26
weeks just preceding the unemployment and paid the contribution.
The indemnities are 0.70 to 1.30 fr. in the first and i to 1.50 fr. in
the fourth wage class, according as the workmen are single, married
or head of a family. A member has claim in the course of a fiscal


year to 70 days of indemnity at the most. A member who in the
course of a fiscal year has received indemnity for 50 days, in the next
year has a claim only when, reckoning from the last day of indemnity,
he has worked at least 26 weeks and paid his contributions to the
treasury of the insurance association. The law contains detailed
regulations in respect to administration of the funds, the gathering
of a reserve fund, penalties for violation of the law, etc. Careful
calculations gave an estimate that the number of the unemployed
would be 18 per cent, of the insured and that about one-half of them
would be married. It was supposed that of 10,000 insured in Basel
annually 1,800, and that on the average about 60 days, would receive
indemnities. The expenditure was reckoned at 137,000 fr. annually
and the income 45,000 fr.

This law, prepared with great care, after it was accepted by the
Greater Council, by the help of the workmen's party who secured the
necessary 1,000 signatures to their petition, was submitted to the
popular referendum and rejected (February, 1900) by a vote of 5,458
to 1,119. The most weighty reason urged against the law was that
the regular and industrious workmen who ordinarly have employ-
ment and wages would have to pay for the idle and inefficient work-

The defeat of the law of Basel and the discouraging experiences
in Bern and St. Gall have made the solution of the problem in
Switzerland impossible for many years, even if there is a purpose to
carry out the idea on the basis of the experience already had. The
administration of Basel has taken pains to assist in other ways, by
undertaking public works which might otherwise have been delayed
longer. The state also gave a subsidy to the general poor-relief of
3,000 fr., to aid the unemployed with money. It also provided coal
and coke for needy persons at low prices, which was rather of the
nature of poor-relief than care for the unemployed. But this same
character was borne by the attempts at insurance against unemploy-
ment, which counted on a subsidy from the state and on voluntary
gifts, while a genuine insurance by its very nature must be paid for
out of wages. In Zurich a similar attempt was made. The Greater
Council of the city (July 9, 1898) rejected the proposition by 54 to
42 votes. The experience of St. Gall, as told by the secretary of
poor-relief, was a decisive argument in this discussion. It had been
found impossible to induce all the insurable persons to join the asso-



ciation and the disposition to labor was diminished. It even hap-
pened that workmen received indemnities while they were at work.
It was difficult to determine who was employed and who unemployed.
Women came with the complaint that their husbands, since they drew
indemnities, would not come home, while before they had helped in
the household. When the St. Gall association went into liquidation
2,500 persons were in arrears with dues. The reporter came to the
conclusion that it is impossible to introduce a genuine insurance
against unemployment. It was said in the discussion that the plan
could be carried out in connection with the trade unions, but the sug-
gestion was regarded as of doubtful value.

Care for the Wandering Unemployed. — The Swiss cantons have
followed the models set by Germany in the stations for help (Ver-
pfte gimgsstationen) and hospices for shelter, and they have developed
an even more adequate system and network of agencies under police

In Bern wanderers who should not go to the poorhouse, work-
house or police quarters are sent to emergency rooms or to the
burghers' almshouse.

In the city of Basel is established a "writing room for the unem-
ployed" as a means of helping persons who have some commercial
education and are temporarily out of work, by giving them copying,
folding, picking coffee, etc., to do. In one year 271 men were as-
sisted 9,853 work days, and 21,800 fr. were paid them, an average
3.33 fr. per day ; on an average 32 men per day. First of all citizens
and residents of Basel are helped ; only exceptionally are outsiders
so aided, and usually with discouraging results.

In the eighth report, 1902, it is said that 2^^"/ men were aided;
11,754 days' work; 33,189 fr. paid in wages, an average of 3.16 fr.,
per day for writing. Writing machines have been introduced with

In 1903 a similar society was formed in Zurich. The city fur-
nished a room. In the first year there were 445 applicants, of whom
179 were employed. On an average 19 men were employed at a
time, with a total of 5,053 days. The pay was 2.30 to 4 fr. for
writing done in the rooms of the bureau and 3.84 to 4.27 fr. for work
done in the home of the employer.

The book of Mr. W. H. Dawson ("Social Switzerland") describes
the social legislation of Switzerland and the cooperation of private


agencies with the state in the effort to ameliorate economic conditions.
Under the head of organization and protection of labor he describes
the federal factory laws, the labor laws of the cantons, the industrial
colonies. Under the subject of industrial peace he writes of the
courts of industry, the conscUs de priid'hommes, and the societies
of public utility. We have drawn upon his account of the case of the
unemployed. He tells what Switzerland has done in technical edu-
cation of the people, and for the control of the drink traffic.^

* On insurance of unemployed, Rep. Industrial Commission (U. S.) Vol. XVI,
1901, p. 226. — U. S. Labor Bulletin, Vol. 2, pp. 169-172.





Historical Introduction. — In no other country is the history
of poor-reHef so instructive and valuable to the student of modern
philanthropic problems as in England. For the history of poor-relief
in England presents a continuous evolution whose successive phases
exhibit at work all the forces and principles to which the modern
science of philanthropy has given a theoretic formulation. Moreover,
in England poor-relief has been organized and supervised by the
central authorities of government now for nearly three-quarters of
a century to an extent scarcely equalled in any other country. On
this account, the administrative problems which necessarily arise
through governmental interference with the relief of the poor are
perhaps most advantageously studied in English experience. But
as the main object of this article is to present the existing system of
public and private relief in England, our chief reason for reviewing
the historical development is to throw light on the present system.
The present complex organization of public relief in England, with
the supporting legislation, can not easily be understood without some
knowledge of its evolution. Accordingly, as an introduction to the
study of the present system of public relief, we shall present a brief
resume of its historical development. Only a few of the numerous
enactments which have constituted the Poor Law at different periods
can be noticed — enough merely to indicate the various stages of its

I, Poor-Relief in the Medieval Period. — While feudalism
flourished there was comparatively little need of public relief. The
mass of the people were serfs, bound to the soil, and were looked



after by their feudal lords quite as slaves by their masters. What
little destitution there was, which was mainly in the towns, was re-
lieved by the Church,^ chiefly through two institutions, the monastery
and the hospital. With the decay of feudalism the burden of the
Church in caring for the poor became vastly increased, but it con-
tinued to fulfill its function as the public relief agency more or less
satisfactorily until the Reformation. The methods which the Church
employed in relieving destitution were, however, such that they often
aggravated rather than remedied the evil. Around the monasteries
and throughout the country there gradually grew up a large de-
pendent class who looked to those institutions for their support.
Fuller's remarks in this connection are abundantly justified by his-
torical research :- "Yea, those abbeys did but maintain the poor
which they made. For some vagrants, accounting the abbey alms
their own inheritance, served an apprenticeship and afterwards
wrought journey work to no other trade than begging." As for the
hospitals, which were in the Middle Ages but little more than en-
dowed ecclesiastical almshouses, for the reception of both the desti-
tute sick and the aged, they multiplied in number, so that before the
Reformation there were some four hundred and sixty of these char-
itable institutions in England, many of them exceedingly wealthy.^
Thus the Church was caring for no inconsiderable proportion of the

^ Originally in England as on the Continent a part of the tithes (one-third
or one-fourth) was regularly devoted to the relief of the poor. But this custom
seems early to have been departed from, though a law of Ethelred attempted to
enforce it as late as the Eleventh century. Thus the relief of the poor became
mainly the work of the monasteries and hospitals. See Ratzinger's Geschichte
der kirchlichen Armenpflege ; Uhlhorn's Christian Charity in the Early Church ;
and Ashley's English Economic History.

^ There can be no doubt that the indiscriminate charity practiced by both the
monasteries and hospitals was directly responsible for the production of a large
class of vagrants and mendicants both in England and on the Continent. The
apologists of the system of church charity have often denied this, pointing out
other causes that co-operated in the production of this class. The existence of
other causes may be admitted, of course, without giving up the position of the
text, that the indiscriminate methods of relief employed by the Church were evil
in their consequences, increasing rather than lessening the class of dependents.
In this connection consult Ashley's English Economic History, pp. 307-324, vol.
n ; for the Catholic point of view, see Ratzinger's Geschichte der kirchlichen

^Ashley, English Economic History, p. 318, vol. H.


population of England at the beginning of the Reformation. It is
not surprising, therefore, that the dissolution of the monasteries
under Henry VIII., revealed^ such a mass of pauperism and vagrancy
that to deal with it became one of the first problems of the statesmen
of the sixteenth century.

Other methods of caring for the poor in later medieval times can
be merely mentioned. One was the help given by the Guilds to their
poorer members.- Another was of course through the private
charity of the rich, especially of the nobles. This became consider-
able in later times, and, like the charity of the Church, was wholly
indiscriminating and, therefore, evil in its consequences. Practically,
indeed, it may be regarded as but one phase of the charity of the
Church ; for the motive of such giving was the Church's inculcation
of the doctrine that almsgiving was a means of grace to the giver.^

2. The Period of Repression. — The beginning of this period
may be dated as early as the middle of the fourteenth century, when
the decay of feudalism first began to be manifest. Nothing was more
natural than that laws should be passed to keep the laborer in the
state of servitude from which he was just emerging Accordingly,
during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries we find numerous
labor statutes* enacted to fix the rate of wages and to prevent labor-
ers from moving about in search of better pay. This legislation re-
garding the laboring classes involved as one of its necessary phases
repressive measures against vagrancy; and these measures mark the
first steps in governmental interference in the relief of the poor.

Thus, the labor statute of 1388 (12 Richard II.), after providing

'^ "Revealed," not "caused," as Ashley points out. The causes lay in the social
conditions of the time and in the indiscriminate charity so long practiced by the

'^ See Ashley, English Economic History, pp. 324-328, vol. II.

^ That the Church encouraged indiscriminate private charity has been denied
by some recent Catholic scholars. It is true that many theologians of the Church
taught the duty of investigation and that indiscriminate charity was evil. But
the enlightened views of these few did not affect the belief or the practice of
the masses of the Church. With these, as Uhlhorn remarks, "the principal aim
[in giving] remained to win for themselves the favor of God, not to combat or
mitigate poverty."

* The first of these statutes was the so-called "Statute of Laborers," enacted
in 1349. It forbade the giving of alms to "valiant beggars," but made no ref-
erence to the impotent poor. See NichoU's History of the English Poor Law,
PP- 36, 37, vol. I.


for persons able to work, enacted, "that beggars impotent to serve
shall abide in the cities and towns where they be dwelling at the
time of the proclamation of this statute." This is the first mention
we find in legislation of the impotent poor as a distinct class. No
provision is made for their relief, but the principle of local responsi-
bility for their care seems to be recognized. The same act provided
that vagrants "able to serve or labor" were to be put in the stocks
and kept there until they could give surety of returning to service
or to their own neighborhood. Other enactments of a similar nature
were made in the fifteenth century, but vagrancy, as the laws them-
selves show, continued to flourish.

With the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of Henry
VIII. , the evil became greatly aggravated. Severe vagrancy laws
were enacted, and at the same time the distinction between the "im-
potent poor," those unable to work, and the "sturdy beggars," was
more clearly drawn. Even earlier than this, however, the system
of ecclesiastical poor-relief had broken down, so that in legislating
against vagabondage and vagrancy some provision for the relief of
the impotent poor was made necessary. Thus the elaborate act of
1 53 1 "concerning the punishment of beggars and vagabonds" {^22
Henry VIII.), ^ provided that the justices of the peace should give a
kind of certificate or license to such impotent poor as could go beg-
ging, by which they were allowed to beg within a certain prescribed
area, but if caught begging without a license, or outside these limits,
they were to be whipped. This attempt to provide for the impotent
poor, through tolerating their begging upon certain conditions, shows
not only a greater tendency to discriminate and a more humane spirit,
but also that the charity of the Church was regarded as insufficient
for the relief of this class. Able-bodied persons if caught begging,
on the other hand, were to be whipped and returned to their place
of birth, or where they had last lived for three years. For a second
offense they were to have their ears cropped, and if caught begging
a third time they were to be tried as felons and, if convicted, hanged.
Moreover, any person who harbored or gave money to an able-bodied
beggar was to be fined by the justices.

This act of 1531 was, then, almost wholly repressive in its fea-
tures; its sole object was to limit begging as much as possible, while
recognizing that the charity of the Church was insufficient for the

^ See Nicholl's History of the English Poor Law, pp. 115-120, vol. i.


relief of the impotent poor. Positive measures for the relief of the
poor are found first in an act passed some five years later (27 Henry
VIII. )-^ This act provided that T'l- mayor of every town, and the
churchwardens of every parish, were to collect alms every Sunday,
so that "the poor, impotent, sick, and diseased people, being not able
to work, may be provided, holpen and relieved ; and that such as
be lusty, having their limbs strong enough to labor, may be daily
kept in continual labor." In other words, the impotent poor were to
be relieved by voluntary alms collected by the civil authorities of
the towns, and the churchwardens of the parishes, while the able-
bodied poor were to be set at work with funds secured in the same
way. Moreover, an account was to be kept by the parish authorities
of the sums collected and of the way in which the money was spent.
It was expressly declared that the alms were not compulsory, but the
giving of private alms by an individual was forbidden upon pain of
forfeiting ten times the amount given. ^ The whole tenor of the act^
was to revitalize the system of church charity. It in no way secular-
ized relief. The exhortations of the clergy were to secure the funds
for relief ; the collectors of the funds were mainly church officers ;
and they were also the dispensers of relief. However, in this statute
the State for the first time undertakes to direct how the relief of the
poor shall be administered and how the funds for relief shall be
raised ; it further establishes the responsibility of the parish for the
relief of its own poor. The act, therefore, marks the transition from
an ecclesiastical to a secular system of poor-relief. While it rec-
ognized the Church as the established relief agency, it attempted to
direct and aid the Church in the performance of its duty.

Again in the reign of Edward VI. the vagrancy laws were made
more cruel than ever,^ and provision was made for the compulsory
removal of beggars from all parts of the kingdom to the parishes
where they had legal residence. A further amelioration in the laws

Online LibraryCharles Richmond HendersonModern methods of charity; an account of the systems of relief, public and private, in the principal countries having modern methods → online text (page 18 of 73)