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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from metropolitan charitable institutions.

The district committees are local branches of the society, now
forty in number, formed in each Poor Law union of London for the
purpose of carrying out in that district the practical work of the
society. Their function is to receive, investigate, and treat, in ac-
cordance with the principles of the society, all applications for relief
referred to them in their respective districts. The district commit-
tees are supposed to be financially independent of the council and to
be self-supporting in their work. But about half of them receive
grants from the council toward their administrative expenses. They
are composed, so far as possible, of ministers of religion, guardians
of the poor, and representatives of local charities. For the perform-
ance of their work, the district committees have several sorts of execu-
tive officers. Sometimes a paid secretary is employed, but generally
the work is in charge of one, or more, honorary secretaries who serve
without pay, yet give a great deal of time to the work. In poorer
districts, the work is in charge of district secretaries who are ap-
pointed and paid by the council. Besides the secretaries there are
in every district office, one or more paid investigating agents or in-
quiry officers. Upon these devolve most of the work of investigation,
and sometimes of receiving applications. Finally, the district com-
mittees usually enlist a considerable number of volunteers to act as
almoners and visitors, and sometimes to assist in investigation.

While relief may be given by the secretary pending investigation,
if the case is one of emergency, the rule is that no recommendation
regarding the case is made until it comes before the whole committee
for decision. In other words, "all decisions are made in committee."
If the case is one in which permanent relief is needed or in which


pecuniary aid is likely to do no good, on account of evil habits, it is at
once turned over to the Poor Law officials. The only exceptions to
this rule are the cases of aged or infirm persons who have led respec-
table, industrious lives; for these the society undertakes to provide
suitable pensions or to secure homes. If the case is one in which
only temporary relief is needed, or in which there is hope of restora-
tion to self-support, the committee undertakes to find suitable and
adequate relief either from charitable institutions and societies or
from benevolent private individuals. Finally, there are the cases
which are rejected as not needing relief.

This plan of organization is modified in smaller cities, so that
a single committee, usually called the council, carries on the whole
work of the society.

Into further details of the work of charity organization societies
in England it is not necessary to enter. Our purpose has been simply
to show how this work is correlated with the whole system of public
and private philanthropy in England. Enough, perhaps, has been
said to make it evident that the work of these societies is truly con-
structive, being both preventive and remedial ; and so is a necessary
complement to the work of the Poor Law, which is almost wholly

M. Preventive and Educational Work. — Into the vast field
of preventive philanthropy in England, both governmental and vol-
untary, it is impossible to enter and keep within the scope of this
monograph. Only a few examples can be given as indications of
the work which is now being attempted by the Government and by
voluntary associations along these lines. In general it can be said
that in England as elsewhere more and more attention is being given
to the work of prevention. A few illustrations will be given.

(i) Among the numerous things attempted by the English
Government in the way of prevention, perhaps the Employers' Lia-
bility Act and the Post Office Savings Banks are the most striking.
The Employers' Liability Act, together with the supplemental Work-
men's Compensation Act of 1897, provides that a workman may re-
cover damages from an employer for personal injury suffered while
in his employ, provided the injury was not due to the workman's
own negligence or willfulness. The damages so recoverable, how-
ever, shall not exceed in amount the estimated earnings of a workman
of the same grade in the same employment during three years preced-


ing the injury. Where death results from the injury the workman's
dependants have the same right to damages that he would have. In
case of total or partial incapacity for work resulting from the injury
lasting for more than two weeks, the compensation shall be a weekly
payment not exceeding fifty per cent, of the workman's average weekly
earnings during the previous twelve months. The provisions of these
two acts apply to nearly all workmen in the industrial occupations.
The effect of the acts has been, on the whole, salutary. They have
unquestionably diminished to some degree the amount of dependency
resulting from accident or injury. They have done this, not so
much through the compensation awarded to the injured, as through
making employers more careful, and so preventing accidents. On
the other hand they have to some extent failed, as some employers
evade the law by compelling their workmen to renounce their claims
to compensation, or find means to shift the burden on the workmen
themselves. A very general result also has been that employers
insure themselves against possible loss through the operation of
these acts in mutual or other companies, which for a small premi-
um assume the risk and pay all damages awarded by the courts.

Through the Post Office Savings Banks the English Govern-
ment affords unexcelled facilities for saving and thrift to the masses.^
At any post office in the United Kingdom, deposits may be made
in sums from a shilling upwards.' The amount of such deposits,
however, may not exceed £50 in one year, and the total sum to one's
credit may not exceed £200. After the sum deposited reaches one
pound, interest at the rate of two and one-half per cent, per annum
is paid on every complete pound, and after December ist of each
year the accrued interest is added to the principal. Withdrawals can
be made at any time, after notice has been sent to the chief office,
at any post office in the United Kingdom. No charge for postage
is made to a depositor for any letter passing between him and the
chief office on savings bank business. In many other ways the facili-
ties offered by the Post Office Savings Banks are much superior to
those of ordinary savings banks. Besides, every depositor in these
banks has the direct security of the Government for the repayment

* See J. H. Hamilton, Savings and Savings Institutions, chap. x.

^ To encourage the saving of amounts less than a shilling, the Post Office
issues cards with spaces to be filled in with postage stamps ; and when a card has
a shilling's worth of stamps affixed it will be accepted as a deposit.


of his deposits. Thus the State in England has made itself the
banker of the poor and their direct encourager in habits of thrift.

The success of the English Post Office Savings Banks has been
almost unqualified. From the date of their establishment (1861)
they have been popular, and seem to have reached the classes whom
they were designed to benefit. In 1900 the total amount on deposit
was £122,365,193; while the average amount of each account was
in, 9s., 2d. Of the depositors 18.43 P^^ cent, were artisans, 8.61
domestic servants, 8.14 tradesmen and their assistants, and 50.41
women and children. Of the total patronage only 9.2 per cent, have
accounts exceeding £50. Moreover, 1,741,000 cards with stamps
affixed to the value of one shilling or more and of a total value of
£95,000, were deposited by school children in 1896, which shows the
extent to which the Post Office Savings Banks are being utilized
through the cooperation of the Government and the school authori-
ties to inculcate lessons of thrift in the children of the masses.

(2) The work of voluntary associations in the way of pre-
vention is even more extensive than that of the Government.^ In
some cases they parallel the work of the Government, but in many
other cases they do work which the State as such is unfitted to do.
Thus, while the Post Office Savings Banks reach those who are in-
clined to be thrifty and encourage them to save, they cannot reach the
unthrifty. For these there have been organized in all the large cities
"Collecting Savings Banks." The savings of the most shiftless
classes are collected at their homes by agents of these banks weekly.
The canvass is made early in the week before the poor have had op-
portunity to spend their earnings. Any sum from one penny up
is received. As most of these Collecting Savings Banks are con-
ducted with a philanthropic aim, though upon a business basis, they
encourage their depositors to open an account as soon as possible
with a post office or other savings bank. Thus they mediate between
the thriftless and the institutions of the thrifty, the regular savings
banks. In 1901 there were fifty-five of these Collecting Savings
Banks in London, Similar in aim are the Penny Provident Banks
established by some charity organization societies. The National
Penny Bank, on the other hand, is an institution conducted wholly on
a commercial basis, but by affording opportunity for making very

* Perhaps the best accessible account of the preventive work of voluntary
associations in England is to be found in Woods' English Social Movements,


small savings it helps to increase thrift among the poor. This bank
has thirteen branches in London which had on deposit, December,
1900, ii,935-559-

A good illustration of preventive work by vokmtary associations
is found in the Provident Dispensaries and Provident Medical Asso-
ciations.^ These aim to provide medical attendance for the poor
who are unable to pay the ordinary charges of a physician, but yet
are not proper recipients of free medical relief. They are to a cer-
tain extent a protest against the indiscriminate medical charity fur-
nished by the free dispensaries. There are now about sixty such
provident dispensaries and sick clubs in London alone. Their mem-
bership is usually restricted to families whose income is less than a
certain sum — varying from 25s. to 50s. — a week. These families
pay into the treasury of the dispensary or sick club from one to six
pence a week, according to the size of the family and the expenses of
the dispensary. In return they receive medical attendance from the
medical staff of the dispensary, which is composed of reputable
medical practitioners living in the neighborhood. Thus these dis-
pensaries are conducted on the principle of mutual insurance. They
teach the poor to provide for sickness by making small savings, while
they assure them skilled medical attendance in their own homes or
at the dispensary as a matter of right, not of charity. The Metro-
politan Provident Medical Association is the most prominent organi-
zation conducted on these lines in London ; it has numerous branches
in different parts of the city, and over 30,000 members.

Societies for improving the dwellings of the poor are numerous
in all of the larger cities of England. In London there are about
twenty-five societies and semi-philanthropic corporations working
along this line. The work of many of these, such as that of the
Peabody Donation Fund, has been of international significance, but
it can only be merely mentioned here. A good example of the com-
bination of business and philanthropy, which some of these companies
make, is to be found in the Four Per Cent. Industrial Dwellings Com-
pany. This company, which owns a number of model tenements,
so adjusts its rents that the net return to the stockholders annually
does not exceed four per cent. The work of these companies and
societies for improving the dwellings of the poor has been influential
in bringing about governmental action in the matter. In 1890 Parlia-

^ See Annual Charities Register and Digest, 1902, pp. 175-190.


ment passed the Housing of the Working Classes Act, enabhng mu-
nicipalities to purchase land or buildings for the purpose of erect-
ing improved dwellings for the working classes. Nearly all the large
municipalities of England have taken advantage of this act, and as
a result some of the worst slums in English cities have disappeared.
The London County Council has erected some fifty model tenement
buildings under this act and has many more in process of erection.

Here must be mentioned the work of Miss Octavia Hill in im-
proving the dwellings of the London poor. This work, begun by
Miss Hill in 1864, has been a wonderful leavening influence in Eng-
lish philanthropy. It aims at improving the condition of the poor,
first through elevating their personal character, then through better-
ing their material surroundings. This is accomplished through a
system of lady rent-collectors who act as friendly visitors to the poor
while acting as agents of the landlords in collecting rent. Miss
Hill's plan is to take entire charge of blocks of buildings owned by
individuals or companies, guaranteeing the owners four or five per
cent, interest. She then assumes charge of the premises, abolishing
some of the worst evils, such as living in cellars, and promising the
tenants improvements if by their carefulness they are deserving of
them. She relies upon her influence as rent-collector to lift gradually
the standards of the people in the care of their dwellings. After a
time the profits from the rents are sufficient to make the needed re-
pairs or even to erect a new building; but in the meantime the
improvement in the character of the tenants through the influence
of their lady friendly visitor, clothed with her authority as rent-
collector, has been quite as striking as the improvements in the dwell-
ing. This plan of employing lady rent-collectors who shall at the
same time act as friendly visitors to the families from whom they
collect rent, instructing them in the proper care of their homes, has
been adopted by many of the improved dwellings companies as neces-
sary to the success of their plans ; but the spirit and the method
of Miss Hill's work has had, besides, a world-wide influence.

Perhaps most people would agree that the highest expression of
modern preventive philanthropy is to be found in the Social Settle-
ment. That England originated the "Settlement idea," as well as
so many other movements in modern philanthropy, is proof positive
of the healthiness and sanity and depth of her philanthropic spirit.
The "Settlement idea," is, briefly, that in order to help the poor we


must live among them and share their Hfe. But practically the Eng-
lish Settlements have become large institutions, usually located in
the poorer districts of cities, where all sorts of educational and social
work is carried on for the laboring classes. There are now upwards
of fifty University or Social Settlements in England and a voluminous
literature upon their work.^ It is possible here to notice only a few
points concerning their history and activities.

The first settlement in England was established in 1885 in mem-
ory of Arnold Toynbee and was called Toynbee Hall. The leading
spirit in its establishment was the Rev. S. A. Barnett, who had been
for several years Vicar of St. Jude's in East London. He appealed
to the university men who wished to erect some suitable memorial for
Toynbee to come and share their lives with the poor. The result
was that both Oxford and Cambridge united in founding "Toynbee
Hall." Here a colony of university men took up their residence,
not merely to lecture and teach, but chiefly to mingle freely with the
poor in a social way, to share their life, and to become in all respects
one with them. The success of Toynbee Hall was so pronounced
from the start that the movement soon became a general one. Other
social settlements were rapidly established by various interests, educa-
tional institutions, and religious denominations, until the movement
is now world-wide.

As has been implied, the work of the social settlements is not nec-
essarily of a religious character. While some of the settlements are
founded upon a religious or even a sectarian basis, the majority of
them divorce their work entirely from any attempt at religious in-
struction. The activities of the settlement are, perhaps, first of all,
educational. Not only are there regular courses of instruction in
nearly all the useful and liberal branches of knowledge, but series
of lectures by public and literary men as well. ]\Iuch is made of art
in all its forms, and the education of the esthetic faculties receives
scarcely less attention than that of the intellectual. But it is chiefly
as a civic and social center that the settlement fulfills its highest func-
tion. Not only are healthful entertainments of all sorts here pro-
vided for the people, but there are meetings in which political,
economic, and social questions are discussed, and civic consciousness
thus awakened. The activities of English settlements, in a word,

' For a brief account of English Settlements, see Woods' English Social Move-
ments, or Professor C. R. Henderson's Social Settlements.



embrace the whole range of preventive and educational philan-
thropy, and thus they are justly entitled to the first place among
preventive institutions.

It remains only, in concluding, to say a word about educational
conferences upon charitable matters in England. These conferences
are now well organized in England. Under the auspices of the
London Charity Organization Society there is held every year a con-
ference on matters pertaining to the work of charity organization
societies and to the public and private relief of the poor in general.
For Poor Law officials there are one central and twelve district con-
ferences, which hold annual meetings. Representatives are sent by
the different unions to the district conferences, their reasonable ex-
penses being paid by the unions. The district conference in turn
chooses delegates to the central conference, which is usually held in
London. Moreover, the central board has always one or more rep-
resentatives present at the district conferences to take part in the
discussions ; while the President of the Local Government Board oc-
casionally attends in person the central conference. At these "Poor
Law Conferences," as they are called, papers are read on all phases
of public relief, and the proceedings are published under the title
"Reports of the Poor Law District Conferences." Thus the results
of experience are gathered, presented, and diffused for the informa-
tion of all, so assuring tlie growth and harmonious development of
all parts of the public and private relief system.



Historical Sketch.- — Mediaeval charity was administered by
lord to vassal or slave, under the feudal system, or by the patriarchal
head of a clan to his retainers in time of need ; by the parish priest,
the monastery and by benevolent individuals in the form of doles.
In Scotland, as everywhere in Europe, there arose a class of sturdy

^ Mr. F. L. Tolman has given valuable aid in collecting materials for this sec-
tion.— C. R. H.

^ On the various acts and statutes, see : R. P. Lamond, The Scottish Poor
Laws, 1892. — George Nicholls, A History of the Scotch Poor Law, London, 1856. —
J. Bell, Municipal History of Glasgow. — T. Chalmers, The Christian and Civic
Economy of Large Towns (abridged and with an Introduction by C. R. Hen-


rogues who levied a tax of their own upon the inhabitants and ex-
torted a Hving by tricks and threats and force. Where roads were
bad, telephones unknown, police force unorganized, and chance of
escape quite wide, this group of population flourished and became a
menace to order, property and life. The first actions of government
in respect to beggars were therefore repressive and necessarily se-
vere. The penalties inflicted seem to us incredibly harsh.

Private charity being irregular and unsystematic, it was also nec-
essary to regulate begging, to license beggars and give them tokens
to show to kind folk that they were helpless and needy.

By the middle of the i6th century this state of things was found
to be unendurable, and the Act of 1579, ch. 74 (James VI.) was the
first legal recognition of the corporate duty of society to the feeble
poor. This act provided for the first time in Scotland for a com-
pulsory assessment of a tax to assist the^ poor. This statute did not
require the local authorities to assess the tax, but permitted them
to do so if they chose to employ that method of raising funds. The
Common Law always recognized the duty of the community to sup-
port the impotent poor, but it required statute law to determine the
method of providing and administering the funds. The statute of
James VI. did not require the parish to provide work for able-bodied
vagrants, as did the corresponding English law of the same general
period (Elizabeth, 43). Severity still marked the treatment of strong
men who preferred mendicancy to toil ; and the original poor law re-
quired that such persons be put in ward and irons so long as they had
goods to support their existence, and when these failed they were
to have their ears nailed to a tree and 'cutted off," and so mutilated
they were banished under the threat of hanging if they were ever
found in the country again. Such statutes were called in the pre-
amble to the grim regulations "sindrie lovabil Acts of Parliament."
All destitute persons were commanded to go to the parish of their
birth for support or relief out of a fund to be raised there by a tax
levied "according to the estimation of their substance without excep-
tion of persons." A residence of seven years in a parish entitled
the pauper to relief, just as if he had been born there. No provision
was made, as in England, for the able-bodied poor.

Later acts were those of Charles IL, 1661, c. 38, and 1663, c. 16,
which further specified methods of collecting funds and punishing
those who, being able, refused to work. The Act of 1672, c. 18,


established correction houses for vagabonds and reduced the period
for residential settlement to three years. The licensing of feeble
persons to beg was continued from earlier times, and church collec-
tions are mentioned as the source of funds for relief; the compulsory-
assessment, though legal, not having been adopted by parish authori-
ties. Only three correction houses were erected and these some time
after the date of this Act.

Apart from rare exceptions the parishes did not adopt the system
of compulsory assessment until late in the i8th century. The transi-
tion (up to 1834) was made by means of voluntary assessments,
which also continued some time after the law of 1845, the law which
still forms the basis of the system now in use, and which is analyzed
in the succeeding pages of this article.

The causes which led the parishes to abandon the ancient method,
in spite of sturdy protests, even of such great and benevolent men
as Dr. Thomas Chalmers, seem to have been, among others, the fol-
lowing. Politically the national life and power required in modern
times the breaking down of the mediaeval feudal system as a condi-
tion of uniform law and administration. The clan system was incon-
sistent with modern central government and international relations.
Slavery had long been abolished, and now the serf or vassal is set
free from the control of the lord. Set free, however, to work out
his own salvation and relieve the lord from the duty of supporting
him in sickness and old age.

Then came the invention of steam, the growth of the factory
system of manufactures, the crowding of large towns, the accumula-
tion of filth, the increase of disease in huddled families, the wild life
of vicious throngs, the loss of local markets and free competition in
a world market, the vicissitudes of trade depending on commerce,
and the horde of paupers incident to such conditions. Then arose
the labor class and all its problems. Wage earners now learned to
travel where they could best find employment and they lost connec-
tion with relatives and neighbors ; the personal bonds of employer

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 25 of 73)